Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sablé Biscuits, failed challenges and a fresh start.

 

Recently I’ve felt that my blog has gone off the boil, that my recipes were dull and not very inspiring, the photos were so-so and better resources could be found elsewhere. Maybe I needed a break, just to give it up or a fresh approach? These have been tough times in working out whether to invest any time and effort into creating and posting for my blog.

I think having a baked milk challenge approaching for both girls made me think that maybe it was becoming less relevant for myself too. Perhaps we had got to another stage of our journey that needed a new approach?

To be honest, we were rather surprised when the Doctor suggested a baked milk challenge at our most recent appointment – it seemed out of the blue since they both had sizeable wheals from the skin prick results and we have certainly never been on the cusp of any ‘advances’ before. Actually, although we’ve always been lucky enough to have had fantastic care from our allergy specialists, this year was different. The doctor was new and had a surprising approach, she wanted to discharge big S as she claimed that the appointments weren’t necessary and there was unlikely to be any further change at this stage. As most people who have tried know, it’s so hard to get under the care of a specialist that we really weren’t keen to lose this support. This particular doctor also said that skin prick tests were worthless and they should both have a baked milk challenge as it was the only way to really diagnose an allergy. I get her point to some extent, but those are not particularly helpful comments for the girls who have spent their entire lives having yearly skin prick tests!

Anyway she requested blood tests, about which Little S was rather nervous and tearful, hardly surprisingly as she’s previously had a difficult experience with a cannula involving lots of blood and bruises! I have to say that I was rather shocked by her response. She offered no compassion, despite being a paediatric doctor and said it was up to us if we had bloods taken, but if we did’t she’d write down that we refused her advice. I was dumbfounded, should a children’s doctor not have some understanding over the anxiety involved? Anyway, we did the bloods and Little S fainted as she stood up afterwards – it certainly was an eventful day.

Well the food challenge itself was the other week and in short: both girls failed. It was upsetting and a setback, but not unexpected either. Since the challenge my thoughts have turned back to my blog and why I started it in the first place, why I felt the desire to help others in a similar position, and how hard I’ve found it myself. I’ve also had some wonderful recent (and past) comments from readers, really lovely thoughts that have made me feel that all my experiments and recipes are of use. I feel reinvigorated and excited about creating and blogging! Expect a flurry of innovation (I hope) to follow.

I really think I’ve found the holy grail for egg and dairy free biscuits with this recipe. They’re the perfect combination of crisp crunch, turning to ‘buttery’ melt and chew. You couldn’t ask for much more from a biscuit texture.

The combination of raspberry and chocolate is always one that works, it’s tried and tested. Do try using freeze-dried fruits in your baking, they add so much of the flavour and character without any ‘sogginess’ that fresh fruit can bring.

It really is essential to chill the dough before baking – an hour will do, at a push 15 minutes in the freezer will suffice. But if at all possible, chill for as long as possible for the very best textured biscuits.

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sable Biscuits

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes about 12-15

90-100g chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp chopped freeze dried raspberries

100g plain flour

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

75g dairyfree margarine

85g caster sugar

1/2 tsp good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt.
  2. Gently mix in the flour and bicarbonate and combine to form a soft dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces and freeze dried raspberries.
  3. Form into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill, you want it to be as cold as possible.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the cookie dough into 1cm slices and place well apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets so they are stiff enough to move and then transfer to a wire rack.

