Saturday, 22 November 2014

Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat! 2014

This is it folks! 

*Cue drum roll*

For it is the time of year when we all eye what 'normal' folks are able to get from the shops, by way of seasonal products, and wish for our own - dairy free, of course!

Well, as per usual, I've been eyeing up all the dairy free options, and it seems that there is more availability than ever, this year!

I have, of course, been keeping folks updated via Twitter and Face Book, whenever a 'find' has been made, but here is the list again - just to prevent anyone from missing out on anything!

Previously, I've begun with the more pricey stuff, but this time we're kicking off our list with...

Moo Free

This is one of my favourite dairy free brands - quite simply because it tastes good and is now so freely available - thanks to Sainsbury's! I love he fact that I can now pick up a bar (or maybe two) of Moo Free when I do my supermarket shop!

For Christmas, Merry Moo's Selection Box (containing a Mini Moo chocolate bar, a Mini Moo Bunnycomb Bar, a Mini Moo Minty Moo Bar, a Mini Moo Cheeky Orange Bar and a Mini Moo Santa Bar) for £4.49. It's also available from Holland and Barrett for the same price. It's £4.50 at Ocado.

Via Ocado, you can buy an ideal stocking filler, the Mini Moo Santa Bar, for £1.25 and the Advent Calendar for £4.99. I'm also expecting these to appear in Waitrose before too long!

Mini Moo Selection Box and Advent Calendar

Allergy Information:
Dairy, egg and gluten free. It may contain soya and hazelnuts.

'Choices' by Celtic Chocolates

Another dairy free brand that I enjoy is Celtic Chocolates - you can find them in most of the major supermarkets in various guises - usually as the stores 'own brand' free from chocolate, but sometimes under their own name of 'Choices'!

Their Advent Calendar is available from Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda - the designs are all different on the outside, but inside the chocolate is the same! Interestingly, depending on where you buy it, you might be charged very differently for exactly the same thing! Sadly, my Asda doesn't have them!

Sainsbury's £2.69
Tesco £3.25

'Choices' at Sainsbury's

Their Chocolate Santa comes in 'milk' chocolate and white chocolate. It's available at both Sainsbury's and Tesco for £1, or you can pay £1.79 for the white chocolate or £1 for the 'milk' chocolate at Ocado. Holland and Barrett have both Santas priced at £1.49 each.

Great stocking fillers!

The Chocolate Discs (coins to you and me) are sold via Sainsbury's for £1.59 or at the moment for 2 for £2.50. Sometimes these are sold in read and green wrappers. They are a great favourite in our house, for parties (see here) and also for making Christmas tree decorations (see here)! I have also recently seen them in Tesco in silver and purple wrappers, for £1.50. I thought they'd disappeared, but they've reappeared in the Seasonal aisle in a special free from section!

See? Same thing, but different packaging!

Choices also make Assorted Nets - basically a selection pack. These are sold by Ocado for £5.50.

If you're looking for a gift, their Caramel Gift Box is priced at £4.59 (Ocado).

For after dinner mints, try their Mint Crisps - available from Sainsbury's under their 'own brand' for £2.49 at the moment.

Allergy Information:
Dairy and gluten free. The chocolate is made with soya lecithin. The Caramels are also made with soya flour. I have heard (via @Twobabyfoxes on Twitter - who has been in correspondence with them) that they are also nut free.


Kinnerton specialise in making chocolate that is specifically nut free. They also make a dairy, egg and gluten free chocolate. This is quite a dark chocolate. They do make an Advent Calendar, but you have to join their mailing list to obtain one. They release the order form for these in September - they have to be ordered well in advance as they do a very limited run. This was highlighted on the Dairy Free Baby and Me Face Book page a while back. It's too late to get one for this year, but you can sign up to be notified for next year (see here).

However, this year, Kinnerton have produced a large Chocolate Santa, which is available through Asda.

Nice to see Kinnerton branching out!

Allergy Information:
Dairy, gluten, egg and nut free. Made with soya lecithin.


