Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dinner with Leon

The Hub wanted to go shopping this afternoon and who was I to refuse? Ever the man for logistics, The Hub had it all planned out - coffee and cake at Starbucks and dinner out, with Leon.

What is Leon? Leon is basically a fast food restaurant. Just like McDonald's, there's no waiting staff, it's counter service only and food comes in boxes. It's  unlike any fast food restaurant I've been in, though, as  the decor is ecletic - retro Latino (I think) and kind of funky and the food is fresh and healthy! They pride themselves on sourcing food responsibly and seem to have garnered some excellent reviews.

Why Leon? Well, if you've never heard of Leon  (and you might not unless you live or work somewhere around London) they actually make it possible to eat out without having to ask too many awkward questions, because handily their menu can tell you at an instant(ish) if something is gluten or dairy free.

It is possible to view the menu online before you go, or grab a menu at the door (it looks something like a newspaper) so you can choose what you want before you go in, although you may change your mind, when you set eyes on the specials listed above the counter.

You can find out whether a dish is suitable by looking at the codes listed underneath each item on the menu. WF means wheat free, DF means gluten free, and * means gluten free! Simple isn't it?

The only thing we found odd about the menu was that the children's menu wasn't listed - you had to look at the board above the counter for that. Also missing off the menu were  a range of fruit and nuts as well as cakes and biscuits. All were clearly labelled as wheat, gluten or dairy free, but sadly (for me) there were none that were all three, apart from a packet of nuts!!

Our choice
Baby's box of tricks
The choices for children were simple - chicken, meat balls, fish fingers or falafels with either rice or fries. Falafels were off the menu for Baby, but everything else on the children's menu was dairy free (they must make special children's sauces, because the meatballs and chicken were not dairy free on the adult's menu). Knowing baby well, we chose her fish fingers and fries with peas. 

The fish finger was a good solid chunk of fish. The fries, we discovered, were all coated, which was perhaps why they weren't wheat/gluten free. Some fires on offer that were uncoated might have been a good idea, because although Baby ate most of her fries, she would've polished off the lot at McDonald's!

The Hub's choice came from the specials board. Not having any special dietary requirements, he could have had anything, but chose a dairy and gluten free special - Moroccan Chicken Curry. It looked, and tasted, good (I tried some). The chicken was tender and the curry sauce was not too over powering.

The Hub's choice
Beside the special, there was only one choice for me, being both dairy and gluten free, and that was salmon with rice, in a 'hot box'. It's a good job I like salmon! I have to say, though, the salmon was perfectly cooked and the brown rice had a nice nutty texture and flavour to it. Accompanying the salmon was a tasty tartar sauce and a fresh and crunchy coleslaw.

My choice
The corn 'off the cob' I ordered as a side, was lovely. It wasn't bog standard but sweet and carefully flavoured. 

If you're a big eater, the portions weren't enormous, but we were certainly satisfied with what we had.

I believe there's a different choice of drinks, if you actually get there after 6pm, but arriving early (in the interests of feeding Baby) we satisfied ourselves with the real lemonade, which was tangy and refreshing.

We didn't get round to sampling the coffee, but there's always a next time! 

What about the price?
Prices are not listed online, but to give to a rough idea of how much things cost, The Hub thought he paid a bit more than he would have paid for a meal at McDonalds. However he paid less than he would if we had gone to Wagamamas and was happy with that, especially as the food was good.

My meal broke down as follows:
Salmon Hot Box    £7.95
Corn 'off the cob' £1.95
Fresh Lemonade   £1.75

Anything to add?
Although we all had something to satisfy our hunger, a few more dairy free options on the menu would be welcome. And, personally speaking (as someone who is also gluten free) it would have been nice to have had the option of gluten free bread (at least to dip in the hummus) but it's good to know that if we are out and about in London, there's somewhere else that we can now go to eat.

Update 2015: 
Leon are ever expanding. they now have branches at Heathrow, Birmingham and next year should be opening some more outside of London. Huzzah!

Related Posts
Eating out - Mission Possible
Eating Giraffe Food

Anyone for porridge?

Anyone else woke up to another soggy, wet day? Just the day for trying out porridge, I thought! 

Beginning to thicken!
Porridge used to be a favourite of mine, when I went on camps as a young 'un. One morning some joker decided to add a special ingredient to the mix - one saucepan had green food dye and the other blue. A lot of porridge went to waste that morning, but not mine!

