June 30, 2011

Gino’s Handmade Italian Gelato – Fresh Dairy Free Gelato

The new kid on the block is Gino’s Handmade Italian Gelato which can be found right in the middle of the bustle of Grafton Street, Dublin 2. This company is a little bit of a mystery to me and the girls in the shop didn’t have an amazing amount of English so I have been left less than 100% about the food allergy situation.

I will keep this short and promise to report back when I can suss out more secure answers! From what I can gather there are two soya based gelati in store which are suspected to be dairy free. My sister had the vanilla last week and reported that it was amazing (she also didn’t have an allergic reaction so this is a positive to its dairy free quality!). The girls in the shop told me that the hazelnut is also made with soya – happy days! My sister subsequently reported that the hazelnut tastes divine, but vanilla (her all-time favourite) still reigns. I am also confident that the hazelnut is Dairy free because there has been no reaction to date and when I was in the shop a customer ordered regular hazelnut which the server took from a different tub… feeling confident yet? Hmmm...

Anyway, After a bit of confusion regarding the term ‘dairy free’ I was asking the second server, who had a better grasp on what I was looking for, if the gelati was dairy free, gluten free and/or egg free... she said yes to all (and volunteered thats it's vegetarian) after reading some tubs of ‘flavour/mix’? – Now is when I start to doubt – I wonder does the container state the information clearly in a warning label or is she looking for the exact words ‘gluten’ or ‘egg’ in the ingredient list and not thinking of derivatives… I ask if I could read the container but she doesn’t seem to understand my meaning/desire.

Next in Doubting Central, I try to find a website which might contain some clear information. I can’t find anything for the Dublin branch. I find a UK website with very different graphics, and a separate facebook page so I think that ‘Gino, The Art of Gelato’ is a separate company which a suspiciously similar name.
Back in Ireland, Gino’s advertises as ‘Homemade Italian Gelato’ which seems to suggest traditional methods...
I continue to comb through the web only to find that traditional ‘yellow’ toned gelato contains egg yolks as it is made with a custard base and while we’re talking traditional recipes, there is also usually butterfat included... hmmmm.

Finally, just for added frustration, the Dublin Gino’s facebook page lists the website: www.ginosicecream.com but it doesn’t seem to exist! If you search further on the facebook page it will bring you to www.ginosgelato.com … at last... however, the flavours link isn’t working – one break is all I ask for! Lol!

So the temporary verdict is two amazing Dairy free flavours based on the fact that they are both made with soya and my dairy free sister did not experience a reaction.
I have emailed the company and hope to get a solid answer in return and, of course, I will update you as soon as possible!

Gino’s Homemade Italian Gelato
34B Grafton Street
Dublin 1
tel: (01) 201 1703
web: www.ginosgelato.com
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ginosgelato

June 27, 2011

Big on Health - Low on Food Allergens: 'Green Energy Nutri Balls'

If you remember, I SERIOUSLY liked Jason Vale’s Veggie Juice in a Bar. Despite my initial reservations I found myself visiting the Hopsack, in Rathmines, repeatedly, for no reason other than getting another Veggie Juice Bar! I love the little dairy free, gluten free, vegan food allergy friendly super food bar... And then disaster struck... they ran out and didn’t seem to be restocking – Aghast! I think the actual problem was temporary and supplier related but whatever the reason I definitely felt the void.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was following some Gut healing books such as ‘Gut Reaction’ and ‘Good Gut Healing’ which were making me think about my recent additional food allergies and my overall health outside of just eating ‘free from’, and the potential source of my problems. I began to make small changes to the way I eat and what I eat.

I wanted to introduce some form of Green Energy foods into my daily diet, now that I wasn’t getting my little ‘hit’ in the Veggie bars. I had tried 100% Spirulina in the past but found it hard to take outside of an elaborate smoothie to mask the taste and ‘slipperiness’ but I was hopeful of finding my perfect companion because my taste for ‘green’ had definitely matured in recent months.

After doing some research and seeking some advice on different products I opted for Pukka’s Clean Greens supplement in powder form. I liked the variety of greens, the added peppermint, fennel and ginger to aid digestion and the lack of any sweetener, including Stevia which seemed to pop up in most of the brands I was looking at (I have nothing against Stevia except that I personally dislike the flavour and don’t think that the inclusion is necessary). Much to my surprise I actually LOVE the taste of the Clean Greens. I love it so much that I haven’t even tried mixing it with water yet because I keep licking it right off of the spoon! F. says that its tastes like soup… or more specifically, a stock cube. I prefer to describe it as peppery!

However, my original idea was to try and make my own version of Jason Vale’s Veggie Juice in a Bar inspired partly by Jason Vale, partly by the popular Nakd bars and partly by the dairy rich ‘protein’ balls that I often see by the counter in health food shops. So despite, my new off-the-spoon love, I thought that I should try it out anyway…and try it out I did with modest success, I think. My Green Energy ‘Nutri’ Balls turned out to be
- Dairy free/Milk free
- Lactose free
- Gluten free
- Egg free
- Soya free
- Corn free
- Coconut free (if you stick to the almond topping & don’t use the optional topping)
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Free of refined sugar and added sugar

The major bonus is that they turned out to be super easy to make. The only problem was that my daily dose of Clean Greens were in two balls but I found it hard to stay out of the box!

