Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ice, Ice Baby!

OK, so I'm returning to the topic of finding something cool and yummy that's also dairy free. I don't know if you've happened to go looking for a dairy free ice lolly yet, during our little heatwave. I wonder - have you met with any success?

These can be found in some restaurants, as a dairy free dessert option

The other Sunday afternoon, we decided to take Baby to the park. It was hot, very hot, so our 'exit strategy' (as my sister calls it) was to offer Baby the chance of an ice lolly, when it was time to go home. That worked! I'm not sure that Baby actually knew what was meant by 'ice lolly' (I don't recall her having one before) but it obviously sounded like a good trade! Often reluctant to leave the swings (it's sometimes kicking and screaming - not pretty folks, but it has to be done) Baby immediately agreed, so off we trotted to the local shop. Now, our local village shop is a Tesco Express, so I was expecting to find a freezer packed to bursting with lollies of all flavours, shapes and sizes etc, made by well-known companies. But no!

Obviously everyone else in the village had the same idea, that weekend, because the ice cream/lolly unit was pretty much empty - apart from some chocolate ice cream type things, made by... Tesco. Bah! No point even trying to read the labels on those, then!

Not to be defeated, I located the freezer where they sold desserts and found something that looked promising - a box of fruit flavoured ice lollies by Robinson's Fruit Shoots. Then, remembering a tip-off from 'Sugarpuffish' on Twitter, I checked the label. Bah! I can't quite remember whether it said, 'may contain milk,' or 'not suitable for milk allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods used,' but it was enough to put me off the thought of even trying.

Baby was pretty good about the whole thing - though there's no doubt that she was disappointed. 'It's alright,' I said, to her, ' Mummy's got some ice lollies in the freezer at home. You can have one as soon as we get back.' 

Fortunately, for Baby, several weeks ago, I happened upon a pack of ice lollies in a local health shop (they can also be ordered from Amazon). They were of the kind that you freeze yourself. I had been intrigued enough to buy some and stock my freezer and there they had lain, waiting for an opportune moment, which had now arrived! Now I just had to hope that my fussy Baby would like them!

Not too bad!
Called 'Smooze,' they are produced by Kara (now Koko), who manufacture coconut milk. As you can see they are produced in a twisty form, which resembles a humbug. Described as a 'fruit ice,' I didn't think they tasted fruity at all, more creamy. Once my taste buds became accustomed to their slightly unusual flavour, they reminded me most of a vanilla 'Mini Milk'  (as made by Wall's). The good news was Baby loved them. Unable to clutch hers for long (as the heat melted it quicker than she could lick) we opened the packaging with scissors and emptied the contents into a cup with a straw, from which she was quite happy to guzzle, for a good while.

Unfortunately, the flavour that we had no longer seems to be available - our local health food shop can no longer get hold of it and they're out of stock on Amazon, although you can sign up to a notification, if they get them in. However, you might be interested to know that Kara make their lollies in other flavours - mango, pineapple and guava, but I haven't got around to trying those yet. This is mainly because I've only seen them on Amazon and you have to buy them in bulk - £116 worth! However, I have just found that you can buy them from a company called Free From For Kids and online Vegan store Alternative Stores.

Disappointing in size!
Meanwhile, casting around the shelves of a Waitrose near us I found these, by Calypso! I seem to remember having lollies like these, when I was little. I remember being disappointed that as you got to the end, they were little more than ice, as by then, all the juice had been sucked out, but they were better than nothing! I bought a box, and when I got it home and opened it was disappointed all over again! They were tiny! OK for Baby, maybe, but they seem to have shrunk somewhat since I was a tiddler!

Having sampled one, I was disappointed on another level - could they have possibly become more watery over time, as well?

Waitrose also stocked the Jubbly lollies. I seem to remember having these as a teenager. Back then, these were more of a hit, than the other lollies, as they had a proper juicy flavour. Again, by Calypso, they come in several flavours, and I think you can get these from most supermarkets. The ingredients looked pretty natural to me, but you can judge for yourself, by following the link to their website.

Since the other Sunday, when we couldn't find a suitable lolly, I've also been conducting a mini investigation into the packets of frozen ice lollies that are sold in the supermarkets. I've found similar comments to those I found on the backs of the packs the ice lollies that I checked that Sunday afternoon. Good job I hadn't tried buying a Calippo from an ice cream van then! However, there are some that are OK. and it's worth knowing, if you happen to be out and about. 

Ribena's ice lollies also seem to be dairy free, but the back of the pack stated that they were unsuitable for children under the age of three, so no good for Baby, then.

Yay for Rowntrees!
However, Rowntrees have come up trumps! Their 'Fruit Pastilles' and 'Sour Pastilles' lollies seem to be dairy free although their packets warn of the possibility of nuts. Sainsbury's own ice lolllies also seem to be free of dairy and anything else apart from their mixed pack, which oddly enough contains barley and gluten!

Larger Tesco stores are also a good place to hunt for dairy free lollies. Their 'Goodness Rainbow Lollies' are similar to the Rowntree lollies, but a better size for tiny hands. Baby seems to enjoy them.

Another place from which to obtain an ice lolly, when out, is Holland and Barrett. My local branch had  a fruity ice lolly called 'Frenzy,' when I looked the other day. It's shaped like a Calippo, but I've no idea what it tastes like, as I've not tried one yet. These can also be ordered from Goodness Direct.

