Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Have yourself a Dairy Free Easter Egg Hunt!!

Once a week, 'Baby' and I go to a toddler group, at which I volunteer. There are definite benefits to being a volunteer at your child's toddler group - you get to have input on important things like celebrations, food... and chocolate!

So the other week, with Easter approaching, when we made Easter nests, we made them dairy free (see here, in case you missed the recipe)

Today we're having an Easter egg hunt, and it's going to be 'Baby' proofed - that goes without saying!

So how do we 'Baby' proof it?

Last year 'Baby' was invited to her first Easter egg hunt. In anticipation of such a happening, I purchased some small chocolate eggs online in advance. I also bought some plastic Easter egg hunt eggs. We practiced hiding them around the house for her to find, so she'd know what to do. She loved it! Even with nothing inside the eggs, she thought it was a great game!

Well, this year, not wanting her to come into contact with chocolate made with dairy, or to feel different by having to search for eggs that weren't noticeably different from everyone else's, I decided to reuse the plastic eggs (pictured above) and add a few more. You can buy them from most shops at the moment. Asda and Poundland have packs for £1. These ones are from Poundland.

I had seen some packs of flat cardboard egg tokens around, which are meant for Easter egg hunts. They were attractive, but I thought it would be nicer if the children had something to hold in their hands that was still egg-shaped. 

The next job was to make baskets in which to collect them, so the children could also have fun doing some craft. It needed to be quick and easy - 'cos some little ones have almost no attention span!!

You can, of course, skip making the baskets and buy your own, either plastic, or in packs at Poundland for just £1, but I think children get more fun out of making their own!!

I searched online for ideas and thought these were fab:

Allergy Adventures

Carrot Pockets

Recycled plastic bottles

However, they weren't big enough for what I wanted to do, although they would be great for smaller prizes, such as Haribo.

Then I found these, by 'Jellyfish'. They are the perfect size for holding a couple of plastic eggs.

Here's 'Baby's' prototype: 

'Baby's' basket

I used a gold-coloured paper plate, left over from our angel craft we did at Christmas. The gold inside reflects the colour of the shredded paper beautifully. Also because they are metallic, they are a little bit stronger, so able to hold more.

I pre-cut the paper plate and stapled it, before giving 'Baby' the chance to decorate it with a few stickers and some ribbon.

The shredded paper and decorative stickers can be bought from places like The Works, Poundland and Hobbycraft. Along with the ribbon around the side (covers the staples).

'scuse the fake grass!

SO 'Baby' is now all ready to go!

And her reward? Well the others will get a Cadbury's Cream Egg, but of course she can't have those. I did buy some chocolate half eggs from Plamil. I was going to put two halves together, to make one whole egg and wrap them together in some foil, but 'Baby' being 'Baby', she requested some pink wrapped eggs! I've no idea where to get pink foil squares, do you?

BUT, these these dairy, gluten, soya, egg and nut free chocolate mini eggs, which I bought a few weeks ago from D and D Chocolates, will do the job nicely!! 

I'm not great at forward planning, but I rather suspected 'Baby' might need an alternative. These are the ones she had last year. She loved them, so I bought them well in advance!

Allergy free Easter eggs

Now if you're planning an Easter egg hunt, you won't have time to send off for these, but you could fill the plastic eggs with a small packet of dairy free buttons, or maybe some small packets of Haribo sweets, which have been designed especially for Easter.

Alternatively, you could swap the plastic eggs for other Easter treats, such as the Celtic Choices bunny (Sainsbury's or Holland and Barrett), or the Moo Free bunny (Waitrose). For more information, about these and other dairy free Easter treats, see our Great Big Dairy Free Easter Egg Hunt (2014) post for further details. 

Either way, hope you and your little ones have a cracking dairy free Easter :)

Related posts: 

Baking with 'Baby' - Dairy Free, Gluten Free Easter Nests

The Great Big Dairy Free Easter Egg Hunt 2014

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Dairy Free Baby's Party Survival Plan

'Baby' has had a party invite. WOO...hoo...

Just like any parent, I love it when 'Baby' makes friends and enjoys her social life. I love it when she gets an invite to a party - not that we've had that many, as we've moved around a few times in her short life and had to keep making new friends.

But, then, having accepted the invitation, one's thoughts inevitably turn to food. Because there it is - every social gathering includes food of some description. And it's inevitable that most of it will contain milk in some form.

Ho hum! 

What to do?

But, it's not just the food is it?

Birthday parties have definitely changed since I was little!

'Baby' has a party to attend tomorrow and it involves dressing-up - you know fancy dress, not party dress!

However, she is going to be all good to go, because since the last birthday party, where I missed the dress code ('cos it was on the back of the invite), I have learned my lesson. 

