October 29, 2010

Dairy Free Milk - Which to Choose??

Trust me when I say that your dairy free milk options are good and
that the world has come a long way! When I was little there really
weren't any milk substitutes other than milk from another animal such
as goat (not the tastiest stuff in the world) and even that was hard to get, or at least that was the
case in Thunder Bay, my hometown. When I was older my mom read that
orange juice was a suitable dairy free option on cereal. This was
obviously a joke! I've never tasted anything worse in my life. Imagine
orange juice on weetabix - no thank you!
Now we can pick and choose from a whole range of milks but when the
choice is larger the choice becomes harder. Below I am going to list a few
of your dairy free milk options and their various attributes to clear up any wondering or confusion:

Rice Milk
My personal favourite. When truly dairy free options finally reared their head in Thunder Bay, Ontario (my home town) 'Rice Dream' rice milk was one of the first and how thankful we were. I love Rice Dream. There are a few rice milks on the market (Rice Dream is now available in most Dunne’s and Tesco supermarkets). Rice Dream brand is the thinnest of the available brands which differentiates it further from cow’s milk (my dairy free aunt describes it as coloured water!) and all are naturally quite sweet which can be a problem for some. To me, however, Rice Dream is light and refreshing. It might take a little ‘getting used to’ but the sweetness is perfect to my taste buds and I can genuinely say that even if I could tolerate cow’s milk I would never give up my Rice Dream rice milk on cereal, at least. Please note that yeast free diets may not be able to tolerate Rice Dream rice milk as the milk is fermented and likewise candida diets would not be advised due to the overall sweetness.

Soya Milk
The most popular substitute. It’s thicker than most of the substitutes and has a wholesome flavour. The major attribute of soya milk is its vast availability (almost all major supermarkets, health shops, gourmet grocers carry ‘Provamel’ or ‘Alpro’ brand soya milk at least. If you’re on a budget even Aldi and Lidl have soya milks which beat the rest on price by far!). The major downfall is that soya can be hard to digest and is subject to a lot of GM and chemical dealings (although organic soya milk is available at a slightly higher price). Some say that soya causes a cancer causing scum when it is not used in its traditional manner, such as miso or soya sauce, which only fish oils can cleanse. This, of course, makes soya milk a debatable option for vegetarians and vegans. All this aside Soya has been the father of dairy free creations be it milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, chocolate etc, etc, and the milk is wonderful for use in baking and cooking. Note that when taken straight (especially in warm beverages) it leaves a very slight ‘dryness’ in the mouth.

Coconut Milk
When I refer to coconut milk I am not referring to the thicker canned coconut milk which resembles a cream and is commonly found in Asian cooking. I am referring to a cow’s milk substitute which has become increasingly popular and can be found in a growing number of health food shops. The brand which is most available is ‘Kara’ and it is possibly the truest cow’s milk substitute that I have come across in my milk free life. The consistency is almost perfect and the taste is top quality. I was so impressed that I asked my milk drinking boyfriend to try it out (I can become disillusioned being so long away from some foods) and the verdict was yes - ‘It’s like milk with a faint hint of coconut’. So absolutely ideal for cooking and baking and even making hot chocolate that I find myself telling everyone I meet about it. The only problem is the fat content… If you are anyway concerned with waist lines you may be disappointed to note the 2% fat content But then again, milk isn’t the leanest thing in the world itself.

Oat Milk
I am new to Oat milk and despite my mom, sister and various shopkeepers being advocates I shied away for unknown reasons. However, after my food allergy blood test I was left with no other option (and only just barely allowed oat milk because I was only tested against gliadin gluten which is not the same gluten as found in oats and I showed no problems with oats themselves). Anyway, back to business: I am using oat milk quite a bit these days and find it purposeful but not overly noteworthy. It has a dull ‘oaty’ flavor in my opinion but it acts well as a substitute and is available in most health food shops in both regular and organic.

