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Photography by Noah Fecks

What Happens When a Butter Lover Goes Dairy-Free for a Week?

With so many innovative plant-based alternatives on the market now, like Country Crock Plant Butter, we wondered how someone who actually lives, breathes, and works in dairy would fare using these dairy-free alternatives for a week. Meet Christine Clark, a cheese educator and writer, who accepted our challenge and shared her week of eating plant-based foods.

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Day 0: Stocking up the day before

Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. I’m lucky to live by a small, locally owned store with incredible produce, so meandering through it is a mini primer on what’s in season, how many types of mushrooms there are, and how many colors of carrots one can grow (many, it turns out).

I tend to eat a fair number of veggies anyway, but knowing that my week will be plant-based, I buy more than I usually would, and shop by what looks prettiest — rainbow chard, Japanese sweet potato, honeynut squash, Asian pears, and more. I love a good rice and beans situation, so I figure I’ll do rice and beans for most lunches, with a side of whichever veggies I feel like. Most breakfasts will be steel-cut oatmeal or a plant-based yogurt. I buy some coconut yogurt and some cashew yogurt, plus frozen cranberries and blueberries to put on top. I also buy kasha, which is roasted buckwheat groats. Don’t ask me what a groat is, but basically it’s a crunchy topping that I can use on salads or even on yogurt. And then, of course, I pick up two dairy-free alternatives to the dairy I consume most often: milk and butter. Oat milk, check; dairy-free Country Crock Plant Butter, a plant-based butter featuring olive oil, almond oil, and avocado oil, check.

While I’m sure I’ll miss butter and cheese, I’m excited for this. It’s an interesting experiment, especially as someone who eats a lot of dairy products, both personally and professionally, with a palate that’s been trained to recognize even minor differences. (Once, I was given four unmarked chocolate bars, one made with cow’s milk, one with goat’s milk, one with sheep’s milk, and one with water buffalo milk. I identified each one correctly and the chocolatier was rather surprised, but that’s just what happens when you eat dairy all the time for your job.)

Considering my profession, it may surprise you that I was a vegetarian throughout most of college. But, I find this is the case with a lot of the people who work in dairy and meat, actually — we chose it as our profession because we want to champion the producers working humanely and ethically. I have anywhere from seven to 10 cheeses in my fridge at any given time and two to three types of dairy butter because I love exploring the differences in flavor and texture.

That said, trying foods like coconut yogurt and Country Crock Plant Butter are so fun for me. This will be a fun week — a little food adventure.

Day 1: Finding vegan hygge with savory oatmeal

Steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast. I top it with a healthy swipe of the Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil, plus some salt and pepper. The Plant Butter looks and spreads like dairy butter and tastes great in my savory oatmeal, a favorite breakfast of mine. When I was in Copenhagen a few years ago, I went to a porridge bar where they had savory toppings — roasted tomatoes, mushrooms (both pickled and cooked), artichoke compote, etc. — and it reminded me that, as a child, I used to ask for my oatmeal with butter, salt, and pepper. It was my preferred breakfast and I still think it’s delicious. ­Maybe I should call it porridge to sound fancier? “Yes, I had savory porridge this morning.” Very hygge. I also make myself a matcha latte with oat milk.

Lunch is a salad of butter lettuce, avocado, chickpeas, parsley leaves, and a homemade lemon vinaigrette. I’m not usually a salad-for-lunch kind of person, but adding avocado to anything makes it feel like a meal. Toast? A side dish. Avocado toast? A totally reasonable breakfast or lunch!

Usually, prime cheese consumption time is between lunch and dinner — a nice protein-heavy snack to get me through. Instead, I have nothing and regret it. I daydream about Comte.

Dinner is a veggie burger, ordered in. Very underwhelming, with the texture of a yoga mat. I wish they’d had black bean burgers, I love those even when I’m not plant-based. I make myself chocolate chip cookies with the Country Crock Plant Butter to feel better about my disappointing dinner — they, thankfully, don’t disappoint.

