Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We all Scream for... Rice Cream?

     I love my sweets. I always have, and I always will. I long ago embraced my semi-addiction to sugar as an inescapable part of my genetic fabric. Nature and nurture have had a hand in that—one of the key players being none other than my dear, sweet Grandma Joan
     From Mike & Ike’s to ice cream cones, Grandma Joan’s house was a treasure trove of carefully concealed goodies. When visitors came over, she would cleverly place a bowl or two of sugar-free hard candies on display in her living room, as a sort of deterrent, I believe, but I knew where she kept the good stuff.
     Not surprisingly, some of my most cherished childhood memories are of spending the night at Grandma Joan’s house. I had trouble falling asleep as a child, so I would lay in her guest room (my room while I was there) and wait until I heard her turn on the television and settle into the living room couch for her own ritualistic bout with insomnia. Then, like clockwork, I would make my way downstairs and slide in next to her, waiting to hear one single string of words from her mouth. Sure enough, within minutes of my arrival, she’d turn to me casually and say, “How about a cone?”
     Happily, I’d follow her into the kitchen to make ice cream cones. She always bought the cheapest brands, and I’d often be mildly disappointed to find only freezer-burned Neapolitan flavors or frozen yogurt in her freezer. But regardless, the sensation of that ice creamy goodness melting over my taste buds and trickling down my throat was pure bliss.
I felt such incredible kinship with my grandmother as we sat on that couch with our ice cream cones in hand, watching Audrey Hepburn and Barbara Streisand movies into the wee hours. And that comforting connection with ice cream most certainly followed me into adulthood.
     So I’m sure you can imagine my dismay when, in the summer of 2006, a routine blood test revealed that I had developed an allergy to milk. In fact, I was so resistant to this result that I didn’t officially stop eating dairy until the summer of 2009. I did stop drinking milk (for the most part) upon receipt of the lab results, but ice cream and cheese? No way.
     Alas, my mind may have been hooked on fresh mozzarella and frappuchinos, but my body revolted. I simply cannot digest dairy products. I won’t go into the details, but the reaction, which involves a lot of swelling and discomfort, has become unpleasant enough to keep me away from all things dairy—for good.
So now, imagine my sheer ecstasy when I came across Living Harvest Tempt—a rich and creamy frozen delight made from hemp milk. It is unbelievably, indescribably delicious. Since the anti-dairy diagnosis, I’ve tried coconut ice cream (I’m not a fan), and soy-based ice cream products, which make my belly blow up like a horribly unattractive balloon. But hemp-based ice cream? Divine. My favorite flavor thus far is Coffee Biscotti. I have yet to try Mint Chip and Chocolate Fudge, but that’s only because my current local grocery stores do not carry them.
Tonight, after another long waitressing shift, I decided to try a new brand: Good Karma Organic Rice Divine. Rice milk typically leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but the folks at Good Karma have managed to whip this non-dairy beverage into a light and refreshing frozen indulgence, sort of like the frozen yogurt of the non-dairy ice cream world.
     Following a brief perusal of the available flavors, I settled on Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge,  which melted quite satisfyingly in my mouth with its gobs of peanut butter and chewy bits of fudge-like goodness. My only complaint is a slight taste of the carton having been left in the Wegman's freezer for too long.
     Then again, this hint of freezer burn actually enhanced the nostalgia of my frozen treat eating experience. If only I'd had a cone! (They do make gluten-free ones, by the way.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Springtime Sweetness

