coeliacs awareness week – our story…

coeliacs-awareness-weekThis week is coeliacs awareness week! As you know Aars’ has recently had a strong positive on his blood test for coeliacs disease, as well as elevated white blood cell counts pointing towards an auto-immune issue. So we are at the start of our journey with the NHS and learning how to help and support children with coeliacs disease. He is seeing the paediatric gastroenterologist next week.

My Nana had coeliacs disease way-back when no one had heard of it. Eighteen years ago I had a kidney infection which hospitalised me for a week. I lost a lot of weight and could not put it back on no matter how much I ate I was under 7 stone, anaemic… My GP at the time asked if we had any family members who were diagnosed with coeliacs disease; as we did she insisted I cut out gluten straight away – no bloods were taken, no tests done but after three months of being gluten-free I slowly began to gain weight. She told me that I should cut gluten out of my diet for at least a month every year!! So that is what I did until a few years ago I got very ill passing a lot of blood and all the disgusting, unpleasant and painful symptoms of coeliacs disease and again had to cut it out immediately – there was no time to book an appointment with the nurse for blood tests, or stay eating gluten whilst I waited to see a consultant and have an endoscopy. The GP and I thought after three months I would be able to go back to eating gluten and could set the diagnosis ball in motion then.

But three months later – even the tiniest amount of gluten made me very ill; with severe digestive issues including passing lots of blood, it gave me severe headaches migrate-leave couldn’t shift. And so it continues. The last time I was gluten-ed or gluten-nuked it was at a well known place in London in February which is normally good at catering for different dietary requirements (you can read my tale here) I was basically served a chocolate drink with a small amount of barley in it. I was horribly ill, totally out of proportion to the two sips I drunk.

As a result of my inability to eat gluten, we have made a lot of gluten-free food, and I have shared many gluten-free recipes on my blog. Even though I am aware that allergies and anaphylaxis are very different to an auto-immune disease, it felt right to me to share them. I also posted many recipes using normal flours, but free-from eggs, dairy, soya… Now all the recipes I share will be gluten-free.

Last year, my mum was diagnosed with coeliacs disease (blood tests & endoscopy) and because she had such a high positive result, her consultant recommended that all her daughters were tested too. This year two of my sisters have been diagnosed with coeliacs disease too (blood tests & endoscopies). So there is a strong family issue!

Aars had a strong positive blood result, and because he was loosing what little weight he had, was exhausted and suffering from severe migraines… amongst other symptoms, our GP recommended he cut out gluten immediately whilst we wait for the consultant’s appointment. So Aars cut gluten out of his diet on the 18th March. After about two weeks his body began the process of clearing out the gluten in his diet. That is an ongoing unpleasantness for him. BUT about three weeks ago; a month after he cut gluten out he started to see some of the benefits of being gluten-free!! The headaches became less intense and less prolonged. His energy levels began to rise, he started to put on weight, then came the growing pains – which he was less keen on… But he has grown! His trousers are 2 inches too short for him suddenly, the internal buttons he has done up to the tightest point have had to be loosened as his hips have widened, he has put on 5kg of weight.

The other delight for him makes me very happy too. They are doing cross-country running in PE this term at school; they get to run through the local vineyards – and initially he HATED it. Always lagging behind amongst the last ten runners of sixty to finish the course. In the last three weeks he has enjoyed the run and finished in the top twenty of the sixty runners! BOOM! That for him is an incredible, tangible result of being gluten-free.

So I have been advised that sometimes when children have a strong positive blood result for coeliacs disease they don’t do an endoscopy but rather a genetic test. So we are hoping that next week when we see the consultant she will go for that option – rather than make Aars eat gluten for six months before going under general anaesthetic for an invasive endoscopy. I shall keep you posted.

In the meantime if you are living gluten-free I have lots of recipes on my blog which are very friendly for your gut – and your wellbeing in general. Because we have to be egg-free, soy-free and dairy-free our recipes are full of yummy ingredients like flaxseed and chia seeds which we grind up to help bind our gluten-free bakes together in place of gluten and egg.

Here are some of our faves for you to try and hopefully enjoy. Food is an essential part of life and living. I think it’s really important to be inclusive of those who can’t eat certain foods for medical reasons (not so into those fussy eaters who can but don’t want to). I also love food, love eating, love cooking and baking and feeding others. So I make sure that Aars’ doesn’t miss out on all the yummy treats others can just pop to the shop to buy; he enjoys food too. His food allergies, anaphylaxis and coeliacs disease are an opportunity for us to experiment and play with food together, creating yummy scrummy delights. I never want him to feel like they are burden or a hassle or a cross we have to bear (even if sometimes deep-down I feel that it is all really a little f***ing unfair!)

