Gluten free cooking for two

gluten free cooking for twoI’ve been cooking for five or more for over two decades, but now our household is reducing in size as the children leave for university, one at a time, and we will be down to two by the autumn.

Each of my children are (or will be, when the last one goes) cooking for themselves, meaning that our large household is slowly turning into four small ones. And I’m struggling to know what to cook for one or two people—I’m out of practice!

Nearly ten years ago, I reviewed a book by Carol Fenster (Gluten Free Quick and Easy) and she’s just sent me another to review. This one is called ‘Gluten Free Cooking for Two’… how timely is that?

According to Carol, 28 per cent of US households were ‘solo’ in 2011. I’ve just looked up the statistics, and here in the UK, according to the ONS, in 2016, 28% of us were living in single-person households, and 35% in two-person households. That’s a huge proportion of small households.

Sometimes there are different ‘groups’ of diners in a household, too, making the cooking-for numbers smaller. For instance, in our five-person household, we have one coeliac and one vegetarian. While we typically cook everything gluten free, often the vegetarian will have a separate meal when the others really want to eat meat.

And cooking for smaller numbers—especially when you’re not used to it—can be tricky. It isn’t always as easy as halving the recipe.

Gluten Free Cooking for Two does a good job of dealing with the problems of small recipes, and is packed full of cooking tips—for instance, it had never occurred to me to use a small spring-action ice cream scoop to portion out cupcake batter, but it is a great idea. And in the recipe for clam chowder, she suggests that if using rice milk instead of cows milk, adding potato starch or corn starch would help to thicken the soup. In fact, talking about thickeners, I’d never really thought about why using one rather than another is to be preferred for certain dishes; very interesting indeed. I like that Carol is happy to recommend shortcuts such as readymade pesto, or a no-stir risotto—I do like a shortcut here and there—and the recommendations for smaller loaf tins, pans and other cooking equipment are sensible.

It is written for the American market, which means that we Brits probably won’t know some of the ingredients or the specific brands she mentions (pumpkin pie spice, or Old Bay seasoning, for example), and may have to concentrate a bit harder when measuring out ingredients (cups rather than ounces), but the recipes look good: tasty and easy to prepare. And so tempting, in their smaller proportions! The photos of the finished dishes look fab, but I’d still like to see more.

I’m inspired to try several: particularly the desserts in ramekins. And it hadn’t occurred to me to try making paella for two…

On your behalf, we have followed Carol’s recipes to make (so far): cherry clafoutis, coconut-curry salmon, pizza and carrot cake. Not enough desserts yet!

The carrot cake cupcakes are pictured on our kitchen table, above; you can see that the mix makes a small batch. Even so, Coeliac Daughter found them to be quite large, and said that she would split the mix into eight next time—obviously she’ll have to adjust the cooking time a little.

We enjoyed both the making and the eating—especially the carrot cakes—and Coeliac Daughter will be taking the book back to her student house next term. If you’d like a copy, Gluten Free Cooking for Two will be available from Amazon from tomorrow, April 4th.

Gluten Free Sausages: High Protein, Low Carb, Low Fat


As well as having a vegetarian and a coeliac in our house, we also have members of the family who are trying to increase the amount of protein that they eat while reducing the amount of carbohydrate and fat. Yes, we have gym-bunnies…

This means that the types of food that we eat (and the recipes that we follow) have changed a bit over the last few months. We buy high protein yoghurt, and high protein granola, and those eating a high-protein diet are eating a lot more meat than they used to, and carefully examining the nutrition labels on the food we buy.

So I was very interested when I was contacted by two different companies, each offering a different take on good-for-you food: in this case, sausages.

