Sunday, 18 January 2015

We've Got A New Home!

Well, not me personally, but we do have a new online home!

I'd like to thank you, lovely reader, for coming to take a look at my blog, and I hope you'll come see us at our new home. We have our very own domain now (ooh, fancy!), so you can find us at:

I hope to see you soon! 


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Have a Lidl Bit Of Something Naughty

There's something about a new year that I always find exciting. I think it's a timey-wimey (oops, Doctor Who reference. How did that get there?!) version of snow. It makes everything fresh and new and exciting. And of course, with it comes the promise that we'll spend this year being the very best version of ourselves, especially when it comes to the d-word....dieting.

Now, while I'm all for eating healthily, being the best you can be, blah, blah, blah, the fact of the matter is that I LOVE naughty foods!! So while I could bombard you with promises of healthy recipes and low-fat versions of my products, instead, I choose to be the devil on your shoulder. The one who whispers in your ear, tempting you away from the salads and towards the gooey stickiness of a baked chocolate cheesecake, the buttery pastry or the fluffy, creamy cupcake.

For example, dark and white chocolate baked cheesecake, anyone?!

And I do it without an ounce of shame!

BUT, not wanting to totally destroy my fan-base here, I'll take the opportunity to tell you about a new product I've had the fortune to come across. A week before Christmas, I won a giveaway through fellow blog-site Glutopia, and last week my prize arrived. A company called Howdah produce some gluten free Indian snacks (yay!!), so I've been trying them out over the last couple of days.

Gluten free snacks from Howdah

The first thing I have to point out is that NOT all of the snacks are gluten free; right now, the gluten free options (pictured above) are Masala Banana Chips, Peanut Pakoras and Peppered Banana Chips. So far, I've only tried the Masala Banana Chips and Peanut Pakoras. I expected the banana chips to taste like banana and surprisingly, they don't at all! It's an unusual flavour but really very nice. If you're a fan of spicy Indian food, chances are you'll enjoy these.

The peanut pakoras aren't as spicy, by quite a long shot, but I think the crispy case on them could do with being a little thicker. While they are a nice snack, the overwhelming taste, to my tongue at least, is pretty much one of roasted peanut.

Right now, these aren't available in a major stockist, but you can find a local stockist by visiting this page on their website.

Moving on, if you live in the UK and you're a coeliac, I doubt you'll have missed the fantastic news that Lidl have been stocking gluten free items of late. Wohoo!! My wonderful husband kindly nipped down to our local shop yesterday to check out what was on offer for me. He came back, filled with excitement, as they have a large quantity of items by Kelkin in stock. I'm sure you're all probably acquainted with that most delicious of their products, the Chocolate Teacakes.

The best part of these morsels is that they're fairly low in sugar and fat, so if you're on that horrible 'diet' word again, you can have one of these now and again without ruining your future bikini figure. Hurrah! Lidl also has Kelkin cereals, rice cakes, cookies, jaffa cakes and more! But make sure you get down there while stocks last!

Despite the fabulousness of Kelkin, one of my FAVOURITE finds has to be these lovely little chocolate bars!

In each chocolate bar-shaped box, there are 11 of these charming little rectangles of chocolate, each in its own individual foil wrapper. Inside, there is a rich, dark, crisp chocolate shell, encasing an extremely light and fluffy chocolate mousse. Because they're packaged like this, it's easy to avoid eating too much, and they work perfectly as a little after-dinner treat. Honestly, I think these would work well for a dinner party too.

So, it's shaping up to be a pretty tasty year! But it's time to add my own baking into the mix. I've signed up to have a stall at our local support group's AGM on 13th March, so I need to get my apron out and get back in the old baking saddle (so to speak!). There's a lot of work to be done, so I hope to have a lot of good things in store for you in the coming weeks!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A Brilliant Start To The Year! Review of Quorn

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!

It's great to be back, and I have a great way to start because last week, I heard some great news!

The lovely men and woman at Quorn have recently announced that they're making a number of their existing products gluten free. Yay! You may be aware, especially if you're a coeliac vegetarian like myself, that Quorn products have mostly been considered unsafe for coeliacs for a very long time. In fact, for some time now, the only safe products I've been aware of have been the Fillets and the Chicken-Style Pieces, so this is very exciting news!

