Monday, 24 May 2021

Lunch pots

 Whilst in hospital in March, my daughter was keen to try some of the rather delicious Bol lunch pots / salad jars available in the newsagents on site. Problem is, with her collection of food reactions this was unlikely to be possible. We did however discover that one was safe, as long as we discarded the sealed dressing inside. *

It was OK, but nothing special and to be honest, not as filling as it could be. But it got me thinking! So I bought another, saved the pots and created a couple of my own!

The idea is really simple. First you add a grain/carbohydrate layer. We've used different kinds of rice (long grain works very well, as does wild rice) and free from couscous. The current favourite is quinoa, you could use pasta too if you didn't mind breaking it up a little at lunchtime. 

I then add roasted vegetables. I use Marks and Spencer's frozen chargrilled veg, as they have nothing else added - no wheat, no garlic. I pan fry some with olive oil and mixed herbs, layer them on top and leave the contents to cool.

Next you choose your protein layer. This can be tofu - plain or marinated, tempeh, cubes of "cheese" such as coconut based "feta"cheese. You can use chicken and we've also used tuna or beans. Whatever takes your fancy really! If I'm using tofu or tempeh, I always use the same pan I cooked the veg in, it helps give it flavour. I often add gluten free soy sauce, or other flavours.

Lastly, once it's all cool (be patient here, otherwise your leaves will wilt and you will have condensation inside the pot...) add spinach leaves, salad leaves and sprinkle with seeds of your choice, we use sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I also have a few tiny dressing bottles from the Sistema range, perfect for popping in the top filled with your safe dressing!

Lastly, don't be fooled. These are really very filling, if tipped out into a bowl or onto a plate you will see there is a significant meal here. It's perfect for packed lunches, for adults and teens, and means they are getting a balanced and nutritious meal. I make them up twice a week, two days at a time. Then for Day 5 we do something different. Enjoy!

*NB We have NOT been advised to avoid items labelled "may contain",  neither does my daughter suffer from IgE allergies nor carry an Epipen. This was a personal choice, which I would NOT advise others to make without first checking with their health professional.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Meal in a bottle - some wonderful new options!

Some really useful finds this week! Our daughter is still on a really restricted diet and I've been on the look out for complete meals for ages, for those times when you end up in hospital and they can only feed your child cold chips, (which is all they ever seem to be able to offer a child on a medical exclusion diet... goodness knows how they think parents manage!) or a school/choir overnight trip where you need a nutritional back up for the inevitable times the caterers get it wrong.... and now I have some! 

HUEL shakes and bars. I've known about HUEL complete meal supplement powder for a while. You can live on it, it's complete... but it was still a little too "medical"and lacking in convenience. The shakes are A delicious, complete, and affordable meal in a handy bottle, containing all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre and phytonutrients. They are quite thick, like custard and in fact we now use the vanilla one instead of custard, and they are very palatable, not sickly sweet. (A rare thing in free from food world!) 

Flavours are Chocolate, Vanilla, Berry and now creamy Banana. I'll be honest, if your child has become used to the over-sweet free from treats from the supermarket food aisle, then you are going to have a tough time convincing them that these are acceptable. The chocolate one for example tastes like chocolate milk - the dairy sugar sweetened type, not the fake artificially over-sweetened hot chocolate taste of a Starbucks hot chocolate. You can taste the cocoa, not the sugar as the primary taste. (I think it's perfect, I've struggled for over a decade to find sensible free from alternatives which don't sacrifice flavour for artificial sweetener!)

Interestingly, my youngest son (who is now on a full diet) has asked if he can have a bottle of Huel instead of sandwiches (which he hates) for lunch on the odd day for school. He is 15, so it must be socially acceptable..... and he *does* have a sweet tooth, so it can't be that bad!

BOL Brekkie power shakes. We can't use any other BOL products, they have tomato and or garlic in, or wheat or one of the many other things K has to avoid, but these are FAB and very high in protein. 

They come in six flavours, and are really high in protein and contain a full spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals. The Columbian Coffee one might not suit young children but it's 15g protein is pretty impressive, and Bol offer a "Build a Box" option, with free delivery for 12+ shakes. Given the weight of these that's also pretty impressive. The glass bottles are of course recyclable, but make rather smart smoothie bottles to use again..... 

Friday, 8 March 2019

NOT a lifestyle Choice - why the Free From Food industry needs to reconnect with it's primary consumers

I published this in 2014 but it's oh-so-pertinent again. Marks and Spencer recently introduced their "Plant Kitchen" range in response to the new Vegan trend (nothing wrong with that) but forgot those of us NOT dealing with choice and included wheat and dairy in meals/foods previously free of these allergens. Sainsbury's started slapping "may contain ...  all of the top 14 allergens" on their fresh meat and now the media are flagging up the "chemicals" in gluten free foods. It's time we remembered why the such foods exist, and what their primary market is.

