Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Clemenza's Pizzeria...

   AWESOME Vegan Pizza!

No, I'm not actually a vegan.

Last summer, I stopped eating beef, poultry, and pork.  And I've stopped eating most dairy products within the last few months, save for a squirt or two of half 'n half in my coffee.

But I still eat seafood once a month, and I do enjoy my eggs over-easy about once a week, as well as in my pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods, as a binding agent.

However, when it comes to pizza, the product that I eat nowadays can typically be labeled as 'vegan', as it's devoid of cheese, meat, and other animal products, for the most part.

Most of the pizza we eat is homemade, but we still feel like ordering out on occasion.

You can tell quite a bit about a pizza joint by ordering a pie with all vegetables and no cheese.  Without the greasiness and saltiness of all the cheese and dairy fat to mask other flavors, you'll learn a lot about the quality of the vegetables, sauce, and other ingredients that are used.

Up until now, we've stuck with safe bets when ordering out...  Napa Wood Fired Pizzeria and Naked Pizza.  Both of these places make it a point to advertise their use of fresh, natural ingredients, as well as the availability of vegetarian and vegan options.

Ever since ditching the cheese, we haven't tried ordering from the more traditional pizza joints that we grew up with...  the places where we'd get a large mushroom and pepperoni pizza with two dozen medium wings.

Yeah, it tasted really good.

But fourteen wings, four slices, and three beers later, I'd be withering away slowly on the couch, gradually drowning in a greasy, bloated coma of indigestion and wretched gas.

Not a pleasant way to spend the evening.

But just last month, a new pizza joint called Clemenza's Pizzeria opened up just a few miles down the road in Mendon - the next town over.

Click HERE to see the menu.

Aside from your typical pizza offerings, you've got mozzarella sticks, wings, meaty subs, pizza logs...  seems like your traditional 'greasy pizza joint' fare.

Yeah, the offerings suggest that it was just another typical greasy pizza joint.  And there's nothing whatsoever that alludes to any vegetarian or vegan offerings.  But yesterday afternoon, I was really in the mood for some pizza, and I'm always open to supporting a new, local business.

After perusing the menu, I decided on a small pie with artichokes, roasted red peppers, fresh garlic, and broccoli...  and tomato sauce, of course.  When ordering a pizza without cheese, it's a good idea to include fresh garlic or onions, as the roasted, caramelized characteristics of these ingredients do a great job standing in for the missing cheese.

I called them at 624-5545 and placed my order with Joe.

     "No cheese at all?" asked Joe. "You don't want any Parmesan sprinkled on there?"

     "No thanks," I said.

     "OK, so we have a small pizza with artichokes, roasted red peppers, garlic, and broccoli.  That sounds like a really good pizza.  Fifteen minutes work for you?"

     "Yep, sounds good."

     "Thanks, Dave.  We'll see you then."

Joe actually called back a few minutes later just to confirm that I wanted red sauce on the pizza...  which I did.  Props to Joe for making the effort to double-check.

When the clock on my computer hit 1:45, I grabbed my keys and wallet and hopped into the car to pick up my lunch.  Within ten minutes, I was back in our parking lot with the windows rolled down and Jim Rome chattering on the local FM sports station.

I hungrily opened up the pizza box and...

No, there wasn't a piece missing.
I just ate the first piece before I could snap a picture.
It was that good.

What I saw in that pizza box was the best-looking pie I'd laid eyes on in quite awhile.  Thick crispy crust...  lots of delicious-looking vegetables...  and the aroma of the fresh garlic was making me drool.

I made a selfish grab at the biggest slice and took a gluttonous bite...

Wow...  that was some good pizza.

What impressed me the most was that this pie was from what looked to be just another greasy pizza joint.  And yet, the pie lacked all of your typical 'greasy pizza-joint' characteristics.