  • Debbie & Andrew’s sent some Clean and Lean High Protein chicken sausages. These are clearly perfectly targeted for my gym-bunnies, being both low in carbs and calories and high in protein (23g of protein per serving and only 1.8g carbs).
  • MOR sent a range of different flavoured sausages (Moroccan Spiced Pork, Cauliflower and Chickpea; Pork, Green Veg and Lentil; Chicken, Sundried Tomato and Basil; Pork, Beetroot and Bramley Apple). These are lower in fat than the average sausage, with added nutrient-rich ingredients. The amount of fat varies by flavour, but the chicken ones are as low as 4% fat, where an average sausage could be around 25%.

All these sausages are gluten free. Debbie & Andrews are a well-established brand of gluten free sausages, available across the country in a variety of supermarkets. MOR Food are so new that there isn’t any information up on their website yet, but are launching today, in Tesco.

What did we think?

My youngest was horrified to discover peas in the MOR Pork & Green Veg sausages; he’s never liked peas, and although the clue is in the name (green veg) it took him by surprise. I’ve never been able to disguise vegetables in food, even when the children were little. However, he absolutely loved the Moroccan Spiced Pork sausages—as did all those who tried them, including the one who doesn’t like sausages—and is looking forward to trying the Chicken & Sundried Tomato ones later.

The Debbie & Andrew’s sausages went down well too; these are significantly high in protein, which is exactly what the gym-team in our family are looking for—clean and lean. Now that our food-timetable includes a four o’clock protein meal for the gym-goers, I’m looking for easy ways to provide a protein top-up for them, and these would work.

Will we buy them again?

Yes, I will (maybe not the ones with peas in though!) because they tick lots of boxes for my mixed household: gluten free, high protein, low fat, nutrient-dense.

It is good to see manufacturers developing food that is Not Only But Also (not just gluten free, but has other benefits to offer).

FreeFrom Food Awards 2017: winners

FreeFrom Food Awards 2017

The complete list of winners of all the FreeFrom Food Awards has been announced (find the full details of where you can buy the winning products), and the BFree Sweet Potato Wraps were the overall winner.

Congratulations to BFree; I hope you’ve tried the wraps (available in Tesco and Asda). If not, do!

The fact that a gluten free wrap is not just available, but uses innovative ingredients to produce a proper, pliable and fully functional wrap, just shows how far the gluten free food market has come in recent years. Twenty years ago, when we started on the gluten free life, tinned bread was still a sore memory among some coeliacs—luckily, we avoided that, but we do remember how limited the options were back then.

The FreeFrom Awards team have produced a book that covers the development of the free from market over the last 10 years—if you, like us, have been living with coeliac disease for 10 years or more, you’ll agree that there has been a huge change in the availability and variety of products.

For evidence of that, do check out the winners, particularly of my own favourite category: Tea Time! My personal favourites among the winners include Kelkin’s teacakes and Prewett’s Chocoful. The teacakes are most likely to be popular with children, though I will confess that when grownup Coeliac Daughter and I discovered the Chocoful, we ripped the just-bought packet open in the supermarket car park, and ate them all. Both would make great options for a children’s birthday party—I wish they’d been around 15 years ago, when we were doing birthday parties!

There are more ‘grownup’ tea time options among the winners, of course: try the white chocolate and cranberry cookies from Gingerella, or, for a decadent dessert, the Reine de Saba from Marnie Searchwell.

Last year, it seemed as though most of the Tea Time submissions were ginger; this year, it was coconut. Isn’t it interesting how there do seem to be trends—how does that happen?

Threat to gluten free prescriptions

prescriptions gluten free food

Once again potential cuts to prescriptions of gluten free staples for people with coeliac disease are making headlines.

NHS England has announced a review of prescriptions for ‘low value’ medicines, including the following (with the potential savings):

  • £30.93m on Liothyronine to treat underactive thyroid
  • £21.88m on gluten-free foods
  • £17.58m on Lidocaine plasters for treating a form of neuralgia
  • £10.51m on Tadalafil, an alternative to Viagra
  • £10.13m on Fentanyl, a drug to treat pain in terminally ill patients
  • £8.32m on the painkiller Co-proxamol
  • £9.47m on travel vaccines
  • £7.12m on Doxazosin, a drug for high blood pressure
  • £6.43m on rubs and ointments
  • £5.65m on omega 3 and fish oils

Source: NHS Clinical Commissioners via the BBC. I haven’t been able to find any information about this on the NHS England website this morning.