'Baby' was very good at the time, she really got stuck in, but it soon became apparent AFTER the party, that she had been all too aware that she was different. Not because of her allergy to milk, BUT because she was not dressed up as a princess like the majority of the rest of the party goers. She was wearing an absolutely beautiful dress that her grandma bought for her birthday, BUT it was NOT enough. In fact, I think there would have been a crisis even if she HAD been wearing her own princess dress, because... it wasn't a Rapunzel dress - complete with a long blonde plait that could be tossed artfully over one shoulder.

'Baby' surmised that had she been wearing one, the birthday girl (whom she hardly even knows - she was invited because I know the girl's mum from way back) would have wanted to play with her!! GROAN *slaps forehead, vows NEVER to let her stand out in this way EVER again*!!

It's hard enough (I think) that she stands out as 'The-Girl-With-The-Allergy (because her Mummy brings a packed lunch box), the last thing I want is for her to feel any more different from the others than she already does. 

I don't want her to become a VICTIM.

The good news is that this factored so highly that the allergy thing didn't seem bother (phew) 'Baby'... apart form not being able to have some of the 'princessy' birthday cake, which she admired longlingly!! *GROAN, GROAN, GROAN*

The reason it didn't bother her, I think, is partly because she is so used to going places and eating differently to everyone else (that's her 'normal'), and partly because she knows Mummy has eating restrictions too  - which normalises it for her, even more so. BUT also, I have made sure that she never has to miss out... well not too much anyway.

The Format

This is how it goes:

We receive an invitation. Delight for her, slight panic for me.

Well, I really don't expect people to try and provide food that's suitable. Experience has taught me that people don't always get it and it can cause them extra stress, which may mean that people might not invite us again - especially when we're just getting to know them!

My first course of action is to call the host and discuss the food situation. I try to keep it light and suggest bringing my own food as soon as possible. I know that before 'Baby' was on the scene, I would not have had the slightest clue (as to what to provide for someone else in this situation), so I don't expect them to, and (to be quite honest), I would prefer to supply 'Baby's' food anyway - in case some one inadvertently makes a mistake. If I prepare it, I know what's in it!!

I know, I know. It would be nice in an ideal world if I could just rock up like everyone else, BUT I know we went through a steep learning curve when we had 'Baby'. We're still learning, even though we've been doing this thing for a few years now. Planning a party is stressful enough as it is, for the host, without factoring in loads of other stuff, so, in the interests of being invited back again, I am prepared to go the extra, extra mile. I don't want to run the risk of my 'Allergy Kid' missing out on future invites. 

Usually, people are quite grateful when I suggest I can bring things. If they can tell me what they're likely to be serving, then I try to replicate (as near as I can) what the other children will be having. If they're a bit unclear, then a bit of innovation is in order! 

If, however, (like my sister) the host thinks they can provide the food, I go along with it, but hide stuff in my bag (just in case)! 

My sister was most offended when I asked if I needed to bring stuff, but we turned up and guess what? All the bread was buttered with regular Flora margarine - so... not dairy free, then! None of the crisps were dairy free either. 

Good job I brought 'Baby's' 'Party Survival Pack', then, wasn't it?!

Baby's Party Survival Pack

If I can sensibly more or less match whatever is being provided I will, but this can't always be done. I have been known to go a bit over the top - just to make 'Baby' feel like she's better off, but this has backfired on me - with other kids asking me for some of what 'Baby's' having!! Here's what's usually in it:

1. Sandwiches: Tuna and mayonnaise - Baby's' favourite. No point packing anything else, if I want her to eat something sensible! Hellman's Original Mayonnaise is dairy free but don't try the Light version, as that's made with cream powder!

Party sandwiches should be cut small, IMHO

2. Savory bits: Mini bread sticks - Just another savoury 'filler'. She may or may not eat them.

3. Crisps: Original Pom Bears - all kids love these! Watch out here for other kids wanting them too! Organix tomato flavoured corn snacks might be another option.

4. Biscuits: Kelkin Jaffa cakes or Lovemore's O'Choccos (Oreos) - These are dairy free as well as gluten free. I only take a couple, she may not eat them, but if she wants them they're there! Normal Oreos aren't made with milk, but 'Baby' seems to react, so these Lovemore ones work well and she loves them. Lovemore also make 'Chocolate Bourbons' and 'Jammy Wheels'. Before she started reacting to Fox's Party Rings, I used to take them (they aren't made with milk either, but they 'may contain') so we don't have them anymore. 

5. Cake: We take homemade cupcakes - Hale and Hearty Chocolate Muffins, smothered in Betty Crocker Buttercream Style Chocolate Icing, and blinged up with Dr Oetker decorations. They're a winner every time!! 