Well, this morning, I decided to give it a go with gluten free oats and almond milk. 

"I don't like porridge!" declared Baby, in disgust, when she discovered what I was up to. 
"That's alright," I replied, "because its not for you anyway!" 
"Hmph!" she said (she's developing quite an effective 'hmph' these days).

'Making porridge is really quite simple, even for me,' I thought to myself. However I DO recommend not decanting your oats into a smart jar, 'cos you lose the instructions for making porridge, as I found out this morning.

Et voila! The finished article! And it tastes YUMMY!
Once I'd located the recipe elsewhere, 50g of oats were poured into the pan, followed by 300ml  of almond milk. It was brought to boil and stirred but didn't thicken. This turned out to be because I needed more heat - I had erred too much on the side of caution following other culinary disasters.

Eventually the porridge thickened and I added my special ingredient - a good splodge of golden syrup! You should try it - it's much nicer than sugar!

"Mmm!" said Baby, when she saw my bowl of porridge. 'Woo hoo!' I thought, 'she's going to eat it and like it this time.' Then I saw the heavily laden spoon making it's way to my mouth. 'OK,' I resigned myself, 'maybe next time!'

Monday, 23 April 2012

Why I'm suddenly all of a Twitter

Ok, so I changed my mind, I know... but I'm a woman, aren't I (please note, tongue firmly in cheek)? 

What we look like on Twitter @dairyfree
I'm 'coming clean' about it, because I believe in honesty and because the eagle-eyed among you might already have noticed a subtle change to the layout of the dairy free blog page. Yes, it's a Twitter feed!

So, only a few days ago, I was planning to just do FB, but... I changed my mind when I discovered a new reason for Tweeting - which might respectfully be called 'lobbying' or 'campaigning'. Well, strictly speaking, it's probably more like hassling, but what it boils down to is getting your point heard and it struck me that it could be a very useful tool for those struggling with food allergies.

It first came to my notice a few days ago. No sooner had I put out my FB post and started 'liking' other pages, than I discovered that another allergy blogger had used Twitter to contact a major supermarket chain and got a swift response! So, having a few questions of my own that I wanted answered, I decided to conduct an experiment.

Twitter account activated, I first contacted Starbucks, from whom I still haven't had a reply, when, over a week ago, I emailed them about a sandwich. I'm rather keen to get an answer on this one as it has the potential to make quite a difference to my life. Still waiting for an answer on that one Grrr!

Next, I tweeted Tesco, about my gluten free bread - Genius. Again the availability of this brand has made quite an impact on my life. If I can't get it, I literally have to find another supermarket that has it in stock. Success! Tesco decided I was worthy of a response. Kudos to them for that! It didn't actually solve my problem - I want them to keep better control of their stock, but at least they bothered to reply. I have other issues with them, but those can wait for another day!

My last target (for the moment anyway) is Jamie Oliver. Now some people don't like him, (and if you are one of them, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion) but I think he has done very well at getting his voice heard in regard to health issues, such as school dinners. Now, I would love, love, love him to take up the cudgel and campaign on behalf of the food allergic - in fact it's a secret dream of mine. How great it would be, if he could raise the profile of the needs that we have (in terms of sourcing food that is suitable) especially when it comes to eating out.

No response on that one, as of yet, but even if he doesn't reply, maybe having put the idea out there...

Meanwhile, there's still a lot I need to get to grips with. I'm currently taking baby steps. I do find myself getting a bit frustrated, 'cos, when Tweeting on Twitter, you only have a limited amount you can say - at the risk of sounding rude! And maybe, in the heat of the moment, you could be a little indiscreet - I'm going to have to watch that one!

Other uses for Twitter, I discovered (in case you're interested) are making new contacts (two so far - welcome to them) and finding new sources of information, which could be useful (keeping my eye on a doc from New Zealand, who has some interesting things to say about food allergies - not sure if i agree with him, but we shall see). 

I also found it quite fun (and a bit of a revelation) following responses to 'The Voice' on Twitter! Going to try and avoid doing too much of that last one though - I've been neglecting my other duties!

