Jujube Energy Treats

This recipe was created quickly as a way to use up some small quantities of the ingredients leftover from the Ombre Cheesecake recipe.  I wish I had thought just a little more and set these treats in a silicon ice cube tray because then they would have been Jujube Energy Cubes.  Anyway…

This recipe is very flexible.  It would be an ideal way of using up odd quantities of seeds, nuts and dried fruit.

75g margarine (I used Pure Sunflower spread)

50g golden syrup

100g chocolate (I used Kinnerton Free From chocolate)

approx. 150-200g seeds, nuts and dried fruit (I used 40g sunflower seeds, 40g pumpkin seeds, 40g pine nuts, 50g Abakus Crunchy Jujube Sprinkles*)

1. Melt the margarine and golden syrup in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the chocolate, reduce the heat to low, and stir until the chocolate has melted.
2. Mix in the seeds/nuts/dried fruit. Give it all a really good mix until everything is chocolatey.
3. Spoon the mix into the bun cases. I used mini muffin cases because these are very energy dense.  Chill for 3 hours or until set.

*Jujube is also known as the red date.  It is widely eaten throughout Asia.  It is also used in Chinese and Korean medicine for a wide variety of purposes.  Abakus foods have made Jujube sprinkles, which are sweet and crunchy.  They really lifted this recipe.

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Mrs Crimble’s Big Bakewell Slices

The Mrs Crimble’s range have new packaging so I thought I would test out a product.

Ingredients – Sugar, rice flour, eggs, rapeseed oil, coconut, potato starch, palm oil, humectant:vegetable glycerol; glucose syrup, apricots, rice starch, dextrose, strawberries 2%, almonds 1%, stabilisers: locust bean gum, sodium alginate, modified corn starch, pectin; flavourings, salt, raising agents: sodiumbicarbonate, glucono-delta-lactone; invert sugar, lemon juice, preservative: potassium sorbate; acidity regulators: citric acid, calcium citrate; elderberry juice, concentrates (lemon, safflower), plant extracts (turmeric, paprika).

Hygge is so last year, apparently the new Scandinavian philosophy on the block is lagom, which is frankly much easier to say.  Lagom is a Swedish word meaning everything in moderation, not too much, not too little.  An associated part of Swedish culture is fika, which is not easily translatable, but roughly means “coffee with cake and chit chat” so not working too much, but stopping for a break.  This seems like a philosophy I can get behind as I too am partial to a mid-afternoon break with something sweet; obviously, as I am British, I have to drink tea, but the vibe is similar.  And this slowly brings me to Mrs Crimbles’ bakewell slices.  I appreciated that they were individually wrapped, which encouraged me to eat them in moderation.  Lots of gluten free products are very small portions and these are big Bakewell slices so actually the size of a gluteny version, just right.  They are also quite lagom in that the textures are nicely balanced with a crisp base, squidge of jam and topped with softer sponge.  I’ll be honest there is nothing moderate about the sweetness levels, but, as I ate these to prepare myself for the gauntlet that is the school run, I appreciated this.

Ombre Vegan “Cheesecake”

This is quite a lengthy recipe.  Each stage doesn’t take that much time, but there are quite a few stages.

INGREDIENTS

For the base:

60g pumpkin seeds

60g sunflower seeds

60g pine nuts

2 tsp cocoa powder

120 g soft pitted dates

2 tsp vanilla essence

 

For the cheesecake layers:

300g cashew nuts

100g almonds

130ml almond milk

80g maple syrup

3 tbsp cocoa powder

For the top:

Any decorations you fancy.  I used dark chocolate curls.

 

  1. Check you have space in your freezer for your cake tin (15cm round).
  2. Soak the cashew nuts and almonds in water, preferably overnight. but for at least 2 hours.
  3. Line your cake tin with strong cling film.  As you can see in the pictures, I used a baking parchment cake tin liner and it was a bit of a faff, so I think cling film is the way to go.
  4. Pulse all of the base ingredients together in a food processor then blend continuously until the mixture starts to stick together.
  5. Put the mixture in the cake tin and pack it down until you have a nice, smooth layer.cheesebase
  6. Put the base-filled cake tin in the freezer while you make the filling.
  7. Drain and rinse the cashews and almonds.  Then blend these together by pulsing at high and low speeds.  [At this point, I added in the optional step of discovering that my blender was not up to the job so I had to buy a better one].
  8. Add the remaining ingredients except the cocoa powder, and blend until smooth.
  9. Remove the cake tin from the freezer, and pour about 1/3 of the layer mixture to make an even layer.
  10. Put this in the freezer for 2 hours.
  11. Mix in 1 tbsp of cocoa powder to the remaining 2/3 of layer mixture.  Remove the cake tin from the freezer, and pour about 1/2 of the remaining mixture (1/3 of your original quantity) to make an even layer.cheeselayer
  12. Put this in the freezer for 2 hours.
  13. Mix in 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to the remaining layer mixture.  Remove the cake tin from the freezer, and pour all the remaining mixture to make an even layer.
  14. Add any decoration; I used dark chocolate curls.
  15. Put this in the freezer for a final 2 hours.cheesefinalWhen it was frozen, I cut the cheesecake into portion slices, and returned them to the freezer individually wrapped.  Now, I have a ready supply of gluten free, vegan treats whenever I need them.

