Winter warmers: new ways with granola

If you like my Chocolate and seed granola but are finding the current weather conditions a bit chilly in the mornings, try one of my alternative ways to serve it.

Hearty warming porridge topped with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola

I make a dairy free porridge using jumbo porridge oats with hemp milk. Once my porridge is cooked I top it with a sprinkling of my granola, which adds a nice bit of crunch, some fresh berries and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey. It keeps me going for ages and is really hearty.

Warm berry compote with Allergy Girl’s Chocolate seeded granola and coconut yogurt

This is super easy and great for a cold morning when you need extra time to go out and scrape the ice off the windscreen!

I buy a bag of frozen mixed berries from Sainsbury’s. I’m the morning I grab a handful of frozen berries and zap them in the microwave on full power for 60-90 seconds. Then I add a generous portion of granola and top with a dollop of Alpro coconut yogurt. Perfect!

How do you like to serve your granola in the morning? I’d love to hear your favourite ways!

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Tried and tested: The Coconut Collaborative Double Chocolate Paradise Pot

Mr Allergy and I normally have left overs for lunch, but today we realised we had no left overs and had to resort to buying lunch. On my way into work from the tube I popped into Boots to grab a meal deal. I didn’t fancy a bag of crisps or my usual carrots and hummus, but spotted a little purple package from The Coconut Collaborative.

I’m a massive fan of The Coconut Collaborative, and I love their Chocolate Snowconut frozen yogurt, coconut and mango yogurt and Little Chocolate Pots. I assumed this was just a larger sized Chocolate Pot. But when I peeled back the silver foil and popped my spoon in (the spoon which I was given at my cousin’s Mary Poppins “spoonful of sugar” party), I was delighted to find a light, fluffy, bubbly texture.

Now, the story goes that when I was a baby I was in hospital with pneumonia. The hospital fed me a chocolate mousse, which I was immediately allergic to, and that’s how my allergies were discovered. Since that day several decades ago I’ve not eaten a chocolate mousse and I have no idea what the texture is like, but in my mind I imagine the texture is like this paradise pot. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before (that I remember, anyway) and I like that! It sort of almost pops on my tongue and then melts into gooey, creamy chocolatiness!!

The normals out there will probably wonder what on earth I’m talking about, but someone with food allergies has all these questions. What do peanuts taste like? Is eating squid like eating rubber? Does cheese taste like feet? Do eggs taste like farts? It’s hard to imagine something you’ve never had.

If any of my readers get the chance to try one of these paradise pots, perhaps you can tell me if it’s like mousse? For now I’m going to happily believe that it is, and I can tick one more thing off my list of new experiences!

P.s I’d also welcome your thoughts on eggs and cheese!!

Dessert for breakfast

The time between Christmas and New Year is a weird time. Ordinary meal times go out of the window and it becomes acceptable to eat nothing but chocolate for dinner.

For New Year’s Eve we had my dad round for tapas and we gorged our way through paella, albondigas, patatas bravas and chorizo in cider. It was great, but there was no room left for the dessert I prepared. So we decided to have it for breakfast!

The dessert was a creation I came up with a few years ago. I like to call it “Bananachiladas.” It’s quick, easy, dairy, egg and nut free and extremely tasty!

Ingredients

1 banana per person

1 flour tortilla per person

Runny honey/agave syrup

Light brown sugar

Cinnamon

Method

1. Mix cinnamon in with the sugar and sprinkle over each tortilla

2. Add a banana to each tortilla

3. Sprinkle more sugar and cinnamon mix over the banana and add a drizzle of honey or agave

4. Roll up the tortilla and place in an ovenproof dish with the seam side down

5. Mix the remaining cinnamon sugar mix with a little boiling water and drizzle over the tortillas

6. Cover dish with tin foil and bake on approx 180 C (fan) for 20 mins or until the bananas are soft and squidgy

7. For crispy tortillas uncover for the last couple of minutes

8. Serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

I used a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate Swedish Glace dairy free ice cream and Askey’s Chocolate Chunk Crackin Sauce

Tried and tested: Lola’s Cupcakes vegan chocolate cupcake

Whilst on a Festive trip to the capital last weekend to sing along with carols at the Royal Albert Hall, I found myself walking past a Lola’s Cupcakes stand on the way from the Jubilee Line to London Waterloo.

I fancied something sweet to keep me going until I got home, so I treated myself to a Vegan chocolate cupcake, which is dairy, egg and nut free.

It’s not the first time I’ve purchased one of these beautifully presented cupcakes, but last time I was so excited to have found something that I wasn’t allergic to that I wolfed it all down and forgot to get a picture.

The previous purchase was at Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford. On both occasions I was impressed by the way the cake looked and the packaging. The little carry handle is handy for getting your cake to the train in one piece, if indeed you can wait that long (and the first time of testing at Stratford I most definitely didn’t need the carry handle)!

