What they don’t tell you about going #dairyfree

People go dairy free for various reasons.  I have a milk allergy and have been dairy free for almost 2 years now and when I was first advised by the doctor to cut out everything containing cows milk and lactose, I thought ‘well I don’t like milk so this won’t be that difficult.’ I was so wrong ; it has been hard and it still is hard.  With an allergy if I accidentally have the smallest bit of milk, it can make me so poorly.  I have created a list of things that they don’t tell you when you become dairy free:

Milk is in everything 

Well not literally everything but almost everything, things that you wouldn’t even realise had milk in.  Examples of things that have made me ill where I didn’t realise: cooked chicken from ASDA, pre-packaged salad and baked beans.  Ok, so not all pre-packaged salads and baked beans contain milk but some do and therefore, you have to check the ingredients every time you go to eat something. It is also listed as many different things so you need to know what you are looking for.  Companies are also known to change their ingredients and sometimes they can be good at putting ‘updated recipe’ on the packaging however, this is not always the case. Therefore, you do need to check the packet every time you buy a product.

I have also found that a lot of the veggie options in stores contain milk as a substitute for another product.  I understand that Quorn do a vegan range which is perfect as most of their veggie stuff which I have looked at contains milk.  I am not 100% veggie as I do still eat meat on occasions so I cannot complain too much.  If I was a full veggie this would be very difficult.

Tablets contain milk 

I can no longer be on the pill because in the UK we do not produce or sell a contraceptive pill which does not contain milk, which I think is a disgrace.  Of course, there are other great alternatives for the pill but I still feel restricted in my options in this respect.

My consultant recently prescribed a medicine for my suspected IBS which contained milk, he later said that he knew this but wondered how much milk I can tolerate. Turns out I could not even tolerate this small amount of milk.  It makes it worse that there is not a suitable alternative he can give me.

I understand that they have to coat the medicine in something, of course they do, but surely they could manufacture alternatives, especially with something so common as the pill.

No one seems to understand what dairy is 

I cannot count the number of times that staff in restaurants have advised that a certain dish contains dairy when in fact it only contains eggs.   I personally think that staff should have better training in this regarding if they are giving advice as to what you can and cannot eat.  Often if you realise that it does only contain eggs and try to explain that this is not dairy it can be hard and uncomfortable.

It is expensive 

Dairy free foods specifically marketed as such are becoming much more common in the UK now, which is great. However, these often come as at a price increase.  It is often worth doing your research and looking at foods which is not marketed as being specifically dairy free but do not contain milk.  These are often the cheaper version of brands i.e. garlic bread which is made with oil instead of garlic butter etc.

It is hard to eat out 

I have done a whole post on tips when eating out, which you can find here.  It is hard having to ask for advice on the menu at every place you go, especially when you are in a large group of people or with people who you don’t know that well.

Your teeth and nails become weak

I have had to have so many fillings since becoming dairy free which the dentist has put down to the lack of calcium in my diet and I only have to look at my nails and they snap in two.  I have started having gel nails but if I have a gap in these then the nails still snap! I don’t think that the girl who does my nails can believe how often they snap.  It is therefore, important to find good replacements for the calcium and make sure that you include them in your diet at all times.

What are your tips for dealing with a good allergy?

Love, Minnie x

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Why I gave up Coca-Cola

They say it takes a month to break a habit….

I have always had an addiction to Coca-Cola, as a child it was all that I would drink and at University I practically lived on it, while limiting my food intake.   I had no health complaints, I was not over weight nor did I think that it was doing me any harm.  I stopped drinking it a few times over the years and slowly started again, but opted for the diet version as it was zero calories and like many others I actually believed that it wasnt that bad for me. I completely appreciate that there are worse addictions to have and so I am not complaining about my life in the slightest, I am just sharing my experience.

After a trip to the dentist in 2016, I decided that I would cut out all forms of coca cola including diet.  It has been over 18 months now and I am pleased to stay that I have stuck to it completely.  I cannot believe that it took me 26 years to break this silly addition. I have not even had one when I have been on a night out or on holiday for the fear that I would get addicted again.  It is hard as cola is such a good mixer for many drinks and I feel that this does kind of stop me drinking as much now which I am not complaining about.  I know that I can have a choice of cocktails which makes up for it.

