Thursday, 26 February 2015

Violife Dairy Free Mozzarella Cheese

Yesterday, I went out for lunch with some of the ladies from the school gate. Very nice too, but I couldn't help viewing their lunches with envy!! They were having pizza. I was stuck with the only gluten and dairy free dish on the menu, which was, pretty bland and tasteless! Good job I went for the company and not for the food, then!

So today (still suffering from pizza-envy), when I spotted this little cheese tucked away at the back of the fridge, in Holland and Barrett, I was pretty chuffed!

Violife Mozzarella cheese comes packed in slices!

I'd already stashed a gluten and dairy free pizza base from Sainsbury's away in my cupboard the other day, and I was gagging for it! I just couldn't wait to get home, rip the packet off and tear that cheese onto some pizza.

Keeping it simple with mushrooms and black olives.

So how did we get on?

'Scuse the foil - I was trying to save on the washing up!

What's it like?

Violife's Mozzarella cheese comes in a packet containing ten slices. They are pretty well stuck together, so a sharp knife is needed to carefully separate them. It tears quite easily and does seem to melt quite nicely - without the thin crust I've found when I've melted most of the other Violife cheeses. So far, so good! I think it would have melted a little better, given even longer in the oven, but the other toppings on the pizza were beginning to look like they needed rescuing, so out the pizza had to come!

Flavourwise, you definitely get a lovely cheesy hit from this mozzarella and it seems to have that lovely creamy, melty mozzarella texture that you'd hope for - something that surprised me, as the cheese didn't look that melted. 

In terms of flavour, I'd have to say that although I've enjoyed the Violife Original on toast, the Violife creamy on crackers and the Violife Pizza in a Bechamel-type sauce, in a lasagna, this one is my definite favourite and gets a BIG thumbs-up from me! Previously, I've enjoyed the Mozzarisella dairy free cheese, which had a great melt and creamy texture, but not as much flavour as this one!

What's in it?

Violife Mozzarella Ingredients: 

Water, Coconut Oil (23%), Modified Starch, Sea Salt, Mozzarella Vegan Flavour, Polyphenols, Colour: b-carotene

On the face of it, the ingredient list looks simple enough, but, as usual, Violife are using their mysterious 'vegan flavour' again. If you're Vegan or only dealing with the fourteen major allergens, I would guess (under the recent EU law) you're safe, but I've no idea what this might mean for anyone with some of the more unusual allergies, like peppers, for example!

If the coconut in this cheese isn't for you, for whatever reason, you might like to try Mozzarisella cheese, which is also dairy and soya free, but not so nearly as easy to get hold of as this one!

Where can it be bought?

I bought Violife's Mozzarella from Holland and Barrett. That said, not all Holland and Barretts might stock it. However, I've sometimes found that if the one nearest you doesn't stock something, the store in the next town nearest to you just might! 

I'm guessing some independent health food shops might also stock this one, but I haven't seen it in mine so far - although they do stock the Pizza and Creamy with Herbs versions. 

I don't think you'll find the Mozzarella version in any of the major supermarkets just yet, although I know that both larger Tescos and Asdas now stock Violife Original and Violife Creamy. 

How fab that these Violife Originals can now be found in local supermarkets!

How much?

Well I spent £2.99 on a 200g packet of the Mozzarella. But I enjoyed it so much that I didn't begrudge a penny - especially as they're currently buy one get one half price in Holland and Barrett! Actually, I'm quite tempted to go back tomorrow and stock up on some more, as, if they're kept unopened in the fridge, they have quite a long shelf life! In fact, this packet isn't due up until mid-September, this year - that's seven whole months away!

They're the same price online at Alternative Stores, although obviously you'll pay extra package and posting there - they deliver pretty quickly though, and from the looks of it, you can also buy larger packs, should you so wish, which are £5.50 for double the amount!

The only thing with Alternative Stores is that you'll have so much choice - not just of dairy free cheese, but also chocolate, among other things, that you may well end up spending more than you'd bargained for ;)

Related posts:

New Cheese on the Block - Mozzarisella

An Alternative to Cheese and Alternative Stores

Cocoa Libre Dairy Free Milk Chocolate

It's hard work photographing these little beauties!