Our faves

6. Sweets: Haribo mini packs, Dairy Free Chocolate Buttons/Coins etc. just in case sweets are offered as prizes, or are poked into party bags - nothing is left to chance!

Party essentials!

7. Wipes: I also bring our usual packs of wipes - not necessary for the table, as that may well be covered with a party tablecloth (although not always - depends on the venue), but for 'Baby's' hands. Hanging out with other tots who drink milk and stick hands/toys etc. in their mouths is a potential source of unwitting exposure to milk proteins (as far as I'm concerned) so before she eats, 'Baby's' hands are subjected to a quick scrub. I've no idea if it really helps or not, but it just kind of eases my mind somewhat!


After it's all over. We go outside, get in the car. Frisk the party bag (just in case). Go home, wash her hands carefully (just in case). Relax in the safety of our own home!!


Oh, and I always offer to stay and help! And I do. It means I can keep a safe eye on 'Baby' without hovering too much over her. I actually enjoy this bit, as it can be very sociable and be a great way of cementing relationships with other people, anyway.

Of course all this is extra work for me... and I'm guessing you as well. We all go that extra mile willingly... because we love our kids and do not want them to miss out.

Now I may have missed things out that you have thought of. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below - the more the merrier!

And let's party on! Dairy free, of course!! :)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dairy Free Chocolate bars or... the blog post that isn't!

This is the blog post that isn't!

'How so?' you may well ask. 

Well, read on, and you will see!

This post was going to be about a range of choccy bars, by Go Max

When I spotted them in my local health food shop, I thought that all my chocolatey dreams had come true! Only the other day I was agonizing on Twitter about my need for the chocolate bars I had enjoyed in my previous life (you know - the one where I could consume gluten and dairy freely... and to my heart's content).

The chocolate bars I spotted were dairy free (Vegan, in fact) and gluten free as well. 

Joy! Joy! Joy!

I wasted no time in filling my sticky little mitts and making my way to the counter - despite noting that each one cost £1.99!! (Well, you'd never dream of paying that for a Snickers or Mars Bar, would you?? Well... not this year anyway - although, one day, no doubt they WILL cost that much, as my Dad can remember when Mars Bars were just 3p each!!)

I was so excited, when I realised that one was like a Snickers, one like a Milky Way etc. etc. that I completely forgot to read the rest of the label... until I was about to get my money out. Then it hit me - I hadn't checked for soya! 

All I was expecting/hoping to see was 'soya lecithin' - I can cope with that. However, what I actually saw was 'soya protein' on each and every packet. NO!! NO!! NO!!

If I could have lain on the floor and threshed and wailed like a two year old, I would have. 

I was going to abandon this post, until I thought, 'Hang on! I can't have these, but others might benefit.'

So here we are and here is a selection of dairy free choccy bars that you might like to try, if you've got that craving...

Now, if the Go Max bars are a little bit pricey for you, there is a somewhat cheaper range of chocolate bars, by Organica. You can find these by going online to the Vegan Store, Alternative Stores or similar. Organica's range is more limited, but if you can cope with dark chocolate, you can get a 'Bounty' style bar, a nougat bar (my personal fave) and a marzipan bar. At £1 each, they're half the price of the other bars, by Go Max.

Here's one of the Organica bars: 

Mmm! Organica's Nougat

I used to really like these... until I realised I was reacting to them. 

Once I'd looked at the ingredients, realisation hit - they contain soya powder (*sighs* *sobs quietly inside*). I hadn't read the ingredients' label properly! I look for 'gluten free', I look for 'dairy free,' but often neglect to look for soya!

The other thing I always neglect to look out for (strange as it may seem) is milk - on Vegan products anyway. Despite having been caught out several times before, I always think Vegan products should be completely milk free. However, Vego, caught me out yet again!

It's a hazelnut chocolate bar that I came across at Alternative Stores. It states that it's Vegan and gluten free! 'BONUS!' I thought, when it caught my eye. I bought one 'cos I really fancied eating some nutty chocolate. It was quite pricey (£3.50), but HUGE (150g) and tasted yummy (more 'milky' than some dairy free chocolates)! 

Just as I was in the middle of munching some, I idly examined the packet and suddenly spotted 'may contain milk'! *sighs yet again*. 'From now on,' I thought, 'I'll have to stick to Moo Free Honeycomb bars - at least I know where I am with them!'

Oh, and if you want those other Go Max bars, you can get those at Vegan Stores too :)

Posts with a similar theme:

Monday, 17 March 2014

Make Your Own - Dairy Free Cheese!!