My crappy little cell phone camera
really doesn't do this pizza justice.
It wasn't greasy.  It wasn't heavy.  It wasn't soggy or salty.

The vegetables were delicious, and the garlic complemented the red sauce wonderfully.

And what's this 'cheese' thing that everybody's talking about?  Whatever it was, this pizza certainly didn't miss it.

Within ten minutes, all four slices were gone...  demolished...  devoured.

For the remainder of my lunch, I sat in my driver's seat with the windows rolled down, while Jim Rome continued to discuss the Dallas Mavericks and their recent NBA Championship.

Of course, I can't comment on the wings, pepperoni pizza, meatball subs, or any of the other meaty or cheesy delights that are available at Clememza's Pizzeria.

Last year at this time, I would have tried a dozen medium wings, and I'll bet they would have been delicious.

But when I'm in the mood for a vegan pizza, I'll definitely be giving them a call again.

Even if you're not a vegetarian, do yourself a favor and order a pizza from Clemenza's with three or four different veggies.  If you're feeling really adventurous, ask them to leave off the cheese.

You'll be pleasantly surprised, and your stomach will thank you.

No leftovers...  No surprise there...
And I even picked up a free magnet for the fridge.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy Rupture: Part II...

Click HERE to read Part I.

My digestive system AFTER Rupture...
All of a sudden, I felt a violent jolt in my mid-section.  Apparently, the hamsters had called in reinforcements and were pelting my innards with ninja stars.  I squirmed as I felt a gas bubble stampeding through my colon.  I probably should have left the room, but Mookie was sleeping on my lap.  He looked so peaceful, all sprawled out...  not a care in the world.  I didn't want to disturb him.

     Maybe I can just let it out silently...  It won't be so bad.

I gradually eased the tension on my abdominal muscles and silently released the painful ball of gas into the couch.  I felt the cushion recoil forcefully under my backside.  I discreetly glanced over to my left, out of the corner of my eye, wondering if I'd displaced the cushion on my wife's side of the couch.

     Uh ohhhhhhhh...  it burns...  badly.  That's not a good sign.

Mookie was still sound asleep on my lap.

     Good boy...  take one for the team.

I looked down at our other cat, Indy, who was snoozing on the couch between my wife and I.  His nose was buried in the crevice between my backside and the couch cushion.

     Oh dear...  Sorry, boy.

After a few moments, he jerked his head up and glanced around with a startled, panicked expression.

     No...  stay there.  STAY THERE!

Hastily, he hopped down and made a beeline to the sliding glass door, which I'd cracked open a few inches when I came downstairs.

     "What's his deal?" my wife wondered.

     "Um, not sure...  Maybe the chipmunk ran across the deck again.  ...  Hey LOOK!  The WEATHER is coming on next," I remarked enthusiastically, pointing to the TV.

     "Um...  Dave, what's that smell?  Was that...?  Did YOU...  ?"

     "Yeah, that.  Um... my stomach doesn't feel so hot right now."

     "Honey, maybe you should--"

     "AUUUGGHHH!" I screamed, as I lurched forward without warning, ripping a second ball of gas into the couch.

Did you just...  ?
I almost spilled my coffee onto Mookie, who shot out of my lap to the other side of the room, where he huddled in fright next to the ottoman.  The audible reverberation of the blast had been absorbed by the cushion, but the hideous cloud of gas was already disseminating throughout the entire room.

     "Oh GROSS!"

     "It burns," I wailed.  "It BUUUURRNNNNNNNNNNNS!"

My entire digestive system from duodenum to anus was afire with rage.

     "Dave, that's DISGUSTING!" my wife scolded in disgust.


     "Holy SHIT!  DAVE--  THAT REEKS!"



     "I KNOW!  I KNOW!" I roared, grabbing my cramping mid-section in pain.  "IT WAS THE ICE CREAM!"

The knots in my lower bowels were getting worse.  I knew that I only had about twenty seconds 'till zero-hour.  I leapt from the couch and sprinted across the family room towards the bathroom door.