One final suggestion - Strada and Nando's both stock 'Chilly Billy' which looks a bit like a Calippo in shape, but is actually made completely from natural fruit juices. 

I'm sure there must be others out there that I've missed, but I haven't been looking too hard, because ever since watching a TV chef make his own, my mind has been considering the very same! No Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (the chef in question) I did think his recipes looked achievable (even for me) so watch this space! I'll let you know how we get on. Meanwhile, I'm on the hunt for BPA free lolly moulds. Ideas anyone?

DON'T be tempted by Del Monte's '100% fruit juice' lollies, if you're at all sensitive to milk proteins. Somehow although they're '100% fruit juice' they may contain milk - where is the logic in that?? We know to our cost that they do contain milk - Baby had one of these and suffered a bit as a result. 

Also be careful about R White's Lemonade ice lollies. From information on the packets, you might think they are dairy free, as milk is not listed in the ingredients. The lolly packets used to say that they contain milk. They don't say so any more, but the Tesco website says they contain milk traces.

Update 2:
Tesco have a new ice lolly, the Helter Skelter, which is dairy free! We have seen two flavours - fruit and a strawberry and coconut milk. We have tried the strawberry and coconut milk and it is delicious (well I think so, but my fussy 'Baby'... *sighs*)! Unfortunately, no sooner did they appear then they seem to have disappeared again *bigger sighs*! Oh well! Was nice knowing you Helter Skelter - that's what happens when Tesco release a new dairy free ice lolly in the Winter (smacks forehead in frustration)! They were good, too!

Related Posts:

Anyway, if you'd prefer a dairy free ice cream, and have missed my posts on this subject, the links are below:

Monday, 28 May 2012

Simple Sausage Casserole

So tonight, despite all the heat we've been having, I found myself making flower shaped carrots for our sausage casserole. Yes, you heard me casserole! But it was that or Spaghetti Bolognese today, partly because I forgot to buy my special pasta, when I was out shopping today, but also because The Hub ordered our food the other day, and this is what was left in the fridge!

Flowery carrots
Oh, and if you're wondering about the flower shaped carrots - that's just a ploy to get Baby to eat them. It's a trick of my mother-in-law's invention. You draw a zester several times down the length of the carrot, creating grooves in the surface. When you cut through the carrot the flower shape can be seen. Sometimes flowery carrots work and sometimes they don't! Anyway, back to the casserole...

Our sausage casserole began with a Jamie Oliver recipe that I found in Sainbury's a few years ago. It was one of those 'Feed your family for a fiver' recipes. Of course you could only feed your family for a fiver if you bought some of your ingredients from their 'Basics' range, and, if I'm totally honest, it wasn't really enough to feed a family larger than three (in my humble opinion). Anyway, it was quite tasty and so I made it from time to time, just for me and The Hub - the leftovers were next day's lunch!

We've changed it slightly though - we took out the pepper and red onion and added tomato soup! It works though - you'll see!

One of the things I like about this dish, apart from the fact that it contains sausages (which I lurve) is that it is what I call a 'One Pot Wonder' - which basically boils down to everything being chucked into the same pot and less washing up - which suits me just fine!!


3-4 carrots
3-4 sweet potatoes
1 courgette
dollop or two of olive oil
1 pack of sausages*
1 carton of tomato soup (ours was Covent Garden) or a jar of tomato pasta sauce.


1. Warm oven up to 200 degrees C.
2. Peel and chop carrots and sweet potatoes.
3. Put a couple of dollops of olive oil in a large oven dish.
4. Add Sweet potatoes, carrots and sausages.
5. Pour carton of tomato soup over the ingredients and stir in together.
6. Put in oven for 25 mins (of 45-50 in total).
7. Add courgette 20 minutes from the end.

Ta da!

*When food became more of a problem, for me, I felt my world close in around me somewhat, but, realising that some of my favourite recipes were still achievable made things a bit more bearable. Sausage casserole is just one of them - we simply make sure we use gluten free and dairy free sausages. The ones we consumed today, were Rankin's but there's quite a range out there that are suitable (not just the ones in the Free From section). They're usually the 'high end' ones, that are a little more expensive, but are made with a higher percentage of pork - which is always a plus as far as I'm concerned! We also like Heck.

Friday, 25 May 2012

When Baby gets sick

No piccies on this one, yet, because on my lap I have a small sleeping child, who is suffering, once again from some tummy bug. She seems to get these from time to time, no matter how many times I wash my hands, or how much care I take over preparing food. I use medicated wipes when we're out and wash our hands when we come in, I've even been known to change all our clothes, as soon as we get home, but it doesn't seem to make much difference, she still gets them. It is so frustrating! Perhaps I should be rejoicing that she hasn't had one in a while but I'd much rather that she didn't have one at all!

When her first tummy bug hit, I poured over as many online articles as I could, to find the best advice I could, as to what I should  do with my poorly babe - particularly as she had a cow's milk allergy. What I discovered was that the only approach was to let the bug run its course, meanwhile, if Baby was yet to be weaned, you just kept the usual milk flowing. If that failed (due to excessive vomiting) then water mixed with rehydration salts is the next best thing. In fact hydration is the most important thing.

