Six Weeks of being a Greyhound Family

Asleep with her favourite toy

Six weeks ago, a retired racing greyhound trotted into our family’s life. She has basically slotted in as if she has always been here, although sofa space is at a bit more of a premium these days. It’s amazing considering how many new things she has had to learn about: stairs, TVs, washing machines, children, etc. However, the outside world is still a little concerning to her.

Things that are terrifying, according to our greyhound:

  • buses
  • lorries
  • plastic bags blowing in the wind
  • all spaniels

It’s also been a steep learning curve for us. We have had to work out exactly how high she can reach and what things need to be kept out of her way. It’s like when a baby starts to crawl or walk and you suddenly have to toddler proof your house and move everything up. Except a greyhound is a 30+kg former athlete with a full set of teeth so it’s a bit more of a challenge. Things that might have been food and needed to be checked for tastiness, according to our greyhound:

  • several clothes pegs
  • a pizza box
  • an empty Amazon box
  • a spoon
  • a scouring pad
  • many garden shrubs
  • the straps on two muzzles
  • a new pair of sunglasses
  • a Fidel Castro cap

The straps of the muzzles were particularly embarrassing. People conspicuously avoid you, if you are walking along with a muzzled dog. This is doubled if the dog is wearing a muzzle repaired with cable ties (while the replacement is on order) so it appears that she has tried to bite her way out of her muzzle. She basically looked like a canine Ronnie Kray.

I was keeping her muzzle on because she didn’t really believe that any dog smaller than a West Highland terrier is a dog. A racing greyhound will only meet other greyhounds so other breeds of dog are a new experience. Each new specimen of small dog was sniffed closely until she was convinced that they are actually a fellow dog. Unfortunately, the smaller dogs sometimes objected, or occasionally their owners did, and scared her, which could be nasty for all parties. Now, she has had enough time to learn that dogs come in many sizes, we can trust her to go muzzle free.

Allergy Wizard summed up how we feel about our new greyhound, when he said “Things are funner around here now we have a dog.”

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Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan?

I am developing our spring and summer cake ranges at the moment. After the success of our gin and tonic cakes, it seemed like a good idea to try another favourite drink in cake form. Prosecco is a delicious and much-loved Italian white wine, which seems perfect for a spring cake.

Let’s start with the good news. Is Prosecco gluten free? I would never say that all Prosecco is 100% gluten free, but I think it is fair to say, it is pretty much gluten free. Obviously, wines aren’t fermented from gluten-containing ingredients, like beer or whisky are, but there are possible sources of gluten contamination. For example, some wine barrels are sealed with a gluten-containing paste. It is possible that this gluten could contaminate the wine inside. However, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method, which uses steel tanks, rather than casks or fermenting in the bottle. This means Prosecco is cheaper to produce, and removes the potential gluten source of the cask sealant. Hooray!

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Is Prosecco vegan? Maybe. The Charmat-Matinotti method requires clarification of the Prosecco, after the second fermentation. This process is called fining. A fining agent is added to the wine to bond with suspended particles, such as grape fragments, and even soluble substances, such as tannins. Some fining agents are of animal origin: egg whites, casein from milk, gelatin, and isinglass from the swim bladders of fish (as an aside, how did anyone discover this? “Well, Gianni, we’ve tried tiger spleen and armadillo kidney, but it’s not clarifying the wine. Let’s give it one last go with a goldfish swim bladder and see what happens.”) Wines made using animal-origin fining agents may be a concern to vegans. The good news is that there are non-animal alternatives made from minerals, for example bentonite clay or activated charcoal. The only way to know is to check the brand of Prosecco you are buying. Luckily, the fantastic website, Barnivore, has already done the hard work for you. You can be sure that we will check the brands we use to make sure that they are vegan.

Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan? Very probably, and maybe!

One month on…

Wow!  It has been a busy month here at Allergy Towers.  I have been jumping through hoops, like an overexcited collie in an agility competition.  I am really pleased to say that I passed my Level 2 in Food Hygiene and Handling.  We also passed our Food Standards Agency inspection, and got the top grade (5, very good).

