Browse Month by August 2015
Baking

Courgette and carrot loaf – gluten and dairy free

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

We have a small vegetable patch in our garden and every year, one of our greatest successes is courgettes. With such an abundant crop, it would be easy to become fed up of eating them, which has happened in previous years. So I’ve had to become more inventive in how I use them up.

One of our favourites is a chocolate courgette cake and I also enjoy letting the odd one grow big enough to be marrow size, then baking it in the oven, halving, scooping out the middle and filling with a savoury rice, mince Bolognese or chilli. It’s such a hearty meal.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

Then I inherited a recipe for a courgette and carrot loaf that I thought I’d try out. I had to convert it to be gluten free and with the addition of sunflower oil, it’s dairy free too. What I love about this courgette and carrot loaf is that it’s packed with flavour and wholesome goodness.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

The ingredients work together so well, with the carrots providing some sweetness, the courgettes moisture and the nuts give just the right amount of crunch. A slice of this loaf will give you a tasty, satisfying mid-morning snack that will keep you going until lunch or an afternoon tea treat to last you until dinner.

Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life

Free From Farmhouse
Link up your recipe of the week
Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life
Courgette and carrot loaf
Print Recipe
A tea time loaf packed with vegetables and nuts for a tasty, satisfying and filling treat.
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Courgette and carrot loaf - A Free From Life
Courgette and carrot loaf
Print Recipe
A tea time loaf packed with vegetables and nuts for a tasty, satisfying and filling treat.
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50mins - 1 hr
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Weigh out the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and mixed nuts. Stir well
  2. In a separate bowl mixed together the beaten eggs, oil, lemon rind and grated veg.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together until well incorporated.
  4. Pour in to a greased loaf tin and bake in the oven at 180/gas 4 for 50 mins to 1 hour. Check with a tooth pick to see if it comes out clean. If so, it is done.
Recipe Notes

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack.

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Travelling with 5

Jersey – an island of unappreciated beauty

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

What better way to spend a sunny Saturday morning than relaxing on an (almost deserted) beach on an idyllic island. A deserted beach in the middle of tourist season? How can that be possible?

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

There is nothing wrong with this beach, in fact the opposite. Jersey is stunning and has some amazing beaches, but if you’re a tourist, you’re more likely to head for St Brelade’s bay (if you’re one of the cool people)

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

or St Ouen’s if you enjoy surfing

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

Then there’s family friendly Greve de Leq; the list goes on.

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

That’s just it. You have your pick of beaches in a space that’s only 30 miles wide. So why were there no people on the beach we went to? Portlet bay is equally stunning but there are two things. One is the steep steps that lead down to it and you know that once down there, you will have to get back up at some point. The other is the Inn at the top of those stairs. Most people don’t make it past the Inn.

The beach has everything you could ask for though, from soft sand, to perfect sandcastle wetness, to rock pools for exploring and an abandoned German lookout tower to climb up to. There’s also a pizza shack, complete with wood-fired pizza oven. We didn’t eat there, but I popped in for take away coffees and marvelled at the pizzas and mouthwatering salads that were passing by me as I waited.

Last weekend was a whistle stop tour to my favourite island to catch up with a friend who lives there. I love going there and a weekend is never enough. Every time I visit, I fall in love with the place all over again and I can’t help but envy my friend and her family for the lifestyle they lead. With a beach within walking distance, what more do you need, especially if you have a dog and a young family? My friend’s three young boys love adventure and the outdoors. They are growing up in an environment where you don’t need to lock your doors, or your cars. It feels safe and free.

I took my middle daughter with me and we set off early for an 8am flight from Gatwick. One of the great things about going to Jersey is the proximity to home. A quick 45 minutes flight and you’re there, but it feels as though you have gone further afield because the climate is much warmer than England and the island has a heavy French feel. It even has it’s own currency of sorts, with the Jersey pound note bringing with it an air of nostaglia.