If you are on Twitter (we are @dairyfree), you may or may not have come across @ChubbaNia. For those of you who don't know, Nia is a veritable mine of free from baking information. She's vegan and also allergic/intolerant to heaps of other stuff, including many grains, nuts, legumes etc. 

Until quite recently Nia was a free from baker - baking cakes to send off to whomsoever placed an order, but times are hard and she has recently had to give this up. I keep nagging her to start her own blog, via which she could share her expertise with the rest of us, and I'm still hoping she will!

Recently, Nia recently very kindly agreed to share a recipe for dairy free ice cream on our Face Book page and has now kindly agreed to share her method of making dairy free cheese... here! On our blog! 

We were all good to go, just the other week, but... the recipe has been adapted from another blog called Sweet Roots (which is definitely worth a look), so we were waiting for permission to share the recipe. Mary, the author of the blog has very kindly agreed and we're so grateful.

The original recipe uses an ingredient not readily available in the UK and the quantities were in American measurements, so Nia had a bit of experimenting to do.

BUT, here it is!

480 ml cream (I used oat, but you can use coconut, soya, almond - whichever dairy free cream suits you best)
70 ml milk (I used oat, again use whichever you would like)
3 tbsp agar flakes (available from Waitrose)
1 squeeze of lemon juice or 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp cornflour or tapioca flour
24g nutritional yeast (It’s inactive, it doesn't froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability, usually with added vitamin B12)*

Whisk together 480 ml cream and 40 ml milk in a large pot and sprinkle over 3 tbsp of agar flakes. 

Combine the ingredients in a bowl

Place on a medium heat for 3 minutes without stirring then bring to a boil, and stir continuously without it over boiling for 5 minutes. 

Take off the heat and add 2 tsp of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice or the rice vinegar and whisk together. 

Get your whisk on!

In a small bowl mix together the remaining milk and 4 tbsp cornflour until a paste forms. 

Return back to a medium heat and stir in 24g of nutritional yeast then stir in the cornflour mixture. Cook for about 10 minutes until it comes to a boil (mine looked terrible at this point). 

Lumpy and bumpy? Panic ye not!
I passed mine through a sieve after to ensure it was extra smooth. Then pour into a greased container or ramekin dishes. Leave to stand for a few minutes until cool then place in the fridge overnight. 

Well it certainly LOOKS like cheese!

This cheese will keep in the fridge for about a week, it melts and slices.

And if you'd like a 'posh' cheese you could add cranberries or walnuts!!

(Adapted from a Sweet Roots recipe)

Now, I think this all looks a lot easier than I was expecting, but if that seems all a bit complicated for you, and you'd just like to be able to buy your dairy free cheese, here are some dairy free options for you to consider:

New cheese on the block - meet Mozzarisella

An Alternative to Cheese...

Friday, 14 March 2014

Dairy free, gluten free pastries - Pure Genius?

If you are 'just' dairy free and not gluten free as well, you may not be interested in this post. After all, you can have Jus Roll* puff pastry, croissant etc. as they are dairy free. Wow! I've been so jealous of you! 

If you are 'just' gluten free, I've been so envious of you - ever since Genius first produced their gluten free croissants. Sigh!

When I first heard about Genius NEW and IMPROVED croissants, my heart leapt!! To find that there were other pastry products that were also dairy and gluten free, I was ecstatic!!

When I found them in Tesco, my shopping basket was soon filled to the brim!

The Croissants

Okay, they were somewhat smaller than The Hub's from Waitrose and more expensive, BUT they were croissants that I could eat and they crumbed just the same as the real deal. Although I don't think you can't exactly replace the buttery taste of a normal croissant, I did enjoy eating them smeared with strawberry jam.

The Croissant

The Chocolate Chip Brioche

Sainsbury's have had something similar for a while already, but they are rather small and a bit chewy. Genius's, tasted a lot more like the real deal. Although The Hub wasn't that sold on them, I was pretty happy - especially once they'd been warmed up.

So all that was missing from my taste experience was the...

Pain au Chocolat

As soon as it arrived in Tesco, I took it home. These were much more comparable in size to The Hub's 'normal' ones. Glad I didn't emblazon it all over Twitter though! Although I LOVED the taste, texture etc. etc. and so did 'Baby.'

'Huzzah!' thought I, 'Spot on! This really is genius!' I was getting all ready to eulogise over the product.'

The Pain au Chocolat

Until tonight...

'Eagle Eyes' Nia (as I shall call her from now on - @ChubbaNia on Twitter) asked Genius some questions about their new products and discovered that the Pain au Chocolat were not technically dairy free.