As for The Hub, he has started his own (maybe more practical) form of lobbying - he's discovered you can 'recommend' products to Ocado, that you'd like them to stock. Hopefully they'll be selling my favourite flavour of Kirsty's Freedom (chocolate of course) before long. Will let you know how we get on!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Getting enough? Vitamin D for you and me.

Funny how an idea can be swimming around in your mind then, POW! All of a sudden, it's headline news. Apparently, ignorance of the importance of Vitamin D can kill. Wow! I'd been planning to write about it, but I didn't know that! And, just in case you wonder, I'm not being flippant - because for poor little Jayden, although his case is unusual, that's the shocking truth. If his parents had known, about the 'Sunshine Vitamin' as it's sometimes called; if the doctors treating the poor little baby had recognised the signs of its absence, this little baby would still be alive today. What a tragic and completely preventable outcome!

Yet, it could happen to anyone of us! Apparently, according to the BBC (assuming they  got their facts right) 74% of parents and more than half of Healthcare professionals in the UK are also ignorant of the facts! That I find completely shocking (especially as the Daily Mail seems to churn out articles about Vitamin D with a fair amount of regularity)! The parents - perhaps not so shocking (as when I think about it - I didn't know, until the dietitian warned me to give Baby Vitamin D drops) but surely you would expect the Healthcare professionals to know and be doing something about it! Wouldn't you?

In fact, it seems that due to dietary measures (like taking Cod liver Oil) that were taken when Rickets was a common occurrence, the disease appeared to have died out and was relegated to the pages of history. It was considered by many as a Victorian disease. Doctors in practice now, may never have come across a case and so therefore may not actually recognise it, when they see it. 

Unfortunately, it appears that during the 1950's concern developed over whether people might be having too much Vitamin D and, in the UK, dietary supplements were stopped. This seems to have contributed to a modern rise in the number of cases. Add to this, concerns about over exposure to UV rays, which have led many to avoid contact with the sun - a natural source of Vitamin D.

Why is it so important?

The fact is, whatever age we are, we all need Vitamin D. Among other things, it helps to regulate the amount of calcium (remember that, from my previous post) and phosphate in the body which, in turn, means healthy bones and teeth. 

It also helps your body's immune system - one of the reasons why there may be a connection between children with food allergies and Vitamin D deficiency. It is also thought that Vitamin D may play significant role to play in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and multiple sclerosis, although further research is needed to prove these links.

What is recognised, is that lack of Vitamin D, causes problems with bones. In older people it can lead to Osteomalacia. Sadly, in Jayden's case, it led to a severe case of rickets. 

Who needs it?

Recently Public Health England updated their advice on Vitamin D (Updated July 2016). They now recommend that all adults take a daily Vitamin D supplement, especially during Autumn and Winter, when it is not possible to get our daily Vitamin D allowance from the sun. However, there are some groups more at risk, than others, from Vitamin D deficiency. These include:
  • pregnant women
  • breastfeeding women
  • babies and young children (under five years old)
  • older people (over 65)
  • people whose skin is not exposed to the sun e.g. because it is covered up by clothing or because they are housebound
  • darker skinned people

So how much of the 'Sunshine Vitamin' does one need?

Well this, like calcium, depends on where you live! 

In the UK, The Department of Health recommends the following:
  • pregnant & breastfeeding women - 10 µg (microgrammes) or 400 iu/international units (daily
  • babies & young children (6 months to 5 years)* - 7.0-8.5 µg daily (in the form of drops)
  • older people, the housebound, dark skinned etc. - 10 µg daily
*However, formula fed babies do not require drops, unless they are fed less than 500ml formula a day - as formula is especially fortified with the correct amount of Vitamin D. Breastfed babies (there's little Vitamin D in breast milk) may need, however, to be given Vitamin D drops from the age of one monthunless the mother has been taking supplements during pregnancy!

In the US, the FNB recommends slightly higher doses of Vitamin D:

  • 0-12 months 10 µg daily
  • 1-70 years    15 µg daily
  • 70+ years      20 µg daily

These amounts are based on the supposition that those concerned are getting minimal sun exposure.

Where can I get it?

Sadly not in chocolate! I know!! Believe me, I have looked! However a study is currently being conducted into how three squares of dark chocolate a day could help prevent skin damage from the sun - which is important if your'e planning on getting your Vitamin D RDA from sunlight!