You can find gluten-free recipes on my blog free2bake.com by heading to the recipe index, and under dietary requirements choose gluten-free. It will pull up a load of gluten-free recipes which conventionally use gluten.  Since Aars diagnoses I have been using a lot of coconut flour in our baking and macca powder to try and build him up – it’s clear that the food has been working and he has been loving the taste-fest in pancakes, muffins… as soon as I have tested the recipes enough times for them to prove themselves as sound I will post them on the blog for you all too.

For now here are some of Aars faves! The recipes are below, but here are some quick links for you: cinnamon edged shortbread, sweet chilli popcorn, apple & oat scotch pancakes, gooey chocolate cake, orange & choc-chunk cookies, crepes, raspberry & custard kisses, ginger flapjacks, pineapple upside-down cake. They are all gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free & nut-free BUT packed full of YUM. Hopefully one of them will tickle your fancy ;P

tropical retro upside-down cake

  • Yield:

    7 ramekins or 1 large cake
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    25 mins
  • Cook Time:

    20 mins
tropical retro upside-down cake

This fun, tropical retro upside-down cake is really easy to make, super cute in individual ramekins and I think that the little flecks of chilli make it look especially cheery. It's a tropical treat with the classic rings of pineapple, along with coconut and lime in the cake bringing some sunshine and warmth in winter (chillies add a very subtle heat). This tropical retro upside-down cake is best served straight from the oven. 

Ingredients:

  • FOR THE CHILLI SYRUP:
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped (see photo below for size)
  • 2 limes juiced
  • ½ C golden caster sugar
  • 7 pineapple rings
  • FOR THE CAKE MIX:
  • 1¾ C gluten-free self-raising flour
  • ¾ C golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 C coconut milk like KoKo (not the thick stuff from a tin!)
  • ¹/3 C sunflower oil
  • 1 limes juice
  • 3 tsp coconut essence
  • FOR THE TOP/FINAL SYRUP:
  • pineapple juice
  • ¼ C golden syrup

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (fan) and make the chilli syrup in a heavy based pan by heating up the chilli, lime juice and sugar until the sugar is totally dissolved.

    tropical-retro-upside-down-cake
    chopping chilli

  2. Prep your ramekins (or cake tin) by smearing spread all over the inside. This makes 7-8 ramekins dependant on size. Ladle in the syrup to cover the bases of the ramekin, make sure ALL the chilli flecks go into the ramekins. Then pop your pineapple rings in too. Set aside any left over syrup for later.

  3. In your mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb of soda & salt. In a jug combine all the wet ingredients: coconut milk, oil, lime juice & coconut essence. Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until it's a lovely smooth batter. Ladle your the mix into your waiting ramekins.

  4. Pop into the oven for 20 mins. If you are making a cake rather than individual portions it will take longer to bake probably 30-40 minutes. You can tell if the cake is ready by skewering it in it’s centre – is should come out clean if the cake is fully baked.

    tropical-upside-down-cake
    ramekins ready

  5. While the cakes are baking, use what’s left of your lime and sugar syrup adding the pineapple juice from tins & golden syrup heat until the syrup is dissolved and let it bubble a little. 

  6. When you take the cakes out of the oven put a knife around the edge, pop a plate on top of your ramekin and flip that pineapple cake upside-down! It should drop down onto the plate and look lovely! Pour your pineapple and chilli syrup over the upturned cake. Serve ASAP! Just give the warning that the pineapple will be hot!

Notes:

You could make it for grown-ups only by adding some malibu or rum - if you do please share your results 🙂 Whatever you do always eat this scrummy cake hot.

ginger flapjacks

  • Yield:

    1 baking tray
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    20 mins
  • Cook Time:

    13 mins
ginger flapjacks

Yes ginger flapjacks! I have added some ginger ZING to my flapjacks giving them a wonderful depth and warmth. These are a wonderful winter warmer (though to be honest we've enjoyed them in the summer in the garden with our neighbours too!) Great for any time of year, these tasty treats will boost energy levels and are a family fave. 

