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.


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!

Please note that this post contains associate links, which help us fund this website.  Thank you.

Peter Rabbit and The Tale of the Allergy Bullying

It’s not often that food allergies make headlines, but this week there have been articles in as unlikely sources as Vanity Fair.  In case, you have missed it, I’ll summarise.  A film, based on the Beatrix Potter books, has been released this week.  It has caused a furore because part of the plot involves Peter Rabbit deliberately pelting a boy with blackberries because Peter knows that the child is allergic to them.  Luckily, the boy uses his Epipen and survives.  I should say that I have not seen the film because I hate the frenetic pace of the TV series.  The film doesn’t exactly sound like comedy gold, but is the outcry justified?

Last year, thirteen year old, dairy allergic Karanbir Cheema died after allegedly having cheese forced on him at school.  This must have been devastating for his family, and it was only too easy for me to imagine this happening to the Allergy Brothers.  I hope that the perpetrator simply didn’t realise what they were doing, because, in our experience, that is pretty common.

It’s been quite sad to discover how little knowledge some people have about food allergies and how uninterested some people are in keeping the Allergy Brothers safe.  When Allergy Big was a toddler, playdates with his best friend became very difficult.  Despite knowing that he had food allergies, his friend’s Mum would give her little boy snacks, containing Allergy Big’s allergens,  when he was visiting our house.  Toddlers are not tidy eaters and he would toddle about leaving behind a trail of crumbs and dribble.  I would have to watch like a hawk, putting any contaminated toys out of Allergy Big’s reach.  Afterwards, I would have to thoroughly clean them, before the toys could be returned to Allergy Big.  It just became impossible to maintain this long-standing friendship, which was very sad, but Allergy Big’s safety was much more important.

Sometimes, people just show a lack of knowledge.  When the Allergy Brothers were about four and two years old, a family friend happily told us about her first pregnancy.  We were delighted for her, but quite disturbed when she followed it up be saying “what did you eat when you were pregnant, because I don’t want my kids to have food allergies like yours?”  I managed to resist saying my first answer “mainly kebabs and Stella!”  I didn’t really know how to reply though.  I am fairly certain that allergies of the magnitude and range of the Allergy Brothers’ aren’t caused by the fact I had a hankering for lime pickle during my pregnancy.

But does playground allergy bullying happen?  In our experience, yes.  Before I share our experience, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe that it was deliberate bullying or the young child involved understood what they were doing.  A child at the Allergy Brothers’ school started storing their lunch yoghurt in their cheeks and then, when they were released into the playground, they spat the yoghurt over the Allergy Brothers.  I am pretty sure that it started accidently with yoghurt spraying on one of the Allergy Brothers when the yoghurt pot lid was removed.  The young child involved possibly enjoyed their dramatic responses to this, and so repeated this by spitting yoghurt on them.  We are very grateful that the Allergy Brothers’ school dealt with this straight away, when we made them aware of it after the second day of it happening.  We have never had a repeat of this type of incident, but it made me really aware of just how vulnerable the Allergy Brothers are.

So does the Peter Rabbit film matter?  Yes and no.  Children’s cartoons involve all sorts of outlandish behaviour that we wouldn’t expect children to copy.  However, there is so much misinformation and disinterest in keeping people with allergies safe in society in general, that anything that adds to this has got to be a bad thing.

Weekend Project – Feed the birds

We like to make our own bird feeders so that there are no Allergy Brother allergens lurking in them when the boys handle them.


250g Suet or lard (you can get vegetable suet, if you avoid animal products)

250g Berries, nuts, dried fruit, oats, cheese, birdseed (choose the things that you are not allergic to)

Garden twine

Yoghurt pots or small plant pots

Dolly pegs, lolly sticks or twigs20171224_132038 1

  1. Melt the suet or lard either by melting in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or by putting it in a bowl in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients into the suet or lard.  Set this aside to cool until the lard or suet becomes opaque, but it is still soft enough to spoon into your pots.
  3. While, the mixture is cooling, assemble the pots.  Make a hole in the bottom of the pot.  Tie the twine on to the peg, stick or twig then thread it up through the hole.  Finally make a loop to hang the feeder.  20171224_114332
  4. Fill as many of your containers as you can with your mixture and allow it to cool and solidify completely.20171224_131934 1
  5. Cut away the plastic pot and recycle.
  6. Choose a suitable spot in your garden, at least 1.5m off the ground with some foliage to shelter shy species of birds.20171228_125115You might like to make a variety of bird feeders.  There is another idea here.20151123_140648