In my inbox this morning was a request to complete a short and sweet questionnaire about "Free From" foods. Right I thought, I'm a bit of an expert on that one... should only take me a minute! So I duly clicked on the link... how long could it take?!

Well that depends on whether you find the questionnaire possible to complete in the first place, and whether it triggers a response like this or not :-

So why I am getting so hot under the collar about an innocuous set of questions? Well here they are:-

I'll tell you what my "attitude" towards them is; that they are an essential, vital form of sustenance for my children who would otherwise become very ill. Foods which are sold as if I should be grateful, which are often poor in nutritional content and high in price, which we cannot do without.
It wouldn't be so bad if the first option in question 2 was "Medical Necessity" - because after all, that is the main reason the "Free From" food industry exists, even if it has become something of a fad amongst many, and this growth in consumption of "dietary" foods has undoubtedly increased production, which benefits us all. However, if the main focus for it's existence is forgotten, short cuts will be taken and those with medical needs will be the first to miss out precisely because  - and hear we come to the crux of the argument - for us it's NOT a CHOICE! 

Eating "freefrom" food is not a lifestyle choice for the vast majority, it's a no-alternative, medically imposed way of life and to suggest otherwise is both ignorant and offensive.

So when faced with a questionnaire asking me to rate answers as to why I choose "free from" food in order of importance, seeing options such as "helps weight loss" and "they are lower calorie" makes me not a little cross!

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Traybake Cake - GF, WF, EF, DF, SF, NF

This is a new favourite here! It's basically a simple sponge cake mixture with everything substituted as necessary. It can be a cup cake, single cake or traybake cake, whatever takes your fancy, the basic ratio is 4:4:4:2 or 6:6:6:3 for sugar:margarine:flour:eggs and you can scale it up to suit. So 6oz sugar, 6oz margarine, 6oz self raising flour and three eggs. the numbers don't sound quite so neat with grams, but it's the same ratio! I decorated with Betty Crocker frosting and safe marshmallows and sprinkles. 

My youngest son pronounced it delicious - then post on Instagram as "Archie Berry" that it was "very tasty, very soft on the inside, crisp on the outside with a beautiful blend of flavour."!! Praise indeed! It didn't last long... but definitely kept well overnight.

#traybake #cake #glutenfree #eggfree #dairyfree #soyafree #nutfree

  • 170g (6oz margarine 
  • 170g (6oz) caster sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 170g (6oz) self-raising flour (I use Doves Farm) 
  • tsp additional gluten-free baking powder
  • 3 eggs or egg replacer for 3 eggs
  • your choice of icing/decoration

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (170C Fan) then lightly grease an 8" square tin, or similar capacity tin
  • Beat together caster sugar and margarine until light and creamy.
  • Mix up egg replacer for 3 eggs or break 3 eggs and whisk.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. 
  • Gradually add the eggs/egg replacer to the sugar/margarine mixture.
  • Add the vanilla essence
  • Sift flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. 
  • Now combine first the eggs slowly if beating by hand, then gradually add the flour and additional baking powder.
  • TIP :  if the mixture curdles add some flour!
  • If you are using a mixer, you can safely add eggs and flour all together, then combine.
  • Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling the top with the back of a spoon. 
  • Bake for 20-25 mins until golden on top. 
  • Leave to cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack. DO NOT CUT until fully cool.
  • Decorate as you please!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Lemon Loaf Cake DF EF GF WF SF NF

This is my variation on a gingerbread loaf recipe in Pippa Kendrick's "Free From Food for Family and Friends".  It's a fabulous recipe, rises well and is so simple and quick to make.


  • 275g Gluten-free self-raising flour (I use Doves Farm)
  • 1tbsp Mixed Spice
  • 1tsp additional gluten-free baking powder
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice 
  • 1tsp lemon flavouring
  • 170ml water

  • Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) then lightly grease a large loaf tin and line with baking parchment.(Tip, I buy the ready formed loaf tin liners from Lakeland!)
  • Sift flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl.
  • Pour over the lemon juice, sunflower oil and lemon flavouring plus 170ml water and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  • Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, levelling the top with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  DO NOT CUT until full cool.

Freezes really well in slices ready for last minute treats, packed lunches and days out!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Child First and Always?

