Thursday, July 22, 2010

Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss

This is probably the best ice cream I have ever had, which is impressive because it isn't actually 'ice cream'! All their products are coconut milk based; it's a revelation! The Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss Naked Coconut flavor is what coconut heaven must be like, and it is remarkably creamy while remaining much lighter than any other frozen dessert I have ever tried. It also doesn't coat your mouth the same way dairy ice cream or frozen yogurt does. It is naturally sweet without any artificial flavoring, and it is sweetened with agave syrup. I have made it my personal mission in life to try all their flavors. There are also other coconut milk based brands available, like So Delicious. Guess what I am trying next.

It is as healthy as it is delicious. Per 1/2 cup there are 220 calories, 16g of of fat (14g saturated, no trans fat), no cholesterol, 10mg of sodium, 3g of fiber, 12g of sugar and 2g of protein. Just look how short the ingredients list is!

Ingredients: Organic coconut milk (organic coconut, water, guar gum). organic agave syrup, organic dried coconut, organic coconut extract, organic fair trade vanilla extract.

Apologies, this entry is unedited. It's been a rough week. Next time: tastiest store bought vegan cake ever, thanks to my wonderful supportive aunt.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amy’s Cheeseless Frozen Pizza

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I tried Amy's brand frozen cheeseless pizza earlier this week, and I really enjoyed it. After a hard week/weekend, I splurged at the Carrot Common on Monday and decided to give it a try. I had been hearing it praised frequently during the past couple of weeks anyway, and I do have a food blog to maintain and everything.

It is the perfect option for when I am too tired to cook or would rather spend the energy elsewhere, or for when my husband has a WoW raid night. It is super easy, cooks quickly, and is super delish! Considering the crust has no eggs or dairy in it, I marvel at how they make it so convincingly frozen pizza crust-like. If I were to close my eyes and take a bite, I probably wouldn't know the difference; the texture is spot on, and the taste too. Deceivingly buttery with just enough flaky crunchiness and just enough chew. I personally find this particular flavor a little too sweet for me; they use sweet onions, red peppers and shiitake mushrooms, all of which, when mixed together without the tartness and acidity of a stringy mozzarella cheese, is just a bit too sweet, in my humble opinion. Heck, maybe you like it that way! You're in luck! That being said, the flavor was definitely tasty, the seasoning was good too (not too salty, not too bland) and the mushrooms were an added treat. They give the toppings more substance, and and I am of the persuasion the more mushrooms the better.

The packaging states, for anyone with relevant food allergies, that Amy's Kitchen does not use any peanuts, fish, shellfish or eggs in their recipes. Per 1/3 of their cheeseless pizza (2 slices) there are 270 calories, 9g of fat (1.5g saturated, no trans fat), no cholesterol, 490mg of sodium, 2g of fiber, 5g of sugar and 6g of protein.

After such a success with this flavor, maybe I will be brave enough to try their pizza with soy cheese!

Ingredients (Vegan): Organic wheat flour with organic oat bran and wheat germ, organic onions, filtered water, artichokes, extra virgin olive oil, organic roasted red peppers, organic tomatoes, organic shiitake mushrooms, organic agave nectar, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, expeller pressed safflower oil, organic garlic, organic lemon juice, yeast, spices. Contains wheat.

Individuals with Food Allergies: This product is manufactured in a facility that processes foods containing wheat, milk, soy, tree nuts and seeds. Amy's Kitchen does not use any peanuts, fish, shellfish or eggs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Chip Substitute Comparison: Rice Works vs Popchips

So now that I have cookies covered for the most part, I was thinking (possibly out loud) that it would be great to have a good chip option for when I am in a salty savory mood (I am known to get those every now and then, especially on Friday nights). Since then, my amazing husband has managed to find me not one, but two amazing options, and they both taste great. Since there is a "vs" in the title, I have turned it into a bit of a competition. There can be only one, so let's review the facts.

Let's begin with Riceworks, it was the first one that I tried. If a bag of Doritos had a baby with a bag of rice crackers, I imagine something very similar might emerge. They are very crunchy, and they have the tendency to stick in your teeth the same way rice cakes or rice crackers do. They have two flavors that I have seen here, Salsa Fresco and Sea Salt, but their site boasts more. A big plus is that they seem to be everywhere overnight. They are in the snack stall in the lobby at my work! In the pharmacy checkout line! The corner store! Not that I don't love my health food stores, but it's not always convenient for me to drop everything and run to Kensington Market when I have a craving. This means that it is easily accessible. Everyone can have healthy chips! And they are very, very healthy. Their packaging reads: Wheat and gluten free, vegan* and Celiac friendly, low in saturated fat, natural brown rice (18g whole grain per 40g serving), no artificial flavors, no cholesterol, no trans fat. Per 15 chips (although I know no one is counting while snarfing) there are 190 calories, 9g of fat (only 1g is saturated fat, no trans fat), no cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 26g carbs, 2g of fiber, 1g of sugar and 3g of protein.

