Tag Archives: Google

Something sweet for the weekend

If there was one thing we were all in need of last weekend, it was a sweet treat and I really wanted to bake something that I hadn’t made before. M was keen for me to make an entry for Delicious Alchemy’s own version of the Great British Bake-off, the Gluten-Free Magic Bake-off, so I needed something that would feed both children as well as hitting the brief he gave me of “something spectacular Mummy“. Hiding in the kitchen cupboard was a packet of Delicious Alchemy’s Gluten and Dairy-free Vanilla sponge cake mix, an item I’d bought on something of a whim to go with the 5 bags of their Rice flake porridge that would keep da_bake_off_logo_2016M going for the next few weeks. I pondered on whether I could use the mix to bake similar cupcakes to those I would be making for M and settled on the classic flavour combination of pear and ginger that has served me so well in the past. I haven’t made pear and ginger cupcakes before, but combining my recipe for pear and apple cupcakes with that for pear and ginger cookies, I was certain that I was onto a winner.

I started with a batch of M’s cupcakes and carefully tasted the batter mix to make sure that the ginger wasn’t too overpowering, something I’ve been guilty of in the past. Satisfied that the flavour combination was exactly what I wanted, it was time to move on to G’s cupcakes and I couldn’t wait to try out the sponge mix. Such mixes are a convenience I don’t use very often, usually because they don’t meet our complicated allergy needs, but given our last 2 Decembers with M disappearing into hospital and missing G’s birthdays, I figured that anything that could make the whole cake-baking experience a little easier for whoever ends up making her a cake can only be a good thing. I was really impressed with the sponge mix and how easy it was to use. I followed the packet instructions precisely, including using an egg  –salted-caramel-1 I can’t remember the last time I used an egg in my baking – and then added my own twist of pear and ginger. A quick taste reassured me that the flavour was good and then, with M’s cakes already out and cooling on the rack, popped G’s batch in to bake. The results looked and smelled delicious and soon joined M’s to cool, whilst I moved on to think about the icing.

Now this was where I wanted to venture into something completely new. I perfected coconut oil icing for M about this time last year, so it was time to take that knowledge and use it to create a different flavour. I turned to my ever faithful companion on these allergy-friendly recipe hunts, Google and discovered this great recipe combining ginger cupcakes with a salted caramel icing. I’ll be honest, salted caramel is not really my thing, but a couple of months ago, M had asked if I could make M-friendly caramel for him and I decided that there was no time like the present to take on that challenge. Rolling my sleeves up, I followed the recipe carefully, tweaking and swapping out ingredients as necessary to meet our allergy needs. I started with making the caramel and was delighted with the result. It does have a slightly unusual flavour because of the rice cream used to make it, but it wasn’t bad for a first attempt and I was certain that M and G would both love it. Once the caramel had cooled, I mixed it in with the coconut oil icing and then piped it onto the top of my cupcakes. A sprinkle of crystallised ginger added the final touches and I ended up with some beautiful cupcakes to serve. G and M both loved the look of them, but to my surprise the icing proved to be just a little too sweet for my sugar-fiend, M. Nevertheless, they’ve been a hit in our household this week and it’s great to have found a way to make tasty dairy-free caramel.

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Summer Bakes

tumblr_static_wendy2The first 3 weeks of the summer holidays were filled with clubs and camps and activities and I needed to create some M-friendly bakes that could be packed into a lunch-box or, in the case of
Over The Wall, included as a bedtime snack to share during the evening cabin chat session with the rest of his team. With M’s tally of safe foods still stuck at 5, I wanted to bake something new, something we hadn’t tried before, and where better to start than a quick search using my trusty internet search engine. There are not many recipes out there that incorporate those safe ingredients only, so I looked for some vegan and gluten-free suggestions and decided to do the rest of the tweaking myself where necessary.

The first recipe I found was for Pear blondies, a vanilla version of the ever-popular chocolate brownie without, rather obviously, the chocolate and I was intrigued to see if this could be made for M. Using apple purée as my egg replacer, I stirred my mix and then kept my fingers crossed as the small cakes went into the oven. The smell as they baked was amazing and, as always, a certain young gentleman appeared alongside me as I pulled the final product out, ready to cool. The quantity was enough to make a dozen bitesize blondies, which were perfect as a snack during his busy days. Both children enjoyed the blondies, with IMG_0762[1]M particularly keen on the small chunks of pear that had become melt-in-the-mouth and golden as they baked in the sponge mix.