Cutting it out completely was probably the hardest thing that I have done, I had a constant headache for about a week solid where my body was adapting to not having the sugar and it was hard.   The working day was such a struggle for a couple of months but I have done it, I no longer have the headaches and I feel so much better for it.  I did consider not stopping completely and just reducing to say one glass a day however, this would not have been realistic for me and would have made the whole process harder.

I actually drink my water at night out of a diet coca-cola cup that I got for Christmas a few years ago and I love it.  I find it sort of ironic!  I personally don’t think that I could physically drink cola now without throwing up and that shows me how far I have come in 18 months.

When I have eventually have my own children, I think that I will be carefully as to what food and drink I expose them too at a young age.  I know that this is difficult but I would not want my children becoming so addicted to cola.

It did take me a while to realise the benefits of not having cola on a daily basis and I am so glad that I only drink water now with the daily coffee and occasional lemonade. What benefits have I felt in the last 18 months:

  • Improved concentration especially at work
  • I am fully hydrated – I read that although cola gives your taste buds the sensation of dealing with your thirst, it doesn’t and you end up thirstier
  • Fewer headaches
  • My skin has cleared up
  • I now that any teeth issues is not caused by the excessive amounts of sugar etc. but rather the lack of milk in my diet which I am working on
  • I have more energy
  • I generally feel happier in myself
  • I am no longer embarrassed at the amount of cola that I drink.  I use to have a sense of feeling ashamed that I was so addicted to it and this has now been taken from  me.

Love, Minnie x

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[Easy] Slow Cooker Meal

You may have already guessed but I am the biggest fan of easy quick meals after a long day in the office.  It helps even more so if you can just get home to a cooked meal and smell it as you walk in the door.  I have used slow cookers for years and just had a standard slow cooker that I bought fresh out of Uni however, for my last birthday I decided that I also wanted a rice cooker and with limited space my parents bought me the Tefal 8 in 1 Cooker which literally changed my life.

This does everything (brown rice, white rice, quick rice, grains, porridge, desserts, steam and is a slow cooker) it also comes with a timer so the rice can be cooked ready for when you get home from work and it keeps the food warm so if you are slightly late or want it two days in a row it will keep it heated and is perfect.

I have tried most of the options now except white rice, quick rice and grains as I don’t often use these food groups.   I actually love this product and it makes everything so easy and quick.  I haven’t used the slow cooker setting in a while as I have had my boyfriend to stay and it has been hot very hot compared to the normal UK weather and decided to have more summer friendly meals such as salads.  This week, I decided that I only have 4 nights of cooking as I am at my parents again this weekend mainly for boring errands and it is also the last week before pay-day so I didn’t want to spend too much and therefore, a slow cooked veggie curry would be perfect for two days in a row.

Sunday night, I prepped the veggies, carrots x 2, tinned tomatoes, onion and sweet potato and put these in the slow cooker along with the curry mix I bought from Tesco.  In the morning I set the slow cooker timed for a few hours so the curry didn’t burn and then just the wait for the food to be cooked when I got home!

That evening the smell as I entered my flat was amazing! The curry tasted pretty good too but was a bit spicy for me personally I prefer things slightly milder! The curry did last for two days as it was kept warm and made working late one day particularly easy.

Overall, I will definitely be doing this again as it is a quick cheap dinner, I will however slightly adapt the recipe for my preferences.

Love, Minnie 

p.s I know the photo doesn’t look great but it really does taste good! 

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Chocolate Cake Sunday

I love Sundays, they are a chance to relax and reflect on the week while motivating yourself ready for the new week ahead. Today is my sister’s birthday. I feel so lucky that my sister is only 18 months younger than me and is honestly my best friend. She has always been and we always say that we will end up in a care home together when we are old. I cannot imagine my life without her and I am always so proud of her.

I decided to bake her a chocolate cake for her birthday and slightly adapt the Madeleine Shaw recipe I used a couple of weeks ago and the post can be found here. I LOVED making that cake but when my mum tried it she said that it was dry, it was almost a week old by this point but I decided that it may have been slightly dry the whole time and I hid it with ice cream that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my sister’s birthday.

So, what did I do differently: firstly, I used dairy free butter rather than coconut oil (the recipe actually calls for either) I did this for two reasons 1) I didn’t want to carry my coconut oil home and I knew that my parents would have dairy free butter and 2) it was my sister’s birthday I wanted the cake to seem more creamy. The mixture of the butter and the coconut sugar was amazing. Secondly, I used 180g of gluten free flour rather than 200g. I know this was only a really small adaptation but the cake was much more moist* and tasted much better.

