February 29, 2012

February: The Food Allergy Month in Review

Another swirling month done and dusted. February was filled with upheaval but sometimes upheaval can be good. I moved house and am trying to get my teeth into the Food Allergy Free pockets of the northside - If you have any tips I’m all ears for your favourite haunts! As always, I would LOVE to hear about them (north or south, as the case may be). During the month we had the Free From Food Awards judging as well as the release of the invaluable Shortlist for 2012. There was also the food show, Edible, at Trinity’s Science Gallery (Did anyone get to take part in any of the Feeding Times?) - I’ll be sharing my Vegan Custard Tartlette recipe after the exhibition is finished so watch this space...
Elsewhere in Survival Guide we added two new restaurants/cafés to the directory and put out a whole slew of Food Allergy Friendly product reviews (including Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Nightshade Free finds) and so this, along with the Free From Shortlist, means that the Food Allergic/Intolerant community should be far from going hungry over the next few months!

And what is there to look forward to in March you ask? Well, I’ll be trying to uncover some social venues which stock Gluten Free beers as well as trying out Woodstock Café in Phibsborough, which I think I spied as carrying ‘Gluten-Free Foodie’ products!... I’ll also try to get some recipes in too, to keep us happy at home as well as out and about :)

p.s. Good luck to any girls taking up the Irish tradition of proposing to their boys today, on the leap year - I hope you get the YES you are hoping for!!!

Feb 20: Gluten & Dairy Free Galette Crepes from Heaven! - Fafie’s
Feb 27: A Trip to the Botanic Gardens - Is there anything Food Allergy Free?

Feb 1: Imported Gluten Free, Dairy Free+ Confectionary in the Local Centra: Les Recettes de Céliane
Feb 6: Snacks for the Nightshade Sensitive (aka: Potato, Tomato, Pepper Free Snacks)
Feb 15: Dairy Free Fudge: What It’s Like & Where to Get it
Feb 17: Dairy Free Creams: Which to Choose?

Feb 8: Judging at the Free From Food Awards 2012!
Feb 10: Edible: Allergen Free at the Science Gallery
Feb 22: The 2012 Free From Food Awards Shortlist is Released!
Feb 24: What I’m Reading February: Food Allergies, Side-Effects, Being Sugar-Free & A Lot of Eye Candy

February 27, 2012

A Trip to the Botanic Gardens - Is there anything Food Allergy Free?

The weekend was just bursting with spring so F. and I decided to take the sunny opportunity to explore my new north-side neighbourhood and see what charms are in store. I think that this last Sunday was extra special because it was forecast as a rainy down day but thankfully for all Sunday pleasure-seekers, the rain held off until Monday. Of course, it wasn’t long before I steered the ship to the National Botanic Gardens which is a favourite of mine, but one that gets experienced far too seldom, so in we strolled to drink up the atmosphere and beautiful grounds...and check out the Garden Tea Room of course! - to see if there was anything Food Allergy Friendly on offer.. The answer is a dubious: ‘Sort of’...

Tourist tea rooms and the likes are tricky places to eat when you have food allergies. You want to go to the beautiful locations but as is inevitable, you will work up an appetite in the ‘far away’ location. The National Botanic Gardens have a nice enough tea room called ‘The Garden Tea Room’. It is set up in a canteen style and there is quite a lot of food on offer but it’s SO busy (at least on a Sunday) that it’s easy to be pressured to keep moving along the rotary belt and feel unable to ask the frazzled staff all the questions that you need.

The desserts are by far the best labelled of the menu items and are first in the line to pick up. Unfortunately, this being Ireland, and the Garden Tea Room being a traditional attraction, everything is ladened with butter, cream and eggs but the minor glimmer of hope amid it all is that there are two stunning looking desserts which are Gluten Free...

The Chocolate Roulade (chocolate, eggs, sugar, Coffee, fresh cream, fresh berries) and the Meringue (egg whites, sugar, fresh cream, fresh berries)

The desserts each have a little card (some of them can be found bunched up at the end of the section) which label all the ingredients. They all seem to be baked in a very traditional homemade manner with plain flours, sugar, eggs, cream and butter being the primary players but that also means that nightshade sufferers, corn allergies and soya allergies are very likely to find some unadulterated beauty of a cake to indulge over (however, do beware of mysterious ingredients like ‘chocolate’ which most likely contain added extras!).
With the exception of the two Gluten Free desserts listed above, I tried to ask about savoury, main course Gluten Free items. The line behind me didn’t rejoice at my questions but the staff, despite their time restraint did ask each other and ran to the kitchen for a moment to confirm but the final response was ‘the roast, the potatoes and the soup’. To Dairy Free they said: ‘nothing’ with an empathic face.

My final verdict: If you are Dairy Free and don’t want to eat chips for your lunch, then definitely don’t go to the Botanic Gardens hungry! For Gluten Free eaters and other Allergen Free options I think that there may well be choices for you but be sure to NOT go during rush hour such as midday on a Sunday, or similar. Aim at a quieter off peak time and be extra, extra careful of cross-contamination because the kitchen and the waiting staff are very busy and the desserts counter is self-serve!
Have you tried the Garden Tea Room Meringue or Chocolate Roulade? I would LOVE to know what it tastes like because it, along with all the desserts, look truly Divine.

The Botanic Gardens are a glorious location in the later spring, summer and autumn. Sunday’s visit was nice, and although the crocuses were up and some of the tulips were peaking out, a lot of the foliage had yet to bud. But a walk by the ponds and river are always lovely, not to mention the toasty palm house and cactus house!

See below for some more pictures of the Botanic Gardens during during Autumn.

The Garden Tea Rooms
The National Botanic Gardens
Botanic Rd
Dublin 9
Tel: (01) 804 0300
Web: www.botanicgardens.ie
Opening Times of the Gardens:Winter (Oct 31 - Feb) mon - fri 09:00 - 16:30; sat, sun, public holidays: 10:00 - 16:30 Summer (Mar - Oct) mon - fri 09:00 - 17:00, sat, sun, public holidays 10:00 - 18:00

February 24, 2012

What I’m Reading February: Food Allergies, Side-Effects, Being Sugar-Free & A Lot of Eye Candy

I’ve been doing loads of Food Allergy related (and more) reading this month! Maybe it’s my new wonderfully comfy work station in my lovely new room or maybe it’s just that there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on on the www. lately but whatever the reason I have a bundle of recipes, pictures, allergy related health & info not to mention a few links from 'The Nourishing Gourmet' related to going Sugar Free. That’s right folks... I’ve been trying to go completely Sugar Free (fruit & natural sweeteners included) for a couple months now but its just not happening so what better time than lent... of course, if duty calls, than that’s a different issue & this is definitely not a ‘rest-of-my life’ thing because I totally plan on nom-nomming on some Petite Treats come Easter morning, but in my day-to-day life, since Wednesday, I have unshackled myself from the Sugar world. The craving is tough but I’m feeling much stronger since my life got back in order (moving, etc.) ... The thing is, is that I have never given up ALL types of sweet before... only the pure sugar thing so this is a big one for me.. no dates.. no pear pureé.. no agave. The only sweet allowed in is in the form of Rice Milk. So wish me luck!
The Sugar related posts are not hard-fast ‘cut out all sweet’ posts, they are more just on the topic of sugar, the natural balance and some natural ways of avoiding the refined stuff. Anyway,

