Tag Archives: Allergy Show

Allergy and FreeFrom Show 2016

I am so glad that we made the decision to visit last weekend’s Allergy and Freefrom Show at Olympia London as we had the most amazing day and made some great finds. The show has always been one of those lovely experiences for the children, where they have been able to try so many of the foods and drinks on offer, although we have constantly had to remind them that they can’t assume that everything is safe, even though so many of the offerings are. IMG_0645[1]This year was no different and G ate her way around the show, delighted to try some old favourites as well as the new products that we hadn’t seen before. It was understandably a much harder show for M this time than ever before, but he pinpointed on the map which stalls he wanted to visit and was thrilled that we managed to find some great new food options for him too. I am also extremely glad that we chose to take the wheelchair with us as it proved to be useful, not just for helping M negotiate the crowds flocking round each stall, but also as a receptacle for the numerous bags of goodies we gained during the day.

The day was also a great chance to catch up with some old friends from the blogosphere and allergy community, though this year I didn’t manage to make the bloggers meet-up arranged for the Saturday morningIMG_0647[1]. It was fantastic to see G and M recognised and welcomed by so many of these lovely individuals and they happily chatted away almost as much as Mike and I did. We spent some time at the Allergy Adventures stand, where Hailey and her crew of cheerful helpers were once again providing entertainment for the children in the guise of paper crafts and story-telling time, although they couldn’t persuade G and M to make the paper lollipops planned. Instead my pair went off-piste and created an array of paper lizard heads (M) and chatterboxes (G) to fill their time, some of which I think were left behind and not just stuffed into pockets and down the sides of the wheelchair.

Between us, we came home with a huge selection of new products for both children to try and I can’t wait to share their reviews of these foods with you, especially those that are not just new to us, but to the market too. We spent the entire day at Olympia, getting in when the doors opened at 10am and leaving as the tannoy announced that the Show was closed at 5pm  and I could quite easily have spent another day IMG_0651[1]discovering all those hidden gems that were tucked away in remote corners of the space. We had taken some safe food for M with us for his lunch as we just didn’t know what would be available at the site and G enjoyed a gluten- and dairy-free pizza from Schar that was cooked to order. The Show now visits 3 UK locations during the year – London, Liverpool and Glasgow – and I would highly recommend a visit if you get a chance to go. It is a brilliant day out for anyone living with food allergies and offers the opportunity to discover so many safe alternatives that often don’t make it to the High Street.

Perfect Pizza

20140721_174621Today a parcel arrived for me.  To say I was excited by its delivery is something of an understatement as the contents of this parcel meant that M had only one request for tea – pizza.  At the Allergy show a couple of weeks ago we discovered the wonders of Mozzarisella cheese, a cheese made from germinated brown rice and which is therefore 100% safe for M.  I recently perfected a M-friendly pizza base recipe too, so this proved to be the ideal opportunity to put these magical ingredients together and taste the final result.

The best thing about this recipe is that it’s quick and easy to make and both the kids love choosing and adding their toppings to the pizza base.  I mixed up the pizza dough, rolled out the bases and then let M and G loose in the kitchen.  Today’s toppings were fairly simple, G chose ham, sweetcorn and grated Ewe’s milk cheese, whilst M settled on ham, sweetcorn, olives and slices of the mozzarisella.  He braved a taste of the cheese before it was cooked, but decided it was too slimy to enjoy “raw”.

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Fifteen minutes later and this was the final result.  The pizzas smelled amazing and both children tucked in.  The mozzrisella cheese got a big double thumbs up from M, so I know it must have been good and he’s asked for the leftovers in his lunchbox tomorrow.  All in all a resounding success and a recipe I’d definitely recommend to anyone.

 

Allergy Adventures

adventureIn my recent blog about the Allergy and Freefrom show in London, I mentioned in passing the wonderful Allergy Adventures, who M was keen to visit during our day at the show.  We first discovered Allergy Adventures at last year’s show and were so impressed with their products that we’ve kept going back for more.

Allergy Adventures was set up by the lovely Hailey, who explains her reasons for starting the company on her website.  She produces beautifully illustrated children’s books that take the reader on a magical journey inside their lunchbox, accompanied by a character with the same food allergy as them as they look for safe foods to enjoy.  Each book focuses on one main allergen and teaches the child “how to tell others about their allergy and stay safe around food.” These books are bright and colourful and drew M’s attention last year as we wandered the stalls of the Allergy show.  Whilst he and G joined in with some paper-plate crafts – an absolute godsend to any parent who wanted a break from complaints of aching legs due to the amount of walking needed – Mike and I flicked through the books.

