Apologies for having been off the air for so long. It has been a few busy few months and I owe you some updates. Since September we had the blog awards, the little man started school, I was invited by the lovely Jean-Christophe Novelli and his fiancee to a day at his cookery school, I met the nice people at Allergy UK and have discovered lots of new recipes and foods along the way – watch our for a forthcoming post on African food. Yum. We have also had the usual battle with doctors, hospitals and keeping Zac well!
Now here we are, winter has arrived, my intolerant child has just celebrated his fifth birthday and Christmas is just around the corner. Never is there a more tricky time for the family of an intolerant/allergic child – than ‘party season’. But I have been experimenting and shopping and am happy to report – it hasn’t been too bad so far this year.
As usual Sainsbury’s seem to be leading the way with a bigger than ever selection of Free From Christmas foods. Lots of lovely ‘safe’ mince pies, Christmas cake slices, bags of chocolate coins, mini Christmas puddings, advent calendars and we even found a gingerbread man.
Our local Tesco seems to have made a big more effort of late. The new Udi’s range is a great addition. Zac loves the bagels – but be warned, I picked up a pack of their mince pies – only to discover they are not dairy free – just gluten free. So the same rules apply as ever – always read the labels, because you just never know when and where the odd bit of milk powder will sneak in! We still get caught out. Not often – but it does happen!
Tesco have recently stocked a new gluten free sausage brand, since they dropped the Black Farmer. Shame on you Tesco. Zac has just discovered he now likes sausages, which is a great relief to us as we have never been able to get him to eat meat before, unless whizzed up in a pasta sauce, so we were so excited about this little breakthrough.
The new ones we spotted in our local Tesco are called Heck and they taste fabulous – very meaty. We discovered, by accident that these are not dairy free – just gluten free. Last month Zac had a few weeks where his bowels were very unsettled. He was going several times a day and in his words was ‘pooping too much and too fast’. After about a week his skin started to flare up too and he had some nasty little eczema patches.
I was racking my brains wondering what was causing it. Initially I thought it was a bug but he was so well in himself and the rest of us were fine. The eczema then made me wonder if some dairy was getting in. There were only two new additions to his diet that I could think of. We had recently switched from Pure Sunflower spread to Vitalite Dairy Free – and he had been eating the Heck sausages. I had read on an allergy group discussion page that some dairy free kids had issues with Vitalite so thought it might be that.
But then I checked the Heck packaging and spotted that they are NOT milk free and do contain cream powder. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed before. Probably because I think milk has no place in a sausage. I am guessing that is what did it – so now we are sticking with Debbie & Andrews when we shop inTesco but our new favourites are The Good Little Sausage Company – found in our local Waitrose. They have a slightly milder taste than Debbie & Andrews, a bit less peppery, and so the children seem to enjoy them a lot more. As you would expect his skin and tummy troubles cleared up very soon after abandoning the sausages. We also abandoned the Vitalite too. Just in case…
So I think this little accidental experiment has told us Zac is not ready to try ‘the milk ladder’ as discussed at our last appointment with Adam Fox. I am guessing the amount of cream powder in those sausages must be the tiniest trace, yet the impact was unsettled bowels and skin for a couple of weeks. Not keen to repeat that again any time soon.
So with these new ‘learnings’ I approached the planning for his birthday with even more caution than ever. I would make him a cake, but wouldn’t use Vitalite in my baking and he could have sausages for tea, but not the Heck brand.
Zac started school in September and has made friends with a little boy who is living dairy free, gluten free and also soya free. Zac was desperate for him to come his birthday party and I was desperate to make these two lovely little boys feel completely included in the food and ensure that all of the cakes and goodies were totally suitable for them.
It was when I was shopping around for ingredients that I realised how much harder it is for the dairy free folk who are also soya free. Soya gets in just about everywhere and there is very little choice in the dairy free chocolate world as most have some kind of soya ingredient. So I decided to make a cake that was topped with non soya ingredients – Haribo. Ok, so topping a cake with a load of sweets is a bit of a cheat and not very healthy but these two little boys are so deprived of the same joy other kids get from birthday parties that I decided to try and make the cakes look as fun and appealing as possible.
Here are some pictures of the end result. I will post the recipe and method etc under a separate blog – but for now here are some pictures of birthday cakes, Christmas treats and happy little faces that make you realise that the season to be jolly is most definitely upon us.