Thursday, 24 April 2014

Baking with 'Baby' 13 - Amazing Anzacs!

Have you heard of ANZAC biscuits? I love 'em! 

Here's some we made earlier...

I first fell in love with these years ago, when I discovered them in Sainsbury's. Of course that was before I had to go dairy and gluten free.

Strictly speaking, they're an invention from Down Under, I believe - originally created by families who sent them to husbands/brothers/uncles/sons who were fighting in the trenches during the First World War. How amazing it must have been for these men to receive a taste of home, when they were so far away from their loved ones and living in the most appalling conditions. 

Nowadays, they're made and eaten as a token of Remembrance. 

I made these for the first time last year. I'd been meaning to make them for some while, however, one of the major ingredients in these biscuits is oats. I know a lot of coeliacs have problems with oats, even when they're gluten free and I still haven't decided how my stomach copes with them. It seems to go through phases. At the moment, I seem to be okay with gluten free oats in small doses, so I decided to have another go at making them.

I meant to post the recipe for these cookies last year, but... other bloggers posted theirs and beat me to it. 

Sigh! The perils of trying to be original!! 

Someone even used practically the same recipe and posted a pic of their biccies in a Kilner jar - which was exactly how I had photographed mine! Great minds obviously DO think alike. 

More sighs!! 

So anyway, I decided to save mine for another day. And just as well that I did. 'Cos I couldn't get my first recipe to go right. I tried and tried, but although the biccies tasted fab, they went flat each time! 


Cookie anyone?

'Oh well!' I thought, 'one big cookie it is, then!'

Doesn't look too good on the blog, does it??

When I returned to try it again, this year, the link was broken. Oops! So the search began again...

And here it is, this one- the second recipe - 'cos I figured that if it was someone's Grandma's recipe... well it MUST be good!  And our biccies came out perfecto!! 

Stick with me here, though, 'cos I found her instructions a bit sparse!

So, here we go... just in time for ANZAC Day, and with a just a little Dairy Free 'Baby' tweak ;)

For a start, I like to line my tray, with baking paper, and set my oven before I start. That way, I have time to check my oven thermometer well before I want to put my baking in the oven, and it gives me time to adjust the temperature and get it just right!

Then you can get out the ingredients.

In this recipe, all the dry ingredients are measured in cups and spoons. This is probably more authentic, in terms of the history of the recipe, but can drive me bappy, as I worry that I'm not as accurate as I'd like to be. However, I think cups are great, when working with little ones - because grams and ounces are all a bit abstract for littlies. If you wish to convert to grams, or ounces, this can easily be done, with the help of this page.

Our measuring cups - a pressie from my lil' sis' :)

I love the fact, though, that this recipe comes to its senses when it gets to the butter part - can't be doing with a cup of butter/margarine/whatever!

So to make this recipe suitable for us, we substituted Doves Farm gluten free flour for the plain flour and Nairn's gluten free oats for the normal ones. We added the sugar and coconut as per normal. 'Baby' couldn't wait to stir!

Pure sunflower margarine made an excellent substitute for the butter and combined well with the golden syrup, over a low heat.

Having read (earlier on in the article with the recipe) that you can go easy on the bicarbonate of soda, I did! I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on the metallic taste it can give. Just under half a teaspoon worked fine. 

I was a bit worried that I didn't get it straight into the margarine and syrup mix and then into the dry mix, as I thought it would affect the effectiveness of the bicarb, but it didn't seem to hurt!

The whole mixture came together well and although it appeared slightly greasy, unlike last year, we did manage to roll it into little balls in our hands. We didn't press them down at all, as some recipes suggest. We just spread them apart well on the tray - as I knew they may well spread!!

Keep them well-spaced - they spread!!

For a finishing flourish, 'Baby' suggested adding choccy buttons. Perhaps she remembered us adding buttons to one of our batches last year. However, only having half a packet of Moo Free to hand, on this occasion, we settled on giving half the batch a topping of three buttons each, before placing them in the oven and setting the timer.

Bang on time I took the trays from the oven and hey presto... 

Huzzah! Not one giant cookie, but lots of  proper-sized ones!



And they seriously tasted GREAT!! Now I'm wondering why they're only kept for ANZACS Day! But what a great way to respect the memory of those who fought so courageously on our behalf, all those years ago.

Lest we forget...

One last suggestion: the recipe said to loosen the cookies before they cooled. I tried but they began to crumble, so I left them to cool on the tray, then loosened them with a gentle twist, once they had cooled a bit.

More dairy free baking adventures can be found by following the links on this page.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why we're all stirred up about... The Coconut Collaborative 'Dairy Free' Yoghurt

Cue drum roll!!

