Double chocolate pancakes

The kids are off school Friday-Monday for the May weekend (well they have been back nearly two weeks so it was about time for a break *rolls eyes*). We’ve no grand plans as we’re all choked with the cold and it is properly freezing. Like snow freezing!! This is the view out my window last night!

  
After a lazy long lie in watching back to back Transformers episodes with my boy my daughter appeared and requested chocolate for breakfast. While I wasn’t up for Easter chocolate for breakfast – that’s purely something we do on Easter Sunday and how on earth does she still have chocolate?? The boy had polished his off by Easter Monday! – I was up for something chocolatey so I threw together double chocolate pancakes with chopped dates and banana. Free from gluten, milk, eggs & nuts. They were so simple and so good I thought I’d share. 

Double chocolate pancakes

Makes approx 12 

Ingredients

1 cup gluten free self raising flour (I used Doves Farm)

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa (I used Tesco’s own)

1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed 

3 Tablespoons water

1 cup dairy free milk (I used Koko)

Generous squirt of lemon juice

Handful chopped dates

Handful dairy free chocolate chips (I used Plamil)

1 chopped banana

Sunflower oil for the pan

Instructions

Place the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and sit aside

Squirt some lemon juice into a cup measure then fill with dairy free milk (could use a teaspoon cider vinegar but my fridge was closer than the cupboard)

Measure 1 cup self raising gluten free flour into a bowl, add sugar & cocoa and whisk to combine

Add the flaxseed mix and the dairy free milk to the bowl and mix well

Stir in the dates, chocolate and banana 

Heat a frying pan wiped with oil on a medium/high heat. I use 7 on my induction hob

Spoon a small amount of mix onto the pan to check its hot enough. If it is bubbles will rise to the top, flip with a spatula and cook for a few seconds on the other side. 

Cook by generous spoonful, 3 – 4 at a time depending on the size of your pan. Stir well between batches as the chocolate chips are inclined to sink to the bottom of the bowl. 

  
Once cooked place on a plate lined with a piece of kitchen roll while you make the rest

  
Serve warm with dairy free spread and toppings of your choice. The boy had jam and honey and big sis had maple syrup. 

Proper yum!

  

Short break at Ribby Hall Village in Lancashire

Our last couple of holidays have been abroad so you can imagine my delight last week packing for our stay at Ribby Hall with no baggage limits beyond what I couldn’t fit in the car. Ok delight is a strong word, packing is never much fun but it was certainly less of a challenge. 

We’ve stayed at Ribby Hall once before in October 2013 in a cottage at Fishermans reach which was lovely accommodation but we decided to treat ourselves to a 3 bed pine lodge this stay as the lodges have hot tubs which meant I could wear my bikini without having to board an airplane. 

  
Our lodge slept 6 and was very spacious and comfortable, well stocked (high chair, ironing board, toiletries) with tons of storage and 3 bathrooms. It was tucked away with 5 other lodges in amongst the privately owned holiday homes. 

  
The site looks big on the map but although peak season did not feel too busy and our lodge was in a quiet scenic corner. Our rowdiest neighbours were the ducks who tried to join us for meals several times and were quite put out I wouldn’t let them hang out in the lodge with us (this could be tricky in warmer weather if you had any doors left open!). 

  
I was particularly thrilled with the kitchen. As any allergy Mum knows you still do a lot of catering on holiday and having a good space to do it in makes such a difference! We had a full size fridge & freezer, lots of cupboard space (some holiday kitchens are so crammed with equipment there is no where to store groceries!) and clean modern looking kitchen equipment. 

  
Basic cleaning supplies, tea towels, teabags & coffee were supplied which was a lovely touch and a bonus as I hadn’t packed teabags! I brought a chopping board, sharp knife and cutlery & plates for the boy. I was actually ok to use the lodges crockery once it had been through the dish washer but I’m happier knowing I have safe stuff for him and I wouldn’t use an unknown chopping board!