My second new baking venture were Pear and Ginger cookies, which seemed to me to be a perfect combination of sweet and spice, something I was sure M would love. This was another easy recipe to whip up, made from the staples stored in my kitchen cupboards. The dough made an impressive 18 cookies and within minutes of them hitting my cooling rack, my hopeful duo found something important to do in the kitchen in the hope they might be successful in picking up a stray biscuit as they passed. However, whilst they were tempted to taste one straight from the oven, the lure of the lemon icing to be drizzled when the cookies were finally cooled was enough to gain me around 20 minutes extra before my store started to be depleted. These were an amazingly good bake as the rice flour didn’t make the cookies taste granular at all and the ginger was subtle enough to give a little extra heat without overpowering the sweetness of the pear. The children were both big fans of this bake too and I was intrigued to see which one M would settle on as his final choice for taking to OTW camp. In the end, much as he loved both of these new treats, he decided the pear and ginger cookies would be his cabin chat snack of choice and the empty pot returning from camp was all the proof I needed that they had been a success.

M’s happy ending

M had been anxiously counting down, fretting that the day might never come, but finally it arrived with just over a week to go until the end of term and I had left him at school that morning absolutely buzzing with excitement about everything planned for the day. It had been marked as an important day ever since his last fracture clinic appointment 3 weeks before, which you may remember showed that the break was not mending as quickly as the orthopaedic consultants would have liked and left M sporting his rather snazzy sarmiento cast for a few more weeks. IMG_0506[1]During that unexpected extra time, M had really made the effort to use his leg even more and became scarily fast and adept at using his crutches in every situation. The last week saw even more development as he more or less abandoned his crutches at home and finally started putting his full weight on his left leg. All this to ensure that that cast would well and truly be removed that afternoon and be needed no more.

Our afternoon started with a DEXA scan at the rheumatology department of our local hospital to assess M’s bone density. The severity of both this break and his previous broken arm alongside the longer than anticipated recovery time had rung a few alarm bells for his gastro team and they wanted to check that his restricted diet and years of malabsorption issues hadn’t had a detrimental effect on his bones. Although the blood tests done during his December admission at GOSH had suggested his calcium levels were fine, this additional test would give us a clear picture of his bones and hopefully put our minds at rest. I had been warned that M would need to lie still for up to 45 minutes, something I doubted would be do-able without a lot of persuasion, by which, of course, I mean bribery, but he promised to try his hardest as he realised how important it was to get these results. Fortunately, the scan itself actually took less than 10 minutes to complete and whilst M did have to lie very still, he closed his eyes and tried to relax as the bed and scanner arm twisted and turned around him to take images from all the necessary angles.

DEXA scan over, we had just enough time to walk across to the outpatients department for his fracture clinic appointment. With our timing near on perfect, it was almost straight into the x-ray suite, where M chatted away with the radiographer as if he was an old friend and went through all the motions to get the perfect set of pictures of the fracture site. From there, it was straight into clinic and minutes later into the plaster room to have his sarmiento cast removed. Ear defenders were quickly put into place before the saw was started and M’s expressive face reflected his nerves and the mild discomfort as the plaster technician cut through the cast and the vibrations disturbed his sensitive leg. The front half was removed and trimmed as M wanted to bring it home as a memento of the last 6 weeks and I flat-out refused to bring home the back half, covered as it was with layers of dirt, sweat and oodles of dead skin.

IMG_0777[1]M and I sat waiting for the orthopaedic consultant to look at his x-rays before giving us his opinion, so I tentatively peeled back the tubigrip stocking that had been the only barrier between his leg and the plaster for the last 3 months. His left leg was a little skinnier than his right, though not as much as we had feared it might be, but was also incredibly hairy, something we hadn’t anticipated at all. A little research told us that when a cast is in place for an extended period, it causes constant irritation of the skin and so the hair grows to form a protective layer between the skin and the plaster cast. It was a completely unexpected insight into what M might look like when he eventually hits those dreaded teen years and puberty – and he really wasn’t impressed! In stark contrast to his skinny, white and very hairy leg, M’s foot was almost orange in colour and as scaly as his bearded dragon thanks to 13 weeks of no washing and hot weather. I snapped a quick photo to show it to M and the entire fracture clinic must have wondered what was going on as he and I dissolved into fits of giggles as we tried to decide the best way to remove layer after layer of the dead, scaly skin. For the first time ever, M couldn’t wait to get home and jump into the bath and he stayed in it for a long time that evening in an attempt to remove both dry skin and hair.