Vitamin D is not called the 'Sunshine Vitamin' without reason! Interestingly enough, it seems that you cannot overdose on Vitamin D absorbed in this way, however, you can get skin burned and that, of course, can be harmful. 

Some research has indicated that between 5 -30 minutes of sun between 10am and 3 pm (without sunscreen) at least twice a week provided a sufficient amount of sun exposure. That was with face, arms, legs or back exposed. 

Some exposure to the sun can be helpful, but be careful!
In an interview I heard on the radio, the other year, a more conservative amount was suggested. 10 minutes (without sun screen) of exposing arms and legs to the sun, when the temperature was over 25 degrees Celsius, was considered sufficient. As I remember it, I believe the advice was to avoid the midday sun, but to get late afternoon sun, where possible. Of course, living in the UK, that can prove tricky!

Last summer, with that in mind, I got Baby out and about as often as possible and held back slapping sun screen on Baby, until she had been out in the sun for at least 10 minutes. The dietitian seemed happy with that (as I had also been concentrating on getting Vitamin D into her diet) but as baby had proved to have a reaction to her Vitamin D drops, was still keen for me to start giving Baby Junior Soya milk (with added Vitamin D) so that Baby's intake could be more easily calculated and assessed.

However, because of the risks of skin cancer, most Health Professionals advising on Vitamin D prefer that people look to diet or supplements for their RDA instead of relying on sunlight.

There are (limited) ways of ensuring that you get your Vitamin D RDA through your diet. Should you be thinking of trying to do so, the following (extracted from the US Office of Dietary Supplements NIH) could prove useful:

Table 3: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin D [11]
FoodIUs per serving*Percent DV**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon1,360340
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces566142
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces447112
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces15439
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies)13734
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup115-12429-31
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV)8020
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon6015
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines4612
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces4211
Egg, 1 large (vitamin D is found in yolk)4110
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV)4010
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce62

* IUs = International Units. 40 IU is the equivalent of 1 µg (microgramme)
** DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help consumers compare the nutrient contents among products within the context of a total daily diet. The DV for vitamin D is currently set at 400 IU for adults and children age 4 and older.
Please note: milk in the US is fortified with Vitamin D. This is not so, in the UK. However, if you're dairy free and are using a milk substitute, then it probably is fortified with Vitamin D (as well as Calcium). Just check the carton, to make sure!

Dietary Supplements
In the UK, Vitamin D supplements can be obtained fairly easily - they can be bought over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. Additionally, women and children who are under 'Healthy Start' can get free Vitamin D supplements. Pregnant women, however, should avoid Vitamin supplements that also contain Vitamin A.

Is there a 'right' kind of Vitamin D supplement?
It's difficult to get a definitive answer on this one, although people often seem to prefer D3 over D2. A recent study would seem to indicate D3 is perhaps better, but personally, I think it indicates that D2 is also fine.

How much is too much?

Believe it or not, it is possible to have too much Vitamin D! As with anything, it's all about moderation. Taking too much Vitamin D over a long period can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, which can lead to kidney problems. It's a particular problem for people with hyperparathyroidism, who are more sensitive to Vitamin D and also for pregnant women too as too much can cause some foetal abnormalities. 

However, there should be no need to panic about such things if you are taking normal Vitamin D supplements. For example, my daily calcium supplement, which also contains my daily dose of Vitamin D,   provides - 10mcg (100% of my RDA - UK). The NHS Choices website, maintains that doses of 25mcg or less is 'unlikely to cause harm'. 

In fact, the levels considered suitable by the NHS (UK) are way below the Upper Intake Levels as set out by the National Academies Press (US): 

  • 0-6 months   25 µg/1 000 IU
  • 6-12 months 38 µg/1 500 IU
  • 1-3 years      63 µg/2 500 IU
  • 4-8 years      75 µg/3 000 IU
  • 9-71+ years  100µg/4 000 IU                  (IU = International Unit)

So that's all right then, for us! 

Now let's pass the message on...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

To FB or not to FB? That is the question!

I think Facebook (or FB as it is otherwise known) is a bit like Marmite. Most people either seem to love it (and consult it every five minutes they have spare) or loathe it (in which case they regard with suspicion and wouldn't touch it with a barge pole). Me, I mostly like using it to keep in touch with friends and family that I don't get to see that often, but now I'm ready to take a new step with Facebook.