Partly because they're quite tiny and I didn't have a very good camera to hand when The Hub brought them home, and partly because they don't last very long - they're much too yummy to leave hanging around!

How empty are these packets?! They don't last long - too yummy!

To be honest, my photography does not do them nearly enough justice!!

So let me tell you about them instead.

I've been aware of Cocoa Libre for some time, however, I hadn't tried them, because it involved buying online, and usually I prefer not too - as post and packaging bumps up the price of everything! And they seemed quite expensive too - costing £4.69 for a pack containing ten - I know, I know, they're handmade chocolate, so that always bumps up the price. SO I was very excited when The Hub brought some home, as a special treat, not long before Christmas!

He brought two lots home - a box of owl-shaped choccies and a box of sheep (ideal for an Easter treat methinks - they now have Easter chicks too).

'Baby' was immediately entranced with them, but not liking her chocolate flavoured with anything, she plumped for the sheep and took ownership of the whole packet (don't worry I didn't let her eat them all at once)! Just rude!!


However, I didn't miss out on anything with the owls, no, not at all! 

What are they like?

I think I've said before that I'm not a huge fan of mint chocolate, but these... well these are something else! 

Cocoa Libre chocolate is smooth, silky, creamy, yummy, gorgeous... I could go on! They're incredibly moreish. I really had to exercise a lot of self-control not to gobble them down all at once! Of course, you'll have to take my word for it, as the only way you'll know how good they taste is if you try them for yourself! 

Where can they be found?

Cocoa Libre's website carries the full range. A list of other stockists can be found here, although I hear they may soon be more widely available - which, now that I'm a convert, I find very exciting!

What's in them?

Milk Chocolate Sheep:

Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Rice Powder (Rice Syrup, Rice Flour) 13.5%, Dietary Fibre (inulin), Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavouring, Natural Cocoa Flavouring.

Dark Mint Chocolate Owls:

Cocoa mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifer: Soya Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavouring, Peppermint Oil.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Back to the dietitian... a routine visit, for dairy free 'Baby'

'Wow you've grown!'

is what they said to 'Baby' at our most recent appointment! Or words to that effect!

And yes, I must admit, she certainly has!

My purse has been sending me that message for some while, now - I've already had to buy her almost a complete new set of school uniform and she only started school in September!

So that was the good thing about our appointment - confirmation that 'Baby,' despite her milk allergy, is thriving well.

Must admit, there wasn't much else we gained this time, as what with the nature of 'Baby's' allergy being Non-Ige, all 'Baby's' milk challenges are carried out a home - supposedly at six monthly intervals. However, all our attempts to challenge her with baked milk recently, have been frustrated by her frequent unexplained tummy aches (which I am still trying to get to the bottom of) and by her picking up various illnesses from school. 

As I've mentioned before, you have to be well in order to carry out a milk challenge* and as her reactions to milk are mainly delayed gut-related reactions, I've no idea whether these tummy aches have been cause by accidental exposure to milk, or whether she's picked up some bug. If it is an accidental exposure to milk, it would leave her gut needing a break to heal up, and get better... so we keep waiting for a golden window of opportunity to appear! 

So what did we get up to?

1) Each time we go, they check 'Baby's' measurements. 

They weigh her. These days, it requires a much bigger set of scales:

The scales!

And they measure her height, on this height chart:

No, she hasn't reached the clock, just yet!

2) We discuss her food intake. 

This enables the dietitian to see if 'Baby' was getting the right balance of food overall. It also enables her to recalculate 'Baby's' calcium intake - to ensure that she's not missing out. The dietitian might offer some tips, on how to improve intake, if required. This was especially useful in the early days of weaning.