While I do understand the need for savings, and many of these items are available to buy in the high street, I don’t think that all these can really be called ‘low value’. Liothyronine and Fentanyl, for instance—really?

Of course, we’re primarily interested here in coeliac disease, and in the provision of gluten free products on prescription.

Coeliac Daughter has reduced the amount of gluten free products that she is prescribed over the last few years, as more options become available in the supermarkets. However, as we all know, some of the gluten free foods available in the supermarkets are significantly more expensive than the ‘normal’ equivalents (bread, pasta etc). And of course 100% compliance with the gluten free diet is needed for people with coeliac disease to ensure that they don’t suffer any of the potential complications of untreated coeliac disease—which would cost the NHS more, in the long run.

A spokesperson for NHS England referred to: “the increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions”. Coeliac disease certainly isn’t either low cost, minor or self-limiting.

I wonder if there’s a compromise available? Maybe prescribe gluten free basics on the NHS for the first few years after diagnosis—maybe five—in order to help people transition onto a fully gluten free diet, and for longer for people on reduced incomes/state benefits?

To find out more about cuts to prescriptions for gluten free basics, visit Coeliac UK’s prescription campaign page.

*** Update: read the Coeliac UK response to this news ***

Allergy Blog Awards 2017

allergy blog awards 2017
Last weekend, I went to the Allergy Blog Awards UK event, because one of you nominated Free From, and we were shortlisted for an award. A big thank you to whoever that was!

And thank you, too, to Lindsay, from Allergy Blog Awards, for organising the event—which was a triumph—and to Asda, for sponsoring it. This was the first year of the Awards, so it was a gamble for all involved… a bit like hosting a party: what if nobody comes?

In fact, of course, a range of great bloggers were nominated and shortlisted, and I met many of them at the weekend. Do go and check out the full shortlist, because there is some great work going on.

Award winners 2017

The 2017 winners were:

Why are the Allergy Blog Awards important?

Apart from a fun evening out for the finalists, why does this matter to you?

Awards like this are important for a number of reasons:

  • they recognise the hard work and achievement of the bloggers involved; and recognition encourages people to continue to create content—which in turn helps their readers—typically people dealing with health issues
  • lists of successful blogs like this one make it easier for people to find good content online; which helps people find support, answers to questions, and new ideas to try
  • they bring together the community of people working in the same space; and, just as when our daughter was newly-diagnosed we found it helpful to talk to other parents of newly-diagnosed children, the community of bloggers—all of whom are dealing with related but slightly different issues—find mutual support in talking to others. We all have things to learn from each other, and this in turn, can only improve the information available to you online.

Awards also matter to the sponsoring companies; in this case, Asda, who stepped up and decided to support the fledgling Allergy Awards UK. They matter because:

  • sponsoring awards like this highlights the importance of the Free From market to the company; great marketing
  • it brings together the sponsoring company and bloggers who may have some influence online, and can help promote their individual products—if they like them
  • it is a chance to promote some of their newer products, which people may not yet be aware of. We don’t have an Asda near us, so I don’t know much about their range… but Coeliac Daughter does, now that she is away at university, and she tells me that “Asda do the best cakes”. Asda gave the finalists a goodie bag of Asda Free From products (including butterfly cakes and brownie mix), which have been whisked away by Coeliac Daughter, to be enjoyed at university. So now I know!

All in all, then, congratulations not only to the winners of each category, but also to the Allergy Blog Awards team. And a big thank you to Asda for sponsoring the event, and to you for nominating Free From.