Wednesday, January 7, 2009

As Vegan As I'll Ever Be

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      I'm about as close (if not too close for comfort) to being a vegan as I will ever be. I consider myself a strict vegetarian when I talk about my diet, but I find it easier to just say vegan when I am in a restaurant. The only animal products I consume, read ingest, are eggs and honey. Milk is out due to severe symptoms of Celiac's or else I would eat cheese like there was no tomorrow. I did for quite sometime until I realized the loves of my life, cheese and ice cream, were making me sick.

      Getting over cheese took several months for me. I realized it was the milk around April and gave it up for close to two months, but I went back until early October when I finally walked away for good. Now, even getting a single shred of cheese in my burrito bowl at Chipotle will leave me feeling like I just got punched in the stomach. Drinking a bottle of Vitamin Water containing magnesium lactate and calcium lactate left me with a hot, swollen face and hives down both legs.* It sometimes takes incidents like tha
t to make me appreciate the effort it took to give cheese up.

      Getting over ice cream, now that's a different story all together.

      If anyone knows Texas or knows anyone from Texas, you know Blue Bell. When I was fairly young my mother took me to t
he Blue Bell creamery in Brenham and I can still remember the excitement of getting to taste what seemed like dozens of flavors. My family grew up with Blue Bell and moving away from Texas found me missing it with a passion.

      Not a lot can beat a cold bowl of ice cream at night during the summer here. Or the winter, for that matter. That is one of the reasons I was so happy to find these two things at Whip-In:

      Nada-Moo is a grea
t dairy alternative ice cream started right here in Austin when Amy, the founder, working as a pastry chef and baker, decided to make a desert for her sister who suffered from serious food allergies.

      They use coconut milk, brown rice, chicory root and organic flavorings like maple and chocolate (watch out for the barley in the mint chocolate chip!). These natural flavors come together to make the smoothest, creamiest dairy free ice cream I have eaten. I normally have the same complaint from most rice-creams that they're too frozen – too hard to eat and enjoy and not creamy at all. Never have that problem with this brand. My only complaint, if you could even call it a complaint, is that most of the flavors come off a little coconutty, but this is seriously good ice cream. I love their slogan too – “When having a cow is out of the question” - vegan and dairy allergy friendly!

Ciao Bella Gelato:

      This gelato is alarmingly good, albeit a little expensive. With food prices what they are for me being on such an 'alternative' diet, I really didn't blink at the $4.99 price tag. Blood Orange is my favorite flavor I have eaten been able to get my paws on and with only three ingredients and 98 calories per ½ cup, this gelato is a true hit!

      The company started in New York's Little Italy and grew to
become a sensation in The City (NYC) having multiple store fronts as well as being served in some of the best restaurants in town. Go to their website and drool over the amazing flavors they have come out with. With another tasting tour coming up later this year, minimalist ingredients, real Italians making real Italian food and flavors like Pomegranate Champagne Sorbetto, what's not to love? The company has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Oprah's Favorite Things and even Rachel Ray has proclaimed her love for the Ciao Bella brand.

      While I realize these brands are not nation wide as of yet, they are available for ordering from their respective websites. The best companies to deal with, I have found, are the small family owned companies that actually care about their individual customers' opinions still. One of the main rules I live by is that if I cannot get a straight answer from the company, or contact them for that matter, then I refuse to do business with them. Shopping at small local grocers can increase your chances of finding little niceties like real Italian gelato. Go explore and see what you find!

* I contacted Glaceau, the company behind Vitamin Water and they informed me that their products are considered vegan and vegetarian and their calcium lactate and magnesium lactate are derived from sources other than milk. I am not arguing with the company over this, but I had a severe reaction while watching UFC 92. I was drinking XXX Vitamin Water and eating Frito Lay honey roasted cashews. I continue to eat the same cashews with no reaction.

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