Almond Milk & Hazelnut Milk
I have coupled almond milk with hazelnut milk because they are a bit different than the rest. Being made from nuts it is no surprise that they are basically a quarter to twice the price as the other dairy free milk alternatives. The price, at approx. €4.15-€4.55 per litre is a bit exorbitant for baking and general purpose and although both the almond and the hazelnut milks taste lovely I feel that they are more suitable as a beverage. Please note that some of the additional sweetness is from the additional ingredient of corn maltodextrin.

Rice Dream + Calcium (Rice Drink)
Ingredients: Water, rice (14%), sunflower oil, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, sea salt.
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 194kl/47kcal
Protein 0.1 g
Carbohydrates 9.4g
of which sugars 4.0g
Lactose 0.0g
Fat 1.0g
of which saturates 0.1g
Cholesterol 0.0mg
Fibre 0.1g
Sodium 0.05g
Calcium 120mg

Vitariz Organic (Rice Drink)
Ingredients: water, rice (14%), sunflower seed oil, sea salt
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 232 kj/55kcal
Protein 0.4g
Carbohydrates 10.5g
of which sugar 9.5g
Fat 1.1g
of which saturates 0.1g
Cholesterol 0.0g
Fibre 0.7g
Sodium 0.04g

Reis Natural Rice Drink
Ingredients: water, rice (13%), sunflower oil, sea salt
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 202kj/48kcal
Protein 0.1g
Carbohydrates 9.6g
of which sugars 6.5g
lactose 0.0g
Fat 1.0g
of which saturates 0.3g
cholesterol 0.0mg
Fibre 0.8g
Sodium 0.03g

Kara Original + Calcium (made from freshly pressed coconut milk)

Ingredients: filtered water, coconut milk (8.4%), fruit extract concentrate, calcium phosphate, emulsifier: sucrose ester, sea salt, colour: natural carotene
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 106kj/27kcal
Protein 0.2g
Carbohydrate 1.9g
of which sugars 1.6g
lactose 0.0g
Fat 2.0g
of which saturates 1.9g
cholesterol 0.0g
Fibre 0.1g
Sodium 0.04g
Calcium 120mg

Oatly Organic (Oat Milk)
Ingredients: oat base (water, oats 10%), sea salt
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 150kj/35kcal
Protein 1.0g
Carbohydrates 6.5g
of which sugars 4.0g
lactose 0.0g
Fat 0.7g
of which saturated 0.1g
cholesterol 0.0mg
Fibre 0.8g
of which beta-glucans 0.4g
Sodium 0.04g

Bonsoy Soya Milk
Ingredients: water, soybeans (15%), tapioca syrup, sea salt, job’s tears (Japanese barley), calcium carbonate (Note: Job's tears is an ancient annual grass and is suitable for a gluten free diet)
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 256kj/61kcal
Protein 4.1g
Carbohydrates 5.5g
of which sugars 2.2g
Fat 2.2g
of which saturates 0.3g
of which trans fats <0.01g Fibre 1.4g Sodium 0.05g Calcium 25mg Alpro Soya Milk Unsweetened + Calcium, Vitamin B2, B12, D2
Ingredients: water, hulled soya beans (6.5%), acidity regulators (monopotassium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate), calcium carbonate, maltodextrin, stabilizer (gellan gum), vitamins (riboflavin, B12, D2)
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 131kj/31kcal
Protein 3.3g
Carbohydrates 0.2g
of which sugars <0.1g lactose 0.0g Fat 1.8g of which saturates 0.3g cholesterol 0.0g Fibre 0.5g Sodium 0.01g equivalent as salt 0.03g Calcium 120mg Vitamins Riboflavin 0.21mg B12 0.38ug D 0.75ug Provamel Unsweetened Organic Soya Milk
Ingredients: water, hulled organic soya beans
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 147kj/35kcal
Protein 3.7g
Carbohydrates 0.1g
of which sugars 0.1g
lactose 0.0g
Fat 2.2g
of which saturates 0.4g
cholesterol 0.0g
Fibre 0.6g
Sodium 0.01g
equivalent as salt 0.03g