IMG_0783[1]We were sent home with a walking boot and crutches to help ease him back into the routine of walking and exercising without his leg in a cast and within 3 weeks both had been abandoned to one side. We’ve been back for our final fracture clinic, where M was discharged with a clean bill of health and permission from the consultant to participate in as many of the activities as he wants at next week’s activity camp. Unbelievably there is no physiotherapy available for M through the NHS, but we have an excellent private physio in a nearby town and M will have a couple of sessions there to get him well on the road to recovery. He is having to learn to pace himself, something my hyperactive 10 year-old is not very good at doing, but the aching leg that results from a couple of hours running around our garden with G is a harsh reminder that his leg won’t just bounce back to where it was at the start of the year. It will take a few months to recover the strength, muscle tone and mobility that M is used to, but some hard work and focus will get him there in the end.

Most importantly, M got the happy ending he’d been hoping for since that miserable day in April. He was able to spend his last week of Year 5 back in school without crutches and even had some time back outside in the playground with his peers. And nothing will beat the absolute joy I felt as I watched him disappear from the classroom surrounded by his supportive friends on the last day of term.

Home-cooked Chinese takeaway

chineseOne of things that I know M has really missed since his diet became so restricted is the occasional Chinese takeaway shared with the rest of the family. For as long as I can remember our young foodie has loved eating Chinese food and insisted on mastering the chopsticks early on, so the loss of that treat really did hit him hard. Thanks to the amazing team at our local Wagamama, M has been able to enjoy safe Asian food once again and recently I took the plunge and tried my hand at making him a Chinese-inspired meal too. It was never going to be the same as those fabulous meals we enjoyed in London’s Chinatown when the children were little, but hopefully it was a tasty replacement for a much-missed treat.

Lemon chicken is one of Mike’s favourite Chinese dishes and given the base ingredients of, well, lemon and chicken, it seemed to be an achievable goal for my home-cooked takeaway. For once I didn’t turn to my trusty sidekick, Google, for some speedy research, but instead just used the knowledge I’ve stored up over the last few years to see if I could come up with my own recipe for a delicious lemon chicken. I originally considered using lemon juice, water and sugar thickened with some rice flour to create the sauce, but a quick perusal of the fridge brought the last remaining half-empty jar of dairy-free lemon curd to my attention and I instantly decided that that was exactly what this recipe needed.

Having prepped the diced chicken to make a batch of my M-friendly chicken nuggets and with the rice simmering on the hob, I turned to making the lemon sauce, feeling a little like I was concocting a magic potion as I stirred spoonfuls of this with a dash of that in the cauldron saucepan. IMG_0637[1]I’m certain that the authentic Chinese recipe includes soy sauce, but with soya definitely banned from our repertoire for the foreseeable, I tweaked the sharp flavour of the lemon curd by adding a little more sugar as well as some salt, pepper and rosemary until I had a savoury sauce I was confident the children would eat. As I finished cooking the rice, chicken and sauce in my trusty wok, G and M drifted to the table drawn by the delicious smell, eagerly asking what was for dinner. The portions I served soon disappeared as did the children once their plates were empty, which, without a doubt, signalled a new and successful addition to my ever-growing list of M-friendly recipes.

So, how is your leg now?

“Still broken!”

That question has been directed a lot at both M and me over the last couple of weeks and yes, I’m afraid that is the answer we’ve almost flippantly begun to give in reply. As we head into our 8th week of a left leg in plaster, the initial pain and shock that gradually gave way to the novelty of the cast has all but disappeared and we are now well and truly into the “fed-up of it all and ready to move on” stage of his recuperation. M has borne the last 8 weeks with the fortitude and strength of spirit that we have come to expect of our youngest. They haven’t been the easiest, but he continues to persevere at finding the best in any given situation and whilst there has been the inevitable tears of frustration and angst, there have also been moments full of laughter and jokes and M’s unparalleled sense of humour. IMG_0308[1]With hopefully only another 2 weeks or so to go until the leg might finally reappear from underneath the protective plaster, I thought it about time I give you all a proper update.

After 10 days in the plain white, full-length, backslab cast with squishy top, M was upgraded to a lightweight, rock-hard, full-length cast in camouflage just as he had decided on that very first night in our local A&E. Fortunately, the green camouflage plaster ran out after img_03921M’s leg was finished, rather than before, although that day’s orthopaedic technician did offer him the alternative of pink camouflage with sparkles whilst she was checking that stock levels were enough to cover his entire leg. 6 weeks later, and following regular fortnightly fracture clinic appointments with x-rays, the bone growth was considered enough to move M to a sarmiento cast – something we’d never heard of and instantly googled the moment it was first mentioned to us. This cast reaches up over M’s knee at the front, but below it at the back, enabling him to freely bend his leg without allowing it to twist. This is particularly important for M as he has a spiral fracture of his tibia, which needs time to fully heal correctly. Upon hearing his newest cast would need to be in place for at least 4 weeks,IMG_0479[1] M requested a “70s Disco” theme for reasons that will later become clear, and believe me when I say that the bright orange and neon yellow stripes with added silver glitter certainly meets his somewhat unusual brief.