Ta da!

Here it is, the long-awaited Coconut Collaborative, coconut-based dairy and soya free yoghurt.

'Woo hoo!' Thought I, when first I heard, 'another string to the dairy free, soya free bow!'

Ta da!

Whaddya think, then?

Must admit, it's a real departure for the firm behind this yoghurt. Originally known as Bessant and Drury, I first came across this company at the Allergy Show and immediately fell in love with their ice cream, which I reviewed here. I particularly loved their packaging, which really seemed so much better than most free from branding. Just recently, Bessant and Drury have rebranded themselves as The Coconut Collaborative, complete with a groovy new website, see here. I love the look of the website, but so far it's pretty light on information - you'll find out more by looking at their Face Book page. 

As for the re-branded packaging, it's no doubt funky and groovy, I'm not so in love with their new packaging, but you can't judge a book by it's cover, so let's move on!

The yoghurt retails at £1.49 for a 120g pot, in some branches of Waitrose. The list of stores can be found on their Face Book page

The Waitrose I visited sold two flavours: natural and natural with a raspberry compote. There are two other flavours, one which comes with a packet of berries and seeds and the other with a compote of mango and passionfruit.

The yoghurts come in a plain pot, which is about the right size for a lunchbox. They are completely plain - all the decorative element is in the cardboard sleeve.

The Natural

Live coconut milk: coconut milk (96%), natural thickeners (starch,tara gum), water, selected dairy-free cultures.

This yoghurt is smooth, thick and creamy in consistency - in fact so thick that you can pretty much stand your spoon up in it. Like all natural yoghurts it has a certain tartness to it. It is certainly an acceptable alternative to natural dairy yoghurt. For this reason, it may be suited more to adult tastes.

Thick and creamy

Personally, although I love natural yoghurt, perhaps because of the thickness, I found one whole pot a bit much for me. The rest ended up going back in the fridge for later!

As for the other...

The Raspberry

Live coconut milk: coconut milk (96%), natural thickeners (starch,tara gum), water, selected dairy-free cultures. Raspberry compote: raspberry (19%), grape extract, water, corn flour, raspberry juice concentrate (2%) citric acid, natural colour (anthocyanins, from grapes).

As you can see, the yoghurt and compote come in two distinct layers.


It didn't stay that way for long! 'Baby' couldn't wait to open up the pot and give it all a good stir!

Stirred up!

Just before she did get her spoon in, I did just about manage to get a spoon in edge ways and give 'Baby' a quick taste of the top layer, but she wasn't too keen. She much preferred it with the raspberry all mixed in... that was until she realised there were pips in it! 

'Baby' doesn't like 'pipsies'!

Brought up on my Dad's home made jam, pips don't bother me! So maybe this is another one for me, then!

In fact I must admit, for someone whose favourite yoghurt used to be Muller Fruit Corners, the raspberry added a lovely flavour to the yoghurt. I really loved it! 

In fact, I demolished the whole of the rest of the pot in one go!

The packaging states that it is 'dairy free'

Will I be buying it again? 

Well, it's still a lot more expensive than 'normal' yoghurt, so it wouldn't be a regular purchase, especially as I had to go out of my way and make a special trip to buy it. I can get Co-yo yoghurt much more easily from Ocado and from my local health food store.


More importantly, the packaging states boldly on the front that it is dairy free. In fact it states it on the top too!

BUT, in smaller writing, near the ingredients, well, actually nearer their contact details, to be precise, I note a small statement:

'Allergy advice: Made in a factory that uses dairy ingredients.'

'Oh! Hang on!' I gasped, when I spotted this, 'wait a minute! I thought you said 'dairy free'?????'

You may be surprised, and I was, but now I've thought about it, I am now not so surprised, although I am certainly disappointed. 

To put it in context, I suddenly remembered that the brand that created this yoghurt was originally created by people who were concerned with natural healthy alternatives, rather than allergies. 

Now I don't know where you stand on this, but personally if some thing says 'free' boldly all over it, then I expect it to be absolutely free. I think it is mis-leading to later add in small print a statement that says that it might not be as dairy free as I thought!

After all, as I have a little one who is, or certainly has been (we really need to conduct another controlled challenge, I think), susceptible to the slightest traces, I need to be careful and would not have bought it, had I known.

What I am is confused! I was under the impression (from something I was told, a while back) that 'dairy free' is a legal statement.

I'm also confused - as I'm not sure just how dairy free this yoghurt is now. It's something I need to check out, especially as 'Baby' is susceptible to the tiniest traces, and she did have a bit of tummy ache, a little while after her taster... when I say a 'bit' I mean painful enough for her to make a fuss about it, in the way that she does when she has mistakenly been given something that 'may contain'.