            I didn’t intend for this to become a product blog. I just wanted an outlet. I’ve been writing my whole life, in the form of diaries, journals, short stories, poetry, song lyrics, articles, essays, and the like, and I just wanted to create something simple and genuine—straight from the heart (or the sweet-tooth, rather).
            And yes, it seems that every entry thus far has been about some product or another and how I’ve managed to use it to make my sweet-loving soul smile. After all, it’s the simple things that matter in life, right?
            I have no intention to stop this silliness, but my daily detailing of pre-packaged goods (albeit organic ones) has forced me to confront the fact that I have been steadily slipping away from eating a fresh-foods-focused diet, something I've grown to place a great deal of value on over the past few years. I’m even back in school right now working toward a master’s degree in whole foods nutrition, so I am fully aware of the potential dangers of going overboard with the sugary indulgences. 
            But as I said, I will continue with this crazy compiling of packaged goodies of the food-allergy-friendly sort. Mostly because it makes me smile to do so. I will, however, be sharing my various from-scratch baking ventures along the way, too. And as we get into the warmer weather, I hope to incorporate much talk about sweet treats that grow naturally, in nature, the ones with just the right touch of sweetness because they’re popping fresh out of the earth or being plucked off a bush or a tree somewhere. I’m talking strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums—you name it. I’ve always adored them, but this year, I want to make an extra special effort to eat as many as possible, as locally and organic as possible. (raspberry, blackberries, plums)
           In order to facilitate this, I’ve managed to choose two Rochester area farms to reach out to over the upcoming summer months: Mud Creek Farm in Victor, NY, and East Hill Farm in Middlesex, NY. I’ll actually be participating in a work-study weekend at East Hill Farm from June 25th to the 27th, about which I am super excited. I wanted to spend the entire summer volunteering on organic farms via the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network, but alas, the unavoidable need for a steady source of income has prevented me from doing so.
            This one weekend should make up for my botched farm-girl plans on some level, though. I’ll be partaking in a free (for me, because of the work-study thing) three-day workshop on biodynamic agriculture, taught by Nathaniel Thompson, a graduate of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I may just walk away from the experience ready to grow some fruits and veggies of my own—something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now.
            For now, I'll leave you with some lovely springtime photos, as my walk the other day in Rochester's Highland Park was oh so... sweet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Yums Up

           So, not a second after I posted my earlier piece, the clouds parted and the sun came out full force. The air may have been a bit chilly still, but the sunny skies lasted for the remainder of the day. Another reason to love springtime in this area—you never know what you’re going to get from one minute to the next, literally.
            I took advantage of the surprisingly pleasant weather and my afternoon off from both work and class to explore the cute little shop I mentioned in yesterday’s post: Eco Bella Bakery.
           Was it worth the trip to Rochester's South Wedge neighborhood? Simply put, yes. In fact, I think I may have found my new favorite sweet stop. As a first time buyer, I selected a mini carrot cake moon pie and a cheesecake brownie, both vegan and gluten-free. The girl behind the counter recommended the brownie; I couldn’t resist the tiny portion of carrot cake. 
          Both were delectably delicious, although I've only had a bite of the brownie so far. The carrot cake lasted me all of maybe five minutes? I'll have to hold off for a week or so to avoid too many excess calories, but I am so going back for more. 

46.6° and Cloudy

Yesterday, it was warm and sunny. Today, it’s cold and cloudy. Sigh—such is springtime in western NY. But other than making the grass look strikingly greener and the tulips more stunningly vibrant in contrast, gray skies are good for inspiring some pretty satisfying sweets.
               Here’s a simple one I concocted on my own one day, driven by the desire to taste something similar to a mocha, but without the milk and coffee or the trip to Starbucks. Really, it's just homemade hot chocolate, but I like to think of it as something a bit more special than that:
1.     Fill a coffee mug about two-thirds full with Silk Original Soymilk, or some other form of non-dairy milk product.
2.     Fill about half of the remaining third of empty space in your coffee mug with Silk French Vanilla Creamer.
3.     Take a small-size cooking pot and pour the soymilk mixture from the mug into the pot.
4.     Grab a container of cocoa powder and scoop two tablespoons of it into the pot.
5.     Turn on the heat. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring all the while to break up the bits of cocoa powder.
6.     Wait until the mixture begins frothing and rising to the top of the pot. Turn off the heat immediately.
7.     Use a strainer to pour the cocoa blend back into your coffee mug. (The strainer is key, as chunks of pure cocoa powder are bound to have formed during the boiling process, no matter how well you stirred—or at least, I’ve found this to be true in my experience.)
8.     Top off what’s in your mug with another dash of Silk French Vanilla Creamer, both to cool it down and add a touch more sweetness. (Obviously, if you’d prefer a less sugary drink, leave out this last part.)
           And there you have it—a coffee-free cocoa mocha, or something to that effect. You know what goes perfectly with this soul-soothing beverage? You guessed it—Pamela’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Seriously, they should be paying me to write this. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tasty Treats?