Stickers_5_largeUnfortunately, due to the extent of M’s allergies, there isn’t one particular book that we could buy for him to enjoy and to share with his friends, but there was another product that caught my eye and which I snapped up in an instant.  These fantastic “stickers” have proved invaluable in labelling any pots, products or boxes that go into school for M’s use.  His lunchbox, water bottle, medicine pots and individual tupperware containers all have a sticker, indicating that the contents are M-friendly and for his use only.  Even the children’s swap-boxes have a couple of “Hands off” stickers, so that everyone knows that they are specifically for G and M.  What I particularly love about these stickers is that they create a positive association with his food for M.  Rather than focusing on the “free-from” label and listing what he can’t eat, they instead stress that the food is special because it belongs to M or G and not to anyone else – a great message for my allergy-challenged boy.

Earlier this year, Allergy Adventures also produced an amazing allergy-friendly cooking guide, which lists out easy substitutions that can be made when baking or cooking for someone with food allergies.  Not only does it make sensible suggestions about replacement products to use, but the notes highlight key areas to consider when using alternatives.  Best of all, this has been produced as a free resource and can be found by following this link. With plans afoot for creating more resources to support children with allergies both in hospital and in schools, this is definitely one to watch.

After our first hour or so at the show, we finally listened to M’s request and headed for the Allergy Adventures area.  Once again both G and M created paper-plate masterpieces, whilst resting their aching feet and Mike and I had a break from their moans, for a few minutes anyway.  I grabbed the opportunity to catch up with Hailey, who I chatter with on Twitter and 10outot10also the fabulous Vicki, the FreeFrom Fairy, another Twittersphere friend.  Once G and M had finished their creations, they were captured on film for the Allergy Adventures video all about the 2014 Allergy show.  There’s really nothing more to add.  This is a great set of resources for anyone with a child with food allergies and I would really recommend you spend some time exploring everything Allergy Adventures has to offer, it definitely won’t be time wasted.

 

Allergy & Free From Show, London 2014

allergy show

Last weekend was the annual Allergy and Freefrom Show in London, one event that has been pencilled in my diary since we visited it for the first time last year.  This amazing show features a multitude of companies and charities who provide goods and services for those struggling with a life with allergies.  From the well-known brands to smaller businesses who have only just started out, the stalls offered both G and M the opportunity to taste and try a range of safe foods and drinks.  This year we visited on the Sunday, hoping for a marginally less hectic day there than the one we experienced last year.  We arrived before the doors opened and despite joining the long queue that was forming outside, the sensible decision was made to open the doors slightly ahead of schedule and we were inside the hall in no time at all.

As soon as we spotted the map, we ran our eyes down the list of stall-holders, noted the location of our key stalls to visit and formulated our plan.  I wanted to see as many of the allergy stalls as possible, hoping to find some more M-friendly products to add to our cupboards.  Mike and G declared themselves happy with just wandering around and tasting whatever free samples were on offer and M had 2 specific requests for the day – Ms Cupcake and Allergy Adventures.

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Courtesy of simranb94 on Instagram

M often talks about the decadent cupcakes that he enjoyed at last year’s show, which were revolutionary for him as he hadn’t had such a large choice of cakes to choose from since before his diagnosis.  All of these cakes are vegan and some are baked to be gluten- and soya-free too.  He remembers well just how large these treats were and had discussed at length that he thought it best if this year he and G chose one to share rather than one each.  Needless to say, the reality and temptation proved too much and all his plans went out the window the minute he laid eyes on Ms Cupcake’s stall.  M chose a Black Forest cupcake and a choc chip cookie sandwich, whilst G had a wider choice and settled on a Chocolate and peppermint cupcake as well as a choc chip cookie sandwich.  As they started on their mouthfuls, I asked for their opinions as to the taste, but they had no comment to add as their mouths were crammed full – a true sign of just how delicious they are!

milkWe made our way around the myriad of stalls, tasting tidbits, chatting with stall-holders and discovering some wonderful new products to add to our M-friendly repertoire.  I picked up some old favourites, such as Nakd bars, Frank* bars and Newburn Bakehouse wraps, at amazing show prices as well as finding Le conserve della nonna pesto and Free’d crackers, which I’m hoping will quickly become new staples in our home.  There was a lot of gluten-free items on offer, but we struggled more this year with what was available for those with multiple food allergies, which was disappointing given that forms the basis of our allergy needs.  All that being said, we came home with a carload of M- and G-friendly foods, including enough KoKo Chocolate and Strawberry flavoured coconut milk to last us at least a couple of months!

