Friday, 24 October 2014

Mini Crumble Pots!

I'm rather pleased with this! Using the wonderful Clearspring Organic Puree pots, I have created mini Crumble Desserts for my two.

These little pots are individually sized, and unlike some of the "baby" versions we have relied on in the past they are not at all watery and make perfect desserts on their own, in baked goods or in a pudding.

  • To make these I used the Apple and Blueberry purees as October is #AppleMonth . I scooped one teaspoon out of each pot (yum yum!) as without this the pot would become too full and bubble over in the oven.
  • I then sprinkled on a little of my crumble mixture, which I tend to keep a bag of in my freezer. (You could just as easily crumble a flapjack over the top instead.)
  • Bake in the oven at 180C for 5 minutes!
For the Crumble Mixture

  • 6 oz Dove's Farm flour 
  •  2 oz gluten free oats 
  • 2 oz sugar (soft brown for a warmer, nutty taste) 
  •  4 oz Pure sunflower.
They were a big success here today!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Gluten Substitution

Disclaimer : These are just some of the ideas I have picked up over the years. I'm a parent, dragged kicking and screaming plunged into freefrom cooking and gradually finding my own way. I'm not a nutritionist, not a health professional, just a parent but one hoping to help others on my freefrom journey. 

Many Recipe Resource readers are "MEWS" free, which for those who don't know means "Milk, Egg, Wheat and Soy free". Increasingly however, children (more so than adults) with allergic gut disease are reacting at cell level to gluten - yet are NOT coeliac. I wrote here about the differences between Coeliac Disease and a Gut Allergy to Gluten. They are NOT the same thing. A person may indeed have gut allergies (non IgE responses rather than systemic whole body IgE reactions) AND Coeliac Disease but that is not because they have the same cause. What IS interesting however is that EGID is increasingly likely to have an autoimmune component.

For the purpose of this post, I'm focussing on ways of creating culinary perfection (or close to it!) WITHOUT gluten. Going gluten free is far more involved than removing wheat -but isn't as scary as it sounds.

SO how do you rework your diet to exclude Gluten? 

Here follows the Ultimate Cheat Sheet on going Gluten Free.

1. To exclude Gluten you need to know what it IS.
Wikipaedia states:-"Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture."
And herein lies the problem.  Many grains contain gluten, and more are contaminated with it due to milling and production processes.

Image courtesy of Amy Myers Md

Gluten is potentially everywhere! You need to check, check, check and check again. Assume nothing.

2. Alternative names for Gluten.

Anything with "wheat" in the ingredients, however low on the list isn't remotely gluten free. Likewise beware of flour, malt (from barley unless otherwise specified), bulgur, semolina, spelt, frumento, durum (also spelled duram), kamut, graham, einkorn, farina, couscous, seitan, matzoh, matzah, matzo, and cake flour. Often marketed as a “wheat alternative,” none of these is even remotely gluten-free. More detail on an excellent site "Gluten Free for Dummies" here

There is excellent, fully comprehensive information on Coeliac UK on shopping gluten free, which symbols mean wheat/gluten free etc and how to avoid gluten.

Interesting fact:-
Wheat starch is actually wheat that’s had the gluten washed out. In some countries, a special type of wheat starch called Codex Alimentarius wheat starch is permitted on the gluten-free diet.
cracker stack image courtesy of thanunkorn at

3. Shopping Gluten free

There are now many brands which cater for those eating gluten free and it is becoming increasingly easy to source gluten free products and product replacements. Companies like Udi's, DS Gluten Free, Newburn Bakehouse, Juvela, Genius and supermarket brands all stock an ever increasing range. However, if you are already on a restricted diet this may not be of much help. Our GP practice will prescribe gluten free products as my twins have a diagnosis based on biopsy. However 90% of products available for prescription have soya in which we have to avoid! Multiple food exclusions usually means you are baking yourself...

4. Baking gluten free

Many recipes allow for straight substitutions. For example I bake regular sponge cakes with Dove's Farm flour, and although it contains some Xanthan Gum I usually add another teaspoon. Xanthan Gum is a sticky binding agent and replaces the sticky binding role gluten plays in regular wheat flour.

If, however your child is allergic or intolerant to the ingredients in the blended flours you can create your own from tolerated alternatives. Use the following chart to replace wheat/rice with your choice of flour(s).

4. Binding Agents

If your cannot use Xanthan Gum there are some alternative options to replace the elasticity and air trapping gluten brings. The air trapping is especially important because without being able to hold the CO2 made by yeast or baking soda, baked goods can’t rise. Elasticity makes dough more malleable, holding it together so that it doesn’t turn into a crumbly mess after baking!

You have to following to choose from:-
  • Eggs (rarely an option for allergic children so I won't pursue this although do see my Tiana coconut flour recipes if you tolerate eggs.)

  • Gums -Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide from fermentation of sugars and used in many food products. It also works as an emulsifier. Guar Gum is similar, coming from the Guar Bean. Both work well in baking. If combined together they thicken and have an effect greater than twice the original effect!

  • Gelatin such as Agar. This is a vegetarian/vegan option made from seaweed. Not great for baking and definitely better for more brittle products.