Plamil have been around for a while, but are only becoming more widely available quite recently. Their pack of Snowmen can be found at Holland and Barrett and some health food shops. They can also be bought online directly from Plamil (see here).We tried these last year and 'Baby' and I both enjoyed them, but the chocolate was quite hard to bite into. 

Plamil's Snowmen

They also make Advent calendars, which are available through health food stores or their website, but I think Holland and Barrett's Advent dairy free calendars are also made by Plamil. 

Allergy Information:
Dairy and nut free. They are made without, but may contain soya.

Hotel Chocolat

Their 'Without Dairy' range, this year, consists of their usual classy Advent Calendar, priced £12.50.

Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar

And these little lovelies:

Ho Ho Ho Dark ChocolateTiddly PenguinsDark Chocolate Red Star Decoration
Mini Santas: 3 for £2.50; Tiddly Penguins: 8 for £5.50; Star Tree Decorations: 1 for £1.95 or 5 for £8. The Star contains 3 mini snowflakes. What a classy way of adding chocolate to your Christmas tree!

Rabot 1745 Large 450g Festive Wreath Christmas Nights 100g SlabChristmas Giandujas Selector

Rabat 1475 Small 100g Christmas Wreath: £8; Christmas Nights 100g Chocolate Slab: £3.75, or mix and match with other selectors for £3.15 each; Christmas Giandujas Selector: 6 truffles for £3.75, or mix and match selector packs 3 for £3.15 each.
10 Chilli Chocolate Penguins Rabot 1745 Large 450g Festive Wreath
Chocolate Chilli Penguins: 10 for £7, or three or more for £6; Rabat 1475 Large 450g Christmas Wreath: £22.

Sadly, however, Hotel Chocolat aren't making their dark chocolate Rudolph licks this year, sadly, theey're only available in milk and white chocolate. They've also discontinued the dark chocolate smiley licks as well, which is a real shame as 'Baby' used to like these.

Allergy Information:

'Without dairy' isn't the same as completely milk free. Somewhere on their website I noted a message that stated that all the Hotel Chocolat dark chocolates that are listed as 'Vegan' are considered suitable for Vegans but they cannot guarantee no traces of milk whatsoever. 

All the dark chocolates are made with soya lecithin. Most people allergic to soya should be okay with soya lecithin, as the protein has been removed, however, some people still experience a reaction.

The Advent calendar, Dark Chocolate Star, Tiddly Penguins, The Chilli Penguins and the Mini Santas are also made without gluten. However, you shouldn't necessarily read this as gluten free.

Some Hotel Chocolat chocolates contain nuts, therefore all Hotel Chocolat chocolates may contain traces.

Not all of the 'Without Dairy' chocolates are 'Vegan' - the lists are slightly different! 

See the Hotel Chocolat website for more details.


Montezuma's have a few shops scatttered around the south of England, but it is also available to buy online. They sell milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Some (but not all) of their dark chocolate items are made without dairy and are listed as Vegan. Some of you may be okay with their dark chocolate, see notes on allergies (below), for further information.

Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar is made with organic chocolate and is suitable for Vegans. It costs £9.99.

Dark Christmas Star £3.99 or 3 for £11.

Allergy Information:

Montezuma's dark chocolate is described as suitable for Vegans or those avoiding dairy. They say it may contain dairy and nuts, but is free from gluten and soya.

Personally, we do not eat Montezuma's, as I think 'Baby' reacted to it, when she tried some last year. We only tried it because the shop assistant described their manufacturing and cleaning practices in some detail and it seemed thorough, enough, but not for us!


New to my list, this year, is Ayni - a paleo chocolate, that is free from the top allergens! It is also refined sugar free. Unfortunately, it's only available by ordering online, but what I've seen does look worth the effort (see here)! 

I've not tried any yet, but apparently Ayni was exhibiting at the Liverpool Allergy Show in October, and I've heard that they taste good!

I love the look of their Advent chocolates from £3.99 

How cute are these?

...and also their Christmas Cracker from £2.99. I certainly wouldn't say no, to this in my stocking, this year!

A classy Christmas treat!

