Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Very Merry Gluten-Free Christmas To You

Veronica's Crisps
Choices Buttons
As we get closer and closer to Christmas, there are many weird and wonderful types of sweet treats floating around the office. Most of them are not good for me or anyone else for that matter but I don't want to entirely skip satisfying my sweet tooth cravings. I have discovered two gluten-free treats: The first, an organic gluten-free packet of crisps that was purchased for me by a sympathetic colleague. The second, chocolate buttons which are also gluten-free and therefore do not taste like true chocolate more like the cooking variety, but are still delicious.

I purchased the buttons in my local Super Valu, I'm impressed to see that their range is continually expanding. Every time I venture into the gluten-free aisle in Tesco, I'm amazed to see how many people are looking for alternative foods to purchase. I've also been impressed to notice that some of my favourite restaurants in Cork, will create your desired pasta dish using gluten-free pasta. They do sometimes charge an extra euro extra but Cafe Bar Deli, one of my most visited spots, don't include any extra charge. It's definitely a restaurant worth checking out when looking for a gluten-free dinner. We've been experimenting with our gluten-free pasta dinners at home too. My boyfriend recently concocted a most delicious dish which included spaghetti with salmon, onion, carrot, tomato and mixed herbs:

Yummy Gluten-free Spaghetti
I also recently discovered a very unusal salad combination in one of my favourite hotels in Killarney, The Ross. This salad had a base of green salad leaves but it also included pancetta, poached egg, black pudding, pear and croutons:
Black Pudding & Pancetta Salad
Anyway, enough of all this food talk. Time to start thinking about the Christmas holidays and the adventures of 2013. I'd like to wish my readers a wonderful Christmas season and a prosperous New Year. I hope you can enjoy a couple glasses of bubbly and a well deserved break over this festive season.
Our Tree

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Pasta Sauce, Organic Horticulture.....& Hot Port

After last week's promising start to creating a suitable pizza using gluten-free bases, I decided to attempt making them for a second time. On this occasion, however, I was using thick crust bases, topping the pizzas with strained tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, caramelized onion, pancetta and a french cheese made from goats milk. These toppings complimented each other perfectly. The bases although nice, were quite heavy. After careful consideration, I've decided that I prefer the thinner bases, used during my first trial.

Another meal made from alternative ingredients that turned out well, was a basic dish of pasta with sauce. We added kelkin tomato and red pepper pasta sauce to kelkin spaghetti, which is made from corn and rice. Nom nom nom. It went down so well that we're having it again for dinner tonight. Having cooked with this spaghetti on several occasions, we've realised that cooking it in a large saucepan with a lot of boiling water, is most effective. The spaghetti can have a lot of residue that comes off whilst being cooked, it comes out best once given a lot of water and space.

I have recently been eating lots of gluten-free bread and oaty, cereal bars. Being able to eat meals that I would have eaten before changing my diet but replacing them with suitable ingredients is much easier when on the go. In terms of gardening, I've been reading about and discussing gardening ideas with my friends and family. Aquaponics has been brought to my attention. The following website link, gives a good understanding of the concept and practice: Aquaponics.comI have also learnt about a great new course which is being offered in my much loved, UCC, the Masters in Organic Horticulture. It has only been started this past September, and it allows students to undertake classes in Liss Ard Estate, near Skibberren, whilst undertaking self-directed learnings from home. Sounds fab.

On a non-food and gardening related thread, I have discovered the best way to make hot ports. This may not sound like an important skill to have, but it can be a very handy to have when someone is feeling a bit under the weather in your household. In my opinion, it offers a much nicer alternative to the usual lemsip or tea with honey. Begin by slicing pieces of orange into segments and inserting cloves into them, as per the picture to the right. Add a good dash of port (as good quality as you can afford) to a glass, followed by boiling water, an orange segment, and brown sugar and honey to taste. I advise you drink the hot port with either a nice fire going beside you or wrapped up in a large duvet. Enjoy!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Make Pizza Not War

This week I purchased gluten free pizza bases. They were relatively expensive at around 4.60 for a pack of two, so I was hoping that they would offer a very good alternative and thankfully was not disappointed. On the pizza base I placed strained tomato sauce, around half a 400ml pack was enough to cover the two bases. I had briefly fried a large white onion, half a black pudding and a packet of bacon cut into small pieces. These were all placed on top of the tomato sauce base, along with french goats cheese and some sliced tomato. This was the pizzas before being placed in the oven:

They were cooked for 15 minutes at 220 degrees on grease proof paper and came out looking like this: 

There was a bit of mess from the goats cheese melting, but overall this was an incredibly easy meal to make. The combination of toppings, although a little unusual, were very tasty. I plan to make another gluten free pizza using a different combination of toppings, personally I love chicken and sweetcorn pizzas. The beauty with this dinner option is you can add whatever you find appealing. A friend has suggested that I attempt to make gluten free pizza bases, having never done home-made pizzas, this will take some research and time but it's certainly something I would like to attempt. 