  

We stayed four nights and ate out two at the Bar & Grill. I rang and spoke to the team leader there a few days before our visit and she was super helpful. I listed my son’s allergies – milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, treenuts, peas & lentils and she went and spoke to the chef about catering for him. I could overhear the tone of their conversation if not the content and was gladdened by the positive upbeat voices. She came back to me to say they’d be happy to cook for him and if there was anything he particularly liked to eat they would order it in for him. This offer was reiterated to me during our stay. It was a very useful conversation and one my husband was delighted to listen in on as he knew if they were not confident and helpful we would not be eating out!

While the choice on the menu is limited, particularly for gluten free they will order safe pasta, pizza, fish fingers and chips for you. The regular chips are not safe as they are fried with other food but I have to say the oven chips they got in for us looked much nicer! My son ate an adult portion gammon steak both nights. There were other options (grilled chicken or steak) but gammon is his absolute favourite and I can vouch for it being tasty as I ordered the same meal the first night. I brought safe treats for pud. 

  
The sachets of ketchup looked OK ingredients wise but both my kids skin reacts to cheap tomato sauce so we brought our own with us. Classy I know. 

Top tips

  • The kids entertainment is held in the bar & grill. If you book a table for 7pm you can keep it for the evening. If you have tiny tots and this is late there are meal deals between 5 and 6pm. 
  • Do not wait till you get there to discuss your dietary requirements. While they go out of their way to be helpful it is LOUD and an almighty challenge to talk to your waiter/waitress beyond yelling your order. 

While very loud and busy eating later the kids were kept occupied and entertained while we waited for our food and during our meal. There is also a small shop selling flashing tat which was a big draw and there was a face painting/ fake tattoo stand. 

  
On the two nights we ate at the lodge we kept it simple. I’m not keen cooking away from my kitchen and only make stuff that can be cooked on lots of foil! Luckily my kids see baked potatoes and beans as a treat!

  
The weather was kind to us despite the grim forecast and we managed two days out without getting rained on. We used our Tesco club card vouchers to pay for both. 

Blackpool pleasure beach – I took safe snacks and a gluten free roll with dairy free cheese and we had lunch at Burger King. We just order a beef patty on its own and fries. 

  
If you have a child that would freak at wearing a wristband the nice ladies on the Pleasure beach tills will stick one on a piece of paper for you. You just need to write your child’s age and general description on the back. 

  

Our second day out was to Blackpool zoo and we took a simple picnic & snacks. The kids enjoyed the zoo, they loved the sea lion display and the play park and I enjoyed the wee bit of sunshine we had and the fact it’s built on the flat. Our nearest zoo at home is Edinburgh zoo which is famously steep! 

We had one full day on site and while there are plenty of activities available we took it easy with a stroll round the woodland trail (wellies absolutely essential!) a play at the park and shot on the amusements. I like that the amusements are separate from other areas so you don’t have to walk through them to get to the pool/entertainment. 

   
 
So all in all a lovely stay. Comfortable accomadation and safe options for eating makes for a happy mum. The hot tub helped! Absolutely gorgeous to sink into the heat on a rather cool April afternoon. Packing dressing gowns would have been a good plan though as it was freeeezing climbing back out! 

I didn’t visit the Spa hotel this holiday but I can recommend it from our previous stay. Heading up for a meander round the thermal journey and a treatment while the family unpack and make dinner is how every holiday should start. 

Visiting a Dairy farm with your milk allergic child 

  
My son has been learning about farming in school this term with a focus on dairy farming. Being severely allergic to milk he’s not given an awful lot of thought to where it comes from so while admitting it has been weird he has enjoyed the topic. As a mother who flinches at the word milk I’ve found him enthusiastically singing about milkmen quite surreal. There have been ups and downs with the topic. The farming assembly we were invited along to was lots of fun and my son was the cutest little farmer I’ve ever seen but the class making butter without any thought to how scary it might be for a child with a milk allergy to be in a room of thirty children shaking jars of milk was a low point. I understand in this situation that I could not have provided a safe alternative (my son bless his heart thought maybe if we’d known about it he could have brought some of his own dairy free milk in to shake) but I’d have appreciated the opportunity to talk it through with him beforehand and offer reassurance that a clean jar with the lid on tight would not do him harm. Anyway this has very much been taken on board by the teachers so we’ve all learnt from it. 