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz sunflower spread
  • 9 oz demerara sugar
  • 1 Tbsp golden syrup 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (heaped)
  • 6 stem ginger balls & syrup
  • 15 oz gluten-free oats*

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (fan) and a baking tray with baking paper. In a large saucepan melt the spread, sugar, golden syrup and cinnamon. Once it's all melted take off the heat.

  2. Blitz the balls of stem ginger in your liquidiser and add to the

    ginger-flapjacks
    gorgeous ingredients

  3. saucepan. Then stir in the oats. Dump the lot onto your waiting baking tray and spread out so the mix is evenly distributed. Pop into the oven for 13 minutes. 

  4. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then slide out of the tray and cut into squares. 

Notes:

*sometimes I swap 1oz of gluten-free oats for 1oz of gluten-free rice-crispies to add a bit of a different texture. Let me know how you make this recipe your own! 

gluten-free & vegan raspberry custard kisses

  • Yield:

    32
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    15 mins
  • Cook Time:

    15 mins
gluten-free & vegan raspberry custard kisses

These gluten-free & vegan raspberry custard kisses are a twist on the old English combo of rhubarb and custard. The raspberries provide a far simpler, less soggy, tart-tang than a dollop of stewed rhubarb would; a-top lovely little custard melt-in-your-mouth biscuits. A little splodge of piped vanilla icing holds the kisses together. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz sunflower spread
  • 1 oz icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz gluten-free self raising flour
  • 1¾ oz custard powder
  • VANIILA B*TTER CRE*M ICING
  • 1¼ oz sunflower spread
  • ½ C icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC and prep a baking tray with baking paper. In a bowl beat the following thoroughly: spread, sugar & vanilla extract. When it's nicely creamed add the flour & custard powder and mix well.

    custard biscuits
    ready to bake

  2. Even though the mix seems wet & cloying it rolls into little balls surprisingly well. Roll your little balls and place them on waiting baking tray, then flatten them with two fingers. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes.

  3. Place on a colling rack once cooked and ensure they are cool thoroughly before making into your raspberry kisses.

  4. To make the vanilla b*tter cre*m beat the sugar into the spread then add the vanilla extract. When the biscuits are cold you can put a dot of icing on one and pop a raspberry on top. Job done! 

  5. Alternatively you can use our light & fluffy vanilla icing, and a bunch of fresh raspberries. I pipe a blob of icing on each of the cold biscuits, then pop a raspberry on top. Simple 😉 

Notes:

The biscuits (with no icing or raspberries on) freeze brilliantly and only take an hour to defrost so I tend to make a mass of them and pop them in the freezer in a sealed bag, ready to whip out if people pop by. 

B*TTER CRE*M icing is butter-free, better-cre*m icing, it's 100% vegan and I use the *s to avoid confusion - there is no butter or cream in the recipe.

perfect free-from pancakes

  • Yield:

    11
  • Cooking Method:

    frying
  • Prep Time:

    10 mins
  • Cook Time:

    3 mins
perfect free-from pancakes

Perfect free-from everything traditional English pancakes. Not only are they free from allergens they have the bonus of flaxseed in them. Super easy to make and scrummy to eat - top them with your faves and let me know what you think! 

Ingredients:

  • 2 C gluten-free flour (I use Doves gluten-free plain flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (I use Dr. Oetker)
  • grind of salt (I use Himalayan)
  • ¹⁄3 C sunflower oil
  • 2 C m!lk alternative (I used koko)
  • 2 Tbs ground flaxseed 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. In your mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder & salt. Then whisk in the oil, m!lk alternative, ground flaxseed. When it's well combined add in the vanilla extract.

    perfect free-from pancakes
    flaxseeds doing their binding work

  2. Heat up your pan on a medium - high flame and melt some spread in the pan. Ladle out some pancake mix and spread around the pan to create your pancake.

  3. When the pancake underside is the colour you like flip it over, the second side will cook far quicker than the first. 

Notes:

We make & eat our pancakes as we go! So enjoy them fresh from the pan. Let us know your fave toppings on these free-from pancakes! 

orange & choc-chunk cookies

  • Yield:

    16 (dependant on size!)
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    20 mins
  • Cook Time:

    12-20 mins
orange & choc-chunk cookies

I think chocolate and orange go really well together and for me these orange & choc-chunk cookies are a lovely, fresh combo. I hope you like them together too. These cookies are especially yummy if you use a chocolate which has a hint of orange it in – we use Willies Luscious Orange – as it is dairy-free and soya-free with an undertone of orange.

