Ice cream cones – I know it is raining, but I still want them! 4

As the weather is so poor at home, we decided to head to the seaside for the rest of half term. My parents live in Christchurch, Dorset and seem to get better weather than us. We don’t have to bring too much of Zac’s special food with us, as there is a large Sainsbury’s close by and a Waitrose. Both usually stock a good range of free from foods and Mum is great at catering for Zac. But she had run out of his special dairy free, wheat free, gluten free ice cream cones and so had I.

The last time I managed to find any was at the Allergy Show last month. I was thrilled when I stumbled upon the Barkat stall and even more happy to find that they were selling them. Annoyingly, I didn’t have much cash on me so could only buy one box. And the nice weather last month caused us to run out – very quickly.

I have been to our local Sainsbury’s several times since and had no luck. So the first thing we did when we arrived in Christchurch was to run out and see if we could find them. Sadly, they had none on the shelves, and there wasn’t even a ‘space’ for them, so it doesn’t look like they have been selling them lately.

I expected not to find the ice cream cones on the supermarket shelves in winter, but I had expected them to have made a comeback by now. The dairy free ice cream is in the freezers all year round so it doesn’t make much sense. Also, I have only ever seen one brand – Barkat and I have only ever found them in Sainsbury’s.

I don’t understand why they are not in more supermarkets or why they are not on the shelves yet. I know the weather is poor but kids love ice cream all year round. If I had found them I would have bought several boxes and I am sure others would too. They are expensive and so the supermarkets are really missing a trick here.

It is easy enough to find the well known Askey’s ice cream cones and wafers all year round, so why not the free from versions? Also, I have looked carefully at the Askey’s cones and they have a worryingly long list of not very natural ingredients, and in my opinion don’t even taste that good. The Barkat cones that we love are in the style of a Belgian waffle cone and taste really good. It is not often that a ‘free from’ product is a better flavour or texture than a ‘normal’ one but these are great.

So today, I decided to have a look and see where else I can find them. Here are the sites. Please take a look and try them. Perhaps if enough of us try them and buy them we can help them convince more supermarkets to stock them. Definitely a product for all the family and not just the food intolerants among us.


Foods on prescription – anything for dairy intolerants? 3

I know I am a bit late to this debate, but I have been doing a lot of investigating since the ‘furore’ blew up the other week about the cost of foods for Coeliac sufferers.

Like many others, I was so angry, but for more than just the usual reasons. I do not think it is right that these foods should cost the NHS so much – but I believe the problem is with the manufacturers and we cannot blame the sufferers.

I imagine the reason that Coeliac sufferers are granted an allowance is because it is widely acknowledged how ridiculously expensive it is to buy the gluten free products. The impact on the ‘purse’ is staggering. So we should be grateful that this provision is made.

The ‘free bread’ is not widely or recklessly dished out. There is a lot of confusion over intolerance, allergy and autoimmune diseases such as Coeliac. Only the Coeliacs are entitled to an allowance. With certain food intolerances you can be ‘cured’ with desensitisation and that is not the case with Coeliac, so the sufferers face a life of having to buy these foods and it makes sense that they get some help.

Many people have just a mild sensitivity to gluten and wheat and some have a much more severe intolerance, but these people are not entitled to anything. I suppose because there are so many of them and they have a chance of managing their conditions themselves and it is not so detrimental to their general health if they have the odd slip up.

I also imagine that this might be the reason it was so difficult for me to get anyone to test Zac. Less interested doctors probably don’t want to uncover yet another sufferer and put more strain on the NHS purse.

It sounds terrible, but in a way, I was disappointed when his Coeliac blood test came back negative. Not just because it meant we did not get our ‘free foods’ but mostly because it left our questions unanswered. Why was he so ill from eating these foods? What happens next? Should I push for a gut biopsy? Nobody else felt the need to find the answers to these questions, so we were just advised to keep him off his trigger foods as he has an obvious bad reaction and just hope grows out of it. So instead, we regularly meet dietitians to review his case.

At the most recent meeting, the penny dropped and brought up some new questions. Zac’s first intolerance was to dairy, the others came along after. At the very first meeting with a dietitian we discussed his milk and dairy replacements, were given advice but that was all. Every time since, the first thing anyone ever asks is ‘what is his dairy replacement?’ How much does he have each day and they always check his height and weight. The gluten intolerance appears to be of little interest and the whole discussion is about his calcium levels.

The most recent meeting was poignant because this dietitian actually explained why she and the others were more interested in how we cope with his dairy intolerance. It is because it is absolutely crucial that a child as young as Zac is getting the right levels of calcium in his diet, not to mention protein and the all important vitamin D. So why is there no help for the children with dairy intolerance/allergy?