Getting to the point, as a reward for working so hard and to finish off the topic the teacher organised a trip to a local dairy farm where the children could see for themselves what they had been learning about in class and then have an ice cream in the ice cream parlour that has been built on the farm. So we had 29 of 30 children saying ‘yay ice cream’ and 1 saying ‘I’m not going’. 

Now this is a tricky one. While horrified at the thought of visiting somewhere so utterly drenched in milk protein I knew it would be an interesting trip and I was keen my son be included. The only reason he could give me for not going was ‘there is milk’. My first instinct is always to protect but he is going to be around allergens all his life, there is milk in Tesco and frankly there is milk in my fridge. We talked it through and I discussed the trip with his teacher and with significant reassurance and a promise I would go along and he could leave at any point if he was uncomfortable he agreed to go. At that point I kept imagining a hose coming loose and madly spraying us all with milk but I’m pleased to report my vivid imagination was nothing like the reality!

Prior to the trip I phoned the ice cream parlour and then I emailed the farmer to give him more information about my son’s allergies and ask permission to store his safe ice cream in their freezer. The ice cream parlour does offer a soya ice cream and sorbets but they are made on the same premises using the same equipment and no matter how clean their kitchen is I just wasn’t comfortable with him eating their products. The farmer was super and gave me a full run down on what was planned for the visit and the risks involved. My son’s teacher also met with the farmer and assessed the risk involved in the visit. It was agreed he could go on the understanding I was with him at all times. I would carry emergency medication, school staff would carry a back up set (super cautious!) and I would bring my car so that if he became distressed or uncomfortable at any point he could leave. 

Things to know about visiting a dairy farm

  • It’s really muddy. If they say wear wellies, wear wellies! You’ll be glad you did! Also they got us to step into foot baths on the way in and out of the farm which is way easier in wellies. 
  • There is a lot of grass/hay/straw. My son sneezed his way round the farm
  • The cows are fed silage in the winter. This is grass mixed with other foodstuffs. On this farm it was mixed with barley, maize and soya. It is in heaps everywhere!
  • As much as they clean everything there will be milk protein on surfaces/door handles/sinks. There will also be poo. Don’t lean on anything!!
  • The hand washing facilities may also be where they wash out the milk pipes. Take hand wipes till you can get to a safer sink. 

  
Apart from the sneezing our visit went smoothly. He was a lot less anxious than I had anticipated although he did not enjoy being in the milking parlour.

What I learnt from the visit- calves are born without immunity and need to get colostrum from their Mum’s as soon as possible after birth. They are then kept in weird little plastic pods until it’s safe for them to mix with the other cows. 

What my son learnt- cows peeing is really  impressive, Swedish glacé make awesome  choc ices and there is a really cool play park outside the ice cream parlour. 

  

Spiced mini muffins with cream cheese icing 

I love these muffins, they are pretty and packed full of veg. Always a bonus when feeding children!

The recipe makes 48 mini muffins which is masses but I freeze small bags of them for future snacks. 

  
These muffins are teeny. You could make bigger ones, they’ll just need baked for longer. 

Ingredients

2 cups plain gluten free flour (I used 3/4 cup rice, 1/4 cup Teff, 1/2 cup sorghum & 1/2 cup potato starch)

If you don’t need to be gluten free use plain flour and omit the xanthan gum. 

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar 

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1/4 cup apple sauce (I use baby purée)

1 cup grated/processed veg (I used one carrot, one parsnip & one courgette which yielded about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/3 cup dairy free milk 

Icing 

60g Creamy Violife

2 tablespoons dairy free spread (I used Vitalite)

1 cup icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 mini muffin tins (24 muffins each) with paper cases. I think these would be lovely without cases baked in a greased mini muffin tin but the cases disguise the veg better!

Wash/peel/chop the carrot, parsnip and courgette and whiz them in a food processor until finely chopped. If you don’t have a food processor you could grate them. I sometimes make soup or veg to put in shepherd’s pie at the same and keep a cupful for the muffins.   

 
  
Measure out and sift the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda,baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl and whisk well to combine. 
In another bowl combine the veg, oil, apple sauce, vanilla extract, cider vinegar and dairy free milk then stir in the sugar. 