You'll know it's us, when you see this!
Just in case you're wondering why on earth I'm wittering on about Facebook, there is a point to all this and it has nothing to do with promoting any particular form of social media.

How to update
The thing is, for the last few months, something has been bothering me. Every so often, I find something new or interesting, which relates to being dairy free, but I don't always have time to create a whole new post on the blog. If I merely update the relevant post on the dairy free blog, then people who've already read that post won't know. 

It first began to bother me when I wrote a blog on milk substitutes - no sooner had I posted, than I came across a new substitute (based on hazelnuts). Straight away my blog was out of date and it bothered me - I wanted my blog to be all up together, so that people  can rely on the information I present. Similar problems were encountered when I blogged about Easter eggs - although I did create some follow-on posts for that topic. 

To Tweet? Or... 
Now some bloggers I know, tweet, which seems to be a good way to send out short messages that get straight to the point. Ideal for updating, perhaps. However, not being on Twitter myself and not sure how many dairy free followers are actually on Twitter, it's hard to know just how useful this could be. 

or... not!
Not being quite brave enough or sure that I can devote more time to social networking, I'm not really ready to go down that road, just yet, but FB... well I'm doing that already, so for me its just a short hop. Also, I know a lot of friends and acquaintances who use FB fairly regularly. So although I know not everyone likes FB (and apologies to those of you who don't) I have decided to branch out. 

What will be...
I've created a community page called (funnily enough) 'Dairy Free Baby and Me' which is open to everyone. Hopefully, the link I've added should take you there. If not, you  can search for it, using the bar at the top of your FB page, it should come up. If you click the 'Like' button on it, then anything I post should enter your news feed.

A link to any blogs I write will be posted as soon as they're written. Any snippets of information I post, that are relevant to an existing blog, will be added to that blog in addition to being posted on FB. Oh, and of course, it will be open for others to make  (hopefully) helpful comments, which I shall look forward to reading.

What if you don't want 'to FB'?
If you're not on FB and don't intend to be, then most of the information that I post on the Dairy Free Baby and Me Facebook page should make it into a blog at some stage - it just won't be as immediate. It'll be done when I can find time or gather enough information. I shall try my hardest to include each bit of new information in a relevant blog, but not all may make the crossover.

And finally... a tip: Keep your friends close and... your targetted ads even closer!
I can understand people's concerns about privacy and Facebook. I'm very selective about who gets added to my list of friends on my personal account and am similarly careful about my privacy settings, so that my information isn't accessible to everyone. I know people who won't trust FB at all - their main problem seems to be privacy and intrusion.

FB can certainly seem intrusive, especially when it targets ads at people based on what it thinks their interests are. You know the ones - if you're a woman, it's weight loss and dating and if you're a man, I'm guessing it's stuff like Lynx deodorantRecently my little sister complained about the targetted ads that appeared on the side of her FB page and it gave me an idea! 

My tactic involves purposefully 'liking' lots of dairy free products via my FB page. This is in the hope that I get targetted with ads that I DO want. Meanwhile, I'll be kept up-to-date with all the latest dairy free products. Well... here's hoping! 

Oh yes, and if I get fed up with all the updates in my news feed, I'll just 'hide' 'em!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Ice - a - cream - oh!

Sun! Hope you've had some recently. Not only does it make us all feel better, I don't know about you, but it certainly puts me in the mood for beaches... and ice cream! 

My best effort yet!
When I was a child I used to love it when my parents would take us for a summer's evening stroll by the beach - for then there was the possibility that my Dad would agree to buy us one of those 'Mr Whippy' ice creams. On rare occasions, my siblings and I might get the added bonus of a '99 flake' - deep joy!!

Last year, I felt a tinge of sadness, as summer approached - thinking that Baby might never know the joy of ice cream and also that with no signs of her allergy to cows milk abating (just yet) that I might have to wait a fair while before I might taste it once again. Up 'til then, I had been contenting myself with the odd bit of sorbet, but actually although you can find some nice ones, when you get a craving for ice cream, sorbet just isn't the same!

That's when The Hub began researching dairy free ice cream for me. This post combines all that we have discovered so far.