 

The Free From Fairy Flours

Firstly thanks to fellow Allergy Mum, Helen, for sharing this company with me.  The Free From Fairy makes wholegrain, gluten-free, wheat-free, and, crucially for us, rice-free flour blends.  Whoop!  I was eager to try this.  The plain flour blend contains teff, sorghum and buckwheat flours, and tapioca and potato starch.  We already knew that the boys can tolerate teff, buckwheat, tapioca and potato so sorghum was the only dicey ingredient.  For this reason, I wanted to start simple with a basic bread recipe using just water (350ml), yeast (2 tsp), olive oil (6tbsp), xanthan gum (1 1/2 tsp), salt (1tsp), and, of course, Free From Fairy plain flour (450g).  Inspired by the recipe on the side of the packet, which we sadly couldn’t follow exactly as it contained Allergy Brother allergens, I made a tear and share bread.  I hadn’t thought to do this before and the boys enjoyed the novelty of sharing food with us.

The first test is always “did anyone react to the food?” and I am very pleased to report that no one did.  The second test was flavour and texture.  The bread was soft inside with a good crust.  The teff flour gave the flour blend a pleasant, sour dough flavour.  This wasn’t as overpowering as just using teff flour on its own, which is a bit of an acquired taste.  As a final test, I left one piece of bread for the next day to try at breakfast to see how it saves.  It was edible, but definitely not as enjoyable as the evening before so I don’t think I could use it to make sandwiches for the boys to take to school.  Nonetheless, this was a good product that I was pleased to be introduced to.  I have some plans to test the flours in sweet baking as well soon so I shall report back further!

 

Advent Calendars with Allergies

When I was a child, advent calendars meant poorly printed pieces of cardboard with small, tricky doors.  Towards the end of my childhood, chocolate advent calendars became a thing, but my Mum wasn’t impressed by this commercialisation of Christmas.  Goodness only knows what she thinks this year as we seem to have hit peak Advent Calendar.

Unfortunately, the Allergy Brothers aren’t able to take advantage of the more extreme advent calendars this year: Greggs bakery advent calendar (too gluteny), the various gin/wine/beer advent calendars (too underage), the Asda cheese advent calendar (too dairy), nor the Snaffling Pig pork scratching advent calendar (actually Allergy Little would probably love this as pork scratchings are basically a hybrid of his two favourite foods – crisps and Pepperami – so he needs to be kept away from this as long as possible for the good of his health).

We can’t even take advantage of the widely available Moo Free advent calendar, which is dairy free, gluten free, soya free, and vegan, but contains rice (an Allergy Brother allergen, no really!).  In the past we have tried the Hotel Chocolate dark chocolate advent calendar.  It is vegan and gluten free, but contains soya lecithin.  It is also good quality chocolate, which the Allergy Brothers found too much.  Two years ago, I even tried making my own chocolate coins as an advent calendar, which was a very bad idea.

This year, I think we have advent sorted.  I need to get over my childish obsession with chocolate advent calendars.  We have lovely traditional picture advent calendars provided by family friend, J, and I have finally accepted that a toy advent calendar might be the way to go.  Obviously, I can’t reveal exactly the type (click here to see what we chose), but I think it will have lots of play value beyond the Christmas season.  There are a lot to choose from with all the main toy manufacturers producing them: Lego, Megabloks, Schleich, Playmobil, Disney, Paw Patrol, etc.   I did balk at the price, but I reasoned that the Allergy Brothers miss out on lots of food treats throughout the year, and I could deduct it from Santa’s budget.  So it turns out that the answer to advent calendars with allergies might not be food at all, although the Diptyque calendar might be a step too far.

Fork and Wine Restaurant, Brightlingsea

Fork and Wine is a non-chain restaurant situated on the High Street in Brightlingsea (a small coastal town in North Essex, UK).

UPDATE – On 28/11/17, Fork and Wine received a 0 rating from the Food Standards Agency.  The restaurant is currently closed.

I had previously eaten breakfast there and was impressed that they had a gluten-free breakfast menu.  Allergy Dad and I decided to try lunch there.  Our waitress was new to the job so wasn’t quite sure which meals I could order, but went off with a menu to find out.  The chef quickly annotated it with which meals were already gluten free and which he could adapt to be gluten free.  I had a choice of almost the whole menu so that was excellent.  I chose baked cod loin topped with lemon crust, and served with Dutch mussels, triple cooked hand-cut chips and seasonal vegetables.  It was finished with a creamy garlic lemon butter sauce.

forkIt was really delicious and flavourful.  The fish was cooked to perfection.  If I was going to be picky then I would have liked the meal overall to be a little hotter, as the sauce was lukewarm and cooler than the cod.  I was also confused because it was served with both new potatoes and chips, which seemed a bit like spud overkill.  However, it was excellent value for money and a very good meal for a family restaurant.

We really appreciated the “can do” attitude of the waiting and kitchen staff, with regards to allergies.  We had an early lunch so they weren’t too busy; we took advantage of this to ask about the children’s menu.  Again, the chef was consulted and he seemed to think that he could accommodate the Allergy Brothers’ needs.  Obviously, we will give them fair warning when we book, and we won’t attempt this during their busy Christmas season.  However, there is the tantalising possibility that the Allergy Brothers will have their first restaurant meal in 2018!