Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cheese, please! What are the dairy free alternatives?

If ever I'm asked about what I miss most, being dairy free, my thoughts invariably turn to cheese. I don't think I'm quite as anal about it as Wallace and Grommit, but I used to love cheese... cheese on toast, or crackers; in sandwiches, jacket potatoes or macaroni cheese; on top of lasagne, shepherds pie or fish pie; or simply... just by itself. Sigh!

'Cheese' topped Shepherd's Pie
This post is born out of a conversation I had on Twitter. Today, someone asked me about dairy free cheese. I tend to think I know nothing about this subject, as I can only eat one dairy free cheese, but I have a few ideas and have been ably helped along the way, by Sugarpuffish and by recent conversations on our page on Face Book. So here's what little I DO know: 

The thing is, I love cheese so much, that I've been of the opinion that I don't want to try a dairy free alternative, in case it's awful and I end up disappointed.

Not that I've had all that much choice - most dairy free cheeses are made with soya, and I get really bad reactions to soya milk. For those dairy free peeps, who can have soya, you can get a whole lot more choice - most supermarkets sell some form of soya based 'cheese' as do health food shops.

You lucky people can have cheddar, mozzarella, cream cheese, even those individually wrapped 'cheese' slices!

I'm reliably informed, by Sugarpuffish that 'Sheese' by Bute Island is pretty nice, and also 'Tofutti.'

If you're dairy free and unable to tolerate soya, but can handle cashews, then Vegusto, may be the 'cheese' of choice for you. It's meant to be pretty good, but... unfortunately, for me, cashews are no good for me either!

There is one, well two, dairy free cheeses that even I can have, though. By Redwood Foods, a vegan firm, and they're called "Cheezly". Redwood Foods make a range of meat and cheese alternatives and hidden among the product range is the two cheeses that I can have. Watch out, if you want to buy them though - Redwood Foods have other 'cheeses' called 'Cheezly' that are made from soya, so read the labels carefully!

The first, their cheddar cheese, is, I have to admit, a bit more expensive than your standard cheddar, but it does have a long shelf (or rather, fridge) life and it can be grated and frozen. So, bargain hunters,(like myself) can buy it in, whenever Holland and Barrett have their offers going and store it up, for ages in the fridge/freezer.

The second tastes pretty much like the first and is similar in appearance, but is made for melting. It's not cheese as such, but laid on gluten free toast, and heated under the grill, it comes near enough for me! It's also pretty good on an omelette, or pizza! Although, my top tip for pizza, is not to put the cheese on top, until the last ten minutes or so, if you don't want to burn your cheese topping.

Whichever version you use, you may be pleased to hear that like cheese made with dairy Cheezly cheeses do cContain calcium - though not quite as much. if you're trying to keep track of just how much calcium you are getting in your diet, you may be interested to know that there is 200mg of calcium per 100g.

Originally, I found this cheese it in my 'nearest' health food store. However, I've now found that Holland and Barrett stock it too - great news, as now that we have moved, my 'nearest' health food shop is not that near at all!

Free & Easy Cheese Sauce

Contains soya!
Another form of 'cheese' substitute is this 'cheese' sauce, I found in Sainsbury's. I bought a tin ages ago but was too afraid to try it - consequently it ended up being chucked, as it went out of date! I bought another tin, but it turns out it's no good for me either! 

Apparently, it contains soya, but you'd never know by reading the ingredients list, unless it's the 'hydrolysed vegetable protein'!

I have heard, via the grapevine, that this is quite nice, but obviously I'm unable to verify that!

Nutritional Yeast

There's quite a lot in this pot!
Those of us who are dairy free and soya free can still have another 'cheese' substitute, known as 'Nutritional Yeast'. In the UK, we can get it in the form of Engevita Yeast Flakes. They're made by Marigold, who also make the bouillon that we use as gravy, in Shepherd's Pie. 

The yeast flakes are not available in most supermarkets, although you can get them from Ocado. They are also sold via many health food stores and online they can be bought from Amazon and Goodness Direct, among other places. 