  • Flax Seed Meal/Chia -When hydrated the oils in the flax create a nice viscous solution more similar in baking properties to a gum. The starch granules become hydrated in a viscous solution and the expansion of air cells facilitates gelatinization of the starch which is the binding effect.

5.  Thinking outside the box

Sometimes, you need to stop thinking of replacement and start thinking alternatives. Do you need a bread alternative or a pasta substitute? Going gluten free can in fact be quite liberating, although tricky for a child with the aded bonus of suspicion around food and reliance on familiarity.

We are so conditioned in the West to reaching for wheat based carbohydrate than it can take a while to educate the mind AND the palate, but there are many exciting alternatives out there.

Avoiding wheat - meal alternatives

Think rice cakes, corn cakes, rice balls and rice noodles for lunches.

Cornbread as a savoury loaf with chilli or sweetened to make a cake.

Savoury Pancakes with Buckwheat and filled with veg and pulse based mixtures.

Potato cakes, with lentil burgers and tomato sauce.

Lasagna using vegetables sliced to make the layers.

Think basic, natural and fresh, then build up from there. There are increasing numbers of Paleo dietary foods and these are grain free and naturally gluten free and generally healthy. We have become so reliant on wheat and other grains that our overly processed diet is dependent on them. Going gluten free can be tough at first, but you can get used to it. Ensure your child gets sufficient protein to fill them up though - fruit and veg are great but are not very satisfying.

Mums' Days

Monday, 20 October 2014

Cooking with Apples - Apple Month

Photo courtesy of Kirinoha / Flickr Creative Commons edited by me.

Rather belated I know, but there are still almost TWO WEEKS to get baking before October is out!

There are many different types of apples. They are so versatile although - unlike bananas definitely not a raising agent and can have the opposite effect when baking!

I grew up in a village where we were lucky enough to have a large enough garden with a small orchard. My parents moved away from there only two years ago and I'm still struggling with the loss of my fruit source, my freezer has never been so empty!

Baking with Apples

A basic sponge recipe with ingredients substituted for #freefrom alternatives can be transformed with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter, poured on to a circle of apple slices on the base of the tin. Perfect apple cake!

Or simpler still, just stew some apples and have containers ready to defrost in the freezer. When you have some flapjacks handy, crumble one or two over small portions of apple for instant desserts!
 If you need gluten free flapjacks, this is the GF recipe.

We regularly make a crumble mix which is roughly

  • 6 oz Dove's Farm flour 
  • 2 oz gluten free oats
  • 2 oz sugar (soft brown for a warmer, nutty taste) 
  • 4 oz Pure sunflower. 

(Obviously you can halve this but I freeze any spare.) 
Mix until it is starting to collect together, sprinkle over (defrosted) stewed apple and bake at 180C for long enough that the top goes golden brown.

I've made Bran and Raisin muffins  :-

My personal favourite, blackberry and apple muffins :-

And last but not least Apple and Cinnamon Fairy Cakes

And if I'm *really* pushed for time, it's a whole cooking apple, core cut out and filled with dried fruit, cinnamon and baked in the microwave (covered in cling film!) for 2-3 minutes. At Christmas time I swap the centre filling for mincemeat!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Frank Bars - Review

Disclaimer - The Recipe Resource were sent five Frank Bars for the purpose of an independent review. The views expressed are entirely my own - or rather those of my fussy, hard to please taste-testers!

About the Frank Food Company

"FRANK bars are a deliciously indulgent snack bar made with 100% natural ingredients such as wholegrain oats, dates & dried plums and topped with a delicious dairy free Coconut Cream chocolate. FRANK bars are gluten, nut, & dairy free and are a source of protein, with each bar containing almost 4g of protein per 35g bar. FRANK bars also contain ENERGYSMART®, which is a patented, all-natural combination of carbohydrates from select fruits (apple, grape & pear) plus specially developed natural dextrins from grain which together provide longer-lasting energy. ENERGYSMART® is a registered trademark of Advanced Ingredients Inc. (USA)"

There are currently five Frank Bars available - Oat and Chocolate, Blueberry and Chocolate, Strawberry and Chocolate, Orange and Chocolate and plain Chocolate. They are more cocoa flavoured than "chocolate" and a wonderful chewy-but-not-too-sticky texture.

We were particularly keen to get hold of these because our current favourite bars contain cashew nuts. Whilst this is wonderful for my children's protein intake on their very restricted diet, they were not allowed in school because for some nut allergic children even cashew nuts are dangerous due to processing methods. Frank bars are nut free so this is not an issue.

Another major issue for us is soya avoidance. Too many foods replace dairy with soya and my twins - particularly our daughter are extremely sensitive to soya. The last accidental ingestion caused two days of considerable acute ill health and a month's recovery time.  Frank bars are soya free too!

Frank bars also have a sustained energy release so are ideal to carry in bags for energy dips. For us, this is more than a potential unpleasant energy lull, as we have low blood sugars to manage in one child and these can actively help as part of a balanced diet.

So - what did we think?

