Category Archives: Reviews & Other Things

The Realities of Living with Food Allergies

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It’s not often I talk about myself or my food allergy story on my blog. After almost 10 years being dairy free, I still find it hard to talk to people I have known all my life about what it is like living with a life threatening dairy allergy… as often these people have known me eating dairy and clearly I survived then! But as this is the 100th (!!) post on my blog, I thought it was about time I added another voice to the ongoing allergy awareness community.

Almost 10 years ago I saw a doctor who connected the dots (severe asthma, eczema into adulthood and a poor immune system) and asked that I consider that a food might be causing my symptoms. We decided to try cutting out milk for a few weeks to see what happened, and, miraculously, everything improved beyond belief and I felt so much more like myself, happy and filled with energy, then I think I ever had. But now I have a life threatening allergy to dairy. Only two and a half years ago I had this confirmed by the allergist as milk finally came up on my skin prick tests and blood work, despite having known for a long time after cutting it out that when I came into contact with milk my tongue and throat would swell. That appointment was a mix of emotions – but perhaps the one that overrode them all was elation. At finally, finally, having the medical proof to show what I knew was happening.

 

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And then the fear kicked in. For a long time before my formal diagnosis I had managed on being careful and relying on quick administration of liquid antihistamines to tamper any reaction. Now, I had epi-pens. At once life saving and terrifying; I felt it was just my fear of needles that made me nervous but, looking back, I was much more scared of the thought that my allergic reactions felt so out of my control. It was a wake up call that I needed to accept my situation, and made me realise that perhaps there was more I could do to avoid needing to use them.

Where this becomes difficult is when food is not under my direct control. A few months ago an episode of Rip Off Britain (not my usual choice but I was intrigued as I knew it featured food allergies) highlighted how common the issues I face eating out are. As they said, I am unavoidably putting my life into someone else’s hands when I eat food I have not prepared. I am trusting that they have checked all the ingredients, and the ingredients of ingredients. That they have cleaned a work station properly and used fresh pans and cutlery before cooking my meal. That they have done everything possible to make this meal safe for me, if they told me they could accommodate my allergy.

The episode made me feel both better and worse. One section featured a young boy and his mum having a giggle about having to educate restaurant staff that cheese and butter contain milk. It sounds unbelievable, but is horrifyingly accurate in my experience. Whilst nice to know I’m not alone, it is terrifying when you think about the consequences when it goes wrong.

One part of the episode focused on just that with a story about Amy May, who suffered a life altering anaphylactic shock four years ago at age 26 to a tiny bite of nut containing food in Hungary. Amy was resuscitated but suffered from brain damage, and now lives life severely disabled. Amy, at 26, had suffered from a nut allergy all her life, and had checked with the restaurant verbally and with translation cards that the food she ate was nut free. Amy’s parents never got to the bottom of exactly what was in the food, as the incident happened 3 months before the new EU legislation came into place. Now, even though we see a spate of heavy fines and jail terms being placed upon restauranteurs for a cavalier attitude to food allergies after an incident, still the problems persist.

After the episode a lot of people commented that they thought that people with severe allergies should just not eat out and accept their limitations. And whilst to a point I do actually agree – I have no problem with being told I can’t be catered for, or being given a very selected menu of things to choose from – the real issue is that restaurants often don’t take the time to check what you are really asking, and just keeping telling you that it is fine to eat.

And whilst there are issues like this with restaurants, it becomes another way that food allergies are incredibly alienating for both adults and children. Especially in adult life, it is not always possible to avoid eating out of the house. Weddings, work events, travel, birthdays, nights out can all be anxiety inducing incidents when eating out is out of your control and unavoidable.

I’m lucky perhaps to have had some great experiences to balance out the not so good. I have a local Thai restaurant where I know I can eat safely. I have wonderful friends and family who go out of their way to make sure the food I eat at their house or out and about is safe. I had an amazing experience recently away on a work trip where the management of a hotel could not have been more helpful in making sure food was safe for me – they even changed the wine on all the tables to ensure it did not contain milk and there were no mix ups! These experiences prove that with the right care and caution it is possible to cater for most people with severe food allergies, restaurants just have to be willing to work with the customer to see what can be done to make food safe.