In the past week, I've started looking up online gardening resources for amateur enthusiasts. I came across a really interesting blog, which gives invaluable tips for those interested in getting started, Gardening 101: 5 Gardening Basics for Beginners. I particularly liked the section that discusses how to prepare your soil and the section that advises what plants you can grow depending on how much sunlight is available. 

I also found a dedicated Irish resource called: Grow It Yourself Ireland. This website has a huge amount of material available for growing your gardening knowledge. They advise you what fruits and vegetables can be planted/tended to during each month of the year. This information is particularly helpful as it is written from the perspective of the Irish weather/seasons. My next focus will be on researching poly-tunnels and greenhouses, so stay tuned for more gardening ideas. I hope you have a healthy, fun-filled weekend, until next time:

Friday, 9 November 2012

You Don't Make Friends with Salad

This week has been fairly un-adventurous in terms of food choices mainly due to how busy it's been. So I've stuck to fruit salads, green salads and wraps during the day and have fallen back on tried and  tested dinner options at night. Time constraints have hindered me from forming a developed food plan which has also led to some ill advised choices, such as a rushed croissant or a sneaky biscuit. I'm reminded again that a weekly food plan is essential to an effective food shop and clever daily choices. 

During the week, I met with my friend Stephanie for a catch-up lunch. We ate at Fresco, the cafe on the ground-floor of the Glucksman Gallery in UCC. I ordered a Thai Beef Salad which comprised of warm beef, potato pieces, rocket, mango and sweet chilli sauce. It was packed full of taste and apart from the potato pieces, was an excellent option for me. I've never really found salads appealing as a dinner/lunch option in their own right. I've often felt hungry within an hour or two of eating them. The Beef Salad defied this ideal, keeping me full throughout the entire day. I would like to learn more about salads that can act as a full meal. Another goal is to get to a point where I can make a conscientious decision of what to eat whilst on the go. This will develop as my knowledge of food increases and when I am able to re-introduce some of the eliminated food options into my diet.

Since I started this process, I've become increasingly aware of the benefits of growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs. I'm starting to realise why people go nuts for gardening, there must be a real pleasure derived from planting and growing your own ingredients. It is vital to eat these types of food, so why not grow your own? As this blog continues, I'd like to develop my knowledge and thoughts surrounding gardening, expect to see this creeping in as the week's progress. And on a lighter note...

Gummy Bear Rescue

Friday, 2 November 2012

To Salad or not to Salad? That is the question

After a short hiatus, I'm back to blogging. The last two weeks have been the hardest in terms of persevering with wheat-free & dairy-free food choices, mainly due to my lack of motivation so I'll keep this entry short and sweet. I have found myself leaning towards easy, quick food choices rather than the healthy option:
Cupcakes or Salad-Hmmmm
Thankfully, I'm back on track now and feeling much more positive. We had a visit from a very kind aunty, who baked a fabulously light and damn tasty, gluten-free sponge cake. She also showed me a book by Darina Allen: Healthy Gluten Free Living which has a breakdown of recipes designated for each meal. These recipes guide the reader through the creation of simple, everyday meals.

On the vegetable front, aubergines have been incorporated into my weekly shop. I love roasted vegetables and have realised that aubergine is a lovely accompaniment to the usual selection of: carrots, peppers, onions and parsnips. We've also started cooking spaghetti based dishes using Kelkin gluten-free spaghetti. This allows for delicious dinners such as meatballs in tomato sauce and bacon in a carbonara sauce.

