The Colchester Officers’ Club, Essex

This is a first for the Allergy Brothers blog, well two firsts to be accurate.  Firstly, Allergy Big would like to be known as Allergy Wizard from now on, and he has a nice portrait drawn by one of his classmates to celebrate this (see above; I love the spelling of allergy!).  Secondly, he wants to write this blog himself.  Allergy Wizard was invited with his school class to have lunch at the Colchester Officers’ Club in by the Rotary Club.  The Colchester Officers’ Club is a private members club so it was exciting to visit for the day.  And now over to Allergy Wizard…

“It was a lot of fun.  I was impressed by the gold seats.  But I loved the Officers’ Club for one thing because they helped with my allergies.  The chef made me my own burger so that I had something to eat, and I could eat the chips because they were safe for me too.  Thank you, Officers’ Club and the Rotary Club.  I give you a big thumbs up!”

I want to add my thanks too.  Not only did the chef take my phonecall in the middle of lunch service (oops, I should have checked the time before calling), she then rang me back later to confirm the ingredients in the planned meal choices and, when there was nothing suitable, she made him his own burger with Allergy Wizard safe ingredients.  Thank you, Officers’ Club chef, you made his day!


Blogger Recognition Award

Right back in January, Nich of At Home with Nich nominated me for a Blogger Recognition Award.  I’ll confess that I didn’t know what this award was.  When I discovered what it was – a way for members of the blogging community to support other bloggers – I felt all warm and fuzzy so thank you very much, Nich.  Unfortunately, I am very British and not very good at self-promotion so I have been umming and aahing about what to write since January!



  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select (up to 15) other bloggers for this award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know you nominated them and provide a link to the post you created.

How The Allergy Brothers blog started

The origins of this blog are very mundane.  I was simply fed up with having little bits of paper covered in scrawled notes about recipes all over my kitchen.  I thought it would be a good idea to put the recipes online so I could tidy up my kitchen.  I soon discovered two things: baking and electronic devices don’t mix that well unless you like your laptop covered in cake batter, and that I really enjoyed having a creative outlet in the form of the blog.  I have now corralled paper copies of my recipes into a folder for day-to-day use, and the blog has morphed into a more general resource for people with multiple allergies.

Advice to New Bloggers

  1. Enjoy it!  For most bloggers, blogging is never going to be more than a hobby, and not a road to riches, so make sure you enjoy doing it.  I took about a year off the blog a while ago.  It was a difficult decision because the blog had started growing a bit at that point, but, because there was so much else going on in our lives at that time, I wasn’t enjoying blogging.  It had become another chore I needed to do when really I should have got more sleep.  Now, our lives are calmer, I am able to genuinely look forward to sitting down and working on the blog.
  2. Don’t be afraid to celebrate small successes.  It’s easy to look at celebrity bloggers and influencers and feel like a very tiny plankton in a huge internet ocean. Remember the classic Theodore Roosevelt quote “comparison is the thief of joy.”  He’s right.  The Allergy Brothers are excellent at this.  To them, the idea that over 500 people have read our blog since January is mindblowing.  They don’t care that Kim Kardashian West has over 109 million Instagram followers.  They find it exciting that people from all over the world read their blog.  So celebrate each new follower, and every new best ever statistic because that is a success.

My Nominations

IT Elementary School

Wildlife Through A Lens

And thanks again to Nich (At Home With Nich) for the nomination.

Planet Organic – New Shops

You may remember that I was recently very impressed by my online shopping experience using Planet Organic.  In fact, I was so impressed that I joined their Affiliate programme (so this post contains affiliate links, which don’t change the price for you, but help to support this website financially).

The Planet Organic Shop now has new ways of shopping by diet.  There is a gluten free shop, and I was really impressed that this included groceries and a health and beauty section.  People often forget that products, which go on the outside of your body, can cause a reaction.

Planet Organic also have a new Planet Organic Living website.  I was particularly pleased by the products in the Picnicware and Lunchboxes section.  The Allergy Brothers almost always have to take packed food with them wherever they go.  I do feel quite guilty about how many single use packaging materials we use.  I think the Beeswax Wraps, sturdy, metal elephant lunch boxes and these metal reuseable straws would be particularly useful for us.

A secret weapon for gluten free/vegan eating on the road!

The Allergy Family recently made the journey from our home in the South East of England to visit family in Yorkshire.  We travelled along the M1/A1, which is the main route up the middle of England.  Usually, it is hard for us to eat in motorway service stations.  We were very pleased to discover a new chain of restaurants, El Mexicana, which has  several branches around the UK, including several service stations.  It is possible to eat gluten free, vegan, and even gluten free and vegan there easily.

You start by choosing your base; both the salad and corn tortillas are gluten free.  You then add your filling, with a choice of chicken, pulled pork, beef, and two vegetarian options.  You add the extras that you want rice, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, etc.  Finally, it is topped with a salsa of your choice.