Zac is almost at allergy level – we have been told, based on his reactions. No tests have ever been carried out. He has never shown signs of anaphylaxis but he will be running to the toilet within minutes of eating a crisp that has ‘cows milk protein’ listed as one of the ingredients. His tummy blows up like a balloon and his tummy ache lasts hours.

When he was still in nappies, he would explode out of his nappies and it could take a whole packet of wipes to clean him. It looked like someone had vomited in his nappy and it could be blasted as high as his shoulders and down to his ankles. In fact, he was three before he could be toilet trained because his tummy and brain had no time to ‘talk’. So his sensitivity is extreme and we have been advised to keep him away from all dairy for several years yet with no ‘challenges’ unless advised.

We are always told he could grow out of it. However, at the recent Allergy Show, I got tested and showed up as diary intolerant. It did not surprise me. I stopped drinking milk as a very young child and am almost phobic about it. Just watching someone drink it makes me feel queasy and now I know why. It is not my imagination, it is my memory! It really did make me feel sick. As I dislike dairy so much, I have avoided it for years, so didn’t think about it. But now I know I am still intolerant after almost 35 years of dodging it, I think it is very unlikely that Zac will grow out of it. He is much worse than me and if it hasn’t worked for me, it is unlikely it will work for him.

So what help will we get? Dairy intolerant babies, quite rightly get their dairy free formula on prescription, until they are twelve months, but to my knowledge, there is no provision for dairy intolerant children. Zac was just over twelve months old when he became so ill. I had to fight and fight just to see a dietitian and was given minimal advice. When I met the first paediatrician he congratulated me on keeping Zac so healthy as he has seen so many dairy intolerant children suffering from malnutrition as ‘their mothers are doing it all wrong’. Surely, these people need as much help as the Coeliac people.

An infant needs to consume a huge amount of ‘dairy replacement’ to ensure that they are getting adequate levels of vitamins and calcium. I received little advice on how to achieve this. I worked it out for myself. I have been lucky that Zac actually likes the Alpro Soya Junior milk and loves the yoghurts. It is not unusual for him to eat three a day, which costs a fortune. At the most recent visit the dietitian advised me that the reason he is so well is probably because the yoghurts and milk are so full of everything he needs, it is almost like he is back on formula.

At the moment, there is a great deal of concern and press coverage about vitamin D deficiency, which is widely blamed on our poor climate and poor diet.  Vitamin D is mostly ‘supplied’ via sunlight and dairy products, so for a dairy intolerant infant, surely it is crucial that the parents are given all of the information they need and ideally some help to buy the products! A chronic lack of vitamin D can lead to many serious conditions, e.g. rickets and osteoporosis, and it seems amazing that no-one has yet waved the flag for all the dairy intolerants out there, as a group in dire need of some help.

If anyone needs a bit of extra help buying foods for their ‘intolerant’children, surely it is people like us? The people with Coeliac understand the damage that could be caused to their bodies, if they consume aggravating foods. But not enough people understand the damage done to the body of an infant who does not get adequate calcium and vitamin D. So I am afraid to say, I think the government needs to dig a bit deeper and think about the provision for the dairy intolerant children out there. I realise that there is as much chance of this happening, as there is of Zac ‘growing out’ of his condition, but I would love to get some awareness. Anyone want to help me? 

Bolognese rainbow sauce 1

Bolognese rainbow sauce

500g steak mince

1 x Kallo Beef Stock cube – gluten and dairy free

1 large handful handful dried mixed herbs

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 splash of balsamic vinegar

1 glass red wine

1 medium red onion

3 cloves crushed garlic or 1 dessert spoon of garlic puree

3 sticks celery

1 large carrot

1 small courgette

1 small yellow pepper

2 handfuls of chopped mushrooms

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Season with salt and pepper

I always chop and prepare all the vegetables first, so I can add them as I am going along. Brown the meat in a large pan over a medium heat, season with salt and pepper, add the stock cube and stir it around so it melts into the meat. I always use the Kallo branded stock cubes, as they are gluten free and usually a bit lower in sodium than other brands. They are easy to find, usually amongst all of the other brands and not particularly pricey.

Next, add garlic, onions, splash of balsamic vinegar, tomato puree and then the wine. The balsamic vinegar sweetens the onion and adds a nice warmth to the sauce. Cook gently until meat is really brown and the garlic and onions are soft. Next add the carrot and celery and let them soften, keep stirring over the gentle heat. Once they are looking softer add the courgettes, pepper and mushrooms. Season again and keep moving until they start to soften too. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, let it heat up til it bubbles and then turn it back down and cover with a lid so it simmers very slowly. Cook it as slow as you can for at least an hour until the meat is really soft and the vegetables have all softened. Keep tasting and if it needs extra flavour, you can always add a bit more garlic, a sprinkle of herbs, a splash more wine or some more tomato puree. I don’t think I ever do it the same way twice, I just taste and add and taste and add until I am happy.