Unfortunately we arrived to rain, which set in for the day, but with our hotel room made ready early, we were able to unpack our things and use the time to relax and watch a film. I hadn’t realised when booking, but our trip coincided with Battle of Flowers week. This carnival attracts a huge number of visitors to the island and is a spectacle of colour and sounds. We had missed the day parade, but the moonlight parade was scheduled for that very evening and my daughter was desperate to go. I wasn’t so sure, given the rain and the fact it was cold and damp, but I relented and we went along. Although we froze, the parade was amazing and particularly so for seeing the floats lit up. The rain held off too, which was a blessing.

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

Saturday provided some much needed sunshine and after breakfast, we made our way over to my friends house and then on to the beach with them. An afternoon tea with my friend, followed by dinner at their house later completed my day. My daughter had a great day playing with the boys and I had to drag her back to the hotel.

We took a stroll through the streets of St Helier the next morning. The island’s main town is where you’ll find all the major stores, plus some local and French ones too. Jersey is famed for it’s food, having an abundance of local produce and fresh fish and seafood at it’s disposal. Plus you can’t forget the Jersey cows. Those big doe-eyed, cute faced animals who produce the creamiest of milk that has a taste all of it’s own.

Jersey, Channel Islands - A Free From Life

There are so many things to do on the Island that a weekend isn’t long enough. Mont Orgruil castle, Elizabeth castle, Durell wildlife park and the Amazin Maze adventure park are just a few of our favourites. Older visitors can immerse themselves in history via the many leftover relics from the German occupation during the Second World War, including the underground hospital. There are also visitor centres for Jersey’s main craft indsutries such as the potteries, gold and silver smiths and Jersey Pearl. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous restaurants and eateries and then there are the beaches, those lovely bays of which there are so many to explore.

Clean and modern: a mix of culture and history, with trendy bars, restaurants and hotels, Jersey is as far away from a tired and dated seaside resort as you can get. The island is charming and I dare you not to fall in love with it.

Where to stay

We stayed at The Merton in St Helier, which is a welcoming and family-friendly hotel, with a traditional feel. The food is excellent, served in buffet form, with choices to suit every taste. There is a swimming pool, situated directly across from the hotel. This includes both indoor and outdoor pool, plus restaurant and sun lounges and small play area. You can get two bedroomed family suites, or there are some apartments for larger groups.

On previous visits, we stayed at Hotel la Place, St Brelade’s. This hotel is much smaller than The Merton, but has a small pool. The advantage of this hotel for families, is that it has a courtyard of self-catering cottages of mixed sizes. You can enjoy the freedom of self catering, but with the facilities of a hotel right next door, including room service options. We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel every morning and the use of the pool. The food was fantastic, although we didn’t eat there every evening.

Flights

We flew from Gatwick with British Airways, but you can fly there from most UK airports, with FlyBe and Easy Jet. Flights can vary, but average around £100 per person for a return ticket.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Travel Monkey
Reviews

Should food service workers receive basic food allergy and intolerance training?

Should food service workers be given basic food allergy and intolerance training? - A Free From Life
Image by Vlado, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I say this time and again, but it’s so frustrating when you go out to eat and you’re trying to find somewhere that caters for your dietary needs. I’ve had some great experiences at restaurants and some terrible ones. I’ve come across staff who are completely clued up about food allergy and intolerance needs and others that have no idea whatsoever. For instance, I once asked if something was dairy free and had the response ‘is that the same as gluten free?’

What is it like to be dairy and gluten intolerant - Nikki Young Writes

It’s tear your hair out time, fuelled with anxiety whenever we go anywhere and I can never relax until I’ve ordered something that my son can eat. You could say why do we even bother going out, but why shouldn’t we? As a family, we’ve always enjoyed eating in restaurants and cafes. It’s great for the children to learn how to behave in social situations and I see no reason why we should hide away just because we have a gluten and dairy intolerant son.

Am I expecting too much though? Food service workers are, after all, paid minimum wages and what do they care? Although restaurants and cafes now have to indicate whether their food contains any of the major known allergens, this doesn’t mean that the staff are any more qualified to answer questions about the food offered. The managers, yes, but not the staff that work for them.

One example of the inconsistencies of restaurants is when my husband took the children to Frankie and Benny’s, Tunbridge Wells. We’ve been there before and were well looked after, so it was somewhere that he thought would be fine to take them after they’d been to the cinema next door.