From a medical viewpoint, the fracture is mending well and in the latest set of x-rays we could clearly see the new bone growth that has formed. The latest orthopaedic consultant was fantastic and not only explained what was going on, but pointed it all out on the x-ray for M and me to see too, which meant that we both had a clear understanding of what he was talking about. M’s GOSH consultant and dietician have raised a concern over M’s bone density and health given the severity of this break and his previously broken arm, and have requested that a DEXA scan is carried out at our local hospital to check that all is as it should be. We are very much aware that the delay in reaching a diagnosis, the initial concerns about malabsorption issues during his early years and the subsequent increasing restrictions to his diet could have compromised the levels of both calcium and vitamin D in his bones. Hopefully this scan will reveal the current situation and indicate what additional steps should now be followed to improve his bone health.

Unsurprisingly, the shock of the break on his body caused an unwelcome flare of his EGID at the most inconvenient of times and the combination of flare and his necessary immobility meant that we took some massive steps backwards in terms of his general and bowel health in those first few weeks following the accident. As a result of this, all food challenges have had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future until we can regain the status quo we had worked so hard to achieve in the last few months. Coming so soon after we had finally recovered from the challenges of his December GOSH admission, this has been something of a bitter pill to swallow for us all, but M remains upbeat about the situation and continues to plan his upcoming hit-list of possible food contenders with gusto. This relapse has reminded us of just how precarious the balance is when it comes to M’s health and just how easily he can be tipped into a downwards spiral.

Naturally, the hardest impact of a broken leg has been the inability to move around freely, which for my very active lad has been absolute torture. Progress has been slow, but M has worked hard at each level meaning that he is finally beginning to master the set of crutches he was given when his cast was changed to a sarmiento one. The first 2 or 3 weeks saw M use almost exclusively a wheelchair to get from place to place, something that was only possible thanks to the British Red Cross, who lend wheelchairs on a 6-week basis for a small voluntary donation. This is an invaluable service, especially as the hospital wasn’t able to give us one and it has made going to school so much easier than it might otherwise have been. We quickly introduced a walker – think miniature Zimmer frame – to him too and the ability to use his walker to travel short distances as well as climb up and down stairs was key to his discharge from our local hospital after the break. Once the initial anxiety about re-hurting his leg disappeared, M has adapted to his one-leg status remarkably well and can move at astonishing speeds both on his walker and shuffling along on his bottom when the occasion demands. IMG_0506[1]The crutches have taken longer to adjust to, not least because M now needs to start putting some weight on to his leg, something he has been very reluctant to do. We finally seem to be breaking through that last mental barrier as he builds his confidence by beginning to stand unaided, though his walker is always close on hand should he need it.

Poor M has been forced to miss out on a number of activities as a result of his leg, though whenever possible, we have worked hard to involve him as much as we can. The first and biggest disappointment was that he was unable to act in a touring stage production at a regional theatre, something he loves to do and had been looking forward to for weeks. However, never one to let life get him down for too long, M insisted on going to watch the play instead as some of his friends were also involved and the production company kindly arranged for him to meet some of the other cast members following the performance. He did spend a lot of time talking about what he should have been doing, but his love for the theatre and the strength of his friendships saw him enjoy the afternoon regardless.

He also had to cope with his school’s Health and Fitness Week, where lessons are more or less put on hold whilst a number of visiting instructors as well as the staff introduce each class to a number of new sports activities. M was nominated “class photographer” and enjoyed spending his time cheering his friends on as well as capturing the week on film. His favourite activity turned out to be wheelchair basketball, booked months before but ironically apt for him and he has expressed an interest to training with the wheelchair basketball squad – once his leg is better! The end of that week culminated with school sports day and sadly, despite refusing to let his tube stop him participating last year, M’s leg made it impossible this. However, his fantastic school made sure he didn’t feel left out and he took charge of ringing the bell between events as well as announcing the scores throughout the morning. I am so grateful yet again that we have such an amazing school that has supported us all through the ups and downs of M’s 3 years with them. IMG_0439[1]He has not missed a single day of school due to his broken leg, other than for necessary appointments and that is due to the willingness of the Headteacher and his teaching team to accommodate M’s needs in a safe way and involve him in the classroom as best they can.

