Trail Mix

 

I’ve always found the concept of ‘trail mix’ rather intriguing and tempting. It’s not something you come across often in the UK but I’ve read about it so many times that I really wanted to recreate a friendly version for the family to enjoy. The concept is a pick and mix type snack to delve into a long walk or day out.

Trail mix is usually a mix of cereal, dried fruit, often nuts and sometimes chocolate, all combining to make it a nice portable energy giver on long hikes. It sounds yummy but certainly not ideal for us with all those nuts. The photos I’ve seen often contain Smarties, and whilst some dairy-free versions do exist they have never been completely trace-free therefore not safe enough for us. But colourful chocolates make such a cheery addition to the dry mix that they needed representation so I’ve replaced them with homemade ‘Jazzies’ (chocolate drops coated in colourful sprinkles) and they generally do make the mix look a lot more tempting and fun. Rather than using dried cereal I’ve added salty pretzels to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and dried fruit. I’ve also added mini spiced cookies even more variety and added energy, and well, they look rather cute too.

For some reason, dried fruits are unpopular in this household; I don’t really know why as I really like them but the girls will avoid them at all costs. So this recipe included freeze-dried berries to please the troops, but raisins, dried mango or any other dried fruit would work just as well.

Mini Spiced Cookies

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

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Cream together the dairy-free spread, caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Sift in the cinnamon, ginger, salt, bicarb and plain flour and mix to a soft dough, adding the oat milk to make the mixing easier. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 4 and line a cookie sheet with parchment
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out. Cut out cute little shapes and place on the lined baking tray and cook for 6 minutesCool on a wire rack

Jazzies

These are simply melted dairy-free chocolate with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top! Nothing could be much easier 🙂

Cappuccino Coffee Cake

A coffee cake is certainly one of the absolute classics, and this cappuccino inspired coffee cake adds an elegant and grown up touch to any coffee morning. It’s also pretty good as a cheeky pud 😉

It’s been a funny old week for me. Little S, who is our energy-filled whirlwind, has been away on a residential trip. The centre seemed well prepared for allergies, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking handing over to an unknown party. She is also a home loving type and was really nervous about going away for a whole week, so the build up was long and painful, and probably not helped by the fact that I’m useless at goodbyes and end up crying (embarrassing!). So it’s definitely been a week to keep as busy and occupied as possible, so it would pass quickly. A perfect week for some baking experiments, and ones that may be more to Big S’s tastes!

I’ve had the idea of a coffee cake, surely one the absolute classics, on the back burner for a while. Previously it seemed odd to cook a coffee cake for young children, but now Big S has developed a taste for an occasional coffee. I used decaffeinated coffee and I really don’t think it made any difference to the flavour. I know that walnuts are a customary addition to a coffee cake, but mine is nut free (as you might expect!). If you wished to add walnuts, add a handful of chopped nuts to the cake batter and decorate the top with a few walnut halves.

Personally I’m a black coffee drinker, but cappuccinos or flat whites always look rather pretty and have provided the inspiration for this loaf cake. The sponge represents the coffee with a rich deep coffee flavour, and the icing is the creamy coffee scented top, all finished off with an obligatory dusting of cocoa.

Cappuccino Coffee cake

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

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

130ml dairy-free milk

20ml strong coffee

1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/Gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix together the oil, milk, coffee and lemon and set aside
  3. Combine the flour, salt, bicarb,  and sugar.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until well combined
  5. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the icing:

2 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Pure)

1 to 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp strong black coffee

1/2 tsp coffee essence (optional)

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the coffee, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Spread or pipe onto the cake.

Lime and Ginger Cheesecake

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Cheesecakes have always been one of my favourite puddings, and that remains the case since cooking dairy and egg-free. I’ve tried many, many truly awful recipes, but this ‘no bake’ recipe works an absolute treat.

Tofutti is the only dairy-free cream cheese that I rate, but this particular recipe can use any brand of vegan cream cheese to great effect. I find most dairy-free cream cheeses unpleasant and often rather pasty, but this recipe transforms even a disappointing ‘cheesy’ spread into a luxurious, zingy, creamy cheesecake. It’s luscious, cheesy, zesty and sings with flavour. A great way to end a rich or spicy meal. The combination of ginger and lime works really well and if you didn’t mention it to them, I’m fairly certain not many people would call it as a vegan cheesecake.