The twins loved all except (bizarrely?) the plain chocolate bar. Blueberry and Strawberry were a real hit, orange was "good" and the oat one "nice".  All round a massive thumbs up!

Our daughter really struggles with foods that are too sticky or chewy so these are fantastic. They are both quite suspicious of new foods, previously associating many foods with pain and discomfort so to spontaneously give a new food a positive endorsement is a huge compliment.

Which were their favourites?

As a parent I'm really pleased to have discovered Frank Bars. They certainly tick all my boxes and I'm delighted that Asda now stock them which makes it a little easier to source them - although I notice you can purchase directly from the Frank website. It's not often this little chap embraces a new food so enthusiastically - hats off to Frank!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Millet Pancakes

This is one from a Recipe Resource Facebook Group Member. Her son only has three safe foods and one of them is Millet.

  • This is a single ingredient recipe - well, two if you count the fizzy water! 

  • Mix some millet flour with sufficient sparkling water to make a thick, spoonable "dough".
  • Fry in a non stick pan/on a griddle, if oil is tolerated you could use a little to stop it sticking.

The finished result:-

You can practice with it to get a more evenly cooked pancake, make different shapes and even add some fat if tolerated. But it's great to be able to achieve something for a toddler unable to eat more than one food.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Pizza - Using mixes or baking from scratch?

For years I have used the following Pizza base recipe which is free from – wheat, dairy, egg, soy and corn. It does mean cooking from scratch but I find it's by far the tastiest we've tried.

Prep Time - 15 minutes
Cook Time - 25 minutes

  • 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup brown rice flour 
  • 1/2 cup potato flour/ tapioca flour 
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (optional)
  • 2/3 cup warm rice milk (or your choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar (optional)
  • Extra rice flour for sprinkling

It's great - but there are no other options you can buy, premixed and infinitely tastier than the ready made bases which cost a fortune in the supermarket.

  1. Isabel's Pizza Base Mix This has been recommended but Recipe Resource followers on Twitter as one of the best. BUT - and it's a MASSIVE "but" ... it contains milk powder. Which excludes us and many others I know. As a recipe for coeliacs it sounds great however, the same is true of the Glutafin mix.

  2. If you receive Juvela mix on prescription, there is a recipe on their website here

  3. Orgran have a multi mix you can use to make pizza bases, a little more straightforward than the Juvela recipe, and you can purchase their mix online from Goodness Direct, FreeFrom for Kids or Ocado.

  4. BobsRedMill Gluten Free pizza base mix. This is one I have tried, it is free from most major allergens but again, there is a "but". It is not milled/produced in a certified nut free environment. The ingredients are in the picture below.

So there are alternatives, but we still like our original recipe! Here's how you do it:-


  • Preheat oven to 190 degrees . In medium mixer bowl using regular beaters (not dough hooks), blend the yeast, flours, xanthan gum, salt, and Italian seasoning on low speed. Add warm milk, sugar, oil, and vinegar. 
  • Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. (If the mixer bounces around the bowl, the dough is too stiff. Add water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time, until dough does not resist beaters.) The dough will resemble soft bread dough. 
  • Put mixture on a greased 12-inch pizza pan. Liberally sprinkle rice flour onto dough, then press dough into pan, continuing to sprinkle dough with flour to prevent sticking to your hands. Make edges thicker to hold the toppings. 
  • Bake pizza crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Top Pizza Crust with sauce and your preferred toppings. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until top is nicely browned.
Suggestions for toppings:-
  • Tomato sauce and fresh cherry tomatoes, sprinkled with Redwood Cheezly Dairy and Soya free cheese.
  • Spinach with the above
  • Vegusto Melty (if tolerated) cubed and added on the top to resemble a Pizza Express Pizza
  • Shredded chicken and sweetcorn
  • If you are allowed eggs, a poached egg and spinach are a great combination on top!

Thanks to members of our Facebook group for providing the photo and Twitter followers for excellent advice!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

An Icy Tale

My daughter had a birthday party to attend today - and I had promised her double chocolate cake to take with her. We always make little cupcakes and decorate them for special occasions like this, since she is unable to share the birthday cake her friends have due to her (very) restricted diet.

Our current favourite chocolate cake mixture is this one:-

Although this is equally good. 

I also make my own by just substituting the ingredients in a regular sponge recipe, or cake pops like these but today, after a two hour dance class (during which time I had to wait for her) whilst flying solo following my husband's glaucoma surgery being inventive was just not going to cut it.

So we had these:-

With added cocoa nibs, and they just needed icing.

Having checked online first I ordered some two colour swirls vanilla and chocolate icing to decorate a chocolate cupcake. But checking again I saw that the icing had whey powder in! Back to the drawing board.... with half an hour to go. I spotted the Renshaw naturals icing and quickly make an "Elsa" face to go on top - must have been divine intervention as it turned out there was in fact a "Frozen" theme at the party!

This is not in any way a sponsored post - I'm sure the swirly icing tastes delicious but PLEASE Lakeland, make an effort on your online site! If you are selling food items you have a responsibility to list the ingredients. Food Allergies are no joke.

Here's the result - which I was very pleased with!


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