It was a long day, especially after our amazing day out at Silverstone on the Saturday, but I’m glad we made the detour from Northamptonshire to London to experience the show.  Everyone there was helpful and informative and I had no problem in identifying what M could and couldn’t try.  This is definitely a trip I’m planning to make again next year and one I would highly recommend to anyone living with allergies.  Even better, if you live further North in the UK and don’t fancy the trek to London, there is now the Liverpool show to enjoy in October and you can find out more about visiting that here.

The Digestive Biscuit Challenge

After weeks of complicated bakes, this week brought about a new challenge, the humble digestive biscuit.  The reason behind our need for digestives was the upcoming Enrichment morning at school.  The previous 3 such mornings have been crafts, but this one, the last of the year, saw G and M preparing vegetable soup, bread rolls and a chocolate and biscuit dessert for their lunch. School had been great about making sure both children could fully participate in the activity and had emailed me the recipes, so that I could make any adjustments needed.

Courtesy of artisansbaking.co.in

Courtesy of artisansbaking.co.in

The vegetable soup contained a number of vegetables – butternut squash, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms – as well as potatoes, mustard, paprika and cheddar cheese.  I asked if they could exchange the potatoes for sweet potatoes, which M can eat and miss out the cheddar cheese completely.  The answer was a resounding yes and the result, according to M, was delicious, although he felt it would have been even better without the broccoli!  He enjoyed it so much that he’s keen to have a go at home for a family lunch one weekend.  I didn’t bother with the bread roll as I’ve yet to find a good, simple and tasty rice flour bread recipe and I simply sent it some slices of M’s bread to be toasted and eaten with their soup.

20140429_171226The bigger challenge was the dessert.  It was a relatively simple recipe and I could easily replace most of the ingredients with M-friendly ones.  However, digestive biscuits were more of a challenge.  Due to our current exclusion of potatoes from M’s diet, it is almost impossible to buy safe biscuits for M as potato flour is a commonly used replacement in gluten-free recipes. So. there was only one thing for it and I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out my trusty tablet and found a great recipe for gluten-free digestives.  I replaced the oats with millet flakes so that they were G-friendly too and quickly baked a batch.  I measured out enough for the school baking project and tried the leftovers on my 2 willing taste-testers.  Another instant hit and I have to admit that even I was impressed with how much like “normal” digestives they look, a bake I’m definitely proud to have made.

Even better, and just in time for enrichment morning,  the brand new allergen substitution sheets produced by the amazing Allergy Adventures fell into my inbox.  These simple and easy-to-follow sheets show easy substitutes, including quantities, for common allergens and give useful notes about the ingredients too.  We first discovered Allergy Adventures at last year’s Allergy and Freefrom show and have found them a brilliant source of information and tips for families dealing with food allergies.  If you’ve not visited Allergy Adventures before, I would highly recommend a look.  I printed the sheets out and handed them into school, not so much for this baking session, but rather as a reference for future planning when it comes to both G and M.

Enrichment morning was a great success.  Soup and toast was eaten and their chocolate/biscuit creation enjoyed.  There was even a little leftover to bring home to finish off at home, even if it looked a little nibbled when I took it back out of the box.  A great end to the week!

Not much was left, but it definitely tasted delicious!

Not much was left, but it definitely tasted delicious!

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And that’s a wrap

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I don’t know about you, but I frequently find that mealtimes can get a bit repetitive, especially when we’ve had to cut yet another staple from M’s diet.  Much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes I really, really hate having to decide what to prepare for dinner.  Add into the mix the need for packed lunches on a daily basis, which are generally formed of the same key ingredients due to a restricted diet and I end up pulling my hair out in desperation.  M’s recent longing for a prawn mayonnaise sandwich meant that I had to seek inspiration and work out whether it was possible to create something even vaguely similar or not.

prawnsThe easy bit, believe it or not, was the prawn mayonnaise.  Using a squirt of some Really Not Dairy original mayonnaise, a dash of Heinz tomato ketchup and a generous serving of prawns, I was able to whip up a reasonable prawn cocktail. I diced a chunk of cucumber, grated some carrot and threw a handful of sweetcorn in to add a couple of portions of vegetables to the filling too.  This mayonnaise is egg-, dairy- and soya-free and tastes more like salad cream than traditional mayonnaise, but it does the job and has been a great find for M.

