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!

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.


Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad! (Vegan, GF)

I think it is fair to say that cake decorating is not my forté.  This always presents a bit of a problem because lots of cake decorating cheats have wheat, rice flour or coconut oil in their ingredients so the Allergy Brothers can’t eat them.

Allergy Dad is a big fan of the colour black.  He has an entirely monochromatic wardrobe.  I did think about making a cake with activated charcoal as an ingredient.  Unfortunately, I discovered that activated charcoal can decrease the effectiveness of medication by absorbing it.  This would be a bad idea for the whole family!

I was really pleased to find these edible black rose cake decorations online.  They are vegan, gluten free and Allergy Brother friendly.  I would definitely use this seller – Simply Toppers – again.  The roses looked beautiful, and I was amazed that they had packed them so carefully that they arrived in perfect condition.  In fact, Simply Toppers sell lots of other really nice cupcake decorations so I will probably be cheating by using their products again.
I used our regular chocolate cake recipe and Allergy Dad was able to have a cake he deserved, but that the Allergy Brothers could still eat.  Happy Birthday, Allergy Dad!

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CoOp Watermelon Lollies


Water, Watermelon Juice from Concentrate (20%), Sugar, Apple Juice from Concentrate (10%), Glucose Syrup, Chocolate Flakes (1%) (Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, Emulsifer (Soya Lecithin), Flavouring), Gelling Agent (Pectin), Concentrates (Safflower, Carrot, Spirulina), Citric Acid, Thickener (Locust Bean Gum), Flavouring.

Allergy Advice: Soya.  May contain peanuts, nuts, milk.

Aren’t these cute?  The ice lollies, not the Allergy Brothers!  Allergy Little gets very cross if you call him cute.  The red part of the lolly is watermelon flavoured with chocolate pips, and the green “rind” is apple flavoured.

The Allergy Brothers weren’t very impressed, but they are not big fans of frozen desserts.  I thought they were really yummy.

Peanut butter and Chocolate Cookies (Vegan, GF)

Allergy Big’s favourite sandwich filling is peanut butter with Dutch chocolate breakfast sprinkles.  These cookies are the biscuit equivalent.  If you need a nut free recipe, then follow this link to biscuits made with Free Nut Butter.


  • 90g peanut butter
  • 40g sugar
  • 75g corn flour
  • 75g gram flour
  • 30g margarine
  • 60g chocolate chips (I had to make my own by chopping up Kinnerton chocolate bars)


  1. Grease a baking sheet with margarine or line it with baking parchment.  Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Cream the peanut butter, margarine and sugar together.
  3. Stir in the flours and chocolate chips, and work together to form a soft dough.
  4. Take ping pong ball sized pieces of dough, and squash them flat into cookie shapes.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are browning on the top.
  6. Leave to cool before removing from the baking sheet.