Green Energy Nutri Balls
Makes 14

250g Dates
7 tbsp Ground Almonds
7 tbsp Ground Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds (any blend would do, but I ground these myself in a coffee grinder)
7 tsp Pukka Clean Greens
2 tbsp Flax Oil
Additional Water for blending if necessary (use sparingly)
50g Flaked Almonds (optional substitution: coconut shavings might be nice)

1. Roughly chop the dates first and then put the dates, ground almonds, ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds and the flax oil in a blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed and no chunks of date remain. You may require 1-2 tbsp of water to complete blending if the mixture gets too sticky but use moderately as you do not want a ‘wet’ mixture (note: I used a hand blender but nearly burnt out the motor with the thickness so be careful!)
2. Knead the mixture to ensure all the ingredients are well mixed. Form into a log and divide into 14 equal parts and roll each part into a ball in the palmss of your hands (your palms will get a bit ‘green’ but don’t worry, it washes off easily!)
3. Chop the flaked almonds into small ‘nibs’ and roll each ball firmly into the nuts to coat evenly.

And that’s it! Two balls give you a daily serving of Clean Greens and they make a perfect treat when you’re hankering for something sweet.

June 25, 2011

The Allergy Interviews - Peadar Ó Guilín - Dairy Free

Peadar Ó Guilín
Database Administrator by day, Science-Fiction Writer by night!
On a more realistic note, Peadar works part-time for a large computer company and has published two books, The Inferior (2007) and The Deserter(2011) which have had international success. Peadar is currently working on his third book which will complete the trilogy. When he’s not fixing giant computers or writing he is singing in the kitchen while chopping onions!

What are you allergic/intolerant to?
I am intolerant to all kinds of dairy products.

What are your reactions?
Short-term reactions include indigestion and IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome]. In the longer term, I tend to get arthritis, psoriasis and headaches.

How long have you had, or have known about your food allergies/intolerances?
I've been suffering from some of the symptoms for years, but I ignored them. Indigestion is unpleasant, but when you see a million ads for Rennies etc. on TV, the tendency is to think of tummy troubles as a natural part of life that affects everybody sooner or later. However, over years, the indigestion worsened and acquired a few friends along the way. By the time I was in my mid-thirties (early forties now), I was on various medications to control it and suffering attacks of IBS after nearly every meal. Even then, I thought it was all somehow “normal”.
Around the same time, minor aches started affecting my joints. Two years ago, these aches rapidly got worse, to the point where I could barely walk and couldn't even cross my legs. At that point, I became afraid I would soon lose the ability to walk.

How did you discover your sensitivities, or what prompted the diagnosis?
Like a lot of people in my position, I tried to get help from several doctors. I had my blood and my stomach and my colon checked out, but nothing showed up in the tests. It was very frustrating and at no point did anybody suggest to me that it might be something I was eating. So, of course, I turned to the internet, where an army of crackpots is always waiting to fill the medical void with their theories.
In the end, I tried the York Test. It's a blood test that searches for anti-bodes to various food proteins. I wasn't 100% convinced by the science behind it (and still amn't!), but when it came back with dairy as by far and away the worst culprit, I decided to give it three months to see how I got on.
My symptoms didn't clear up immediately, but I kept a thorough diary of everything I ate and how I was feeling from day to day. By the end of the trial period, there had been very noticeable improvements. After six months, my IBS was gone, indigestion was rare – as opposed to a constant companion – and the arthritis had lessened to the point where I could play football again.

Do you find it difficult to stick to your diet? And if so why?
No. My only difficulties occur when I eat out. That was, and continues to be very hard. However, if you're sick enough, you can stay off anything!

What is your favourite food?
Cheese, ice cream, cake :)

What do you miss the most?
See above.

What do your friends and/or family think of your food allergies or how do they deal with them?
Everybody has been very supportive. One of my family members has a lot of the same symptoms I had and has followed me into Undairyville. It worked out really well for her too, I'm happy to say.

Where is your favourite (food allergy friendly) place to eat?
Cornucopia is brilliant[Ed. note: Yes it is!! & it's located on Wicklow St, Dublin 2]. I love it.

Do you or have you ever broken your diet?
I don't break it on purpose, but accidents do happen to people like me who like to eat out.

How does it feel?
It's usually no more serious than a bit of indigestion. As I said before, my short-term symptoms tend to be mild. It's the build-up that I fear and I haven't allowed that to happen again. Yet.

Have you learnt anything about yourself since abstaining from your problem/danger foods?
Just what everybody learns: the things I thought I needed... I really didn't.

If you could give advice to people with food allergies or potential food allergies what would it be?
Learn to enjoy cooking. Play some nice music while you do it. Sing along. Chop some onions.

What is the best source of information and/or help that you have found?
- I enjoy this site, of course! [Ed. note: Thanks!!]I also use the HappyCow website to find vegan restaurants and they have a handy application for android phones that will search near you for safe places to eat.
- The Cornucopia Cookbook is wonderful.
- I also love wandering around the Asia Market in Dublin looking for inspiration. There's always something new – amazing or disgusting, you won't know 'til you've tried it.

Can you share with us one of your worst, best and/or funniest experiences living with food allergies?
I only wish I had a funny story to recount! Mostly, I bore the living daylights out of people whenever talk of eating comes up, or health, or cakes. The foodstuff is bad enough, but it would be a great idea if I also gave up talking about dairy.

Would you like to share a quick and easy food allergy-friendly recipe?!
I have no great recipes of my own, but I love stealing from other people. I make the meal below on a regular basis, these days. It's gorgeous:

If you would like to take part in The Allergy Interviews or The Vegan/Vegetarian/Raw Interviews you can contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at: aurea.conroy@gmail.com
I’d love to hear from you either way! And enjoy the rest of your weekend – come on sun!

June 23, 2011

‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne – Much More than Just Recipes

How to Cook for Food Allergies goes far beyond the expected. Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne is a professionally trained chef, a culinary teacher and owner of a catering business. She is also the mother of two food allergic children and a third who can eat anything which means that she is an expert in cross-contamination and substitution… Not to mention being the creator of the infamous ‘Genius Fresh Gluten Free Bread’.