This brand is probably the most widely available. It comes in a five different flavours - Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry, Blueberry and Neapolitan. For those of you who can tolerate soya, I think this is a pretty good bet. I once had a sneaky lick of the vanilla (I can tolerate that much) and it tasted almost creamy and really quite nice. 

I've seen it in Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Holland and Barrett and quite a few health food shops, but apparently some branches of Morrisons also stock it. The price seems quite reasonable (most places just over £2), especially when you compare it with some other brands (more of which to follow)!

Bessant and Drury's
The only other ice cream that is both dairy and soya free and that is widely available (you can buy it at Tescos and some branches of Waitrose) is Bessant and Drury's, which is considerably more expensive, although I think it does taste nicer (it's around £4). 

The lemon flavour won the respect of the judges at the Free From Foods Awards. Unfortunately,  unless you go to a good independent health food store, like The Whole Foods Market, you will probably only be able to find the chocolate flavour. You can read more about that brand in this blog post, in which I reviewed it more throroughly, if you want to find out more.

Update: Bessant & Drury's has now been rebranded as The Coconut Collaborative. You can find their ice cream in Sainsbury's, but I can no longer vouch for it, as their labels now state that it is made in a factory on equipment used for products containing cow's milk. As 'Baby' appeared to react to their yogurts (see here) I am not prepared to risk another reaction with their ice cream. For more information on 'may contain' labelling, see here.

This is, perhaps, one of the more premium brands of dairy free ice cream. It is not only both dairy and soya free, it is also organic and is available in five flavours - chocolate, vanilla, coconut, ginger and, last but not least, maple and pecan. Each flavour boasts an exotic sounding name, such as 'Hunky Punky Chocolate' or (my personal favourite) 'Keep Smiling Vanilla M'Gorilla'.

It is available in Waitrose, and Holland and Barrett. You can also obtain it via Ocado or in independent local health stores. It retails around £5.99 in supermarkets. Prices may vary.

Sadly, I can't report back on these - they contain cashews (another thing I can't eat).

Update 2014:
There's a new dairy free and soya free (coconut based) ice cream recently brought out by Co-yo. Check out this post for more details.

And Tesco have started stocking their own dairy and soya free ice cream. See here.

Update 2015:
There's a new brand of dairy free ice cream by Almond Dream that is really worth checking out here and here.  AND Tesco now stock a dairy, gluten and soya free ice cream cones that strongly resembles a Cornetto. Check out this post for more details!! YUM!! is all I'm saying!! For those who can have soya, look out in independent retailers for Jollyum. The little lick I tasted, was rather nice. If you're trying to avoid sugar, as well as dairy, gluten and soya, another cashew based ice cream out now, Perfect World, is available through Holland and Barrett and Ocado.

Barkat's cones look just like 'normal'.
Something you take for granted, before becoming dairy free is the common, old, ice cream cone. Not so now! Not satisfied with ice cream itself, I wanted an ice cream cone, but reading the packets soon informed me that it wasn't going to be that easy. Research, however, has yielded an answer - for some, but not all of us.

Barkat produce a range of wafers and cones that are gluten free. Some are also dairy, nut and egg free but not, apparently, soya free. That said, I seem to be OK with them.

I have to be honest with you, although they look the same, they don't taste the same. In fact, they are tasteless - in my opinion. However, if you stuff the 'handle' (with a bit of nifty scoop work) before filling the 'bowl' of the cone, you really don't notice. The crunch is pretty much the same. 

Last summer, before I discovered the waffle version on the shelves of a large Sainsbury's, I managed to order some of the 'Mr Whippy' style cones through a helpful, local independent health food shop. If you can't find them locally, you can, however, order them online from Amazon as well as from online health food stores.

Update 2013: 
Only Askey's waffle cones are made without milk.
Worthenshaws no longer seem to be available BUT...

Since visiting The Allergy Show this year, I've made a few new finds:

Eskal ice cream cones - blogged about here.

Askey's waffle ice cream cones are also dairy free (but not gluten free)!

Asda's Cup cones are also dairy free!

As ever, this is just what I've discovered. If you know better, or know more, please do share!!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A pud would be good!

I DO love a good pud, don't you?? In fact so much so, that at one time, some friends and I would go out just for pud. Well, we might actually go for a walk somewhere nice first, but usually with the intention of stopping off somewhere that we knew we could obtain a tasty treat.