I've only tried the yeast flakes sprinkled over food so far. They smell like old socks, but haven't packed a flavourful punch yet, so maybe I'm doing something wrong. Apparently, according to their website, you can make them into 'cheese' sauces - something with which I've yet to experiment.

You see Baby has never had real cheese and all attempts to introduce her to dairy free cheese have been met with frowns, wrinkled facial expressions and loud verbal utterances rejecting the stuff. So experimenting with cheese flavours is something I mainly keep to myself, and, inevitably, if it's just for me, it's not going to be in great quantities, therefore I haven't made anything like a lasagna or a macaroni cheese. And, to be quite honest, there's not a lot of point making macaroni cheese just for myself, when Amy's Kitchen make such a great one! Theirs is made with Daiya cheese - an American product. So far Daiya tell me that they're not available in the UK, but they are interested!! So here's hoping!!

Not to be confused with the version sold in Tesco - gluten free, not dairy free!
However, I am gearing myself up for a little experimentation. I'll have to get back to you soon, and let you know how it goes!

By the way, if you are an experimental type, you might like to have a go at making this home made coconut milk cheese. Yes really! 

If you do, then make sure you read the comments, at the end of this lady's blog - they explain a few details a bit more, and help make sense of some of the ingredients, for us Brits! And please, let me know how you got on!

More posts about dairy free substitutes can be found by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Baking with Baby 8 - Gingerbread... Bears?

'Tis the season to be... making your Christmas cake apparently! Hmm! Well, I still can't decide whether to bother yet. I used to love a good piece of Christmas cake, but I really can't see the point of making one just for me - I'd be eating it 'til next Christmas, most likely, as The Hub and Baby quite simply won't partake of it with me.

However that doesn't mean I'm eschewing the old Christmas spirit, oh no! My thoughts have been preoccupied with a slightly less exacting task - that of making gingerbread biscuits.

Gingerbread men seem to be everywhere at the moment, which is quite possibly why I just couldn't get them out of my head. It was an itch that needed to be scratched. Also, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do some more baking with Baby - she could put all her play dough rolling and cutting skills into real action at last.

'Make sure you don't over cook them,' my sister warned when she discovered what was afoot! Funny she should mention that!

Funny also how, although they seem to epitomise Christmas décor  I've never ever actually seen a single real gingerbread man on anyone's Christmas tree. I couldn't help wondering why this is. 'Is it 'cos nobody has the self control to leave them suspended there for a few weeks?' I pondered, 'or would they go stale, or maybe one doesn't eat them, so nobody wants to waste them?' The only answer, it seemed to me, was to try them out, for myself.

The first task was that of selecting a recipe. Google soon threw up choices aplenty, but I ended up settling for one from Netmums that came up straight away - simply because it was well... simple!! It also looked like the kind of recipe that would lend itself to a little bit of substitution in the dairy and gluten free department, and so it did!

I used Pure sunflower margarine and Dove's Farm gluten free plain flour and without any trouble the whole thing came together. I don't tend to use xanthum gum, and so I was worried it would all fall apart. However, the egg seemed to do the trick of holding it all together, and look, we made loads!

Yes, this lot were slightly over done!
Another adaptation was that we didn't use as much ginger as in the original recipe - Baby isn't that keen on spicy foods, so I only used one teaspoon, rather than two.

Having made this recipe a few times now, I would say that you might need to knead in a little extra flour for rolling out, if it gets a bit sticky. This has happened a few times, but  I thought this was maybe because I tend to buy large eggs.

The other thing is, (like my sister said) you definitely need to watch the oven temperature, and time, carefully - especially, if, like us, you have a fan oven. I tend to set the timer for about 8 minutes and watch it like a hawk (albeit a distracted hawk, with Baby tearing around the place) for the last few minutes.

I have to say, we haven't ended up with many gingerbread men at the end of it all - partly because Baby prefers bears (which was perfect for her birthday) and circles and all sorts of other shapes and partly because we keep eating them all! Well, they do go down rather well with a cup of tea!