I have had the book out on loan from the library for months and months, with renewal after renewal. This is not because it’s massive or because I’ve been pouring over it every evening and just can’t give it up… it’s because I haven’t had a proper chance to look at it yet. I mean, I’ve flipped through it from time to time but have never tried making anything out of it and in general have always gotten just a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information and all of the substitution alternatives. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to cast the book aside because at first glance it doesn’t wow your socks off or because the recipes seem a bit ordinary and the substitution alternatives aren’t clearly dedicated to your own specific food allergies and diet.

I am the queen of first impressions. I love pretty things and I like perfection in every way. However, I am also VERY open to re-evaluating my first impressions and am willing to dig deeper into the not-so-instantaneously-pretty to find its worth. When I finally gave ‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ the time it deserved I found that it contains a fountain of information! It has a lot of staple recipes (which is oh-so-important for anyone with food allergies) and it also makes substitutions for these recipes accessible to a range of food allergy combinations:

- Dairy free / milk free
- Egg free
- Wheat free
- Gluten free
- Nut free
- Soya free

The way the recipes work is:
1st the ingredient list is supplied for the ‘normal’ recipe
2nd there are tags in the left margin with possible substitutions underneath for i.e. gluten, dairy, egg, etc so you can choose how allergy friendly you wish to make the dish.
3rd there are often variations after the recipe for slightly similar dishes but with different flavours or different shapes such as Focaccia Bread or Pizza Bases based on the Gluten Free White Bread or Rhubarb Crumble instead of the Apple & Blackberry Crumble.

At first, the system seemed confusing but once I adjusted to it I found it to be one of the best systems ever! Some allergy friendly cookbooks and recipes can be frustrating if you are, for example, dairy free and egg free but not gluten free and you’re trying to make a Victoria Sponge Cake (pg. 172!) because you don’t need to lose out on the gluten aspect but you still need an allergy-friendly recipe to help you! Likewise, many free-from recipes weigh heavily on another common allergen to pump up the taste. For instance, I regularly find that many gluten free recipes have loads of dairy products which can make substitution very difficult to navigate for a dairy free and gluten free diet. SO, like I said, best system ever! If only every allergy-friendly cookbook was written like this! –or just every recipe book ever... one can dream, no?

But the recipes are really only half of the book! The other half is an indispensible guide to

- Living with food allergies
- Cooking for food allergies
- Travelling with food allergies
- Staying Healthy on a restricted food-allergy diet

And when I say essential, I mean essential. I think you’ll agree that ALL the bases are covered with chapters like:

1. Avoiding Problem Foods in Day-to-Day Life
2. Eating Out and Travelling
3. Eating A Balanced Diet on a Restricted Diet
4. Substituting for Eggs
5. Substituting for Wheat and Other Gluten-Rich Grains
6. Substituting for Dairy Products
7. Substituting for Nuts and
8. Substituting for Soya

Not to mention the recipe chapters on 'Stock, Soups & Sauces', 'Frying', 'Grilling' 'Roasting & Oven-Baking', 'Poaching & Stewing', 'Potatoes', 'Grains, Rice & Pasta', 'Home Baking', 'Puddings & Sweet Sauces', 'Baby Foods' and 'Children's Party Foods'.
Each chapter goes into wonderfully helpful detail on topics like how to deal with Visiting Friends and Family, Choosing from a Menu, Travelling on Planes, What your Food Allergens are Used For in Different Recipes, and Substitution Ideas for each use. There are loads of information boxes throughout the recipe section and there is also a wonderfully in-depth chapter on balancing your diet and maintaining nutrition, vitamins and minerals if you cut out dairy, egg, wholegrain wheat, white wheat flour, soya and/or nuts. It tells you what you might be missing, what the missing vitamin, etc, does for you (why you need it) and where else you can get it.

I genuinely believe that ‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ does what it says on the tin: it helps you to ‘Understand Ingredients, Adapt Recipes with Confidence and Cook for an Exciting Allergy-Free Diet’.
Whether you like the recipes inside or not, it is an essential guide for your food substitution journey. It will help you adapt all of your favourite family recipes from years gone by and it is an amazing aid to creating and developing your own original recipes.

I’m being so positive about this book I almost feel like I’ve been paid to promote it, but I promise you I haven’t. All of my reviews are my own personal opinions and if that ever changes I will let you know loud and clear!

June 20, 2011

Shake it up with a Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan & Nut Free ‘Milk’ Shake in ShakeAway

Maybe it’s the resurge of Vintage charm or maybe it’s just Ireland’s response to the Cupcake craze… Either way Milkshake bars have been popping up all over the city! I’m more of a fruit-filled smoothie girl myself and due to my milk allergies I tend to take little notice of ‘milky’ trends but I couldn’t help turning my head when ShakeAway opened up on Upper Liffey Street (Dublin 1) and announced themselves to be all-inclusive with more than 150 shakes which include allergy friendly options like:
- Dairy free/Milk free
- Gluten free
- Vegetarian
- Vegan
- Egg free
- Nut free

I haven’t had a milkshake in over 5 years but in the interest of ‘research’ ;) I tried out one of ShakeAway’s Vegan monstrosities. If I had it over again I probably would have gone for Ginger Nut with added Wheatgerm but hey, the bright colours, loud music and the tweenies all around me hazed my judgment leading me falsely towards a Pineapple selection!
What are milkshakes? I have often felt left out when people go to Eddie Rockets and have milkshakes (F being a prime suspect!). It’s always one of my poor-me moments because in my head I think that I love them so much and am really missing out. So even though I’m deferring on sugar right now I skipped on into ShakeAway to indulge my childish desires!