I hope you enjoy the reading - If you’re in a hurry, my favourite links which are 100% worth the read have asterisks (***)

- Allergy Awareness for Kids (Learning & laughing in funny clothes - the Elvis ariel shot is my favourite part!): www.avoidingmilkprotein.blogspot.com - Wiggles Allergy Song

- Sugar Cleanse & Chaos in Life (The Balance & Like-attracting Like): www.thenourishinggourmet.com - How a Bookcase Helped Me Eat Better
- ***Musings on honey, sweet food and moderation (Just some thoughts):www.thenourishinggourmet.com - Eat Honey For It Is Good
- Sugar free fruit-based Desserts (to help you get through): www.thenourishinggourmet.com - Fruit Centered Desserts with No or Little Added Sweetners

- How to Make Vegan Sausages (She makes it sound so easy that i just might try it): www.theppk.com - Vegan Sausage
- ***A Cross-Reference of Grain-Free Pancakes (If you haven’t moved on to reservation and restriction and are still basking in pancake glory!): www.foodrenegade.com - Grain Free Pancake Recipe Links
- Tree Nut Free Nutella Recipe (Dairy substitute available) (possibly for one of your new pancake recipes!): www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com/ - Nut Free Nutella
- Creamy Dairy Free Potato Recipe (This looks pretty yum in a good old fashioned savoury kind of way):www.glutendairyfree.co.uk - Gluten Free, Dairy Free Potato Dauphinoise
- Gluten Free (and Dairy Free) Brioche (because in a sugary world brioche is king): www.simplysugarandglutenfree.com - Brioche Recipe
- Nutritional Content of Gluten Free Flours (in case you were wondering): www.simplysugarandglutenfree.com - Nutritional Content of Gluten Free Flours

- Some Coeliac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity Coverage (A little piece from the Wall Street Journal: www.online.wsj.com - Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity
- ***Fashion Victim Reality (how your clothes could be hurting your health): www.online.wsj.com - Fashion Victims
- Coeliac related health problems (Only Potential problems!): www.free-from.com - Accociated Gluten Sensitivity
- ***Life with eczema (An eye-opening account of living with eczema & eczema flare-ups): www.whatallergy.com - Eczema Flare Up
- ‘Go Dairy Free’ the Book (Top notch stuff for the people new to Dairy Free living: www.godairyfree.org - New to the Dairy Free Diet, Start Here
- Soy-Free & Dairy-Free Yoghurt (from the Rice Dream company):
www.godairyfree.org - A Whole New Class of Dairy Free & Soya Free Goodness
- ***The Craziness of Macdonald’s Fries (Read this if you thought it was just potatoes and oil!): www.foodsmatter.com - Are Macdonalds French Fries Safe

- Taking better Food Photos (guest post on Kitchen Flavours): www.kitchenflavours.blogspot.in - Food Photography
- 'Photo a Day' projects (I just love them!): www.greenveganliving.com &
- ***Another 'Photo a Day' Project (My very favourite photo a day project, ever!): www.simplybreakfast.blogspot.com
- Some Taste-bud tempting photos (in the form of a tasty Raw recipe): www.loveraw.blogspot.com - Raw Hemp Brownies

Have you been reading anything interesting lately? Tell us all about it, throw us some links! that www. is so big it's hard to get around it all by myself!!

February 22, 2012

The 2012 Free From Food Awards Shortlist is Released!

Yesterday the Free From Food Awards Shortlist came out. What does that mean? That means that there is a wonderful list of almost 170 quality Food Allergy Friendly foods and products just waiting to be tried, be it Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free, Soya Free, Egg Free, etc, etc. I find that one of the biggest problems with the food allergy market is that some of the products can be a bit pricey which makes taste testing a gamble because nobody wants to fork out big bucks for something that might not taste worthy...but now, with the Free From Food Awards, our woes are behind us because the Shortlist is almost like a key to the food allergy friendly world! As one of the judges I can assure you that the tasting is rigorous and that although there can be split camps from time to time, all the products which get shortlisted are definitely worth a try...and of course the winners (which will be announced in April) are like gold dust - the stuff food allergy free dreams are made of, and therefore DEFINITELY worth a try!

The thing about judging is that there are at least 9 other judges all with different taste buds and different agendas, be it health, versatility, etc, so even if I absolutely loved something, that didn’t mean that it was going to win because the whole group had to agree... Therefore the below product comments are my opinion only and not a clue to any of the winning products - for that you will just have to wait until April 17th!!

The three categories I judged were:
Category 3: Plant Milk, Spread, ‘Yoghurt’, ‘Cheese’ & ‘Ice Cream’
Category 6: Pasta & Pizza Bases
Category 15: Chocolates, Snack Bars & Petite Fours

The most exciting of these categories, for me, was Category 3. There was an amazing Coconut-based Yoghurt from CoYo which blew my socks off! So, I definitely recommend trying that one!! (queue praying to the heavens that CoYo gets wide release in Ireland!) The wonderful thing is that it’s completely Soya Free but doesn’t taste like coconut (happy days!) making it a plain, reliable and versatile yoghurt with the perfect hint of tangy yoghurt sour making it ideal for cooking into savoury recipes or for flavouring to your own sweet desires. For me, this was the best thing in the yoghurt market since the pea protein yoghurt I tried once, but without the sugar!!

The category also made me re-think my stance on plant milks, previously I was not an oat milk lover but after having to taste them all side by side I actually had to praise Oat Milk for it’s top class taste... and of course I still think that Kara Coconut milk is an amazing substitute, despite my life-long love of sweet, light, refreshing Rice Dream rice milk! ;)

And then there were the cheeses.... Vegusto Melty Cheese was the first Dairy Free cheese that I have come by which actually melted nicely! It still didn’t loose it’s shape like traditional cheese but it didn’t shrivel into a dry lump, there was no overbearing taste of vinegar and the consistency was really nice and managed to keep it’s ‘softness’! It’s only downfall was that it tasted like average soya-based Dairy Free cheese when it wasn’t melted)... And then there was the nut based Soya Free Vegusto cheese made from Cashews and Rice Milk - YUUUUUUUM!!! I LOVED it, if you hadn’t already guessed... Unfortunately, it didn’t melt well at all, but who cares! It tasted REALLY nice. In fact I would even recommend dairy cheese eaters to eat it! It would be right at home sitting on a cheese board among the stilton, chevre and aged cheddar. Yum Yum Yum Yum... Savoury and hearty with an ‘I can’t stop eating it’ lure. Note: Vegusto’s packaging was a bit of a let down but don’t let that ward you off because by all signs they seem to be an awesome company with a tasty Dairy-Free cheese sauce too!