     "NO MORE ICE CREAM!" I screamed, sprinting through the hall towards the front entryway.  "NEVER AGAIN!"

As I grabbed the railing and rounded the corner, a third missile blasted from my burning anus, followed by a fourth.  The force of the final blast sent me careening sideways into the wall, propelling me the rest of the way up the stairs.

     "THE CATS ARE UNCONSCIOUS!" my wife yelled out from downstairs.

     "SORRY!" I screamed, stumbling into the bathroom.

I slammed the door shut and...

     Ahhhhh...  Just in the nick of time...

I'm not going to describe the unpleasant details of the twenty minutes that followed.  Let's just say that those are twenty minutes that I'll never get back.

They're gone forever.

But the lesson I've taken from this harrowing experience is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Cow's milk is nature's most perfect food...  if you're a growing, baby cow who needs enough protein and growth hormones to put on hundreds of pounds within several months.

Last time I checked between my legs, I didn't have an udder.

As far as humans are concerned, we would probably be better off getting our calcium from beans, leafy greens, and whole grains.

It's true that humans have adapted and evolved over millions of years to survive on a number of different diets.  And yes, we can drink milk, and dairy does make certain foods taste good.

And milk does contain calcium.  But milk is not a health food...  not by a long shot.

Why would you do that to me?
Of course, the dairy industry has gone to great lengths to convince the us that we're all going to whither away and die if we don't drink at least four glasses of milk per day.  Americans actually consume more dairy than almost any other group of people.  And yet, the United States has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis on the planet.

How is this possible?

Again, the answer has to do with the specific proteins found in milk.  As with all other types of animal protein, dairy protein makes our blood very acidic.  To neutralize this acidity, calcium from our bones is released into the bloodstream and eventually excreted in our urine.

People who eat more dairy, meat, eggs, and other animal products need more calcium.

The typical American diet, which includes lots of animal products like meat and cheese, actually creates a calcium deficiency within our bones.

In other cultures where dairy is rarely consumed (and meat is used sparingly), the average daily calcium intake may be less than half of what it is in the United States.  And yet, the incidence of osteoporosis in these cultures is so low that it barely registers.

Here in the United States, we've Super-Sized our daily calcium requirements by saturating our diets with animal protein.

Now that I've all but eliminated animal protein from my diet, my daily calcium requirements are much lower than they were just over a year ago.  I can get all the calcium I need from beans, whole grains, leafy greens...  the occasional serving of soy milk in my smoothies.

But I don't need to review endless numbers of medical literature to know that dairy is not good for me.

All I need to do is listen to my body.

And what my body is telling me is that I function much more comfortably and efficiently without milk.  Ever since I've drastically reduced my dairy consumption, my stomach feels better, and I have quite a bit more energy.

This has made a significant difference in my running, as I feel lighter and faster on my feet, and am also able to recover more quickly from my longer workouts.

And I no longer feel like I'm wandering around with an assault helicopter lodged into my gut.

For some reason, beans have gotten a bad rap...  unfairly pigeonholed as the culprit responsible for unruly flatulence.


Actually, I'm now eating beans in some form or another at least four or five times a week...  much more than I have in the past.  And yet, not only do I have less gas, but that which I do have doesn't send loved ones running for the hills.

I used to average two to three full servings of dairy every day.  Now, the only dairy I consume is in extremely limited quantities...  a tablespoon or two of half 'n half in my coffee every day, or a small amount of buttermilk in my pancakes once a month.  My digestive system has adapted to dealing with these small amounts.

But when I want to enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream for a treat, my body is no longer used to handling the larger serving.

I end up paying for it dearly.

Again, all the scientific data wouldn't make a bit of difference if I didn't feel better.  But after giving up most dairy, I do feel better...  MUCH better.

That's proof enough for me to stay away...  for the most part.