Was it a taste of dairy?? I can't be 100% sure, BUT I will not be taking the risk again, as I am pretty certain. There was no other likely cause of her having a tummy ache that day.

They claim their equipment is cleaned and the product batch-tested, BUT I know that not all parts of machinery can be cleaned as thoroughly because they are in hard to reach places. AND allergenic proteins are notoriously sticky!

I am also aware of a few other people who have reactions to another product that claims that it is safe because it is batch-tested, so I am not convinced of the thoroughness of batch-testing - especially as only a tiny amount of a batch is tested.

Something else, of which to be aware is that although there are a lot of claims on the sleeve of the yoghurt, regarding the health benefits of coconuts, I am aware of at least one dietitian who has cautioned against eating too much coconut based yoghurt. 

Despite all the 'healthy fat' claims of people who love the properties of coconut, it does contain a lot of saturated fat. I have been advised to partake sparingly. So it may not be as healthy as we thought.

Also, please note, that unlike some other dairy free yogurts, it does not have any added calcium, so it will not provide a great deal of your daily calcium requirements - except perhaps a little from any 'added nuts'.

Let's be clear - I'm not saying don't eat it...   

Just be careful, is all I'm saying...

Update July 2014:

The Coconut Collaborative are still assertively marketing their product as 'dairy free' despite the cautionary note about the factory. They say (sic):

feedback welcomed. Let us host you at our producers you will 100% be reassured as all our retailers are.

For those of you who are aware that since I wrote this post, 'Baby' has been undergoing a 'baked milk challenge,' I still would not buy her this yogurt. Anyone who has seen a copy of the Milk Ladder which covers the reintroduction of milk will know that baked milk is safer than unbaked milk and that the dose and length of time the milk is baked also has a bearing on how well tolerated the milk may be.

In fact, on a similar thread, I was interested to hear from registered Dietitian, Julia Marriott (@AlimentaryBites on Twitter) that if a product is not heated above 180 degrees, then it is not suitable for anyone undergoing a baked milk challenge. This information was provided in relation to a conversation on Twitter regarding ice lollies with 'may contain' warnings.

Update November 2014:

Interesting article about food allergy labelling and traceable amounts of allergens detected in foods here: Do foods with precautionary labels really contain allergens?

The above article was based on this report by the FSA: Survey on 'May Contain' labelling

Stay safe and be well!

Related Posts:

Wot no dairy! Wot no soya!

Xotic - another dairy and soya free yoghurt

Heaven in a mouthful - Co-yo Coconut Yoghurt

Are you getting enough... calcium??

Getting enough... Vitamin D for you and me!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Have yourself an Allergy Free Easter Egg Hunt!!

Once a week, 'Baby' and I go to a toddler group, at which I volunteer. There are definite benefits to being a volunteer at your child's toddler group - you get to have input on important things like celebrations, food... and chocolate!

So the other week, with Easter approaching, when we made Easter nests, we made them dairy free (see here, in case you missed the recipe)

Today we're having an Easter egg hunt, and it's going to be 'Baby' proofed - that goes without saying!

So how do we 'Baby' proof it?

Last year 'Baby' was invited to her first Easter egg hunt. In anticipation of such a happening, I purchased some small chocolate eggs online in advance. I also bought some plastic Easter egg hunt eggs. We practiced hiding them around the house for her to find, so she'd know what to do. She loved it! Even with nothing inside the eggs, she thought it was a great game!

Well, this year, not wanting her to come into contact with chocolate made with dairy, or to feel different by having to search for eggs that weren't noticeably different from everyone else's, I decided to reuse the plastic eggs (pictured above) and add a few more. You can buy them from quite a few shops at the moment. Poundland have packs for (funnily enough) £1. These ones are from Poundland. Waitrose packs cost £1.50. I've found lots of other Easter egg hunt resources for sale online, via Party Delights.

Instead of filling them, we're going to let the children collect the empty eggs and swap them at the end for Easter treats. Of course you don't need to make these Easter treats food - it could be some toys like chicks etc.

Of course you can't have an Easter egg hunt without a basket in which to collect the eggs, so I decided the children could also have fun doing some craft - something quick and easy, 'cos some little ones have almost no attention span!!

You can, of course, skip making the baskets and buy your own, either plastic, or in packs at Poundland or Tesco, for just £1, but I think children get more fun out of making their own!!

I searched online for ideas and thought these were fab:

Allergy Adventures

Carrot Pockets

Recycled plastic bottles

However, they weren't big enough for what I wanted to do (although they would be great for holding smaller prizes, such as Haribo).