Once food was involved, it was a different story. Some times, when Baby has been poorly, food has been clearly the last thing on her mind, but other times, she has made it known that she really wants something to eat, which then leads to the dilemma of what to give her that won't exacerbate the problem.

It seems there are two basic approaches - either the 24 hour starve and then BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce and dry Toast) diet - this approach is now considered outdated. The other approach is to let the poorly child have some food if they feel like it (but not citrus) This approach works on the assumption that the sick body benefits from nourishment. These days many advocate eating pro biotic yoghurt in order to help restore the balance in the gut - something not suitable for us then!

All of this feels pretty unhelpful when you have an unhappy baby, and are dodging difficult nappies. My approach is to try and stay off food for 24 hours, if possible, as I find this usually does seem to starve the bug. However, now that Baby's older she doesn't see why she shouldn't eat, so if Baby gets hungry I feed her small amounts of bland food. We avoid her usual soya milk, fruit juice, anything oily or sugary and try to ride it out.

The only good piece of news, for Baby and I, is that as I am still breastfeeding Baby, breast milk is still the best! Baby can have as much of that as she can get out of me, when she is ill and can't or won't have solids. I've noticed that, as I allow her to feed on demand, she usually drives up my milk supply  (although it might take a day or so to get sufficient for her needs). The only downside to this, is that it's best if I avoid coffee and chocolate, as that can pass through the breastmilk and irritate Baby's gut even more.

One other good thing, that I have discovered, is that mini bread sticks (we get ours from Waitrose) can be really useful. They're plain, bland and unsweetened and more appealing to Baby than dried toast! When she feels like eating, I often give her these, to see how she gets on with them. Also, as they are a little dry, they encourage her to drink and stay hydrated.

As soon as Baby's appetite has returned, the next step I have usually taken is to introduce egg (poached, not fried) with toast. Eggs are packed with nutrients and often, I find, are easily digested. Until recently, my next step has been mashed potato (mashed with its own cooking water) with maybe some steamed chicken or fish along with some steamed carrots. However, on the last occasion, we all caught it - even The Hub with his cast-iron constitution didn't escape. The Hub broke all my rules! 

He felt like fizzy drink, so drank fizzy drink, he felt like eating (after an initial period where he just wanted to sleep) so he ate and he recovered pretty quickly! What The Hub ate was a dish from his childhood. Although it didn't look appealing, I found that it really hit the spot for my recovering stomach too. 

Basically, it's a Chinese dish, which consists of rice cooked in a lot of water for a long time, until it reaches a thick and 'creamy' consistency. During this time, the rice becomes all mushy and broken down. Eaten for centuries by the Chinese as breakfast (they might refer to it as 'porridge') or indeed at any time of the day, it is used also as a first food for babies. It can be dressed up or down and have all manner of things added to it. It can be made sweet or savoury.

From what I can tell from looking up recipes online, there are really no rules to this dish - you add whatever you like. The Hub's mother usually makes it as a breakfast, adding small pieces of a kind of Chinese pork sausage, along with spring onions (I think). When The Hub made it, chicken being his favourite 'sick food' (he craves chicken soup when suffering from cold or flu) he added some pieces of chopped chicken near the end (long enough for them to cook through). Et voila! Job done!

Looking for a recipe to explain just the basic method, I found one that I could have reproduced it myself but this website explains it so well, I'm just going to include a link. If you would like to experiment with different recipes, this guy's site has got the lot! Or if you just want one simple method, check out this one.

Meanwhile, back to today, I'm going to wait and see what Baby wants. Frustratingly, my little fussy one has been known to turn her nose up at Congee!

How about you? What works for you, when you're child is ill?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bessant and Drury's Dairy Free Ice cream


Yay! It's hot again! And just in time, for my latest revelation. You may already be aware that one of the joyful discoveries I made at this year's Allergy show, was a new dairy free ice cream. 

It's made by Bessant and Drury, and is a product that is relatively new -  only nine months old in fact. Despite being so new on the scene, impressively, Bessant and Drury are already picking up acolades for their produce. The Mail on Sunday were impressed with their ice cream - describing it as 'creamy and delicious', when they chose it as top coconut product. At the Free From awards this year, they won the Innovation Award for their lemon flavour ice cream. As you can see the packaging is contemporary and really attractively designed. They've obviously put a lot into creating this product. Interested? Let's dig in and find out more!

The ice cream is made with all natural ingredients, including colouring. It is completely dairy free - the base ingredient is coconut milk. It comes in three flavours that you would normally expect to find in an ice cream: Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate. But then Bessant and Drury throw us a curved ball - offering Lemon as a flavour as well. If you are a nut allergy sufferer, although coconut itself is not officially a nut, you need to be aware that the ice cream is produced in a factory that handles nuts. At the allergy show, we sampled the chocolate and liked it enough to buy a big tub of it to take home, along with small pots of the other flavours. 

No surprises, really that (as a huge chocolate fan) I really liked the chocolate version of this ice cream, the cocoa in it definitely came across, but the flavour that won the favour of the Free From judges - Lemon - is undoubtedly the best. I dug into this one as soon as we got home, and, although I'm not usually one for citrus flavoured desserts, I thought this one was really delicious. Maybe the reason I loved it so much was because it reminded me somewhat of one of my favourite desserts of childhood - Lemon Meringue Pie! As The Hub observed, it was almost mousse like, but that did nothing to detract from its desirability.