Last night we waited for the ITV programme on Great Ormond Street with trepidation. So many families I know feel violated all over again by the articles over on The Bureau of Investigative Journalism which although ground breaking in many respects fall short of holding the Gastro department at GOSH to account.  They - and we - have had to endure years of poor care/no care/false accusations whilst being kept in the dark about what was really happening at the hospital. For some it's cathartic that some of the truth is coming out at last, but for many it's opening old wounds.

Our thoughts?
It was a good start. We thought the documentary was quite clear the disease exists, but is rare. It covered the accusations of over diagnosis and over treatment simplistically but fell short of making it clear how desperate many families are for help by the time they get to GOSH. More concerning was that it also came across on the programme that it was clear cut this had occurred and that this was founded on an agreed definition of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease - EGID.

Anyone who has any experience of EGID will tell you there is no such thing.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

A Post Fact Era

- or how Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children managed to avoid the factual information of their damning Investigative Review in 2015 from going public whilst parents took the blame.

So today, you have probably read The Guardian article on over diagnosis and over treatment of EGID at Great Ormond Street Hospital over the past seven years. Having been in the middle of this for all of those seven years, I can assure you there is MUCH more to the story. There is more info here, sadly the Syrian situation meant the Guardian article was cut down. It's STILL not the whole story though. 

Warning: This is super long. The events at Great Ormond Street over the past few years have left many of my friends and I reeling, collateral damage as the Gastro department attempted to extricate themselves from a hugely damning - and damaging, had it been made public - investigation by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. What followed their investigation in 2015 should make you angry. Very angry. This hospital persistently campaigns for charitable funding over and above any other hospital in the UK. Many departments are centres of excellence, but not Gastro. The RCPCH identified considerable failings, but in an attempt to restore order the proverbial baby went out with the bath water. Good doctors were scapegoated along with parents and the biggest losers of all were the patients. 


Our Story
We first went to GOSH at the end of July 2010. With a very strong family history of reflux and associated gastro issues, also seemingly non-associated non-gastro issues, we were desperate for answers.  As per our story here we were making progress on the reflux but struggling with motility issues, distension and a host of other issues.

We initially saw our new consultant privately, following an NHS referral from our local hospital being moved to another Consultant. (Our local paediatrician was keen for us to see this particular doctor because she had several patients under him and felt he was most expert on allergic gut conditions and would aim for the most normal approach possible, unlike some consultants at GOSH who were renown for pulling all food and imposing formula only diets when EGID or similar was suspected.)

Our consultant was quite thorough but very quickly fitted both twins into the allergic gut camp during our discussion. 

The photo below of our son’s hugely distended abdomen concerned him considerably. He later said he was concerned this was symptomatic of Pseudo Obstruction but in actual fact it was more connected with the 12 sachets a day of Movicol he had been prescribed locally for some time - something I had been concerned about. Movicol is the same plastic that is in disposable nappies. All parents have no doubt seen what happens when a toddler in a nappy sits in water.... it's a great drug for those with hard stool, but if your gut can't move loose stool, it certainly isn't going to do a great job of moving large volumes of loose stool...

We were prescribed medication - cetirizine daily, sodium chromoglycate and maintained our high dose of PPI medication (acid production suppressant) and were booked for review. Unfortunately our son’s motility issues were no better so he was booked for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy. This was no knee jerk reaction. Our son was going 2-3 weeks without passing stool then blocking the toilet, and was in huge discomfort. We were told that significant eosinophils per hpf were found throughout his bowel, in addition to lymphoid hyperplasia and he was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Enterocolitis. 

There was discussion as to whether Lymphoid Hyperplasia is EGID “waxing” or “waning”, and I actually asked how he knew eosinophils were intrinsically bad - or whether they in fact be part of the repair process? I know of many families for whom LH became the sole reason for diagnosis, and later many more who were diagnosed on symptoms alone. I suspect the desire to reduce invasive testing was the paramount concern for our consultant, but however well intentioned this meant some were perhaps labelled without supporting evidence. This should however be weighed against the merits of trialling treatments to produce resolution as quickly and easily as possible though with minimal discomfort and maximum gain for the patient. For this reason we never queried his assertion that our daughter was also an EGID patient.

Over the next few years our children never really became symptom free, although treatment DID mean they were better managed, growing properly and thriving.  

This should not be understated. Gt Ormond Street is not a local hospital. It's usually a place of last resort, where children with chronic or seriously acute problems go when no one else can help. Families are often desperate - like us - and grateful for help. It's also a place of novel and slightly unusual treatments, doctors are at the cutting edge of paediatric medicine and are always trying to push boundaries to help children. We embraced the plan - and the early results it brought.
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