Summer and Ice Creams

ice cream drawing I don’t know about where you live, but in the UK as soon as the sun pops her head out everyone rushes to buy an ice cream; any day out is punctuated by stops in shops or at ice creams vans for a cone of fluffy white Mr Whippy, its like a national obsession. Even people whom you never see eating anything sweet suddenly hanker after ice creams in the sun (you note I say sun, it doesn’t even have to be warm, it could be almost minus figures but a glint of sunshine and there will be people queuing up for ice creams!) But that’s where it’s difficult for us, obviously no ice cream van will serve egg and dairy-free ice cream, so no chance of a cone like the majority of the population. You think we’d be fine with an ice lolly from the same kiosk, but no, 90% of ice lollies are may contain (usually milk, sometimes nuts) and we can’t be taking that risk on a day out at a remote beauty spot. So, sadly my daughters have learnt to put up with a cold drink when their friends are squealing with delight over their creamy ice creams. Only rarely do others think that maybe they (or their children) should abstain too, to not make my daughters feel different and out of place – they deserve and want their ice cream treat after all. We have found a few safe and reliable brands and are in absolute joy when those are for sale. I can’t begin to describe how happy we were when we found totally safe New Forest Ice Cream raspberry sorbet for sale at a local National Trust property – it was even in its own little tub with the spoon tucked into the lid – oh the joy! That was the first time little S had ever had the delight of her own little tub, and she’s 8 years old! Now I’m on the parent committee at school and I have to say they have always been outstanding in catering for my girls, but we have an event coming up with ice creams provided from an ice cream van. At the meeting I asked, if possible, we could make sure there was something available that was suitable for those on a restricted diet (and it’s not just my children). Well, I have to say I was most upset as I got totally shouted down, that it would be far too complicated to do that and I should buy my own and the ice cream van could keep them frozen for me. I was so upset, I don’t think it was too much to ask, and I’ve never requested anything before, but it just proved that people just don’t ‘get it’. My over riding aim is to make sure my girls (and others in a similar position) don’t have to be different, don’t have to have the ‘special’ food that no one else would want to eat, that they can have food which is as appealing, tasty and desirable as everyone else, or even better than! I know my children aren’t as important to others as they are to me, but I would hope it would be human kindness and compassion to ensure everyone is thought of and included….. I guess there is still a mountain to climb in terms of attitudes and perceptions, no doubt not helped by the current flurry of articles in the press about parents starving their children because they’ve ‘made up’ some food allergies due to their own needy behaviour. Sigh! I hope things are changing but I’m also sure we’ve just started on the path. I work in the legal profession and so my colleagues are all smart and well educated, but I’ve even encountered lack of consideration with them. Not with me, but a work colleague is so severely allergic to fish that even the smell of it will cause anaphylaxis. There have been warnings and notices requesting a no fish in certain areas, just to make sure it is safe for her, but still people are disparaging, going past the rules and insisting on eating and cooking fish ‘because its their right and they’re hungry’ even though they know they’re putting her at risk. It really makes me fearful for the future, when my girls have grown up and are making their own way in the world, will they too have to cope with such lack of thought and compassion too?   20150624-195413.jpg

Goody Good Stuff Taste Testers at work!

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We’re pretty excited to have been chosen as part of the Koalaty taste team for Goody Good Stuff, we thought we’d take the role seriously and host a proper taste testing session. The girls are delighted to be part of this experiment, and while it involves only occasionally taste testing some sweets, for the girls it’s so exciting and important to be able to take part in such an experience. With many sweets and treats that their friends enjoy out of bounds to them, it makes it even more important.

We received a pack of 2 new flavours to taste: Sour Cheery Cherries and Sour Gummy Bears. So with our table set with notepads and pens, glasses of water to clear our palettes, we started tasting. The 4 of us gave some pretty positive responses.

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We first tried the Sour Cheery Cherries and boy are they sour! Our responses varied between super sour and extremely sour! But we liked them like that – I’ve never eaten Haribo (as I’m veggie and avoid gelatine) but apparently they’re on a similar sour scale to Tangfastics. We found them much chewier than the usual big bags of Cheery Cherries, but that’s no bad thing – with a sweet this sour I think you really do need a bit of chew.

Next up were the Sour Gummy Bears – we were expecting a similar sourness, but in fact we all noted that they were more tangy than sour, a kind of sherbet tang which really suited the tropical orange and pineapple flavours. Again these had just the right amount of chew to give them enough ‘bite’ to carry off the tang.

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Following the suggested questions we had a little ‘brainstorm’ over future flavours (are we taking this too seriously?) – Sour Cola Breeze was a very popular idea, as were sour tropical fruits and summer peaches. Little S thought sour mangoes would be rather nice – to which we all replied ‘mmmm’ so it must have been a good idea!

So, all in all a resounding success for Goody Good Stuff Sours and we had such fun – the only question to come from the girls was: When can we do it again? (p.s. if any other freefrom brands need some serious product testing, get in touch!)