To my surprise my taste buds reminded me, within seconds, that Milkshakes are very similar to melted ice cream – something that I’m not a fan of. Not to mention the copious amount of sugar! This aside, I was also disappointed that there didn’t seem to actually be any pineapple in my milkshake – woe... But on the plus plus plus side F tried it and said that it was very ‘milky’ tasting and that he wouldn’t necessarily know that it was vegan. In addition to that, he also thought that the 'pineapple' flavouring was trés artificial which was a pity. (UPDATE: ShakeAway just informed me on Twitter that they definitely use real pineapple in their milkshakes which is GREAT news! I suppose that it just tasted extra sugary to me because I have been off sugar for so long, which can often happen. But thanks ShakeAway for making your milkshakes that much less of a guilty pleasure for all the food allergy milkshake lovers out there!) On a purely vegetarian note, F got Nutella & Banana but mourned his favourite Vanilla. It's always hard to try something new when you know what you love!

So... the verdict is: This is not a health blog! This is a food allergy blog which means that ShakeAway is awesome because their menu is marked plain to see:

(v) is for vegan which includes dairy free and egg free with 40 flavours for dairy free and/or vegan diets ranging from fry’s orange cream, maple syrup, sesame snaps, ginger nuts, apricot, tic tac mint, weetabix or good old trusty vanilla!
(nv) is for NOT vegetarian – all bar 26 shakes, mainly located in the ‘Sweety’ section
(ng) is for NOT gluten free – all bar 79 shakes, mainly located in the ‘Biscuity’ and the ‘Cakey’ sections, understandably!
Something that I find really novel is when a company says everything is gluten free EXCEPT the ones marked… it just creates a sigh of happiness…
It also says on the menu that if you are Nut free ‘talk to them’... there are, unfortunately, no listings on the menu to pre-guide you.
Note: There is an added price for the dairy free shakes due to ‘the high cost of soya ice cream’ which is a very real reason.

€3.25 regular (+€0.99 for dairy free)
€3.95 large (+€1.49 for dairy free)
But if you want to pump up the er, ‘healthy’ additive ratio you can include
- Bran
- Energy
- Malt (not so healthy, but it’s a choice)
- Muscle Builder
- Protein
- Wheatgerm

So far there is only one ShakeAway location in Dublin but it's centrally located. There is a new ShakeAway coming to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) in October (in the Al Wahda Mall) and the home of ShakeAway is in the United Kingdom which therefore features ShakeAway locations in 44 UK cities.
There was also something about Australia on the website too but I can’t figure out if it’s still in Biz..

Shake it, SHAKE it, Shake it…

Upper Liffey St
Dublin 1
Tel: 085 214 7959
Web: www.shakeaway.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/ShakeAway-Dublin-official/125931010763662?sk=wall
Opening Times: mon-sat 11:00-19:00; sun 12:00-19:00

June 18, 2011

Food for my Mind and Eyes: What I’ve Been Reading Online This Week

When you have food allergies and love both food and life, an obvious pastime becomes surfing the www. for interesting, tempting and amusing tidbits, sites and inspiration. Today’s list is a bit eclectic but I think each link has something different but equally worthy to offer…

A marvellous trove of Wheat, Dairy, Soya, Yeast and Egg free recipes: www.theintolerantgourmet.com
A great girl with a handy selection of multiple food allergies. Pippa has a lot of talent in the kitchen and creates some thoroughly inspiring recipes. Just yesterday there was Gluten free etc, etc, flatbread – Hello! My own abilities wavered (a lot) when I attempted a gluten free flatbread invention but these ones look the bomb!

For tourists & locals of Dublin alike, some photographic before and afters of Dublin (June 1961 – June 2011): www.photography.paul-walsh.net/landscape/Cushman/
Pity the angles weren’t better but it’s still pretty neat to see the changes and the lack of changes! My favourite bits are the cars –so greeny blue and deliciously rounded :D and I also love the trees which look like they were planted fully grown! Not to mention the stunted growth of the trees across from the Four Courts – what happened?! 50 years and NO growth?? What’s been going on for the last 50 years down on the quays?!!

Hilarious Vegan Blog. I'm not really vegan but Vegansaurus makes me laugh out loud almost every time I get caught up on their posts: www.vegansaurus.com/post/6558973058/check-out-this-shirt-from-new-vegan-t-shirt
This t-shirt reminds me of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ – VEGAN POWERS! I Love it.

Best Blog EVER! – Purely because I LOVE Goats! : www.goatsonstuff.com The goat pictured below is Rachel. She was my very lovely and special pet goat but she had an unfortunate accident with a Bull and so she had to be put down...

Vegan & Gluten Free Waffles : www.greenveganliving.blogspot.com/2011/06/healthy-waffles-vegan-and-gluten-free.html Its been yeeeears since I had waffles.. Yum, Yum & Yum. Waffles should be part of everybody’s life – ‘gluten free’, ‘dairy free’, ‘egg free’ diets or ‘I-eat-everything’ diets… Waffles should be part of your personal constitution!

Travelling to America? Some Phone apps and the likes for allergy friendly restaurants: www.foodallergyassistant.blogspot.com/2011/05/food-allergy-has-high-tech-help.html

If I wasn’t avoiding sugar right now I would be ALL OVER this recipe! http://icecreamireland.com/2011/06/04/elderflower-champagne-sorbet-2/
Not only do I LOVE sorbet…but Elderflower might actually be the best flavour in the whole sweet world! And on top of that, it’s almost July and I’m not going to be at the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden this year (Swing Dancing if you’re wondering) where Vegan (aka dairy free!) Elderflower sorbet abounds!! Some things just don’t warrant thinking about...
Ciao for now, and have a great weekend!

June 16, 2011

What’s in Your Food? – Reading & Deciphering Food Labels, Ingredients & Allergens

Let’s talk shop. If you live with food allergies then you probably know all about the time and energy that gets dedicated to label reading and ingredient analysis. The real trick of the trade comes with the Russian Roulette of gauging allergen warning statements. I’m no poker player but I do think that it’s essential to know the rules of the game before putting your money on the table.