Then I found these, by 'Jellyfish'. They are the perfect size for holding a couple of plastic eggs.

Here's 'Baby's' prototype: 

'Baby's' basket

I used a gold-coloured paper plate, left over from our angel craft we did at Christmas. The gold inside reflects the colour of the shredded paper beautifully. Also because they are metallic, they are a little bit stronger, so able to hold more.

I pre-cut the paper plate and stapled it, before giving 'Baby' the chance to decorate it with a few stickers and some ribbon.

The shredded paper and decorative stickers can be bought from places like The Works, Poundland and Hobbycraft. Along with the ribbon around the side (covers the staples).

'scuse the fake grass!

SO 'Baby' is now all ready to go!

And her reward? Well the others will get a small choclate egg, but of course 'Baby' can't have those. I did buy some chocolate half eggs from Plamil. I was going to put two halves together, to make one whole egg and wrap them together in some foil, but 'Baby' being 'Baby', she requested some pink wrapped eggs! I've no idea where to get pink foil squares, do you? 


I've found some smaller fillable plastic eggs at Poundland this year, in packs of 18. Two Plamil Easter egg halves (see here) which you can buy from Holland and Barrett or online from Plamil, fit these perfectly!! Happy days!!

BUT, these these dairy, gluten, soya, egg and nut free chocolate mini eggs (bought from D and D Chocolates), would also do the job nicely!! 

Allergy free Easter eggs

Now if you're planning an Easter egg hunt, you might not have time to send off for these, but you could fill the plastic eggs with a small packet of dairy free buttons, which you can buy from Sainsbury's Free From section, or maybe some small packets of Haribo sweets - theyve made some which have been designed especially for Easter egg hunts.

Alternatively, you could swap the plastic eggs for other Easter treats, such as the Celtic Choices bunny (Sainsbury's, Tesco or Asda). For more information, about these and other dairy free Easter treats, see our Great Big Dairy Free Easter Egg Hunt (2017) post for further details, or Dairy Free Easter Treats

Either way, hope you and your little ones have a cracking dairy free Easter :)

Related posts: 

Baking with 'Baby' - Dairy Free, Gluten Free Easter Nests

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Dairy Free Baby's Party Survival Plan

'Baby' has had a party invite. WOO...hoo...

Just like any parent, I love it when 'Baby' makes friends and enjoys her social life. I love it when she gets an invite to a party - not that we've had that many, as we've moved around a few times in her short life and had to keep making new friends.

But, then, having accepted the invitation, one's thoughts inevitably turn to food. Because there it is - every social gathering includes food of some description. And it's inevitable that most of it will contain milk in some form.

Ho hum! 

What to do?

But, it's not just the food is it?

Birthday parties have definitely changed since I was little!

'Baby' has a party to attend tomorrow and it involves dressing-up - you know fancy dress, not party dress!

However, she is going to be all good to go, because since the last birthday party, where I missed the dress code ('cos it was on the back of the invite), I have learned my lesson. 

'Baby' was very good at the time, she really got stuck in, but it soon became apparent AFTER the party, that she had been all too aware that she was different. Not because of her allergy to milk, BUT because she was not dressed up as a princess like the majority of the rest of the party goers. She was wearing an absolutely beautiful dress that her grandma bought for her birthday, BUT it was NOT enough. In fact, I think there would have been a crisis even if she HAD been wearing her own princess dress, because... it wasn't a Rapunzel dress - complete with a long blonde plait that could be tossed artfully over one shoulder.

'Baby' surmised that had she been wearing one, the birthday girl (whom she hardly even knows - she was invited because I know the girl's mum from way back) would have wanted to play with her!! GROAN *slaps forehead, vows NEVER to let her stand out in this way EVER again*!!

It's hard enough (I think) that she stands out as 'The-Girl-With-The-Allergy (because her Mummy brings a packed lunch box), the last thing I want is for her to feel any more different from the others than she already does. 

I don't want her to become a VICTIM.

The good news is that this factored so highly that the allergy thing didn't seem bother (phew) 'Baby'... apart form not being able to have some of the 'princessy' birthday cake, which she admired longlingly!! *GROAN, GROAN, GROAN*

The reason it didn't bother her, I think, is partly because she is so used to going places and eating differently to everyone else (that's her 'normal'), and partly because she knows Mummy has eating restrictions too  - which normalises it for her, even more so. BUT also, I have made sure that she never has to miss out... well not too much anyway.

The Format

This is how it goes:

We receive an invitation. Delight for her, slight panic for me.