The award winning Lemon
The strawberry flavour is also very good. Made with strawberry purée, you can definitely taste the fruit and a certain creaminess comes through with it, as well. I couldn't hand on heart say that it was the best strawberry ice cream that I've ever eaten, (the honours for that go to a certain strawberry ice cream I had on holiday in Italy, some years ago) but I would say it's better than other Free From versions, that I've tasted so far. 

If I'm honest, I wasn't such a fan of the vanilla flavour. I don't dislike it, but in my opinion, it's not a classic vanilla. I thought the vanilla was masked somewhat by a fruity flavour that I couldn't identify (I almost wondered if I'd got the spoons mixed up) until I realised that the ice cream was sweetened naturally with apple juice, as are they all. It doesn't float my boat but does reflect the desire of Bessant and Drury to create something healthy. Healthy ice cream? I like the sound of that! Of course, what I make of the product is just my opinion, yours may well be  different.

If you want to get your hands on some of this new ice cream, to give it a try for yourself, most of mine's already gone (with a little help from Baby)! However, it can be bought online from Goodness Direct or located in various independent shops around the UK. Bessant and Drury are  also exhibiting at various events throughout the summer and according to the lady selling the ice cream at the Allergy Show, they are meant to be on the shelves of Tesco from June 19th this year!

Bessant and Drury are on the shelves of Tesco! Only the chocolate flavour, at the moment, unfortunately. Just 332 stores currently stock them, but obviously, that could change -  depending on how well they sell. At £4.69, they're more expensive than Worthenshaw's but cheaper than Booja Booja. The question is, at that price, just how well will they sell?

Update May 2013:
Boo! Waitrose were stocking these too, but over the winter have scaled this back to just 100 stores. It annoys me, as I reckon they've been going by their winter sales figures, when obviously less ice cream is going to be sold!!

If you've tasted Bessant and Drury's ice cream already, why not share your opinions, in the comments section below?

Similar post

Monday, 21 May 2012

Confessions of an Allergy Show Virgin

Confession No. 1 - I nearly didn't go!
Not so long ago, I didn't even know that there was such a thing as an Allergy Show and even if I had, I might not have considered myself allergic enough to go, but things have changed somewhat for us, these days. I have to admit, I still hummed and hahed a bit about going (I had other options that day) but as we were meeting friends in London, for lunch on Saturday anyway, The Hub and I decided to download some free tickets and pop in for a bit. And for us, not living too far away from London, I think it was definitely worth it. 

Confession No.2 - We left it to the last minute
Not having been to Olympia before, I had no idea that there were four exhibition halls, or that we would have to walk almost all the way around the building, in order to find the entrance, but eventually we found our way in.

Arriving so late in the day (we only had an hour) it definitely had that end-of-the-day look and there was no sign of any goody bags at the entrance - just racks of empty stands that had obviously held pamphlets etc. earlier in the day. However, despite it being the end of the day, the place was still humming with activity - most stalls were quite busy with people enquiring, sampling and buying. I was a bit anxious, at this stage, as to whether we would really have enough time to find what we needed/wanted, but it wasn't quite as big as I expected. That said, there were over 180 stands.

Not all of the stalls were relevant to our needs of course, so, time being short, my tactic was mainly to start, keep going and then go back to any we really wanted to see. The main flaw in this plan was remembering what it was that I wanted to see - that and the fact that I couldn't resist diving in on certain stands to taste samples.. and to buy!

It was at this stage that I was thankful for two things: first that Baby was sound asleep in her pushchair (which gave me plenty of opportunity to browse uninterrupted) and secondly that I had  obeyed inner promptings the day before and brought what was (for me - I tend to use a card) a fair amount of cash. This was because you couldn't rely on stall holders having credit card facilities, and cash is quicker, generally speaking.

Confession 3 - I spent more than I intended to
One of the major advantages of going to The Allergy Show was that exhibitors were selling their goods at specially discounted prices. So it wasn't too hard to spot a bargain and take advantage of it. We were soon loaded up with Free From goodies, some of which we could get from a supermarket, but some of which were new to us. I began to see why people who had been before had suggested that it was necessary to take a trolley, and was glad we had the pushchair!

So besides picking up bargains, from some fairly well established companies, I soon discovered that another advantage of attending The Allergy Show was discovering new products. Some of these were from companies of which I'd heard but not yet sampled. Others were obviously still in the pipeline and trying to raise their profile, some were further along the line, and in the middle of plans to expand. Either way, it was interesting to meet some of the people involved, hear a snippet of their story and sample some exquisite products. 

One of my favourites, which we only found near the end, was an ice cream company, called Bessant and Drury who make dairy and soya free ice cream - based on coconut milk. They are only nine months down the road, but already recipients of an award for their lemon ice cream. Having tasted the chocolate version, despite being a train journey away from home (under assurances that it should be good for an hour or so in their freezer bag) I just had to buy some of their small tubs of strawberry, vanilla, lemon and a large tub of chocolate.