Day 2: Relishing some perfectly roasted honeynut squash

Cashew yogurt, Asian pears, clover honey, and a healthy sprinkle of kasha for breakfast. I like the flavor combination, but do not like the cashew yogurt. It’s weirdly silky. Or is it slimy? Either way, not a fan.

I meet a friend for lunch. Another salad, topped with tempeh bacon, tomatoes, and a creamy dressing. Pretty tasty. I order a side of French fries, and they bring me sweet potato fries. I’m not the type of person to send things back, but sweet potato fries are my food nemesis so I send them back. I like sweet potatoes, but they are not regular potatoes and should not be treated as such. I prefer savory oatmeal porridge and savory fries (otherwise just known as fries), thanks. Once they finally come, though, the fries are great.

For dinner, I do rice, pinto beans, and honeynut squash. I roast the squash in the Country Crock Plant Butter with Avocado Oil, and it’s delicious. The Plant Butter with Avocado Oil is supposed to be better for high-heat cooking, and since I don’t notice a huge difference in flavor between the three, I just am rotating between the three Plant Butters, aside from using the Plant Butter with Avocado Oil for high heat. It roasts very well and I don’t think anyone would know that I used Plant Butter. The honeynut flesh is incredibly flavorful and the skin (edible! no peeling!) is nutty and rich. I top it with chimichurri and bask in my healthy, plant-based glow.

Then, I go out for drinks with friends and snack on bar nuts and pretzels while we’re out. They order nachos and I glare at them (and maybe steal a nacho or two, whoops). I lose a bit of the glow.

Day 3: Snacking on (superior) Vermont bagels and oat ice cream

Breakfast is a toasted everything bagel with a thick schmear of Country Crock Plant Butter with Almond Oil from the tub. I moved from New York City to Vermont last year and expected to really miss the bagels. It turns out, though (please shut your ears, New Yorkers), that I prefer the Montreal-style bagels that are up here. I find them to be more flavorful, plus I prefer the texture — New York bagels feel overinflated in comparison. The Plant Butter spreads beautifully; it tastes like dairy butter and is a great way to enjoy a delicious, buttery breakfast while being plant-based. I’m happy with my breakfast.

Lunch is chana masala. I love Indian food, and it was my savior in college; it was a revelation to me as a baby vegetarian that you could get so much flavor out of layering veggies and spices.

Dinner is rather makeshift — carrots, celery, fennel, and cucumber dipped in hummus and baba ghanoush as I’m racing to finish a project. I roast a sweet potato and top it with Country Crock Plant Butter with Almond Oil, salt, smoked paprika, and pepper. The Plant Butter melts beautifully and adds a delicious butter flavor. I reward myself for my healthy dinner by mainlining most of a coffee-flavored oat milk ice cream pint. It’s an adequate replacement, especially with an ice cream craving.

Day 4: Whipping up nostalgia with a vegan potpie

Coconut yogurt for breakfast, topped with frozen cranberries, honey, and kasha. I switch up the honey a bit — this time, it’s a clover honey. I love that honey tastes different based on the plant the pollen comes from, and clover honey tastes like cinnamon toast to me. Very happy with this little breakfast.

Lunch is a whole wheat wrap with tomato, lettuce, chorizo seitan, vegan mayo, and some sprouts. The seitan is a little chewy, but otherwise, the wrap is great.

I make my vegan potpie recipe for dinner, complete with my favorite pie crust recipe using the Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil. It is perfect — lots of nostalgia involved in this recipe, but using plant-based ingredients. The Plant Butter acts exactly like butter in the recipe, and the crust is buttery and flaky — I’m quite pleased. I go to bed by 10 p.m., feeling purposeful and serene. Probably how people feel after doing yoga.

Day 5: Skipping a night out for a pasta-filled night in

Breakfast is a quick oat milk latte and some Brazil nuts that I keep in my bag for when I choose sleep over making breakfast for myself before heading out the door. No regrets.