Allergy Information: 

Ayni is free from dairy, egg, gluten, grain, soya, sesame and nuts! It is also refined sugar free.

D & D Chocolates

I first found D and D Chocolates some while ago. They are another source of dairy free chocolate that is also only available online. We love their mini Easter eggs (see here).They don't sell ready packed Advent Calendars, but they do sell some refillable ones, as well as the shapes with which to fill them! These Chocolate Advent Calendar Shapes are £6.49 for 25.

Chocolate Advent Calendar shapes

And there's also these Christmas Tree Decorations 6 for £3.98.

Dairy free Christmas tree decorations!
Meanwhile, these Chocolate Minty Snowmen are £8.75 for a box of twelve. they might seem pricey, but won a Free From Food Award, earlier this year!

Chocolate Minty Snowmen x 12
Tasty after dinner treat?

Allergy Information:

Free from dairy, gluten, eggs and nuts. Not made with soya, but may contain.

D and D also have Christmas Carob, for those for whom chocolate is not an option (see here).

And finally...

If you're struggling to find a stockist, of these products, near you, you may like to try the following online sites: 

A Lot of Chocolates
Alternative Stores (online Vegan store)
Free From for Kids
Goodness Direct
Sam's Pantry (based in Ireland but will post to the UK)
Tasha's Dairy Free Delights (also makes her own hand made chocolates)
The Shop in the Shed
The Vegan Store (watch out as some details, such as 'may contain milk' may not be listed)

And if you'd rather do without chocolate, many toy stores sell Advent calendars containing small toys - I know Playmobile make some. And Holland and Barrett also sell a Peppa Pig and a Thomas the Tank Engine Advent Calendar containing vitamins! Well that's certainly one way of getting them in!

Related Posts: 

Dairy free ways to decorate your tree

Have yourself a gluten and dairy free Christmas (2013)

Baking with Baby - it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Baking with Baby - Gingerbread

Baking with Baby - Wishing Yule a Happy Dairy Free Christmas

Treating Father Christmas (Mince Pies)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Baby's Dairy Free Disney Frozen Birthday Cake

One thing you can certainly say about 'Baby' she certainly knows her own mind!

Weeks, months even, before her birthday was due 'Baby' had already decided on a theme for her birthday - Frozen, yes, you know - the Disney version of the Snow Queen (only it's nothing like the original story of the Snow Queen, of course). 

She had already decided on and ordered (from me) the cake. A princess cake (she'd found a picture of one in a book). That is to say a Princess Anna cake - as Anna is her favourite character from the film.

Oh! Nothing too difficult then!!!


Last year I don't mind admitting I cheated. Last year 'Baby' wanted a Disney Cars birthday, complete with a Disney Cars cake - a Lightning McQueen cake, to be more specific. To my great delight, I discovered that Asda sold a Lightning McQueen cake that was made without dairy (see here)!! Happy days!! It wasn't gluten free, so I couldn't have any, but that didn't matter to me - I don't exactly need the extra calories!

This year, no such luck!

The Hub did find a Frozen cake in Tesco (also now in Sainsbury's). HUZZAH! But... it was a traditional round shape. Like so:

Perfect for a party!


It did come in handy though, for 'Baby's' birthday party (see ingredients here). We agreed that the Anna cake could be saved for her actual birthday - which was a huge relief for me, as with twenty odd kids invited (yeah, DON'T ask), I really didn't need any extra pressure!!

It also gave me extra time to experiment!

You can, I found out, make some standard cakes, layer them, then carve the shape of the dress, or you can use a pudding bowl. Alternatively, there was, I discovered, such a thing as a cake tin specifically designed for making princess cakes. You don't need to use one, but I find my gluten free cakes a little more crumbly than wheat flour cakes, so I decided I didn't really want to have to carve cakes into any sort of shape. 

There are two tins on the market - one by Wilton, which comes complete with recipe and one by Silverwood, which doesn't come with a recipe. Guess which one The Hub ordered - yes, the one without the recipe... but it was half the price! 

Cue frantic searching of the Internet, for a suitable recipe! With none to be found!

Cue fruitless wailing at the laptop!!