My other favourite was a pudding company aptly named Pudology. They produced puddings that were dairy and gluten free. They seemed to have three pudding options on the table. My eye was on the Banoffee - it's the pudding I miss the most but only the chocolate pudding was available to sample. The only way I can describe the taste is that it is just as good as a GU. I would definitely have bought from their stand, if only they'd had some ready for me to buy. Still waiting for endorsement from Waitrose (they've been before the Head Chef) I cannot wait for these to hit the shelves - not just those of Waitrose, and can only hope the company will be able to keep up with demand.

Keeping up with the demand, I discovered is one problem that is currently facing the Celtic Chocolate company - manufacturers of the Choices range. They also, I was told, make chocolate buttons for Asda and Sainsbury's. Following the recent disappearance of Humdingers, Choices are the only ones who make dairy free chocolate buttons for a reasonable price (50p a bag) so it was a no-brainer to buy  a box of fourteen for only £6. As our local Sainsbury's seem to have trouble keeping them on the shelves, I only wish I'd bought more!
Also wish I'd spent more time at Hale and Hearty's stall. I stayed long enough to have a quick sample of their delicious chocolate coated flapjacks - individually packed, so handy to take out. I couldn't walk away without some!

Confession No.4 - I wish I'd had more time
OK, I think it was worth going, even for just an hour, but more time to look around was definitely needed. There were a host of information stalls from which I only had time to take leaflets and I missed out on some merchandise stalls that I really wanted to visit - they looked interesting but were too busy, with time short, for me to hang around. We had Baby with us and there's only so long we get for anything, with her around!

Confession No. 5 - I broke Rule Number One
Rule Numero Uno, for anyone affected by any allergy/intolerance? Always check the ingredients. This I knew! However, ho hum, stupid me! Carried away by the fact that I was in the nearest thing to Food Allergy Heaven, and still being fairly new to this whole thing I'm afraid I made some rookie (but not completely disastrous) mistakes. I saw 'gluten free,' I saw 'dairy free,' I even saw 'soya free,' (although soya lecithin is apparently quite safe) and then I just stopped looking! Good job I took The Hub, then! 

It was he, at my elbow, as I hurriedly sampled a tiny amount of some chocolate goodies at one stall and waited impatiently for a chance to sample the ice cream, spotted that, instead of using dairy or soya, they used raw cashews instead. Good job I went no further! A small amount I could handle, but too much more and I could have been very uncomfortable on the train journey home!

I made a similar mistake on the Naked (don't try Googling that) stall, but after that I became a lot more cautious, so that, when we were departing the venue at the end of the day, and The Hub spotted an opportunity to buy a Hot Dog, I anxiously called after him to make sure it was gluten and dairy free. At that point, a lady with two small children, who was waiting nearby, beamed at me ecstatically and rejoiced with me, that indeed it was

For me, that was one of the highlights of the show. As I left the show, clutching my hot dog in my hand, I felt almost normal again - just being able to walk up to a stand and buy some food to take away. It was almost worth going, just for that!

Will I be going again?
Yes, oh yes, oh yes! 

Anything to add?
It was interesting to see the major supermarkets exhibiting too. I just hope, however, that whoever helps select the Free From food that they sell, took time out to mingle among the other stalls and take note. I would love to think that they sampled the same foods and came to the same kind of conclusions that we did.

Did you go to the Allergy Show? If so, how was it for you?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Baking with Baby 2 - Banana Bread Muffins

A sample of our wares
Well, I've only got myself to blame, really. I should have stopped myself, this morning, when, as baby munched happily on her breakfast, I eyed the ageing bananas in the fruit bowl and stupidly uttered my thoughts aloud. "Those bananas are going off, I really ought to do something with them. Maybe we could make some banana bread." The Hub said, "Oooh! That sounds like a good idea." Baby immediately seized her opportunity, jumped on the bandwagon and that was it! It was all arranged. The Hub made his getaway and I was left to my fate!

I think I've mentioned this before, when we made Flapjacks - Baby LOVES baking!! Me, less so! Washing-up will be waiting for me at the end of a long, dark tunnel, fraught with potential for mishap, due to an over-eager Baby! But still, I have to do it. I've sweetened it for myself, by buying a few new baking accessories, I love my new measuring spoons (bargain from TKMaxx) but sadly, fancy new baking aides do not a baker make!!

First up was locating the recipe. I contemplated searching through Pippa Kendrick's new book, or her recipe blog, The Intolerant Gourmet, I love her stuff, because it's allergy friendly and looks (to a shaky baker, like me) 'do-able'. However, in the interests of saving time (Baby doesn't do patient) decided on a recipe I've tasted before. 

It's a recipe with good memories attached - we holidayed in a cottage in Devon with some friends the other September. These friends came armed with dairy free food and recipes, one of which was some rather delicious banana bread! I had the feeling it was a Nigella (our friend bakes a lot of Nigella's recipes) but not being able to locate it online, I printed off the recipe that our friend had sent me after our holiday.

Recipe out, we got stuck in. Baby was safely installed (incarcerated for minimum destruction?) in her highchair, with a bowl of bananas to mash (3 medium ones, just in case you're interested. The oven was switched on to 200 degrees to heat up (190 degrees, for those whoe ovens actually work) and I got on with measuring. 85g Pure Margarine, 340g of ... sugar. It's at this point, I realised that I didn't have the right sugar, but I had demerara, so demerara it had to be! Does it matter? I don't know!