Nor has being confined to a wheelchair stopped M’s extra-curricular activities, even if it might have limited them somewhat. He has continued with his weekly cello lessons at school, again thanks to a fantastic music teacher who has worked around his worries and allowed him to either play his cello or hone his oral skills as he has chosen. We experimented at home until we found the most comfortable position for him to be in to practice his instrument and he has been encouraged to take part in the school music concert in a couple of weeks time. As for the “70s disco” theme plaster, this specific request is because he, G and the rest of their IMG_0499[1]Stagecoach school are performing a 70s tribute routine in a local carnival parade in the middle of June. He has once again been to every Stagecoach session this term, and so have I, and knows both the songs and the dance routine by heart, even though dancing it has been an impossibility. There is every chance that his cast may actually be off his leg by the time the parade happens, but we wanted to show wiling and be prepared “just in case”. Given the length of the parade route, M will unfortunately still be restricted to his wheelchair as his leg won’t be strong enough to walk its length, but we have some other suitably funky 70s ideas in mind to pimp both his costume and his wheelchair to fit the party vibe!

When home life met the school science class

It does sometimes take a while for me to catch up on my blog with what’s been happening in real life, but a near 4-month gap to report much be something of a record, even for me. I’m not entirely certain why it has taken me so long to share this story, but I can only imagine that the constant stream of events since the start of February pushed it out of my mind and it was only thanks to a search through some old photos last night whilst I was looking for something else, that my memory was jogged and the subject for today’s post settled. What now feels like many moons ago, G was set a creative homework, something that she was excited to do, but a little stumped as to the direction she wanted to go. The task was to make a model of a cell for science and the options available were seemingly endless. checkThere were no strict guidelines as to the type of cell to be created and she had free reign as to the medium of her model, with even cake being a possibility if she so wanted. As is often the case when tackling the more challenging pieces of homework set, G and I spent some time discussing at length what she could do before reaching a decision.

She had made a few uninspired suggestions, but I could tell her heart wasn’t really in them and her enthusiasm waning. G loves being creative, art being one of her favourite lessons at school and I knew that if we could only settle on the right cell, she would soon warm to the subject and give her all to making the best model she could. So often I’m reluctant to drag EGID into G’s world any more than is necessary, but this time I wondered if researching and then making a model eosinophil would be the answer to her dilemma. 10562609_10153256228956123_3212893174847273723_oTo my relief, as my fount of inspiration was certainly beginning to run dry, she loved the idea and instantly sat down to research as much as she could as, whilst we know all about what eosinophils do in the body, we didn’t know what an individual cell looked like.

Having found some good images on the internet, G then addressed the matter of her model-making. Despite an initial yearning for cake-baking and decorating that appealed to her 12 year-old senses, although a lot less to me, we instead headed off for a trip around our local craft shop and pinpointed the few essential items that would effectively illustrate the structure of an eosinophil without requiring too much parental input and inspiration. A quick tutorial once we were back at home on how to best construct her cell gave her all she needed and I left her to it at the kitchen table, whilst I busied myself in the same room, preparing packed lunches and dinner. Her finished model was fantastic and the diligent labels indicating the different part of the cell were the result of her focused efforts and careful work. What’s more, her model eosinophil proved to be the catalyst for other work that she chose to similarly link to her experiences of EGID and which ended up with her showing last year’s NEAW video to her science class to teach them more about the condition. G has been rewarded for her hard work by her science teacher with some much coveted house points and we’re so proud that she felt confident enough to share an aspect of her home life with her school science class.

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A Quick Pudding Dilemma

On Saturday afternoon I spent some time reading back through my National Eosinophil Awareness Week blog posts from previous years, looking for a little inspiration for those I’ll be writing to mark this year’s week, which is fast approaching. I expected to spend a good 20 minutes reminiscing and little else, 0c0dc8797599764caae7d88291139822but instead found myself being led in an entirely different direction as the very first post I re-read inspired me in a completely unexpected way.

I’m always on the lookout for new menu ideas for M and whilst we really don’t need any more sweet options, the lure of a quick and easy pudding was too good to resist. I had a look at the original recipe I had posted, but wondered if there was a more M-friendly one already out there, which would only require the very slightest tweaking on my part. To my delight I found an almost perfect vegan recipe, where all I needed to do was change the flour and oil to suit M’s restricted dietary needs. I was particularly excited about the fact it could be cooked in the microwave as so often puddings for M take a lot longer to prepare and cook, something which requires a level of planning ahead which doesn’t always happen in our household.

IMG_0446[1]Recipe adapted, ingredients checked and with 5 minutes on the clock, I whipped up the sponge batter, set the timer on the microwave and waited with bated breath for that final ping which would tell me if it had been a success or not. As always, the children’s reactions are the best indication of whether I’ll be cooking a dish again and this one has definitely earned a place in my repertoire. It’s an easy pudding to make with only a handful of ingredients and can be cooked in 4 minutes with the help of a trusty microwave. M and G both gave it a massive thumbs up and enjoyed finishing it off for Sunday tea. Even better, I’m sure it can be easily adapted to use my M-friendly lemon curd instead of the golden syrup, or any safe jams to change the flavours, which really does make it a success in my book too.