The thing is, there is one difference between the packaging of the Pain au Chocolat and the Croissant. The Croissant specifically states that it is 'dairy free'. This is missing from the Pain au Chocolat. Now, although I noted this when I bought the product, there was nothing else on the label to indicate why this should be. Nothing in the ingredients list, no milk listed as an allergen, no 'may contain milk'. SO, although I was puzzled by the lack of 'dairy free' I couldn't see any reason why.

The Packaging

I couldn't see anything listed on the website either:

Screenshot taken by Eagle Eyes' Nia  herself.

Now I don't know about you, but if there is nothing in the ingredient's list, or the allergen box, or listed as a 'may contain,' I tend to assume that a product IS safe.

It was The Hub who pointed out that the Pain au Chocolat did not include a sub-list of chocolate ingredients, whereas the Chocolate Chip Brioche* did! 

AH-HA! Bingo!

Now, for those of you who are okay with 'may contain milk,' there is probably no need to worry. Genius say that the reason they cannot label the Pain au Chocolat 'dairy free' (as they have done with the croissants) is because although the chocolate that has been used has not been made with dairy, it is made in a facility that cannot guarantee that it is 100% dairy free.


So now I'm wondering whether the same chocolate was also used in the brioche. And also whether the chocolate contains soya - another major allergen that is also not listed but is usually an ingredient used in the production of chocolate. I've asked, but am still waiting for a reply - I'm guessing that's because it's the weekend and some research will be necessary. However, having brought people's attention to these products via Face Book and Twitter, I wouldn't want anyone (who needed to know) to be left in the dark.

For us it's not life threatening - 'Baby' is non-Ige. It's a delayed reaction. That means reactions to very slight traces of milk may result in painful tummy aches and more frequent pooey episodes. These are loose and will burn her skin if it remains in contact with the poo. That's what we had yesterday and a bit more today. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, 'Baby' is sensitive to traces. If a product says 'may contain' we avoid it. It generally does, it would seem.

Now, I can't be 100% certain that 'Baby's' tummy aches and poo was caused by Genius Pain au Chocolat, so that's not what I'm saying. However, I must admit I was puzzled and racking my brains, 'cos I couldn't think what could be causing her body to respond in this way. As far as I knew, I had given her nothing 'wrong'.

If 'Eagle Eyes' Nia hadn't warned me, I'd still be in the dark - none the wiser of the potential risk. 

I must admit to being concerned that I'm supposed to work out that something isn't specifically dairy free, just because the wording 'dairy free' is not on the packet.

I really don't think Genius meant to be misleading about the dairy.

The Food Standards Agency state:

Manufacturers often use phrases such as 'may contain' to show that there could be small amounts of an allergen for example milk, egg, nuts etc. in a food product because it has entered the product accidentally during the production process.
It's not a legal requirement to say on the label that a food might accidently contain small amounts of an allergen, but many manufacturers label their products in this way to warn their customers of this risk.
There is concern that 'may contain' labelling is used too much, sometimes when it isn't really necessary. This could undermine valid warnings on products and restrict people's choice unnecessarily.
We recognise that advisory labelling is essential for people with food allergies, and that manufacturers are striving to provide helpful information. As a result, we have been working to reduce the unnecessary use of 'may contain' labelling and to provide clear advice to the public on why these labelling terms are used and what they mean.
So Genius are not required by law to mention 'may contain milk' and neither will they be in December, when labelling is meant to be standardised. And this is the problem with the current labelling situation in the UK. Unless packaging specifically states otherwise we can't be sure and should check with the manufacturers, if at all concerned.

However, I am concerned about the lack of sub-labelling of the chocolate in the Pain au Chocolat. If soya lecithin has been used as an ingredient in the production of this chocolate, I would have thought that it should be reflected in the allergy advice on the packet. And I would expect a major free from company like Genius to get this right. 

I'm concerned because although I'm intolerant to soya, I'm okay with the lecithin, but I know that others are NOT...

I still have a spare packet of Genius Pain au Chocolat in the cupboard, waiting to be eaten. So now I'm in a quandary. Not sure whether to eat them or not. I'll leave it to you to decide what you must do.

I'm still eating the croissant though!

Genius have now confirmed the presence of soya lecithin within the Pain au Chocolat. It is now listed on their website (see hereand they are going to update their packaging also. They have also added a statement to say that they cannot guarantee that the Pain au Chocolat are milk free. 

On one hand, this is good news, as we now have some clarity BUT they have yet to confirm whether the chocolate chips in the *brioche are made with the same chocolate. I'm assuming that a manufacturer might use the same source of chocolate for both items. I want to establish clearly, that they're not the same 'may contain' chocolate drops as those used in the Pain au Chocolat. Because if so, the the brioche should not be labelled 'dairy free' as they are currently.