Sometimes, I transfer it to my slow cooker at this point and leave it on low for several hours. The flavours really come together and the meat is always nice and soft, which the children definitely prefer and I am just happy that they have eaten a meal containing seven different types and colour of vegetables, not to mention good quality lean meat. A naturally nutritious dairy free, gluten free, wheat free meal. No particular cooking skill or fancy expensive ‘free from’ ingredients required.

My Jubilee Treats – flapjacks, fairy cakes and ‘Elizabeth Sponge’ 4

There is a ‘street party’ in the playground of the children’s school on Thursday afternoon. The excellent PTA has arranged a fun afternoon of maypole dancing, ‘crown’ decorating competitions and most important of all a ‘tea party’. As ever, those words fill me with dread. Apparently, there are cakes and jelly and ice cream on the menu. So, as usual, I need to create something fun for Zac to take along, so he feels part of the celebration. Obviously, I cannot send him in with his ice cream, in this heat it wouldn’t make it as far as the car, but I can make him some cakes. I think.

His favourites still seem to be my rock cakes, which makes me happy, because they are so quick and easy to make. But in an attempt to get in the Jubilee mood, I feel I need to supply him with something even more English, pretty and suitable for a party. No doubt the other children will be eating amazing looking cupcakes, made by the army of skilled baker/mothers who live in the village.

I am not in that class and to be honest, am a bit bored by this new obsession with cupcakes. It is almost at a competitive level now and I know I cannot ever get excited enough to make the effort. I don’t even like to eat them. The swirly thick, creamy looking toppings turn my stomach and they are certain to do the same to Zac, quite literally.

So I decided to push against it and stick to what I know. I am pretty sure cupcakes are an American thing anyway, and I am fairly confident it is based on their measuring system of ‘cups’. When I was a little girl, sweet little cakes in the pretty cases were called ‘fairy cakes’ and were much smaller. In an age when obesity and greed is becoming an issue, perhaps we should return to baking our more traditional bitesize English teatime treats, starting with fairy cakes. I am sure the Queen would approve.

I have found some recipes, in my mother’s cooking notebook, the one she handwrote at cookery class back in the seventies. I plan to attack the fairy cakes tomorrow. I have found a recipe for a Victoria Sponge, also in the book. Obviously I have to make them all dairy free, gluten free and wheat free but even so – they look beautifully simple, which baking has to be to entice me to get my pinny on. The sponge has a regal enough name but perhaps, as this is ‘my’ recipe and I have created it for the Jubilee of our queen, it will be known as an Elizabeth sponge.

But as I am so nervous about baking and Zac loves cakes with ‘fruit’ I decided to start with a flapjack today. It has just come out of the oven and I am happy to say it was the easiest thing I have ever made. It took minutes and was relatively mess free. I am sure it is very nutritious and relatively wholesome. It certainly smells amazing and I can’t wait for the children to come home and try it. I hope they like it, but not too much, otherwise I will need to make a fresh batch for the party.

Here’s an interesting thing I have learned about homemade cakes – they never go stale, because they are never around long enough! I have about fifteen pounds worth of Asda’s own brand ‘free from’ cakes in my cupboard – they have been there weeks and are still not stale or even out of date! Yet whenever I make a cake, it is gone in less than 48 hours.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get organised enough to do this! I think it is saving me money too.

So the party is on Thursday. The flapjacks are made and now I just need to pluck up the courage to make the fairy cakes and Elizabeth sponge! Here is the recipe for the flapjack and some photos. I will post the fairy cakes and Elizabeth sponge tomorrow.

Flapjack recipe

200g Pure sunflower spread

1 dessert spoon ‘The Groovy Food Company’ organic virgin coconut oil

200g caster sugar

150g golden syrup

1 dessert spoon ‘The Groovy Food Company’ premium agave nectar (light and mild)

375g gluten free porridge oats

2 handfuls of sultanas and a small handful of chopped apricots

Heat oven to 180C. Lightly oil and line the base of a 20x30cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Melt the ‘Pure’ spread, sugar, coconut oil, syrup, agave nectar in a medium pan, over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, sultanas and apricots. You could add chocolate chips – e.g. MooFree chocolate drops, if you prefer.