Perfect with a cuppa!
By the way, if you do intend to use them as Christmas decorations, DO over cook them and make sure you make the hole for hanging your gingerbread before it cools and hardens - in other words, as soon as it comes out of the oven. I used a chopstick to make the hole in ours. Oh, and whether you eat them, or use them as decorations for your tree, don't forget to decorate them first - just a little bit of glacé icing and a few silver balls can work wonders... although Baby prefers to 'bling' hers:

Now, having found this rather cute little tin in Tiger (if you've never been in one, find your nearest shop online - they're a fabulous cheapy shop filled with lots of fun stuff - you can also get the ribbon from there, although I bought ours in Waitrose) I've been thinking I could always pack some in a tin and give them to someone as a present - just so long as I can keep from eating them!  :)

One last thing: 
If you want to have a go at  decorating gingerbread men, without actually having to make them, you can get kits from Tesco that are dairy free, egg free and soya free, but if (like me) you need to avoid wheat, or gluten, they're no good at all.

Organix also make dairy free gingerbread men biscuits for little ones (again not gluten free).  They are egg free and soya free, but they're not suitable for little ones under the age of one. These can be bought as multipacks from the baby aisle in most supermarkets. 

Baby found them too spicy. The Hub, who also tried them, said they seemed mild to begin with, but then the ginger kicked in. However, my four year old niece really loves them, so it's each to their own!

Similar posts:

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Which milk, when, where?

Once upon a time, there was only soya milk - which is no good for me - I'm intolerant to soya milk. It causes me considerable stomach pain. Then there was rice milk I don't drink rice milk, because I'm still breastfeeding and so was advised not to, by the dietitian*.  

Fortunately for me, there are now so many dairy free milk substitutes out there, that I'm not constricted to just soya or rice milk. In fact there's so many out there now, that (if you're not allergic to nuts) it's difficult to know how/where to start. This post is about the ones we prefer and why.

I say 'ones,' as I don't have just one milk substitute. I used to think that was the way to go - I would find my replacement for milk and just stick with it. At that stage I was using Oatly - which is what we were recommended, by the paediatrician. I liked it (although you had to give it a really good shake before using it) but, made of oats, it wasn't low enough in gluten, when I developed my more recent problems, so I had to drop it and look for something else. But, eventually I came to the conclusion that the differing qualities, of each kind of milk, lent themselves to different things. So here (taking you through my daily routine) is how I prefer to go about it, now:

Coffee is my way to start the day. No one should get between me and my morning cup of coffee - it's probably the only one I'll have all day (after all, I don't want Baby to stay awake all night) and for that reason it's precious to me. I'm so used to having my coffee black now (an Americano starts my day) that no milk is required. However, if I'm so inclined, it has to be hazelnut!

Breakfast - Porridge
Most days, I start the day with gluten free porridge, in which I quite like coconut milk. I like almond milk even more, but really, I prefer hazelnut milk, in my porridge, the most. It's creamier and as it is sweet enough (for me) as it is, I don't feel the need to add sugar. Bonus!!

Brunch - Pancakes
Well, I don't have pancakes everyday, in fact, hardly ever, but sometimes the need arises. Coconut and almond both work for me in pancakes. I can't decide which I prefer.

Time for a Cuppa 
These days, no milk is required in my tea - I actually prefer it black. In my opinion, flavoured milks do nothing for tea and there's no getting away from the nutty tastes in my favourite milks, which tend to go better with coffee.

Baking - Bread
I used to use Almond milk, but I've now discovered the unsweetened version and decided that in bread, it's the best. Sweetened milks make the bread sweet, which I hate. If I couldn't have the unsweetened almond, I'd use coconut milk, instead.

Lunch - Scrambled Egg
No milk is required whatsoever - I normally just make it with sunflower dairy free spread! However, I have also used a splash of almond milk and that works too.

