Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Easter Biscuits

It's the Easter holidays - and it's blowing a gail, with the odd hailstorm thrown in for good measure. All my children want to do when at home is make things, so today we made our favourite shortbread biscuits and decorated them for Easter!

That was my first attempt... then the twins decided to have a go, and the bunnies multiplied, as bunnies are apt to do!

Happy Easter! And if your little ones want to know more about Easter, its traditions and get some art and craft ideas, pop over to see Dorothy of more fun!


Monday, 16 March 2015

A "Frozen" free from Birthday Cake

A friend of a friend has been really poorly, and her children have food allergies so usually she bakes their cakes herself. So when my friend asked if I could help making a #freefrom cake, of course I said YES!

I decided to use the Chocolate cake recipe here since I'm not an expert at baking egg free, and I knew this was easy and pretty fool proof!

I made two cakes, layered with this Betty Crocker chocolate fudge buttercream mix which does say "may contain traces of milk" which was ok for us. You can make your own with safe margarine and icing sugar though. (You could also use jam in between the cakes.)

The little girl has a nut allergy so nothing I used could say "may contain traces" of nuts. This was a real eye opener for me, as well as many cake decorations containing wheat, the "may contain" is a real issue for nut allergy sufferers, even the fondant icing from many stores said that! I made my own fondant with fondant icing sugar in the end and coloured it with safe colouring. Lastly I had great fun making little Olaf!

I'm really pleased with the result!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Vegetarian, protein-rich Lasagne

This is by way of responding to the many requests for recipe details via social media, since I posted this last week!

I'm afraid it's going to be more of an advisory post, rather than a specific recipe, since I made a basic lasagne which was safe for my children rather than following a recipe to the letter.

Lasagne is made up of layers of pasta sheets, a meat or vegetarian tomato based sauce and white sauce, topped with a sprinkling of cheese. Or at least that's the regular version! So here are my versions of each layer, and I usually have pasta, veggie sauce, pasta, veggie sauce, white sauce, pasta, veggie sauce white sauce but that's only a personal preference.

Pasta Sheets
We like the Organ mini sheets, since they only need a quick boil on the hob and are so soft - but don't fall apart. The boxes have changed recently though so you might not spot them straight away!

Old box

new box!

White Sauce
I make my white sauce in the traditional manner. So same quantity of fat to flour (e.g. 3oz Pure Olive margarine to 3oz safe flour, warm to make a "roux" (whisk together) then gradually beat in your safe milk. Almond milk is great for cooking with, or hemp milk. There are also lots of other "milk" ideas here. Gradually heat (I do this in the microwave but check frequently) and keep stirring until a thick sauce is achieved. These substitutions will work in a regular white sauce recipe.

"Meat" or Veggie Sauce
This time I really cheated. I diced and fried an onion in a little oil, chopped the olives we had left over and tossed them in, added a can of Amy's soup (a few to choose from here ) and a can of chopped tomatoes. I often use soup in this way, Amy's soups are great and whilst not all are safe for us, they tend to be full of pulses and not at all watery.

Lastly I always have cans or fresh packets of pulses around, so I added some puy lentils. Then for flavour I added a little more basil, oregano and pepper.

I had considered grating some Violife cheese but this time went for a sprinkling of paprika for colour.

Bake at 180C for around half an hour and there you go! Freezes perfectly in portion size pieces too, perfect for speedy after school meals!

Monday, 9 March 2015

"Cheese" Straws

Growing up, my favourite things to bake were cheese straws. I've never been a fan of sweet biscuits and cakes, and being something of a cheese-aholic any opportunity to bake something cheesy has always been seized upon! So it always makes me a little sad that being dairy free, my children are denied this simple pleasure.

"Free-from" cheese has come a long way in recent years. In the past, all alternatives were based on soya, which we cannot have either. "Cheese" like VBites Cheezly is ok... but is difficult to cook with and really isn't "cheese" at all. Vegusto is lovely, but again - not *really* like cheese, and not safe for many with allergies since most of their products contain nuts. So the discovery of Violife cheese  has been little short of revolutionary!

Tesco sell some of their products, or online retailers like Goodness Direct but hopefully as more people get to know about these wonderful cheese alternatives supply will start to meet demand!

Ingredients of the original (used in this recipe) are here. They do not guarantee to be nut free as far as I can tell, but nuts (other than coconut oil) are not an ingredient. 

So, armed with this wonderful "cheese" I decided to make my daughter some cheese "straws" or biscuits!


  • 6oz of your choice of flour. NB I would not use plain rice flour since it will be too breakable.
  • 3oz your choice of margerine/butter substitute
  • 3oz of diced Violife original cheese
  • teaspoon of mustard if tolerated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • EITHER 1 egg to bind and a dash of your milk substitute
  • OR teaspoon extra (even if there is some in your flour blend) of Xanthan Gum and vegetable oil to bind. (roughly 2 tablespoons, but add one at a time)


  • Just like making pastry. Rub the fat into the flour
  • Add the chopped/diced cheese, mustard, salt and pepper
  • EITHER add the beaten egg and if required some milk to make a dough consistency
  • OR add the extra Xanthan Gum, and oil to bind until a dough like consistency is achieved.
  • Bake at 180C for 15 minutes
I made these with the egg version today, I have also made them egg free. I use a Kenwood mixer which makes it MUCH easier to achieve the required consistency as you can control the binding agents better.