My husband asked for the gluten free menu and realised that it only had adult portions. The little one said he would like the ribs, so my husband asked  if he could have a smaller portion from this gluten free menu. The waitress said that they were not allowed to change the menu in any way, but as my husband explained (at least three times in the end), he was not asking them to change the menu, but to provide a smaller portion of what was there. After all, could a six year old really be expected to eat £17 worth of ribs?!

The waitress replied that why couldn’t our son have the ribs from the children’s menu, to which my husband asked would that be possible – are they gluten free then?

‘How should I know?’ came the reply. It was at this point that my husband told her to forget it and they left.

Perhaps she had a valid question, how is she supposed to know this information if she isn’t told it in the first place? But at the same time, if you don’t know something, you go and ask someone who does, don’t you? If you work in the service industry, it’s not your job to be rude to the customers and if you find their requests irritating, then perhaps you are in the wrong job.

I know there are training packages for food service staff to learn about food allergies and intolerances. Of course, these cost money and unlike basic food hygiene training, it’s not compulsory. Perhaps it should be and of course from my point of view, I would definitely like to see that happening one day.

If mistakes are made in a restaurant and the wrong food is served because of lack of knowledge, it could be fatal to some and life threatening to others. For my son, it would be unpleasant and uncomfortable if he ate something that he shouldn’t, but the effects are seen almost immediately and I’m sure Frankie and Benny’s wouldn’t be too pleased if he were to have an accident in their restaurant!

This isn’t an isolated case. It happens all the time and as I’ve pointed out here, this is a restaurant that says it caters for allergies and in the past we’ve been there and had no problems. The inconsistencies with staff knowledge and training, however, meant that on this particular occasion Frankie and Benny’s failed to honour that statement and my husband and children had to find somewhere else to eat.

Do you think they should care about that, or do they see us as one less problem to worry about? Perhaps they don’t really need or want the likes of us in their restaurants, trying to change the menus and order around our dietary needs.

What about you, have you had similar experiences of repeat visits to restaurants and inconsistencies in the service? Do you think that food service staff should receive basic food allergy and intolerance training?

Travelling with 5

Travelling with Food Intolerances – The Ups and Downs of In-Flight Meals

Airlines traveller's guide to In-Flight Meals - A Free From Life

I know from experience what it’s like when an airlines messes up on the meal you ordered. My son, who cannot eat dairy or gluten, was given a child’s meal by mistake (a dairy and gluten fest) on a flight to America last year. There was no alternative for him, apart from a bit of green salad that the team managed to scrape together. It was a nightmare.

The mix up came because I couldn’t order him both a dairy AND gluten free meal. It was one or the other. The alternative was perhaps a vegan meal, but I wasn’t sure if it would suit a five year old child. So I rang up customer services, explained the situation and thought it was sorted. What went wrong (I think), was that they marked him down as ‘child’ and he ended up with the same meal as his sisters – macaroni cheese, yoghurt and chocolate!

There is no way I will go on a flight without taking food for him after that experience, regardless what I order in advance. And after finding the whole process somewhat confusing, I decided to put together some air travel tips for people with food intolerances.

I worked with the team at SheKnowsUK to produce an infographic setting out what the major airlines offer in terms of in-flight meals and how you go about ordering them. You can see the result here. I was amazed at how different the airlines approach their in-flight meal service, but most offer essentially the same choices. When it comes to ordering both gluten and dairy free in-flight meals for my son, it looks like that’s not going to happen any time soon. For us, it will be a case of choosing one or the other and picking out what he can eat, whilst adding to it with our own food.

Have you had any bad experiences with airlines food? Let me know.

Health

When a Gluten Free Diet Isn’t the Healthiest Option

How to convert recipes to gluten free - A Free From Life

My son is intolerant to gluten and dairy, so as his mum and provider, I know how difficult it is to live with. I know the consequences of when he accidentally eats something that may contain one of these foods and I remember the pain he suffered before his diagnosis.