Avonmore Fresh Whole Milk
Ingredients: whole milk
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 269kj/64kcal
Protein 3.3g
Carbohydrate 4.9g
of which sugars 4.9g
Fat 3.5g
of which saturates 2.2g
Fibre trace
Sodium <0.1g Calcium 118mg Vitamin B12 0.4ug Avonmore Lactose Free Milk
Ingredients: milk, water, milk protein, calcium gluconate, lactase enzyme, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 174kj/42kcal
Protein 3.4g
Carbohydrate 3.6g
of which sugars 3.6g
lactose <0.01g
glucose 1.8g
galatose 1.8g
Fat 1.5g
of which saturates 0.9g
Fibre 0.0g
Sodium <0.1g
Calcium 117mg
B2 0.30mg
B12 0.16ug

October 25, 2010

Visit Dublin Co-op - It's Worth It

Word on the street is that the Dublin Co-op Wholefood shop is a good thing. Fact on the street is that that word is true. The fairtrade and organic market takes place every Thursday and Saturday and the Co-op Wholefood Shop is open during those times.
With one of the largest dairy free milk selections I've seen in Dublin and a huge variety of food allergy friendly products such as chocolates, yoghurts, breads, cereals and condiments it will be easy to find a reason to take a trip to 12 Newmarket. It may seem a little off the beaten track but whether you are getting your weekly groceries or visiting Dublin as a tourist a market is always a feel-good experience and the Dublin Co-op is a great way to connect with the people and see more than the corporate face of the city.
If you need further persuasion: Dublin Co-op has some of the best wholefood prices that I've seen in Dublin and have no fear: there is also ample parking so you can stock up!
The Thursday opening is much quieter than the Saturday which is beneficial if you are looking for a quiet occasion to stock up on your weekly health food products but if you are looking for the buzz and variety of a marketplace be sure to make your visit on the Saturday opening (especially if you are a tourist)!

Dublin Co-op
12 Newmarket
Dublin 8
Tel: (01) 454 4258
Web: www.dublinfood.coop
Opening Times: Thurs 14:00-20:00 ; Sat 09:30-16:30 and independently run Sunday markets (see website for upcoming dates)

October 18, 2010

A Few Updates On Dublin with Food Allergies

Just like the seasons, one following the other endlessly, life with food allergies keeps moving forward. There are new products on the market, new places to buy them and new restaurants to try out and hopefully enjoy! So it would be unfair and unrealistic to write one log and never look back...

Brick Alley Café & Soya Milk Coffees
In my haste to give you a few soya milk coffee and tea options in the city centre I forgot to include an old favourite. I have updated last week's 'Get Your Fix' to include the Brick Alley Café. Far from a new addition in Dublin (except for it's name!) the Brick Alley Café is a wonderful place to have coffee and soya milk is definitely on the menu! Please see the full review on October 15th log - 'Travelling to Dublin? - Get Your Fix'

Nolan's Food Fare & Dairy Free Ice Cream
Being so close to home it's not surprising to find myself frequently browsing the shelves of Nolan's Food Fare in Terenure. What is (delightfully) surprising however, is to notice that they have expanded their produce to include Swedish Glacé soya ice cream. If you are dairy free and Nolan's Food Fare is on your path then the time to rejoice is now! Swedish Glacé is a top quality dairy free ice cream. I will write more about it in an ice cream special that i hope to have for you in the not too distant future but for now be clear that it is a genuine attribute to the dairy free people in the area as it's not always convenient to buy your ice cream in town (if you don't have a car that is!). I hope that you can find a reason to indulge soon! For more on Nolan's Food Fare please see August 30th log - 'Gluten Free Haven - Nolan's Food Fare'

Wheat Free Asafoetida
Finally, for anyone who has been patiently awaiting an update on my asafoetida debacle last August 18th - 'Hidden Wheat' I can finally report: wheat free asafoetida users can now turn to either 'Down to Earth' (see the 'Shop Short List' page located on the title bar) for the pure ground spice or 'Green Cuisine' brand which is stocked at a number of locations throughout the city such as Evergreen (35 Wexford St, D2) or many of the asian and indian grocers throughout the city such as the Asian Food Co (55 Mary St, D1).