My daughter informs me that she is making these herself next time. She also pointed out (correctly!) that the next time I have some pastry mix left she will add some cheese and roll it into these cheese biscuits!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Free-From Chocolate Brownie Cake

Having held you all in suspense on our Facebook page since announcing an EGG FREE cake recipe was on the way...... here it is!!

I can't take much credit for this though, it really is a creation of my daughter's, who at 9 was rather cheesed off that she wasn't able to eat the gluten free brownies her older brother enjoys frequently and decided to do something about it!

We are really lucky and are allowed some egg here, which makes life much easier. But many are not able to eat egg so we are officially making an effort to include more egg free recipes.

I had read about eggless "crazy" cakes before, and we had a basic recipe for guidance. The were created during the "Great Depression" in 1930s America, when eggs and butter were hard to find and expensive.


(Adapted from an official "crazy cake recipe")

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups of flour (we used Juvela Harvest White but any blended flour would do)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (We used Bournville for that brownie taste)
  • 1 cup sugar (we used caster, the recipe said granulated but that tasted gritty)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Wet ingredients
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (I only had wine vinegar as it's gluten free)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

This is really *so* easy, I was not involved at all, my 9 year old made this by herself.)
  • Grease an 8" deep sandwich or square tin
  • Measure out the dry ingredients in order
  • Mix lightly and make three wells in them 
  • Put the wet ingredients one in each well, the oil in the largest - like a face!  (2)
  • Pour the water over the entire lot in the tin (3)
  • Mix well! (4)
  • Bake at 170C / 350F for 35 minutes, the middle should be slightly squidgey to avoid the outside getting too dry (that was the problem with our first effort) and once cooled it can be decorated if desired. 
When warm, it tastes just like chocolate brownies..... yum!!

Free From Farmhouse

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Milk Alternatives for your Toddler and Preschooler

Small Child with a Milk Allergy? Now what?

original glass of milk courtesy of Hobbies Sudoneighm
via Flickr Creative Commons

Learning your child has a dairy allergy, or a dairy intolerance can be far from straightforward. Small mammals are supposed to have a diet predominantly consisting of milk for the first year of life and  although during an infant's first year you will probably have prescription formula as a main feed, there is little advice out there for weaning, let alone what to do for the older dairy allergic child.

Current advice is that a prescription non dairy and usually non soya feed is prescribed as a main food source for infants under a year. In some circumstances this is extended to the first two years.  (always consult your health professional, since a) I am not one, b) I don't know your child and c) advice changes fairly frequently) After this time you are pretty much on your own, with the responsibility of giving your child a varied, tasty and nutritious diet with sufficient calcium since milk is often the main source of this mineral for young children.
There are several alternatives available though, many of them fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.

Soya Milk 
Soya Formula used to be the fall back when dairy intolerance was suspected. (My eldest was on Wysoy for most of his first year.) But due to the fact that it is high in phytoestrogens, and because it is also highly allergenic this is no longer recommended, and you cannot buy it off the shelf in the UK any longer. The other issue with soya formula was the glucose content, which is more harmful to infant teeth than lactose.

Soya milk is however  highest in protein of all the non-dairy options. It’s the only one that’s comparable to cow’s milk, providing between 8 and 11 grams of protein per glass - one reason why older children are often encouraged to have soya milk and yoghurts if they cannot tolerate dairy. But even if you are not intolerant or allergic to Soya it is very easy to develop an intolerance to it if you overdo it. After breastfeeding my twins for 16 months on an exclusion diet I became intolerant to dairy. Whilst gradually trying to wean myself back on to regular milk I substituted wholesale with soya.... and quickly developed an intolerance to it. Moderation is key!

Soya milk is not heat stable and needs careful heating, or it will curdle. It's definitely not a good alternative for cooking and is rubbish in sauces.

Rice Milk
Rice milk has been in the press recently due its naturally "high" levels of arsenic. Concern originally stemmed from a study of arsenic levels in Baby Rice. You can read the NHS report here. Rice and rice products are known to have higher levels of inorganic arsenic compared with other foodstuffs, but the real concern for many was twofold. First a small child drinking rice milk daily is going to ingest more arsenic per unit body mass than an adult as they are smaller. Second, anyone on an exclusion or "freefrom" diet is going to eat a LOT of rice, because it's in EVERYTHING. So drinking it as well is perhaps not ideal.

It's heat stable though - which is great for cooking and making sauces, and has a pleasant taste. It's  the one you are least likely to be allergic to but tends to be higher in sugar and therefore calories and is likely to give your child a "sugar rush". So chocolate rice milk is really NOT a good idea!

