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It’s Not As Easy As Giving Up Milk…

I’m on lots of “mommy” groups on Facebook, and most of them are also to do with breastfeeding. There’s always someone talking about being asked “when are you switching to formula?” which invariably inspires people to say how cow’s milk (and that’s what most formula is made of) is for baby cows, not for people.

At the moment there is an horrific video going around these groups that shows how badly dairy cows are treated. It’s awful…it really is. Most women are commenting saying that they couldn’t watch the whole thing, and I cried while I was watching it. Unsurprisingly, it is inspiring an awful lot of my fellow group members to say that they’re going to stop drinking milk. They all start discussing alternative milks and how to make your own nut milk and how much better they’re going to feel.

Great!

…but it’s not that simple.

I don’t want to be Polly Partypooper about it, because the dairy industry IS barbaric, and going dairy-free is MUCH healthier, and wanting to stop drinking milk is VERY admirable, but bottles of milk aren’t a stand-alone product.

Milk is in absolutely everything.

Cutting out milk means foregoing butter, it means no cheese, it means reading the ingredients for every processed food you buy (milk in sausages and ham is totally a thing), it means asking to see the allergen folders in supermarket bakeries and delis, it means going to a restaurant and only having one or two dishes that are safe for you to eat, it means endlessly googling “restaurant name + allergen info” before you go out or having to rely on waiters to know their stuff…it usually means no dessert (next time you’re eating out try to find one that isn’t made with butter or milk or cream or cheese).

I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s a massive chore but it’s a MASSIVE chore.

I have to be overly cautious because eating dairy will mean pain for George to deal with, and lots of screaming and horrible poop for me to deal with. It perhaps wouldn’t be so difficult for you if you didn’t have to avoid milk so stringently…

The trouble is that now the dairy is out of my system, I also get sick if I eat anything with milk in it. It’s a common problem. When your body stops dealing with lactose it stops being able to process it, so reintroducing it can be problematic.

Life is harder for us in some ways because we can’t have soya either and lots of dairy-free stuff (like chocolate, spreads, ice-creams) is made with soya, but there’s people who have it a lot worse than me. I can’t imagine how difficult eating (especially eating out) is when you can’t have eggs, nuts, coconuts, fruits…

I don’t want to put people off because I think that removing milk (and related products) from your diet is a great thing to do. It is also a difficult thing to do, and often a demoralising one too – especially when you are watching people eat pizzas and creamy desserts.  If it weren’t for the fact that eating milk would hurt my son, I’m not sure if I would have had the will to keep going this long.

We’ve only been dairy/soya-free for about eleven weeks, but I’m immeasurably proud of myself for every day that I keep going, and I might even take it past breastfeeding…

…it might just become a way of life.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Baby, Breastfeeding, Dairy-Free, Food, Life

 

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Dairy-Free Cream Tea…

Being dairy-free is a pain in the arse at the best of times (because cheese), especially if you love cake (and cheese). Unfortunately, most cheese alternatives seem pretty awful (I’m sure they’re not as bad as I’m imagining, but cashew cheese just doesn’t do it for me on a theoretical level…I’m not going to waste my time making it just to find out that it is, in fact, terrible) but DF baked goods can be just as good as their buttery, milky counterparts. In fact, most cakes you buy from shops are made with margarine or oil, but they invariably have milk based stabilisers or use soya products (and George is intolerant to them too).

We’ve recently become the proud owners of a kitchen mixer, so I decided to start some baking experiments. I have an awful lot of weight to lose, but I like to bake so sod it. I’m going to bake!

One of the things I’ve been missing the most is cream teas, so this is where I started!…

THE CREAM…

You might be thinking that a “cream” tea is pretty hard to do without cream, yes? Well no, not really…not when there’s such a thing as coconut milk (and therefore, coconut cream).

I’m not talking about the “coconut milk drink” that you can buy to put in tea/over cereal here, I’m talking about the canned stuff that settles into two layers (cream and water) if you leave it to stand. I got mine from Aldi because it’s quite inexpensive and I already knew it settles into two layers.