Next came the more challenging aspect, the bread.  G is able to enjoy Genius bread, which is the best gluten- and wheat-free bread we’ve tried, but unfortunately it contains both egg white and potato starch which are now excluded from M’s diet. 20140317_171113 M’s sandwiches are usually made from Sakata rice crackers as his bread is really only edible when toasted, but these are small and don’t lend themselves to being a critical part of a prawn mayonnaise sandwich!  Mike and I both enjoy eating wraps, either for lunch or filled and baked for a Mexican inspired dinner and at last year’s Allergy and Free From show we stumbled across the amazing Bfree gluten-free wraps.  These taste delicious and both children enjoyed them whilst we had some.  Unfortunately, they are incredibly difficult to source in the UK, though most larger Asda stores do stock them now and I headed to our nearest shop with my fingers tightly crossed to see if they were available.

Part of my regular shopping routine, even when buying foods that I’ve bought before, is to scan quickly through the ingredients list for anything that isn’t M-friendly.  Recipes do change, even on tried and tested products, so it’s worth those few extra minutes to avoid days or even weeks of pain because of a missed offending food.  To my dismay, I noted that the wraps contained potato starch, which is now a forbidden food for M and I thought my chances of buying a good alternative to satisfy M’s cravings were over.  I went home and even attempted to make some M-friendly wraps, but the rice flour didn’t lend itself to the recipe and the kids understandably turned their noses up at the finished product that was presented to them.

20140317_170320It was a couple of weeks later when I was in our local Waitrose, that I spied a new-to-me package on their free-from shelves, Newburn Bakehouse gluten-free wraps.  I picked it up to cast my eye over the ingredients, fully expecting to find either egg or potato flour or both lurking there, but to my delight, this new product contained nothing that wasn’t M-friendly and I quickly snapped up the remaining pack to take home and try.

I prepared M’s lunch using one of the Newburn Bakehouse wraps and a generous spoonful of my home-made prawn mayonnaise and called him to the table.  He was overwhelmed to see his much longed-for sandwich waiting for him and made short work of devouring it all.  He relished every bite and, what’s more, requested a second wrap, something that doesn’t happen all that often in our household.  The wraps looked and tasted good and, with 3 to a pack, there was enough left for his school lunchbox on Monday.  Both M and I award them with a much-deserved 10 out of 10 – a great product, delicious to eat and suitable for a MEWS-diet, what more could a Mum ask for?

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National Spaghetti Day

20140104_170259The accidental discovery through Twitter that January 4th is National Spaghetti Day was a welcome answer to that age-old dilemma in our household of what precisely to cook for dinner.  I’ve never been that impressed with gluten-free spaghetti as it has inevitably turned into lumps of glutinous mess, rather than the delicate strands it starts out as, no matter how I’ve cooked it.  This time I decided to try some of the Glutafin spaghetti we were given at the Allergy and Free-from Show back at the start of last summer to see if I could get a better result.

The biggest decision I had to make was what sauce to concoct for G and M.  They’re not too keen on a traditional bolognese and I wasn’t sure I could adapt a carbonara recipe without a little work beforehand.  There’s nothing I love more than just throwing together ingredients from the fridge and, as M had expressed a desire for prawns the night before, I decided to base my pasta sauce on those and the little smoked salmon I had left after Christmas.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, but the pasta was delicious!

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, but the pasta was delicious!

Using my fail-safe base of onion and garlic, I added the prawns, some smoked salmon trimmings, corn, peas and some chopped chestnuts.  One of the challenges that we’ve given G for 2014 is to choose a new vegetable or fruit to add to each meal.  The variety of fruit and vegetables that she eats is relatively limited and we have struggled to successfully increase the amount she will eat.  At every meal, I am now offering her a choice of 2 she dislikes or hasn’t tried before.  She can choose which one she would prefer and then add it to the meal in some way or another.  For this meal, G had the choice of adding tomato to the main course or orange to her pudding and quickly decided on the tomato.  I added a chopped tomato to the pasta sauce and finished it with some coconut cream.

I cooked the spaghetti in strict adherence to the instructions on the pack – boiling water, a tablespoon of olive oil and stirring the pasta only once before allowing to cook for 10 minutes.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results and the spaghetti was an immediate hit with both G and M.

This was a quick and easy pasta recipe that made use of some of the leftovers from Christmas and a selection of vegetables from the fridge and freezer, whilst being completely M-friendly.  You could obviously add whatever vegetables you wanted – I added courgettes and mushrooms to the sauce for Mike and me to enjoy – and can always use cream or creme fraiche instead of the coconut cream if you don’t need to be dairy- and soya-free.  Best of all, it got that all important extra vegetable into G with the minimum of fuss!

Ringing in the New Year!