There was a dark time in my life when it seemed that there were puddings NO MORE - back when Baby was first diagnosed!! Then, to my rescue, came my parent's version of dairy free apple crumble and dairy free custard!

Our family staple!

Although, (to use a phrase much beloved of politicians these days) let me be clear about this - when I talk about custard I don't mean that cheffy stuff, made with eggs. No, I mean the stuff that Mr Bird invented, way back in 1837, because his wife was allergic to eggs. Now, the reason I go for Bird's custard is partly because Bird's is what I grew up with (although made with syrup, rather than sugar - you must try it this way, it's much more yummy) and partly because, well, custard made the other way is such hard work!!

I wonder if you're anything like me? I love watching TV chefs at work; I feel so inspired by the stuff they turn out, but... When I look at the list of ingredients... it's long, in all likelihood there's probably some that I've never even heard of and others that I don't get because we'd never use the quantities in which you're forced to buy it.

Then there's the washing up. If, like me, you're without a dishwasher, cooking equates with washing up  - which I do enough of anyway!! Certainly my baby thinks so. "Not washing up again!" she has been known to wail - at the sight of me in my rubber gloves.

Actually, although I do love a good pud, more often than not I don't have one these days. Partly because I can't be faffed; partly because at the end of a meal I can't physically fit more food in, and partly because The Hub (although, as I've mentioned before, he's partial to a bit of creme brûlée) isn't usually much of a pudding eater anyway. Sometimes, however, it can be nice to have a little something to round off a meal. So what are the options? Well, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some ideas* that you might like to try:

Minimal preparation 

(eat it out of the carton)

Thankfully, even when dairyfree there are some options that don't require too much preparation. Although, having said that, most of them are not much good for the soya free amongst us, unfortunately.

  • Pudology now produce a range of delicious puds. They are dairy and gluten free and can now be bought from loads of places, like Ocado, Tesco, Holland & Barrett and Waitrose.
  • Tesco also make a small range of free from desserts, that you can find in their free from chiller section, in their larger stores.
  • Alpro produce a small range of long life deserts. I've not tried these personally, but Baby has had the chocolate variety and it seemed to go down very well indeed! They also produce yoghurts and a ready mix custard. These, however, will be no good for you, if, like me, you need to avoid soya. 
A fruitful option!
  • Summer pudding - from the chiller cabinet at Waitrose. I tried this, before I was forced to go wheat/gluten free. It's tangy and fruity. If a little tart for your tastebuds (and let's face it, fruit can be) try adding a dash of Oatly cream substitute. Or, if you can tolerate soya, Alpro do a ready mixed custard which is available from most supermarkets. Otherwise try adding a spoonful of dairy free ice cream - there are various options available. (blog, on ice cream, to follow shortly).
  • Jelly fruit pots - available in most supermarkets. Long life, not that inspiring, but OK (maybe) for an emergency.
  • Fruit Sorbet - something that I think more restaurants could provide. After all what is so difficult  (for a chef, I mean) about making a batch or two and storing it in the freezer? If you're not the cheffy type, I suggest you check your supermarkets frozen section. Watch out though - occasionally it can be made with dairy, so always check. Bit light on the calories though, for real pudding lovers.

Next to minimal prep 

Ready mixed! What could be easier?
(take it out and bung it together - some chopping, straining or gentle heating may be required)
  • Meringue nests - available in most supermarkets. Fill with chopped fruit - fresh or from a can (obviously strain the juice off first, to stop the meringue from going soggy). Accompany with dairy free ice cream, yoghurt or cream substitute.
  • Freefrom apple pie/mince pie - available in packs of four from Tescos or Sainsbury's. These could be heated, if you prefer them hot. Nice with custard, I think, but unless you can tolerate soya (in which case you could heat some ready mixed) it could be a bit of a faff!
Look! Baked Plum and Almond Pudding also available!
  • Treacle Sponge Pudding by (the aptly named) The Pudding Club. It is available from Waitrose. Sadly, it is now off my list, because it contains wheat, I can, however, safely say it is YUMMY! Waitrose also produce their own version (which I think is one and the same) if you can't find this one, in the chiller cabinet. Several of The Pudding Clubs other puddings are also suitable (not obviously containing milk products) but be warned - don't go for their Bread and Butter Pudding (the clue, unsurprisingly, is in the word, 'Butter')!
  • Eve's Pudding by Waitrose. I've not tried this, but it looks good! Custard might be in order here.
  • Banana Custard - not sophisticated, but good comfort food! Chop up a medium banana, stir together with dairy free custard, and away you go!!
  • Banana Split - minus the cream. Combine banana and your choice of dairy free ice cream, however you please! Decorate with chopped nuts, hundreds and thousands, glace cherries or grated dairy free chocolate. In fact, while we're about it, you could, in fact, make up any kind of ice cream sundae you like (minus cream and wafers though unfortunately)!!
  • Fruit Salad - hardly a pudding in my view (not enough calories) but wash and chop up the fruit of your choice, add some syrup water and serve with a blob or two of dairy free ice cream.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding - Sainsbury's own free from version. I've not tried this but might have to give this one a go.