EU Legislation requires the 14 known foods to cause allergies to be labeled clearly on any product (including alcoholic drinks) with which they are intended ingredients. The foods/substances are:

- Cereals Containing Gluten (i.e. Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Spelt,Kamut or their hybridized strains) and products thereof, except: Wheat-Based Glucose Syrups including Dextrose; Wheat-Based Maltodextrins; Glucose Syrups based on Barley; Cereal used for making Distillates or Ethyl Alcohol or agricultural origin for Spirit Drinks and other Alcoholic beverages
- Crustaceans and products thereof
- Eggs and products thereof
- Fish and products thereof, except: Fish Gelatine used for vitamin or carotenoid preparations; Fish Gelatine or Isinglass used as fining agent in beer and wine.
- Peanuts and products thereof
- Soybeans and products thereof except: Fully Refined Soybean Oil and Fat; Natural Mixed Tocopherols (E306), Natural D-alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Natural D-alpha Tocopherol Succinate from soybean sources; Vegetable Oils derived Phytosterols and Phytosterol Esters from soybean sources; Plant Stanol Ester produced from Vegetable Oil Sterols from soybean sources
- Milk and Dairy products including Lactose, except: Whey used for making distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirit drinks and other alcoholic beverages; Lactitol
- Nuts i.e. Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, Pistachio nuts, Macadamia nuts and Queensland nuts, and products thereof, except: Nuts used for making distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirit drinks and other alcoholic beverages.
- Celery and products thereof
- Mustard and products thereof
- Sesame Seeds and products thereof
- Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO2.
- Lupin and products thereof
- Molluscs and products thereof
Note: The above list has been extracted from the Official Journal of the European Union

This means that ‘unintended’ ingredients which might come in contact with the food product through cross-contamination are not required to bare warnings but often do out of either generosity or self-protection of the manufacturer. However, these additional warnings can sometimes come across as vague and have been known to cause confusion.
The most common Allergy Warnings state that a product:

Contains...: This is the awesome food allergy warning. No matter what the ingredient list says or what you think it says, you can be sure that the culprit allergen is somewhere inside. Therefore, it is essential that you do not consume this product.

May Contain...: This one causes the most confusion. It could really mean anything. I see this warning more as a ‘self-protection’ statement rather than being helpful. Fact is that the food substance in question might be present, albeit unintentionally, and it is therefore up to your own risk taking nature if you choose to consume the product or not. However, if I had severe allergic reactions to my problem foods I would definitely be steering clear because tests have most likely proven some percentage of risk.

Produced on a Line that uses...: I interpret this warning as being highly likely to contain trace elements of the food allergen in question. It’s like being allergic to milk and cooking in a pan which just fried butter but hasn’t been washed properly, if washed at all. I wouldn’t eat the food if I saw it happen in my kitchen. I see this as a big risk.

Produced in a Factory that uses...: I interpret this warning as similar to ‘May Contain...’ It is impossible to know the true risk without being familiar with the factory. If you have severe allergies or extremely sensitive allergies which react to vapours and/or airborne particles I would avoid these products. Personally, I do frequently take chances on ‘Made in a Factory...’ warnings but I must stress that it is a personal choice that should be made according to the severity of your own reactions.

Regardless of the interpreted definition of the warning statements above it is extremely important to remember the intended purpose of the warning: Whether your food allergies are severe or not there is definitely going to be a chance that the allergen in question will be present in the product. After that it is solely up to you, the consumer, to decide if you want to take the gamble.

Note: if you are presently in the middle of an elimination diet I would strongly advise avoiding any product which might contain the substance you are eliminating in any shape or form of warning until you have completed the elimination and re-introduction process.

Below are some links that you might find helpful...

- For a list of ingredients and potential products to avoid for Milk/Dairy, Wheat, Yeast, Egg and Gluten free diets see my Thou-Shalt-Not page located on the bar under the title banner

- Some guidelines and suggestions on foods to avoid and foods to substitute with for Eggs, Milk, Nut/Peanut, Fish/Shellfish, Lactose and Wheat (Coeliac condition) free diets: www.safefood.eu/en/Home/Consumer/Understanding-Food/Food-Allergies/Individual-Food-Allergies/?gclid=CJKylYfWtakCFQRqfAodYGmrMg

- A short but interesting article on Food Labelling, what’s actually inside and the facts of health claims about Sugar, Salt, Fat, Calories and Cholesterol: www.fitbug.com/uk.articles,207

- Frequently Asked Questions on the Food Labelling website: www.eufic.org/article/en/health-and-lifestyle/food-allergy-intolerance/artid/Food-labelling-A-wealth-of-information-for-consumers/?viewall=faq and frequently Asked Questions on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland website: www.fasi.ie/faq/allergens.html

- Some dull PDF reading on Food Labelling in Ireland from 2002: www.lenus.ie/hse/bitstream/10147/44815/1/6372.pdf

- Some equally dull but informative PDF reading issued by ‘Safe Food’ intended as guidance for the Catering Industry (good may contain section): www.safefood.eu/Global/Professional/Safefood%20Food%20Allergy%20and%20Intolerance%20Catering%20Guide.pdf?epslanguage=en

- Announcement of the new Text and Email service relating to the presence of common food allergens: www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=16782

- An interesting excerpt from a report on Labelling, Wheat Starch and Cross-Contamination posted on the Coeliac Society of Ireland discussion board: www.coeliac.ie/webboards/viewtopic.php?t=2900&sid=b95e4d494b33b8e5fad3d4188989493b

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that you receive from your doctor or other health professionals.

June 13, 2011

Greystones’ ‘The Happy Pear’: Vegetarian, Allergy Friendly Food with No Guilt!