I first asked on Friday night. Since then, I have been asking and asking for answers and getting nowhere! This shocks me as they are a free from company with a HUGE profile and I was under the impression that their founder (Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne) founded this company on the back of her son's allergies, so you'd think they'd really try to get things right!

I'm beginning to wonder whether they are dragging their feet on purpose, in the hope I'll go away! It might seem, to someone who really doesn't know what the heck is going on, that they have something to hide!!

Also, by now, I would have expected to find product recall notices going out - I've seen these for other products containing undeclared allergens, however, in this case it hasn't happened at all. Maybe Genius are worried about the cost involved in recalling products, I'd understand that, except for the fact that this is potentially people's lives they're messing with! This strikes me as being VERY irresponsible!

New Update (21/03/14): 
It is reassuring to note that Genius have now contacted me with this message. They have also informed me that the chocolate in the Brioche is different from the chocolate in the Pain au Chocolat, therefore we can all be assured that the Brioche is dairy free, as stated on the packet. (PHEW!) Now, where's that Chocolate Brioche??

* Just so you know, not all Jus Roll products are dairy free so check all packets. And, what's more, they are not labelled as 'dairy free'. You have been warned!  :)

Further Reading:

'May Contain' Labelling - The Consumer's Perspective

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Baking with 'Baby' - Dairy Free, Gluten Free Easter Nests

I don't know about you, but I rather suspect that if I hadn't had 'Baby's' allergy thrust upon me, I probably wouldn't bother much with baking unless I absolutely HAD to. I'd just buy it from the shop, like other mums. Yep! I'm lazy like that!

The other day, I was in a coffee shop, queuing up to order my black coffee, when 'Baby' spotted something in their cake cabinet. I had spotted them too, but was studiously ignoring them and hoping she wouldn't notice. But there it was. She had. Bah!

Easter nests.

Here's ours!

BUT once again, I had to say, 'Sorry, darling, you can't have those - they've got milk in and will make your tummy sore. But we can make some at home, if you like.' 

If 'Baby' was disappointed, she didn't make a fuss about it - she seemed happy with that, because she knows that Mummy will make it happen. 

'Happily,' I thought to myself, 'they're fabulously easy to make.' And so they are. Absolutely NO baking actually involved, at all! Except... I knew that the nests themselves could easily be made with dairy free chocolate etc. but what about the mini chocolate eggs?

Now as it happens, I've heard that there was a company called 'Whizzers' that used to make Vegan (therefore dairy free) mini chocolate eggs, but sadly, these no longer seem to be available anywhere.

The only thing I could think of was the mini jelly bean type eggs that I found in Morrison's last Easter. 

These (from Morrison's last year) would be perfect!

Problem is, where we live now, there are no Morrison's near by and no sign of anything similar in the other supermarkets. Bother!!

Well, 'Necessity is the mother of invention and all that...' I was beginning to consider the suitability of using some jelly beans (which I thought may be bit a small), when I discovered these in Poundland! *

These are near enough egg shaped!


'No speckles,' thought I, 'but 'Baby' will be happy with that. However...

'What about the speckles?' she asked. Grrrrr!! 'Flippin' observant is 'Baby!' Alert,' is how the pediatrician who examined her at five days old described her. Too alert for her own good, sometimes!! Fortunately, I had an idea, so we set to work.

The actual Easter nest recipe we used is this one, by Topmarks. It gets top marks from me, for clarity of instructions etc. but I think I would suggest melting your 'butter' substitute, before adding the rest of the ingredients, just to give the pan a greasy coating, before all that sticky stuff goes in!

We substituted sunflower Pure for the butter, Sainsbury's gluten free cornflakes for the normal cornflakes (you could, in fact, use Rice Krispies or similar, instead), and, just because I love the flavour of Lyle's Butterscotch syrup, we used that instead of golden syrup. 

For the chocolate, you could probably use any dairy free chocolate. I often use a dark chocolate drops from Hotel Chocolat or a Kinnerton dairy free chocolate bar, and break it up. On this occasion but we used Plamil's dairy free, chocolate drops (made without nuts, made with sunflower lecithin, but 'may contain soya'). However, not wanting to make as many as ten Easter nests (I thought that was too many for our needs), we used 113g (4oz.) of chocolate drops and halved everything else.

So 'Baby' put out the paper cases...

You can find lots of Easter-themed paper cup cases in the shops at the mo - including in Poundland!

I measured the ingredients, 'Baby' put them in the saucepan and then she 'supervised' whilst I stirred them over a low heat. 

She also got to lick the syrup spoon, help spoon the gooey mixture into the cup cases and paint the speckles on the 'eggs'.

