Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gluten Free/Vegan/Dairy Free/Non-GMO/Raw Food & Product Reviews.

The Disclaimer: I have an annoying, fancy, trendy, alternative diet. So I'd like to apologize in advance if any of my Non-GMO, organic, dairy alternative, Gluten Free food choices offend you, I'm just an American girl trying to navigate a sea of chemicals and genetically modified foods in a processed food empire.

The Apology: I used to laugh at vegans. I rolled my eyes at the "Raw Food" yuppies. I scoffed at vegetarians. (I'm sorry, friends!) Now? I'm wondering if they are on to something. So, friends, I apologize for my preconceived, ignorant judgments and hope that the following food products and lifestyle diet changes that you have helped me make for the better can help others.

The Quick Story: If you want to read the story why I chose to go Gluten Free after adopting a more Chinese/Asian diet last fall, you can read how I was hospitalized because of fruit poisoning, learned more about my blood type, and struggled to find all of the right vitamins and nutrients after cutting out lots of processed foods, then you can read my story here. It talks about the struggles at first with gluten withdrawal, and then the quick weight loss and energy boost.

Since going Gluten Free (GF) last October, I've struggled to get enough carbohydrates and satisfying GF bread products -that warm sink your teeth into buttery crust kind of feeling, any kind of GF pastry or dessert. I had pretty much given up on the fact that I might ever get to eat decent bread or desserts again when I discovered Nutrition S'Mart, a "Whole Foods" or "Trader Joes" type food store in New Tampa. Here, at this place, I found dozens of new GF products, some of which are dairy-free and/or vegan, which I would like to share with you today.

Categories of Food Reviews, scroll down for: -Gluten Free foods, -Vegan Foods, -Multi-category foods (Non-GMO, Raw, Vegan, Dairy free, Soy free, nut free, GF foods), -Beverages.

Gluten Free Specific Products: 

Gluten Free bread was the first GF change that I made to my diet, and no product has been better than UDI's. Found in the freezer section, it is great toasted, especially the raisin & cinnamon flavor, the millet-chia one, and the whole grain. It's got a great crust. It is a bit small for sandwiches... I usually have to make two because the slices are so small. Udi's Breads are the reason I was able to give up gluten in the first place and these are awesome products. Udi's also makes hamburger buns, hot dog buns, and other styles of bread. About $5/loaf.

GLUTINO: GF Bagel Chips (with Kosher Dairy): I am delighted to share with you that you can't tell that these are "GF" bagel chips. They taste exactly like the real thing and are delicious. If you're craving something crunchy (besides carrot, cucumber or other vegetables) to dip in hummus, or to load with bruschetta, these are it. Enjoy! ($4.79/box)

I've been buying Tinkyada's rice pastas for the past year. You might bemoan the $4-5/package over it's $1-wheat counterpart, but I've found with rice pasta, you tend to eat less of it to be just as full. (You can get a 6-pack online for $20.) The fettucini style makes for a great Pad Thai, just add peanuts, vegetables and GF thai peanut sauce like the one I've reviewed below.

I bought SAN-J's Thai Peanut sauce this week so that I could make pad thai with the Tinkyada rice pasta that I reviewed above, and I loved this sauce! A lot of sauces have flour in them (a fact I didn't know before this GF journey!) so I grabbed this one, and it's going to work great for the rest of my life. It's mildly spicy, which works for my stomach, and I added some fire peanuts to make it a bit spicier that day: it was perfect. Enjoy.

Vegan Specific Products:

SAMI'S BAKERY: Millet and Flax barbeque pita chips. Because these pita chips have traces of gluten, yeast and wheat, I can't put them into the GF food category, but if you don't have Celiac, they're probably okay, having none of these ingredients, but made in a facility that does. Don't be fooled by the bland-looking picture, these pita chips are loaded with flavor, especially in the Barbecue flavor. Enjoy! ($3.99/bag)

 Gluten Free, Dairy-Free, Raw, Non-GMO, VEGAN: 

My favorite product in this category, is the bag of "Blonde Macaroons" from HAIL MERRY. They are organic, vegan, raw, GF, and non-GMO, and they are DELICIOUS. It's challenging to stop eating them out of the refrigerated bag! If you miss cookies, these are the ones that you've been missing. They're rich, smooth and melt in your mouth. Also beloved by my other GF friend, Kim and her daughters. Enjoy! $3.99/bag. 

go raw's REAL LIVE CHOCOLATE is like a chocolate you've never had before. In amazing singly wrapped live truffles (thank God or I'd eat the whole carton), this live chocolate which is Vegan, GF, GMO free, Dairy free, nut free and soy free, and is a delectable superfood dessert. I can die happy now. TRY IT. $5.49/carton. (Worth every penny.)

The SO DELICIOUS cultured coconut milk "Greek Style" yogurt (dairy free, organic, GF, soy free, vegan) has a more solid texture than it's actual yogurt counterpart, but as a substitute, it's not terrible. The Strawberry flavor tasted a bit like aspartame to me, even though that is not an ingredient, and must be the "organic dried cane syrup" natural flavor. At 130 calories for 6oz, it's so-so. At $1.99/cup it's a bit expensive to eat often. I'd pass on this product.

The regular product (not in the Greek Style) cultured coconut milk review is coming soon! 

Earth Cafe makes some of the best (GF/Vegan/Dairy free/Raw) "cheese cake" slices that I've ever tasted! You can also buy a whole cheesecake on their website. I'm going to buy a whole one for Thanksgiving this year. Don't be fooled: these slices are full of calories, but worth every bite! At about 400 calories and $4.99/slice, it's a rich, delectable dessert to indulge in. Banana Dream in my favorite.

Stacy's Gluten Free (and dairy free, wheat free, soy free, nut free and egg free!) is a local Tampa bakery that makes goodies with all of the above listed considerations as well. Her heartwarming story about how she discovered her son's allergies, and then his recovery from challenges with a diet change, is inspiring! This week I tried the Agave Vanilla Cake with cocoa icing: it was rich!


"SYNERGY: Organic and Raw- Raspberry Chia," by G.T Dave made in Beverly Hills, CA, is full of enzymes, probiotics, detoxifiers and chia seeds. These seeds have "more than 8 times the omega-3s found in salmon. It's probably better of you don't know what kombucha is, but feel free to check here, I did (RACHEL: don't look!) Because of the fermentation process, there are trace amounts of alcohol, which I felt in the first sip! Who knew? The $3.39/16oz bottle took me two days, and three servings to drink, and besides the fuzzy "buzzed" feeling at the sharp almost smooth not-so-sugary raspberry vinaigrette taste, it's not so horrible that I won't try some of the other flavors because it is a superfood beverage. This one's a bit too much like salad dressing for my taste.

MORE FOOD REVIEWS of the following products COMING SOON!