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!

Advertisements

A sprout is for life, not just for Christmas

I’m in the minority of people that like sprouts, and I think it’s a shame that I only eat them once or maybe twice a year.

They are a bit of a pain to prepare, but then so is an avocado and they’re the cool kid everyone wants to be BFFs with. In comparison the humble sprout is the geeky quiet kid in glasses that everyone shuns. But, just as the geeky kid in most teen movies gets their girl/boy/new found popularity delete as appropriate), I’d like to see the sprout have its day.

I think a lot of the bad press with sprouts is that they’ve been sorely mistreated. Some chefs will be bringing theirs to the boil now, ready for Christmas 2018! Others will wait until 11:52 on Christmas morning, and they’ll be so hard you’ll need to wear safety glasses while attempting to get them on your fork, in fear of a stray sprout pinging off your plate and whacking you in the eye!

If I’m having sprouts with Christmas dinner, I like to gently part boil them, then stir fry them in a wok with a bit of chorizo. The flavours work really well together. Chorizo makes everything better, so even the sprout haters in my family find these palatable.

I’ve embarked on a low carb, high fat diet for the new year, and being allergic to eggs and dairy, breakfast is a particularly tricky meal for me. When I tried this diet a few years ago I had cold meats and dairy free cheese for breakfast, which was ok, but not great on a cold January morning.

I scoured Pinterest trying to find something suitable to try, and came up with nothing. So I turned to my cupboard of recipe books and remembered that a few months back I tried Hemsley + Hemsley’s bacon and bean hash, which was nice. However for the first two weeks of the diet beans should be limited, so I got my thinking cap on for ideas of how to bulk the recipe out. My mind said sprouts. And why not? They’re in season, they add flavour and bulk, and I know they work in bubble and squeak.

So I pimped the recipe slightly, and cake up with my own breakfast bubble and squeak. Really you can add whatever you fancy, but I used chopped streaky bacon, onions, celery, white cabbage and sprouts. I part boiled the sprouts so they were easier to mash into the mix.

I stir fried the mixture until it was begging to brown in places, and added a little hot paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper.

I served it this morning with a couple of slices of black pudding. Yum! Just what I needed at 6am on a chilly Monday. I’m hoping it will keep me going until lunch time.

Tried and tested: Creative Nature Superfoods Salted Caramel Flapjack

I’ve previously tested Creative Nature a Superfoods Raw Cacao Superfood Flapjack, so I thought I’d give the Salted Caramel Flapjack a whirl. And ohmygod it’s great.

It’s full of crunchy seeds, with no added refined sugars – the sweetness all comes from the dates. The touch of pink salt added to the dates creates a marriage made in heaven.

The packaging is slightly confusing as it states in the front that it is peanut free, but doesn’t mention other nuts.

There are no nuts in the recipe but I’m guessing because this is made in a factory that handles nuts they can’t guarantee it is nut free.

The flapjack didn’t last long, which is testament to how good it tastes. It feels like an indulgent treat, which in my opinion is what a good healthy snack should be. I often need a little something to keep me going on my commute home or before exercise (which is why my photos often feature train tray tables), and these flapjacks are just the ticket! Filling enough, but not too heavy.

I’m extremely grateful to Creative Nature Superfoods for creating a range of good quality, good value products that suit my strange combination of allergies. And did I mention they taste great?

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! 

Tried and tested: Creative Nature Superfoods Raw Cacao flapjack 

Hooray!!! A raw energy bar that doesn’t have nuts in it!!! 

I found this little beauty at the counter of Vital Ingredient, and couldn’t resist trying it out.
I was feeling a little peckish before my kickboxing class yesterday so saw this as the perfect opportunity to try it.  

The texture is good. It’s not dry like some raw energy bars, which makes it easy to eat before and during exercise.  The cacao nibs give it a nice little crunch.  It’s not too sweet, as there is no added sugar, just the sweetness from the dates and cacao.  

I’d like to try this on a long run before I say for sure that’s it’s a good energy bar for me, but in terms of an Allergy Girl-friendly snack it ticks all the boxes! 

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the bar itself, I’d already hoovered it up before I remembered to get a picture! 

Tried and tested: Itsu Coconut Crush

As someone that is ridiculously allergic to fish, egg and nuts, Itsu wouldn’t be my first choice for lunch. It seems that nearly everything they sell has salmon, egg or peanuts in it (apart from the Teriyaki chicken rice, which is delicious, must must be avoided when on a low carb diet).  This is a shame, as there is an Itsu right by my office, and the food always looks so fresh and tasty.

I happened to find myself mooching around my local branch one lunchtime, as I often like to see if there are any new Allergy Girl friendly options. A few items caught my eye, especially the Coconut Collaborative Little Chocolate Pots which I do like to indulge in from time to time.

Now, I don’t usually venture near to the counter unless I’ve committed to purchasing something.  There are always these interesting looking items to tempt the purchaser to add to their order, but I never feel like I have the time to browse these items and check the ingredients, as there’s usually a queue of hangry (hungry/angry) people behind me. 

I was in luck and there was no queue, so I had a rummage through the treats on offer, and stumbled across this little green box.  My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “dairy free” and “Vegan.”  My expectations were low as I assumed this would mean there were nuts in the recipe – a lot of Vegan recipes use nut butters or almond flour.  I picked up the little box and scanned the ingredients on the back.  No nuts!! Yay!!!


As per usual I waited until my train ride home to test this little morsel. I like the packaging, it perfectly shows off the chocolate inside and (for someone who isn’t often allowed to eat nice things) feels like a gift boxed treat. 

The packaging is easy to open, but getting the chocolate out wasn’t the easiest feat. If I had a napkin or plate it would be fine, but trying to avoid dropping it on the scummy plastic tray table on the commuter train was tricky, as the chocolate was slightly melted, and the filling wasn’t that firm. It was a warm day, and it wasn’t kept in the fridge (although Itsu don’t display them in the fridge, so one would assume they don’t need refrigeration).  If I purchased this again I’d definitely keep it in the fridge instead of my handbag. 

The chocolate is nice, just a thin layer that isn’t too bitter or too sweet. The coconut matcha filling is soft and slightly creamy, which is nice as desiccated coconut can often be too dry and crumbly.  I’m not sure if the matcha gives mucha to the flavour, but it’s supposed to be good for me, so I won’t complain.  

At around £2 a portion (depending on whether you buy in store or have it delivered) this is possibly slightly overpriced.  Compared to the Protein Haus Vegan Bounty bar I tried a few weeks ago it is better value for money (but does contain more sugar, so if you’re avoiding sugar I’d go for the Protein Haus one). 

In terms of a convenient, healthy(ish) snack, this is a winner. Will I buy it again?  Definitely!!