On my most recent trip to Tesco, I noticed that they stock pizza bases in their wheat-free aisle. This has given me the idea to make pizzas with a tomato puree base and perhaps some goats cheese, rocket, salami etc. Pictures and more recipe ideas to follow soon...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Glimpse into the World of Intolerant Baking

The past week has seen 4 new recipes attempted from the Intolerant Gourmet App, two were chicken based salads and neither made a lasting impression. The second used quinoa, it was interesting to attempt another meal using this ingredient, but we were not blown away by this particular dish. I have also ventured into the creation of gluten-free baked goods by making Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies and Brownies.

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies

The cookie mixture was incredibly easy to make, it included: dairy-free margarine, brown sugar, gluten-free plain and self-raising flour. The beauty with this recipe is that many different combinations of ingredients can be added to give the flavour. I chose peanut butter and chocolate and would like to try the cinnamon cookies version which requires ground cinnamon and flaxseeds. Simples! The cookies are definitely best eaten on the day of baking as they are a bit more dry 1-2 days after, but I don't think finishing them would be a problem!

The Chocolate Nut Brownies were again made from a very straightforward mixture: dairy-free margarine, flaxseeds, baking powder, rice milk, dark chocolate, walnuts, pecan nuts, brown sugar, vanilla extract, gluten-free self-raising flour and a pinch of salt. After mixing it all together (the nuts needed to be chopped and the chocolate and margarine melted) it looked like this:

Brownie Mixture

It was cooked in the oven for 25 mins, et voila! The brownies were complete. As there are quite a lot of nuts in the mixture, it doesn't feel too chocolate or sugar rich. This was my first attempt at baking with gluten-free flour and I was very unsure about what to expect but I didn't notice a difference in the taste. I will be making more brownies within the next two days, as they were a good, honest treat in my opinion.


Dinners are becoming a much easier meal to navigate, and I now have these easy dessert/snack options. The next meal I would like to get more ideas for is lunch. I find that I am purchasing soups from my workplace quite often and this is not always the best solution as it can have flour added to it. Oat crackers with a topping such as hummus are a nice option but boring when repeated over several days. Salalds and hot dinners can often have an ingredient added which I need to avoid, so it will be time to get creative with lunch. At least I can always rely on water!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


This week I discovered the Intolerant Gourmet App whilst browsing for any useful intolerance related applications. It comes at a price tag of 3 yoyo's and 99 cents, but offers 65 wheat, yeast, egg, dairy and soya free recipes. Most options are also gluten free. The recipes are generally very straight forward in terms of technical ability, and most of the ingredients should be easily found at a regular supermarket, which makes life a lot easier when planning a weekly food schedule. 

I attempted to make the roasted and aubergine salad last night minus the required aubergine and cumin/coriander seeds. After soaking the quinoa in vegetable stock and roasting the carrots in a mix of honey, olive oil, cinnamon and seasoning for 15-20 minutes, I added chives, roasted cashew nuts and lemon juice and rind. It was fantastic! The salad had a really vibrant taste which perfectly complimented the salmon and red pesto sauce that it was accompanying. The quinoa offered a light and interesting alternative to rice, something I will definitely be exploring further.

The next new recipe on this week's cooking agenda (also from the Intolerant Gourment App), is sweet chilli and orange chicken with oriental coleslaw. I've managed to pre-purchase all of the ingredients minus the chinese cabbage and toasted sesame oil, but I'm hoping these can be sourced. This weekend may prove to be a good time to venture into the world of intolerant baking, and using my handy new app I'm hoping to bake a dairy, yeast and egg free brownie. Mmmmm. Pictures to follow.

In other discoveries, I've realised that goats milk is just not for me. The consistency and taste is very similar to cow's milk, but the idea of drinking a goat product is quite off-putting, a double standard considering I'm quite happy to eat goat's cheese. Oh well!

In terms of my overall adjustment to this elimination diet, there have been several times where I've eaten something that should be avoided, each time I've felt guilty and unwell. On the plus side, for the most part I have been sticking to the guidelines and feeling energised and positive about the whole experience. For anyone going through a similar situation, I would advise sticking with it as I'm only really feeling the benefits now that I have reached week 3 . I'm sure that this can only continue as I discover new tastes and recipe ideas.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Food Investigator

Week one of the elimination diet is complete. A week with many bumps in the road but also a lot of interesting discoveries. At first, I felt at a loss as to what I could eat in work; fruit salads and regular green salads seemingly being the only options. I was also missing having something sweet with a cup of tea in the evening. As the week wore on and I started to read more recipes and research wheat free brands, I was amazed to find out about the variety of foods available for people in a similar position.