Stupid me, sits there at this stage, 'umming' and 'ahhing' a lot, as I try to cast my mind backwards and think about what we've been feeding our little one. Only after the appointment (DOH!), does it occur to me that next time, I should be more organised and take the following, as I think this would make things a bit easier:

  • a copy of the school's three week lunch plan 
  • a meal plan for a 'normal' week at home
  • a more precise calculation of her daily dairy free 'milk' intake (including how much she has at school)

3) We also discuss her progress (or lack of progress) with the 'Milk Ladder,'* along with any other concerns that we might have.

At the moment, we still need to attempt a baked milk challenge every six months (assuming that 'Baby' is well), but like I said, we're still working on this one.

Originally, when we saw our first dietitian, we went through the same sort of process, but 'Baby' was weighed on a very different set of scales, and, at that time, as a breastfeeding mother, my intake was closely monitored too! We also had appointments quite regularly - at least every 6 months. However, 'Baby' being older now and having moved house to a new area, our appointments have been scaled back to yearly intervals. In fact I got the impression they were not that fussed about seeing us at all! 

I can understand why:
  • She's had all the tests, both blood tests (she wasn't keen on those) and skin prick - (much more harmless)! The tests revealed nothing - except that her allergy is Non-Ige mediated*. That means she's not got the life threatening version (panic over, 'cos at one stage 'Baby's' was having some interesting rashes).
  • We've been managing her dairy free diet successfully at home for a while now, so there's not all that much they can teach us there, now that we've 'learned the ropes,' so to speak! 
  • There are so many children developing food allergies these days and so few allergy professionals (by comparison) that they've got quite patients already!

We only had one thing to test, but it still took up most of her arm!

So, why do we go?

  • We're still hovering around step one of the milk ladder.* We thought we'd achieved this step in the summer, but then, what with various things going on; emptying our old flat for sale, family illness etc. we had a short break and then it seemed that 'Baby' was no longer tolerating the malted milk biscuits. GRRR! As, we're still hoping to work our way up the said milk ladder, I wish to keep my foot in the door (as it were) with the dietitian - in case I need to refer back to her for advice.
  • I want them to keep monitoring her. Yes, we're doing okay with her at the moment, but this may not always be the case! I want to keep her on the books, to make sure she doesn't end up forgotten - like an old teddy bear, deteriorating in a dusty box in the attic.
  • To get updated nutritional advice - the dietitian's handout on calcium sources has significantly more content than last year!
  • Also, just on the off-chance that some new miraculous discovery could advance 'Baby's' ability to tolerate cow's milk, I want to be in there with my appointment already. After all, it took us long enough to get an appointment in the first place!!

Of course, what I really long for, is the day when 'Baby' outgrows her allergy, and a visit to the dietitian is no longer required...

* Glossary:

Milk Challenge - when you try to find out whether an allergic individual is still allergic to milk, by giving them a small amount of milk, in some form. If severely allergic, this will take place within a hospital setting. If not severely allergic, this will take place at home, according to instructions provided by your Health Care Professionals.

Milk Ladder - the term given to a structured approach which is used to reintroduce cow's milk to children with a cow's milk allergy. It is based on the premise that if children can be found to tolerate baked milk (apparently 80% can), they should consume it regularly. Their bodies may then be induced to progress gradually to accept cow's milk in other forms. As a result, they are more likely to outgrow their milk allergy. I have seen several examples of milk ladders. They all work on the same principle. My preferred version has the approach broken down into twelve stages.

Non-Ige mediated food allergy - is one that does not present symptoms immediately. Reactions may occur hours, or even a few days later. This kind of food allergy does not show up in tests but is diagnosed via food elimination, followed by a challenge, in which the suspected allergen is reintroduced.

Related Posts: 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sweet Dairy Free Valentine!

Have you a dairy free valentine making your heart flutter? Are you casting around for ideas to treat that dairy free someone special in your life? 

Well, I may just be able to help you out!

We don't make a huge deal of Valentine's Day - mostly it's cards, choccies, flowers and a meal at home. We could eat out, but bearing in mind how busy it is on that day of the year, I don't think we will!

If you are planning on going out for a Valentine's meal, and are wondering where you might go, that's suitable, you might like to check out these older posts, which might give you some ideas, of where you might like to go!