Well, I really don't expect people to try and provide food that's suitable. Experience has taught me that people don't always get it and it can cause them extra stress, which may mean that people might not invite us again - especially when we're just getting to know them!

My first course of action is to call the host and discuss the food situation. I try to keep it light and suggest bringing my own food as soon as possible. I know that before 'Baby' was on the scene, I would not have had the slightest clue (as to what to provide for someone else in this situation), so I don't expect them to, and (to be quite honest), I would prefer to supply 'Baby's' food anyway - in case some one inadvertently makes a mistake. If I prepare it, I know what's in it!!

I know, I know. It would be nice in an ideal world if I could just rock up like everyone else, BUT I know we went through a steep learning curve when we had 'Baby'. We're still learning, even though we've been doing this thing for a few years now. Planning a party is stressful enough as it is, for the host, without factoring in loads of other stuff, so, in the interests of being invited back again, I am prepared to go the extra, extra mile. I don't want to run the risk of my 'Allergy Kid' missing out on future invites. 

Usually, people are quite grateful when I suggest I can bring things. If they can tell me what they're likely to be serving, then I try to replicate (as near as I can) what the other children will be having. If they're a bit unclear, then a bit of innovation is in order! 

If, however, the host thinks they can provide the food, I go along with it, but hide stuff in my bag (just in case)! 

One host (a relative) seemed a bit offended when I asked if I needed to bring stuff, but we turned up and guess what? All the bread was buttered with regular Flora margarine - so... not dairy free, then! None of the crisps were dairy free either. 

Good job I brought 'Baby's' 'Party Survival Pack', then, wasn't it?!

Baby's Party Survival Pack

If I can sensibly more or less match whatever is being provided I will, but this can't always be done. I have been known to go a bit over the top - just to make 'Baby' feel like she's better off, but this has backfired on me - with other kids asking me for some of what 'Baby's' having!! Here's what's usually in it:

1. Sandwiches: Tuna and mayonnaise - Baby's' favourite. No point packing anything else, if I want her to eat something sensible! Hellman's Original Mayonnaise is dairy free but don't try the Light version, as that's made with cream powder!

Party sandwiches should be cut small, IMHO

2. Savory bits: Waitrose mini bread sticks or Tesco Ritz biscuit style 'Snackers' - just another savoury 'filler'. She may or may not eat them.

3. Crisps: Original Pom Bears - all kids love these! Watch out here for other kids wanting them too! A new favourite is Tesco Prawn Cocktail crisps. Organix tomato flavoured corn snacks might be another option.

4. Biscuits: Kelkin Jaffa cakes or Lovemore's O'Choccos (Oreos) - these are dairy free as well as gluten free. I only take a couple, she may not eat them, but if she wants them they're there! Normal Oreos aren't made with milk, but 'Baby' seems to react, so these Lovemore ones work well and she loves them. Lovemore also make 'Chocolate Bourbons' and 'Jammy Wheels'. However, 'Baby' is actually perfectly okay with Waitrose 'Essential 'Bourbon Biscuits. Before she started reacting to Fox's Party Rings, I used to take them (they aren't made with milk either, but they 'may contain') so we don't have them anymore. 

5. Cake: We take homemade cupcakes - usually Hale and Hearty Chocolate Muffins, smothered in Betty Crocker Buttercream Style Chocolate Icing, and blinged up with Dr Oetker decorations. They're a winner every time!! 

Our faves

6. Sweets: Haribo mini packs, Dairy Free Chocolate Buttons/Coins etc. just in case sweets are offered as prizes, or are poked into party bags - nothing is left to chance!

Party essentials!

7. Wipes: I also bring our usual packs of wipes - not necessary for the table, as that may well be covered with a party tablecloth (although not always - depends on the venue), but for 'Baby's' hands. Hanging out with other tots who drink milk and stick hands/toys etc. in their mouths is a potential source of unwitting exposure to milk proteins (as far as I'm concerned) so before she eats, 'Baby's' hands are subjected to a quick scrub. I've no idea if it really helps or not, but it just kind of eases my mind somewhat!


After it's all over. We go outside, get in the car. Frisk the party bag (just in case). Go home, wash her hands carefully (just in case). Relax in the safety of our own home!!


Oh, and I always offer to stay and help! And I do. It means I can keep a safe eye on 'Baby' without hovering too much over her. I actually enjoy this bit, as it can be very sociable and be a great way of cementing relationships with other people, anyway.

Of course all this is extra work for me... and I'm guessing you as well. We all go that extra mile willingly... because we love our kids and do not want them to miss out.

Now I may have missed things out that you have thought of. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below - the more the merrier!

And let's party on! Dairy free, of course!! :)