Now, a number of my carnivorous readers might well ask why someone who turns their nose up at meat would want to eat anything that resembles it. And it's a very fair question. Before I went herbivore, I actually loved meat! Roast chicken, chicken nuggets, sausage rolls...all tasty stuff. But one day, when I was 8, I got halfway through a roast dinner with (oddly) a sausage roll, I suddenly couldn't stand to eat dead animals any more. My Dad was MAAAAD!!! I refused to touch anything else on the plate. The switch was flipped and that was it.

Anyway, my point is that, for many of my fellow veggiesaurs, giving up meat is less a case of like/dislike, and more a case of guilt or disgust at eating flesh (not that I have a problem with anyone else doing it, mind). So, given that, and the fact that it's difficult to get a huge variety of vegetarian AND gluten free foods, the announcement from Quorn is a Godsend.

The first thing I tried was pepperoni, or as I call it 'fakeroni'. I tried it on top of a pizza and it was surprisingly good! I never had real pepperoni, so I have no frame of reference, but the texture was soft, yet firm, and a little smokey and spicy. It made a very welcome change to usual veg-loaded pizza and for only £1.75 a pack, it's not too pricey!

Next up, I tried the Quorn Bacon, or as I call it 'fakon'. This stuff was very interesting. You can buy it either as rashers or as slices in the shape of normal bacon. Fried in a small quantity of oil for a couple of minutes, it smells and tastes nothing really like I imagine real bacon smells or tastes BUT it is actually a very nice alternative, and costs just £1.75 for a pack that lasts for a few small meals. I had it with a cooked breakfast...scrambled eggs, baked beans, toast, grilled peppers and fakon. Perfect!

Add caption

My latest trial was the Family Roast. Ideal as an alternative to roast chicken, it cooks in just under an hour from frozen and is stunningly moist and chicken-like in texture! But the best bit?! Today, I re-heated slices of it, alongside some of yesterday's gluten free stuffing, and had a faux chicken and stuffing sandwich! I have ALWAYS wanted to be able to do that, and boy was it worth the wait!! Sadly, my husband took the pic on my phone after I'd already started eating and it's not a great one, I'm afraid! But rest assured, it was wonderful!

So, that's it for now but I see a LOT more Quorn in my future!

In the meantime, one of my New Year's resolutions (yes, I do like to keep them) is to work on making my cakes look pretty. I was given a few things to help me 'pretty-up' my cakes, so I hope to show you some of that next time. But for now, if you have any resolutions this year, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

T'was The Sunday Before Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve!

Ooh, these are exciting times, my friends! The festivities are in full swing and whether you're a grumpy Scrooge-type or a jolly holly sticks Santa-lover with jingle bells on, you can't deny that this time of year has a lot of little pleasures on offer to be excited about.

One such pleasure: an ENORMOUS hot chocolate mug with reindeer on!

One of these little pleasures is stopping in at your local coffee shop. You leave the bitterly cold wind and rain behind, to be welcomed into the comforting bosom of a wam, bustling cafe, so you can rest during your frantic Christmas shop. But which coffee shop?

I've been a loyal follower of Costa for a LONG time, but as a tea drinker, rather than coffee. Why? Because every single time I've had a hot coffee from Costa, I've been really poorly afterwards. In a glutening kind of way. They've assured me over and over that there is no gluten. I've checked all the ingredients and can find no gluten. But having found other coeliacs have had the same problem, I decided to brave a different shop and disappeared off to Starbucks.

Well, that was a mistake! I asked the (rather confused) young man at the counter which of their hot drinks were gluten free...and he responded by pointing out a gluten free cake. I tried again and he asked a colleague, who said I could only have coffee with soya milk, rather than normal milk (?!). I pointed out that milk was gluten free...and was told I could have an Americana coffee with soya milk, did I want that? I think my exact words were 'No thanks. I have a rule of thumb; if I ask about gluten free and I'm met with blank faces like the ones you're all giving me right now, I walk away. Thank you!' (And yes, I did email Starbucks to complain afterwards).

Next up: Cafe Nero. And this time, success! After initial confusion, again, over whether milk was gluten free (where is that even coming from!?), they checked their complete allergen list, which was pinned behind the counter, and confirmed I could have anything except the hot chocolate. Yay!! I had a praline coffee and a chocolate brownie, both of which were utterly delicious. Well done, Cafe Nero!