Some websites suggest that you chill your cans of coconut milk overnight but I hadn’t realised this til 5 minutes before I wanted to make it. Whoops.

First I opened two cans and scooped out the cream…

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…saving the water (and a few splotches of cream) for porridge (oats and coconut water are supposed to be great for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk supply).

I added two tablespoons of sifted icing sugar and about a tsp of vanilla extract before beating it with the mixer’s whisk attachment.

I had visions of it turning into softly peaking clouds of cream, but no…it just crumbled up and looked like cottage cheese in the bowl. Sad face.

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I switched to the beater attachment and had a little more luck, but it started to separate a bit and I now had semi-fluffy clouds amidst an off-white puddle. Nice.

On the verge of admitting defeat, I popped the bowl into the fridge to chill it all while I regrouped and thought about making scones.

DAIRY-FREE SCONES…

I found a recipe that called for:

250g plain flour
40g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
45g butter
1 medium egg (beaten)
75ml whole milk
100g sultanas

…and I substituted Tesco baking fat in place of butter and Koko Dairy-Free instead of the cow’s milk. I always have Koko around because I drink it in tea, but I went with it (over other type of alt milks that I have) because my friend, Sarah (who does lots of vegan cooking) says that, in her experience, it behaves similarly to cow’s milk in cooking and baking.

I put all the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the (cold and cubed) baking fat before trying to mix it.

I got flour everywhere.

I soon gave up and rubbed the fat in with my fingers like I should have done to start with, chiding myself for being lazy.

Then I added the sultanas, egg and milk, beat it until it turned to dough, rolled it out and cut it into squares before baking at 220°c. The recipe said to bake for 15-20 minutes but after 12 I noticed that they were burning (golden brown scones with black sultanas)…it was then I realised that the temperature was for regular ovens and not fan assisted. Whoops.

They were also a little dry and crumbly…possibly because the omission of full fat milk meant that they were lacking in fat content. Next time I make them I’ll use a little more baking fat and a drop more “milk”. I’ll also only cook them at about 200° to try and avoid the charcoal-tanas.

I then left them – in all their black-studded and crumbly glory – to cool…

BACK TO THE CREAM…

I got the cream back out of the fridge (it had hardened off now) and set about whipping the life out of it with the beater. Even though the beater had worked the first time I just got cottage cheese again (no matter how long or fast I had the mixer working). In frustration I switched back to the whisk head, just to see what would happen, and BOOM! Whipped cream. Ish.

It took a while and it was still a little separated, but I poured the watery stuff into another bowl (again, saved for porridge) and was left with something that didn’t look too dissimilar to whipped cream…and it tasted bloody fantastic!

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It was sweet and rich with a hint of vanilla and it was AMAZING with raspberry jam, even though the scones were exceedingly crappy.

It was a cream tea!

I haven’t had anything even vaguely like clotted cream in over 10 weeks so I wasn’t sure if my taste buds were lying to me, but my sister (who had been all “I’ll just have a small scone” skeptical-face about it) asked for a second helping, and Luke (who had been all “I’m not eating that” mocking-face) was lured into joining us. They both agreed that coconut cream is a lovely alternative to clotted cream, and that it more than made up for the rubbish quality of my scones.

Note…I stored the leftover cream in the fridge overnight and it hardened off quite a bit. I had scones again yesterday and had to scrape the cream and kind of modge it onto the scone. It still tasted just as good but it wasn’t as spreadable as it had been the day before.

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…apparently it softens up after being re-whipped but I wasn’t going to get the mixer out for just that so I settled for modging.

RESULT!…

Dairy-free scones were NOT a win on this occasion, but with a bit of tweaking (or a better recipe) I’m sure that they could be great. I’d like to have a go at an egg-free version too so that I can see if a vegan cream tea is within my capabilities.

Whipped coconut cream TASTED great, but was a bit of a challenge to make. I think I need to work on this part too.

…my next challenge is going to be a dairy-free chocolate torte. I’m planning on using amaretti biscuits for the base, so it’s going to be quite an involved make! Watch this space.