October 15, 2010

Travelling to Dublin? - Get Your Fix!

When en route, coffee is one of the common things to cause complaint - It's too strong, it's too weak, or 'these people don't know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte!'... and if you like milky coffees but have an allergy to cow's milk it can be especially difficult when you are a fish out of water. Getting your daily coffee fix is a serious matter for many people and getting what you want, or getting what you can get at home, is an increasingly important matter for those with food allergies.
The purpose of today's log is to give you a pointing direction to a couple of local Dublin city centre cafes which offer soya milk instead of only cow's milk should you be visiting our city and find yourself at a loss for that special milky coffee that will turn your day around.
As you probably know, soya milk makes an ideally dense froth but has an ever so slightly dry after taste. At all of the venues listed below the following is applicable: Order the beverage of your choice and state 'with soya milk'. The price will be approximately 50c more for the Soya milk substitution.

Butler's Chocolate Café
A genuine coffee house which can make your little fix into a real treat. Serving only chocolates, coffees, teas and milky beverages. Butler's is truly a dedicated establishment. Dublin's Butler's Chocolates have become a household name in Ireland since they were founded in 1932 so when you go to Butler's you are getting a genuinely Irish experience. The quality is top notch and the selection is wide. The only hard part will be forgoing your choice of the complimentary chocolates which are sadly not dairy free!

For exact location and opening hours please see the Restaurant Directory page or the Shops Short List located on the title bar
Locations in Dublin 1, 2, 8, 15, 16, Swords and Dublin Airport
Web: www.butlerschocolates.com
Varying hours between locations.
Approx Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri 08:00 - 19:00; Thurs 08:00 - 21:00; Sat 09:00 - 19:00; Sun 10:00 - 19:00

Metro Café
A busy cafe during the day which holds true to its name. My favourite time to visit Metro is in the evenings when the sun is shining in just before it's golden warmth sets behind the city. I think that it's at its coziest when the traffic begins to slow down and the interior decoration and comfort can be fully appreciated. The food menu was not created with food allergies in mind but like some of the other venues on this page soya is on the menu to help us along in serving our dairy free caffeine cravings.
Location: 43 South William St, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 679 4515
Opening Hours: Mon-Tue 07:30-20:00; Wed-Fri 07:3021:00; Sat 08:00-20:00; Sun 09:30-19:00

Busyfeet & Coco Cafe
A great little cafe serving food and beverages and opened relatively late by Dublin café standards. The food is not necessarily catered towards food allergy sufferers but the coffee is fairtrade and soya substitutes are on the menu. Added bonus is Saturday nights sees live music in Busyfeet & Coco Cafe which makes for a nice alternative to the pub scene.
Location: 41-42 South William St, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 679 9514
web: www.facebook.com/pages/Dublin-Ireland/Busyfeet-Coco-Cafe/118294784889880
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, Sat 09:00-20:00; Fri, Sun: 09:00-21:00

Taste Food Co.
A relatively new cafe in Dublin focussing on fairtrade coffees and quality food. Taste Food Co. are primarily a catering business but with the extension of their Café & Bistro they now offer a sizable venue with two floors and a busy trade. The dishes on offer are not primarily concerned with food allergies but they do offer coffees and teas with a soya milk option.
Location: 39 South William St, Dublin 2
Web: www.tastefoodco.ie
Opening Hours: to be confirmed

Fallon & Byrne Café
Dublin's luxury food hall. With a food hall, restaurant, wine bar and café all things are covered. Please note that the only place in Fallon & Byrne serving beverages with soya substitutes is the café deli on the ground floor. However, it is possible to purchase your beverage on the main floor and bring it down to the wine bar/cellar should you require. The food available at the café is deli style and although good quality, not completely food allergy friendly.
Location: 2 Exchequer St, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 472 1000
Web: www.fallonandbyrne.com
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed 08:00-21:00; Thurs-Fri 08:00-22:00; Sat 09:00-21:00; Sun 12:30-19:00

