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I Scream, You Scream…(You know the rest)

If you’ve been living on the East Coast this week, you’ve been sweltering along with me. The combination of high temperatures and oppressive humidity made for those “I think I’ll take multiple showers”-type days. Until of course you realize that the showers are futile so they soon turn into “Why even bother to shower”-days. Granted, if Al Roker turns out to be trustworthy, there seems to be some relief on the horizon (at least in my neck of the woods). But still this week had me craving one thing: ice cream.
I had a fortunate childhood (for many reasons) but one is that although I grew up in a pretty small town, there was no shortage of ice cream shops. I can also tell you there were very few softball games, field hockey games, soccer games, and major springtime school events which weren’t followed by a big-group/team excursion to Big Star, Friendly’s, Sweet Creams, Gabel’s, Twirl Top, or one of another half-dozen mom-and-pop ice cream stands. (In fact we had one walking distance from our house for a few summers that resulted in my brother’s obsession of hoarding quarters. To this day, I remember the cost of a banana split there ($2.50) because of his relentless quest to accumulate 10 quarters.) Most kids had a hard time choosing a treat…and I’ll admit I dabbled from time to time…but for me it always came back to the basic treat: vanilla soft-serve with rainbow sprinkles (no, not jimmies) in a cup. At least until I discovered my obsession with waffle cones later in life. Yes, for me nothing said summer like that delicious vanilla treat dipped in granules of pure sugar.
Proof that ice cream..and gluten-filled brownies…were once a staple in my life. 
Now fast forward 20 years. Here I am facing my first summer without dairy. I won’t lie to you: this week has had its rough moments. Gluten-free ice cream was still very manageable. In fact, my favorite selection was still safe in most locations…although I often provided my own sprinkles or just opted out of those. But take milk out of the equation? AND on top of that: no soy? Yep, you don’t have to tell me…things are not looking good. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: water ice, Katie! And sno-balls! You live in Baltimore for goodness sake, could you be any luckier?? (Those of you not familiar with the inner workings of Charm City: sno-balls are a staple summer treat here. When I say you can’t walk ½ a mile without running into another stand, I am not exaggerating) And yes, you would be right…until you factor in my corn situation. All those colorful icy, snowy treats have corn syrup in there, usually of the high-fructose variety, so as you can see I’m pretty much up the creek without a paddle at this point.
So I’m telling myself that I will feel so much better just by helping others who are not similarly stricken with the autoimmune trifecta (gluten, dairy, and soy) and the added bonus of corn that I won’t even feel sadness at my lack of a delicious soft-serve cone on this sweltering night (which a guest also just informed me is also National Ice Cream Day?? Who knew there was such a thing??) Yes I’m lying to myself and no the simple act of sharing knowledge with you will probably do little to assuage my craving for liquefied milk dipped in corn-syrupy goodness…but just go with it. Let a girl live in denial for a few minutes. And I promise there is a happy ending. Well, sort of.
So my gluten-free friends, you’re in luck! (I know, bet you don’t hear that much these days.) Gluten-free ice cream options are abundant and relatively easy to find. Obviously flavors like cookies and cream and cookie dough are out (if only combining gluten-filled items with ice cream magically erased the gluten) but there  are so many other choices, you won’t even miss those after awhile!
1) Dive right in at Dairy Queen: DQ is still the place to be. The link below shows you specifically which allergens could be found in each and every item. My only caveat is to ask the server to use a fresh scooper. You never know when they’re double-dipping between flavors. Just ask nicely and say it’s because of an allergy and they’ll most likely be happy to oblige.               http://www.dairyqueen.com/PageFiles/5144/US%20Treat%202013%20Q2.pdf
2) Proceed with Caution at Baskin Robbins:  BR is not quite as forthcoming with their allergen information. There is a link with a phone number but not a comprehensive list like DQ is kind enough to provide on their website. However, I will say I have been a frequent visitor of 2 different Baskin Robbins locations over the past 2 years and both had clearly labeled gluten free flavors on their case. http://www.baskinrobbins.com/content/baskinrobbins/en/faqs.html    So I still give BR 2 thumbs up. Again, just ask about the scooper. And obviously you’ll have to forego the cone.
3) Give ColdStone the Cold Shoulder: I know, that sounds harsh. And perhaps it is. I will say I give Coldstone an extraordinary amount of credit for their attention to allergen information. It is specific, readily available, and comprehensive. So kudos to you Coldstone!! And I really do mean that.
The problem is if you have severe sensitivity to any allergen behind that counter, you’re playing a dangerous game. You’ve seen the tricks of the trade there where flavor after flavor after topping after creation is mixed, beaten, and served on the same marble slab. There are tons of allergens lurking on that thing that a simple wipe certainly can’t eliminate…and even an intensive scrub would leave me nervous.  Only you can make that decision based on your own sensitivity. As for me,  I stay away. Although they do have pretty good tap water. I did have that once when the rest of my friends were paying a visit there 🙂
4) YJCGW- The Newest Yogurt acronym: Stands for YouJustCan’tGoWrong. That’s right…that new self-serve frozen yogurt phenomenon is great news for all you gluten-intolerant fro-yo lovers. And even you dairy-intolerant ones too. Soy-based yogurt…who knew?? These chains are all pretty forthcoming with their allergen info AND the best part?? You serve yourself SO you know for sure there’s no mixing of the scoopers. Well, that and there is no scooper. Of course there is a small (and I mean minute) chance of cross-contamination if the machine once contained a gluten-filled flavor and wasn’t adequately cleaned…but I have to say when I spoke to each company, they mentioned that and specifically detailed their cleaning procedures. Not to mention, this girl was a frequent fro-yo consumer last spring/summer and I never had a problem. So I have lots of confidence. You really can’t go wrong with any of these gems:
(Dairy-free but soy-filled friends, this is your new sweet spot)
Again, one caveat (I know you thought you were getting a free pass on this one): As hard as it is, do yourself a favor and pass on the toppings bar. The fruit was sliced on a cutting board you haven’t seen, the spoon in the cookie crumb topping is dangerously close to those gummy bears, those “but Katie, they’re M &Ms and I know those are safe” are often really “Candy-coated generic chocolate bought in bulk and not actually gluten-free”, and of course let’s be serious: you really think none of those spoons have been double-dipped by previous customers. Take it from me, they have. So either load up on the yogurt and forego the toppings OR bring your own in a baggie from home and add it on top. After you pay of course…otherwise you’re paying for weight of your own toppings you brought from home! And yes, I’ll admit that last piece of advice is based on real-world events. I was really overexcited about by GF cookie and brownie crumbs and may have overzealously added them to my cup before I made it to the scale. It’s like I tell the kids: mistakes happen…live and learn. And laugh.
5) What about my midnight cravings?? You’re in luck when it comes to those midnight ice cream cravings. There are plenty of safe options to keep stocked in your freezer at home. And yes, this time these are in order of preference. My own…you’re free to agree or disagree.
a)    Turkey Hill: Because the best things really do come from Pennsylvania. God bless the allergen-friendly people at Turkey Hill who thought to include a “filter by dietary preference” option on their website: http://www.turkeyhill.com/products/flavor-search.aspx
They also explicitly label gluten-free cartons. Not to mention, their headquarters is in Lancaster, PA. If you find yourself in that general area (well let’s be serious, if you plan a trip there…one doesn’t really inadvertently find their way to Lancaster), make sure to stop by for the Turkey Hill Experience. Just look for the GIANT (and I mean giant) sign with the cow and you’re on your way! And also, I really do love Lancaster. Plan a trip ASAP. I’ll meet you at the Farmer’s Market 🙂
b)   Ben and Jerry’s: Now initially I was a little perturbed with Ben and Jerry’s for what I perceived to be a lack of allergen info. Then I talked to them and learned that they don’t publish a gluten-free list because their ingredients change so often that they don’t feel comfortable misleading people if an old list is circulating somewhere. In this case, the lack of information was really a sign of love.  Ben and Jerry’s is very allergy-informed and takes it very seriously. See the info below: http://www.benjerry.com/company/frequently-asked-questions
c)    Breyer’s:  If you’re around my age, you remember that adorable girl from our childhood on the Breyer’s commercials. The one who stumbled over all the fancy, scientific ingredients on other labels before eloquently proclaiming the simple ingredients in Breyer’s: milk, sugar, cream, flavoring, etc. While that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, it is true for the basic flavors. Breyer’s doesn’t make many guarantees because their flavors are often made on mixed machinery. I can personally say I ate many a carton of plain vanilla Breyer’s without incident but beyond that, it’s your risk to take or avoid.
  