Baby was bored of mashing bananas by now, so creaming sugar and marg together with a fork became her next job, whilst I finished mashing before rushing off to measure out the next  lot of ingredients. Hmm! The  next realisation was that I couldn't locate the proper vanilla essence. 'Did we use it up?' I wondered, as I surveyed my badly-in-need-of-sorting baking cupboard. I couldn't remember. Old bog standard would have to do.

My Matroyska Measuring Spoons
So, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda,  1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg (bought for my yet-to-be-cooked rice pudding) later, I realised my cupboard was sadly lacking - not just in the muscavado department, but also in the spice department - all spice and mixed spice this time. I decided to innovate. 

No idea if it was right, but I added 1 teaspoon of ginger and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon instead. Actually the ginger is kicking in as I write, so maybe I should cut down on the ginger to 1/4 teaspoon next time, and see if that works better. Or maybe I should just get the right ingredients!

More innovation was to follow - 1 teaspoon of salt seemed too much to me. Baby shouldn't have too much. I decided to halve it. I stuck to the flour though, well sort of - 340g Doves plain flour it should have been. Ho hum! Remember it next time!

I did remember our friend's advice about the bananas though - adding the mashed banana at the end. That's where I ran into difficulty - his recipe ends with, 'this usually makes enough to fill...' Oh! Looking at the amount in the bowl and my one remaining loaf tin (somehow I thought I had another older one somewhere) I decided more innovation was required - cue muffin cases! I guessed it was meant to be two loaves, so plumped on nine muffin cases, for roughly half the mixture.

Cases filled, there wasn't as much left as I thought, for the loaf tin, but it was too late by then! Inspecting my tin, I realised the instructions on how to prepare the tin had also been left out. No problem, I consulted Nigella, online. She greased and lined. So did I. 

All in the oven, it was timer time. Which was when I encountered my next problem - no baking time included in the instructions!! 'Next time,' I thought to myself, 'I'm going back to Pippa, from whom I know I'd get a full set of instructions!'

Our Banana Loaf
Quickly consulting Nigella, all her Banana Bread seemed to take about an hour! Hmm! Remembering previous encounters with muffins, I set my timer for 20 minutes (I'm sure I've heard somewhere that you should leave an oven for 15/20 minutes, when baking cakes, to make sure they don't sink). 

Twenty minutes seemed to do the trick for the Banana Bread muffins. I turned the loaf tin around and gave it another 5/10 minutes more, before that too seemed done. I pressed the tops and inserted a skewer (which came out clean) just to make sure. Hey presto! Job done!

Correction! Baby thought the job wasn't quite done - until she had tasted. That was her morning snack. Now, she doesn't often eat fruit (hence the aged bananas) so does that count as one of her five-a-day? I dunno!!

I'm getting the hang of this innovation thing, though. Having sampled our loaf, I'm coming back for more! And I'm considering adding walnuts next time. Hang on a minute! Next time??

Just in time for Baby's morning snack
Baking Tip Addendum: The loaf is a bit on the small side, maybe I should just chuck all the mixture in the loaf tin next time, bar maybe three muffins (for quality control purposes of course). 

Oral Allergy Addendum: I sometimes get reactions to raw banana (and other fruits too). The first muffin I ate (fresh out of the oven) affected my lips. The second one, eaten sometime later (they're only little, really) didn't, so take care if oral allergy syndrome is a problem for you too!

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Baking with Baby - Flapjacks

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Out and About, Chocolate & Reasons to be Cheerful

On Monday, it was Monday Mum's. Baby and I love going - it's good for both of us - partly because it gives us something to look forward to on a Monday (especially when the weather has been so wet recently). Also it's held in a (warm) church hall, so Baby gets plenty of space to play in (something of which we don't have much at home) with other little ones whilst I get the chance to drink coffee, share some Bible, pray and socialise. I'm so thankful for the friendships I've built up there and the mutual support that we are able to offer each other. It's a real highlight of my week.

Although Baby has a problem with cow's milk, it doesn't stop us going out and mixing socially, but it does mean we need to go prepared. We're fortunate in that we don't also need to take an epipen or antihistamine with us too. I take a small selection of suitable snacks - depending on where we are going and the length of time we are going to be out. I may stick a (fun looking) label on her, to warn people about her milk problem, but if it is just a small group which we attend regularly and I am there too, I probably won't bother. If it's a new situation, with people we don't know and there's food involved, then I definitely will.

At Monday Mums the other mums know us quite well by now, so if I forget to label Baby before I go, it's not too much of a disaster. If they see Baby reaching for the chocolate or cakes left out (all too temptingly, I'm afraid) the other mums all know to step in - if I'm not paying enough attention. There are bananas left out too, but I'm afraid Baby only usually goes for them, if she's exhausted all the other options in my bag.

It was a bit hard though, the other day. I suddenly realised Baby was standing still, very near to me and giving me a 'look'. Her eyes were big and bright - full of meaning. 'Hmm!' I thought to myself, 'what's she trying to say?' Then I saw... and my heart sank. One of the other little girls there was sat on her mother's lap, right next to us. Delicately, the little girl was nibbling on a Wispa - savouring every little bit.