UK advice is that Rice milk should not be given as a main drink to children under the age of 5.

Oat Milk
I LOVE oat milk. Heat stable, thick and "creamy" with a lovely nutty taste, it makes excellent sauces, is lovely stirred in porridge, and Oatly Cream works wonders in baking. BUT... and it's a big but, it's not gluten free, due to possible cross contamination. It is very low in gluten - some might tolerate it, but do ensure you ask your health professional first since according to a top paediatric dietician, oat milk is not suitable for coeliacs and others sensitive to gluten might not tolerate it either. Rude Health do however say their oat drink is gluten free.

Oat milk has around 4g of protein per glass, is a little higher in sugar and fat but has additional fibre which is good.

You can make your own oat milk - which will not need to have oil added unlike bought oat milk.

Almond Milk
As with oat Milk - you can make your own Almond Milk quite easily, although it is expensive in large volumes!

Almond milk has a lovely nutty taste and is pretty heat stable, it won't curdle when you warm it in sauces or hot drinks. Bizarrely it is quite low in protein, but also lower in fat and sugar than other milk-alternatives. It is high in minerals but these are less bioavailable due to something called physic acid present in Almond Milk.

Obviously a big no for nut allergy sufferers!!

Hemp Milk
When I first tried this 8 years ago, friends thought I was mad! It is an acquired taste, and I would never use it in a sweet recipe, but I like it. Likewise Hemp oil is great for cooking too - especially stir fries. It has Omega 3 Oils - 6 x as much as cows milk and 4 x as much as soya milk. It also has a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, E, and B12, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc. It also contains all 10 essential amino acids! It's not very high in protein though.

Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is high in minerals like magnesium, iron and potassium, and vitamins B, C and E. It is high in medium chain fatty acids which are easily burned as fuel by the body, so good fats readily broken down. It is also uniquely high in lauric acid which is found in breastmilk, and has antiviral and anti fungal properties.

There are also now plenty of single carton coconut milk alternative drinks around. KoKo coconut milk comes in several flavours, it's very palatable and kids usually enjoy it.

Vitamin D
There has been concern that since cows milk contains Vitamin D, using milk alternatives reduces a child's Vitamin D consumption. This is very relevant as low Vitamin D has been linked with gut (non IgE) food allergies in recent research, and the UK has seen a return of the condition Rickets since there are now increasing numbers of children deficient in Vitamin D in the UK.

However, there is actually very little Vitamin D in cows milk, and it is not fortified in the UK. it is however sensible to ensure your child gets sufficient dietary Vitamin D and sufficient time in sunlight to make their own Vitamin D.

  • Babies need a prescription formula if they are Cows Milk Allergic or Intolerant. 
  • Infants under the age of two ideally should also have a prescription formula as a main drink. 
  • Weaning - It is however absolutely fine to use any of the above that a tolerated in cooking when weaning, and as the occasional drink (although not rice before age 5). Always take extra care when weaning a child with suspected food allergies and/or intolerances though and ALWAYS consult your health visitor or doctor before making changes to your child's diet.
  • Older Children - From experience I would suggest variety is best, if they tolerate food keep it in their diet but don't switch to just one milk alternative unless you have to. Children with food allergies are always at risk of developing more, and it's best not to give too much of any new alternative for this reason. 

So here I make sauces with rice milk, bake with rice, coconut or almond, use coconut or almond milk on the children's cereals, oat milk or almond milk in my tea,  hemp milk in curries....... we have them all. And my guilty pleasure, safely in the utility fridge with MUM ONLY written all over in Sharpie pen.... soya milk in my coffee frothed in the aeroccino !!!!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Clearspring Organic Flat Noodles - 100% Rice

Just before Christmas the very lovely people at Clearspring Foods sent me a little "hamper" with some goodies in to try. This was entirely as a gift but since the products were new to me I thought readers might like to learn about them too.

Tried and tested

We love Clearspring, I reviewed their fruit purees here last year. The little pots are incredibly versatile, one of my children's favourite desserts is a pot of fruit puree with a sprinkling of crumble mix (I keep them a bag of this in the freezer ready) baked for a few minutes in the oven. (Because the pots are tinfoil, you don't have to transfer to another dish!)

But on to the noodles. 

I had a large box of vegetable stew in my fridge, my daughter struggles to chew and swallow meat and together with her allergies is almost Vegan - save for some baked egg occasionally. So I'm always looking for ways to add pulses, protein etc and bulk out her meals.

Clearspring organic rice noodles are 100% rice, nothing else. And brown rice at that - with makes them more filling and nutritious too. They are *so* easy to cook - just soak (not boil) in freshly boiled water for ten minutes. (That just gives you long enough to microwave the stew)

She was delighted with the result - as was I!

I haven't yet found a local stockist, but ordering online at Clearspring is easy enough. I've just placed an order for more!


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