Brick Alley Café
Located in Temple Bar, Brick Alley Café (previously the Joy of Coffee) is one of the more urban feeling cafés of Dublin. Despite its touristy location it is a café frequented by locals and enjoyed by all. Despite semi-communal tables (which add to the ambiance) you can still feel private in one of the nooks and corners and the great coffees and healthy tea selection with the option of soya milk keeps you enjoying every drop as you watch the bustle of the city go by. The name change still hasn't completely registered with Dubliners yet but the place itself is unchanged since I first stepped foot years and years ago. It's a great choice no matter the season. Food is served and with a lot of questions an alterations an allergy free meal might be possible but the real key to Brick Alley Café is the relaxed sipping of coffee with some good conversation.
Location: 25 East Essex St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 067 93393
Opening House: Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00

Starbucks Coffee Company
I assume that Starbucks needs no introduction. As one of the world's largest coffee company chains it will be no surprise that there are now 18 Dublin locations and soya is always the menu, as expected.
For exact locations and opening hours please see the Restaurant Directory page located on the title bar
Locations in Dublin 1, 2, 4, 15, 16, 18, 22, Blackrock, Swords
Web: ie.starbucks.com

October 7, 2010

Nature's Way - Holland & Barrett

Holland & Barrett is like the Tesco of the health food world. With more than 550 stores in the UK and Ireland I don't think that you will disagree with my saying that they are everywhere. They're certainly not a bad chain and have many brilliant offers and great quality dried fruits and nuts but to me they create a sense of ennui. Maybe it's the billboard branding or perhaps the simple fact that they are indeed everywhere but with my own prejudices aside the facts are these:

- good prices on vitamins if you're on a budget
- supplies many everyday sweets and snacks that happen to be free from common food allergens
- large selection of nuts and dried fruits
- good selection of wheat, gluten, dairy & egg free baking mixes
- discounts and 2-for-1 offers always available

The sheer fact that Holland & Barrett have been so successful means that health food, food allergies and quality living are becoming more and more popular and every time a new Holland & Barrett opens up these issues become better understood therefore making the life of the food allergy boys and girls everywhere an easier place to be. But hey, I like the little independents.. always have, always will..but that in no means ex-communicates the big guys!

Holland & Barrett
U69 Ilac Shopping Centre
Dublin 1
tel: (01) 872 8391

Holland & Barrett
75 Grafton Square (Grafton St)
Dublin 2
tel: (01) 670 3335

Holland & Barrett
Unit 115 St Stephens Green Shopping Centre
Dublin 2
tel: (01) 478 0165

Holland & Barrett
Unit 23 Swan Centre
Rathmines Rd Lwr
Dublin 6

Holland & Barrett
Unit 205 Omni Park Shopping Centre
Dublin 9
tel: (01) 842 7711

Holland & Barrett
Unit 5/6 Clare Hall Shopping Centre, Malahide Rd
Clare Hall
Dublin 13
tel: (01) 847 6450

Holland & Barrett
U67 Donaghmede Shopping Centre
Dublin 13
tel: (01) 867 1174

Holland & Barrett
Unit 19 Nutgrove Shopping Centre
Dublin 14
tel: (01) 495 8599

Holland & Barrett
U121 Blanchardstown NTC
Dublin 15
tel: (01) 822 2560

Holland & Barrett
U236A The Square Shopping Centre
Dublin 24
tel: (01) 459 6268

Holland & Barrett
U51 Blackrock Shopping Centre
Co Dublin
tel: (01) 288 6696

Holland & Barrett
Unit 217 Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre
Dun Laoghaire
Co Dublin
tel: (01) 284 6792

web: www.hollandandbarrett.ie

October 5, 2010

Allergy Free - Did You Know Products - 3 (Dairy Free Chocolate)

Welcome to Chocolate Land! I'm not actually a chocoholic myself but I know that there are a lot of you out there and that a dairy-free lifestyle can severely dent your habits let alone being a pain in the bee-hind... So today's 'Did you Know Products' is focused on some of your dairy free chocolate options.