If you’re venturing out to the southern end of the dart line then make sure to call into The Happy Pear for a casual bite to eat. It’s a vegetarian feast with seating both inside (upstairs) and outside in front of the café, beside the food store. You might be familiar with The Happy Pear brand as they stock a few of the health food stores and green grocers in town. One of their most popular products are Sprouted Lentils and Mung Beans for €2.

When I think of the Happy Pear, I think, Vegetarian, Happy, Bright, Wholesome and Hippy! From the Horses mouth: The Happy Pear believes in creating: Happier, healthier and more sustainable communities that support the local economy.

Vegetarianism seems to be their main dietary focus but they do label most of their foods according to some food allergy restrictions (if it’s not labeled just ask and the staff will be happy to help you):

- Vegetarian (everything is Vegetarian)
- Vegan
- Dairy free / Milk free / Lactose free
- Gluten free
- Raw
- Sugar free
- Organic
- GMO free
- Some foods Contain Nuts
- Some foods use Spelt

The menu rotates daily but it always includes salads, soups, main courses and sweets. For possible menu items look on their website here. Note: there are also dairy free, sugar free raw vegan sweets on offer!

I did found it a bit difficult to navigate which foods were the food allergy friendly foods (especially with the salads and sweets) and what I personally could eat, but the staff did their best to guide me through what was on offer which was very helpful. I was also a bit surprised at their unbending pricing system (I could only have the carrot salad due to my unusual and frustrating amount of foods that I am currently avoiding. So, I took some salad – one can only eat so much carrot salad – some hummus and two slices of dairy free bread. But when I pleasantly suggested that they might not charge me the full amount for a small plate of salad seeing as I only had half the plate filled they suggested that I fill up more. This was a pity, especially as they even charged the additional price for the two slices of bread on top of my extra small salad but I suppose prices are prices).

However, my salad tasted really great so don’t let this put you off – just heed the warning and be sure to fill up your plates! The Happy Pear is a very tasty little spot and when the afternoon sun shines down it’s a great place to sit outside of, soaking up the rays and filling your tummy...

...Or even on cold wet days, take your food upstairs and sit beside the fire! Also, lest we forget, in addition to the food store, cafe, and catering business, The Happy Pear also has a famous Juice and Smoothie bar which serves vegetable, fruit and wheatgrass mixtures. Note: cross contamination may be an issue, especially with the sometimes self serve salads and bread) –although I should say that the bread was fabulous!

Main Street
Co. Wicklow
Tel: 01 287 3655
Web: www.thehappypear.ie
Opening Times: Mon – Sat 09:00-18:00; Sun 11:00-18:00; Bank Holidays 11:00-17:00

June 11, 2011

The Best of the Roasted Chickpea Recipes – A Very Allergy Friendly Snack

It seems that Roasted Chickpeas are sweeping my online reading nation and I don’t want to be left behind sooo…

My sister has been promoting store-bought roasted chickpeas for a long while but they are yet to stick. To tell you the truth, despite their amazing food allergy friendliness etc, etc, I think they’re a bit ‘yuck’. Just so dry and so not good...BUT...

Lately I have been noticing an internet feeding frenzy of roasted chickpea recipes. All of a sudden it seemed like everywhere I looked was yet another recipe and after my delightful success with the Roasted Tofu last week I thought that maybe freshly roasted chickpeas might actually be nice - stranger things have happened! It was Zen Habit’s quick recipe (I think I’ll try out his Kale crisps too some day soon!) and Glutenfreegirl’s colourful store bought chickpeas which broke me and made me look in the back of the cupboard for my can of garbanzos…

So what are chickpeas (if you‘re new to this game…)
Chickpeas also go by garbanzo bean, chana (north India), Indian pea, ceci bean and Bengal gram, but I think that Chickpea, Garbanzo and Gram are the most popular names around these parts anyway. They are a legume and are responsible for the popular gluten free ‘Gram Flour’. They taste AMAZing, especially in hummus, in which they are a main ingredient. This recipe is partly dedicated to my friend S. who I know to be a big Chickpea fan (I'll be sure to make it for you next time you come over!). They are also high in:
- Protein
- Zinc
- Folate
- Dietary Fibre

The roasted chickpeas I made ended up being
- Dairy free / milk free
- Lactose free
- Gluten free
- Wheat free
- Potato free
- Onion free (although I think that frying some finely chopped onion with the garlic might be nice if you can tolerate them)
- Vegetarian
- Vegan
- Sugar free
- Corn free
- Yeast free

Before I decided who’s recipe I would go with I had a little search through all of the most recent Roasted Chickpea recipes I had seen for flavour and process ideas so I could do a little cross reference and decide on the most appetizing.

What I decided was this:
- I knew that I didn’t like the dryness of my sisters snacktime friends so I decided to go with Zen Habit’s shorter cooking time of 15-20 minutes at the slightly higher heat of 220C to try and retain some of the moisture
- Markbittman’s recipe is the one that inspired my final product the most – I loved the idea of frying the garlic and garbanzo’s in the pan first and putting the lemon juice on towards the end- I LOVE lemon juice!
- Kalynskitchen’s Moroccan spice mix and FamilyFreshCooking’s seasoning ideas really got me thinking about some spices and flavours but then I remembered that I was limited to what was in my cupboard – so ground galangal, ground turmeric and cinnamon it was! There was cayenne too but luckily I passed on it because they somehow managed to come out fairly spicy as was.