Meanwhile, if you're looking for some sweet treats for your dairy free Valentine, well, it's not an exhaustive list, but here's a few ideas:

A classic!

I've seen these classic Love Heart tins in a number of places, like Sainsbury's, but £1.99 at The Works is pretty hard to beat!

Last year, you could also buy boxes of Haribo hearts from places like Poundland, and 'Baby' insisted on me buying some marshmalllow hearts too - from Waitrose, I think!

However, if chocolate is more your thing:

D and D Chocolates have plenty of other ideas on their website. D and D Chocolates chocolate is all dairy, gluten and nut free. It is made with sunflower lecithin but they do carry a warning that they may contain soya - although they have assured me that the risk is minimal.

Ayni is another great company, you can find online. I love their Chocolate Love Hearts, priced from £1.25 (plus P&P).


And also these Raspberry Cream Hearts. Which are priced from £3.00.

So cute!

You can check out their full range of Valentine chocolate here. Ayni's chocolate is Paleo - handmade without dairy, gluten, soya, sesame, nuts or refined sugar. See here, for more details.

If you're looking for something from the High Street:

Hotel Chocolat have a few Valentine offerings, that aren't too pricey, there's this:

Dark Chocolate Heart Lick
I really love the romantic design on these!

Dark Chocolate Heart Lick - they're £2.50 each. I've had a few of these! You used to be able to get them without the stick. This year, I see that they are now available, without the stick, in miniature form. See below:

Wink Wink
Aren't they cute?

Wink Wink - five dark chocolate hearts for £2.50

These Hotel Chocolat's products are made with dark chocolate that is made without dairy. From looking at their website, it seems they may use the same equipment as milk chocolate, but clean carefully between batches. A similar policy exists regarding gluten. They are made with soya lecithin - many folks who have a soya allergy or intolerance are okay with the lecithin (as the protein is removed). Unfortunately, for those of you who have to avoid nuts, Hotel Chocolat cannot guarantee that their chocolate is nut free.

Booja Booja If you want to splash out a bit more on your Valentine, you may prefer to give them a box of Booja Booja truffles, which you can find in most good health food stores, sometimes in Holland and Barrett and even in Waitrose! 

Booja Booja truffles are both dairy and gluten free. They are, also quite yummy, so they make a great treat! However, they are made with soya lecithin and nuts.

However, should you wish to be a little more personal and creative, then I suggest you buy some dairy free chocolate drops, from Plamil, or Hotel Chocolat, then take a look at this site - they sell the most gorgeous chocolate moulds. Although Valentine's Day is just around the corner, I think there's still just enough time!

Monday, 2 February 2015

So, you're weaning... dairy free!

Inspired by a conversation I had with someone, just this morning!

Dear Dairy Free Mum,

It's not how you imagined it would be, is it?? It's all become a bit scary - now that weaning is approaching! You're worried about how it will all pan out, and other people breezily telling you not to worry is not much help!

Can I give you permission to have a little weep about it first? Or even a big weep, if that's what's needed. I've been there. I know what you're going through.

Then let me tell you that even if it doesn't feel good now, it will be okay. 

I remember as a child watching 'Dad's Army' on the telly, and chuckling away at the frequently heard refrain: 

'Don't panic, Mr Mainwearing!'

But that is honestly not much help when you are actually panicking is it? 

Looking back, there's a lot I take for granted now, that didn't come so easily, when first 'Baby' was diagnosed with cow's milk protein intolerance (actually cow's milk protein allergy). A whole lot of learning has taken place since then and what a journey it has been! There's stuff that I've already shared about our weaning process that I don't really want to go through again, but if you're interested, you can read about it here.

However, I would like to pass on some quick words of advice to anyone just beginning that weaning process and wondering what on earth they're going to do and how they're going to get through it, I mean everyone feeds their small kids fromage frais, and cheese strings don't they?

Weeeeell, not quite!

Here's some little pointers for you!

1) Your baby can live a healthy life without dairy!