A Dessert - Custard
Coconut milk carries the blandest flavour, so works best for me in custard. I quite liked the sweetened almond version, but my sister (who didn't even like the coconut much - she has the luxury of being able to have dairy) really drew the line at that one. I only make custard when we have people round - we don't usually do pudding - so I haven't yet tried hazelnut, although I'm tempted!

A Night Time Drink - Hot Chocolate
Baby's choice
I've tried a few of the ready mixed hot chocolates - Kara's coconut and Blue Diamond's almond, but I find them too syrupy sweet for my tooth. 

Baby likes a little of the Blue Diamond version but I prefer making my own - preferably with Hazelnut milk, Green and Black's Cocoa powder and half a teaspoon of sugar. Topped with a splurt of Soyatoo spray 'cream,' and/or a couple of marshmallows, it's... Delish!!

Baby's Milk
I've been trying to get Baby in to hot chocolate, (despite the horrendous sugar content) as she seems to have fallen out of love with her usual soya milk and I'm trying to get some more calcium in. 

Up to now, she has been happy with Alpro Plus 1 soya milk - it's specially formulated to meet the requirements of a young child, from the age of one (with the correct amount of calories and the same added vitamins that you'd find in a toddler's follow-on milk).

Baby's 'Giraffe' milk
The problem is that, to be quite honest, I can be a bit of a worrier and, left to myself, I wouldn't have given her any soya at all, once I became aware of the potential concerns associated with this legume. 

The concerns arise from the worry that the phyto-oestrogens in soya might not be suitable to young children - boys in particular. This is because oestrogen, is of course related to female sexuality, and the worry is that it might affect boys' future fertility.

Such concerns have led the BDA** (British Dietetic Association) to recommend that soya milk should not be used for children under the age of six months. Above that age, they say that soya can be included  as part of a balanced diet, but should not be over relied on.

Of course many Vegans have been using soya milk for years and do not seem too worried by this, but the seed of doubt planted in my mind, by this advice, caused me some worry. It's why I let  Baby continue to breastfeed - so she didn't rely too much on soya milk. 

However, I have come to the decision that as Baby can't have cow's milk and this milk is the one our dietitian recommended - due to the correct calorie content and added vitamins, and as I'm expecting this stage of Baby's life to be temporary, then we just have to go along with it. Now that she is older though, and is not lacking in calories and is seemingly okay with almond milk, I'm happy to let her have some of that on occasion, instead. Hence in her hot chocolate!

And Finally - Out and about
Small is beautiful too!
When out and about, or away for the weekend, you don't want to be carting around a whole litre of dairy free milk, which is why I love these smaller cartons by Kara (more recently re-branded as 'Koko'). They are the perfect size for making a portion of porridge and also come with a straw. You can buy them singly, or in packs of three.

I've heard of people sending their primary age kids into school, with these to drink - instead of the usual cow's milk (which the schools supply). I can see us letting Baby have these, in years to come, when she goes to school (should they be required) as long as she likes them , of course!

In Conclusion
Funny how what seemed like a negative (not being able to have cow's milk) has turned into something quite positive. I don't think that I would ever have experimented with all these different milks, if Baby had been fine with cow's milk. Now, I wonder if, when I am free to go back to dairy, I might actually be happier with my dairy free milks, after all, or whether I'll find myself continuing to experiment with dairy free milks. After all, porridge with hazelnut milk is sooo delicious!

How about you? What milks do you prefer, and when?

Update: Kara (or 'Koko,' as they're now called) have recently brought out their mini cartons in strawberry and chocolate flavour. These are now available through Holland and Barrett, Ocado and some health food shops.

*In recent years, there has been concern over the levels of arsenic in rice. Babies being less able to cope with toxins in their body are therefore supposed to be steered clear of rice milk. If you're breastfeeding, the worry is that the arsenic could pass through one's system and into the baby. Personally, I don't like rice milk anyway. The little I have tasted didn't appeal to me, although I know it does to others.

However, if rice milk is all you can have, due to other allergies/intolerances, then that it what you have to use. I was interested to read an article about the concerns over arsenic in rice, the other day, which I think could prove helpful for anyone battling with these concerns.