With summer approaching, many of us are looking forward to heading down to our local ice cream joint to enjoy a triple pooper-scooper-sized chocolate ice cream cone dipped in chocolate sprinkles.

While that certainly sounds delicious, I'm afraid I'll have to pass.  I was fortunate enough to escape Rupture Day with only minor injuries, and I don't want to press my luck.

However, I have been experimenting with quite a few smoothie recipes recently, which are made with frozen fruit, soy milk, and a liquid sweetener like maple syrup or agave nectar.  What I've found is that proportionately decreasing the amount of soy milk in the recipe will yield a delicious, frosty treat with a consistency similar to ice cream or frozen yogurt.

In a future post, I'll share some of my favorite combinations.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Happy Rupture: Part I...

My digestive system BEFORE Rupture
Day.  Mad props to the Incredible
Hulk for standing in as a sketch
model on such short notice.
No, don't adjust your screen.  That's not a typo.

Last month, my wife and I survived Rupture Day...  because that's what happened to my large intestines.

And that's what's going to happen to our poor couch if we don't stop eating cheese and other dirty dairy products.

For all intents and purposes, the couch is already ruined.  I may as well toss the cushions by the curb and burn them.  We can't light candles in our family room any more because the whole couch would go up in flames if we dared to light a match.

But for now, we're going to keep the damn couch.  We really can't afford to buy another one, at this point.  Besides, I doubt that our trip to Raymour and Flanigan would be as entertaining as it was the first time around.

And wouldn't you believe it, Rupture Day actually occurred on Rapture Day.  How's that for cruel irony?

The world was supposed to end on Rapture Day...  or something along those lines.  Frankly, I can't imagine that Rapture could have been any worse than the filthy cloud of death that's still lingering in our family room, almost two weeks later.

At this point, Rapture still sounds like a pretty good alternative.

But if Rapture was for real, I'll bet it decided to pass by our house when it caught a whiff of the dirty, hovering stink.

Rupture Day began just like any other typical Saturday.  I rolled out of bed, fed the cats, and started brewing a full pot of coffee.

     "Hey, isn't the world supposed to end later today?" my wife asked, as she opened up the family room blinds and cracked the windows.

     "Oh yeah, that's right.  But...  I don't think that's scheduled until six o'clock tonight."

     "Good," she said.  "That means you've got time to mow the lawn."

     Awesome, I thought to myself.  Might as well make the yard look presentable before it gets swallowed up by the earth.

Unlike the miserable baseball team that
plays its home games about eight hours
south, these Orioles are fun to watch.
As the coffee continued trickling into the pot, my glance drifted out the dinette window towards our new redneck bird feeder, which I recently installed.  Two large doves were perched on the roof of the feeder, and a male Baltimore Oriole was pecking away at the orange half that my wife had left on the 'feeder balcony'.

     "Honey, the male oriole is here again."

     "Yeah, I know," she said.  "I just got a few more pictures."

We've been in our house for almost four years, but we hadn't seen a Baltimore Oriole anywhere near our yard until just a few days ago.

My wife first noticed the male hopping around our back yard earlier in the week.  Knowing that Orioles have a preference for sweet, gooey delicacies, she immediately sliced up an orange and left it on the feeder.  Within ten minutes the male was happily feasting.  Later in the afternoon, the female showed up.  And when I got home from work that evening, there appeared to be a juvenile male at the feeder.

I called my sister, the bird expert, to find out if we should expect to see juvenile orioles this early in the year.  She didn't think so, but she asked me to send me the pictures.

     "Nope," she said.  "That looks to me like a female.  It's still too early around Western New York for juvenile Orioles to fledge from their nests."

Big Sister says it's NOT a juvenile.

Fair enough.  I always defer to Big Sister when it comes to birds.

Anyways, once the coffee had slowed to a struggling drip, I poured two cups and dumped the rest into a stainless steel carafe, to keep it hot.  I took a sip from my mug.

