Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Homemade Granola

My daughter decided she wanted to make her own granola, fed up with watching her older brother eating Country Crisp no doubt! I searched online for some ideas and we came up with this, but you can put pretty much whatever you like in! The main thing is to (mostly) coat the oats before baking.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 125ml maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g gluten free rolled oats
You really can add as many or as few of the following ingredients as you like. The above are essential, although I would reduce the oil and syrup slightly if omitting most of the seeds and berries.
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g dried berries 
  • 50g desiccated coconut


  • Heat oven to 150C 
  • Mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. 
  • Tip in all the remaining ingredients, except the dried fruit and coconut, and mix well. 
  • Tip the granola onto two baking sheets and spread evenly. 
  • Bake for 15 mins, then mix in the coconut and dried fruit, and bake for 10-15 mins more. 
  • Allow to cool
  • Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Allergy Awareness Week and #livinginfear - top tips for teachers

This week is Allergy Awareness Week and this year Allergy UK are focussing on the fear most people with severe allergies live in every single day of their lives.

Did you know?

BRITAIN is in the grip of a major allergy crisis, with millions of sufferers at risk of dying because of a terrifying lack of life-saving awareness among the public? And those not at risk from life threatening allergic reactions are living compromised lives in fear of chronic pain and illness?

Allergy UK are raising awareness of the fears of allergy sufferers this week and are asking people to get involved on Twitter. You can join the awareness campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #livinginfear and tweeting a picture of yourself with your biggest fear. My allergies are hugely restricting though and have had a massive impact on my life- and continue to do so. But as a mum, my biggest fears are for my children, who are more profoundly affected by allergy. 
So here's my photo:-

Children with food allergies can feel isolated in school as well as elsewhere. So much of their lives, of our society revolves around sharing food. And as with children who suffer from disabilities or chronic illness children with food allergies often lack independence. Food is a basic human need, but for kids with food allergies this basic daily task is fraught with anxiety and the need for constant vigilance. It’s also a fundamental step in growing up to gradually sever the feeding bond with your mum, but imagine if your mum was the only person you could trust to feed you? It’s pretty restricting. My nine year old twins rely on me totally for their food, school cannot cater for them and neither it seems can anywhere else. They are most definitely very “attached” to me still, and I now understand why. (You can read more about food allergy and independence here.)

Isolation in school is a particular concern for me, my children are mostly well accommodated in school but cannot participate in cooking sessions, many trips, school lunches etc and constantly feel "different". Other parents are anxious about inviting them home to play as food is such an integral part of entertaining, and consequently they feel even more isolated in school.

So here are my "Top Tips" for teachers (I was one once too!) to help reduce isolation in school:-
  1. Plan ahead. Most mums of kids with allergies will bend over backwards to help their child and will be only too happy to provide ingredients, advice and reassurance. (Just don’t contact them late the night before you are baking to request a list of ingredients!)

  2. Listen. Mums really do know their children best and are usually just following instructions from health professionals. Whilst there are undoubtedly a few who are over anxious and possibly ill-informed the vast majority will have genuine concern and want to keep their child safe - whilst not wanting to restrict the enjoyment of any other child in the class.

  3. Keep food treats in school to a minimum, or (as our children’s teachers did) plan ahead and ask for a safe treat for the allergic child.

  4. Ensure safety doesn’t stop fun. It’s vital all children are safe in school, but that doesn’t mean children cannot have fun. Safety must also be age appropriate too. So at age nine my twins can cope with baking something they know they must not eat, but are supervised when they do. A Reception age child could never cope with this! Similarly, making the child who carries an Epipen for a dairy allergy your class milk monitor isn’t a very wise idea!! (It happened to us though!)

  5. Avoid making the child who IS different feel different. Pretty obvious, but subtlety is key. Substituting safe chocolate in the class advent calendar and making a note of the date for the allergic child to take it is far, far better than leaving them to come to you to swap their treat in front of others.

  6. Food still needs to be fun though, and even children with allergies need positive experiences with and around food. You can substitute many ingredients easily, there are recipes for children on exclusion diets on The Recipe Resource ( http://thereciperesource.blogspot.co.uk) and lots of other sites too!

  7. Tackle the “Healthy Eating” message tactfully. With recent research to demonstrate that fats are not always the bad guys, the message is becoming slightly blurred anyway, but children with food allergies are missing important proteins from their diet, and often important fats too. Our twins were wisely told by a senior dietician that they need plenty of fatty foods like chips, and oils like olive and hemp oil in their diet as they are dairy free (amongst other things) and miss the natural fats present in dairy food.

  8. Don’t judge. I was once asked why there were concerns about my daughter’s growth when she was clearly very chubby, and that she looked really healthy. Children are all different, but children with food allergies, especially the non IgE ones are prone to poor growth. Poor absorption leads to poor growth - and the body needs to gain mass before it is able to grow upwards. My kids were short and chubby for a long time, sadly it wasn’t a sign of health at all. It’s stressful enough as a parent to navigate life with a child with food allergies, judgement from others is hard to take.

  9. Expect to see more of the parents of kids’ with food allergies. They are not overly fussy, and need reassurance as much as their children. They are your best allies for a smooth year with an allergic child in your class, and dislike being the “bad penny” often feeling embarrassed ad in the way. Any reassurance is much appreciated!

  10. Educate. Obviously - you’re a teacher :) But a tiny bit of knowledge for the allergic child’s peers goes a long way to helping them feel one of the class. There is a simple explanation aimed at Key Stage 1 children here.

Allergies have a serious impact on sufferer's lives, and they are certainly life changing, but we can and should limit the fear they live in. Unfortunately the current situation is almost unbearable for some, and as the excellent article in The Guardian last week explains ignorance about allergy is not helping. This is why awareness is key.

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


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