There were two things I was worried about - quantity and cooking time. Get the quantity wrong and you have too little or too much cake mix. I didn't want it spilling over the top of the tin, whilst it was cooking and end up all over the floor of the oven - especially as I had it professionally cleaned not so long ago! I also didn't want to get the cooking time wrong, as I didn't want to end up with either cake that was either raw or burned to a crisp!!

I wasn't so worried about the free from bit - I just intended to use my normal substitutes and see what happened.

Searching online didn't throw up an exact recipe to match the tin (even though the world and his wife seem to have made a princess cake - it's almost like a rite of passage) but it did throw up a few helpful tips:

1. Insert a skewer part way through baking - to ensure the cake cooks through the middle (the Wilton tin comes complete with a bit to do this job, but is twice the price of the other tin).

2. Cover the top of the cake with parchment paper, during cooking, to prevent burning (we speared ours with a skewer).

3. A cake of this size could take an hour to or so to bake - this one took about an hour and twenty minutes! It also took a long time to cool.

4. Covering the hair with cling film with icing is a great idea - to stop the icing getting into the hair. Covering the body of the doll with cling film is another great idea - for the purposes of hygiene! We did, in fact, use a brand new doll, too - just to make sure!

So, eventually, I decided to settle for a cake recipe we'd used before (about a year before actually)! It was this one!

It took me two attempts to come up with this - the first attempt didn't fill the tin, so the dress of the doll would have been too short, so for the second attempt I used one and a half times the quantities in the original recipe and ended up with this:

Just baked! Note the skewer - to help the middle of the cake cook!

Not exactly glamorous looking, I know, but this amount was ideal, 'cos I could cut the top off, level with the top of the tin - making a perfectly flat base for the doll.

Once the cake was cooled, it needed to be covered with a layer of butter cream. I could have made my own, I have done in the past, but I really prefer this 'Buttercream Style' icing by Betty Crocker*:

Great product - very hard to beat!

I've found, from using it for previous cakes, that it works very well, but needs to be put on as soon as possible, in order to prevent the cake drying out - but not before it's cooled, or it will soak in to the sponge. Mind you, if you do slap it on a bit too early, and it all soaks in, it does make the cake all fudgey and yummy! In fact, I think it's worth slapping some on early to soak in and then slapping another layer on later, but it's probably supremely unhealthy to do that!

Next stage is to take the clothes off the doll to be used - wrapping her lower body and hair in cling film.

Then use a large knife to cut a hole down through the middle of the cake to make a space to insert the doll's legs. Scoop out the bits you don't need/want with a fork (cook's perks again), before inserting the doll, like so:

Taking shape!

You may notice the waist of the doll is still exposed. I could have made the cake higher by cutting a few layers and sandwiching them with more butter cream, but like I said, being gluten free, the cake was already quite crumbly. You can, apparently, make the cake more firm and easier to carve by sticking it in the freezer for a few days, but I had neither the space in my freezer, nor the time, as I made the cake the night before it was needed!

The next stage was the bit I found the most difficult. I used some blue icing by Renshaw. I used three packs in total. It needs to be warmed up very well before use, by squeezing it in your hands, so that it doesn't crack (unlike my previous attempts at cake decoration) which I did. I rolled it out onto cling film for easy lifting (otherwise I find the icing can break apart, if you're not careful). I rolled it into a sort of blunt-ended cone shape to wrap around the doll, leaving one join at the side. This did work, to a adegree, but I still need to work on my icing technique as the join wasn't not as tidy as I would have liked - I found that the icing went too hard to mould together, quite quickly. It really did need to be done straight away!

Once the icing was on, and join made, I used a sharp knife to cut away any excess icing - ensuring a clean line around the waist of the doll and a clean edge to the skirt. I used my icing smoother to ease out any tiny creases from the cling film, but I needed to be careful to avoid breaking through the outer layer and into the butter cream. On reflection another packet of icing would have meant that I didn't have to roll the blue icing quite so thin, which might have avoided this problem.

