This one gadget changed my gluten free, vegan lunches for the better!

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If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better then this post is for you!  It’s really hard to eat healthy, gluten free lunches in the winter.  Salad doesn’t seem right on a cold, sleeting day, gluten free bread doesn’t make great sandwiches, and gluten free pasta doesn’t work in pasta salads.  This is why I am so glad that a friend introduced me to a soup maker.  I do not use lots of gadgets in the kitchen, but I love my soup maker.  All you do is put the chopped up ingredients in the soup maker, and press a button.  Then you can go away and carry on with something else while it cooks and blends your soup.  My soup maker (Tefal BL841140 Easy Soup and Smoothie Maker, Stainless Steel, White) even has a keep warm function so I can have my lunch when I am ready for it.

This is my favourite recipe to cook in my soup maker.  You need to make sure all the vegetables are chopped to approximately the same size.

Ingredients

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

400g leeks, trimmed and chopped

300g potatoes, peeled if necessary and cubed

1 Knorr vegetable stock pot

1 carton of Alpro soya single cream

You just put all the ingredients in the soup maker.  I find it works best if you put the stock pot half way up the soup maker so it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom or wrapped around the blender at the top.  My soup maker has a minimum liquid level so I add a bit of water to take it to that level.  Choose the creamed soup option and off you go!

Obviously, if you work from home, like Allergy Dad does, then this works really well, but equally you could set this going in the morning and take your fresh soup in a flask with you.  This soup maker (Morphy Richards 501018 Soup and Smoothie Maker, 1.6 Litre, 1160 Watt, Red) looks like an absolute bargain.

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Vegan Cheese Showdown

The holiday season has all sorts of associations for different people.  Rather shallowly and greedily, one of the things I love about Christmas is the food, especially cheese.  I was really pleased to see some new (to me) vegan cheeses on the Veggie Stuff website.  So, without further ado, it’s a vegan cheese showdown <hum the Rocky theme tune here>.

The two cheeses are Jeezini Intens and Green Vie Smoked Gouda flavour.

Obviously, the most important criteria on this site is ingredients.  The Green Vie’s ingredients are “Water, Coconut Oil (Non-Hydrogenated) (24%), Modified starch, Sea Salt, Vegan Flavourings, Smoke Flavouring, Colour: Natural Beta Carotene, Preservative: Sorbic Acid, Vitamin B12”.  The Jeezini ‘s ingredients are “Water, Plant Based Fats (Shea Kernal Oil, Coconut Oil) (23%), Modified Starch, Starch, Sea Salt, Vegan Flavour (Contains Soya Bean Oil), Olive Extract, Colour: B-carotene.”  They are both free from dairy, gluten, lactose, and palm oil.  The Green Vie brand is also soya free, while the Jeezini includes soybean oil.

Round One to Green Vie on points

Now, price – the Green Vie was £2.85 for 180g and the Jeezini Intens was £3.50 for 200g.

Round Two to Green Vie on points

Finally, it’s the taste test.  Recklessly, and despite all my previous experience with vegan cheese, I decided to try a slice uncooked.  The Jeezini was not good; it had that weird soapy taste that vegan cheese often has.  The Green Vie tasted really good.  To be fair, the Veggie Stuff website had a tip about the Jeezini “Best served at room temperature, as the flavour and texture is improved when warmer. This cheese alternative melts very well, ideally under direct heat like grilling or also zapped in a microwave.”  I grilled the cheeses on a wrap.  The Green Vie was still really good.  I am afraid that the Veggie Stuff website and I will have to agree to disagree.  Heating the Jeezini just made it stinkier and soapier.  At this stage, I decided to take The Green Vie Smoked Gouda to the ultimate level – the mighty crisp sandwich.  Some of the cheese and crushed Pom Bears in a wrap turned out to be the crowning glory of this taste test.  The Jeezini was consigned to the rubbish bin, which as I am both frugal and greedy gives you an idea of how bad it really was.

Round Three – win by knock out to Green Vie.

 

Veggie Stuff website

I needed to buy a couple of store cupboard staples (Orgran Apple and Cinnamon pancake mix, and Vegamigo pizza cheese).  It seemed sensible to look for one website that sold both these products, and so I came across the Veggie stuff website.  Really glad I did.  Fantastic website with a really wide range of vegan products.

I found some new Allergy Brother-friendly products: an omelette mix and a cream substitute.  Also, they have a really wide range of vegan cheeses.  I found two brands that I have never tried before so I will be testing those in a head-to-head comparison!  Looking forward to reviewing products from this extensive website.

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.

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.