Quick and easy lunch idea

For a quick and easy, tasty lunch, try grilling a block of Violife Mediterranean Style Block (a dairy free Vegan halloumi substitute).

Cut the block in half, season with salt and pepper and serve in a toasted pitta with hummus, falafel and a handful of mixed salad leaves. Yummers!

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What happens during an allergic reaction?

I was unlucky enough to have an allergic reaction yesterday. I have no idea what caused it. I ordered take away from the usual Indian restaurant and had the same dishes as usual. I realised something was wrong about five minutes after finishing my meal, which got me thinking…….

No two allergic reactions are ever the same, and they vary based on the severity of the allergy and the amount of allergen the person is exposed to. I guess they also vary from person to person as everybody’s allergy will be different. For example my brother, Allergy Boy, tends to have bad eczema after eating something he’s allergic to, whereas I tend to have a more anaphylactic style reaction (although once when he was a baby he touched a raw egg and swelled up like a red ballon. Not good).

Dust and pollen allergies usually affect the eyes and nose, and anyone that has suffered from hay fever will recognise the symptoms. Asthmatics may also get wheezy with these allergens, and may need to use their ventolin (blue) inhaler.

Allergies to animal fur and feathers can present themselves in a similar way to dust and pollen allergies, but they can also cause anaphylaxis. One of the most serious reactions I ever had was to dog fur one Halloween. I was at a house party when someone knocked a bowl of crisps onto the rug, where a very hairy dog had been sitting. I helped clean up, and almost immediately my throat started swelling, my nose began to run and I couldn’t breathe properly. My friends (still dressed in their Halloween costumes) took me to A&E where I was put on a trolley in the corridor and left there for four hours. By the time I finally saw somebody, most of the symptoms had died down. I think I finally got home at about 6am, and slept for the rest of the day.

Nearly every food allergy I’ve ever experienced has started with what I can only describe as a funny taste in my mouth. It’s like a tingling sensation that also tastes weird. As soon as I get this taste, I take an antihistamine tablet. Sometimes this will knock it on the head early and the taste will disappear with no other symptoms. If I haven’t got to it early enough or I’ve consumed too much of the allergen, the following will often happen:

  • Swelling/lumps in the throat
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Swelling of lips
  • Lumps under the skin, starting at the hairline and gradually spreading around my head. Sometimes I’ll also get these on my arms, back, stomach and chest.
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen face and eyes on very severe occasions.

Last night I had everything apart from the swollen face, although I did have lumps under my nose, which was fairly unpleasant.

When I have an allergic reaction I generally use cetirizine hydrochloride to treat it. I don’t know how many tablets should be taken as a recommended dose, but I ended up taking four yesterday. In addition I have Fexofenadine, a daily antihistamine, which can be taken at the same time as the cetirizine hydrochloride. I also carry an Epipen for very severe reactions. Luckily I’ve never had to take my Epipen, as usually the combination of antihistamines does the trick (which is good news, as all four of the Epipens I found in my handbags were out of date!). Apparently I should have taken the Epipen the night I ended up at A&E, but I was only told this when I finally got to see a doctor.

In addition to medication, drinking lots of water can help flush it through. Sucking on ice lollies or ice cream can also help to soothe the soreness of the throat and reduce the swelling.

The day after an allergic reaction I often feel extremely wiped out. The allergic reaction attacks the body, so I sometimes have flu like aches and shivers and am drowsy from the antihistamine. If my throat has swollen during the reaction I will have a sore throat that sometimes lasts a couple of days.

Allergic reactions aren’t always visible to other people, so if someone tells you they’re having an allergic reaction, ask them what medication they have in their bag, find it for them if they need to you to and get them a glass of water. If they are having trouble breathing and they have an Epipen, use it. The instructions will be on the packaging, but it should be noted that once an Epipen has been administered to a person they should attend A&E. Allergic reactions can be deadly and can come on very quickly, so the most important thing is to act quickly and keep calm.

So, that’s what happens when I have a reaction, hopefully this might be of some use, but fingers crossed you’re never in the situation where you’re either having a reaction or with somebody that is.