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just moistened then measure by teaspoonful into the prepared tins. 

  
Bake one tray at a time for 12 minutes, allow to cool for a few minutes in the tray (until it’s cool enough to handle) then transfer to a cooling rack. 

  
While the muffins are cooling make the icing.

Mix the creamy Violife and the dairy free spread together (I used my mixer) then slowly add the icing sugar and mix till smooth. The icing is quite runny, if you’d like it to be thicker add another half cup of icing sugar. There will be enough to ice at least half the muffins depending on how many you plan to freeze. Any extra can be stored in the fridge and (if you are anything like me) eaten on any biscuit/cake/loaf you like or just by the spoonful. 

  
Once the muffins are cool you can ice them either with a spoonful on top or piped on but as it’s very soft it doesn’t hold a shape. Iced muffins should be stored in the fridge. Muffins can be frozen until you remember you have some. I should probably say 3 months but I found some I made about 6 months ago and they were grand defrosted and iced! 

  

Double chocolate soft cookies gluten free & vegan 

I am obsessed with soft American style cookies after making Lucy’s Friendly Foods lemon & ginger ones recently. http://lucysfriendlyfoods.com/2016/01/05/cold-busting-lemon-and-ginger-cookies/ they are such a lovely texture and the kids loved them. I’ve been inspired to make strawberry & dairy free white chocolate cookies following the basic recipe and today I tried double chocolate. Wow. These are really good! My son ate two then said can I please have ten thousand more of those? I’ve adapted this recipe from Lucy’s to make it gluten free and chocolate. I’ve had success with several biscuit recipes recently doing a straight swop of plain flour for gluten free flour + 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum.

Ingredients – makes approximately 20

1 + 1/4 cup plain gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm)

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup of dairy free chocolate chips (I used Plamil dairy free catering chocolate)

1/2 cup dairy free spread (I used Vitalite)

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

2 tablespoons dairy free milk (I used Rice)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 190c

Cream together dairy free spread, sugar and syrup then stir in dairy free milk

Sift flour, cocoa, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk well

Slowly stir dry ingredients into the spread/sugar mix until you have a soft sticky dough then stir in chocolate chips

Drop mix by heaped teaspoon onto two baking trays (I don’t line mine as they are excellent and don’t stick but you may need to line with baking parchment if you prefer)


Bake one tray at a time for 8 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray then transfer to a cooling rack.


Enjoy with a cold glass of dairy free milk

Warning!! It is really hard to stop eating these!

Freefrom Fish cakes

I’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables into my children. One will willingly eat carrots and sweet corn (but not baby corn) and the other will eat broccoli and any kind of corn. Both like baked beans but I’m not sure they really count. They are also weird with potato. They’ll eat it on top of shepherds pie, roasted or potato smiley faces (which are a safe option for us! How cool is that?) but look at mashed potato on their plates like I’m trying to poison them. I feed them fish cakes made with mashed potato and extra veg purely for my own amusement. I do a lot of crazy mummy laughing in my head when they demolish them!

I don’t have a set recipe as it’s a great thing to make with leftovers so amounts differ. Also I made enough for 8 hungry people last night (to feed 4) so I’m not really to be trusted with amounts.

Usually I make fish cakes with left over mashed potato, a tin of tuna, a tin of sweet corn and some gluten free flour. Depending on how seasoned your potatoes were you can add salt & pepper and lemon juice to the mix.

Last night I had a large cooked salmon fillet to use so I boiled 6 large potatoes in a huge pot till soft then mashed them with a splodge of Vitalite and some salt and pepper. I boiled 2 carrots and parsnips then blended them and mixed them into the mash. If you were using tuna this would not be a good way to hide carrot as the mix was a bit orange! When my daughter commented on the colour I said it was the pink salmon she could see….

I then added a cup of gluten free flour to the potato mix, removed the skin from the cooked salmon, flaked the fish with a fork and stirred it in. I seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

How to

Heat a large frying pan on a high heat (I used 8 on my induction hob) with enough oil to cover the base.

Take the fish/potato mix by the handful and shape into a pattie. Could make smaller ones for little kids.