Category 6 was a joint category with Gluten Free pastas and pizza bases. The pastas disappointed me a bit because they were almost all corn based, which is not my cup of tea. I can’t understand why manufacturers keep making the same thing!? In my opinion, a mix of flours, is WAY better and corn based pastas tend towards being a bit rubbery and ever so slightly tangy in taste, not to mention the amount of people who actually have a corn allergy/intolerance!... but then again, I guess that that’s just my opinion. However, there was a cool little product from Farabella which were Gluten Free Pasta Grains intended for use in soups such as minestrone, but also a really neat product to use in place of bulgar. Cook it up, cool it down and make into a salad for a satisfying, healthy lunch! If I see it on the shelf I will definitely pick up a pack...despite it’s corn base ;)

On the topic of pizza bases I was more impressed. I like a thick base (my Canadian roots I suspect) and I quite liked the ciabatta-like thick oily pizza base made by Amisa, reminiscent of take-away pizza (which sadly didn’t make it to the shortlist). It was a bit crumbly but reminded me of the thick ciabatta squares of cheese-less pizza slices available from the bakery in Marks & Spencers. I have always felt that a lot of sauce and a thick base is essential for a cheese-free pizza...but I was alone on that one...
There were some other good products too, but what struck me most is how much the bases changed when tomato sauce was added! One of my favourites was the pizza base dough mix from Bob’s Red Mill which made a fresh Gluten Free Wholegrain pizza base of top quality...but then again, this probably isn’t surprising as Bob’s Red Mill products are the bees knees!

The last category, 15, chocolates, snack bars and petite fours was a sugar and caffeine attack! But The Booja Booja’s Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles and Tickety Boo Cakes’ Roo’s Crunch were sooooo delicious that I think I’m in love!...sorry F.

Previously I wasn’t familiar with Tickety Boo’s Roo’s Crunch (tongue twister alert!) brand but hopefully it’s shortlisted status will encourage Irish stockists to branch out! In fact, a lot of the chocolates were good but I’m not sure how many dark chocolate bars are necessary in the world. As a dairy free lifer I would like to see more milk chocolate alternatives, like the white chocolate alternatives, or flavoured bars substituting for ‘Double Deckers’ and ‘Twix’ etc... mmmm, I’m salivating at the thought!... Maybe next year!

Anyway, the list is extensive which goes to show how far the FreeFrom market is coming along! It’s so exciting to see really good quality foods available in mainstream shops for we Food Allergy Free shoppers. It can only serve to help people stay away from their poisons and show the world that alternatives sell so please keep making them!!...maybe one day the food allergy world will take over!? whahahha...

After reading the shortlist for the rest of the categories I was surprised by some products, such as Dee’s Omega 3 Vegetarian burgers which I haven’t had success with...perhaps F. is right, and I’m just not cooking them properly.... and boy, do I wish that I had a chance to try out Foodswild Gluten Free Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer!!..Bizarre - and curious! And what about the Mango & Passionfruit Non-Dairy Cheesecake bu Mamma Cucina - hello! that its definitely something that I want to be part of my life! ...and happily the other day I passed by a van marked ‘The Cake Crusader’ in Rathmines only to notice on the Shortlist that the very same Cake Crusader makes a Gluten Free, Wheat Free and Dairy Free Carrot Cake - I will have to put on my scouting suit to uncover this Cake Crusaders stockists in our wee little Dublin!

You can view the full Short-list below and try to remember it or you can keep an eye out for the Free From Shortlist or Free From Winner logos on the various products... And if you want to go to the source of the Shortlist see here which lists all the products with links to the shortlisted companies! www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/shortlist_12.html

2012 FreeFrom Food Awards shortlist
(listed alphabetically)

1. The Innovation Award
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Lemon
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Chocolate
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Vanilla
BoojaBooja – Banoffee Toffee Truffles
Conscious Chocolates – Wild at Heart
CoYo – Coconut Milk Yoghurt – Natural
CoYo – Coconut Milk Yoghurt – Mixed Berry
Foodswild – Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer
Knead Bakery – Carrot Cake
Provamel Botanicals – Alternative to Yoghurt Apple & Green Tea
The Foodamentalists – Brown Bread Mix
Triano Brands – Tofutti Ricotta Soya Cheese Alternative

2. Dairy and/or Lactose-Free Animal Milk, Butter, Yogurtsponsored by Swedish Glace
Delamere Dairy – Natural Goats Yoghurt
Delamere Dairy – Semi-Skimmed Goats Milk           
Delamere Dairy – Goats Butter          
Woodlands Dairy – Gooseberry & Elderflower with Natural Sheep Milk Yoghurt
Woodlands Dairy – Rhubarb & Ginger with Natural Sheep Milk Yoghurt
3. Plant 'Milk', Spread & Cheesesponsored by Pure Dairy Free
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Chocolate
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Lemon
CoYo – Coconut Yoghurt Natural
CoYo – Coconut Yoghurt Mixed Berry
Delamere Dairy – Sweetened Soya Milk
Essence of Eden – Virgin Coconut Oil
Higher Nature – Omega Excellence Organic Virgin Coconut Butter
Its Only Natural – Fruit Freezies Orange and Mango
Kara Dairy Free – Alternative to Milk Original + Calcium
Vegusto – Melty Dairy-Free Cheese
Vegusto – Mild Aromatic Dairy-Free Cheese
Vegusto – Dairy-free cheese sauce

4. FreeFrom Breakfast Cerealssponsored by Fria Gluten Free
Bob’s Red Mill – Pure Traditional Oats
Groovy Food Company – Corn Flakes
Groovy Food Company – Choco Crispies
Juvela – Fibre Flakes
Morrisons – FreeFrom Gluten Free Oats
Nature’s Path – Maple Sunrise
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Oaty Granola
Tesco – FreeFrom Special Flakes

5. Gluten-Free Breads & Bread Mixessponsored by Genius Gluten Free
Butterfly Snacks – Gluten Free Rottis (Naan/Bread Wrap)
Crazy Bakers Bundies Brothers – Brown Bread Rolls
Finax – Oat Bread Mix
Fria – Grova Dark Seeded Sliced Loaf
Fria – Grov Minibaguette Dark Seeded Roll
Glutafin – Gluten Free Wheat Free 4 Fibre Rolls
Juvela – Gluten-Free All Purpose White Mix
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Soft White Seeded Rolls

6. Gluten-Free Pasta & Pizza Bases/Mixessponsored by Tesco
Bob’s Red Mill – GF Wholegrain Pizza Crust Mix
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Fusilli
Doves Farm Foods – Organic Tricolore Pasta           
Eskal Foods – Corn Pasta
Farabella – Acini di Pepe/Pasta Grains
Molino di Ferro – La Veneziane Penne