And now the happy ending I promised you…drumroll please….
There is a “Katie-Safe” Ice Cream!!!!!
That’s right! My days of sulking in silence are over!! SO DELICIOUS…AKA my new favorite company in the world…has so many delicious, dairy-free, Katie-safe options that it almost makes my head spin. In fact I really did hug a Whole Foods employee when I stood in front of the SO DELICIOUS freezer. (Don’t worry, I asked permission as I stood with my arms in pre-hug stance. Even in my overexcited state, I never forget the lessons of the Appropriate Contact training we sat through before that first year of teaching…and I apply those lessons to all facets of life…6 hours of my life well-spent) If this is not the most extensive list of allergen information I’ve seen, I don’t know what is. AND they even have gluten-free cookie dough!!!! I know, I know. Take a minute, catch your breath. I’ve been there.  http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/files/tm_phenylalanine.pdf
I have a delicious carton waiting for me in my freezer AND I use their coconut milk coffee creamer every single day. Usually more than once a day at this time of year. Iced coffee with no creamer is just not acceptable. Do yourself a favor: allergies or not, explore this site. Try some products. You can thank me later.  http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products
Now that I’ve overwhelmed you with information, go treat yourself. Apparently it’s still National Ice Cream Day for 2 more hours. Go dive into a delicious and safe treat. If you need me, I’ll be curled up on my couch with the treat that now defines my summer nights: SO DELICIOUS coconut milk chocolate ice cream 🙂
This is my group of friends at Villanova. We had just finished the final finals of our college careers. And we celebrated the way all typical college students do: ice cream sundae party!
(Many people try to tell me that’s not the typical way to celebrate…if that’s true then I choose to be atypical 🙂

Though tomorrow (you know when National Ice Cream Day is over), please do me a favor. Go to Rita’s. I can’t eat there anymore so I’m counting on you to savor the experience for me. I still haven’t figured out how I’ll confront the first day of Spring next year without my free Rita’s. I’ve been known to have 4 in one day. I guess that gives me 8 months to develop my own non-corn-syrup-based ice flavorer. Challenge accepted

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