Friday, 13 July 2012

We're all going on a... dairy free picnic

Well not 'all' to be perfectly honest, Baby and me may well be the only dairy free people there. 

I just heard, the other day, that even though Baby's favourite toddler group is finishing next week, for the summer (sob, sob) they are going to hold a picnic at some point during July. Woo hoo! We will still get to socialise, and I love picnics... I think. 

They always sound like a fun idea - very Famous Five, in a let's-spontaneously-go-off-on-some-kind-of-adventure kind of a way. However, on reflection, thinking back over my childhood memories, the food in our childhood picnics tended to be (dare I say it) just a little bit boring - sandwiches, a packet of crisps, a piece of fruit and maybe a chocolate biscuit. 

The most exciting and spontaneous picnic, that I've ever been on, was when I was dating The Hub. On a complete whim we just went to M & S and just bought everything we liked the look of, including the cutlery, blanket and everything (we were both earning at that point, without any other encumbrances, if you know what I mean)! Then we got in his car (TT back then, very nice) and drove until we found a spot we liked, There we stopped, lay in the grass, relaxed, chatted, ate, etc. We were so carefree about the whole thing, it was lovely!

Nowadays... hmm let me think! Well we'd probably better look out the plastic boxes - in the cupboard under the kettle and check to make sure they're clean. The picnic blanket might also need a clean, I think - it's been kicking around in the back of the car for some time (just in case we ever need it) and who knows what state it's in, by now! Then there's the food! Now that we're dairy free and I've got a whole other list of things that I can't eat, not to mention that Baby just doesn't do sandwiches  - ho hum! And there's not much point in going to M & S - they don't do gluten and dairy free anything! There are a few things, though, that I've found elsewhere, that might come in handy!

Not able to tolerate most gluten free breads, I can cope with small quantities of the following (also dairy free, although if you're just dealing with milk, then most of the 'normal' breads that you find in the supermarket seem to be OK):

1) Genius Pitta breads. I like the tomato and herb (available in Tesco). They're a bit drier than your normal pitta and tend to fall apart but they're a bit more exciting than your standard dry gluten loaf, if you're doing something a little bit different.

2) Warburtons bread rolls - long and torpedo shaped these are also an option  (we get ours from Waitrose, or Ocado). Sandwiches in a different shape are often more appealing, when you're on a picnic.

3) Round rolls (just found these in Waitrose, the other day). By Antoinette Savill, they're a bit dry, but they don't fall apart quite so easily as some gluten free breads.

Sweet Potato Rolls
4) Sweet Potato Rolls - shared on Pippa Kendrick's blog 'The Intolerant Gourmet'. I'm no Nigella, but I've recently tried making these. Fresh out of the oven, they are a bit like a savoury doughnut or muffin rather than a bread roll - not sweet, as I half expected them to be. They are quite simple to make, and ideal for a picnic! I'm just not sure what to accompany them with, just yet.

5) Mini pizzas - Hale & Hearty produce a gluten free pizza mix, that I've yet to try. I'd like to think that these might make a great picnic food, topped with tomato purée and tuna or sausage, although we might have to skip the cheese!

Sandwich Fillings
Gluten free bread being dry and crumbly, I favour moist fillings, which counteract the dryness of the bread, without soaking into the bread too much (which can cause it to collapse). In my opinion, salad is nigh on useless in a homemade sandwich. I prefer mine in a little bowl on the side. Otherwise, it just slides all over the place and makes the sandwiches spill their contents all over your lunch box, before you have time to eat them. However, I've got a few ideas: 

This filling is left overs from the night before!
1) Guacamole and bacon or chicken - great taste, if I can be bothered to do a lot of prep! Stick a bit of salsa in for some added zing! 

2) Hummus and ham - much quicker if you buy the hummus instead of making it yourself. I read a great recipe for hummus recently but didn't hold onto it - it took a lot of preparation. The ham of course needs to be dairy free. I usually go for Tesco Organic wafer thin ham.

3) Sausage and ketchup - probably my preferred option - especially if we have sausages left over from the night before! Obviously, check your sausages, to make sure they're dairy free. The blog in which I shared our Sausage Casserole lists our favourites.

4) Chicken and marmite - the Duchy originals chicken at Waitrose is the only dairy free chicken (suitable for sandwiches) that I know. It's expensive as lunch meat goes, though.

5) Tuna and mayonnaise - tuna is the only food from a tin that I'll allow myself to have - tinned food causes a skin reaction on my cheeks! However, you can't beat a bit of tuna mixed with mayo! Hellman's original (not light) is dairy free. The 'light' version contains cream powder!

You need a few of these on a picnic - packed in a little tub, maybe. What to choose? No contest for us! 

1) In terms of flavour, I love Salt and Vinegar, but a lot of brands use milk in their flavouring, so for me it's got to be Kettle Chips! I like the 'Salt and Balsamic Vinegar', but am not sure that I should have those. 

Ridge crisps are great to crunch!
2) Wanting to limit Baby's salt intake, we sometimes give her a few of the 'Lightly Salted' variety of Kettle Chips. 