Here’s what I did:

1 can Chickpeas or Garbanzo
Oil (Extra Virgin Olive or Sunflower is fine)
3 large Garlic Cloves
Sea salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Ground Galangal
Ground Turmeric
Ground Cinnamon
Lemon Juice

1. Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan and mince 3 large cloves of garlic and sauté at a medium heat.
2. Add the drained, washed, dried, and de-skinned (just remove the loose skins) can of chickpeas, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and fry gently stirring frequently for about 5 or so minutes.
3. Transfer to a baking tray and place in the top of a preheated oven (220C) for 20 minutes. Tossing them around twice during that time:
1st toss after 5-7 minutes, season liberally with ground galangal, a little less ground turmeric and a light dusting of cinnamon, and a generous amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2nd toss after another 7 or so minutes, season again as above and drizzle lemon juice all over.
Return to the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Have you tried a different way that worked out Grrreat?! Do share!

June 9, 2011

Even More Dairy free, Gluten free and Allergy Friendly Chocolates

If you have a Diary allergy or are following a Dairy free diet you should have little trouble finding suitable chocolate to tame any cravings that might be gnawing away. Today’s post goes through even more Dairy free chocolates (For more options please see the folowing links: here; here, and here) – some dark, some replacing ‘milk chocolate’, some with soya, some without. There are Dairy free, Lactose free, Gluten Free, Wheat free, Corn free, Coconut free and Soya free options in today’s selection but some are for the straight and narrow food allergic and some are for the allergy warning gamblers! Note: Gambling on your food allergies is your own choice. I am not a dietician or a doctor, this blog contains only my personal opinions. Food allergies, and food allergy reactions are VERY personal and only you can decide if you want to gamble. I try to include as many allergies and perspectives as I can but I call it gambling to highlight that you are taking a chance. Personally I think that it should depend on the severity of your allergy, what your potential reactions might be (remembering that there can always be a wildcard) and most importantly what the warning actually says. A lot of products have recently included dubious warnings due to the new food law. I am completely grateful for the new warnings but also think that some products have worded their warnings to cover all angles out of fear. There are some products which I have eaten for years that never gave me a reaction but now contain ‘may contain’ warnings. Equally there are products, such as Bourbon Cream biscuits, which contain the same warnings but I have had too many once off reactions. I think a good rule of thumb (i.e: ONLY if your allergic reactions are not severe or anaphylactic) is say no to i.e: ‘made on a line which uses Diary, etc’ and proceed with caution, weighing up the pros and cons, if the warning reads i.e: ‘made in a factory that uses cow’s milk, etc’.

But don’t worry I will always highlight if a warning is present so you can make your own fully informed decisions!

Choices Choc ‘n’ Crispie Bar
The Irish owned Choices brand makes a lovely little chocolate. It’s smooth and tasty and is a good alternative to milk chocolate. The best Choices product I’ve tasted are the Caramels – they are AMAZINGly good so it is no surprise that the Choices Bars reside in yum-town too. I can usually find these and the Caramels in The Sweet Life (Georges Arcade) and Restore on Camden St.

- Dairy free / Milk free
- Lactose free
- Wheat free
- Gluten free
- Egg free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Web: The package states www.celticchocolates.eu as a website ut this link doesn't seem to work. COntact: info@celticchocolates.eu
Ingredients: Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Rice Powder (Rice Syrup, Rice starch, Rice Flour), Inulin, Crisped Rice (Rice flour, Sugar, Cocoa), Coconut Oil, Natural flavouring, Emulsifier (soya lecithin). Cocoa solids 36% minimum
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 2343kJ/562kcal
Protein 2.2g
Carbohydrate 62.8g
Of which sugars 46.6g
Fat 34.0g
Of which saturates 21.0g
Fibre 2.3g
Sodium trace

Dairy free Rice Crackle
One of the older kids on the block. Dairy free Rice Crackle Bar and the Buttons, from the same brand, are some of the older ‘Milk Chocolate’ substitutes on the Irish market. You can definitely find them in Down to Earth (Georges St) and some larger Tesco stores. I like the Rice Crackle bar. F. doesn’t but the one that he tasted was a bit stale, which was unusual. They come at a good price and have a good size. I think that they are a great Dairy free alternative for children especially because there’s something about them that seems a bit main stream. I can’t really expand on that because it’s just feeling I get... must be something about the size, the wrapper and the milky flavour.

- Dairy free / Milk free
- Lactose free
- Gluten Free
- Egg free
- Corn free
- Coconut free
- Vegetarian
- Vegan
- Does not contain Nuts in the ingredient list & has no allergen warning referring to nuts
- Halal
- Kosher Pareve (K)

Web: www.dairy-free.co.uk
Ingredients: Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter (19%), Soya Flour (19%), Cocoa Mass (10%), Crisped Rice (6%), Inulin, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin, E746), Natural Flavouring.
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 2055kJ/492kcal
Protein 6.9g
Carbohydrate 48.9g
Of which sugars 40.1g
Of which lactose 0.0g
Fat 29.9g
Of which saturates 15.8g
Of which cholesterol <0.005g Fibre 7.9g Sodium <0.01g The next few chocolates are for those Food Allergy diets and dispositions which gamble on ‘may contain’ warnings...

Traidcraft Organic Dark Chocolate + Peppermint Crisp
I found this dark chocolate bar in the Dublin Food Co-op which is opened on Thursdays 2pm-8pm and Saturdays. It’s a high quality dark chocolate with a peppermint crispy difference. A 2nd texture and/or flavour is actually quite important to my full enjoyment of a food so the mint crisp along with the fair-trade and organic goodness makes it a good option especially for soya free diets. Hey, and even the packaging is fully recyclable! A pity about the may contain warnings though...