Hear me now: I by no means make the claim that a dairy free diet is healthier for you,(although I know that some people do), however.... did you know that it is entirely possible (and even desirable to some) to live your life totally without dairy - many Vegans do! The main thing is to discover what is lacking from a 'normal' diet, if you miss out the dairy and then supplement your diet, in order to fill in the gaps. 

The main things that would be missing from your diet, as far as I can tell, are calcium, B vitamins and zinc (unless you're American, in which case, your milk is fortified with vitamin D). If you're not a Vegan, you don't need to worry about the last two - as they're found in found in meat and eggs (B vitamins), meat, fish and pulses (zinc) so you're consuming it all the time. And even if you aren't dairy free, it's a good idea to educate yourself about calcium anyway, in order to avoid osteoporosis in later life! You can read more about that here and here.

2) You can substitute dairy!

Dairy substitutes are much more readily available than they ever used to be - even since my daughter was first diagnosed, just over five years ago!

Some substitutes for dairy, (see our page for more posts about these) are arguably more necessary than others and some that are (again arguably) better than others, nutritionally, as well as taste/texture wise!

You don't have to eat your cereal dry, but 'Baby' prefers it that way, with dairy free milk in a cup!

Dairy free/Vegan cheese quite often tastes rank to any 'normal' cheese lover (I always prefer mine toasted) it's also nutritionally not anywhere near a match for you as real cheese, and is high in salt. You really don't need it, unless you're a dairy free person who used to eat cheese and you miss the flavour! Use it as flavouring by all means, if you need to, but your dairy free little one has no expectation of eating cheese - they won't have a clue what they're missing out on - unless perhaps they see other family members regularly consuming it around them, and even then, they will still have no idea what it tastes like (unless they were diagnosed at a later stage, which is different). If you want to find a decent dairy free cheese, take a look at our dairy free subs page.

Similarly dairy free yogurt does not always live up to the nutritional benefits of cow's milk yogurt. There are a few that are supplemented with calcium, but not to the same level. Again, flavourwise, they don't always match up. although the new Koko yogurts are pretty good and DO match the calcium of a 'normal' yogurt! However, dairy free ice cream... well I may never return to dairy ice cream again, having tasted some of these! In fact, a friend of the family now often chooses dairy free Swedish Glace ice cream over normal ice cream, when shopping at the supermarket, because he tried it once at our house and liked it so much!

3) Inform yourself

Get the best advice you can (which is presumably why you are online now and reading this). Finding information online is a bit hit and miss, though, so make sure you ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian (as early as possible, because you may have to wait some time for an appointment). 

It may be that your dietitian's referral is actually arranged via your allergy consultant - it works best when consultants and dietitians are working together, in the same unit, but that might not be the way they work things out in your area (each NHS trust does things differently). They will be able to give you advice about how you can safely feed your little one and will keep an eye on your child's weight/height to make sure they're thriving okay. 

Meanwhile, inform yourself responsibly about weaning in general, including things like safe amounts of salt and sugar. Pick the up the principles, don't worry about some of the details. Bear in mind that times change and so do approaches and products. The most important thing is to understand the principles. Apply the principles, using the 'normal' food your child can eat and the dairy substitutes that are suitable for a child of the age of your child. See here for more information about this.

4) You can listen to advice from others, but... 

...don't necessarily follow it! 

By this I mean the well-meaning parent/mother-in-law/friend/or even 'better' half', who tries telling you to try a little bit of yogurt or that a little bit of something with milk in can't/won't hurt your little one (it can)! I haven't yet thought up a polite winning line for people who think they are being helpful, but really aren't. If you can devise one in advance, it may help you!

5) You can 'listen' to your baby...

... and take your cues from them

I was not expecting to be a so-called 'Baby Whisperer' before my little one came along, I was expecting to be the new Gina Ford - she seemed to make so much sense - until I met 'Baby' that is! All babies are different and respond differently to new foods and well, everything else really (including sleep patterns). There's no 'one size fits all'!! 