3) Tyrell's 'Naked' crisps, are another option, although these are made in a factory which handles milk, soya, gluten and mustard. 

4) Seabrook 'Perfectly unsalted' are another plain option. Ridge-style crisps, they make for a satisfying crunch!

5) Organix corn snacks - found in the baby food aisle at most large supermarkets. Baby loves the tomatoey stars or noughts and crosses. They're gluten and dairy free and a great alternative to crisps (no salt). A whole pack is usually too much (in one go) for Baby, so I tend to decant some for her. 

Do you take desserts on a picnic? I always think of a picnic in terms of treats, so I might be tempted.

1) For Baby there's always Alpro. She loves their chocolate desserts, but isn't keen on their yoghurts.

2) 'Wot no dairy, wot no soya?' Soya and dairy free, these yoghurts (available in Holland and Barrett, as well as online, from The Redwood Company) might do for me, and being long life, they don't need to be chilled.

3) Fruit jellies - I might be tempted by one of these - you can find them ready-made on the shelves of most supermarkets (these no point in me making up my own, as it would just be me eating them - Baby isn't keen and neither is The Hub).

They also do a Banoffee!
4) If you can't tolerate dairy, but can cope with nuts, Goodness Direct sell some great little 'raw' 'cheesecakes,' by The Living Food Kitchen. I have risked myself by sampling a tiny amount. If I thought I could eat them, I might treat myself from time to time, but unfortunately for me, they contain cashew.

5) Cake/flapjacks - homemade, if I've got some, or from the supermarket, if I haven't. Hale and Hearty's Date and Chocolate flapjacks taste the best, in my opinion. Gluten and dairy free, they can be found in Tesco.

Mini bites
Now, as traditional as sandwiches, in an English picnic, are, sometimes I just want something a little bit more different than just another type of bread, don't you? So I'm thinking, 'Hang the bread! It's dry and crumbly and doesn't hold together that well (my gluten free sandwiches are very crumbly and usually fall apart)  and Baby doesn't like bread anyway.'

Fortunately, for me, I've found a few other things recently!

1) Mini Scotch Eggs - Sainsbury's/Waitrose own (dairy but not gluten free). Baby will probably enjoy a few of these.

2) Falafels with Hummus. You can make your own - Pippa Kendrick, 'The Intolerant Gourmet' has a good recipe for falafels, on her blog, however, if you want to pick up some that are ready made, I found these in the chiller cabinet in a large Sainsbury's near me, just the other day.  Gluten and dairy free, they taste quite acceptable, as a mini bite, but there's not many, so they're not very filling, on their own!

Sweet Potato Pakoras & Hummus
3) Sweet Potato Pakora with Hummus. I found these in the same place as the falafels. They're a bit spicy, but very yummy! A small pack won't go very far, especially if you find you like them! You may find that you've got some hummus left over, so make sure you take some carrot or bread sticks with you too! 

4) Breadsticks with hummus/guacamole. Waitrose mini breadsticks are dairy free, but I've recently found some, by Nature's Store, that are gluten free too.

5) Carrot/veg. sticks with hummus, guacamole or salsa dip (always check the  ingredients, in dips, if bought from a supermarket). Fun to dip and crunch (unless you're Baby - she won't eat them). Some preparation required - unless of course you buy those little packs of prepared veggies, from the supermarket!

What else?
Well, there are a few things I've missed, that might also make good picnicky snacks!

1) Itsy Bitsy bears - small bear shaped biscuits with tiny chocolate chunks, by Orgran. Baby likes these. They are vegan and free of so much (gluten, dairy, egg, yeast, soya, nut) that it leads one to wonder what exactly is in them! 

2) Orgran also make 'Mini Outback Animals.' Baby is not so keen on these, but they are handy as you buy them in large packs that contain small hand-sized packs. You can find these in Sainbury's, but I think we get ours from Ocado.

3) Rice cakes. Baby only eats the plain ones (when she's ill) but I know other children like 'em! You could coat the plain ones with hummus and add a few char-grilled veggies on top, such as courgette and red pepper (don't thank me for that one, I saw it on a packet) but just a splodge of hummus, or even guacamole would also do!

4) Organix Goodies - Mini Oaty Bites. They make bars too, but those are really too big for Baby at the moment, so I get these instead. They come in two flavours: 'Carrot Cake' and 'Apple and Orange.' They are individually wrapped, which makes life a little bit easier! They don't contain wheat or dairy, but unfortunately, it says they contain gluten and may contain traces of nuts.

Yummy Strawbs!
5) Fruit - for Baby and me, it'll probably be either apple or banana, cut into chunks. Although I love strawberries, she won't touch them and grapes she spits out too! However, I'm sure you'll have plenty of your own ideas! 

Well, I'm sure you can sort your own out, but as for me, it'll probably be a bottle of water or sprite. If I'm really pushing the boat out, a small bottle of Bottlegreen or Belvoir Sparkling Elderflower would go down really nicely!! If you feel like making your own, why not try this recipe for Elderflower Cordial, but count me out, I'm off to the nearest supermarket - life's too short!!

What about you? What would you take on your picnic?

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