 
 

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Vegan “Baileys” and a Very Merry Christmas…

I’m still struggling with blogging at the moment, but wanted to take a minute to express my hope that you all had a lovely Christmas and that you look ahead to a happy new year.

George’s first Christmas was quite overwhelming for him, what with having a cold and not sleeping well. Being presented with lots of toys, clothes and books was also quite a task for him to take on so we suffered a couple of festive meltdowns and haven’t had  much sleep ourselves over the past few days. Despite all that (and, to be honest, we were expecting it) it has been so SO wonderful to spend our first Christmas together as a family. We’ve had a fantastic time.

We’re still doing the dairy/soya free thing (it’ll be 5 weeks tomorrow and it seems to be having a positive impact on George so is most likely going to become a way of life), so I’ve had a restrained Christmas with no cheese or “regular” chocolate. Rest assured I’ve MORE than made up for it by eating a megatonne of DF/SF mince pies, a box of Booja Booja chocolates (and I’ve got another box to go), and several tubs of pâté with a jar or two of plum ploughman’s chutney. Restrained.

One of the things I was missing the most was a nice glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The ladies on my “Breastfeeding with CMPA and Other Food Allergies” facebook group had given me the idea of making my own vegan version like this one from simpleveganblog.com and I was totally going to make some but, as usual, it got to Christmas day and I had completely failed to buy coconut milk, agave syrup and Irish whiskey. Cue much sadness.

What I did have however, was a litre of Oatly Chocolate Oat Drink, and a nice bottle of Jack Daniels (well, truth be told it’s Luke’s bottle of JD but we’re married so technically it’s half mine…and there’s only half of it left so it belongs to me now)…

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…so, desperate for a dairy-free version of one of my favourite drinks, I decided to experiment. It worked. It was creamy and wonderful.

…and it’s so simple you don’t even need a “proper” recipe…

Just take a tumbler…pour in a measure of Jack Daniels (other whiskeys are available), and top up with Oatly Chocolate Oat Drink to taste (I used about 220mls)…

…and enjoy!

I’m guessing that it tastes more like chocolate Bailey’s than the regular kind (well duh) but I’ve not had any in a year so I can’t quite remember exactly how the regular Bailey’s tastes. All I know is it was thick and rich and boozy and delicious. It was also SUPER easy, which is always a bonus when you’re as lazy pushed-for-time as I am!

Happy New Year to you all, from me and Mini Moss…

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Adventures in Dairy-free Living…

I haven’t blogged in a while…a LONG while. I have a backlog of things to do and write about but I barely get any time to write because I usually find myself stuck under a baby (now 11 weeks old!!) who is eating or screaming or sleeping (putting him down for a nap inevitably leads back to sceeaming or eating).

A couple of days ago, after a lot of screaming, a particularly terrible nappy, and a bit of Googling, I realised that our little George might have an allergy to milk. He’s only drinking breastmilk at the moment, but the cow’s milk protein can pass through my milk to him…and I drink a LOT of milk (and eat a lot of cheese, butter, chocolate, cream…you name it).

He has (and I apologise for the TMI) very mucousy poo, and while this can be because of excess dribble – and he’s been really drooling the past couple of weeks – he’s always suffered with (again, apologies) sticky, stringy nappies. He’s also been very colicky, which, again, is a delayed symptom of a cow’s milk protien allergy.

Finally, George has been very very slow to put weight on, so much so that it took 6 weeks for him to get back to his birth weight when most babies manage it in a fortnight. He’s rarely put on more than 10g a day, when the charts would like him to be putting on around thtee times that. More about that another time (soon, I hope!)

Anyway…I could be wrong about it all, but I’ve cut all milk and soya products out of my diet (50% of babies with CMPA also react to soya protein) and I’m giving it three weeks to get all of the protein out of my system. It’s only been about 5 days so far, but he’s already seeming less colicky and far happier. His nappies are better and better each day too.

If I’m honest, this is very difficult for me. Very VERY difficult. It’s only been five days and all I can think about is milk chocolate and flapjacks and all-butter pastries. I have been feeling very sorry for myself as I’ve been wandering around the supermarket (milk and soya are in practically everything), and even more sorry for myself when Luke is tucking into a pack of chocolate coated malted milk biscuits…but at the same time I am so SO happy to see George smiling rather than screaming.