Oh yes! the speckles! If it hadn't been for the fact that 'Baby' wanted to lick the saucepan and get involved, I would probably have used some of the melted chocolate left around the pan we had used. Happily, I had some black icing decoration squirty stuff (which I watered down) and an icing paint brush in the cupboard!! And, as it happened, 'Baby' thought that painting the speckles on the 'eggs' was great fun!!

So, who knew that painting speckles would prove to be such a hit?

'Baby' then insisted on adding these: 

No, 'Less is more,' with 'Baby'!

*Ingredients for Maomi Pinballs:
Sugar; Glucose Syrup; Vegetable Oil; Sorbitol Syrup; Citric Acid; Gelling Agent (Gelatine); Flavourings; Fruit & Plant Concentrates (Lemon, Safflower, Spirulina, Blackcurrant, Carrot, Radish, Apple); Liquorice Extract; Release Agent: Talc; Invert Sugar Syrup.

If you can't get hold of any mini eggs or of the sweets that we found, or if they are not suitable for you, then my suggestion would be to make some peppermint cream or fondant eggs, colour them with food colouring and paint them just as we did, with tiny speckles. If you would like a vegan peppermint cream recipe, then I would suggest trying this one, by Lucy's Friendly Foods. If you don't like peppermint, why not try flavouring them with orange instead?!

Update: We have since tried making some more nests with orange creams - which we moulded into eggs and coloured with food colouring, and it worked a treat! The flavour of the creams was subtler and worked much better, than using fruity sweets, but it did require preparation the day before, so if you're in a hurry the sweets would be best!

More baking adventures, can be found on this page, by following the links.

If you are looking for dairy free Easter eggs, try this blog post.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Travelling with the Dairy Free Baby

So, it'll soon be Easter. Have you sorted your hols for this year, yet? 

That's what we Brits do at this time of the year, isn't it? Plan our hols?? It's the only way we cope with the cold and the rain ;/

We've given it some thought, but as of yet, our plans are on hold. At some stage I know we may have to take to the skies to see a relative of The Hub's, who has not been at all well and this thought worries me! NOT quite so much as it would have done in the early days, but...

Before 'Baby' arrived, naive first time parents that we were, we booked a ski trip, for about the time that 'Baby' was four months old. We thought we'd have everything sussed by then. 


Of course we hadn't reckoned on milk allergy, tongue tie, breastfeeding problems, sleep deprivation, attachment problems etc. etc.

We had just sorted the tongue tie and the breastfeeding problems by the time we left for our skiing trip, but they were so recent that we still felt the need to take tins of hypoallergenic formula, expressing equipment, bottles etc. You can buy single use sterilised bottles now - wish I'd known that earlier! See hereThere was simply no way we would have got this all on the plane, so we decided to stage a two day road trip through France and meet our friends in the Alps!

Got your passport sorted? 'Baby' needed one, even at the age of four months

The people carrier that we had just bought, turned out to be only just big enough for everything we wanted to take - except The Hub's skis!! So they had to stay behind. 

And that was even though we stayed in a (half board) catered chalet!! 

Of course it ALL seemed very essential at the time!

Luckily that was before I had to go gluten free as well. Once that happened, we decided to holiday here in the UK, as although we've managed to hone our requirements when travelling, we've found it difficult to find flights that will cater for both a dairy and gluten free diet. It seems you can have one or the other, but rarely both! Add soya, cashews, and OAS into the mix, (just to mention a few of my other restrictions) and... things get even more tricky!

Usually, we stay at Center Parcs, where we can self-cater and where we have found that some of the restaurants onsite can cater for us. These posts here and here outline our experiences so far.

Since then, I've learned of Higher Lank Farm. Check out their amazing allergy page here and read about Alexa's experience of staying there, here.

However, with friends and rellies in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, America, Canada, US and Hong Kong we're having to think about travelling further afield and here's what I'm now thinking (with a few additions from mums who recently contributed to a post on our Face Book page):

1. Plan carefully:

Do your research. It can save you anxiety and stress when you get to the other side!
  • Find out which (if any) airlines can offer food that is suitable for you. Some might offer room for extra baggage, for formula/food etc. if you contact them in advance. You need to be aware of hand luggage restrictions at Ul airposts and possibly in the countries to which you are travelling. This Government guidance lays out what is/not allowed at UK airports. A letter from your Doctor may be necessary, to prove your requirements. Katheleen (one of our Face Book community) suggests:
If you call the airline in advance, you may be able to request a special meal. Still, I always bring food for my so just in case. Things that won't go bad, or food packed in a thermal lunch bag.