Coat the pattie in a light dusting of gluten free flour by sitting it on a plate of flour then gently turning it to coat the other side.

Place gently in the pan using a spatula to avoid splashing yourself with hot oil. Fry for approximately 2 minutes on each side until golden (also known as not too pale, not burnt). I cooked 4 at a time and prepared the next batch while they were cooking.


If you are making masses you can keep them warm in the oven till they are all cooked. Let them cool a little before giving them to children.

When it’s just me and the kids I serve the fish cakes with lemon juice and a big blob of tomato ketchup for dipping but we went posh last night since it was salmon and had extra veg. 2 fish cakes was ample for the kids. I ate 3 but would have been fine with 2!

Gluten, dairy, egg and most importantly pea free wraps

  
This is one of my favourite recipes. We cannot buy safe wraps. The gluten free ones on sale either contain egg or pea and are wildly expensive. As a toddler my son ate limited wheat, while he doesn’t have an immediate reaction he has never tolerated it well but one of the things he enjoyed eating was wraps. When we cut out wheat altogether when he was four the only wheat he was still eating was in wraps so I worked really hard at making a replacement. Four years on I think I’ve cracked it! We’ve tried various versions over the years from traditional ones made of masa harina to ones that involve a lot of ‘resting’ between each step of the recipe. I like instant gratification so ‘resting’ does not work for me. My main issues have been creating something that holds together, is not too dry, and that you can still eat once it has cooled without dislocating your jaw. 

My son loves these wraps. He has them at breakfast with dairy free chocolate spread, for lunch at school with tuna and on weekends with bacon. When we go on holiday I make a stack of them and put them in the freezer when we arrive. 30 seconds in the microwave and they are good to go! The pic below is my holiday baking for a week in Portugal. 

  
The wraps travel well in a sealable plastic bag between layers of kitchen roll. I always travel with wraps and rolls!

  
Anyway. Getting to the important part….

Ingredients – makes 4 large wraps 

1 cup Doves farm gluten free self raising flour

2 level desert spoons psyllium husk – I buy Holland & Barratt Colon care plus. It’s pricey but you can often get it on buy one get one half price and a bag goes a long way.  (I use a desert spoon to amuse myself as no other recipe I know uses one  If you don’t have one 2 dsp = 4 tsp)

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water 

 

Instructions

Sift flour, psyllium husk, sugar & salt into a large bowl and whisk well to combine

   

 Pour in the cup of warm water (I use half boiling half cold out the tap) and stir well. Do not freak out that it looks so wet, it will come together. 

 When it looks like this –

  
Tip dough onto a large well floured chopping board and gently roll to coat with flour. 

At this stage I’d put a large frying pan/crepe pan wiped with some cooking oil on to heat up on a medium to hot hob, I use 7 on my induction hob. Any earlier and the oil starts burning before you are ready. 
 Now gently squish it with your hands until you have a soft ball of dough

  
Divide into four pieces and roll each into a ball gently coating in more flour. If you don’t wish to cook all four you can wrap spare ones in cling film and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

   
 Sprinkle more flour on your board and onto your rolling pin and roll one out as thin as possible. You may need to roll your pin in more flour as you go along so it doesn’t stick. 

  
Carefully lift the rolled out wrap onto your frying plan and cook for approximately one minute until the edges start to curl up. While it is cooking roll out your next wrap. 

  
Don’t be concerned if it bubbles, it’s ok

  
Then turn over with a spatula and cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute. It may puff up a little as it cooks

Transfer wrap with a spatula onto a dinner plate with a piece of kitchen roll on it. 

  
Continue until all wraps are cooked. I’ve been known to triple the recipe if I’m baking for a holiday. 

For packed lunches I make up his wrap while it is still a little warm and wrap it tightly in cling film. Any left over can be kept in a plastic bag for a day or so or frozen. The wraps are ok cold but can be refreshed for 20 seconds in the microwave. You can heat from frozen for about 30 seconds on full power to eat immediately. 

The wraps can be an odd colour on one side due to the psyllium husk. A hint of purple is not unusual. 

  If the edges are dry you can trim them off before serving. You may need more water in the recipe or to cook them for less time. 

And here we are….a safe wrap