I also really recommend that you enjoy these while they are not long out of the oven when all the chocolate is still warm and melty! 🙂 enjoy 

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz sunflower spread
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 1-2tsp orange extract
  • 6 oz gluten-free self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 oz roughly chopped chocolate

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan) & prep your baking trays with baking paper.

    orange-&-choc-chunk-cookies
    to give you an idea of size!

  2. In your mixing bowl cream the spread and sugar together. Then add the orange extract, the flour, salt and beat into a cookie dough. With a spoon then mix in your chocolate chunks.

  3. Using two spoons dollop small lumps of the mix onto the baking sheet, and pop into the oven and leave to cook for 12 – 20 minutes. The time it takes varies according to size and the end effect you want! If you make them the same size as mine (see photo) the baking times are:
    12 mins = chewy like a cookie
    17 mins = crunchy edge, chewy centre
    20 mins = hard and crunchy – more like a biscuit

  4. Place on a cooling rack and resist for as long as you can!

Notes:

* the recipe works just as well with normal self raising flour if you don't need to be gluten-free.

oh-soooooooo gooey chocolate cake

  • Yield:

    2 cakes
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    40 mins
  • Cook Time:

    25 mins
oh-soooooooo gooey chocolate cake

This is Aars' absolute favourite cake - it is gooey and sticky and not very pretty; but absolutely delish and über chocolatey. This is a really great gluten-free version of the cake I've made for him since he was about four years old. He requests it every birthday and it has never failed to delight the whole family from toddler to Great Granny! Always serve it warm - it's gorgeously gooey! 

Ingredients:

The Cake:
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C Sunflower spread
  • 4 Tbs (heaped) raw cacao powder*
  • 1 C gluten-free oats
  • 1½ C gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 2 C demerara sugar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ Tbs ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 C mini marshmallows*
  • ½ Tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs cidre vinegar
The all important icing:
  • ½ C sunflower spread
  • 4 Tbs (heaped) raw cacao powder* 
  • dash of salt
  • ¹/3C milk alternative (we used koko a thin coconut milk)
  • ½ Tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 C sifted icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (fan) and prep 2 bread loaf tins with paper cases. 

  2. Pop the water, sunflower spread & raw cacao powder into a pan & place over a low heat to slowly melt, stirring occasionally.

  3. In a large bowl combine the oats, self-raising flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt.

  4. Once the ingredients in your pan are melted and combined, stir in the marshmallows, when they start to melt into the mixture add the dry ingredients from your bowl and remove the pan from the heat. Continue to stir until everything is combined and then add in the vanilla and vinegar - mix them in well.

  5. Now ladle the gloopy mix into your waiting bread tins and pop into the oven for 25 minutes.

  6. It's time to get to work on the icing as it needs to be poured onto the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven. In a clean pan add the spread, raw cacao powder, salt & milk alternative. Place the pan over a low heat and slowly melt.

  7. Once it's melted, keep it on the heat and add in the icing sugar, I do it in ½C batches sifting it as I go. When all the sugar has been added and the icing is smooth add the vanilla and take off the heat.

  8. When your cakes come out of the oven use a skewer to stab some holes in it and pour the warm icing over the top. Leave to cool but ALWAYS ALWAYS serve this cake warm! 

Notes:

*if you don't have raw cacao powder use normal cocoa powder
*if you don't have mini marshmallows chop up some big ones! 

Use your families favourite milk alternative and if you don't need to be gluten free this cake works brilliantly with normal oats & flour.

apple & oat scotch pancakes

  • Yield:

    24
  • Cooking Method:

    frying
  • Prep Time:

    15 mins
  • Cook Time:

    30 mins
apple & oat scotch pancakes

These little apple & oat scotch pancakes were created in response to a request from a friend. They have become a firm family fave, perfect for a lazy weekend brunch, or a cosy winter tea. The recipe is really simple, just make sure you don't bung too much batter into the pan, as the larger the apple & oat scotch pancakes; the harder they are to flip!

Ingredients:

  • 1 C stewed apple or puree
  • 1 C oats (we use nairns)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbs golden granulated sugar
  • 1¼ C gluten-free self raising flour (we use doves)
  • 1 C m!lk alternative of your choice (we use koko)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ C sunflower oil
  • grind of salt

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients in the order above. Mix it all up with a spoon (it will look lumpy). 

    apple-&-oat-scotch-pancakes-free-from-recipe
    edges show they're ready to flip

  2. Now get your griddle, or stone pan on a medium-low heat, once it's hot pop some sunflower spread into the pan to melt.