Then came the fun part - decorating the skirt with icing pens! I used these by Dr Oetker. I love Dr Oetker products, because most are both dairy and gluten free, but do always check the ingredients!

Great products!

The 'Apple' of the 'Fruity Icing' pack was the perfect colour for the leaves on the dress decoration, and the 'Glitter Violet' and 'Glitter Pink'of the 'Neon Glitter' were perfect for the purple edging and the flowers on the skirt. These icing gels didn't set as such, but they did remain in place and didn't run down the skirt, which was the main thing!!

My final flourish was a quick sprinkle with the 'Magic Sparkles' but I don't think they were really needed, to be quite honest!

My only problem with the decoration was time. I was running short, and only had about 20 minutes to do the job, so the decoration was not as neat as I would have liked. There are some much more stunning examples on Pinterest, but fortunately 'Baby' has NO idea, 'cos she's never seen them! So she was delighted with the cake.


Et Voila!

AND it didn't stop her eating the cake, did it?? Demolishing it in fact - 'cos she soon wanted to remove the doll from the cake, so she could play with it. It soon looked like this: 

Was it worth all that effort?? 

All that work for nothing... ah well!! I at least I feel like I've passed my rite of passage. I can finally say I have made a Princess cake.



And... never again, if I can help it!! It was too stressful!!

Wish she hadn't seen the princess cakes, 'cos the other cake I made for school was much simpler and still went down well!

Please note we're still sticking to the Frozen theme!

But who knows? Maybe next year she'll want another Princess cake and I'll be doing it all over again! *SIGH*

The things we do for our kids eh??

*This is Betty Crocker's 'Buttercream Style Icing'. Ingredients link here. Betty Crocker also make a Buttercream Icing in a very similar tub, so make sure you pick the right one at the supermarket! The 'Buttercream Style' icing is made without dairy or soya but 'may contain milk'. That said, as far as I know we have never had any problems with it and 'Baby' has been very sensitive to the slightest traces of milk. However, if you know different, let me know, as I hate to misinform!

Links to related posts can be found on the following page of the blog:

Please note: all products used have (as usual) been bought by myself (unless stated otherwise). All views on such products are entirely my own! I'm not paid or sponsored by anyone for any of the posts on this blog.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Baking with Baby 15 - Wishing Yule a Happy Dairy Free Christmas!

I don't get much chance to bake with the dairy free 'Baby' these days - not now she's started school.

However, one thing we have made time for is this:

Well not this specific one, exactly. This is the one we made for Christmas. Usually it just looks like this: 

Because 'Baby' just loves her 'Chocolate swirl cake'! And hey! Leave the top layer off a Yule Log and what do you find??

Why yes! A generously sized Swiss Roll!! 

And I happen to like my Swiss Rolls generous!

I discovered the original recipe last year, when I realised that 'Baby' was not going to be happy with a traditional Christmas Cake. Mind you, I didn't let that stop me! Oh no! I made this one (recipe here), but then I made her a Yule Log too - just for good measure, you understand!

Not sure were to start, with a Yule Log I used this recipe from Mary Berry. I don't mind admitting that she is my baking guru - her recipes do seem to work, even when they've been 'free fromed'. 

Being a fat less sponge, no butter is required, which is great for the dairy free, so all that remained for me to do, was switch the 'normal' flour for my normal flour - Doves gluten free! Oh and make a different topping, of course, as that one required double cream. I also left out the apricot jam. 

What I love about the basic method behind this recipe, is that it's simple - and fits in nicely with my baking motto - if it 'aint broke, don't fix it!

A  lot of people seem quite daunted by the idea of making Swiss roll, and I must admit, before I tried this recipe I actually expected to find it difficult, to fail. I was amazed, therefore,  to find out how quick and easy it was!

You start with eggs and sugar (the recipe calls for four large eggs, but I find four medium to large eggs work better) which you need to whisk for quite a bit, until they look like this:

Having started with just the eggs and sugar you can see below, you can see how much the mixer has fluffed up the egg and sugar.