     I'm not sure exactly why, but I have gluten-free goodies on the brain again. Maybe it was the woman who sat at one of my tables today (I just started a seasonal job as a part-time waitress) who happened to inquire into the items on our menu that are free of gluten. Or maybe it's because I’ve been missing some of my favorite allergy-friendly NYC restaurants and treat shops since I relocated my quarter-life crisis self back to my hometown in Rochester, NY, last summer: Babycakes NYC being at the top of the list when it comes to the sweet stuff. 
        Anyway, as soon as I mentioned my own need to refrain from wheat, which is often found in tandem with the glutinous substances mixed and poured and baked into the majority of prepared foods today, this kindhearted patron's eyes lit up. Eager to impart her findings upon someone who might actually care, she happily hipped me to some of the gluten-free offerings in the Rochester area. Most of them, unfortunately, use dairy in their GF foods, so they still won't be legit for my dietary purposes. But her enthusiasm did sort of jump-start my own desire to investigate the tasty treats being baked in my own backyard, so to speak. 

        I think the first stop is going to be Eco Bella Bakery on South Avenue in the South Wedge area of Rochester. Will their vegan, gluten-free goods compare to the cute cupcakes and other equally delightful and mouth-watering creations at Babycakes? I don’t know, but I will be reporting back soon.

Image pulled from the Babycakes NYC website.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hi there.

For as far back as I can remember, the story of my life has been you name it, I’m sensitive to it. It started out with simple things like the kids at nursery school who were bigger than me making me cry and the fluorescent lights in my high school and college classrooms and post-grad nine-to-five office jobs provoking mind-numbing headaches. 
Over the years, those few identifiable triggers (mean people, bright lights) have morphed into a perplexing mass of environmental, social, and food-related culprits: the whirring of a computer, strong perfumes and odors, harsh words, all types of chemical additives and preservatives, certain foods (like dairy and wheat gluten), loud noises, and the most frustrating by far, the sun. My reactions to these stimuli range from the aforementioned searing headaches to strange rashes and full-out emotional breakdowns, but as a whole, they confirm what people have been telling me for years, whether it be doctors, friends, family, or boyfriends; I am sensitive—too sensitive.
But rather than sit silently in my room, staring into my lap and playing with my thumbs, as I did in nursery school, I’ve decided to start a blog—a sensitivity blog, if you will. Because really, I’m tired of being told to toughen up. We are such fragile creatures, after all, each of us with our own set of unique struggles and subsequent insights.
You see, I’ve wanted to become an official blogger for quite some time, but I haven’t been able to figure out what, exactly, to write about. My mind whirls from place to place and topic to topic so haphazardly that I often cannot keep up with it (silly brain). But I’m happy to say that I have finally managed to focus my various passions and personality quirks into one blog-worthy space (I hope):  Sweet Sensitivity.
The spark for this revolutionary idea was ignited as I stood in my kitchen one day, savoring the rich, velvety sweetness of a Pamela’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookie—my medicinal cookies, as I’ve come to call them. Not only will one bite of these chocolicious treats transport you to a land of magical sensory experience, but they also happen to be made sans gluten, wheat, and dairy—three things that, for my delicate digestive tract, have become intolerable. This does not make them a health food, of course; a cookie is a cookie, whether it contains 89% organic ingredients or not! But it does make them a safe indulgence for a highly sensitive, food-allergy-plagued individual such as myself.
The older I get, the more I embrace who I am—flaws and all. And part of what I’ve grown to appreciate is the new places to which my “heightened sensitivity” has taken me—foods I would never have tried, truths I would never have uncovered, friends I would never have met, and words—whether on the page or in a song—I would never have written. Sensitivity, for me, is a blessing. It is beautiful, and it is sweet. Just like those damn cookies.
I eat at least one a day, by the way (on average). Yum.


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