7. Freefrom Foods Manufactured for Food Servicesponsored by Livwell
Costa  – Gluten Free Fruit Cake
Doves Farm Foods – Gluten Free Plain White Flour Blend without Buckwheat
Doves Farm Foods – Organic Brown Rice Penne
Foodamentalists – Golden Batter Mix
Red House Foods – Gluten Free Chicken Bites
Sauces of Choice – Sauces for Kids Tikka Sauce
Triano Brands – Tofutti Grated Mozzarella Soya Cheese Alternative

8. Freefrom Ingredientssponsored by Juvela
Anila’s Sauces – Goan Green Sauce
Black Farmer – Spicy Muscovado sauce
Bob’s Red Mill – Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
Clearspring – Kuzu Gluten Free Starch Thickener
Finax – Psyllium
Go Free Foods – Pancake Mix
Mesquite Company – Pure Mesquite Pod Flour
Pepper & Stew – Jollof  Sauce
Sauces of Choice – Balsamic & Garlic Sauce

9. Raw Foods & Superfoodssponsored by Asda
Elements for Life – Raw Chocolate Making Kit
Elements for Life – Spiced Hot Chocolate
Higher Nature – Omega Excellence Raw Organic Walnut Butter
inSpiral – Raw Blackout Tart
inSpiral – Raw Dehydrated Kale Chips: Cheesie Purple Corn
James White Drinks – Beet It Organic Stamina Shot
Mesquite Company – Pure Mesquite Pod Flour
Pulsin' – Beond Organic Acai Berry Bar
Raw Health – Organic Chia & Flax Dippers
The Living Food Kitchen – Raw Hummus

10. Gluten-Free Savoury Pies, Flans, Sausages & Ready Mealssponsored by Delamere Dairy
Meat-Based Meal Centres:
Black Farmer – Pork Meatballs
Black Farmer – Pork, Onion & Chive Sausages
Cloughbane Farm – Gluten Free Beef Sausages
Cloughbane Farm – Gluten Free Steak Burgers
Co-operative Foods – Truly Irresistible Pork Sausages
Co-operative Foods – Truly Irresistible Minted Lamb Burgers         

Pies, Flans, Pizzas, One Pot Meals:
Amy’s Kitchen – Gluten Free Vegetable Lasagne
Amy’s Kitchen – Gluten Free Bean and Rice Burrito
Butterfly Snacks – Gluten Free Chicken Spring Rolls
Dee's – Organic Omega Burger 
Dr Schar – Gluten Free Tortellini
Dr Schar – Gluten Free Bonta d’Italia Margherita Pizza
Easy Bean – New Mexican Chilli Fairtrade Red Bean with Sweet Pepper One Pot Meal
Foodamentalists – Pork, Black Pudding & Caramelised Red Onion Pie
Genius – Mozzarella Cheese & Tomato Pizza
Gluten Free Kitchen – Ovencrust Steak Pie
Gluten Free Kitchen – Ovencrust Chicken & Bacon Pie
stewed! – Chickpea, Sweet Potato & Feta One Pot Meal
The Food Resource – Fusilli al Funghi
Worthenshaws – Chicken Tikka with Brown Basmati Rice
Worthenshaws – Thai Green Vegetable Curry with Brown Basmati Rice

11. Gluten-Free Savoury Biscuits & Snackssponsored by Genon Laboratories
Amisa – Multiseed Crisp Bread
Conscious Foods – Millet Crackers with Rosemary
Crazy Bakers – Half Pipes Swedish Crispbreads
Darling Spuds – Fire Roasted Jalapeno Crisps
Darling Spuds – Sour Cream with a hint of Mexican Chilli
Darling Spuds – Tomato, Olive & Oregano
Juvela – Crostini Bites

12. Gluten-Free Scones, Sweet Tarts, Bakewells, Cake Bars, Muffins, etc.sponsored by Tesco
Asda – FreeFrom All Butter Lemon Sicilian Shortbread
Conscious Foods – Ginger Thins
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Triple Chocolate Cookies
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Fruited Teacakes 4 Pack
Crazy Bakers – Oaties
Heavenly Cakes – Gluten & Wheat Free Millionaires
Molino di Ferro – La Veneziane Coconut Biscotti
Morrisons – FreeFrom 6 Assorted Jam Tarts
Sugargrain – Almond, Apricot and Tahini Flapjack
Sweetcheeks – Almondies
Tesco – FreeFrom Chocolate Chip Cookies
Tesco – FreeFrom Ginger Cookies

13. Gluten-Free Cakes & Mixessponsored by Mrs Crimbles
The Brilliant Bakers – Cupcake Gift Cake
Cake Angels – Traditional Cherry & Almond Cake
The Cake Crusader – Gluten, Wheat and Dairy Free Carrot Cake
The Cake Crusader– Rich Fruit Cake
Cakes Divine – Dairy & Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes
Cariad Cakes – Gluten Free Orchard Plum & Ginger Cake
Fria – Kladdkaka Chocolate Brownie Cake
Incognito Cakes – Choc Fudge Cake
Incognito Cakes – White Choc Raspberry Muffins
Lewis & Cooper – Gluten-free Fruit Cake
Ms Cupcake – Cupcakes
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Chocolate Chip Muffins     
Steph’s Free From Cakes – Lemon Drizzle Cake
Sugargrain – Banana & Chocolate Chip Loaf
Sweetcheeks – Maple & Pecan Cupcakes

14. Gluten-Free Puddings, Desserts & Cheesecakessponsored by Hale & Hearty
Food Heaven – Summer Fruits Cheesecake
Food Heaven – Sicilian Lemon Cheesecake
Tideford Organics – Butterscotch Rice Pudding        
Mamma Cucina – Mango & Passionfruit Non-Dairy Cheesecake     

15. Dairy/Gluten-Free Chocolate & Snack Barssponsored by Tesco
Biona – Organic Sour Snakes
Booja Booja – Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles
Celtic Chocolates – Choices FreeFrom White Choc Easter Egg & Buttons   
Conscious Chocolates – Essential Orange
Eskal Foods – Chocolate Coated Pretzels
Eskal Foods – Yoghurt Coated Pretzels
Gourmelli – Secret Passion Organic Strawberry Dark Chocolate Bar 74%
Kinnerton – Dairy, Egg, Gluten and Nut Free Bar
Nut Free Chocolatier – Pomegranate & Elderflower Truffles
Pulsin’ – Raw Choc Brownie
Tickety Boo Cakes – Roo’s Crunch

16. Dairy/Gluten-Free Christmas Foodssponsored by Produced in Italy
Cariad Cakes – Christmas Cake 
Conscious Chocolate – Cherry Christmas  
Christine’s Puddings – Rum and Ale Pudding 
Foodamentalists – Frangipane Mince Pies
Friendly Food and Drink – Xmas chutney
Genius – Gluten-free mince pies  
Lewis and Cooper – Plum Pudding
Livwell – Christmas cake    
Morrison's – FreeFrom Christmas pudding
OK Foods – FreeFrom Mince Pies     
Pyman Pates – Chickenliver with port, brandy and cranberries 
The Heavenly Cake Company – Christmas cake

17. Gluten-Free Beersponsored by Asda
Daas – Ambre Beer
Daas – Blond Beer
Foodswild – Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer 
Gluten-Free Shop – Ambar
Green’s – Bottle Refermented Blonde Ale
Green’s – Premium Golden Ale
Wold Top – Against the Grain

And thank you again to Michelle Berriedale-Johnson of Foods Matter, for making the Free From Foods Awards exist!!