As the mixture is very light and frothy at this stage. I was worried that having got so much air into the mixture I would lose all that air whilst the dried ingredients were mixed in. However, I found that it can take a fair bit of mixing to get the dried ingredients thoroughly incorporated into the mixture, but it didn't seem to hurt the end result, at all.

I often don't sift the flour (most recipes don't seem to really need it) but on this occasion I did, as it does seem to help.

The cooking time provided in the recipe is pretty spot on, I found - although I tend to give it the full ten minutes. You can tell it's cooked, not because it's golden (a bit of an editing mistake in the recipe, I think) but because you can smell the chocolate and if you give the sponge a firm press with your finger, the sponge bounces back.

Whilst the sponge is cooking, I make sure I have the baking parchment ready on the worktop. As soon as it's ready, I flip the sponge out, trim the edges and score a line at one end. Then I roll it up as soon as I can (you need asbestos fingers here) and leave the sponge to cool.

The trimmed edges make for great cook's perks ;)

Once the sponge has cooled down, I unroll it and slather it with Betty Crocker's Buttercream Style Chocolate Icing. I could make my own, but I honestly prefer Betty's!! I find it pretty hard to beat!! 

See here!

Please note this is Betty Crocker's 'Buttercream Style Icing'. Ingredients link here. Betty Crocker also make a Buttercream Icing in a very similar tub, so make sure you pick the right one at the supermarket! The 'Buttercream Style' icing is made without dairy or soya but 'may contain milk'. That said, as far as I know we have never had any problems with it and 'Baby' has been very sensitive to the slightest traces of milk. However, if you know different, let me know, as I hate to misinform!

Back to the cake making. After the icing has been spread (not too thick, or it oozes everywhere), the cake is rolled back up tightly once again.

Then, if it's just for us, we cut and eat it! :)

If it's for a special occasion (like Christmas) and we need a Yule Log, then, of course, another layer of butter cream is spread over the top and is marked with a fork - to give the appearance of bark!

Recently, for 'Baby's' birthday, our Yule Log made a great quick cake for sharing with her class at school. I made two, and stuck them together - just to make sure we had enough!

Hey presto! Birthday cake!

Sticking with the 'Frozen' theme she requested, a plastic Olaf stuck by the side and a quick dusting of this Sugar Sparkle Dust, from Asda, did the trick!

Picked this up on a whim, but I really like it!

You can use icing sugar, but this stuff glistens like real snow and doesn't tend to soak into the icing quite so much as the icing sugar does. Either way, leave the dusting until the last minute, if you can - for maximum effect!

Like so!

Have to say, the teacher seemed to enjoy the cake as did 'Baby's' classmates! Not bad for a dairy and gluten free cake eh??

Oh, and a final note: ignore the accompanying picture on the original recipe - it's clearly a stock photo related to some other recipe, and is a bit annoying - just because it's misleading!

For more of our baking adventures, check out the links on this page:

Baking with Baby

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Violife Creamy Dairy Free Spreadable Cheese

I know, I know, yet another product review, but I really think this one is worth sharing!!

I found this in an independent health food store.

To be honest, I wan't expecting much. I've tried a few Vegan cream 'cheeses' (not many, because most contain soya, so are no good for me) and to be honest, I've not been that impressed so far! So when it came to this one, I was expecting to grit my teeth and grin and bear it.

However, I was really quite pleasantly surprised!

It was both creamy and cheesy! How about that?

What to look out for

In fact, it is the ONLY Vegan cheese that I have eaten that I don't feel the need to toast before consumption - normally ALL vegan cheese tastes better (to me anyway) toasted or cooked in some way! (And that, by the way, is my usual advice to anyone who struggles to like the stuff, but is desperate to find a decent dairy free cheese!)

On Udi's Sundried Tomato Bagels.

What's in it?

As you can see from the label this creamy cheese is free of all kinds of things. Dairy, soya and gluten being my main horrors to avoid, this one had my name written all over it! But you might well be wondering what on earth is in it?

Well here goes (it's quite a list)...