Upon opening the box the cupcake is sat there snugly, a little chocolatey gift waiting to be devoured.

The cake is topped with a rich, gooey frosting, with a slight bitterness of dark chocolate. The bitterness helps it not be too sickly sweet, which is good as there’s so much of it you need a spoon or fork to handle it. I made this mistake the first time around and tried to eat it from the cupcake case, chomping right into it. I ended up with gooey chocolate all around my face, which is adorable when you’re six years old, but not so much when you’re thirty-six!!

I learnt from my mistake the second time around, however, being on a train with no tray table (how inconvenient), I had to try and balance it on my lap whilst not getting crumbs and frosting everywhere. I was partially successful. As I ate further and further through the cake, it started disappearing down the hole in the middle of the box until I could no longer get to it. I would suggest this wouldn’t be a problem if you’re eating it on a plate or can take it out of the box, but not so convenient on the train (and after all, Lola’s are situated at the station, so they must be expecting some muppet like me to try eating it whilst balancing it on their lap).

The taste of the sponge was nice, again, cocoa-y without being too sweet. However, for me they haven’t got the texture quite right and I found it a bit too dry and crumbly. I was hoping that the first time around was just a blip but unfortunately it was the same both times. With a little bit of tweaking on the recipe this could be a very good cake, but for me I prefer my own recipe. It wouldn’t put me off buying one again if I’m in urgent need of cake, but given the choice and time to bake, I’d choose my own every time.

If you’d like to try my recipe, check out my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe and look for the option of adding chocolate flavour. Here are some of mine:

Happy baking!!

Tried and tested: Bad Brownie Vegan Salted Caramel Brownie

I’m not one to be deterred by bad experiences and so when faced with the temptation of trying something new after my accidental nut consumption last week I decided to jump back on the proverbial horse.

Whilst browsing the stores of One New Change shopping centre, Cheapside, last Friday I happened upon a stall from Bad Brownie in the food market. I usually walk straight past these stalls, but a sign caught my eye: Vegan Salted Caramel Brownies. My interest was well and truly piqued.

The brownies were dark and cocoa-y and glittered with gold. Very decadent.

After my near death experience the day before (ok, so I’m a little over dramatic, but it could have been bad), I stopped to talk to the guy manning the stall. I asked about the ingredients in the Vegan brownie and if it contained nuts. He was extremely knowledgeable about the product, telling me that there were no nuts in the recipe but it was baked in an environment where peanut butter is used. He then went on to tell me that it’s gluten free, and uses coconut oil. He said it’s taken a while to perfect the recipe but it’s worth it, and the company are looking to expand the Vegan/gluten free range.

His knowledge of the product filled me with confidence and I purchased one for £4. I was also given a card which they stamp every time you buy a brownie and when you fill up the card you get a free brownie.

Before I left he told me that the brownie is good just as it comes, but is even better slightly warm and suggested giving it 20 seconds in the microwave.

I thought I’d take his advice, so on the way home I bought some vanilla Swedish Glace dairy free ice cream to go with my warm brownie.

20 seconds on full power didn’t do much, so I gave it another 20, which was perfect, then dolloped on a spoonful of ice cream (I tried to make it look fancy for the picture like in Masterchef, but my spooning skills left a lot to be desired).

Now, the closest I’ve ever got to a brownie in my 36 years is dressing up in a bobble hat and brown dress and promising to do my best, so this was a whole new experience for me. The top of the brownie cracked nicely when I stuck the spoon in and the centre was fudgy and rich. Mr Allergy had a taste and said the texture was good, and compared well with traditional recipe brownies. Needless to say I quickly devoured the whole thing!

I could definitely get used to eating something so deliciously naughty, but as I don’t fancy adding type 2 diabetes to my list of ailments I’d better reserve it for special occasions only.

For people wanting to feed a crowd, you can order boxes of these bad boys, and they will deliver to your office: Vegan Brownie Box Given that one single brownie is £4 the box is really good value for money.I was really pleased with this find and I would definitely recommend this product, for both the quality of the product and the staff working for Bad Brownie. Well done!!

Warning: Contains Nuts

I had a very narrow escape yesterday. Following a training seminar near Fleet Street (where an Allergy Girl friendly lunch of ham salad with balsamic vinegar was provided), I decided to detour back to Waterloo via Le Pain Quotidien near the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. Le Pain do a very nice Cocoa and Pear cake, and I thought I’d treat myself to a slice to indulge in during my commute home. On entering Le Pain, the conversation went like this:

Me: Do you have any of your vegan cocoa and pear cake?

Server: No, the only vegan cakes we have are the salted caramel and passion fruit cakes.

Me: Do they have nuts in them? I’m allergic to nuts.

Server: I don’t think so, let me just check.

She gets a typed piece of paper out of the folder, looks at it.

Server: There’s no nuts.

Me: Can I check?

I look at the typed list of ingredients in the salted caramel cake, and 2nd or 3rd on the list is cashews (not in bold type).