A Birthday* surprise (*cake recipe included!)

11009339_10152614451586123_8225188594845865541_o20140912_225331Six months ago I tackled the challenge of a birthday cake for M, where the only ingredients he could eat safely didn’t lend themselves to whipping up a tasty sponge and he ended up with a 3-tier Cluedo-themed “fake” cake. Six months before that, I adapted a crazy cake recipe to create a M-friendly chocolate masterpiece for my Mum’s milestone birthday.

Somehow it seems fitting that we’ve come almost full circle in our cake journey and I’ve recently found myself facing the task of another birthday cake for Mum and, more than that,  one which could be eaten and enjoyed by us all. The apple and rice flour cupcakes I’ve been making have been a real winner with the children, but the ever-persistent problem of a granular taste to these bakes, no matter what I’ve tried, meant that I was desperate to find an alternative and better recipe to mark this special occasion. Despite frequent google searches, that recipe was proving to be irritatingly elusive and it was only when we finally achieved a fifth safe food for M that I struck birthday cake gold.logo-eureka-01

To be perfectly honest, it really all came as something of a surprise success as I had no great hopes of yet another search turning up a rice flour cake that would 1) accommodate M’s restricted diet and 2) taste delicious. Despite my doubts, I thought it worth a look with our new ingredient of pear added to the mix and came across this easy recipe for pear and rice flour cupcakes that were not only gluten- and dairy- as advertised, but also egg- and soya-free too. I decided to do a test run and made a quick batch whilst G and M were in school. By the time they arrived home, the house was filled with the tantalising smell of fresh baking and M’s nose instantly went into impressive action as he begged to know if he could taste-test the cakes I’d been preparing that afternoon. Three cupcakes quickly disappeared from the cooling rack and I was thrilled to discover that there was none of that unpleasant granular taste that I’ve come to associate with rice flour baking. With an instant hit on my hands, I now needed to decide whether to attempt a cupcake tower for my Mum or see if I could cook a more traditional cake using the same recipe.

Due to an abundance of apples in our household at the moment – the benefit of apple trees conveniently located at my Mum’s, my office and at a friend’s – I tweaked the recipe to include some apple and reduced down the original quantities of oil and syrup as the original cupcakes had been a little too sweet for my liking. I waited nervously as the cakes baked, fingers tightly crossed that the larger layers would turn out as well as the cupcakes had and I needn’t have worried. The cakes looked impressive and I now have yet another great recipe to add to my list. Having left them to cool in the fridge (no #GBBO-style “wafting” in my household!) I sandwiched them together with some home-made apple purée before turning my mind to the knotty subject of how to decorate it all.

appleswansNow, if I had seen at that point episode 7 of #GBBO, I might have taken my inspiration from Paul’s amazing apple swans and spent my afternoon carving the intricate decorations to top the cake, but fortunately, or maybe unfortunately – I suppose it depends on your point of view – that episode had yet to air and instead I found myself using my time much more wisely: I was back on google trying to work out if a dairy-free buttercream icing was at all possible. To my delight and complete surprise, I found a way to adapt a recipe and create my very own coconut oil icing, which would tick all the boxes when it came to M’s dietary requirements. Whilst he is unable to eat coconut milk or flesh, he is able to tolerate the oil and I was over-the-moon to have the chance to finally bake a cake that actually looked and tasted like “real” cake for him to try for the first time in nearly a year. I took a tentative and small first mouthful to check the taste before spreading it across my cake. It has, unsurprisingly, a strong coconut taste, but this complimented the apple and pear flavours of the cake and was beautifully easy to use.

The icing was easy to make and I’ve no doubt I’ll be making more the next time a M-friendly cake is required. To make my recipe, I used:

  • 250g solid coconut oil
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 3tbsp rice milk
  1. Put the “solid” coconut oil – it should not be liquid at room temperature – into a bowl and blend until smooth 20150912_185526
  2. Slowly add the icing sugar and vanilla, continuing to beat the mixture 20150912_185815
  3. Finally add the rice milk, 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the consistency required. You can add more or less rice milk depending on how spreadable you want the icing to be 20150912_190502
  4. At this point I added some food colouring, one drop at a time, until I got the colour I was after – I’m not too sure about the green icing I ended up with, it was Mike’s suggestion and I’m not convinced it was the right one!
  5. Use to decorate cakes or cupcakes. Whatever your opinion of the colour, the finished result looked spectacular and I’m pleased to say it tasted amazing too!20150912_204048

NB – you can add any other safe flavours or colourings instead of the vanilla

This recipe is an entry into the #Swearbyit challenge with Vita Coco. Find more great coconut oil recipes and tips on using coconut oil at http://www.swearbyit.com”

 

 

 

A Wild 10th birthday!