Bit more effort required 

(ok, so a little bit more cooking skill needed now)
  • Apple Crumble - of course it doesn't have to be apple; use whatever fruit you prefer, I also love rhubarb in my crumble. Serve with dairy free custard, or ice cream.
  • Fruit Flan - the base is basically a fat-less sponge. Replace the butter (for greasing) with Pure margarine. Once cooked and cooled, make some jelly. When this is half-set, add fresh, tinned or stewed fruit, then fill your flan case. Serve with cream or yoghurt substitute, dairy free ice cream or even dairy free custard!
  • Rice pudding - make it in the usual way, but just use your preferred milk substitute.
  • Baked Apple - made with Bramley apples. Most recipes tell you to use butter, but the way my parents have always done it, is just to core a big cooking apple; score around the circumference, with a knife (to let the apple expand, as it heats up) and stuff the core with dates and brown sugar (although you could use other dried fruit and even nuts, if you prefer). The apples are then placed in an oven-proof dish (whose bottom is just covered with a little water) and the apples are sprinkled with about a dessert spoonful of water before being baked in the oven, at around Gas mark 4 for about 40 minutes. When cooked, serve with a dairy free accompaniment of your choice and drizzle the sauce (that has gathered around the apples, whilst cooking) over the top!
  • Upside-down Pudding. You can use canned or fresh fruit. Top with sponge mixture and bake. Accompany with dairy free cream, ice cream, custard or yogurt (I love Coyo, for this).
  • Apple Flan. If you can't be bothered to make dairy free pastry, I believe some of the ready to roll pastry in supermarkets is dairy free. Tesco now sell Jus-Roll gluten free pastry, which is also dairy and soya free, as is Silly Yak pastry. Alternatively, I think Sainsbury's Basics (frozen) Apple pie is dairy free - just get it out, heat it up, add some custard and you're ready to roll!
  • Trifle - made without cream, or with Nature's Charm whipping Cream (buy online from Wing Yip). Make fat free sponge, in a tray rather than a flan tin. Chop it up and place it in the bottom of a large bowl. Make some jelly, add fruit when half set and layer the mixture over the sponge. Layer dairy free custard over the top. Then add a layers of dairy free whipped cream, and add sprinkles of whatever variety you require - flaked almonds, chopped dried fruit, hundreds and thousands, dairy free chocolate, etc.
  • Soya Cheesecake - minus the cheese. Try this recipe from 'Milk-Free Zone' by SNDRi. Melt 25g of Pure, mix in 6 crushed milk free biscuits (eg. Hobnobs or Doves Digestives) and press into ramekins (4x6cms). Spoon 500g of soya yoghurt/dessert over the top. Add a layer of strawberries (about 8 halved strawberries should do it). Then, make some vegetarian quick-jel jelly and spread thinly over the fruit. Refrigerate, for about 30 mins.

Proper cooking (I'm a wannabe chef get me out of here!)
Not my area of expertise - see above! However, try the Pure website - they do recipes. There are also other online dairy free recipes, some of which may be American, so you may need to translate some of the measurements. Alternatively, there are a few good cooking blogs out there. I like Pig in the Kitchen, although (surprise, surprise) I haven't actually tried out any of the recipes yet!

It may be, however, that you have a good recipe, or idea, and you'd like to share it with us, please feel free, we'd love to hear from you!!

* Please note: ideas not recipes. Remember, I'm no Nigella although I have included links to some online recipes (not necessarily dairy free, so substitute where you need to) where I can, to be helpful!