20180622_105948We have been testing lots of vegan, gluten free cakes, including a gin cake with tonic icing that I felt the need to test extensively.  Our testing panel have been generous with their time and taste buds, and supportive.  Yesterday, we delivered our first batch to Cornflower Wholefoods, Brightlingsea, Essex, UK.  I don’t know how well the cakes will sell, but we are going to give it our best shot.

The next stage will be about fulfilling our whole purpose.  We’ll be looking at developing relationships with local organisations so we can offer work-related learning to autistic young people.

It’s all really exciting, bit scary, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few months…

 

 

Is Gin & Tonic Vegan and Gluten Free?

I don’t know about you, but, in these troubling times, I find comfort in the minutiae of life.  There’s nothing like disappearing down a rabbit hole of information to escape reality.

At the moment, my mind is often preoccupied with thinking about new recipes for The Allergy Brothers Cakes.  I am wondering if it is possible to make a vegan and gluten free gin and tonic cake…  Not for the Allergy Brothers themselves, they are a bit young! Maybe for all the parents contemplating the school summer holidays?  The obvious first question is “is gin and tonic vegan and gluten free?”

Gin is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain or malt and flavoured with juniper berries”.  Grain and malt doesn’t sound very gluten free.  However, as the gluten proteins are removed during the distillation process, all spirits, unless a gluten-containing ingredient is added after distillation, are gluten free.  However, some very, very sensitive individuals might react to gin distilled from grain and malt.  In the UK, Chase’s gin is made from an apple base, and not grain.  However, gin is gluten free enough to get a thumbs up from the Coeliac UK website so I feel confident with sticking with my old favourite, Bombay Sapphire.

Bombay Sapphire is gluten free, but is it vegan?  Luckily, there is a fantastic website called Barnivore that allows you to check whether specific alcoholic drinks are vegan.  Bombay Sapphire is marked as vegan friendly.  A very few gins are not because gelatin is used to remove impurities in the filtration process, because honey is added as a flavouring, or because beeswax is used to seal the casks.

Now to check the tonic water!  Tonic water is just carbonated water with quinine and flavourings and sweeteners added.  It should be naturally gluten free.  It should also be vegan.  However, some vegans are concerned that some tonic waters, particularly American brands, contain High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Some vegan writers felt that this was just a bad product to consume, and were concerned about the level of pollution caused by mass corn production.  I am planning on using Fever Tree tonic water, which is made from Natural Quinine, Cane Sugar, Spring Water, Citric Acid, and Natural Flavours, so my recipe will be HFCS free.

Phew!  Gin and tonic is vegan and gluten free!  I think I might have a glass to celebrate.  Purely, for research, of course.

Future of The Allergy Brothers (& GDPR)

The Allergy Brothers has always been a team effort with the boys and I working together to test foods and develop recipes (Allergy Dad is chief cake tester!).  Allergy Wizard is particularly motivated and will tell anyone, who will listen, about the blog.

Recently, we visited our favourite, local whole foods shop, Cornflower in Brightlingsea.  Allergy Wizard was busy talking to Christy, Cornflower’s owner, about our cakes.  She was so impressed by his sales pitch that she gave him some free ingredients to make her some samples.  We were very pleased and surprised when Christy asked if she could stock our cakes.  Yay!

It turns out there are, rightly, lots of hoops to jump through before you can sell food to the public.  I am pleased to say I passed my Level 2 in Food Hygiene and Handling.  My next job is to complete a 92 page document for the Environmental Health Officer!

I don’t know if this is feasible, but we are going to give it our best shot.  The Allergy Brothers will become a food producing company.20180524_122818

And now for the compulsory GDPR information!  If you subscribe to the blog or you leave a comment then you will have typed in your name and email address.  This information stays with WordPress (our website publisher) and we do not have access to that information.

Thank you, if you have subscribed.  We will still be updating the blog, but not as often.  We will also be updating our Instagram regularly too.

The Allergy Brothers is Changing!

It’s all change here at Allergy Towers, and the change has been led by the boys.  The blog will become a secondary, although still very important, aspect of the Allergy Brothers brand.  We’ll be posting less frequently, but with an emphasis on longer, more informative posts.  We’ll be updating our Instagram more often though.

As to what our primary brand activity will be, well that’s going to be a secret for a little bit longer!  We have lots of work to do in a very short time!