In other news, my Mum's birthday was on 8th December and she requested some raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes. I couldn't get them to her on her birthday but made them for her this weekend. They're a combination of white chocolate chunks, big, fresh, tart raspberries and vanilla sponge, topped with a drizzle of lemon icing and garnished with mint and a raspberry. They're typically more of a summer cake, but the red, white and green make them look quite Christmassy, don't you think?!

If you're interested in ordering any of these little beauties, please contact me either by email or on my Facebook page, as prices change according to season.

Anyway, that's it from me for now until Christmas, but I do want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me over the course of this year. I can't tell you how much your support and your custom means to me and how wonderful it feels to hear from you, so thank you! Before I bid you all goodnight and wish you all a wonderful Christmas, here's a little something that pretty much sums up my week!

T'was the Sunday before Christmas
And all round the kitchen
Lay the remnants of cooked treats
From cheesecakes to chicken

The aprons were smeared with chocolate and flour
Dirty pans piled high into a tower
Worktops were covered with crumbs and icing
Ginger and cinnamon from all of the spicing

Gingerbread fudge and gingerbread men
Cheesecakes, cookies, biscotti and then
Enough carrot cake for six families
And three platters filled with crackers and cheese

The kitchen's a mess, the house is in tatters
But I no longer care; none of it matters
For right now I've drunk half a bottle of wine
And this business is tough, but this is business iS mine

I've destroyed the house and my husband's a wreck
It'll take hours to clean up every fleck
But when push comes to shove, it's been worth all the fuss
So sit back and relax, and have a merry Christmas.

That's it folks. Have a very happy gluten free Christmas! 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Some Christmas Cheats

With only a week and a half until Christmas, everyone's thoughts are turning to the  for wonder of Christmas dinner (also known as the horrors of Christmas dinner, depending on who's doing the cooking this year). While many of you will be looking forward to sitting down to a feast that has been prepared by a friend or relative, I suspect an awful lot of you are bearing the responsibility of COOKING the damned thing.

Mr Bubbles (left) & Miss Gizzy, awaiting Christmas dinner

While the myriad cooking shows currently filling the airtime on The Food Network and GoodFood tell us that it's EASY to cook a juicy turkey with homemade cranberry sauce, or minted lamb, or even the perfect homemade trifle, in truth the day is often very different. While you're madly waving a tea towel at the smoke alarm, simultaneously trying to whisk the lumps out of the gravy and swearing at the cat for swiping some chicken, you stop feeling so Nigella-ish and begin to feel more Tazmanian Devil-like.

Just another winter's day

And of course, there's also the fact that, when you're avoiding gluten, you often feel deprived of some of the best parts of Christmas dinner. So...what if you could cheat a little? What if you could make something that tastes as good as a non-gluten free counterpart AND it was ridiculously easy?! Well, here are three recipes to boost your Christmas dinner from great to WOW, with some pictures I've borrowed because I'm cheating today as well.

Gluten Free Bread Sauce

1/2 loaf white bread with crusts removed
1 and 1/2 pints milk (whole is best)
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1-2tsp onion granules
Salt and pepper

Bread sauce is one of my Christmas luxuries. My favourite thing has always been to pour it into my yorkshires and save them til last. SO good! To make it, blitz the white bread in a blender until you have fine breadcrumbs. Put all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan, and put over a medium heat. Stir frequently. When it reaches boiling point, reduce to a simmer and leave it there, stirring constantly, until it's thickened. Personally, I'd remove the cloves and bay leaf after the first 10 minutes, but taste it at 10 minutes and if you want to leave them in a little longer, do. Serve piping hot once it's thick and creamy.

Photo courtesy of About Food (

Perfect Yorkshire Puds (adapted from Good Food)

140g gluten free plain flour (I use Dove's Farm)
200ml milk (I use Lactofree semi-skimmed)
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Sunflower oil
Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C. Pour 1tsp sunflower oil into the bottom of each hole in a 12-hole muffin tin, and place the tin in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, mix the eggs and milk, then add the flour and whisk thoroughly to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the oil in the tin is heated up, pour an equal amount (around 2tbsp) into each hole, quickly as you can without burning yourself, and pop the tin back in the oven. Leave for a good 25-30 minutes and either serve immediately or allow to cool, freeze and re-heat  220 degrees

Sage & Onion Stuffing

We generally use Mrs Crimbles Sage & Onion Stuffing, because it's delicious. But we've had a couple of years in a row now where we haven't been able to find it around Christmas, so I ended up creating our own. This really could not be easier!