*Yes, I hate that word too but couldn’t think of a more appropriate alternative.

 The cake was a hit with my parents, sister and grandparents. They are all so kind and actually restricted how much they ate so I could take some back to my flat with me for the week.

I am hoping to expand my baking skills and make my parents a cake for their 30th wedding anniversary in about a month. Any suggestions?

 Love, Minnie

Eating out with a food allergy

Can you believe that it is Wednesday already?!  I have a date night planned with my lovely boyfriend tonight so I thought that I would share my eating out tips. 


I never thought that my biggest anxiety would be the ‘lets pop out for lunch?’ or ‘fancy lunch today?’ questions.   Although it can be hard at work I do try to avoid these situations.  If I know someone’s birthday is coming up in the office then I try to guess where they will be wanting to go. I hate having to make a fuss* especially in front of people who I am not comfortable with and would rather avoid the situation all together.

I do eat out though and probably more than most people so I thought that today I would share a few tips with you.

  • Check the menu online 

Most places now put some form of their menu online and often place an allergen menu alongside it.  This is perfect if you have never been to the restaurant before or are completely unsure where to start.  I often check a menu and find out that the only food I can eat is salad which is fine for me but it is nice just to have a look as you may be surprised.

It is important to remember to check the restaurants online menu for updates every time you eat at that place.  They do change their recipes and ingredients and I have been caught out more than once!

  • Recommendations

I often use tips that my vegan friends have when eating out, is there any places that accommodate vegans? Do they have a vegan menu? Although I am not vegan, I do occasionally eat meat I try to limit this to 2 days a week, and I eat fish. my allergy is to milk so if I don’t fancy ‘making a fuss’ (*I know it’s not actually making a fuss and having milk can make me really ill but that is how waitresses, chefs, friends, colleagues see it sometimes) I still to the vegan option.  It is often something I wouldn’t have necessary chosen and very tasty.

Also go back to places where you know they are good with allergies and can accommodate them well.  This does make things easier when you are there.  I have eaten at a place where they made the meal dairy free and then put cheese on the top, I don’t think that they really understood the issue and I will not choose to eat there again.

  • Telephone / Facebook / Twitter etc. 

Social Media is excellent where restaurants/cafe’s etc. are active on the same.  I often contact several places when I am looking for somewhere and ask whether they can accommodate a dairy allergy.  Most of the time they can with notice and sometimes they even ask that you book your food in advance.  This is fine with me as I like to plan what I am going to eat before actually getting to the restaurant if I can.   Some places don’t reply and I don’t know whether they are not actually that active on social media or simply can’t accommodate you but either way, plenty do reply and I just book one of these.

If you know you are eating somewhere and the restaurant is not active on social media then you can just pick up the old-fashioned telephone.  Most restaurants will be happy to help over the phone and you can then book the table while you are there.

  • Mention the allergy when booking 

This is important, if I booking to eat anywhere I make sure that the allergy is mentioned when booking. I have even done this before a meal and they had lost the note and I was actually questioned about how I booked and whether I mentioned the allergy, which I found very unproffessional.  Restaurants are getting better at dealing with food allergies however, they are not perfect and many places do expect advance notice.  I love it when you do tell the restaurant and they make a real effort when you arrive and make special dishes especially with dessert!

  • Make sure that the staff understand your allergy

Unfortunately, some staff in restaurants don’t really understand food allergies and they cannot understand everyone’s specific allergy even if they wanted to.  I have had people tell me that I cannot have a dish because it contains eggs when eggs is not dairy and I will be fine eating that dish. I have also had food which has been cooked in butter.   I have also pre-ordered food and when I have arrived the waiting staff don’t realise or give the wrong dish, this does make me panic even more but I am getting better at asking staff. Also, be brave and ask that the waiting staff check with the chef if they seem unsure, sometimes they are trained in the ingredients but often they are not.

You shouldn’t stop enjoy eating out just because you have a food allergy. It does make it more difficult and you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to just ask questions of the restaurant most places are very good!

Do you know of any places which accommodate allergies well?

Love, Minnie 

Father’s Day & Choc Chip Cookies

Baking on a Sunday has become my new favourite thing on the weekend.  I love trying new recipes and it gives me something to eat after dinner during the week.  I never use to be a dessert person when at home but I totally am now and I don’t feel completely satisfied until I have had something sweet.