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Lime and Ginger Cheesecake 

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan) N.B. contains soya

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This recipe makes 1 small cheesecake (enough for 4 small portions or 2 large)

100g ginger biscuits, crushed

1 tbsp dairy-free spread, melted

5 tbsps soya cream cheese

2-3 tbsps soya yogurt

Juice and zest of 1 lime

2-3 tbsps icing sugar

  1. Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted spread. Press into the bottom of the pie tin, or into individual ramekins. Place in the fridge to set.
  2. Whisk together the other ingredients until they are smooth. Taste and add more lime juice or icing sugar according to taste.
  3. Pour onto the biscuit base, and level off the top.
  4. Leave to set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
  5. Remove the tin prior to serving and garnish the top with a little more zest.

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Strawberry Scones

The sun’s out and I feel inspired and buzzing with fresh ideas. There really isn’t anything like the end of Winter to make me feel ready to attack the spring and summer with gusto – it’s amazing what a bit of warmth and sunlight can do!

We had a lovely trip to see the sea of bluebells last weekend, which is a bit of a yearly tradition in my part of the country, which culminated with cool drinks in a National Trust cafe. All the other customers seemed to be tucking into cream teas (obviously it was drinks or nothing for us!), which got me thinking about making a batch of scones. Scones, with their association with cream teas and strawberry jam always seem rather summery to me, so perfect for my current vibe. So here is a cracking combination of scones and strawberries  so we can tuck into a cream tea at home.

I’d really recommend using freeze-dried berries in sweet recipes, as you get all the flavour and none of the ‘sog factor’, so there’s no need to adjust the indigents to factor in extra moisture.

 

Strawberry Scones

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

Makes about 20

450g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

75g dairy-free margarine

75g caster sugar

300 ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

1 tsp berry essence, if you have it

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries , roughly chopped

To top: 2 tbsp oat milk 2 tbsp granulated sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets.
  2. Rub the margarine into the flour, sugar and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
  3. Pour in the essence and dairy-free milk and very gently bring together to a soft dough. It’s very important not to work scone dough. Add the freeze dried berries.
  4. Gently pat out the dough until its about 1 inch thick. Using a 2inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place on the baking sheets Continue, gently bringing the dough back into a ball and cutting out, until all the dough has been used up.
  5. Brush the top of each with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with sugar Bake for about 20-25 minutes until starting to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Maple Syrup Flapjacks and the stress of being an ‘allergy family’

Flapjacks must be the ultimate energy giving treat, packed full of oats and sugar and easily transported, they’re definitely the bar to take when snacks will be hard to find, or pure energy is needed due to strenuous activity. I’ve tried many flapjacks recipes and believe me, there are a lot of bad ones out there which resemble sweet sawdust more than an indulgent treat. This recipe on the other hand, is knockout, resulting in such wonderful sweet gooey bars, you’ll definitely be reaching for another one!

If you follow me on FaceBook you may be aware of my recent additional stress from being an ‘allergy mum’. At age 14 we have finally agreed for Big S to go on her first foreign school trip. It has always felt like too much of a responsibility to hand to the staff before, but she’s growing up fast and we had to say yes sometime. Obviously when the trip was first advertised I had a long conversation with the lead teacher about Big S’s requirements. She’s only allergic to milk but they’re going to Northern France where dairy is used in lots of cooking. I was reassured that the hotel had been spoken to, she would safely be catered for, and arrangements could be made for her not to go into an environment where lots of milk could be present in the goats cheese making farm visit. We knew that nonetheless food would still be an challenge, but so far so good.

Then, it all went pear-shaped 😦

Last week we had the presentation about the trip. There was mention that on the final day the children will have to buy their own supper at the shopping centre, or on the ferry on the way home.  I started to feel a bit stressed, her command of French isn’t huge and while we can pack her off with ‘allergy cards’ to show, would she even understand the reply to be confident enough to eat the food? So many worries….

Then it got worse….. I spoke to the lead teacher and she said there was a problem. GULP! The hotel has refused to provide any food at all for Big S. To compensate, the school, has arranged for them to eat supper in a local restaurant which knows of the milk allergy and is happy to cater for her. BUT, she will not be provided with any breakfast or lunch for the entire trip, that’s 4 days! We’ve been given a slight refund and she can take her own snacks, or buy her own food in France. That’s all very well, but how can you take enough food for 4 days? We also know from experience that ready to eat food that is dairy-free is hard to find in France. She’s also a teenager who desperately doesn’t want to stand out as different. So much stress and worry on so many levels! We’re going to have to make plans, research and be extremely organised! I know she will survive (she’ll be very hungry) and still have a wonderful time, but it’s awful to think of sending my daughter to another country with little food provided and little ability to buy much there.