Water, Coconut Oil (21%), Vegan Flavours (Basil, Sunflower Oil, Water, Olive Oil, Salt, Sugar, Mashed Potato, Modified Starch, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid, Herbs, Yeast Extract, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Antioxidant: Natural Rosemary Extract), Starch, Modified Starch, Sea Salt, Stabilisers: (Sodium Polyphosphate, Carageenan, Locust Bean Gum, Potassium Chloride, Carboxymethylcellulose, Guar Gum), Preservative: Sorbic Acid.

It's noticeable that there's quite a few long unpronounceable ingredients in there - it's obviously a highly processed product. There's also a few legumes in there - for those for whom this may be a concern!

Where can you buy it?

Well, unless your local independent health food or vegan store is stocking it, nowhere else on your high street as yet! It's worth asking, though, as most that I have visited have been open to ordering in new products.

Strangely, I can't seem to find Violife Creamy on my usual 'go-to' free from or vegan online shops. Most puzzling!

How much??

Of course, most free from products tend to cost more than we'd prefer... but at £2.35 for 200g (in my local shop), I think this is priced fairly enough in comparison to what else is out there that are both dairy and soya free (i.e. not much). 

Violife on Newburn's Gluten Free Sandwich Thins

Related Posts:

Other posts about dairy free cheese, can be accessed via links on the page about Dairy Free Substitutes

Friday, 24 October 2014

Let her eat cake! - On Inclusion for Food Allergy Kids and Free School Meals

'Baby' has been eating a LOT of fruit recently. Good! Good! She's been so reluctant to do so, up until now. Problem is, it's not because she enjoys it very much more than she used to...

What she'd really like to eat is chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake is normal in our house (although not every day, I hasten to add). We love chocolate, we love cake, we love the two together. Daddy likes it, Mummy likes it (more than is good for her) and so does 'Baby'!!

A Genius dairy and gluten free cupcake. Who would know that it's free from??

Now, picture this: 

I've just picked up 'Baby' from school. As I'm loading her and all her school stuff into the car she nonchalantly ponders aloud, 'I don't suppose we have any chocolate cake at home??'

Me (thinking that she's remembering the cake she's had in the past few days, as a result of her first school cake sale) replies guardedly,  'we might have.' 

I'm also thinking of the two Genius chocolate cupcakes that I bought in Sainsbury's the other day, which I squirreled away in the cupboard - well, you know, they were on offer! However, I don't want to give in to her request too easily - as (obviously) too much of a good thing isn't, always a good thing!

'Can I have some, when I get home?' she asks. 

'Maybe, ' I reply evasively, 'we'll see when we get home.' I'm being evasive, as she is a little sugar monster and it's hard getting her to eat healthy foods - sugar and chocolate are such a draw! I now rue the day I ever first gave her some, 'cos now she evaluates every food as to whether she enjoys it as much as she does anything sweet or chocolatey!

Sure enough, as I'd hoped, by the time we've done Waitrose and got home, she's forgotten. 

'Yippee!' I rejoice quietly inside.

A few hours later, Daddy comes home, and a few more vital facts of her day slowly emerge - the ones that she neglected to tell me earlier. Chief among them, is the fact that everyone else had chocolate cake for dessert, at lunch, today... and she didn't. 

The alternatives? Yoghurt or fruit.

'Baby' doesn't like yoghurt (they stock dairy free Alpro yoghurts at her school) and 'ain't that keen on fruit. Consequently she had no dessert today. Hence that request for chocolate cake.

Now, as an adult, I might wryly think to myself, 'Oh well, I don't need those extra calories anyway.'

'Baby' is four. She DOESN'T think that way. 

She sees chocolate cake, so naturally she wants chocolate cake. What kid wouldn't? At home, if anyone was having chocolate cake, she'd be having chocolate cake too!

I WISH I'd given her that chocolate cake.

She DID get a choice of dessert tonight. Mummy guilt kicked in, so she had LOTS of yummy choices.  But my heart was silently sobbing (okay, I may have been a bit pre-menstrual at that point) - for a little girl who loves chocolate cake and couldn't have any, even though everyone else did.

Thing is, this 'ain't the first time - the other day, it was a teacher's  birthday and that teacher shared cake with the class.... well... all except 'Baby' - she was given a digestive biscuit. 