'El Lobo' Torta de Chocolate con Almendras
(Chocolate Tart with Almonds)
As you can see from the picture this is a large disk of dark chocolate filled with almonds. Importantly I note that this chocolate actually looks like it's picture unlike soooo many other products. It's roughly 1/2 inch in depth and costs €5.50 in Fallon & Byrne on (Exchequer Street). Although it seems pricey at first, it is actually good value compared with other dairy-free chocolate options. It is also important to say that I haven't actually tasted this Spanish chocolate myself. I have smelt it and closely inspected it and 'almost' tasted it but because it contains soya lecithin I was restricted from indulging. However, my foodie friends thoroughly enjoyed it during their Saturday Italian brunch routine which is a true recommendation if you knew them.. Please note that El Lobo does contain the warning that it is made in a factory which uses milk. And actually, the warning is of a humorous nature stating that has been: 'Elaborated in a company that uses: Other tree nuts, milk [and] wheat'. The added benefit is, of course, the 'collaboration with unicef' sticker!

- dairy free
- wheat free
- egg free
- vegetarian
- vegan
- corn free

Booja-Booja 'Hazelnut Crunch Truffles'
The bees knees indeed-s. Booja Booja is my saving grace. Easter for countless years, has seen my face filled with glee and my taste buds wrapped in the glory of Booja Booja dairy free truffles. Booja Booja is quite possibly the best dairy free chocolate on the market. Now.. a debate is on the line. Countless people have said to me that Booja Booja chocolate is raw. Although I eat raw chocolate I must admit that I don't love it. For some bizarre reason my stomach always feels somewhat unsettled afterwards and anytime that this conversation comes up I am told that Booja Booja chocolate is raw and I always have to eat my words (and a Booja Booja if they are near by!) because they really are the best thing since sliced bread ...BUT...I have read every inch of their packaging and I have trailed through their website and the only thing I found in relation to raw is that their new and wonderful ice cream has 'many', but even then, not all raw ingredients (update: The Ecuadorian Dark Truffles are 100% Raw and come in a beautiful little 2-pack for approx. €1.99). All that aside: Booja Booja come in beautiful little boxes (even hand painted ones available for occasions) with about 7 truffles in each. They are about €7.00 for the small box but BOY are they worth it. They have a cocoa powder exterior which I like to lick off before starting each sweet and then they have a solid 'shell' and a smooth, cool, melting interior in true truffle fashion. There are 5 or 6 flavours (Espresso, Hazelnut Crunch, Ginger Wine, Cognac Flambéd Banana, Champagne and a two-pack of Raspberry with Agave Syrup). I would pass on the Raspberry but the Hazelnut Crunch is where it's at!! (www.boojabooja.com)

- dairy free
- egg free
- wheat free
- gluten free
- vegetarian
- GMO free
- vegan
- organic

- raw (Ecuadorian Dark Truffles only)

Organica Vegan Diets 'White Bar' *
Organica Vegan Diets is a handy brand. Both the 'Golden Coconut & Dark Chocolate' bar and 'Hazlenut Nougat & Dark Chocolate' bar are nice little treats and are available in almost all of the Nourish's in Dublin. However, the purpose of this review is to discuss my new friend, the 'White Bar'. I have never seen a dairy free white chocolate until now, that is, so you can imagine my excitement at the prospects of the White Bar! The cream (or lack there of, pardon the pun) is that the White Bar is not only dairy free but also soya free. It is rich and sweet (in that slightly overkill way that is white chocolate) and its big enough to both savour and indulge in at the same time... I love it. I can't eat too much because it is white chocolate after all (note the overkill comment) but I love it so much that I have already had three of them despite its high price of €3.50 - €4.15 despite finding this price fluctuation scandalous! Now, the bitter reality: Outside of my tastes, my white chocolate loving boyfriend informed me that the White Bar was 'OK' but that it lacked the 'milkyness' of 'real' white chocolate. Take from that what you will but my verdict is that although the White Bar is no Booja Booja it is still a damn good alternative for we dairy-free consumers. I have located it in Portlaoise, and also in Nourish's flagship shop (Wicklow St) but I'm sure that it is only a matter of time before it spreads it's love around the rest of Dublin. (www.venturefoods.com)

