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.

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