February 20, 2012

Gluten & Dairy Free Galette Crêpes from Heaven! - Fafie’s

As I’m sure everyone in the western world knows, regardless of religious persuasion, tomorrow is Pancake Tuesday (aka Shrove Tuesday)... That wonderful day, which technically marks the last day before lent, where the streets smell of happiness, the shops can’t keep the shelves stocked with lemons, sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup, nutella... That day when even the school cafeterias and office canteens have a special dish of pancakes for breakfast and lunch on offer... Yes, tomorrow is the infamous Pancake Tuesday and what better day than this to review Dublin’s very own Traditional French Crêperie, Fafíe’s, in all its Food Allergy Friendly glory!?

Myself and F. headed to Fafíe’s last Friday night to celebrate a belated birthday with our friend A. My sister and her boyfriend K. joined us too during their flying visit to Dublin which made for an interesting party seeing as my sister and I are both Dairy Free, A. (the birthday girl) is Gluten Free and F. is Vegetarian - only K. was free from Dietary restriction! But, it all turned out trumps and what a celebration it was!
Before Friday I must admit that I was not familiar with ‘Galettes’ and their naturally Gluten Free attributes, but I know all about them now! They are made from Buckwheat (that Gluten Free and Wheat Free gem related to rhubarb) and what better type of Gluten Free product is there than a Naturally Gluten Free recipe hailing from Brittany in the north-west of France!? Unfortunately, galettes and crepes in Fafíe’s are not Vegan friendly as the traditional Brittany recipe calls for eggs, milk and butter along with the buckwheat flour but happily, upon request, Fafie’s will whip up a Dairy Free version for Dairy Free clientele! The only difference A. could taste between the Dairy Free and Dairy Filled Galettes was that the DF were slightly lighter in colour and less crispy but tasted the same so happy days! Note that Fafíe’s is also happy to make Soya based Cafe Lattes too!

The menu is crazy to read with all sorts of Oceanic Goat-related titles which makes for some fun reading and some of the final products are spectacular to see, especially the sweet items which include ice cream (sadly not Dairy Free) or the savoury items which include organic eggs.
Our party had a whole range of galettes and crepes but the main ones that I remember are Smoked Salmon, Pine Nuts, Spinach and Egg; Banana and Canadian Maple Syrup (YUM!!); and Mixed Berries with Ice Cream!
It is important to remember to request your galette and/or crêpe to be made Dairy Free ...or... if you are only Gluten Free to remember to request your sweet crêpe to be made with a galette base instead of a wheat based crêpe. A lot of the menu items have cheese included but Fafie’s was open to customising our order to suit our picky wants and desires. It’s also worthy of mention that if you are allergic to Cow’s milk but can tolerate Goat’s milk that there are numerous Goats Cheese galettes to be enjoyed...note all the crazy goat-related titles!

Wishing you a Happy Galette/Crêpe-filled Pancake Tuesday!!

2 Lower Kevin Street
Dublin 8
tel: (01) 476 3888
web: www.fafies.com
Opening Times: Tues-Fri 09:00 - 22:00; Sat 11:00-22:00; Sun 12:00-17:00

February 17, 2012

Dairy Free Creams: Which to Choose?

The woes of a Dairy Free diet are not as many as you might think! Plant-based Milks have come a long way, we have loads of butter substitutes and the Dairy Free Cheese market is working hard but a category that can go noticed is Dairy Free Cream substitutes... There are actually quite a few Dairy Free Cream alternatives on the market these days, available in Health Food Stores, and some larger Grocery stores and Gourmet Grocers... but it can seem like a minefield trying to get what you want. Unlike Dairy-based creams, one product doesn’t cover all our needs.... Some creams are sweetened, some are savoury and most can only be used as single cream, un-whipped. However, there are some great pre-whipped varieties on the market now too! So, lets get into it! I have listed my favourites at the beginning but have tried to cover all the varieties which are readily available...

Oatly Healthy Oat Dairy Free Alternative to Cream
A surprisingly thick Soya and Dairy Free alternative. It is so thick that it actually keeps some of its shape when poured - see picture below. My Mom was SO impressed by Oatly’s cream alternative that she changed over from Soya based creams at the drop of a hat. It definite;y tastes the closest to real cream, in my opinion. It is not sweetened, which is a wonderful attribute and makes it a great alternative for Sugar Free, Dairy Free and Soya Free diets. I must admit that I was apprehensive to try Oatly for quite some time... something about an oat based cream that slightly grossed me out but in all honesty I was so surprised with Oatly’s quality and versatility that I have become a true convert! Product Recommendations: pour over summer fruits. Look for inspiring recipes at www.oatly.com
Available in most Health Food Stores, definitely in Down to Earth and Nourish on Wicklow Street.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Wheat Free (contains Oats)
- Soya Free
- Sugar Free
- Yeast Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic

Ingredients: Oat base (water, oats 10%), rapeseed oil, palm oil, emulsifier: rapeseed lecithin, stabiliser: xanthan, sea salt
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 600kJ/150kcal
Protein 1g
Carbohydrates 6g
of which Sugars 3.5g
Fats 13g
of which Saturated 3g
Cholestrol 0mg
Fibre 0.7g
Sodium 0.04g

SoyaToo! Soy Whip Spray Cream
A true luxury... Soya-Too is sweet and whipped and comes in a can ready to spray out onto your favourite desserts. My Mom and I got a bit carried away with this product (it’s so easy to do!) and we found that a quick and VERY indulgent snack was to spread some honey on a rice cracker and then top with Soya-Too cream - YUM! .. its also brilliant for crepes and pancakes and with Pancake Tuesday just around the corner what better time to try it out! My only complain is that it has a very slight ‘plastic’ texture which seems to be the compromise for whipped Dairy Free Creams. The absolute key to using Soya-Too spray cream is to follow the directions 100%. If you don’t do this you could end up losing half the contents (which I have done numerous times!)... The trick is to leave the can out of the fridge for about 10 minutes before use and then give the can one firm shake downwards (you will feel the contents move forward) **do not shake up and down** and then spray the cream out in a vertical fashion.
There is also a Rice based version call Rice Whip by the same company but the only place I have been able to obtain this is in Restore, on Camden Street. However, it is often not in stock and Down to Earth, on South Great Georges Street, told me that they have been having difficulty getting it and so we fear that perhaps it has become a ghost cream of the past...
Soya Too Soya Whip is available in both Restore and Down to Earth.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten free
- Wheat Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Ingredients: Soy drink (water, soybeans) (74%), coconut fat (5%), palm butter (5%), sugar-beet syrup, corn maltodextrin, tartaric acid, thickener: seaweed extracts, sea salt, natural vanilla extract, propellant: nitrous oxide
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 139kcal/576kJ
Protein 1.2g
Carbohydrates 9.4g
Fat 10.7g
of which saturated fatty acids 10.0g
Cholesterol 0.0g