Baby's Buttons (and mine, if she's not careful)!
'Bother!' I thought, 'Baby's seen the chocolate - milk chocolate. And what's more that little girl is taking her time over it - extending the torture!' Baby has no idea what a Wispa tastes like, but she knows what chocolate looks like, and just like me, LOVES chocolate (dairy free of course). "Sorry Darling," I said regretfully, gently stroking Baby's face, "I'm afraid you can't have that chocolate - it's got milk in and it would make your tummy hurt." 

Baby is always so good about it. Whenever I say, "It's got milk in it, it would make your tummy hurt," she just accepts it. She doesn't beg or plead, or strop, like she would if she wanted the telly on at home. That's what kind of makes it worse, in a way. 

I'm not of course advocating that other people shouldn't eat chocolate near Baby. She's got to get used to the fact that we don't live in a dairy free world and that other people are going to be eating things that she (for now at least) can't have. 

Sometimes, I try to pre-empt such situations, by carrying a secret stash in my bag (it has to be secret or otherwise she'd empty it pretty quickly) such as Free From chocolate coins, buttons or lollies. Unfortunately, I was not prepared on  this occasion.

Of course I didn't leave it there, I couldn't! Not when she was being so good (or even if she wasn't). "You can have some of your chocolate when we get home - after you've had your lunch," I said.

It's times like these, when I am extremely thankful for Free From chocolate. The other times I'm thankful for chocolate, of course, are when I've got PMT! Chocolate was something I thought I'd kissed goodbye to, when I discovered I had to go dairy free. I was so, so glad that someone had found a way to make it without milk!

I am thankful not just for Free From chocolate, now I come to think of it, but the many  other different Free From products that are available these days. I do not know what we would do without them! 

I am taking part in the 'Reasons to be Cheerful' Blog Hop. For more reasons to be cheerful, follow the links below, and if you blog, why not join in too!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Dietitian Time Coming Up!

It's dietitian time again soon. I must not forget to... hmm! Now let me see... I know I was supposed to challenge her again, but was there something else? 

And did she say to challenge Baby three or four weeks before I went or leave it three or four weeks before trying again? Rats! I've forgotten! Where's my notes? Surely I wrote it all down? What about my notebook on the iphone? Nope! Oh well! At least I wrote the date and time for the next appointment on the calendar. 

Such was the state of my mind one Saturday morning! 

Sometimes going to the dietitian's is a bit like going to college - you get homework!! It's fine remembering it all, if it's something to start straight away and keep going with, but it's much harder to remember when it's a few months down the line!!

So I've come up with a little check list to run through, before my next appointment:

  • Write down any questions I want to ask the dietitian before I go, otherwise, in the bustle of going out, I'll probably forget them!
  • Take plenty of coins - the car park charges at hospitals are atrocious - £4 last time. And now there is a Costa in the lobby, (what a shame) so of course I'll want a few extra coins there!
  • Take snacks and drinks for Baby - they'll keep her happy for a bit and she's bound to get hungry & thirsty at some point (especially if we're kept waiting).
  • Baby will need some form of entertainment - there's nothing worse than trying to hold a conversation with the dietitian whilst Baby's getting bored and restless. These days a Night Garden comic (they have loads of good stickers that she can do without too much help) and a few crayons usually does the trick.
  • Take a notebook and pen (must remember to do this) as otherwise it's easy to forget what we've discussed and decided upon.
  • Take a diary, in order to plan the next appointment - no good just writing it down on a scrap of paper, as it might clash with something else and scraps of paper get lost in my bag anyway.
  • Try to calculate how much milk she is getting daily before the appointment, as they're bound to ask! Me saying: 'Hmm! Well... may be a cup at bedtime and some in her mashed potato...' etc. isn't much use to anyone! Cup sizes vary, so 'a cup' could mean anything!
  • Take a rough meal plan for a 'normal' week - so I don't have to try and think back and list everything we ate!

Hopefully, if I follow my own advice, the next visit will all go swimmingly!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Happy with Hazelnut?

I've loved hazelnuts since I was little. The parents used to buy them at Christmas time and once I got the taste for them, I could eat them for England! However, I have to admit, I did wonder what Alpro were playing at by producing yet another nut based milk. After all, nut allergies are so common these days. I was a bit unsure if I should try it, as sometimes I get allergic reactions from nuts, however in the interests of research, I decided I ought to give it a go. 

What they say:
It's made by Alpro, they say it's: 'Smooth & creamy with a rich taste of hazelnuts.'

What does it contain?
It contains: Water, Sugar, Tri-calcium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Stablisiers (Locust Bean Gum & Gellan Gum), Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin), Vitamins (Riboflavin (B2), B12, E, D2) and, of course, Hazelnuts (2.5%).

Daily allowances (adults)
One serving (200ml) of Hazelnut Milk contains the following: 
30% of your RDA Calcium and Vitamin D2.
7% of your RDA Sugar
5% of your RDA Fat
4% of your RDA Salt

Allergy advice
Free From dairy, and soya. Contains hazelnuts (quelle surprise)! May contain traces of other nuts.