I’ve spoken to many people in the past few days as I’ve been so very stressed and rather tearful about the whole thing, and it’s made me realise that non-allergy families have no idea of the stress we live under all the time. My FaceBook community who ‘get it’ have been extremely supportive, understanding and helpful. Others, who don’t see the issues, much less so. It’s been suggested that i just send her with a few cereal bars and she’ll be fine. Yes, she’ll be fine, but how would they feel about sending their daughter to another country with only a few cereal bars? She can’t go and buy a bar of chocolate to keep herself going. She can’t join her friends in eating a McDonald’s hamburger or buying a crepe in the market when they get hungry. She’ll survive, but a cereal bar doesn’t quite cut it! I guess, as an allergy-mum and in writing this blog, creating safe-recipes etc. I’ve made it my priority to ensure my children are well catered for; it goes against everything I stand for to send her away to such unknown!

Anyway, I will send her with cereal bars (and much much more!), and some of these devilishly good flapjacks. Hopefully she’ll share them with her friends and they’ll provide a good hit of home-made energy and goodness!

Maple Syrup Flapjacks

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

makes about 24

200g dairy free margarine

200g demerara sugar

100g golden syrup

100g maple syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with foil
  2. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrups and salt
  3. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats and spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  6. Try not to eat too many!!

Dotty Cookies

Delicious syrup flavoured soft (or crunchy) cookies studded with colourful chocolate beans (a.k.a Smarties), these must surely be the most cheerful cookies around, and just perfect to celebrate the first signs of spring.

Is it just me, or has this winter been endless? I can’t even imagine not wearing a coat and sunshine seems to have been a rare occurrence for such a long time. Whilst I love the cosiness of Winter, I’m seriously craving a bit of light and heat, and seeing the leaves and blossom appear on the trees. Spring, we’re ready for you!

I’ve spent years trying to source ‘safe’ Smarties. Ages ago we could buy ‘Whizzers’ which were a variety of safe colourful chocolate beans and definitely filled the cheerful chocolate hole. Sadly they were discontinued and we’ve had no readily available alternative for a long long time. Sad days 😦

To my delight, I’ve recently come across two new varieties which are occasionally available in the UK. Chocolate No-No’s, made by No Whey Chocolates based in the US and Colourful Chocolate Beans made by Clarana in Germany. Chocolate No-No’s are my preference as they are top 8 free, whereas the Clarana beans are made in a factory which uses peanuts, milk, almonds and nuts and so poses a risk we’re not willing to take. They are the more authentic in taste and look so if you’re happy with a ‘may contain’ then they are probably the ones to opt for.

You may think it rather foolhardy to use two packs of these expensive and hard to source chocolate beans in a cookie recipe? Maybe, but i’ve wanted to make my own version of these colourful and full of fun cookies for such a long time, it seemed like a good use of this scare resourse. They remind me of the Spotty Cookies which always used to be sold in cafes and soft-play centres when my girls were tiny. I’d always see them admiring the pretty dotty cookies and feel sad that i had to hand over a boring box of raisins or some rice cakes instead. It may have been a wait but here is my Dotty Cookie recipe. The chocolate beans seem to remain slightly melted inside for a fair few hours which is a wonderful contrast to the crunchy sugar shell. These were gone in no time, so whilst it may have been a long wait, it was most definitely worth it!

If you don’t want to waste your smarties, these cookies work equally well with chocolate chips instead.

Dotty Cookies

(free-from milk, eggs, nuts, soya, sesame, vegetarian and vegan)

makes about 12

125g dairy-free margarine

80g caster sugar

3 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

180g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

approx. 100g chocolate beans [you’ll want 6 per cookie]

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/180 degrees Centigrade Fan Oven. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside
  2. Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the syrup and vanilla.
  3. Sift in the flour , bicarbonate, baking powder and salt. Mix to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll into balls the size of ping pongs and gently flatten onto the baking tray
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and press the smarties into the top of the cookies, 6 per cookie is ideal.
  7. Return to the oven for minutes. Cool briefly on the trays before transferring to a wire rack.
  8. For a crunchier cookie, change the cooking times to 12 minutes plus another 2 with the beans on.