1 pack gluten free breadcrumbs
1 jar dried sage
Equal quantity dried onions
Seasoning, to taste
Freshly boiled water

 Now, what you do first really depends on how fussy you (or your guests) are. I'm VERY fussy and really hate when you take a bite of stuffing, only to find big, chewy pieces of dried onion. Blech. If you feel the same, stick the dried onions in a food processor and pulse for a bit so they're a little smaller. Once you've done that, pour the breadcrumbs into a bowl, and add the sage and onion. Quantities vary because some people don't like their stuffing to sage-y and others don't like it too onion-y. Personally, I like it with an equal balance of both, so I add both in equal proportion to around a half to two-thirds breadcrumbs. Add salt and pepper, if desired.

Mix everything together so it's evenly combined. Then pour enough boiling water to ensure it's a dough-like consistency and all the water has been absorbed. Use a fork to create lines running across the top, so it gets a little crispy and delicious on top OR get creative and make balls (hehe, dirty!).

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees C for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of dish and serve immediately with your roast.

Photo courtesy of BBC Food website

That's all for now campers! Wishing you the best of British luck in preparing your Christmas dinner!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Surviving Christmas As A Coeliac (Without Killing Anyone)

Merry not-quite-Christmas!

Like most of you, I LOVE this season. The tree, the songs, the awkward carol concerts where you don't want too sing too loudly in case people hear you singing (no? Just me?), pretending you like the thoughtful-yet-weirdly-inappropriate presents from loved ones (I once got a set of 2 padded coat hangers. Still don't understand that one), but most of all THE FOOD!! The hugeness of Christmas dinners, with or without the much-maligned Brussels sprouts, the chocolates everyone swears not to touch but eat anyway. If you haven't gained half a stone by New Year's Eve, you're just not doing it right.

Well, that's my pud. What are you all having?

After 11 years with coeliac disease, I'm a seasoned pro at surviving the festivities, but I've noticed this year how many of you feel utterly distressed at the idea of facing the Christmas season armed only with an awkward 'no thanks, I can't eat that' and a feeling that you're missing out on the best bits. So, without further ado, here are some tips to help you get through it without wanting to throw yourself under Santa's sleigh or drink yourself stupid with cocktails...

Don't mask your pain with tequila. It's not big or clever and will lead to more pain in the morning.

 1) When your office has a CONSTANT supply of Christmas biscuits and people shove them under your nose every 30 seconds...

Make it very, very clear that you WILL NOT be goaded into eating a biscuit. This is no time for embarrassment, guys. Once you tell them that they will be clearing up the mess you leave behind as you crawl your way to the toilets if they make you force one down, they'll stop asking, and you won't see another non-gluten free biscuit this year! Feeling like you're being left out? Make your own selection box. Grab the DS Choc Nobbles (Waitrose, £2.05), DS Choc Fingers (Sainsbury, £1.99), Prewitts Xmas Tree Shortbread (Tesco, £1.85) and even bake a few of your own. I used to get plain biscuits and cover them with chocolate, nuts, etc. Do all this, pile them up in a box and dig in whenever anyone else tucks into theirs. THEY have to get your own selection. HA!

Make everyone jealous cos you don't have to share your biscuits!

2) Uh-oh. Your work has organised a Christmas party and there won't be anything you can eat.

If it's a party with a buffet, make yourself something REALLY delicious before you go out so you won't even be hungry. And treat yourself to a fancy pud of some kind as well. Because...well, why shouldn't you, damnit?! You'll dance off the calories anyway. If it's a meal out somewhere, it's trickier. Call the restaurant and ask if they can cater for coeliacs (if they don't know what that means, RUN). If they can, fantastic! If they can't, speak up and see if you can rearrange to go somewhere you CAN eat. If they can't or won't rearrange, pass on it and organise your own meal out with your nearest and dearest. Why would you want to go out with a group of people who make no effort to include you anyway? Choose to go out with people who WOULD make an effort for you instead. So there.

And your friends will join you in wearing a moustache and sombrero

3) You're going for dinner at someone else's home and you're not 100% confident they'll make everything safe.