 

With the prevalence of allergies rising, I hope that in the years to come things will get better for the allergy community. I hope that people will be more understanding, will see and understand the difference between cutting something out for choice and cutting something out for a life or death reason. I hope that the people who make negative comments never have to experience living with a food allergy. I hope that more restaurants, cafes and caterers will take the time to learn from those establishments leading the way in allergy food management. I hope I am able to be part of this change, in any small way that helps.

Here’s to the next 10 years ❤

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1 Year Birthday!

Wow… I just can’t believe it’s been a year already! It has just gone by so fast! But to move on from dwelling over how quickly time is going, it has been an amazing year. I can’t believe looking back at my first few posts how far my blog has come. How many more people are reading. How much better my photographs are! How many more baking skills I have. How many more dairy free success we’ve had.

Without blubbering on too long, THANK YOU to all of you who read this. Thank you for coming back and following. Thank you for your amazing comments and support. It’s been a blast!

To celebrate, I thought I’d recap my journey a bit – with a countdown of 5 of my personal favourite recipes posted so far.

Thank you again, and here goes!!!

5. My very first post! Coffee and Walnut cupcakes. Genuinely one of my favourite cakes – ever. It’s just so hard to beat. I love it so much, this is the cake I ask my boyfriend to make me for my birthday almost every year! Also love the photos – my iPhone did me well!

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4. My most-viewed recipe (which still surprises me!) – Lemon & Blueberry Loaf Cake! What I like about this cake is how easy it is. Like a jazzed up lemon drizzle, it is low effort, quite quick and really delivers on taste. Love that when I baked it almost ALL the blueberries sank to the bottom because I forgot to roll them in flour… duh!

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3. Christmas Chelsea buns – these are a personal favourite because they are just so deliciously festive. I loved making these to take into work before Christmas last year. They disappeared so quickly and everyone love them, so I was happy! I’d really like to work on making more sweet, enriched bread doughs next year. Perhaps a new New Years resolution?!

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2.5. Because I just couldn’t pick 5!!!! This delicious Apple & Blueberry Frangipane Tart is another personal favourite. I’ve made it several times since, and it’s always just as delicious. I’m particularly proud of it because it was part of my New Year’s resolution for this year to learn how to make pastry. And this one just nails it, every time.

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2. In almost the top spot – My Healthy Granola! I love this recipe partly because it is different to the other many sweet bakes on here, and also because it’s a life staple in our house. I make it regularly, and often take it into work as a healthy snack. I also really love this photo. I think I can say it was this photo that made me want to learn more about photography and food styling.

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And 1………Pavlova! I knew before I started this post that this would be number 1. Pavlova is something I have really, really missed, and so gave me such personal satisfaction to know that I’d cracked it. And really, without the blog, I don’t know if I would have spent as much time researching and looking for alternatives to cream. I think it just would have been one of those things which I accepted I would never eat again, and so I really have to thank this blog and all of you for making sure that didn’t happen!

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How to… line a tin with pastry!

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So as I mentioned quite a while ago, my New Year’s resolution for this year was to crack making perfect pastry.  I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet, but I definitely think I’ve learnt a lot along the way and so I wanted to share some tips and tricks with you.

You can use these tips for any pastry recipe; it would work perfectly for my Lemon Meringue or Apple Pie, or this delicious Apple and Blueberry Frangipane Tart.

One thing that used to fill me with dread was lining a tin with pastry – especially homemade pastry, which tends to be lovely and short (read: a nightmare to transfer from your work surface to the tin!!!). So, where to start…

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Easter Springtime Table Setting

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I love the seasons; few things bring me as much excitement as spotting the first blossoms and daffodils of the year or catching sight of the first red leaves in autumn. I will be cooking Easter lunch for my family this year for the first time, and to celebrate I thought I would make some pretty table settings to show off the Easter and Spring Colours.

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These were incredibly simple to make – using plates, napkins and ribbons in a combination of Easter pastel colours, slot a trimmed, single spring flower (yellow or white daffodils, crocuses, tulips, or a short twig with pink or white blossoms) between your cutlery on a napkin, and use a ribbon to tie it together.

These simple, beautiful decorations make the table ready for a special occasion – once everyone is ready to eat just pop the flowers into a tall glass filled with water for a quick centre piece. These would be perfect for either an Easter lunch or for breakfast with my Hot Cross Bun Recipe.

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