The Initial Taste Test
Pouring it into a glass, I have to admit that I was slightly taken aback by the colour of this drink. I tend to expect milk to look white or off white, however, this particular form of milk looks like a very milky chocolate milkshake. I'm guessing that's due to the natural qualities of the hazelnutI suppose I should have known what to expect from the pictures on the carton, but I'm afraid I pretty much missed those. I sipped cautiously at first, remembering my experience with Almond Milk (nothing to do with the unsuitability of the product, just my body's allergic reaction). The hazelnut flavour came straight through, followed by a certain kind of creaminess. I liked it! 

Further trials
Hazelnut Porridge. Yum!
It didn't take me long to finish off my cereal sample and charge straight into the porridge challenge. The porridge was slightly brown in colour, but it would take more than that to put me off - especially as it proved to taste delicious.

Not being one for creamy tea, I gave this trial a miss, but leaped at the chance to try it in my coffee. 

When I tried frothing it, a thin layer of froth appeared, not as much as with the almond milk, perhaps, but it was there. I wasn't disappointed though, as I had a hunch that it would taste good and it did! 

Make mine hazelnut!
The Hub was more sparing in his praise, when he tried the hazelnut milk in his coffee, but maybe that's because he doesn't have his black, like I do. It certainly made a welcome change, for me.

Any indication of suitability for young children?
As usual Alpro makes things very clear. They state that it is OK for children over the age of one but not as a main milk drink. I would follow that up with a caution to check with your doctor or dietitian first, if your baby/young child has any allergies/intolerances, as Baby is now over the age of one and still advised not to try nuts just yet.

On the allergic side of things, I was fine. So really, for me, it's straight down to flavour, and, as I think you can tell by now, I liked it! So much so, that as I think hazelnut and chocolate is a great combination, I'm planning on using it to make hot chocolate and maybe rice pudding too!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Have you tried Hemp?

Well have you?

One of the advantages of shopping with Ocado (aside from dragging a screaming Baby away from the toy department) is that sometimes they send you through a freebie. This is usually something that relates to your shopping history. There have been some hits and misses, but I'm pretty pleased with one of their latest offerings - a sample of Hemp milk. It's encouraged me to give Hemp a go.

Original version

What they say:
It's made by Good Hemp who describe it as 'creamy' and 'nutritious.' It is, apparently, good for the environment and healthy - low in saturated fat and cholesterol free. They say that it naturally contains Omega 3 and 6. One serving (250ml) is supposed to supply 50% of our daily recommended intake of Omega 3 and 38% of Omega 6. If you want to know more about the nutritional values of Hemp, Wikapedia is a good place to start!

What does it contain?
This might seem silly, but it's not just Hemp! It contains: Water, Rice, Grape Juice, Calcium (from seaweed), Sucrose, Sea Salt, Natural Flavouring (?) and Vitamin D2. The actual Hemp content is 2.5% of Hemp extract (equivalent to 10% Hemp Seed).

Daily allowances (adults)
One serving (250ml) of the Good Hemp Milk contains the following: 

38% of your RDA Calcium and Vitamin D2.
4% of your RDA Sugar
9% of your RDA Fat
2% of your RDA Salt

Allergy advice
It says it is free from allergens, then goes on to list specifics - soya, gluten, dairy. 

The Initial Taste Test
Well... at first I think it's okay. I can detect a tang of something, but I'm not sure what. To begin with I don't get the 'creamy' claim, but after a few sips, it comes through and then I realise that I'm not that keen on the flavour.

Further trials
Initial taste test out of the way, I give it a go with a bit of puffed wheat cereal. Seems that funny flavour still comes through. In porridge, the Hemp milk makes it fairly creamy, but gives off a slight smell and the funny flavour becomes a bit more apparent. I'm really going off it. And also, I'm not sure if I'm imagining it, but I think my head feels a wee bit swimmy. I'm thinking to myself, 'Hemp is a narcotic. They have made sure it's safe, right?' However, I feel it is only fair to press on and give it a try in tea or coffee, to see if that improves my impression of it at all.

In tea, and coffee that distinctive flavour, which I'm guessing is Hemp, is there again, along with the creaminess. I'm just remembering that although I usually love cream... not so much in tea!

When I tried frothing it, for my morning coffee, it only produced a very thin layer of froth, which dissipated quite quickly. 

After my first sip of the coffee, The Hub saw my face and wouldn't even try it, so I don't think we'll be using it in baking!

Any indication of suitability for young children?
No. So, to be on the safe side, I would presume that as with other milk replacements (unless you've been advised otherwise by a Healthcare Professional, such as a Doctor or Dietitian) it's probably fine to use in cooking (with children over the age of one) but not as a main milk drink. 

On the allergic side of things, I haven't had any bad reactions to Hemp, so far, but haven't really tried it enough to know whether that would remain so in the long term (some reactions take a while to show themselves). 

Okay, so I don't like it, is the bottom line. That is, I do like the creaminess - something that is missing in most other milk substitutes. It could be OK, if it wasn't for the rather unpleasant after taste. I'll stick to black coffee for now, I think - mainly because hemp has a distinctive flavour that (for me anyway) takes some getting used to! Having said that, I wasn't of a fan of rice milk, because of the after taste I got from it, but lots of other people are fine with it, so don't let me put you off! If you have tried it or do try it, let me know what you think! 

Update 2015: 
There is a new version of Hemp milk now blended with coconut. I've not tried it yet, but am intrigued!

Related posts about dairy substitutes can be found on our blog, under the heading 'Dairy Substitutes'.