*Arsenic in your Rice? A clinical Nutrition Report (US)
*Arsenic in Rice Drinks (FSA - UK)

**Food Fact Sheet - Suitable Milks for Children with Cow's Milk Allergy by the BDA.

Update 2: I'm very sorry, but the above link does not appear to be working. Meanwhile, this one (also by the BDA) does seem to work: Soya and Health

Related Posts:

There are alternatives - milk substitutes
Happy with Hazelnut?

Anyone for Almond Milk?
Have you tried Hemp?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Baby's Birthday

Blogging's gone a little bit by the wayside recently, as I've been a wee bit busy. Baby had a birthday, which was the cause of much frantic house activity - so much of our stuff was still in boxes (following our recent move) and urgently needed shifting!! 

The birthday brought a moment of harsh reality for me - it really brought home to me the fact that Baby is not a baby any more. 

It's something I've known for a while really - she's been growing so fast; acquiring new vocabulary and developing new skills so quickly, I can barely keep up! The Hub and I keep looking at each other in astonishment as she surprises us with something new that she can say or do. In fact her height (she must take after The Hub) and language skills have fooled many into thinking she is a year older than she actually is! 

This is all very scary for me, especially as it looks like she will be my only baby - I have no intention of having any other and somehow I can't seem to break the habit of calling her 'Baby'. It's a hard habit to break... but I am trying!! However, for the purposes of this blog, she will  always remain 'Baby'.

We marked Baby's birthday in the usual way - with a party. Having moved, we know few children her own age, so decided to invite her cousins (who she loves to bits and calls her best friends, anyway). 

The theme was not exactly original  (as I discovered when I Googled it online) but an obvious choice (given her love of bears) it was a teddy bears' picnic!

If you go down in the woods today...
In fact the lack of originality, on my part, meant that I was able to borrow plenty of great ideas from other mummies, who had (scarily) gone very much to town on the whole thing. I decided I was not under pressure to conform to their standards and contented myself with the  knowledge that Baby would have a great time anyway, and she did.

It all began with a trip to 'Build a Bear' (an exciting event, in and of itself). This was The Hub's job. I think The Hub may not have been totally sold on this idea, but, as I pointed out, it's easier to do now (with just a few cousins) than when she's eight and wants to invite the whole class!! A well-timed 25%  off voucher certainly sweetened the pill.

Meanwhile, my job was to frantically re-tidy the house (it had been all in order in the morning) and set the scene.

First I set up Baby's bears, with their own little tea party.

Then I arranged some bear activities:
  • 'Hunt the Bear' was arranged in the garden - tiny laminated bears were pegged around the garden, signs were set up, and tea lights were set up strategically to light the way (it took place in the dark). Prizes involved chocolate coins for all. Of course, Baby's were dairy free (from Sainsbury's).
  • A table was set with gingerbread bears that Baby and I had made earlier in the week (using a really simple recipe, that I'll post soon). Icing and decorations were left out, so the children could decorate them to their hearts' desire.

  • Baby's easel was set up, with a big bear picture and a scarf, so that blindfolded participants (including adults, and yes, they did join in) could 'Pin the Heart on the Bear'. 
  • We also played 'Musical Bears' (at Baby's request). The children danced with their teddies to the music, until it stopped. After the first round, Baby declared herself the winner. She was much disgusted when the game carried on and refused to participate - as far as she was concerned the game was over!
  • 'Pass the Bear' also worked well. We passed a teddy until the music stopped. Whoever had the bear when the music stopped got a chocolate coin - funny how they all ended up with the same amount (thanks Dad)!!
When it came to food, I set out the picnic 'rug' (a disposable tablecloth) for the children on the floor of our living area, set it with plates and filled it with bowls of food.