There are more and more people being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease and there are an equal number, if not more, who say they feel better for avoiding wheat and gluten in their diet. It’s not surprising then, that the free-from market has exploded, with new products appearing on the shelves all the time.

This is great news isn’t it?

Well you might say that, especially if you become chronically ill through eating food that is contaminated with even a tiny trace of gluten, but for those who think that the packaged products on the free from aisle represent a healthier option, think again.

Here are 5 reasons why:

1. More sugar – don’t presume that you can avoid eating an ordinary cake or muffin in favour of a gluten free one in the belief that it’s a healthier option. Gluten free muffins, or any sweet treats for that matter, contain way more sugar than their gluten containing counterparts.

Let’s look at a Tesco’s own blueberry muffin. It has 15.5g of sugar per muffin, compared with 25.7g of sugar in a Genius gluten free blueberry muffin. The Genius muffin is smaller as well.

2. More fat – another consequence of removing gluten is that you get more of the other ingredients, not only sugar, but fat too.

A gluten free bagel contains 5.9g fat, compared with an ordinary one that has just 1.2g. Do you buy the sandwich thins for packed lunches? The gluten free version contains 6g fat, whereas the wheat containing one has 1.1g.

3. More expensive – to live the gluten free lifestyle means that you have to spend more money on your shopping. Those of us who have no choice but to buy these products, curse the amount of money they cost us. Take the sandwich thins above, for example. You pay £2.20 for a pack of 4 of the gluten free ones, whereas you get 6 for £1.25, if you buy the ordinary ones. Those blueberries muffin from Tesco, cost £1.20 for 4, where Genius charge £2.00 for 2. Remember I said the Tesco ones are much bigger too.

4. Arsenic – yes you read that right. If you eat a lot of processed gluten free (and dairy free) food, you could be dramatically increasing your exposure to arsenic. This is because it is present in much higher levels in rice than in any other grain. The growing condition of rice, lead to uptake of arsenic from soil at up to ten times greater than other crops. This is partly due to the way that rice absorbs more water when growing.

Arsenic is a natural mineral in the earth’s crust (organic arsenic) and is also present in both soil and water due to pesticide use (inorganic). The inorganic form is a known carcinogen and both forms are present in rice products such as milk, cereal and pasta.

Although it is possible to reduce the amount of arsenic by rinsing the rice prior to boiling and then boiling in a high volume of water, such is the concern about the increased consumption of rice-containing products, the FSA advise not to give them to infants and young children (1-4.5 years).

You find rice flour in most, if not all, gluten free products.

5. Gluten may not be the problem – if you suffer from digestive problems and symptoms such as IBS, cutting out gluten-containing foods may help you feel better. It isn’t necessarily gluten that is making you ill though. Often foods containing gluten also have yeast, an overgrowth of which in the gut (Candida) can lead to illness. Read also, my post about FODMAPS, a group of foods that are known to be a factor in IBS. Many of these foods contain gluten too.

If you are gluten intolerant or coeliac, you have to unfortunately pay the price in terms of being ripped off by these manufacturers trying to make money on the back of a mass trend (though I should add that not all of them take this attitude). I buy very little of them, preferring instead to make my own. I worry that my son will grow up to be unhealthy otherwise, through no fault of his own.

My advice is that if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, then go for it and eat a gluten free, natural diet. Don’t just assume that you can swap one processed food diet for another and that will be enough. It won’t. In fact, you are probably doing more harm than good.

Travelling with 5

Visit to Nostell Priory – National Trust, West Yorkshire

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

On last week’s visit to see my family in West Yorkshire, we were hoping for better weather than what we ended up with. I took my National Trust membership card in the hope of getting out and about to see some of the local area and I thought that I wasn’t going to get to use it at all. Luckily though, the week got better as it went on and we finally made it to the nearest National Trust venue which was Nostell Priory.