     Hmmm, not bad, I thought to myself.  If this is my last ever cup of coffee, I can't complain.

As we headed to the couch with our mugs in hand, the birds continued dancing and chirping away outside the back window, unfazed by the rapidly approaching Hour of Judgment.  Perhaps they had no idea that the world was going to end just around suppertime.

I suppose I should have been worried, but I was a bit more concerned about the gurgling, grumbling noises that were coming from within my belly.

     "Honey, what was THAT!?"

     "THAT...  was my stomach."

All of a sudden, I didn't feel so hot.  It felt like a gang of rabid hamsters was crawling around, nibbling on my intestinal walls.  Every ten seconds or so, one of the hamsters would lob a hand grenade and take cover.  A few moments later, a loud explosion would shake my mid-section.

     "Honey, what is WRONG with you!?"

     "I told you," I said, holding my gut in discomfort.  "It's my stomach.  We probably shouldn't have had any ice cream last night."

     "Dave, you only had a quarter cup."

     "Not even," I added, holding my sides in discomfort.  "But that was two nights in a row."

As recently as last July, we were both enjoying a big bowl of ice cream, sometimes topped with glorious whipped cream, at least four nights a week.  When we gave up meat in August, we hadn't really planned on cutting out the dairy, as well.  But while reading up on the health implications of eliminating meat, I stumbled across extensive research indicating that dairy is probably worse for us than beef, pork, and poultry.

Then, I read 'The China Study', by T. Colin Campbell.

Just a word of warning...  if you like your cheese, milk, and ice cream, I'd suggest that you skip this book.

Among other eye-opening conclusions, the research conducted and reviewed by Campbell shows a strong link between casein, the protein found in all dairy products, and the activation and progression of dormant cancer cells within our bodies.

In fact, casein was shown to have a much greater influence over the development and activation of cancer cells within our bodies, than other factors that we've traditionally viewed as the primary culprits...  such as genetics and environmental contaminants.

When my mom was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor at 53, the neurologist told us that her particular type of cancer had been studied extensively for over a hundred years, but a cause had still not been identified.

Mom didn't drink, never smoked a cigarette in her life, and took a brisk walk five or six days a week.

LOTS of scary charts in this book...
...charts that the dairy industry probably doesn't want you to see.

When she died just over fifteen months later, we were all baffled as to what could have possibly caused her illness.  My sister and I didn't spend a lot of time wallowing in self-pity, asking 'Why?', 'Why her?', and 'Why us?'.  But we did, and still to this day, wonder what we can do differently, if anything, to avoid the same circumstances.

Until recently, we didn't even consider that Mom's diet could have been a factor.  For years, we always assumed that the typical American 'meat, dairy, and potatoes diet' that she'd enjoyed all her life was healthy.  (Actually, potatoes are very nutritious and don't belong with the other two.  Unfortunately, they've gotten a bad rap via Atkins, South Beach, and all those other nonsense low-carb diets.)

All of the reading and research that I've done over the past eight months suggests otherwise.

Ever since I finished 'The China Study', I've been trying to cut most of the dairy out of my diet.  I'll still have the occasional bowl of ice cream.  But now that my body is not used to large servings of dairy, this causes raging fits within my stomach, intestines, and bowels.

     "Ugh...," I moaned, as another grenade was discharged within my intestines.

The coffee was delicious, but it certainly wasn't helping me win the war against the hamsters.  Caffeine does a bang-up job of jump-starting peristalsis within the lower gut.  The gurgling and churning noises were getting louder, and the contractions of my gut were now spaced about eight to ten seconds apart.  My anus was dangerously close to dilating.

     "Ogghhh...  ," I groaned again.  "OUF!"

     "Um, Dave.  Do you need to go upstairs?"

     "Oh, I don't think I'm going to make it 'till after breakfast," I said.

Click HERE to read Part II...