Better than nothing, I suppose! But it's not the same, is it??

I'm guessing this probably won't be the last occasion that something like this happens.

Now maybe you're thinking I should be pleased that 'Baby' is eating ore healthily - all that fruit!! Well, yes, that is good, BUT... 'Baby's' had a LOT of extra vile tantrums recently. I thought we'd got over the worst of these - once things settled down, after our move. Up until now, I thought she was tired out by the long day. Casually, I've asked the around the other mums, but unless they're lying, not so many extra tantrums there! It could still be that she's tired...

But now I'm wondering whether these tantrums are a sign of something else. I'm beginning to think that maybe she is becoming more aware of the difference between herself and everyone else in her class is coming into focus - the effect of milk was buffered at home - we all eat pretty much the same. It's not quite the same at school!!

At 'Baby's' school EVERYONE has dinners. No opt out. I thought I was (almost) fine with that. As an ex-teacher, I completely agree with all the benefits of children sitting down and eating a healthy, balanced meal together (as long as you can ensure it's healthy and balanced, of course - I'm still not convinced that all free school dinners are). However, it's hard trusting someone else to feed your kid safely, when not even your own parents can manage it!! Especially the whole cross-contamination thing!

My reservations were overcome when I was assured (before she started school) that they already have children with milk allergy in the school and consequently always do a dairy free alternative of what everyone else has. 

Excellent news!! 

Clearly, however, they DON'T always have a dairy free alternative... NOT ALWAYS! I know they can do her cake - they did it, just the other week. So why not today? 

The school has been very good in many ways - much better than most, but then we're paying for her education - we opted for that course because the local primary quite clearly weren't au fait with allergies! When I raised the fact that 'Baby' has a milk allergy, at our local allocated primary school,the Headteacher said, 'Well she can have packed lunches, can't she??' 

At which point we decided to look elsewhere. 

Me, knowing that this particular school had been rated 'outstanding' by OFSTED, and that this Headteacher was very experienced and that school lunches were supposed to be provided in every school for all infants starting from the term when 'Baby' would enter school (see here), was speechless!! Never mind the, What will they do at milk time, to make sure that none is spilt? What will they do when they do cooking in class?? questions that were already raging in my mind!!

Thoughtfully, the school where we have sent 'Baby,' provide her soya milk served in a bottle almost identical to everyone else's - only a different coloured lid and her name mark it out as different from the others. They've also given her soya ice cream, when everyone else had 'normal' ice cream... It s unfortunate that this is not the norm in all schools.

BUT, the thing is, I believe that inclusion HAS to be consistent. It's good that they have a lot of stuff nailed, however, the occasions where inclusion is neglected, to my mind, equates to exclusion - these occasions are the ones which the child (and the parent) ultimately remembers!! 

And what does it DO to the child?? Long term...??

'Baby' HAS been very tempestuous recently.

Maybe it's a feeling of being different, left out, excluded, insignificant, that's exploding in completely irrational, hot, fierce, outbursts that can go on for an hour or so. After all, it would make ME feel cross, wouldn't it you?? I find it interesting that as one *report that covered the pilot studies of free school meals noted, the thing with Reception-aged children like 'Baby' is that they are reluctant or even unable to speak up - to advocate for themselves... 

It's too true! And not just concerning food allergies - 'Baby's' even been too timid to tell them when she's missed the toilet!! So much so, that she's walked around with wet underwear, until it's dried by itself!! At least one little friend has done the same!

And I am cross - for her! And for all the other little (or not so little) kids to whom this kind of thing also happens. 

I DO wonder what these kind of occasions do to 'Baby's' little soul... I don't want her to become angry, a 'victim,' or an 'outsider'...

PLEASE! Let her eat cake too... or let them ALL (unless they're allergic to it) eat fruit and yoghurt!!

(But NOT kiwi fruit 'cos that's a very common allergen and I can't eat it!!)

*apologies for the lack of a reference here - I know I read it in one of the reports, but cannot now ,for the life of me, find it!