As I have come to expect with any National Trust property we visit, Nostell Priory is stunning. An 18th Century manor house, it was never actually a priory, but built on the site of one and the name retained. Overlooking acres and acres of parkland (300 to be precise), this is truly a magical setting.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

I’m so glad my children are interested in these types of places now they are older. They couldn’t wait to go and explore the house and the staff are always so encouraging and welcoming to their younger visitors. First stop for us was the servant’s quarters, where my younger two couldn’t resist getting dressed up for the part.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

How chuffed they were to be allowed to keep their costumes on as we ventured on our tour of the rest of the house. This amazing doll’s house was a source of fascination, especially after we were told to look for the white mouse, which is apparently moved around in order to keep visitors guessing. We couldn’t find it without the help of one of the volunteers, not surprising though considering how tiny this little thing was.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

Nostell Priory were running a bear hunt whilst we were there. The children were told that all the bears had escaped from the nursery and were hiding around the house. We had a list of their names and when we spotted one, we had to work out which one it was using the clues from the room we found it in. Now this was not an easy bear hunt and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of each room guide. What resulted, was us learning a lot about the house and it’s previous inhabitants along the way.

On completing the bear hunt and returning the costumes, we ventured in to the courtyard. I was ready for a coffee by then, but my little ones spotted the stables and wanted to go and have a look. We learned about a day in the life of a stable hand and they even did a spot of grooming themselves.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

No visit to a National Trust property would be complete without a stop in the café. It was late in the day by the time we got there, with most things being sold out, however, I couldn’t resist this beetroot and mozzarella scone. Hmmm, some inspiration for my own baking there I think. Sadly, it wasn’t gluten and dairy free, but on a separate table was a nice selection of free from cakes, so my son was able to choose something that he could eat (for a change). National Trust, you made a six year old boy very happy!

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

Last stop was the gardens at the back of the house, which contain an adventure playground. What I loved about this play area, was the way it blended in to the surrounding woodland. As much as possible, the equipment is made of natural materials, so it complements rather than spoils, the landscape.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

We had to drag the children away from this as it was nearing closing time by then. They didn’t want to leave, but they were pleased to be able to write a note to say what they had enjoyed most about their day, leaving behind a button to show that they had had a great time.

Nostell Priory National Trust - A Free From Life

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Breakfasts

One Pot Bircher Muesli – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life

This is a gluten free and dairy free, one pot wholesome breakfast in a jar that takes me straight back to previous visits to Germany. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating Bircher muesli, you will appreciate the smooth, creamy richness that signifies this decadent breakfast. Not for the faint hearted, calorie wise, Bircher is often made with cream. This version, however, is much lighter and healthier, whilst retaining that same satisfaction.

One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life

I credit this recipe to Jenny at Let’s Talk Mommy, whose gorgeous looking recipe for overnight oats inspired me to make my own.

Like Jenny says, the possibilities for this dish are limited only to your tastes and preferences. Vary the fruit, swap the fresh fruit for dried (dates, apricots, cranberries or raisins) and make it nut free by swapping the almond milk for apple juice and the nuts for toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life

It really is that versatile and I promise you, it is just as yummy as it looks.

Free From Farmhouse
One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life
One Pot Bircher Muesli - Gluten Free, Dairy Free
Print Recipe
Individual, portion-sized fruity gluten and dairy free Bircher in a jar. Make ahead and store overnight. Just grab from the fridge next day to take to work.
Servings Prep Time
1 10
Servings Prep Time
1 10
One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life
One Pot Bircher Muesli - Gluten Free, Dairy Free
Print Recipe
Individual, portion-sized fruity gluten and dairy free Bircher in a jar. Make ahead and store overnight. Just grab from the fridge next day to take to work.
Servings Prep Time
1 10
Servings Prep Time
1 10
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Measure the oats into a jar
  2. Add the milk and stir to mix
  3. Pour over the yoghurt
  4. Layer the blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries and drizzle with maple syrup (optional)
  5. Cover with the crushed walnuts
  6. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the fruit and nuts
  7. Seal the jar and store in the fridge
    One Pot Bircher Muesli - A Free From Life
Recipe Notes

The best bit about this recipe is stirring it all up the next day to make a lovely Bircher mix. What you get is a zingy fresh and fruity hit, along with a touch of crunch to complement the creamy oats. The hint of coconut coming through gives a burst of sweetness.

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