Christmas with George’s grin is a million times better than Christmas with cheese or chocolate.

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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in Baby, Food, Life, Parenting

 

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My Cornmeal Porridge Recipe…

Luke and I like to trawl the supermarket looking for “interesting” things. Being a huge fan of Caribbean food (we both are), and a massive lover of porridge, I recently picked a pot of this up from Tesco…

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…and I LOVED it. It’s amazing.

It’s also pretty expensive to eat on a day to day basis when you consider that you can get 1.5kg of cornmeal for £1.79 from the same aisle in Tesco. When I realised this, I put back the 6 pots of ready made porridge that I’d piled into our trolley, picked up the plain cornmeal and then started Googling recipes like mad.

There’s a lot of recipes to choose from, and a few different ways to prepare it. I tried a couple and ended up disliking them (not stodgy enough) and finding most of them too fraught with difficulty (adding cold cornmeal paste to hot liquid is just asking for lumpy porridge).

In the end I decided to follow my instincts and devised my own recipe, which turned out to be better than the Pronto Pot (even if I do say so myself)…and I wanted to share it with you! This makes enough for two bowls. You could say it makes enough for two people but I love it so much that I always eat it all to myself…

You will need:-

1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/2 cup of water
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon (about 1/2 tsp according to taste)
Nutmeg (a small sprinkle)

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To make it you…

mix the cornmeal with the water in a small bowl to make a smooth paste

set the milk on the stove in a pan and stir in the cornmeal paste (I used cows milk but I’m sure coconut or almond milk would make a delicious alternative)

bring to the boil, stirring all the time

reduce the heat and add the condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg

simmer for 5 minutes whilst stir stir stiring!

It will thicken on the hob, and then get even thicker as it cools.

And enjoy!!

Note:- It almost seems a shame to open a whole can of condensed milk just to use a 1/4 cup of it, but don’t be tempted to leave it out – it is VERY important to achieve the right taste. I omitted it entirely in my first attempt and used maple syrup to sweeten instead. It was not right at all.

My top tip is to make yourself a luxurious coffee with the condensed milk…maybe have a go at a Guinness Punch (it’s like a fizzy milkshake of joy) and then freeze the rest of the milk in an ice cube tray for later use in coffee/more cornmeal porridge. It doesn’t freeze hard (mine hasn’t anyway) but you can scoop it out of the tray very easily with a tiny teaspoon or a knife.

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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Food, Life

 

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My Attempt At Porridge Bars…

I’m breastfeeding our boy (more about that soon) and one way to boost/maintain your milk supply is to eat oats. I’ve gotten a bit of a baking bug recently (I think I can blame Great British Bake Off for that) but I’ve also got to watch my weight so I’ve been looking for a way to bake things that, whilst being a tad “naughty”, aren’t just empty calories. Oat based things seem the best way to go.

Luke bought me some amazing oats bars (Stoats Porridge Bars) while I was in hospital, so I thought I’d have a go at making some myself. I found this recipe online but I don’t have a lot of the ingredients so I have decided to simplify it and adapt it for what I’ve got…

So! Basically, you will need:-

130g rolled oats
300ml milk
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
60g dried fruit (approx) 
30g of seeds (approx)
(optional) 1tsp cinnamon
(optional) 20g chopped nuts 
(optional) 1-2tbsp runny honey (or maybe maple/golden syrup)

…and my amended recipe looks like this:-

130g oats
300ml milk
1tsp vanilla extract
60g sultanas
15g sunflower seeds
15g pumpkin seeds
10g chia seeds
2tbsp maple syrup

I made the cinnamon optional (and then omitted it from my ingredients) because I didn’t know if it’d work that well with the maple/golden syrup. I also decided to use a heavier weight of seeds than the original recipe called for as I wasn’t using the chopped nuts.