The dairy free menu included:
  • Pom Bears (of course) of the dairy free 'Original' variety.
  • Ham sandwiches (made with dairy free bread and spread) cut into Teddy Bear heads (using a cookie cutter). I would have made marmalade sandwiches (a la Paddington) and honey (a la Winnie the Pooh) but a brief of survey of the mummies involved suggested this would be a 'no go' (their kids wouldn't eat it).
  • Cupcakes made with Hale and Hearty's 'Classic Vanilla Sponge Cake' (I ran out of time) were decorated with Betty Crocker 'Buttercream Style' vanilla icing and Flossie Crum's raspberry flavoured icing. They were topped off with Winnie the Pooh characters. 
  • The children's own decorated gingerbread bears.
Baby's  Gingerbread Bear
There was of course plenty of non-bear food, as well, such as grapes, mini tomatoes, bread sticks etc.

Cheese, for the those who could have it, was placed well out of the reach of Baby on the adult's table  (there were aunts, uncles and grandparents to feed too) but offered to the non dairy free children as well.

There were also Mc Cain's Smiles (smiley potato faces) and Sainsbury's own Free From Chicken Nuggets. Which went down well, with both children and adults alike!

I had planned to do dairy free ice cream in teddy bear cones as well, but actually, the children had plenty of food and needed to save room for the inevitable dairy free teddy bear cake!

We all had a great time. Although hard work, it was  such fun and as I had provided all the food, I had no worries about what food was safe (or not) for us to eat and could put safeguards in place. However, I must admit, I was tempted by the pizza, on the adults table! *sigh* If I'd had time, I could perhaps have made some for me, oh well! Another time!!

BTW for those of you who, like me, are gluten free, word is that Dominoes now do a  pizza with a gluten and dairy free base! However, not sure if I really want mine without cheese... What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat!

I think The Hub is pretty amazing anyway, but tonight, as far as I'm concerned, he surpassed himself. Knowing that I had been feeling pretty awful earlier in the day (I'll spare you the sob story) he brought me home some chocolate, and not just any chocolate - he'd been to Hotel Chocolat. As if that were not enough, he'd brought me home not just a little something, but actually quite a supply!

First there was a little something - the mini buche (which I've already mentioned in a previous post about dairy free chocolate - Oo! Ah! Chocolat!) then there were these:

One for the grown-ups!
An Advent calendar. 

Not just any advent calendar, but a classy, smooth, sophisticated calendar. Definitely one for the grown-ups, it contains: '24 fabulous Christmas sculptures!!' There's a price to pay for this quality of chocolate though - it's £12.00, which is far more than you'd pay for most advent calendars that I've come across!

There are, of course, other cheaper Advent calendars out there. Moo Free Advent calendars can be found in 200 of Waitrose stores, but are also sold in various Health Food shops and online, at Love Lactose Free Life.

Meanwhile, Celtic Chocolates 'Choices' Advent calendar can be found in Sainsbury's and Holland and Barrett (who also have some boxes of chocolate, specially for Christmas) as well.

The next item the Hub produced, this evening, was a box of these:

At Easter, Hotel Chocolat produced some 'Tiddly Chicks,' but for Christmas, here we have some Tiddly Penguins. Personally, I think they look a little bit like the scary penguin in the Wallace and Grommit film, The Wrong Trousers, but Baby seemed quite taken with this little chap. Mind you, he was made of chocolate!!

There were eight little penguins in the box, which cost £5.00. There's not eight any more of course - Baby had one and I've also attacked the box, but there are still some left.

Finally, there was this jolly chap!

This chocolate lolly is obviously for Baby - though possibly not all at once, as he's quite big - for a lolly!! This 'Dark Dasher Lick' cost The Hub £1.95. Quite possibly, he'd make a good stocking filler, although as it happens, I've already bought her one of these:

A Moo Free chocolate Santa. Moo Free chocolate, by the way, is definitely free from all dairy and wheat/gluten. It is not made with soya, but may contain traces of soya.

So, it seems that Christmas has arrived at Hotel Chocolat, which is great news for the dairy free - just so long as you are okay with the following:
  • There may be traces of milk (we've never had a problem, but not everyone can afford to take that risk).
  • The chocolate is made with soya lecithin (most people allergic to soya are okay with soya lecithin, but not all).
  • Their chocolate may contain traces of tree nuts and peanuts.
Quelle surprise!
The Christmas chocolate range available at Hotel Chocolat is actually more extensive than what has been shown here, but The Hub (not wishing to be selfish) didn't buy out the entire shop. If you wish to peruse the rest of their selection, click here.