Ingredients: Whole grain brown rice, rice flour, masa corn flour, safflower oil and/or sunflower oil and/or canola oil, sesame seeds, rice starch, dehydrated vegetables (tomato, green bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsely, cilantro), salt, maltodextrin, spices, sodium diacetate, sugar, autolyzed yeast extract, jalapeno, citric acid, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, natural flavour, lactic acid, extractives of paprika, natural caramel colour, silicon dioxide and calcium stearate (anti-caking agents).

* I see a 'Parmesan Cheese' flavor on their website, so I am not sure if it is a simulated cheese flavor or if it actually contains cheese. If you are a vegan, please check the ingredients list before you start snacking!

Popchips came to me a week later, so needless to say I feel completely spoiled with chips. I've been jamming these in my face the whole time I've been writing (for research purposes, of course) and they are like eating BBQ flavored air. Delicious, delicious air. However, as yummy as they are, the packaging warns that people who are allergic to soy and to milk should avoid, and it has also been made on equipment shared with wheat. Now, because I am very dense, at first I couldn't figure out why milk allergies would be triggered, but I have since figured out that, taking a hint from little miss Muffet, it's the Whey, aka Milk Plasma, the liquid that remains after they made cheese, that they use in the BBQ seasoning (this might not be the case for all of the flavors) I have not seen these in any stores yet, we ordered them online through Grocery Gateway (they may sell them at the Longos chain stores, because that is where GG gets their food from). These are also self-proclaimed healthy snack. The package reads: Natural ingredients, no preservatives, no artificial flavours or colours, no cholesterol, no trans fat, "We don't fry (unhealthy). We don't bake it (undelicious). We start with the finest ingredients, apply heat and pressure, and pop!". Per 27 chips (40g serving) there are 180 calories, 6g of fat (o.5g saturated fat, no trans fat), no cholesterol, 360mg sodium (ouch!), 29g carbs, 2g of fiber, 3g of sugar, and 1g of protein.

Ingredients: potato ingredients (potato flour, potato starch), safflower oil and/or sunflower oil, barbeque seasoning (sugar, whey, onion and garlic powder, salt, torula yeast, brown sugar, tomato powder, yeast extract, spices, natural flavours, natural smoke flavour, citric acid* [acidulant], paprika extract* [color]), rice flour, salt, soy lecithin* (processing aid).

*naturally sourced



The verdicts are in! Both these chips are winners in my books, but for different reasons. The healthiest I believe is the Riceworks, and they don't compromise on flavor either, which is really important to me. I don't believe that healthier products should have to taste less yummy, and luckily, neither do they! Riceworks chips would also be able to stand up to a dip or salsa, their texture is more suited to it. Popchips, on the other hand, is the tastier of the two (if crack were a chip) in my humble opinion. The texture is light and fluffy and their BBQ flavor is outrageously good. However, not as many dietary minorities can enjoy them, and that chagrins my enjoyment just a tiny bit too. I also can't eat as many of these at a time because of some of the ingredients. Although they are delish all by themselves I don't think they could stand up to a dip because of their more delicate texture.

Drumrolls please! The winner is.... Riceworks! They have it all. Everyone should go out and buy a bag for their local corner store to show that there is a definite demand for these products in regular stores not just in specialty ones!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Pur" Gum - Sugar-Free and Aspartame-Free

I have never been a huge gum chewer. I suffer from TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disorder)which makes chewing gum, among other things, very complicated and painful. The farthest I normally get into any given piece of gum is chewing it just long enough to dissolve the crunchy flavorful outer layer, probably in an emergency effort to get rid of garlic breath. As a general rule, on top of avoiding regular white processed sugar I also avoid the "Diet" fad sugar substitutes, most notoriously Aspartame. Whereas the FDA claims that it is safe for human consumption (a verdict of which I am not thoroughly convinced) it is one of the many things that can cause the pain in my body to increase*. Therefore, my last piece of regular chewing gum was... maybe six months ago? And before that? Maybe another couple of months before, and I must have been pretty desperate, too.