20180307_135309The front tortilla in the photograph above is vegan and gluten free.  The base is a corn tortilla.  The filling is vegetable chilli with rice, pinto beans, onions, peppers and lettuce.  It is topped with tomatillo salsa.  It tasted amazing.  Fresh and flavourful.  I really can’t understand why there was a queue for McDonald’s when I could walk straight up to the counter here and get something much healthier that tasted so much better.

Unfortunately, their gluten control was a little variable.  We visited two branches: Peterborough and Cambridge.  The staff member at the Cambridge branch took great care.  She put on fresh gloves to make our order and wrapped the tortillas in foil so that when they went in the griddle they didn’t touch the same metal surfaces as the wheat products.  The staff member at Peterborough was clearly new to the job and wasn’t quite sure what she was doing generally.  She didn’t know to put the tortillas in foil before heating them, for example.  At both branches, the corn tortillas were stored in a separate sealed box away from the wheat products.

Thanks, El Mexicana, for making it a little easier for us to visit our family!

Allergy Mum and the Quest for the Holy Granola

The Allergy Brothers are creatures of habit and so they have their breakfast routine perfectly honed.  Allergy Little has almond milk mixed with chocolate Nesquik powder (surprisingly dairy free), and Nature’s Path Chocolate Munch.  Allergy Big likes to start the day with corn wraps filled with peanut butter and Dutch breakfast sprinkles.  I am still searching for my breakfast nirvana….

I really like Granola because of its versatility.  I like that you can have a bowl of it for breakfast, and then snack on the clumps later in the day.  I decided to start my quest for my perfect granola close to home with Essex-based company, The Moral Munch.  I tried their Super-seeded date and cacao granola.  It’s suitable for vegans, but I completely forgot that the oats were not gluten free.  Delicious and recommended, but not for me.

I decided to take a leaf out of Allergy Little’s book and try a Nature’s Path product, specifically their Nice and Nobbly Pumpkin Seed, Almond and Raisin Granola.  This product is gluten free and vegan.  It is incredibly sweet (raw cane sugar is listed as the second largest ingredient after gluten-free oats), but really quite moreish.  I was happily snacking away on the granola (straight from the packet while watching TV; I am classy) when I realised that I didn’t feel that great and that my snacking hand was really hurting.  I was surprised to see that my skin was having a reaction to one of the ingredients.  I suspect coconut, as it is an Allergy Brother allergen.

I have come to the conclusion that my perfect granola is not out there as a ready-to-buy product.  I am going to have to make my own granola, and so my quest for the holy granola continues…

This post contains an affiliate link to Ethical Superstore.  Clicking on this does not change the price of the product for you, but does help fund the costs of running this website.  Thank you.

What the food is Xanthan Gum?

I recently had a complete baking fail.  I had a terrible migraine, but it was Cake Friday!  I knew the Allergy Brothers would be disappointed if I didn’t make them their Friday afternoon chocolate cake.  Unfortunately, in my bleary-eyed state, I reached for the Xanthan Gum packet rather than the baking powder packet; in my defence, they are the same shape.  Even more unfortunately, I noticed that the cake mixture had a very strange texture, but my overwhelmed brain couldn’t work out why so I baked it anyway.  The Allergy Brothers were not impressed to discover that I had basically cooked them a large, round, brown-coloured piece of chewing gum.  It was beyond horrible.  It did make me wonder “what is Xanthan gum?” though!  This is what I found out.

Is Xanthan gum a natural product?

No, Xanthan gum is a food additive, that is produced by fermenting a carbohydrate (a substance that contains sugar) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria, then processing it.

Why is Xanthan gum used in food products?

Xanthan gum is often used to replace the effects of gluten in gluten-free baking.  Gluten is stretchy and gives gluten-containing baked goods a nice, airy texture.

Xanthan gum can also be used to add thickness, keep textures from changing, and hold ingredients in place.

Is Xanthan gum safe to eat?

It seems so.  Both animal and human studies  suggest that the worst side effects seem to be a bit of wind and laxative effects.  However, infants under the age of one year should not be given formula thickened with Xanthan-gum based products because of an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Can Xanthan gum cause allergic reactions?

Potentially in those who are hypersensitive to their allergens.  Xanthan gum is a product of a reaction involving a carbohydrate.  Whether the Xanthan gum causes a reaction, therefore depends on what that starting carbohydrate is.  It could be corn, wheat, soya, etc.  Unfortunately, this won’t be marked on the packet.  If you think you are reacting to Xanthan gum then it might be worth contacting the manufacturer to find out what carbohydrate substrate they use.  If they use your allergen, then it might be worth trying a different manufacturer, who may use a different starter carbohydrate.

Is Xanthan gum vegan?

Again, it depends on the starter carbohydrate.  If the starter carbohydrate is corn, wheat or soya then yes, the Xanthan gum is vegan.  If the starter carbohydrate is lactose (made from dairy whey), then it might not meet your definition of vegan.  The only way to find out is to contact the manufacturer.