This year has been an odd Christmas for sure…. my husband has been working, pretty much all of the festive period. True some of that has been from home, but it’s been a very bitty and odd time. However having a 1 year old and having a great love of Christmas myself I’ve tried to make the most of it. Money is tight at present, so we’ve gone low key on presents and high key on a few quality foods that we all love (including the little one). One of those being cheese:
Being wheat free, we’ve not got into the whole mince pie, yule log and sweet treats, but what I did do was make a wheat free Christmas cake. I used plenty of dried fruit, rice flour and a little alcohol of course 😉 covered the cake with marzipan and icing. It turned out pretty well and is mighty tasty!
Most of our meals have been planned to work around the event of my husbands on-call phone going as we sit to eat (it always happens that way!), so easy to keep warm or not needing to stay warm. We had a paella for Christmas dinner and have had some lovely chilled meals of cold meats, cheese, salads and crackers/oatcakes.
Christmas Dinner – what does it look like in your home? Turkey with all the trimmings? Not in our home I’m afraid. We’re a bit untraditional in our house when it come to Christmas Day food. In fact I’ve only actually had Turkey on Christmas Day twice in just over 30 years. We’ve had duck, beef, salmon en croute, prawn linguine, Sri-Lankan curry, a Chinese banquet and more. For us it’s a chance to have whatever we really fancy having, buy quality ingredients and make it a special meal.
This year my husband has worked over most of the Christmas period, he was home on Christmas Day but working from home. Due to the nature of his work it could mean you just plate up a meal and then the phone rings….that’s that….cold dinner. So we wanted to keep things simple this year. Having spent Christmas in Spain before my husband requested Paella. His wish = my command!
Having looked through a few recipes I took bits from all of them and as always followed none of them but created my own version. We used saffron plus a special Spainish paella mix (brought over from Spain), chorizo, chicken, prawns and mussels along with the essential rice plus peas, peppers and mushrooms. Easy to cook, keep warm in case of phone calls and lots of left overs for baby dinners and Boxing Day. Here’s a photo of it cooking. It was so tasty that we only managed paella…no dessert, no chocolates, nothing till cheese and wine in the evening 🙂
My healthier take on flapjacks are well known by my friends, I’ve almost always got a tub of them on the go. They got me through the long early days of breastfeeding and are now enjoyed by 1 year old too. In fact she absolutely loves them. So today, when she was struggling to sleep and I was unable to bake during her naptime I decided she may as well help me. This turned into a really fun learning experience for us both.
I weighed out the oats and sultanas and Kezia enjoyed playing with the dried ingredients, especially as she was able to sneak a few sultanas! She also liked watching me measure out the sugar, honey and margarine.
Then came the bananas, amazingly none of these went into Kezia’s mouth, she spent some time transferring the bananas from one bowl to another and watched as I mashed them. I left her a little in the bowl to play with being an interesting texture and tasty too 🙂
Stirring all the ingredients together was a lot of fun, although the spoon was probably a bit too large! It was a pleasure watching Kezia have a good go at mixing and seeing the look of satisfaction on her face.
I was allowed to place it all in the baking tray and of course Kezia then was left with the empty bowl and spoon, which she instantly started to scrape with her fingers….finding the leftovers showing it’s a natural reaction to lick the cake mixture off the spoon 😉
Finally we had time for more mixing practice at super fast speed!
What are your favourite recipes for cooking with children? Any tips to pass onto me?
I love a bargain, shoes, clothes, bags, they’re all good, but I must admit one of the bargain that excites me the most is food. I love rooting round the reduced food section of the shops and pulling out random items then concocting a hopefully delicious meal based around my beautiful bargains.
But what can you do if all that’s in the reduced section is a pile of worse for wear veggies? Do you pass those slightly sad specimens and ignore them? They may not be in their prime but if you take them home and use them quickly (on the day preferably) then you can knock up a scrummy meal for a cost saving price.
This week I picked up a couple of large bags of parsnips, reduced right down, so today we have made parsnip soup. Here’s what I did:
Parsnips peeled and chopped, put into a pan and cover with some stock (either a stock cube and water or homemade stock), simmer until parsnips are soft (10-15 mins). Then blitz with a blender until it’s smooth and creamy. I then added in come curry powder, black pepper and milk plus some grated nutmeg. And that’s it! I made enough soup for 6 people for about 60p.
We love risotto in our house. It’s just so versatile. You can dress it up all fancy and swish for a dinner party or keep it simple for an everyday family meal. Plus, its wheat and gluten free, can easily be vegetarian and it’s easy, peasey to make….even my husband who isn’t into cooking can make a risotto 😉
Our favourites at the moment are mushroom and blue cheese and a creamy leek and lemon version with salmon. Butternut squash with a grating of nutmeg works well as does chicken and pea.
Risotto’s take a bit of love and time, you can’t really walk away and leave them to cook themselves, unless you like crunchy rice…so stay by the cooker and let it cook slowly, simmering not boiling.
Using a home made stock is tasty and lower in salt. We make stock using the chicken bones after a roast and freeze it down for later.
Swap cream for low fat creme fraiche or natural yoghurt and low fat creme cheese. Keeps the creamy taste but cuts the fat.
Add a splash of wine and some fresh herbs for extra flavour. You can go fairly bold in a risotto so try some different flavour combos.
You can make it in advance, then finish off with the last bit of stock or a swirl of milk/wine when heating up. It also makes great leftovers for lunches.