So, why am I posting about this gum, you ask? Good question. The truth is, I am happy to have the option. Also due to sugar and sugar substitutes a lot of candies and breath mints are a no-go for me as well, so it really makes me happy to finally have something stashed in my knapsack for bad breath emergencies. It is Swiss made, and they are proud of it (it is written several times on the tiny package - exhibit A, tiny white cross, bottom right corner) and it has a really short ingredient list, which always makes me smile. It only takes up one line on the packaging! It may have the shortest one I have written up yet.

Ingredients: Xylitol, gum base, natural flavors, gum arabic, white tea extract, carnauba wax, tocopherols.

*For more information about how Aspartame can affect Fibromyalgia pain levels please see the study I have linked to on the My Personal Restrictions page.

Also, for anyone who is Diabetic please read (a pro aspartame visa-vi Diabetes piece) (an anti-aspartame visa-vi Diabetes piece) Please do the research, consult your physician - make informed dietary decisions.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pita Break Lavash Crackers

I discovered the (vegan) Pita Break Lavash Cracker "Organic Spelt" flavor while rushing around a Loblaws a couple of months ago when my mother-in-law's unexpected visit led to my husband and I hosting dinner with one of the guests being hardcore vegan. I know what it is like to go to a party or be invited to dinner and not have my dietary restriction accommodated. I have also been to ones that have been accommodating, and I am always pleasantly surprised and deeply grateful when it happens (although, as other experiences have shown, it is wise not to expect it). I wanted to extend her the same courtesy.

This flavor happens to be vegan, but not all Pita Break Lavash Crackers are. Most of the other flavors contain honey. As far as I know, the "Organic Spelt" crackers are the only ones that don't. I really enjoy them. I like products that have a small list of ingredients I can fully understand - I like to know exactly what I am eating - and I also like things that are very healthy but don't compromise on flavor.

The packaging proclaims "Source of Omega-3 Polyunsaturates" "Free of Artificial Preservatives" and "Low in Fat; 0 trans fat". Per cracker (keep in mind, they are giant and filling, the real-life equivalent of J.R.R Tolkien's Lembas Bread) there is 105mg of sodium, 1g of fibre, 1g of sugar, 2g of protein, 1g of fat, no cholesterol and 60 calories.

Ingredients: Organic whole stone ground spelt flour, filtered water, organic flax seeds (whole and crushed) organic brown cane sugar, organic sunflower oil, magnesium free sea salt, organic sesame seeds.

That's it. Seriously. I suggest eating them with hummus, guacamole or salsa or any other dip - even something sweet instead of savory - because they are definitely heavy and a bit dry.

A Gift from Toronto Pride 2010: Cookies

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I have heard of ShaSha Bread before, although I will be the first to admit I was not rushing out to try their vegan or gluten-free breads. I am polish; I grew up on very delicious Rye breads and home made Challah bread, so maybe I am a bit of a snob in this respect. Well, shame on me. These tiny little cookies that were thrown at my head during the Toronto Pride Parade last weekend have definitely made me pay them significantly more attention. They are local too, their main office is right next door in Etobicoke. It is good to support local!

It is a constant battle to find snack foods that won't make me sick. I was, and still am, a BIG snacker. I have a very fast metabolism so three meals a day has never really worked for me, and the food restricted man or woman cannot live on carrot sticks alone, they need cookies too, damn it! These satisfy such an enormous craving that I can hardly condense all my avid flailing into words.

I have tried three different flavors (Gingersnap - featured above, Lemon Snaps and Cocoa Snaps) and I have liked them all. Their texture reminds me of tea cookies; they definitely live up to the "snap" in their names. They each have their own cute little slogans too. "Cocoa Snaps, A Lover's Treat", "Lemon Snaps, Spelt Hearts Filled with Zest" and "Ginger Snaps, Traveller's Friend". As far as I can tell they are dairy-free and nut-free (stated on the package). The packing on all three flavors also states it may contain "traces" of egg, for all those with relevant allergies. There is surprisingly little sugar (8-9g per 15! delicious heart shaped cookies - granted, they are a little on the small side), 90g of sodium, no cholesterol or trans fat, 2g of protein and 130 calories.

Ingredients (Cocoa Snaps): Wheat flour*, brown sugar, canola oil, chocolate liquor, water, honey**, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, vanilla extract, blackstrap molasses, baking powder, natural caramel flavor, salt.