This is an easy problem to solve for one key reason - the host is probably TERRIFIED at the idea of catering for an allergy!! End the misery for both of you. Call them up or go round and talk about it in detail. Offer to help cook, if possible. Take your own stuffing and offer to cook it. Take your own yorkshires and pop them in before or after the non-gf ones. Take your own gravy and serve it in your own jug. And bring a pudding you can eat if they can't provide one you can eat. Make it a team effort and have some fun with it. After all, working together, having fun and enjoying the season is what it's all about, isn't it?

Help out by making some gluten free yorkshire puddings

4) Your work provides a fancy Christmas lunch, but they can't or won't cater for you.

Again, easy to solve if you prep for it. Where I used to work I had this problem every year. The on-site restaurant put on a HUGE Christmas lunch, with live music and decorations and all sorts. And the first year they did it, I was SO miserable. I drank  glasses of wine, ate nothing and went back to my desk too tipsy to care about work that afternoon. It was a good day in the end! Anyway, after that, I made myself a fancy pasta I could reheat for lunch (proper parmesan and all sorts). I took an extra glass of wine, and I bake a chocolate mousse cake, which I then whipped out, cut a huge chunk from, and ate in front of my colleagues, who were having 'Baileys' trifle that didn't taste much of Baileys at all. I ended up giving them slices from my cake and we had a brilliant time. I did that every year I was there after that.

Take your own pudding and embrace the wonder of having something you know you'll love

5) Someone has very kindly, but ever-so thoughtlessly bought you something edible that isn't safe for you to eat. What do you do?!

This has happened to me, more than once, I'm afraid and I know how awkward it is. Every bone in your body is SCREAMING at the giver...but the thing is, at least they tried. Sort of. So thank them for the kind thought and make a mental note to raise the issue with them later, because now is not the time. At the next available opportunity, give the gift away to someone who will be able to really appreciate it and be thankful that the calories will be going to someone else's hips. Look at that! You just saved yourself a bazillion calories!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Gingerbread, Gingerbread and ChocoNut Biscotti

Why was Cinderella no good at football?

Because her coach was a pumpkin.

That was how my weekend got started, courtesy of my good friend, Clare. Much eye-rolling took place while she texted me a series of such jokes. It's a VERY good thing I love the sort of jokes you get in Christmas crackers! 

Moving on, today we went to pick up our Christmas tree. This is a long-held family tradition and it's probably my most treasured. We drive to a farm in the middle of the Dorset countryside (I still don't know where exactly) and my sister and I pick out the BIGGEST trees we can find. We've been doing this since we were 4 years old and I don't think my Dad, my husband or my sister's husband have ever had a say in what tree they lumber onto the car!

The Great Christmas Tree, 2014
So...our Christmas officially starts once the tree is up and when Mum's birthday (tomorrow) has passed. But believe, the prep is underway! Presents have been purchased, advent calendars have been started, and I've been working on other Christmas delights. In other words, FOOD!

A couple of weeks ago, I perfected a recipe for chocolate biscotti with chocolate chunks, pistachios and whole almonds; something I'm choosing to call ChocoNut Biscotti. And it's ohhhh my goodness good (she said, humbly). It's delicious on its own, but dunked in a thick hot chocolate or, even better, a perfectly brewed mug of coffee, it's even better. I'm officially not allowed to make it any more unless it's for an order because I'm getting fat again! But it's sooo crunchy and chocolatey and just...yum.

This week, though, has been ALL about the gingerbread! I've never made gingerbread before, but it's festive and fun to make, so out came the cookie cutters, treacle (which I need to buy more of because I've made so much I've accidentally used the whole tin!), and rolling pin. I made a HUGE batch, which was a very good thing because everyone has been stealing little bits of it away!

As you can see, the piping needs a little bit of work, but I added enough Christmas spices to put a smile on the face of any grinch, and they came out firey, sweet, soft and chewy. The only problem with them is trying to stop eating them, because they're small enough to convince yourself that you aren't eating too much!

And, of course, trying to stop the cats from stealing them, because I'm pretty certain they aren't meant to have ginger! Anyway, I'll be making more very soon to pass out to family and friends, and don't forget you can order some for yourself, by dropping me an email at A bag of gingerbread starts at £1.50.

There will, of course, be more posts before Christmas, and very soon, I'll post my favourite gluten free Christmas products, so keep your eyes peeled for that, along with some tips for surviving the festive season as a coeliac. In the meantime, remember that a biscotti is for life, not just for moustaches.

Much laughter being had, as off-camera, Gizzy was trying to steal the biscotti from my hand!
Have a great week, everyone!