- dairy free
- soya free
- egg free
- gluten free
- corn free
- vegan
- vegetarian
- organic

Plamil 'Dairy Free Chocolate Drops'
This is a find for me. There is a popular dark chocolate bar for baking (Wonderbar) which is dairy free. It is available in Tesco and some Londis shops. There are also dark chocolate chips available in Tesco which also happen to be dairy free (Tesco brand I believe) which are OK too but not as nice as the Wonderbar. BUT... to find dairy free AND soya free chocolate chips.. now that is a find! The only ingredients are sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sunflower lecithin. They come in a small tub containing 175g and they take your woes away ;). The biggest problem is that I haven't been able to find them in many places. I found them in the midlands in the town of Portlaoise but Plamil is stocked in most health food shops so I'm sure that a special request order in your local shop not be a problem. (www.plamilfoods.co.uk)

- dairy free
- soya free
- wheat free
- gluten free
- egg free
- corn free
- vegetarian
- vegan

Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Mini Bars
Dark Peru Chocolate with Sea Salt, Very Dark Chocolate (73% Cocoa) and Dark Chocolate with Chilli are all high-quality vegan chocolate options in the Montezuma's range. They are rich rich rich and a liking for dark chocolate is a prerequisite but if you are new to dark chocolate just give yourself time as it can be a bit of an acquired taste. I find them to be the perfect size if you just want to have something in the house should the nibbles bite after the shops are closed. I can open them and take a third off to get me though but can leave the rest behind for later which is a difficult ration for me! Montezuma is available in Nourish and Liston's. Please note that there is a 'possible nut and dairy traces' warning under their vegan notification. Also of interest is the Chocolate Vampire Bear on their website, check it out, very cute..or rather, scccaAARRRYYyyyy as the case may be... (www.montezumas.co.uk)

- dairy free
- soya free
- egg free
- corn free
- wheat free
- gluten free
- vegetarian
- vegan
- organic

Humdinger's 'Dairy Free - Deliciously Smooth'
* (not pictured)
The problem with dairy free chocolate is that the majority of options are dark chocolate and not everybody likes it. So luckily there is still an option for good old fashioned milk chocolate lovers.. and that option is Humdinger. The Dairy Free Rice Crackle and the Dairy Free Chocolate Buttons are both class acts. I reserve them for those times when I just really want milk chocolate. My favourite is the Rice Crackle but that in no way diminishes the Buttons. After looking through their website I am very surprised to say that in addition to the Rice Crackle and the Buttons that there is also an 'Original' bar, 'Tangerine' and 'Roasted Almond'!!! This actually shocks me because Humdinger's Dairy-Free bars are very available not to mention popular in Dublin in both health food shops and Tesco's but I have genuinely never seen the other flavours.. ever.. I don't say this to taunt you and my apologies for the distress of Dairy-Free advocates all over Dublin... but maybe we should all just pack up and go to the UK ;) (www.dairy-free.co.uk/dairyfree.htm)

- dairy free
- gluten free
- wheat free
- vegetarian
- vegan
- GMO free

Quiggan's 'Finest Almond Marzipan'
If you are not a marzipan lover than skip this... HOWEVER, if you ARE a marzipan lover read on: Myself and my sister have been marzipan lovers since we can remember so a big thick bar of quality marzipan covered in dark chocolate is always something that will snap us to attention. Over the years (esp. at Christmas time) a few different marzipan options have cropped up. Thortons do a wonderful little bag of individual dark chocolate coated marzipan with a walnut on top or Lyme Regis' Dark Chocolate Covered Marzipan (both are of course dairy free). There are a few other bars too which never seem to be available all year round.. Anyway, Quiggan's is a bar which is available in Liston's (Wexford St) for €2.50. It is definitely quality stuff. However, I am not 100% about its allergy-friendly status. the Plain Chocolate ingredient which lists itself as 'Plain Chocolate (Cocoa Solids 50% min) is not really very helpful and the Glucose Syrup also leaves one wondering. SO, I have written to Quiggan's and am patiently awaiting feedback so watch this space... (www.quiggins.co.uk)