Ingredients (Lemon Snaps): Organic spelt flour*, organic evaporated cane juice, organic sunflower oil, organic palm fruit oil, water, organic poppy seeds, organic malt syrup, organic honey**, lime powder, organic blackstrap molasses, organic vanilla extract, natural lemon flavor, sunflower lecithin, salt, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate.

Ingredients (Ginger Snaps, my favorite!): Organic spelt flour*, organic evaporated cane juice, water, organic sunflower oil, organic malt syrup, organic palm fruit oil, organic honey**, organic spices, organic blackstrap molasses, organic ground ginger, sunflower lecithin, salt, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate.

*Not gluten-free

**Not vegan (if you are a vegan who doesn't eat honey)

Available at The Carrot Common.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

‘Arare’ Rice Puffs


I discovered these bizarrely flavored, oddly addictive snacks while rummaging through The Big Carrot Natural Food Market at The Carrot Common outside Chester Station. That store is pricey, yes, but packed full of vegan and gluten-free options for any snacking mood; salty, sweet, moist, crunchy they've got it all. I was in a bit of a salty savory mood when I picked these up on a whim. Now be warned, the green ones definitely have a fish food reminiscent seaweedy taste to them. The darker glossy onces are flavored like the mushroom flavored Ramen noodle broth packets, and all the others of the five proclaimed flavors just taste salty with the nice almost sweet aftertaste of a regular rice cake. They are crunchy on the outside and empty on the inside and after suffering through the first few bites they become very, very addictive. Soon enough you are snacking on them something fierce and your tiny bag that you paid four dollars for after tax is practically empty. They are vegan, fat-free and wheat-free, and for all the salty flavor there is only 160mg of sodium per 30g serving (about half a bag), zero grams of sugar and 3g of protein. I also like them because the list of ingredients are few and I understand them all. That's always a very good sign when it comes to snack foods.

Ingredients: Sweet brown rice, tamari soy sauce (water, whole soybeans, sea salt), black sesame seeds, nori seaweed, barely malt syrup, koji (aspergillus oryzae), shiitake, kombu, sea salt.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Ranch Dressing

To kick the Canada Day long weekend off with a bang our supervisors organized a staff potluck lunch, which is fairly rare, decently yummy (and surprisingly vegetarian) and a wonderful time suck. One of the receptionists brought in this jewel, and there I was leaping around, tweeting about it, text messaging other foodie friends, and everyone must have thought I was out of my mind to get so excited about a salad dressing they probably wouldn't even try given the regular options still available to them. I made such a fuss she let me keep what was left of it.
If they only understood how much I miss the simple pleasure of my old favorite salad dressing my actions wouldn't seem so strange. When I was growing up it wasn't unusual for us to buy ranch dressing in bulk, and my parents used to joke that not only did I use it on everything I ate but also as a facial scrub and shampoo (which I didn't actually do, just for the record).
After the initial excitement wore off, I was worried I had set myself up for a let down. A lot of these products promise wonderful things! Being vegan and gluten-free and healthy, which are all good things, however, anyone who is forced for whatever reason to try similar products will know that they often compromise on taste. It's just not how you remember. I am pleased to say that it actually tastes a whole lot like ranch! Texturally it is a little bit thin, but the taste is spot on, and like all other ranch dressings it goes especially well on raw cauliflower (to me that it is the true litmus test). The only other salad dressing I buy now is the no-name zero fat Italian dressing, and it is only for when I make a large batch of my signature bean salad, otherwise my husbands makes it from scratch (his salad dressings are very, very good by the way, just so everyone knows, and he makes them vegan for me, bless him). What I like about this one is that it's made with agave nectar, so on top of being low/no fat there is also only 1g of sugar per 30ml. There is a decent amount of salt, but it's not unreasonable. The Organicville line of products (I believe there are a handful of other flavors) are available locally at Longos. Unfortunately, products sold there tend to be on the pricey side, so don't be surprised to pay between four and five dollars for a bottle. Even so, I am already excited to try their other flavors. It would be nice to make a legitimate Caesar salad again. I am also excited to try and make a vegan version of my old cream cheese vegetable dip, using this dressing and Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese. Wish me luck! If it works, you know the recipe will end up here anyway.

Ingredients: Filtered water, expeller pressed organic soybean oil, organic soy milk (organic soybeans), organic agave nectar, salt, organic brown rice syrup, organic apple cider vinegar, organic soy protein, organic white vinegar, organic garlic powder, organic onion powder, organic mustard flour, concentrated organic lemon juice, organic parsley flakes, organic black pepper, xanthan gum.