  3. When it's melted drop dollops of your batter into the pan (not too big or they are tricky to flip). When the batter starts to change colour on the sides & top flip the drop scone over. The second side cooks in about half the time of the first. 

  4. Get off the heat and onto a cooling rack or onto a lucky bods waiting plate!

Notes:

We eat these as they come out of the pan, but you can prepare them all first if you prefer.

There is a lot of mix so either you can make them all - they taste great cold with a little spread on for afternoon tea! However the mix is also great the following day if you have keep it in fridge.

cinnamon edged shortbread

  • Yield:

    4 batches of 18
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    25 mins
  • Cook Time:

    14 mins
cinnamon edged shortbread

These shortbread rounds with a cinnamon edge are carefully balanced - the shortbread is melt in your mouth vanilla, with subtly cinnamon spiced edges. Unlike some of my other recipes the cinnamon really doesn't dominate.

I always bake these shortbread treats in batches so that they are fresh from the oven. It makes sense to me, therefore, to split the dough in half to store in the fridge ready to bake at a moments notice. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz sunflower spread
  • 4 oz icing sugar
  • 6 oz gluten-free self raising flour
  • 2 oz corn flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract edging
  • 2 Tbs golden granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. In a bowl beat the spread and sugar together until creamed. Now add the flours and vanilla and beat until nearly combined - it's really important not to over work this dough.

    cinnamon edged shortbread
    coating the shortbread sausage

  2. Place half of the  mix onto a square of cling film and use the cling film to create a shortbread dough sausage. Repeat with the remaining half on a new piece of cling film and pop both sausages in the fridge for at least an hour.

  3. When you are ready to bake them, pop the oven on to heat up to 150°C (fan). Prep a baking tray with baking paper.

  4. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar for the edges. Get one of the shortbread sausages out of the fridge and undo the cling-film. Pour your cinnamon & sugar mix onto the cling film and spread it along the edge of the dough sausage, now roll the dough through the mix so all the edges all get coated. Once the edges are covered you can cut slices to create round biscuits (go for about 7mm a slice).

  5. When you have the number of shortbread biscuits you want pop them on the waiting tray, and into the oven to bake for 14 minutes. When they come out of the oven place on a cooling rack and share as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Notes:

If you're in urgent need of a shortbread fix pop the oven on at the start of process to heat to 150°C (fan) and you can work with the dough right away - be warned the dough will be softer and therefore harder to work with than if you let it rest in the fridge as recommended above.

sweet chilli popcorn

  • Yield:

    serves 4
  • Cooking Method:

    boiling
  • Prep Time:

    10 mins
  • Cook Time:

    20 mins
sweet chilli popcorn

Aars absolutely adores this popcorn, so it's the most frequently requested popcorn in our house which makes me very happy too, as I love it. It's not too spicy as I make for a child's palette, if you want to ramp up the heat just increase the amount of cayenne pepper you add to the mix. You need to make it at least an hour before you want to eat it. 

Ingredients:

  • 90g of white cat corn kernels
  • 50g muscovado sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 10g sunflower spread
  • pinch ground cayenne pepper (for grown ups who like a chilli kick add more!)
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp flaked salt (I use pink Himalayan)

Method:

  1. Pop your popcorn, we have a little popping machine that requires no oil and is safe for children. Lay out a sheet of baking paper on a flat surface ready for the popcorn to cool on post coating.

    sweet-chilli popcorn
    bubbling ready for spices & salt

  2. In a heavy based pan add the sugar and water and heat up until the sugar dissolves. Leave it to simmer on a low heat so the mix can reduce for about 15 mins DO NOT STIR AT ALL whilst it bubbles away! When it reaches a point where the whole pan is bubbling (see my photo for a clue) take off heat and stir in the spread, spices and salt. 

  3. Once they have fully dissolved and combined pour over your waiting popcorn - I do it in sections to ensure every piece is covered. Dump the coated popcorn onto a sheet of baking paper and spread out so it can cool completely.

Notes:

 Enjoy your popcorn, your company and snuggle up for your movie! Rai x

If you think you could have coeliacs disease, go visit the coeliacs UK organisation, there’s lots of helpful advice and even a little diagnostic tool when may help point you in the right direction.

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