Paris and Disneyland with allergies

Well we’re back from a lovely but very busy weekend in Paris. It was a bit of a mission for just 4 days – basically 2 days travelling (driving and ferry), 1 day in Disneyland Paris and 1 day in Paris. We had a lovely time, with no allergy-related incidents, but it did highlight some of the difficulties of travelling with food allergies.

On the ferry there was no option for food for the girls other than crisps or apples. The info on board kindly mentioned that they were happy to give the ingredients for all dishes sold on board, but they couldn’t guarantee than any dish didn’t include other ingredients than those listed. Covering their backs basically. Since a cross-channel ferry isn’t really the best place to take risks – this means all food is out of bounds, even usually safe basics like baked beans and toast.

I had obviously packed plenty of food for the trip and the rest of the weekend, including a cinnamon swirl cake, homemade cookies, dairy-free spread, soya-cheese, dairy-free chocolate spread… If you are catering for allergies and travelling you just have to be prepared. For the rest of the journey, again any stops in service stations etc can only really provide crisps (all packs need to be thoroughly checked as lots contain milk) and sweets. Healthy huh!!

We didn’t get time to visit a large supermarket this time, but they do, on the whole, have a great range of soya products – milks, a fantastic range of yogurts and even soya-steaks. However, you must be cautious of some other products – pasta and hummus often contain egg, there is no chance of dairy/egg free biscuits and even tomato ketchup brands often contain milk. However, fresh baguettes are fine – no egg, milk, nuts or sesame – yippee! There are certainly worse things to live off for a few days, than fine French baguettes 🙂

We were self-catering (almost a necessity for us) and managed to get by with taking lots of food, unexciting meals and small grocery stores and bakeries. I’m not sure how we’d manage in a hotel with no cooking facilities!

We again ate a picnic at Disneyland Paris, but having done prior research I was mightily impressed by the allergen-free food available. As I say, we didn’t eat any so I can’t comment on price or quality – but the information suggests there are 3 starters, 4 main courses and 3 puddings which are guaranteed free of the top 25 allergens. Most impressive – well done Disney!

On our day in Paris we ate yet another picnic which was certainly the sensible and cheaper option. We could have eaten out, but for the (non-veggie) girls this would have been ham/steak served with chips and no veg (you never seem to get vegetables served in France, despite seeing the most beautiful ones in markets). Food was fine for big S as she loves chips, but little S won’t eat them and also isn’t very keen on big quantities of meat – so she would have basically only eaten some of the baguette which is served with any meal. Not exactly value for money!

There are wonderful and extremely tempting snacks for sale in France (crepes, patisserie, viennoiserie, gorgeous ice cream, waffles, pizzas, sandwiches), but none are dairy and egg-free. Again our only options are crisps, chips, sweets if we are on the go – absolutely nothing healthy or even vaguely nutritious.

So what am I saying? Well, certainly not ‘don’t go’ – travel is such an enriching thing and especially so for those who may feel fearful of new things. Besides, Paris is so stunning and cool – how could you not want to go? I guess my biggest bit of advice is to be prepared, research in advance, make sure you can get your point across (we’re lucky because D is half French and most French people would be surprised that English is his most natural language, so no situation is a problem) and take lots of suitable and nutritious snacks to keep you going. Most of all, enjoy!

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Blog to watch on Circle of Moms!

Having made a rather late attempt to join the top 25 vegetarian and vegan bloggers on Circle of Moms, I didn’t get very high up the list! But I’m very proud to announce that I’ve been chosen as a blog to watch 🙂

Vegan & Vegetarian Blogs to Watch - 2013

Lucy’s Friendly Foods facebook page…

… now exists! Only just getting it going today, but should any of my lovely blog followers want to find me there, here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucys-Friendly-Foods/405126389564449?fref=ts

Or you can search for Lucy’s Friendly Foods on facebook.

I set it up and then thought “oh yeah, I’ve got to get people over there now”. Hence this post. Feels a bit weird writing a post that doesn’t have a recipe in. Maybe I should have thrown one in at the end !  🙂

I will of course keep blogging first and foremost. Any facebook advice most welcome.

Lucy x