This week I’m planning to take a break from any suggestion of a complicated bake – after 3 sets of birthday “cakes” last week and croissants the week before, I really think I deserve it. IMG_1731I have to confess to keeping it simple on the big day itself as M had huge ambitions for the day of his party and so a cake-stand full of rice krispie treats seemed to fit the bill. I did jazz them up a little by splitting the batch in two and adding chopped apple to one half and crystallised ginger to the other. The birthday boy seemed delighted with my choices and with that success firmly under my belt, I moved on to the next phase of my baking challenges for the week: the party cake!

M has been fascinated by the natural world for as long as I can remember, hence the arrival of Leo in our household just after Christmas. He loves watching wildlife programs on television, reading nature-themed books, be they novels or factual, and appears to absorb the facts he hears in a sponge-like fashion, ready to share at any given opportunity. So when Mike suggested a wildlife party for his birthday, M leapt at the chance and immediately asked if I could make a bearded dragon cake for it. I tentatively agreed, with my usual proviso that I couldn’t guarantee anything before the day itself and he would just have to accept it, no matter the end result. I researched and found a company who would bring a selection of reptiles and insects to our party location and would teach the children about each one as well as allowing them to touch and hold them if they wanted. It wasn’t my idea of a perfect birthday treat, but M was hugely enthusiastic and so I booked the party session, having somewhat madly decided to hold it at our house to make life a little easier.

12670399_10153297404071123_3934501200587725837_nParty booked and themed party favours ordered, next came the matter of the cake. For once I decided to learn from previous experiences and didn’t leave decorating the cake to the last moment as I usually do. The prospect of a 2am finish really didn’t appeal, especially if I was battling with creating the perfect bearded dragon cake topper and so planned to start a week earlier, with the hope of finishing at a much more reasonable time the night before. I found some images on-line and, with “Les Miserables” blaring in the background, carefully copied the individual body parts before attempting to put them together. Given Leo’s rather vivid orange skin tones, I chose to make a bright orange dragon and whilst it might not have been the most realistic coloured one, I was thrilled with my crafted copy. I carefully covered and stored it away from peeking eyes, determined that M would be left guessing until the last possible moment.

Fast forward a week and Saturday afternoon found me whipping up a batch of stone grey coconut oil icing to recreate a rock, having already baked a M-friendly pear and apple cake, which was now sitting on a bed of brown sugar “sand”. With icing, dragon and cake now all ready and waiting to be assembled, I turned to the matter of some un-birthday birthday cupcakes for G. As you may remember, for the second year in a row M was in hospital over G’s birthday and we were unable to celebrate the day with her. Last year we held a joint party for them both and had a lot of fun at their Cluedo-themed extravaganza, but I wanted to do something separate for G this year. Taking advantage of our tradition that each child has a friend at the other’s party, 12790894_10153315764351123_4961913402772457111_nwe decided to hold a small event on Sunday afternoon for G and invited her 2 friends to M’s party in the morning as well as 1 of his to hers in the afternoon. Given it was a very much belated birthday celebration, of course we needed more cake and I decided a batch of cupcakes would hit the mark and decorated them with some rather glamorous silver icing and snowflake patterns for my December baby.

10441207_10153315937021123_5876452706470659349_nSunday dawned with the most glorious weather and an anxious countdown to the party starting by M. The 8 boys and 3 girls spent their time racing around our back garden, bouncing on the trampoline and admiring the varied animals that arrived to entertain. M, of course, held all that he was allowed and G beat her fears to hold the tarantula, despite shaking hands and the occasional tear. The cakes were greatly received and M declared my bearded dragon the “best cake ever!

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The Bionic Woman

For the last 6 days Mike has taken to calling me the “bionic woman”. Needless to say, I have not recently had a skydiving accident which has led to bionic modifications to my broken body resulting in amplified hearing, a right arm with the strength of 10 men and the ability to run at speeds over 60mph; in fact, there has been no incident of note and my 1 broken body part, my pancreas, remains well and truly broken. Rather there has been a conscious decision on my part to finally fully embrace a relatively new technological development that I hope will make a significant difference to my diabetes care.