To make the bars:-

  • mix the dry ingredients (oats, seeds, fruit and nuts) in a large bowl
  • whisk the wet ingredients (milk, vanilla, egg and honey/syrup) in a jug
  • pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine well
  • leave for a while to absorb (use this time to heat oven and line your tin)
  • pour mixture into a lined tin (I used a tin that says it’s 15cm square but I think is actually 20cm)
  • bake at 180c for 45-60 minutes

The mixture is quite wet at first and although the oats do soak up the liquid, it’s still pretty wet when you pour it into the tray.

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I admit, I couldn’t wait until it was completely cool to turn it out and cut it (although I did give it about 30-45 minutes to cool) but it didn’t have any adverse effects. I only baked it for 45 minutes and it doesn’t seem to have cooked through properly. It IS cooked, but it’s still quite squidgy so I will probably give it the full hour next time I make these bars. It was quite golden on top though so I don’t know if the extra 15 minutes might cause it to burn…

EDIT: I’ve finally figured out what this “squidgy” texture reminds me of…cold bread and butter pudding (like the kind you can buy in slabs from Greggs)

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I cut the slab of porridge into eight, but you could get 10 decent-sized slices out of it if you weren’t greedy like me.

My recipe, what with the omitted cinnamon, is quite plain. If I was to do this again I might try adding it, or perhaps upping the amount of maple syrup. The best thing about them is that they’re essentially just oats, fruit, seeds and milk so they’re pretty virtuous…which is good seeing as I’ve eaten three slices in the last 5 minutes…

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2015 in Food, Life

 

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Snacks – Hospital Essentials…

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Along with all the clothing, toiletries, and comfort items you’d normally think of, most ‘hospital bag’ lists suggest that you take snacks and drinks along too. Labour can be a looong and tiring process, so it’s quite likely that you (and your birth partner) will get hungry or just need a bit of an energy boost.

The Babycentre site warns that prolonged physical activity (like labour) on an empty stomach can cause your body to start raiding your fat stores, which could give you a headache and make you feel (or be) sick. I’m not sure if I’ll want to eat anything during labour, or if I’ll have the time, but this is what I’ve packed so far…

– a HUGE bag of jelly babies…lots of people recommend them as high energy snacks, and I LOVE them (partly because I like to say “would you like a jelly baby” in Tom Baker’s voice)

– dried mango…because it’s nice and because it had been sitting in our cupboard for a while

– nature valley protein rich cereal bars…I started out with five of these but have eaten two already. If I’m honest, they’re not that great (too dry!) and I’m worried about taking peanuts into hospital, so I might just eat them all and get some seed bars instead…

– poppy and sesame crackers…these are AMAZING. They’re better with cheese but I love them on their own too. I actually can’t believe that I haven’t eaten these already. Cheese flavour crackers would be good too.

– raspberry leaf tea bags…these are the not-so-nice ones (they have a vague tomato soup smell/flavour) but they are individually wrapped which is a definite bonus. I’m not sure if I should take a thermos or not…they should have boiling water and cups in hospital?…surely?

– straws!…to make drinking easier (especially if I’m trying to focus and don’t want to have to lift a bottle/my head)

…the one thing we don’t have yet is drinks. I’m thinking a bottle of water (that we can then refill) and a couple of bottles of Powerade (blue of course) for its energy-giving properties. I used to inhale the stuff when I was doing skate training so I’m hoping it’ll make me feel like a fierce rollergirl again. I’m nothing if not optimistic!

We also need snacks for Luke, but I think he’ll be happy with a multipack of crisps.

I wanted to get a soft-sided cool bag for my snacks, and after looking around the town centre Luke found these little blue ones in the picnic section of Poundland. They’re about the size of a 6-pack of coke, close securely with a zip, and have a useful little pocket at the front too. The handle isn’t very long but it’s long enough to hook over your arm.

We did find a few others but they weren’t much bigger and were all around £5-10. They were a lot sturdier and thicker (so better as cool bags, I’m guessing) but we didn’t really need anything that was overly fancy.

I was worried that the Poundland ones wouldn’t be big enough so we got two. At the moment I’ve only filled one (and there’s still a bit of space in it) so there’s another for Luke (or me if I suddenly get greedy). They’ll be nice to use again after our little one is here for family-day-out packed lunches too.

 

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