- Dairy free / Milk free (has a ‘may contain traces of nuts and milk’ warning)
- Lactose free
- Gluten free
- Wheat free
- Soya Free
- Coconut free
- Corn free
- Vegetarian
- Vegan (has a ‘may contain traces of nuts and milk warning’)
- Fair Trade
- Organic

Web: www.traidcraft.co.uk
Ingredients: Cocoa Mass, Whole Cane Sugar, Peppermint Crisp [10%]: Cane Sugar, Natural Flavour: Peppermint], Cocoa Butter. Contains cocoa solids 58% minimum
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 2190kJ/515kcal
Protein 5.0g
Carbohydrate 56g
Of which sugars 47g
Fat 34g
Of which saturates 21g
Fibre 8g
Sodium 0.0g

Beech’s Coffee Creams
Dark chocolate with natural coffee flavour fondant cream centres. My Dairy free sister and her sweet-toothed manager bought these at Fallon & Byrne (there is a whole range of different flavours) and they scoffed them in one afternoon without leaving me even a bite! So all I have is the empty package and their reliable word that they tasted delicious! But if you want to hear it from me I can confim that the package did smell good!

- Dairy free / Milk free (note: contains warning that the ‘factory also manufactures milk chocolate and as a result this product may contain Cow’s Milk’)
- Lactose free (see above warning)
- Gluten Free (contains glucose syrup which is commonly derived from wheat in Europe but is still considered Gluten free – read more about that here
- Allergy warning present stating ‘Made in a factory that uses Nuts and Sesame Ingredients’
- Vegetarian

Web: www.beechsfinechocolates.com
Ingredients: Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butterm Flavourings; Flavouring: Natural Coffee; Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin; Invertase. Dark chocolate (35%) contains cocoa solids 55% minimum.
Nutritional Information per 90g:
Energy 1605kJ/389ckal
Protein 1.98g
Carbohydrates 71.8g
Of which sugars 67.3g
Fat 94g
Of which saturates 5.8g
Fibre 1.2g
Sodium 0.1g

Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisp Dark Chocolate
A Christmas Tradition in our house! Yes, that is another empty package that I photographed but this time it was me who scoffed them all! Elizabeth Shaw come in two Dairy free flavours: Mint Crisp and Orange, and honestly both are the bee’s knees. I suppose if I was to choose a favourite I would go with the Mint but equally valid, my sister would go with the Orange!

- Dairy free / Milk free (note: may contain milk and nuts warning present)
- Lactose free (see warning above)
- Gluten Free
- Vegetarian
- Vegan (see warning above)

Ingredients: Sugar, Cocoa mass, Cocoa butter, Glucose syrup, invert sugar, emulsifier: Soya Lecithin, flavourings. Dark Chocolate contain: cocoa solids 45% minimum.
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 2055kJ/490kcal
Protein 4.3g
Carbohydrates 62.5g
Of which sugars 56.9g
Fat 24.9g
Of which saturates 15.6g
Fibre 5.0g
Sodium trace

June 6, 2011

Surround Yourself in Gluten Free & Dairy Free Cakes, Beauty and Art at IMMA

If you were in Dublin this past weekend I have no doubt that you are a little browner than you were on Thursday. It was SO amazingly beautiful on Friday and Saturday. The sun was shining, people were smiling and the parks in the city were swarmed with sun bathers and worshippers, of the non-pagan variety!
Personally I took the opportunity to cycle out to the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition in the Irish Museum of Modern Art which also included a visit to the perfect Royal Hospital Gardens and the Itsa@IMMA café which serves gluten free cakes. They are labeled as ‘Flourless’ and rumour has it that they taste pretty damn amazing.

On Friday there were two options on the cake tray:
Flourless Orange & Almond Cake
- Gluten free
- Wheat free
- Dairy free / Milk free
- Lactose free
- Corn free
- Potato free
- note: contains almonds and eggs
and the
Flourless Chocolate Cake which looked like a large brownie in the shape of a cake!
- Gluten free
- Wheat free
- Corn free
- Potato free
- note: contains almonds and eggs

The staff was extremely helpful and friendly and actually got the full ingredient lists (which were surprisingly simple) so I could tell exactly what was contained in the delectable treats on display.
There were also, of course, salads and hot dishes. There was a sign that read ‘Gluten Free Bagels stocked here’ and the hot dishes were labeled with Vegetarian (V) or Gluten Free (GF) markings where appropriate.

On the menu for this past Friday afternoon was :
- Gluten Free Chilli con Carne
- Gluten free & Vegetarian Chunky Veg and Lentil soup
- Vegetarian Lasagne
among others.

The café is located in the basement of the Royal Hospital, which is a beautiful building to visit whether you are an art lover or not. You can take your tea up to the courtyard and sit out in the sun or enjoy it in the café itself. Then, an absolute must for every visit to IMMA, especially if the sun is shining, is to take a walk around the grounds and stroll through the magnificent formal gardens. I love IMMA and I really love that the cafe is coeliac aware, with a side of dairy free!

I’m not much of a fan of Frida Kahlo but I love her life story and find her iconic status very interesting. Thus, I didn’t run to the exhibit but was actually quite intrigued to see that special something in some of the original works. The highlight for me were definitely the self portraits by Frida Kahlo in the 2nd room on the ground floor and the architectural photographs which display stunning technical ability by Frida’s father, Guillermo Kahlo, as well as the photographic colour portraits of Frida in New York by Nickolas Muray, both located in the basement of the exhibition space.

The Frida and Diego exhibition is running until June 26 2011 and has an admission of €5.00 (concession: €3.00) but is free for under 18s, full-time students and free to all on Fridays. The main Museum is always free admission.

Itsa@IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)
Royal Hospital
Military Road
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Tel: (01) 612 9900
IMMA web: www.imma.ie
Itsa web: www.itsa.ie
IMMA Opening Hours: Tues, Thurs-Sat 10:00-17:30; Wed 10:30-17:30; Sunday & Bank Holidays: 12:00-17:30 (last admission 17:15)
Itsa@IMMA Opening Hours: Mon 10:00-15:00; Tues-Sat 10:00-17:00; Sundays & bank holidays 12:00-17:00