Now, all that's left to say (in the words of Hotel Chocolat) is, 'Let the gorgeousness countdown begin!' 

How long is it 'til Advent? 'Cos I'm not sure that I can wait that long!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Remember, remember the fifth of November...

"Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

I vividly remember writing these verses, as handwriting practice, when I was a child and learning all about Guy Fawkes, who plotted to blow up the English Parliament of his day, and was put to death, as a result. 

One year, my brother and I made a lopsided 'Guy' but of course, the only thing I used to really think about on November the fifth was not so much Guy Fawkes, his religion, politics or Gunpowder Plot, but fireworks! 
The fun of fireworks in the back garden!
'Bonfire Night' was one of the highlights of my childhood! I loved the lighting of the bonfire and the makeshift fireworks display that my Dad would fire off in the back garden. Of course they didn't always work properly, but there was still something magical about them.

It being chilly, in November, in this little part of the globe, winter warmers were required, both during and after our little displays.

Tomato soup was a family favourite, along with hot dogs. 

These days, the politics behind the Gunpowder Plot are largely forgotten and my tastes have, shall we say... (ahem) matured! Mulled wine would go down very nicely, but as I am still breastfeeding, I'll be giving that one a miss. 

So, I think that this year, I'll be looking at sampling some of the following:

Well, soup is still an option!

Soup of the month - hope it sticks around!
I love tomato, but these days I also love butternut soup. Being no Nigella, I'm reluctant to make my own, but often find that many soups are made with wheat or cream or are canned (I avoid canned food, due to the rash it causes on my face). Recently however, I tracked down this soup, by Covent Garden, which I think will hit all the right buttons for me.

Failing that, this Morrocan Tagine, by Clive's Pies, would be a delicious and hearty alternative. The gentle spices in this tagine, are just right for warming one up, on a cold autumnal night.

A hearty alternative to soup.
Bangers are still definitely an option too!

These days, I love The Black Farmer's sausages, or even The Black Farmer's Daughters. They are gluten and dairy free and taste great! They're not soya free, but don't seem to affect me, for some reason. I also love Rankin's, but those are soya free. Other sausages I like are by Jamie, Jimmy's farm and Debbie and Andrew - all available at major supermarkets.

Black Farmer's are yummy!

As for a gluten and a dairy free bread roll, to go with my banger, Warburton's work for me - all be they a little bit on the dry and crumbly side!

Should I opt for a burger, Laverstock Park Farm make some gorgeous organic Buffalo burgers! These will be sandwiched neatly, within an Antoinette Saville gluten free bread roll. Both of these products can be obtained from Waitrose. 

For a side, I would love some sweet potato fries. Even I can bake these!

An ideal dessert would be a lovely baked apple, made with dairy free margarine, rather than butter and packed with a few dates. These would be great accompanied by a splodge of custard - made with coconut milk, Bird's custard powder and a generous helping of golden syrup! Either that, or some Bessant and Drury dairy free vanilla ice cream.

Topping off the evening for me, would be a mug of hot chocolate! My current fave is made with hazelnut milk, that' been heated, then mixed with Green and Black's cocoa powder and half a teaspoon of sugar. If I can get hold, of it a splurt of Soyatoo 'cream,' on the top, would really help it go down nicely. Failing that, a few gluten free marshmallows might do the trick!

One for Baby and one for me!
Now that's my ideal menu, but since The Hub and Baby have very different tastes to mine, I'll probably just end up with a few bangers and some hot chocolate! 

Now let's just hope Baby enjoys the fireworks too!

What about you? What food will you be having?

Of course whatever you do, stay safe (see below)!! If you'd like to see the animated version of this guide please visit you'd like a free printable version of this cheat sheet to use as a teaching aid, visit the child development resource PDF