Organic Cremovita
Another luxury! Similar to Soya-Too, Cremovita comes pre-whipped but this time, in the carton. All that is required is some light whisking before serving to smooth out the texture. You can actually eat it straight from the carton but it will be denser this way. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it in Dublin. My taster pack was bought in the Fruit n’ Nut Place Health Food Store in Portlaoise but it is a product from the ever-popular Granovita line so I’m sure that if you request it in any good quality stores, such as Rathmine’s The Hopsack, that they can/will order it in for you.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Nut Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic

Ingredients: Water, Vegetable fats, sugar beet syrup, soya beans (4%), maltodextrin of maize, tartaric acid, thickener (carageenan), sea salt, natural flavouring (vanilla)

Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 155kJ/155kcal
Protein 1.6g
Carbohydrates 12.3g
Fat 11.0g
Fibre 0.6g
Sodium 0.02g

EcoMil Cuisine Almond
Ecomil’s Dairy Cream substitute is a welcome substitute for Soya free and Sugar Free diets. It is sweetened with Agave syrup which I always find causes an oddly ‘artificial’ tasting sweetness despite it’s 100% natural-ness, but the Free From attributes are brilliant. I have used this Almond based cream numerous times in a savoury recipe (Mushroom á la Créme on pasta) and it worked out fine. I was actually surprised that the agave sweetness didn’t hinder the final product.
Package recommendations: Does not curdle when cooking. You can boil it and mix it up with sour food such as lemon or mustard
Available in Down to Earth as well as many Gourmet grocers and the Dublin Co-op.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Wheat Free
- Gluten Free
- Soya Free
- Sugar Free (note: contains agave syrup)
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Ingredients: Water, almond oil, almond (7%), agave syrup, emulsifier: sunflower lecithin, stabilizers: xanthan gum, arabic gum, sea salt, natural almond flavouring
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 363kJ/87kcal
Protein 0.6g
Carbohydrates 1.7g
Fats 8g

Alpro Soya Single
It has a thick consistency, but still runs freely, like real single cream. It has the slightest of slight sweetness and when it’s cold I could drink it straight. The only downfalls are that it has a slight taste of Soya, as is the case with almost all Soya products and it has the second highest fat content of all the creams (only Provamel Soya Cream is higher, by 0.6g). I actually really like Alpro’s Soya Single based on taste alone but there is some confusion relating to the Wheat and content. The confusion is directly related to Provamel’s Cream substitute (which is reviewed next). I was recently told that Provamel and Alpro were actually the same product...BUT, some of the ingredients are slightly different. I have contacted Alpro who have confirmed for me that all of their products have been endorsed by the Ceoliac society.
Available in Dunnes Stores and some Tesco stores (definitely Phibsborough).

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten Free
- Nut Free (made in a nut-free environment)
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- GMO Free

Ingredients: Water, Sunflower oil (15.4%), Hulled soya beans (4%), Fructose-glucose syrup, Emulsifiers (Sucrose esters of fatty acids, Soya lecithin), Stabilisers (Xanthan gum, Guar gum and Carageenan), Sea salt, Flavouring, Antioxidant (Natural Tocopherol).

Nutritional Information per 100g
Energy 716kJ/174kcal
Protein 2.0g
Carbohydrates 1.6g
of which sugars 1.6g
Fat 17.3g
of which saturates 2.2g
of which mono-saturates 4.3g
of which polyunsaturates 10.8g
Cholesterol nil
Fibre 0.4g
Sodium 0.05g
equivalent as salt 0.14g

Provamel Soya Alternative to Cream
A basic Soya based cream substitute. It is great for use in ice cream recipes, etc but it is sweetened with Wheat Syrup which is unnecessary in my opinion due to the amount of Free From customers it is cutting out. The very strange thing about Provamel’s Soya Cream is that they are owned by the same company as Alpro (see above)... Some people are under the assumption that the product is the same and although the ingredients are VERY similar, Provamel states Wheat Syrup instead of Fructose-Glucose Syrup (which granted, could just be Wheat Syrup). It also leaves out the Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids which are present in Alpro’s Cream. Provamel is available in large Tesco Stores, Nourish on Wicklow Street and Health Matters on Grafton Street.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten Free (contains Wheat syrup but states ‘Gluten free’ on the package)
- Nut Free (contains sunflower oil)
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic
- Sweetened with Wheat Syrup

WARNING: Contains Wheat Syrup
Ingredients: Water, Organic sunflower oil (15%), Hulled organic soya beans (6%), Organic Wheat Syrup, Emulsifier: soya lecithin, Stabilisers: xanthan gum, guar gum and carageenan, Sea Salt, Natural Flavouring, Anti-oxidant: natural tocopherol
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 784kJ/190kcal
Protein 3.1g
Carbohydrates 3.8g
of which Sugars 3.1g
Fat 17.9g
of which saturates 2.3g
of which mono-unsaturates 4.2g
of which poly-unsaturates 11.4g
of which Cholestrol nil
Fibre 0.5g
Sodium 0.06g
equivalent as salt 0.14g

Sojade Cuisine
A bit thinner than other Soya-based cream alternatives and quite sweet. Unlike Provamel’s and possibly Alpro’s Soya Cream it is Wheat Free. Available in Down to Earth on South Great Georges Street.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Wheat Free
- Gluten Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic

Ingredients: soya drink 82% (water, soya beans 7%), sunfower oil, soya lecithin, cane sugar, thickeners: xanthan - carrageenan
Nutritional Information per 100ml:
Energy 173kcal/715kJ
Protein 3.0g
Carbohydrates 1.8g
of which Sugar 1.8g
Fat 17.0g
of which saturates 2.0g
of which mono-unsaturates 5.5g
of which poly-unsaturates 9.5g
of which Cholestrol 0.0g
Fibre 0.5g
Sodium 0.03g

Of course there are also numerous recipes for making your own Dairy Free creams but that is a topic for another day!

What is your favourite Dairy Free Cream? and what is your favourite way of using it?!

February 15, 2012

Dairy Free Fudge: What It’s Like & Where to Get It

Ages ago I fell upon some Dairy Free Fudge in Holland & Barrett but I was refraining from Sugar at the time so I was forced to just gaze at it for a while and move along, trying to put it out of my mind. From time to time I would see it and try to ignore it but at last I gave in... Dairy Free Fudge, here I come!! I remember having the most amazing fudge (& coincidently the only ‘real’ fudge I’ve ever had) once at the CLE (Canadian Lakehead Exhibition) which was an annual fair that came to my home town every year. It was mouth-wateringly amazing and happily/sadly, it was during a time when we thought my Milk Allergies were ‘outgrown’ (what a mistake)... so I have lived with that glorious handmade fudge goodness in my memory ever since....