Lunch is leftover potpie. It’s so good, I can’t help but have it again the very next day.

For my very exciting Friday night, I eschew going out and instead make myself easy weeknight pasta. I’ve always liked tomatoes, but roasting them brings all the acidity, sweetness, and umami to the forefront. It’s the easiest, most flavorful sauce you’ll ever make. I was almost mad when I learned about it — why had I not been roasting tomatoes for years?

I put on Netflix (hey, new season of Queer Eye) and start making croissant dough. Croissants sound intimidating (and reading recipes for them used to fill me with immediate dread), but they’re incredibly simple. You just have to give it time and make sure to have a rolling pin handy. My preferred method is splitting the work into three chunks — make the dough one night, laminate the dough the next day, then let it rest in the fridge (or freezer, for that matter) until you’re ready for your well-earned croissants. I’m having some friends over for brunch on Sunday morning, so this will work out quite nicely. The Country Crock Plant Butter with Avocado Oil incorporates into the dough perfectly and I’m excited to see how the lamination goes.

Day 6: Laminating croissants while sipping on a vegan-friendly hot cocoa

Running around for most of the day. Breakfast blends into a snack, which blends into lunch, which blends into another snack. I have toast with Plant Butter and peanut butter at home, then a vegan tamale at the farmer’s market with pico de gallo and guacamole. I lustfully eye some locally made goat cheese at the market, then opt for a raw vegan cheesecake bite, which ends up being obnoxiously good. I think I will have to learn how to make it.

Dinner is tortilla chips with a cashew nacho-style cheese sauce that my neighbor made. I didn’t realize that she was vegan until I started this plant-based week and started sharing things I made with her. She’s also been sharing some of her creations with me. It feels very sweet and neighborly.

The lamination goes beautifully. The Plant Butter is a little looser at room temperature than dairy butter, but I just rest the croissants in the freezer instead of the fridge and it’s not a problem. As I work, I enjoy a cup of well-deserved hot chocolate with a splash of oat milk. There may or may not be a well-deserved splash of bourbon in there too. I put a few bottles of sparkling wine in the fridge for tomorrow.

Day 7: Reaching the end of a delicious plant-based week

Last plant-based day! I wake up, make coffee, then shape my croissants. They proof while I get ready, then they bake as I prepare for my friends. I make a quick fruit salad, and scramble some eggs (just because I’m going plant-based doesn’t mean they have to). I’m excited to see what my friends think of these vegan croissants; I’m not going to tell them in advance to get honest reactions.

Everyone loves the croissants, which look and taste beautiful. No one realizes they’re plant-based. I feel very smug, but act gracious and low-key about it (at least hopefully that’s how it came across). We snack and chat and enjoy for hours. The sparkling wine finally runs out and folks go home.

Dinner is leftover roasted tomatoes over toast with a swipe of the Plant Butter. I also saute cannellini beans and garlic in the Plant Butter with Olive Oil and top it with parsley. It’s great.

This week was easier than I anticipated, and a ton of fun to get to explore new foods and plant-based versions of foods that I already love. The Plant Butter was a surprisingly perfect textural replacement for the croissants and pie crust. And, my friends didn’t even notice the difference. To get really specific (maybe obnoxiously so), I thought the Plant Butter was delicious when melted, like in the savory oatmeal or on a warm sweet potato, or cooked with. Going forward, I won’t be plant-based every day — hello again, beautiful cheeses waiting for me in my fridge — but I will be instituting meatless Monday and letting plants do more of the heavy lifting in my diet. They do good work.

3 Delectable Plant-Based Recipes to Try at Home

Vegan Potpie

A delicious plant-based take on a comfort food classic.

Easy Vegan Weeknight Pasta

For whether you’re looking to go plant-based in 2020 or just need a quick tasty dinner recipe that happens to be vegan.

Vegan Plant Butter Croissants

That’s right, even croissants can get the plant-based treatment — and still taste delicious.

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