Spread the mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Cut into even sized bars and leave until cold. Turn out of the tin and cut into slices.

I got the porridge oats in the free from section of Waitrose and the agave nectar from the free from section in Tesco. The coconut oil was among all other cooking oils in the ‘normal’ aisles.

I added the coconut oil purely for flavour and because it melts so well at a high temperature. I was also running a bit low on Pure spread and thought I would improvise. I added the agave nectar just because I bought some the other day and haven’t had the courage to use it yet. It is a low GI sugar substitute, totally organic and I keep reading about it so thought I should try it. It tastes a bit more like honey than syrup but, it works. So you could leave both out and just add a bit more butter and a bit more syrup and I am sure the end result would be the same.

Today’s adventures in baking – using coconut oil 2

It is baking outside, and it is baking time inside. The children asked me to make some more brownies and rock cakes today. I find it hard to say no to them, as knowing your children love your food is the nicest feeling. Also, I am happy they no longer want me to buy the horrid shop bought ‘free from’ cakes. Always so expensive and pretty grim.

As I have admitted many times before, I am not very good at baking and don’t even like eating cakes that much, so it is always a bit of a chore. Also, making a great tasting dairy free, wheat free, gluten free cake is quite a challenge.

Getting the texture right is an ongoing mission. Last week, I discovered that xanthan gum, seems to solve the problem of dusty rock cake crumbs but I am still struggling to get my chocolate brownies right. Several people have recommended corn oil and coconut oil to me. I had a quick look in Tesco yesterday and found some coconut oil and decided to give it a go. The one I found and used is made by The Groovy Food Company.

The smell is amazing. Very reminiscent of sun tan lotion, but in a good way. The texture is surprising, it is almost set and is much more like a paste or butter than an oil. It melts when you heat it and infuses the baking with a lovely taste, aroma and most important moist texture. It is very expensive. £6.99 a jar in Tesco. But a very little goes a long way and I am hopeful that this will last a long time.

It is just made from pure organic virgin coconut oil. It is GM free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. According to the label it won’t raise your cholesterol and no chemicals have been used to extract it. It is definitely worth a try as I am happy to say my brownies did turn out a lot more ‘gooey’ on the inside than last time, which was what I was hoping for. Result.

Perfect day for an ice cream Reply

dairy free glee !

So the summer finally came. At one point this morning, it was as if someone had just switched a light on. One minute it was dark and then a second later I was looking for my sunglasses. Anyway, as the day heated up, I decided I’d better stock up on ice cream. I knew the local ice cream van would turn up in our road, just as I serve the kids tea, so I wanted to be prepared.

I ran, well drove quickly, to Tesco to get another tub of Swedish glace –

The kids’ favourite is the Neapolitan, but they only had the Vanilla, so I bought it anyway. I love it and as I just recently had my own dairy intolerance confirmed, this is going to be my chosen ice cream from now on too.

Thankfully, I struck lucky at The Allergy Show on Friday and found the much loved waffle cones.

I just wish I had bought two boxes now. If this weather stays, I can see us finishing the first box before the week is over. They are dreadfully expensive and every time I have bought a box, almost half have been smashed to pieces, but it is still worth it. Zac was thrilled to be presented with his exciting looking ice cream, after he finished his wheat free, gluten free, dairy free Bob The Builder pasta shapes with home-made ‘safe’ Bolognese sauce.

Every parent has probably used the promise of an ice cream as an incentive to polish off their dinner. It works well for mine and although is probably not the right thing to do, when you have an intolerant child, you have to try everything just to be sure that they are getting the right foods in them. Sorry parenting gurus and textbook lovers, when you have a child with food intolerances, the text books go out of the window, along with all the other kids’ recipe books.

To make Zac’s ice cream cone even more exciting, I often decorate it with ‘sprinkles’ or Moo Free chocolate drops

Just recently I discovered mini marshmallows. I didn’t really think the children would like them, as they are not crazy about ‘sweeties’ and are a bit weird about texture. I have never liked the fluffy, pillowy consistency and never thought about trying them until recently. Sophia was presented with a chocolate ice cream decorated with marshmallows at a party recently and since then, they have been hooked.

As ever, I always approach any ‘new’ food or ingredient with extreme caution and have been pleasantly surprised that most I have found have been safe. But today, just as I was about to sprinkle some on from a new pack, I noticed that they had wheat flour as a major ingredient. So I have now moved these ones back to our ‘Sophia’ shelf and away from the ‘Zac’ shelf, so there is no confusion. Just another reminder, that you can never ever assume an ingredient is safe, even if it does look pink and fluffy – for some crazy reason the wheat or the dairy always creeps in. Keep reading the labels!!!