I first became aware of this new bit of kit through M’s school friend, F and his fantastic parents, L and I. I can’t remember quite how we got onto the subject, but I’m reasonably certain that it had something to do with school Sports Day, the challenge of T1D vs. the active child and watching L check his blood sugars simply by waving a black box over his arm. To be fair, M had been wittering on telling me for quite some while about the “white, circular sensor-thingy” attached to F’s arm that enabled him to test his blood glucose levels (BGLs), but the lack of clarity in his description combined with my own lack of relevant knowledge meant that I had absolutely no idea what M was talking about and had dismissed the subject without really giving it a second thought. However, my interest was piqued through that chance encounter on the school field and it led to the opportunity for an enlightening conversation about what this thing was.

The Freestyle Libre (FSL) is marketed as a “flash glucose monitoring system” with a tagline of:

FL

and I was intrigued enough by this to want to find out more and discover whether this might be for me, or not. I read their website, researched on-line for users’ reviews, joined the FB forum for FSL users and wondered if it was too good to be true. I’ll be honest, when I first looked into whether it would be a benefit to me and my T1D care, I loved how easy it appeared to be and, having spoken at length to L and I on more than 1 occasion, could see just how revolutionary it could be, especially for children with T1D.IMG_0131[1] But, and believe me when I say it was quite a big “but”, the sticking point sadly was the price. This type of technology is not available to anyone through the NHS as yet and funding the sensors alone would cost in the region of £100 a month. I know that you cannot put a price on good health, but as a Mum to 2 children with multiple food allergies and an already increased monthly bill due to the high costs of free from food, the challenge of finding that extra £100 each month (£125 extra earned pre-tax) felt quite daunting and I shelved any thoughts of such an investment for the time being.

However, even though the price was making me think twice, I was reluctant to dismiss the option out-of-hand and, given the lengthy UK waiting list, decided to add my name and wait to see what happened in the meantime. The daily events of life with M and G quickly overtook everything else and the FSL soon dropped far down my list of priorities, though it was never far from my thoughts. I’m not exaggerating when I say months passed, but at long last, in January 2016, I saw the message I’d been waiting for: the news that monitors and sensors were once again readily available in the UK and I decided to bite the bullet and order a starter pack to finally see if the FSL’s claims were all true.

IMG_0135[1]The concept is a simple one and reassuringly easy to use. You insert a small sensor with a thin, 5mm needle into the back of your arm and, although the initial instructions for applying it appear quite complex, it really was quick and easy to do. I didn’t find it painful at all and whilst it takes some time to get used to the constant presence of this sensor on my arm, I’ve had no problems with it. The sensor measures what is called the interstitial fluid glucose levels, which are not identical to BGLs as this is the fluid found between the cells, but are considered accurate enough for monitoring what is going on. To find out your BGL, you simply wave the scanner over your arm and it gives you the result almost instantaneously. IMG_0129[1]The sensor continually reads the changes in the glucose levels and, as long as you scan at least once every 8 hours, the easy-to-read graphs given on the screen indicate what has happened during the times you didn’t test. As with most CGM systems (Continuous Glucose Monitoring), it is recommended that the FSL user occasionally uses a standard glucose monitor to test their blood sugars and check that reading to the one given by the FSL – my tests have shown a difference of less than 0.3 mmol, which is incredible.

I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with this small device. It really was easy to understand how to use it and the whole family – Mike, G, M and even my Mum – have taken their turn in testing my BGLs for me. Everyday I sit with the scanner amongst the rest of my accountancy paraphernalia in front of me on my desk IMG_0128[1]and am able to discreetly test whenever I want or feel the need. The amount of information available is vast and you can look at enough graphs, bar charts and log books to satisfy even the biggest techno-geek. It has become strangely addictive to do and has already started to give me an even greater understanding of what my T1D is doing than I’ve ever had before. The non-invasive nature of the testing means that it would be easy for a parent to do during the night with no fear of disturbing their child’s sleep, and similarly for Mike to do if he ever feels that my blood sugars are dropping overnight – no need to wake me to ask me if I’m going hypo and then having to survive the often stroppy response his concerns are rewarded with, whether they are or not – yes I am precious about my sleep! I also have no doubt that it would appeal to every tech-savvy under-18 out there, which would no doubt reduce the chances of non-compliance and teen rebellion that so many young T1Ds experience,IMG_0130[1] thereby similarly reducing the risk of complications from poor control. I really can’t speak highly enough of my experience so far with the Freestyle Libre and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to every T1D out there. It has been a struggle to find a down-side other than the price, which is due to the £50 sensors needing to be replaced every 14 days. My personal solution to that is to fund 1 sensor a month for the time being, or at least until the point I finally win that elusive lottery jackpot!

 

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