As we count down to the New Year, I have to confess to being glad to saying goodbye to 2013.  The last 2 years have been tough for our family and I’m looking forward to a more positive 2014.  We’re still not at our ideal place with M, but we now have a diagnosis and every day sees us taking a step – be it forwards, backwards or just to tread water to stay where we are – and we’re hoping to make some real progress in the 12 months ahead.  All that being said, there have been many highlights of 2013, not least of which has been the adventure of starting this blog and below are a few of my favourite:

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2014. May your new year wishes be fulfilled.

The Allergy & Free From Show North, Liverpool

AFFN-2013

As you may remember, we attended the amazing Allergy & Free From show in London back at the beginning of June. I wrote about the varied M-friendly products that we discovered – old favourites as well as some that were new, not just to us, but also to the market.  We spent a long day there and could have easily managed a second day investigating everything available as well as allowing the children to nibble and taste foods along the way.

The stall holders at the event were well-informed and friendly, understanding the need to answer our questions without losing our interest.  We discovered the amazing Frank* bars, new flavours of Koko Coconut milk and B-free wraps to name but a few.

Just a few of the amazing products we picked up from the London show

Just a few of the amazing products we picked up from the London show

So, I was delighted to learn that there will be a similar show this October for those living further North in the UK for the second year running.  The trek to London is not easy, although 21,000 visitors made the effort to visit in June, especially when you live hours away, so it may be that the Liverpool show is a better location for you.

What is even better news, is that if you decide to make this a day out, you are able to access unlimited free tickets for either day, saving £10.00 per person, just by visiting www.allergyshow.co.uk/go/7yearstodiagnosis.

Have a great time there – I can promise that you won’t be disappointed!

A busy weekend

This weekend has been pencilled into my diary and the family calendar for several months.  It’s looking to be a busy and important weekend for us and allows us to give a little something back to GOSH too.

allergy-free-show

On Saturday, we are heading bright and early to London to attend the Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia.  I had been told about this show last year, but unfortunately the dates clashed with other plans and so I have been keeping my fingers crossed, waiting to hear about confirmed dates for 2013.  As soon as I knew them, the weekend was booked and I applied for a set of free tickets for us all.

I will give you more of an update after the weekend, but I have to say the line-up looks fantastic.  We are all excited about the potential to find and try some M-friendly foods and M is hoping that we might discover a product we haven’t already tried.  I have been told that this show is a must-do for any family dealing with allergies of any description, so if you should find yourself near Olympia at the weekend with nothing else to do and some allergies to accommodate, I would highly recommend you pop along and find out more for yourself.

That counts as a treat for M, well you have to take your treats where you can find them in our family, so Saturday night we have a treat planned with G particularly in mind.  Those of you who know us, will know that both G and M attend a Stagecoach Theatre School and that the whole family loves nothing more than a trip to the theatre, be it for pantomime, musical, ballet or play.  G and M both learned some songs from the hit musical Matilda in the lead up to Christmas and G has been longing to see the musical ever since.  We had attempted to book tickets back in January when we were visiting GOSH, but it was sold out and so we had no choice but postpone this show for another time.  As soon as we knew the weekend for the Allergy show, I knew we had to try and get tickets for Matilda too and this time we were successful.  The children both know we are going and I can’t wait to see their faces as we experience the magic of this well-known Roald Dahl story.

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Finally, on Sunday we are taking part in the RBC Race for the Kids to raise funds for redevelopment work currently going on at GOSH.  We were late entries for this one as we had planned to spend Sunday at the Allergy show again.  However, during our visit to GOSH in May, M spotted a poster advertising the RBC Race at one of the Underground stations and instantly asked if we could take part.  As we are already in London for the weekend and we know that we will benefit from this redevelopment work during future visits and we had both children on-board and happy to complete the 5K challenge, I instantly signed us up.

One of the challenges that could face us on the day, other than working out where to leave our luggage and how to manage 2 scooters plus bags on the train, is the severe joint aches that M can suffer as a result of the EGID.  These can be close to crippling at times and even though I’m happy to be “mean Mummy” and insist that he works through his pain to continue whatever he’s doing, sometimes he’s just in too much discomfort to be happy.  I’m hoping that the excitement about completing the race, scooting the 5K course and raising funds for “his” hospital will be enough to see him round.  Again, you will need to check back next week to see how well we all did on the day.

Finally, we are raising money for GOSH and so I unashamedly plug the cause and ask that if you feel that you can give anything, however small, to support this much deserving hospital, then we would appreciate it.  My heartfelt thanks go to those who have already so generously supported us.  Remember that every little bit makes a huge difference for the children and families who have reason to go to GOSH.