Alexa (whose child is anaphylactic) would go further, she advises: 

Always take your own safe food. Don't eat airline meals: Clean seats, tables with sterilising wipes...

Must admit, I've often cleaned high chairs and tables in cafes, with cleaning wipes (before seating 'Baby') myself!! Of course you worry that you might look OCD, BUT I'd rather be safe than sorry!!
  • Research hotels and restaurants (the EZ website is useful for US restaurants, in particular), in the towns in which you'd like to stay and also at your airports. Did you know, for example, that Leon restaurants now have an outlet at Heathrow Terminal Three? For those who don't know, they're a great chain (based in London) who have full embraced the idea of providing dairy and gluten free options on their menus. If you want to know more about them, then check out this post from our archives.
  • Research supermarkets/shops in/near the towns in which you'll be staying. The Hub has already been checking out what's available in supermarkets in Switzerland - Migros is online just like Tesco, Sainsbury's etc. are, here in the UK. You can translate the pages into Enghlish by using Google's translation option. It's not perfect, but better than nothing! 
  • Check that your travel insurance covers your health needs.

2. Pack carefully:

Obviously you have to be selective when you have baggage restrictions, but there's certain things you'll definitely need to take:

  • Allergy medication, whatever you use - antihistamine, epi pen etc. Check it's in date and take spares, if possible.
  • Translation cards - if you're travelling somewhere where English is not the first language and you are not fluent in the language that is spoken there. See this helpful post, for a few options.
  • Dairy free formula - if required for a very little one. Check it's in date and make sure you estimate your needs carefully. 
  • Smaller cartons of dairy free milk. You may only need a few for the journey or the first few days but I find the smaller ones are better, if you don't have somewhere to store larger cartons that you haven't finished. Of course, not all varieties of dairy free milk come in smaller cartons, in which case you may find the following information from Caroline helpful. She says:
I had a case of oat milk for our two boys. Infants get 10 kg, children with a seat get 20 kg + 1 ltr carton weighs approx 1 kg

Smaller cartons are best if you have no access to a fridge
  • Snacks/treats that you usually rely on back home. (I'd take some chocolate ;)) Lucy advises: 
Definitely take your own food -even if you order special food here's often a mix up and you won't get it (and your little one will  probably not like it!) 
We also take dairy free spread, snacks, milk and I often bake a cake etc. to take = full suitcases!! Depending on the shops where you're going we find that plain crisps are the only available option, so take things like biscuits that fill up tummies!

Anne Marie agrees: 

I ended up taking mini party rings, dairy free choc, crisp, soya yoghurt, fruit pots and her own food. They let me thru with it at the airport. Also in the case was extra stuff such as Weetabix for breakfast, puddings, crisps, sweets and treats

So does Alexa:

 Pack safe snacks & non perishable food in suitcase to tide you over for hol

Caroline too:

Take your own. We travelled to Mexico and there was noting our DF SF boys could eat... I called ahead and they supplied a vegan meal (with soya) .. I bought food at the airport too, Jamie Oliver hummus and veg sticks, rice cakes etc. glad I did

Please note, you need to check if this is OK with the country to which you're travelling - New Zealand for example do not allow you to take food/drink with you. 
  • For a quick and ready breakfast, you may want to something along the lines of Udi's new products, such as the Pop Tarts and Breakfast Bars, which we reviewed here. Again, I like these because they're individually packaged - so you could stuff them easily into your pocket or handbag.
  • It may also be advisable to pack a few ready meals, if you're uncertain that you'll be properly catered for at the other side. Those that can be kept at room temperature and don't have to be cooked obviously - although if you can get them warmed, they will probably taste nicer! Pouches such as those by Plum Baby and Ella's Kitchen are, of course, very transportable - better than heavy jars that could break. There are now also toddler meals, such as these. The great thing is, that if you're not used to buying baby food, most food manufacturers have search engines on their websites, these days, which will help you quickly sort out which are dairy free etc. For adults or larger small persons needing a ready meal, Ilumi may be just what you need. Their ready meals come free of the major allergens, but are only available online from their website.
  • If you're a dessert person, again think long life - Alpro, Wot no dairy? and Xotic all make a range of dairy free long life desserts. Or, most larger supermarkets stock individual long life jellies, usually near the custard and meringues.
New to the market

Or, there are the dessert shakes, that Tesco sell in the chillers of their larger store. These do not, in fact, require chilling! Now, I'm pretty sure that this list of advice isn't at all exhaustive, so if you have any further advice, I'd really appreciate it if you would leave a comment below. 

Many thanks and enjoy your holidays!! xx

See also:
Flying with a Food Allergy - Anaphylaxis Campaign
Allergy UK advice sheet