When I cracked open the bag of Dairy Free Fudge from the ‘Fabulous Fudge Factory’ I was impressed with what I saw. The bag was generously filled and each square looked yum-town good and in line with my memory of what fudge should be.

- Dairy Free
- Lactose Free
- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Nightshade Free
- GMO Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- No Artificial Colours
- No Preservatives

Upon taste I was blown away with the sweetness and the best way I can describe the taste is: it tastes very similar to the soft, coloured bits of bassets licorice sweets - you know, the ‘fudge’ parts.
I love the coloured bits of Bassets licorice (which are naturally Dairy Free, but note a may contain warning) but I was expecting something different from the Fabulous Fudge Factory... something richer. Then again, I am basing this on a childhood memory of the first & only time I had real fudge! F. wasn’t overly impressed either, but fudge isn’t really his thing, he prefers the ‘Indian version’ of fudge, as he calls it, whatever that is!

However, the Fabulous Fudge Factory’s Fabulous Fudge won Gold at the Great Taste Awards so they’ve must be doing something right. I do love the idea of being able to get Dairy Free fudge but the sweetness is full-on and eating the entire bag in one sitting shouldn’t really be an option... I munched on it over the course of a day ;)

The Fabulous Fudge Factory’s Dairy Free Fudge is available at Holland & Barrett (Nature’s Way) shops for approx. €4.55 for a 200g bag.

p.s. Sorry about the lack of a Monday post - moving house took OVER ... all is moved but the organization is insane - Think I’ll be taking a trip to Ikea for some urgent storage ideas!

Ingredients: Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Soya Milk, Vanilla
Allergen Warning: May Contain Nuts
Nutritional Information per 100g:
Energy 352.1kcal/1489.4kJ
Protein 0.4g
Carbohydrate 77.5g
of which sugars 67.5g
of which starch 10.0g
Fat 4.4g
of which saturates 3.6g
of which mono-unsaturates 0.6g
of which poly-unsaturates 0.2g
Cholestrol 0.0g
Fibre 0.0g
Sodium 0.04g

February 10, 2012

Edible: Allergen Free at the Science Gallery

So... I have big news! I was asked to develop a recipe for ‘Edible’ in Trinity’s Science Gallery. ‘Edible’ is the Science Galleries most recent exhibition. It, and I quote, “takes on food with the imagination of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the bite of Jamie’s Dinners. Featuring work and recipes by a diverse group of artists, scientists, restauranteurs and foodies, the show is set to challenge your perception of what ‘edible‘ really means.” The recipe challenge for me, was to tackle the issue of food allergies, that ever growing phenomena, and so I created ‘Vegan & Allergen Free Custard & Raspberry Tartlets’! By ‘Allergen Free’ I refer to all 14 of the registered food allergens in the EU.

It was no easy task. I chose this gluteny, milky, eggy classic dessert to rid of allergens one, because I love a custard tartlet..or well, really I love a custard anything...except trifle. Two, I wanted to demonstrate how even the most unattainable is attainable despite our allergic ‘I can’t eat that’, ‘I can’t have that’ mentality. But also how much work we food allergy-free folk put in to take part in life’s simple pleasures - like custard tarts!

So, my Vegan and Allergen Free Custard & Raspberry Tartlets will be made for some of the ongoing ‘Feeding Times’ which are happening upstairs in the Science Gallery at set times during the exhibition and the recipe is on page 56-57 of the catalogue...and here is another picture of the finished thing!

‘Edible’s’ launch party was last night and it was great fun! I’ll post some pictures below of all the goings-on. The highlight for me was watching the ‘feeders’ eat the Vegan Ortolan (an animal free version of the cruelest - and now thankfully illegal, recipe) where diners had to eat the mock bird in the traditional fashion: ‘with a large napkin covering the head and the face - to keep the flavours in, and to hide one’s shame from God.’ which makes you think about humanity, doesn’t it?

....And the lowlight was when I slipped climbing out of the giant inflatable digestive tract and seem to have broken my toe! ... it’s all purple and VERY sore... but at least it was done in the most silly of situations!

‘Edible’ will be open to the public until April 6th, 2012 and I highly recommend popping in and checking it out AND definitely try to sign up for one or more of the ‘Feeding Times’ taking place upstairs - and not to worry, all the ingredients and recipes are listed in the catalogue and there is also a large board with allergens by the table and maybe with some luck you will get to taste my tartlets!
Allergen Warnings and comments for each 'Feeding Time' meal

Presenting 'Edible's' curators, Catherine Kramer and Zack Denfeld

worms as a snack - crunchy and lip-lickin' good!

the sound of fermentation

After a feeding

February 8, 2012

Judging at the Free From Food Awards 2012!

After a gruesome wake-up call at 04:00 yesterday morning I pulled myself out of bed, got ready and caught the aircoach to Dublin airport for an equally gruesome morning flight to my ever-loved London... that's right, yesterday was the day that I had the happy task of judging Free From, Food Allergy Friendly foods for the 2012 Free From Food Awards. And boy! It sure isn’t as easy as you might think....

The day started off with an airport breakfast consisting of a Starbucks Gluten Free and Dairy Free Tuna sandwich (I’ve been temporarily recommended to not pursue my vegan/vegetarian dietary aspirations until my digestion improves so to date have only given up mammals!) and a joyous bottle of mineral water from the brand ‘Plane Water’ which was amazingly cheap at only €1.00 (IN the AIRPORT!) and actually bottled at source in co. Kerry, a.k.a NOT just filtered water bottled at source in The Coca-Cola plant like Deep River Rock (first hightlight of the day!)
sorry for the outrageously RUBBISH photo!

I managed to get to the secret judging location, through all the crisp clean snow in London with only 10 minutes to spare - whew! (although I was actually quite relaxed and taking it eaaasy because I thought I had more time!!). Inside I met some lovely lovely people! I was part of three judging panels (which I think I’m still not allowed to mention?). There were some judges, like me, doing all three, and some only doing one or two. I mentally abuse myself for being SO rubbish with names because I actually can’t remember all the people I met but definitely some of the highlights were Michelle Berridale-Johnson, organizer of the Awards and editor of Food Matters.com, who was SUPER nice as well as her lovely team and doubly lovely Chicagoan intern, Amy. I also met some awesome top notch bloggers like:
Ruth Holroyd from What Allergy?
Sam Thewlis from Food Allergy Kitchen
and the infamous Melanie Fenson from Pig in the Kitchen

I also met a really great lady who makes Gluten Free Beers (whose name I CAN’T remember!!! -sorry) and some dietitians and authors like Christine Bailey from Advance Nutrition and Tanya Wright, author of ‘Enjoying Life with a Severe Food Allergy’ and ‘I’m Hungry’ who made me laugh many times during the judging (in a good way!). I also met Lesley Cutts from Goodness Direct who was a joy to talk to and judge with.