In the past three days, I took a trip to my local Dunnes Stores to investigate what they stock. To my surprise and delight, they offer quite a large variety of wheat free/dairy free products which are readily available in their own specific section of the shop. I also experienced two firsts since finding out about my intolerances:
1) My first trip to a Health Food Store to stock up on essentials.
2) My first trip to an Artisan Food Market with the specific intention of buying wheat and dairy free goods.

The former visit happened in my home town. I planned to scour the shop's stock in order to figure out what sorts of alternatives were available. The Health Food Store or Co-op provided me with Glenisk goats milk, a gluten free bread mix and some chocolate and biscuit/snack alternatives:

The latter event was run as part of the Macroom Food Festival. This festival offered a wide array of artisan food stalls, which were run by helpful and knowledgeable food producers. I purchased a fabulous brownie and lentil pie from a gluten free stall. I can honestly say, the brownie was the best I've ever tasted and this wasn't just due to the lack of chocolate in last week's diet. I had the pie yesterday for lunch, the pastry was perfect and the combination of lentils and mixed vegetable was delicious. Unfortunately, I'm not 100% sure of this company who produced these goodies, but I will investigate further and update this blog accordingly.

Foreground: Lentil Pie and Chocolate Brownie
Background: Tomato Pasta Sauce & Olive Oil
Sunday of this week, I created a food plan for each meal of the weekdays. I pre-baked my wheat free bread and packed a bag full of fruits/oat crackers etc. to take to my workplace. So far, I have stayed on track to avoid all of the foods that I'm intolerant to. Forward planning seems to be the key but I am using the following as rule of thumb: If the food has one ingredient which doesn't fit the list of foods that I am intolerant to, but the percentage of this ingredient is relatively low, it's okay to have this food occasionally.

During the rest of this week, I aim to keep on track with my food plan and to investigate alternatives to bread and pasta, as the wheat free alternatives did not agree with my taste pallet. A good friend has been invited for dinner on Saturday so it will be very interesting to prepare a meal for somebody without intolerances. Luckily, my boyfriend has been very understanding. We take it in turns to cook or prepare a meal together when our schedules allow it, and he has been very aware of my intolerances and this is making the process a lot easier to adjust to. On a personal level, I have already been feeling the positive effects of eating a diet void of processed food types. I'm feeling more hungry, my appetite feels more genuine and not just a reflex accountable to reaching a particular point in the day. I hope this continues and that my energy levels also keep improving. Until next time...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

I'm Intolerant to Raspberries?!

Three weeks ago, I decided to order a home test, food intolerance kit. After taking a blood sample, it took around two weeks for the results to be delivered to my door. Turns out I'm intolerant to: cow's milk, egg whites, raspberry, barley, corn (maize), gluten, rice, wheat, peanut, bean (red kidney), pea, potato, soya bean, brewers yeast, durum wheat and cashew nut. Oh and dust...Just kidding.

Over the last few years, I've felt unwell after eating certain foods but have not been able to put my finger on what ingredients triggered this feeling. Finally, I had enough and wanted to find out exactly what the root cause was for this discomfort. During the next three months, I will be completely eliminating the above food types. The aim of this blog is to have a dialogue running throughout this process, to share my experience with anyone in a similar situation and to discuss the new recipes/ingredients I come across whilst going through the process of elimination. 

Oh how I'm going to miss you chocolate mousse with whipped cream, chocolate straws and lashings of tea.

The good news is, I can get a range of gluten free chocolates or 85% dark chocolate. Perhaps there will be a dark chocolate mousse to emerge from this blog. As today is the first day of my food elimination diet, my food choices have been quite cautious. I started the day with a large fruit salad. Then for lunch, it was a cous cous and hot chicken salad with carrots, peas, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet chilli sauce. Already today, I've made two mistakes: peas and cous cous (unless a wheat free version) cannot be eaten. All part of the learning process. For dinner, we're planning to cook some steaks with a green salad and maybe some roasted veggies. 

I'm planning many dinners with meat or fish as the main focus, accompanied with vegetables and salads. This may get boring after a few days, so I'm very open to finding alternatives such as gluten free pasta with an appropriate sauce and home made soups. With a little research, this list will hopefully greatly expand. Until next time, feel free to comment with any suggestions and thanks for listening to my foody ramblings.