What do I mean by that? SO many people thought I should begin weaning earlier than I did. To be fair I did try, but 'Baby' clearly wasn't ready to swallow solid food - it went round her mouth and came straight back out again! So I gave up and waited until she was six months old, before trying again. 

Learning about Baby-Led Weaning and 'Food 'til One is Fun' (based on the premise that milk should be babies main nutritional source until the age of one) massively helped me to relax, ignore the 'good' advice and 'listen' to what my little one was 'telling' me! It really doesn't seem to have done 'Baby' any harm! She is above average height/weight for her age and has hit all the usual milestones, so I can't have gone too badly wrong, can I??

Baby-Led Weaning was great, because we ditched pureeing foods so had less preparation and washing-up to do. To be clear, though, we were careful about it, so our approach was Baby-Led with modifications - one food at a time, until we had established a 'safe' bank of foods to work from, and then we made meals (for all of us) based around those 'safe' foods, before expanding our range further.

6) Try going dairy free!

I had to go dairy free to breastfeed my daughter, and I absolutely desperately wanted to breastfeed! In retrospect, although tough to begin with, it actually informed me greatly about what else was out there! As a family we all eat pretty much dairy free, except when we are out and can choose different options. The Hub has a coffee in the morning the occasional ready meal, when he's working from home and contraband - sneaky snacks and biscuits late at night - but that's about it, really!

So, I challenge you to try going dairy free yourself, for a short while - maybe a week, so you know what you can/can't have. See it as a fun experiment, even try out some baking if you like. There are lots of substitutes for dairy (see here) and chocolate (see here) and other stuff (see here) out there, so give them a go - you may surprise yourself and actually enjoy them! But do make sure you supplement your diet accordingly (see Point 1) above). 

7) There's lots of 'normal' food you can still eat!

Yes! I was so delighted when first I heard that supermarket own brand Hobnobs were dairy free (I wasn't gluten free, then)! In fact many supermarket own brands often are - as making products with vegetable oil is cheaper than using milk! So get checking those  food labels! In fact you don't have to - we have a 'Fave Products' list (see here), but also supermarkets often have lists that detail which of their products are dairy free. 

8) Take it one step at a time!

Don't look too far ahead! Just concentrate on what you need to do now, today. Unless you're planning a holiday, in which case you might want to check out these posts

9) Take care of yourself

There's no denying it can be stressful. Look after yourself, get sleep, rest, recreation etc. You need to be able to switch off sometimes and focus on other stuff. 

Also find 'safe' places where you can offload - there's loads of lovely people online in the same boat who are really supportive - especially when you need to let off steam! I started off on Mumsnet's Allergy thread, and am now on Face Book and Twitter.

10) Enjoy your baby!

Although I am smiling in almost all the photos from our early days, it took me until 'Baby' was nine months old to be able to relax and enjoy her. 

Yes, that long!! 

I actually remember the moment I became conscious of it too - I was at a baby sensory class and suddenly realised that I felt happy, relaxed and content with my baby. It made me conscious of just how much stress and anxiety I had been carrying and living with. I can't actually tell you HOW to achieve this - only know that it is possible and you will get there! Until then, like 'Dory' in 'Finding Nemo,'  'Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...'

There! That's it for now - if you follow all the links I've included, you'll be suffering from information overload! If you need to contact me regarding anything to do with this post, you can contact me via Twitter @dairyfree, or send me a message via our Face Book page 'Dairy Free Baby and Me'.

Love and hugs



P.S. If you do need to resort to Baby Foods bought from the Supermarket...

(lets face it, we all do, to some extent) you can find out which are safe by checking out the manufacturers website. They normally have allergy advice of some kind, or an allergy filter see here for an example - check out the side bar on the left of the page, for the various categories.

Important update:

It's now thought that in order to avoid developing peanut allergy, peanuts should be introduced fairly early on in the weaning process. More details can be found in these blog posts by Dr Carina Venter RD:

Feeding your baby peanuts - Q&A

Weaning beyond peanut Part 1

Weaning beyond peanut Part 2