It is also father’s day today so I am in Norfolk and have been since Friday evening.  I am spending today with my dad. I am so proud of him, he has been through so much in the last 5 years but has beaten it! He hardly ever complains and does so much for me and my sister.  I may be bias but I think I have the best Dad ever!

As well as gifting my Dad the usual gifts (my sister & I always get him almost the same presents each year) I also made a donation to Bowel Cancer UK.  Five years ago my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer after suffering from no obvious symptoms.  We were lucky because in England once you reach the age of 60 you are sent a bowel cancer screening test in the post every 2 years.  My Dad is very good and did this and it was abnormal, apparently a lot tests come back abdormal and therefore, we were not concerned when it had to be repeated.  Unfortunately, each time the tests were not normal and the diagnosis was made.

Bowel Cancer UK support and enable research, campaign for early diagnosis and access to the best treatments and care in the UK.  They also educate patients, the public and professionals about bowel cancer by providing expert information and training and they fundraise to save lives.  The common symptoms of bowel cancer are things which many people do not feel comfortable discussing with other people and therefore, diagnosis is delayed.

Now, I was planning on using my new chocolate cake skills and baking a cake for our family lunch.  However, my Dad is not a fan of chocolate cake so I quickly decided that this would not be the best idea.  I didn’t like the idea of cooking at my parents again as this would mean lugging all of the ingredients from Hertfordshire to Norfolk and although I drive I am always rushing around before work especially when I am heading back to Norfolk so couldn’t be bothered with the extra faff.  I decided that the baking would have to wait until the evening when I have returned to my flat.

I have been eyeing up another Madeleine Shaw recipe from her book Get the Glow which I currently own.  I think it is fair to say that I am now a tiny bit obsessed with her recipes.  This time the recipe that caught my eye was for Chocolate Chip Cookies and again looked easy.  The ingredients are all ones which I now have readily available in my baking box so this would be perfect.


The ingredients are:  150g of Coconut Oil, 175g of Coconut Sugar, 200g of Gluten-free flour, 1 egg, dark chocolate, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of baking powder.


Like with the other Madeleine Shaw recipes this was so easy to follow, even at 8:30pm in 30 degree heat! My oven is so small that I had to cook the cookies in three separate batches.  This did make my flat extremely hot but the result was worth it.  I think if I was to make these again then I would use more chocolate chunks as some cookies didn’t have any in at all but they still tasted amazing! 

The method said that the mixture should be rolled into walnut size balls and placed 5cm apart but I thought they didn’t look big enough so I made the first batch bigger and they do expand a lot so they were too big, the second batch I stuck to what the method said and these were a much better size.

Overall, I think that I would make these again and regularly especially as I did all three batches within 1 hour.  The recipe is also super easy to follow.

What is your favourite recipe?

Love, Minnie 

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[Easy] Homemade Sweet Potato Salmon Fishcakes – midweek dinner

Unfortunately, I spend most of my time in the office and when I get home I do like to unwind and relax.  This means I am very keen on quick dinners that I can prepare in advance and just pop in the oven while I am getting on with housework.  Living alone makes chores twice as hard 😦

I tend to have salmon a couple of days a week partly because I try not to eat meat during the week and personally, I just like salmon.  I fancied trying something new with it so I googled a simple recipe for salmon fish cakes.

I changed the recipe a bit as I prefer sweet potatoes to normal and I made them gluten-free.  It is very simple… I cooked the sweet potatoes and mashed them… at the same time cooking the salmon and flaking it into the mashed sweet potato.  I made two fish cakes (as I was only cooking for one) so I used one sweet potato and one salmon fillet.  I mixed the salmon and potato together with tomato ketchup.

Now for the fun part…. use your hands to make the mixture into fish cake shapes.  I used a lot of gluten-free flour and a burger press but this was still rather messy, I would normally use grease-proof paper but forgot to buy some.  I then placed the fish cakes into the fridge for an hour just to firm up a little.

After the hour, I took the fish cakes out and dipped the same into egg and then gluten-free breadcrumbs and placed them back in the oven ready for dinner after work tomorrow. (as you can see I did get the sizing a bit wrong!)

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After work the next day, I just need to pop then in the oven for about 15 minutes and they are good to eat!*

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Love, Minnie 

 

*apologies for the photos – they are not the best!