Tried and tested: Swedish Glace Caramel Toffee Cones

Ok, so I promised I would review Swedish Glace’s new Caramel Toffee ice cream cones. Here goes ! (Any excuse to eat ice cream!!)

The recipe is dairy, nut and gluten free, but does contain soy.

As with the strawberry and vanilla cones, once removed from the wrapper, the ice cream looks just like the one in the picture.

Unfortunately the bottom of my cone was missing, but I guess that might happen with any cone, as they can be quite delicate and easily bashed during transport. Luckily there is a thick chocolate coating inside which stopped the drips!

The chocolate topping is the same as the strawberry and vanilla cone so I won’t repeat what I’ve previously said, and instead concentrate on what’s underneath. The ice cream is creamy and rich as expected from Swedish Glace, but the toffee flavour is quite subtle. I think that if I didn’t know it was toffee flavoured I wouldn’t have guessed. The caramel is also quite subtle, possibly because my tastebuds have got used to salted caramel, but the flavour is good and, as with the strawberry sauce, it is generous.

I think personally out of the two I prefer the strawberry, but both are very enjoyable and made a nice change from Tesco’s own brand Free From cones.

I bought another pack recently and I found this new batch to have a more intense toffee flavour, so perhaps I was just unlucky the first time around.

I’ll definitely buy these again, and it’s great to have more choice in a fairly limited market. Thanks Swedish Glace for another good quality product. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

Dairy and nut free chocolate Oreo truffles

I’m addicted to food magazines. I love looking at pictures of food, reading recipes and making food. Of course, the eating part is pretty fabulous too.

Every month I have Good Food Magazine delivered to my door. It’s exciting when I hear it fall through the letter box. I like to sit down with a cup of tea or glass of wine and decide what I’m going to try making.

I also regularly buy Sainsbury’s Magazine, although I wish they’d do away with the home and lifestyle stuff and just concentrate on food!

While browsing the pages of last month’s Sainsbury’s Magazine I came across an Easter recipe for Oreo Egg Truffles. I’ve never attempted anything like this before, but I thought I’d take a crack at making them over Easter weekend.

The recipe seemed quite straightforward and most ingredients could be substituted for non-dairy options. I couldn’t find non-dairy double cream, and I’m not aware of anywhere that sells it, so I had to buy Alpro single cream. I found a dairy free cook’s dark chocolate in the baking aisle of Sainsbury’s (I think it was from their Taste the Difference range), and a bar of dairy free white chocolate in the free from aisle.

The recipe was really easy to follow, I used 175ml of the Alpro cream instead of 200ml and it worked really well. The egg shapes were a bit wonky and I ran out of white chocolate (note to self, buy two bars next time), but the finished products were amazing. They were rich and creamy and oh so moreish! To make the white chocolate stretch further I completely coated some in the white chocolate, drizzled others with it and rolled the remainder in cocoa powder.

I will definitely make these again, and I’m really pleased that a normal recipe could be modified so easily.

Beware of hidden allergens

Thanks to the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No. 1169/2011, businesses that manufacture food must label their packaging if the food contains certain allergens. But would you think to check the ingredients in your body lotion or shampoo?

Many hair and skin products use oils from nuts, such as almond oil, to moisturise and it’s fine when it’s clear on the packaging as I know to avoid these products. But what if it’s not clear?

I opened a tube of Body Shop Rose hand cream and happily slathered it all over my hands. After a few minutes my skin started to itch, so I took a closer look.

On a closer inspection of the packaging there are no allergens mentioned on the front of the packaging.

On the back of the packaging is a list of ingredients, none of which are recognisable as allergens.

I Googled Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil, and guess what? This is Brazil Nut oil. But who would know without the power of Google?

Under the EU Cosmetics Regulations (1223/2009), manufacturers are required to list ingredients. But in my opinion this doesn’t go far enough if the ingredients are listed in such a way that the average purchaser doesn’t know what they are.

I think when it comes to cosmetics, manufacturers want us to be baffled by science so we believe that we’re being sold something new and amazing that will make us look younger and more beautiful. As an allergy sufferer I wish manufacturers would just be honest and print the allergens in bold and in plain English on the packaging so that I know what I’m buying before I slather it all over my skin.