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It’s nearly December, and, if you are a small child, that means only one things – advent calendars. Unfortunately, the Allergy Brothers can’t eat the chocolate in most advent calendars. Last year, we bought them very sophisticated advent calendars from Hotel Chocolat, which they could eat, but didn’t like! This year I thought I would bring out the fabric advent calendar we have had since they were small. I had the bright idea of making chocolate coins to fill the pockets, as the Allergy Brothers can’t eat the shaped chocolate available in most shops.
I was pleased to see this kit in a local toy shop. As I am a good three decades over the recommended minimum age (6 years), I thought this would be a doddle. I was wrong.
I got out all the bits, and discovered that I needed chocolate chips. I decided that this didn’t matter. The kit includes a chocolate melter; it’s a small, solid hot water bottle/bowl. You fill it with warm, not boiling, water (the instructions were in bold for this bit), and then rest the chocolate chips in the bowl to melt. I didn’t even bother trying this. This is the method you put, if you are a toy manufacturer who is more concerned with not being sued when a child scalds themselves than in making a product that might work. Allegedly, their method takes 10 minutes to melt enough chocolate for one coin. I just put a load of chocolate chunks in a bain marie, which always works. You then have to pour the chocolate into fiddly three part chocolate moulds. There are enough moulds to make four coins at a time.
The chocolate then needs to go in the fridge or freezer to set. This took 30 minutes in the freezer. Now comes the wrapping in gold foil bit. I thought this might be fun. I was wrong. You have to use a cutter to make the foil circles. This bit of the kit actually worked. Then you have to put the gold foil and a chocolate coin held in a circular plastic clamp in a spring-loaded plunger. The idea is that foil gets wrapped around the coin, which you then lift out with the clamp. Except it doesn’t. The plunger gets stuck so the coin is stuck inside the machine. I ended up using kitchen scissors to pry the coins out, and the whole thing got very messy. You have to repeat the process to cover the other side of the coin in foil.
Then you have the chance to emboss the coins. The kit came with a wide variety of plates. I chose the two Christmas designs. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work. The press just didn’t press equally across the coin so some parts of the design came out and others didn’t.
I had planned to make each Allergy Brother a coin for each day of Advent. This means I would need forty eight coins. It took me one hour to make four coins, which looked rubbish (this is rarely the case with my photos, but they actually look better in the photo than in real life). This is the most you can make in one go as there are only four moulds. There is only enough gold foil included in the kit to make twelve coins. The kit costs £18.99 and it doesn’t include the chocolate.
In conclusion, I would recommend this kit if you need to buy a present for a family you hate. It will seem like a thoughtful gift, but it will just cause frustration and disappointment. Happy Christmas!
You might be wondering what bird feeders are doing on our food blog. Well, this is an aspect of having food allergies that most people don’t think about. Food is everywhere! There might be coconut in a shower scrub. Orange oil in some soap. Wheat in the preschool’s playdough. And the Allergy Brothers have to avoid it wherever it is. It just so happens that many commercial bird feeding products have wheat in them, and Allergy Little can’t touch wheat products. We want to encourage him to appreciate nature so we make our own bird feeders.
You only need 4 items for these: some pine cones, some kind of nut or seed butter (we used Eskal free nut butter, which is a sesame butter), a seed suitable for feeding to birds (we used sunflower hearts), and some string.
- Leave your pine cones somewhere to dry (we put them in the airing cupboard overnight) so that they open out.
- Tie the string onto the pine cones so you can hang them up. We made a sort of birdy mobile.
- Cover the pine cones with the nut/seed butter. Make sure you pack it in between the scales of the pine cone.
- Then roll the pine cone in the seeds so they stick.
- Hang in tree, and watch for birds, preferably from inside, while drinking hot chocolate.
Chocolate covered filled wafers with mint flavour
Ingredients: Dark chocolate 28% (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin), Palm fat, Sugar, Potato flour, Maize flour, Soy lecithin, Natural mint flavouring, Salt, Guar gum, Ammonium bicarbonate, Ascorbic acid. May contain traces of milk, nuts, egg.
I am really starting to love the Semper brand because, unlike most gluten free products, they don’t contain rice flour (which we have to avoid). These seemed a bit of a find. Unfortunately, the Allergy Brothers are not big fans of mint as a flavour. Allergy Big sniffed the wafers. Allergy Little licked one. But neither of them was impressed so Allergy Dad and I selflessly hoovered the remaining wafers up. Very tasty they were too. It would be really excellent if Semper could do a vanilla version, just for us!
Recently, one of my friends shared some of the cooking apples from her tree with us. We had to make apple crumble, but it needed to be Allergy Brothers friendly!
I cooked the apples the day before making the crumble. I simply peeled, cored and cubed the cooking apples. I cooked them with water and sugar (the amount will vary depending upon personal taste and the acidity of the fruit; the key is to taste it yourself during cooking) until the apple was a combination of mush with some solid chunks. I tend to put too much water in when I am cooking fruit. This in intentional because I know how easy it is to get distracted by the Allergy Brothers and then let the fruit boil dry. This leads to nasty burning smells, ruined food, and a destroyed saucepan so I prefer to err on the side of caution. I then correct this by adding another dried fruit to my cooked fruit. In this case, I added some sultanas to the cooked apple. Overnight, the sultanas sucked up the excess water to make the perfect crumble base. Obviously, you can make whatever combination of fruits and flavourings you would like.
100g buckwheat flour
100g ground almonds
100g Pure Sunflower margarine
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
- Put the cooked fruit into an ovenproof bowl.
- Make the crumble by mixing the sugar, buckwheat flour and ground almonds in a bowl. Use your fingers to rub in the margarine. You want to have a combination of clumps and large crumbs for a good crumble texture.
- Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit and bake for 30 minutes.
- We served it with Almond Dream vanilla icecream (for those avoiding dairy) and double cream (for those who weren’t).
I was having a bimble around Colchester town centre when I noticed this sign outside a café.
I walked past and then realised I would be neglecting my duties towards this blog if I didn’t at least go in and have a chat with the staff about eating there with allergies. Caffe Sala have cake. Lots and lots of cake.
The friendly waitress confirmed that they had gluten free cake and they had vegan cake. I tentatively asked if they had gluten free, vegan cake. She consulted a folder. This is not always a good sign, but it turned out she needed to check because there was a choice of gluten free, vegan cake. Inside my head, I did a girly squeal and high five. Externally, I just asked for the St Clement’s cake with a coffee (and there was a choice of three different non-dairy milks, or moo milk), and this what it looked like:
The food tasted great. The interior of the café is quirky. As someone just popping in by themselves, I appreciated that there was a wide range of seating options so I didn’t feel silly sitting at a huge table by myself. I really appreciated that Caffe Sala is an independently opened business too.
Caffe Sala is in Eld Lane, Colchester, Essex, UK.
The Allergy Brothers are not very well at the moment so there is going to be a reduction in posts until they recover. In the mean time, here is a photo of our competition winner. We’re glad she was pleased to receive her hamper!
Today is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. You can read more about the history of this festival here. However, for most British people these days, it’s just an excuse to have a bonfire and set off fireworks at a community display. Also, the more unpleasant aspects, such as burning effigies of Guy Fawkes, no longer happen widely.
Allergy Little and I decided to celebrate Fireworks Night by making Savoury Catherine Wheels. This is an incredibly easy recipe using two of our store cupboard stars: Orgran Pizza and Pastry Multimix, and Zest Vegan Basil Pesto.
We made the pizza and pastry multimix using the same method we used to make pizzas here. Then we rolled the pastry out thinly (about 0.5cm) and covered it with the pesto. We made sure we covered the whole of the pastry.
We then rolled up the pastry.
Using a sharp knife, I cut the pastry roll into slices.
We lay those on a baking tray and cooked them for 15-20 minutes at 200 C.
These are best eaten straight away, but you could prepare them in advance and then cling film the baking tray until you need them. It might be a good idea to sprinkle a little water over the pastry to stop it drying out, if it going to be a long time until you bake them. Of course, don’t forget to remove the cling film when you put the tray in the oven!
In our latest order from Holland At Home, we bought a bar of Tony’s Chocolonely. It’s a bit of an odd brand name. Luckily, their website explains why the company is called this. The founder of the company is called Teun (the Dutch version of Tony) van de Keuken. He was a Dutch TV journalist, who investigated the use of slaves, and particularly child slaves, in the cocoa industry. When he spoke to the companies that bought the cocoa, the companies were not interested. So he decided to go it alone and set up his own slave-free chocolate company hence Chocolonely.
Ingredients: Cocoa mass (70%), Sugar, Cocoa butter, Emulsifier: soya lecithin. May contain traces of egg, gluten, milk and nuts.
Allergy Big just couldn’t resist touching this large, nobbly bar of chocolate. It’s unusual because the pieces of the bar are not equal or regular. Literally, the pieces are the approximate shapes of the countries of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Perhaps, the pieces are also a metaphor for the inequalities of the cocoa industry?
Either way, this feature of the bar made it quite challenging for the Allergy Brothers to eat. It was like eating Toblerone; yes, the shape is quite innovative, but it is just hard to bite without hurting your mouth. The Allergy Brothers also found it challenging as a flavour. This is hard core, dark chocolate. There may be sugar in the ingredients list, but I couldn’t detect it in the flavour. The bar is now broken up into its country-shaped pieces in the fridge ready for the times when I need a little help to get through the day. A Togo-shaped piece for a “four o’clock and I am starting to fade” moment right up to “pass me Nigeria, the Allergy Brothers have been awake all night!”
Sometimes, we feel Chocolonely too as there are so many kinds of chocolate we can’t have. I wonder if Tony’s Chocolonely would consider making a milk chocolate bar with almond milk then we would be able to support a company that is making a difference…
It is very foggy here in the UK at the moment so Allergy Little and I decided today was a “stay inside and make things” kind of a day. I asked him what he would like to do and he replied “whisking.” Luckily, I had a sample of Hasslacher’s solid Columbian drinking chocolate bar squirrelled away for just such an occasion. That’s right; this is a bar of 100% cacao chocolate made from Criollo and Trinitario beans from Columbia.
It was definitely different to a regular chocolate bar. It had a matt texture and smelt savoury.
We used 2 chunks of cocoa bar, a mug of almond milk, and a teaspoon of sugar per person. We heated them together in a saucepan, and Allergy Little whisked enthusiastically.
We served the hot chocolate with Soyatoo Spray Soya Cream and De Ruijter Dark Chocolate Vlokken.
It was fun as a one off, but I am not completely sure it was worth the faff. I wasn’t that impressed by the first mouthful, but I think that was maybe just because it didn’t taste like I expect hot chocolate to taste. This is a full-on, adult hot chocolate. The cocoa has a complex flavour that isn’t savoury or sweet, and it delivers a hit of stimulant. This hot chocolate is closer to coffee than a drink suitable for children.
On a purely practical level, I was surprised that the cocoa didn’t melt smoothly, but instead melted into grainy pieces. Unfortunately, this combined with the graininess of the almond milk to make for an unattractive feel in the mouth.
So now I am left with a bar and a half of solid cocoa so please leave your suggestions in the comments box for other things I should cook with it!