Me: There are cashews in it.

Server: Oh sorry, yes I didn’t see that. What about this one? (Pointing at the passion fruit and beetroot one)

At this point we both read through the list of ingredients, which seemed to be mostly coconut based. I purchased a slice of this for a whopping £5.95, and carefully carried it to the station for fear that a hurrying commuter might knock it out of my hand.

It got there in one piece.

On the train I opened the little box. The cake looked pretty and inviting and I was looking forward to trying something new.

I stuck my fork on the pointy end, and as soon as it reached my mouth my spidey senses were telling me that something was not right. I’m lucky that when I eat something I shouldn’t I get strange taste in my mouth, usually accompanied by a tingling feeling. My alarm bells were now ringing.

I quickly went onto Le Pain’s website to find their allergen information, but there wasn’t any. I then did an internet search for “Le Pain Quotidien Allergen Menu.” This came up with allergy menus from January and March 2017. I searched the menu and there were no passion fruit and beetroot cakes listed.

I then did a more general search for “Le Pain Quotidien passion fruit cake recipe.” This took me back to their website, and the menu, but no ingredients. The only passion fruit and beetroot cake I could see was a Passion fruit and Beetroot raw nut cake. Uh oh! The clue’s in the name. Interestingly the menu doesn’t say that this item contains nuts and there is no allergen information present at all. I thought by law they had to inform people if there are allergens present?

Anyway, just to be on the safe side I called them (from the Quiet Zone, I must add. I wouldn’t usually do this and I’m the first to tut and roll my eyes but at this point I was getting concerned that I might have a full blown allergic reaction on a train that was an hour away from home).

The lady I spoke to was very nice. She started reading the recipe; passion fruit, coconut cream, cashews…. Hang on!! Cashews?

You haven’t eaten any have you? Yes!

She offered a refund next time I’m in. I was less bothered about the refund than why both the server and I had missed the crucial piece of information that the recipe contains nuts. I’ll probably never know the answer, and can only assume it was missed off the recipe when it was typed up, or somehow we both missed it as it wasn’t in bold type. Had I known the name of the cake before purchasing it, I wouldn’t even have considered purchasing it, but unfortunately I didn’t see a menu and the full name of the item was never mentioned in the conversation I had with the server.

In a mild panic, I promptly swallowed three antihistamines and guzzled an entire bottle of water (the idea is to flush the allergen out). I then located the train guard and told him I was having an allergic reaction and where my epipen was kept just in case.

It turns it that apart from being extremely dozy from the antihistamines I was ok. It’s great that my body warns me that something isn’t right, and I’m able to catch it early. Had I eaten the whole thing it could have been a very different story. Le Pain Quotidien really need to sort out their allergen information. It needs to be clear and readily available, and I will be writing to them to this effect.

I think the moral of the story is check the ingredients. Then check again. Or just don’t buy the cake in the first place. It’s better for the wallet and the waistline!

Update

I saw the manager this morning. She was very apologetic and gave me a refund. She will raise the issues of training and allergen information with their food standards people.

She also pointed out that it’s called a “Nut Cake” for a reason!! Lesson learnt, I will always look at the menu in the future!

Tried and tested: Livia’s Kitchen Raw Millionaire Bites (Salted Date Caramel)

I need to fess up. I bought these whilst wandering around a supermarket just before heading off on holiday. I say “a supermarket” because I have absolutely no recollection of which one!  It was probably Sainsbury’s, but it could also be Tesco – I shop in both regularly. I was getting those last minute bits and pieces that all allergy sufferers need like antihistamines and eye drops (it’s a glamorous life), and somehow I came home with a selection of raw Vegan treats! 

There were two or three different goodies from Livia’s Kitchen to try, and I purchased the Biccy Boms with Salted Maca Caramel and the Raw Millionaire Bites (Salted Date Caramel).  I got home, put my purchases in the snack drawer, did my holiday packing and forgot about them until I got home 10 days later.

First of all I tried the Biccy Boms with a cup of tea. I know this isn’t a review of Biccy Boms, but I thought I’d mention them. Unfortunately they weren’t for me. Like most gluten free products I found the biscuit a bit dry and crumbly. I’m not allergic to gluten and I prefer a proper biscuit, but I get that by making these gluten free they are suitable for more people. The salted maca filling didn’t really do it for me either, so I wasn’t expecting much from the Millionaire Bites when I tried them a few days later.

I’m happy to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Millionaire Bites. To begin with, they’re a decent size. A single pack is quite expensive compared with cereal bars or Graze snacks, but I felt like I was getting good value for money (and there are three Bites per pack).


The biscuit base isn’t dry and the Bites held together well when I bit into them.  There is a thick gooey layer of salted date paste, which is so good I never would have guessed it was date. Topping it all is a thin layer of chocolate.

They really are delicious and I would highly recommend this product. As I still have no idea where I bought them from I had a go at making my own version, so watch this space for more on this story!