But I suppose you want to know about the judging... Well... I can’t tell you much, at least not until the shortlist comes out in a couple of weeks but there were definitely some exciting products to keep an eye out for in the near future! (Hopefully they will all be available in Ireland in the near future, if not already!) But is was actually a really difficult task. There were new products as well as old faithfuls (that I could recognize despite it being a blind taste test) which only made it more difficult to judge! Everybody obviously has their own taste preferences and agendas be it nutrition, versatility, necessity, etc. so I tried to clear my preconceived opinions on taste and look at each product outside of my own personal likes and dislikes. I found the best way to do this was to taste, taste and taste again because sometimes I find that a first bite can be deceptive... We marked each product out of 10 and made notes with pros and cons which as well as constructive criticism which gets returned to the contestant, and then opened the debate on what we each deemed to be potential Shortlist, Commended and Highly Commended products, and of course, which deserved to be the overall category winner! There were definitely some split camps and some (almost) unanimous decisions but I think the free From world should be happy with the conclusions :) ...I also think that that’s about all I can divulge at present - sorry!!

I headed off after the judging, a bit shaky after an onslaught of teatime caffeine and sugar but quite happy that my digestion hadn’t acted up at all ... until .... I got back to the airport with plenty of time to spare and a desperate desire for something savoury. I had a really disappointing, and a bit manky, fast food ‘Singapore Noodles with Shrimp’. It was ridiculously expensive now that I do the conversions, lacked the lustre of rich flavours and despite it being Dairy Free, made my stomach rapidly expand and become quite uncomfortable. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but what a disappointment ... but I suppose that’s what I get for eating rubbish fast food especially with a problem digestive system!
more apologies for another pathetic photo!

In conclusion I have to say that the Judging was a great experience and that I learnt a lot. It was extremely interesting to hear what other people thought about the products which makes me CALL OUT to all my readers yet again to request that you please, please, please share your thoughts and opinions about anything that I review because your opinion is as important as mine!! And also, to always feel free to share your Food Allergy Friendly Finds so we can all try them out!

I also discovered and confirmed some pretty strong opinions about allergen free foods, what is needed on the market and how important the titling of your product is! Not to mention the ongoing need for CLEAR allergen and ingredient labelling... How ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘margarine’ aren’t really very helpful ingredient listings, how confusing E numbers can be and how much the Free From community needs manufactures’ help in CLEARLY explaining the Food Allergy risks by realistic warnings deciphering ‘may contain’ warnings between ‘in a factory’ and ‘on a line’, etc.

So thats it, until the Shortlist is released, of course!!

February 6, 2012

Snacks for the Nightshade Sensitive (aka: Potato, Tomato, Pepper Free Snacks)

If you are Nightshade Allergic or Sensitive than you know all about the ridiculously hard task of finding savoury snacks that are Potato Free, Tomato Free and Pepper Free. It seems that everything in the snack world contains one, if not all three of these devious ingredients. Of course, I use the word devious in jest, but in all honestly, in our Western society we weight so heavily on the nightshades that I truly pity anyone who is sensitive! Sooo, today I want to talk about a few snack options (more in the crisp department) that are somewhat readily available in Dublin/Ireland for Nightshade Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Vegan snackers...

RW Garcia Organic Blue Maize Tortilla Chips
If you have copper toxicity then Blue Maize Tortilla Chips are actually a recommended snack! And to that I say Yay!! Finally something is recommended to eat that I actually love! They are more expensive than yellow tortillas, as expected, but they have a richer lovelier taste that is simply the business. You will find blue tortillas in some gourmet grocers but I got these ones in Holland & Barrett on Grafton Street.

- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Dairy Free (note: Made in a facility that uses Dairy)
- Nightshade Free
- Potato Free
- Tomato Free
- Pepper Free
- Tree Nut Free
- Peanut Free
- Soya Free (note: Made in a facility that uses Soya)
- Vegan
- Vegetarian
- Organic

Ingredients: Stone ground blue maize* (80%), Sunflower oil*, Sea Salt
Allergy Information: Made in a facility that uses dairy, soy and sesame seeds.

Hale & Hearty Beautifully Barbecues Cassava Crisps
New on the block is Hale & Hearty’s crisps which substitute Potato for Cassava (also called Yuca. More familiarly used in the form of Tapioca). I had read all about attempts at making common Potato products with Cassava which is a long tuberous root with similar qualities, unrelated to the Nightshade family but Hale & Hearty’s Cassava crisps were the first commercial product that I tried (my Nightshade Free Mom and I had previously made a few DIY attempts). The crisps are very crunchy and the seasoning is a bit more sweet than I would ideally want but they have received two Great Taste awards in 2010 and a Shortlisted place in the 2011 Free From Food Awards. If I were to compare them with something I would say Baked Potato Crisps, as available in Marks & Spencers. I got these Hale & Hearty Cassava crisps in Down to Earth on South Great Georges Street.

- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Dairy Free
- Nightshade Free
- Potato Free
- Tomato Free
- Pepper Free
- Soya Free
- Vegan

Ingredients: Cassava (66.5%), Unrefined palm oil, sea salt, sugar, tapioca maltodextrin, natural flavourings, yeast extract, garlic powder, onion powder

Neal’s Yard Toasted Corn Snacks
My sister discovered these little treats a while back in Holland & Barrett. They’re cheap, filling and Allergen Free with only three ingredients to talk about - can a snack get better? The best part for me is that they naturally taste like they’re covered in a seasoning of some sort but there actually isn't anything but salt! Holland & Barrett do sell a spicy seasoned version of these Toasted Corn Snacks but they contain Nightshade ingredients and, although they are nice, the original is perfectly satisfying. Recently I also found a version of Toasted Corn Snacks in the Asia Market on Drury Street (Dublin 2) which are basically the same product although the corn kernels are larger and a bit harder to crunch - but still a great snack!

- Gluten Free
- Wheat Free
- Dairy Free
- Corn Free
- Nightshade Free
- Potato Free
- Tomato Free
- Pepper Free
- Mustard Free
- Celery Free
- Soya Free
- Vegan
- Vegetarian

Ingredients: Maize, Sunflower Oil, Salt
Allergy Information: This product is packed in a factory where nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds are handled.

Tyrell’s Beetroot Crisps
If corn is a problem for you, you should check out Tyrell’s alternative crisps. My favourite flavour is Beetroot, which tastes WAY better than it sounds. Tyrell’s also do a triple Root Veg pack containing carrots, parsnips and beetroot as well as a Parsnip only pack (mind the ingredients on this one, as it’s different from the root veg pack). Tyrell’s also makes potato crisps but I’ve never actually tried them. However, I will say that the packaging is great - especially the salt and vinegar bag! The Allergy Free status on Tyrell’s is a pick finicky because they have a warning stating: Packed in a factory that handles Milk, Soya, Mustard and Gluten and I assume that the same factory also packs their Potato, Tomato and Pepper products so depending on your sensitivity/allergy take care when purchasing/consuming.

Ingredients: Beetroot, Sunflower oil, Sea Salt
Allergy Information: Packed in a factory that handles Milk, Soya, Mustard and Gluten