If feeding a baby it’s perfect sticky finger food, my baby adores risotto.
Crumpets are a things of greatness, why should you miss out if gluten/wheat free? I love pottering in the kitchen, trying new things and I also love warm baked goods that are more savoury than sweet…being wheat free crumpets are the kind of foods I’ve missed. The shop bought versions just don’t hit the spot and are pretty expensive, so whilst pregnant and craving yummy things I perfected this recipe. It’s an adaptation of one in the Health Gluten-Free Eating cook book by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney, so credit should also go to them as all I’ve done is play around to make it suit me!
Crumpets may sound like a tricky thing to make and they probably are if you are making them to look like the shop bought versions. Mine look nothing like those but they taste very crumpet like and are just so satisfying to make. So if you like baking give them a go:
150g rice flour
75g tapioca flour or cornmeal
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp bicarb
1 tsp cream of tartar
drizzle of rapeseed oil
300 ml milk
Mix the flours, xanthum gum, bicarb and cream of tartar together. Make a well and add oil plus eggs. Add the milk a little at a time and mix swiftly with a wooden spoon to start and then a whisk – a good arm building muscle exercise 🙂 Try to get air into the batter. If it still looks quite thick add a splash of water. If should be like cake mixture. Drop tablespoons onto a non stick pan or a flat griddle pan and cook until there are bubbles appearing. I find a lower heat is better and they take longer than a thick pancake would. Flip over and cook the other side.
These are best eaten warm, I find quite a few of these seem to disappear as soon as they are cooked….who knows where they go?! They also freeze really well and can be popped in the toaster to defrost and warm. Amazingly these turn out with a proper crumpet texture which you may be able to see in this photo (if you can’t then you will just have to believe me!).
Best served with a bit of jam and a good cuppa 🙂 Alternatively the baby had hers with melted cheese and some cooked mushrooms which went down very well. Go be inspired and try something new in the kitchen this weekend.
Everyone loves a good pancake, myself included. So here is my adaptation… its both wheat free and gluten free 🙂 quick and easy to whip up. We like them for brunch with bacon or as a snack.
135g rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
2tbsp oil/melted marg
optional – 1 handful sultanas.
Mix up the batter adding extra milk if needed, it needs to be fairly thick, about the consistency of double cream. Heat up a non stick pan (or I use a large griddle that fits across 2 burners on my cooker) and drop tablespoons on. When bubble start to appear on the surface flip the pancake over.
They take a couple of minutes each side. Best eaten warm 🙂
If you have any left (unlikely), these freeze really well, I tend to make up a big batch and freeze some, then take a few from the freezer and toast them as a snack.
This weekend it was my birthday…. and birthdays mean special meals 🙂 This year having a baby meant the idea of getting dressed up and going out past 8pm felt like the last thing we fancied, and the prospect of an early morning after a late night was not so appealing….so instead we opted for a meal in. Take-away is almost a non-existant word in our house, mainly because I’m wheat free, can’t take too much spice at present and am not great with fatty food. I know, I’m a tough cookie to please at times. So we wanted a quick, tasty meal. The decision – king prawn and mussel thai green curry. Easy to prepare with fresh lemongrass, ginger, chilli, coriander and coconut milk, full of tasty veggies alongside the seafood and served with thai style rice and a chilled glass of white wine. Prawn crackers on the side as a treat . I could eat it all over again.
We ended up buying the fresh shell on prawns from the fish counter. These were not only cheaper by far, tastier and we got the added fun of deshelling the prawns 🙂 After dinner we collected up all the prawn shells. They have made a delicious fish stock and then got scoffed by the cats. A true bargain, feeding 2 adults, 2 cats and a tasty stock ready for a fish pie. Yum.
Prawns are a good lean source of protein, they have high levels of vitamin B12 as well as being a good course of Selenium, Omega 3, Vitamin E and Phosphorus. They are also low in fat and saturated fats so a healthy choice.
So I’d encourage you to have a look at your fresh fish counter/fishmonger, not only can it be tastier and fresher but it may be cheaper too.
I love vegetarian food, though I’m not actually a vegetarian. I love the colours, flavours and creativeness of it. We tend to have meatless meals 3-4 days a week and use lentils, beans and pulses a lot.
Last week I really fancied having a go with Quinoa, its not something we eat that often but being wheat free I can’t eat cous cous and had had an urge for making stuffed peppers, plus the baby hadn’t given Quinoa a go yet.
These came our really well, even if my husband had to take his in a plastic tub back to work to eat as his on-call phone rang! His comments were that it was difficult to eat without a knife but the Quinoa was delicious and nutty. The baby managed to eat hers all without a knife 😉 fingers sufficed and the whole lot went quite quickly, so I’m taking that as a compliment.
Due to the fact I have Crohn’s disease I’m on a wheat free diet. I’m not allergic to wheat, but definitely intolerant to it and I know quite soon after eating something that contains wheat. Wheat free food and all specialist food can be quite expensive so my way around that is to shop around and to make as much of my own wheat free food as possible. This means my cupboards are full of weird and wonderful things like Xanthum gum (one of my fav things, it has made my bread so much better) and many flours. I typically like to use rice flour, rye flour, potato flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, cornflour and tapioca flour. Buying all these flours can certainly add up, but there are a few tips and tricks I can pass on….
Don’t expect these specialist flours to be a good price at your local supermarket, but do keep checking as they sometimes have offers on.
Look online at the specialist health food stores, again they often have offers on.
Try health food shops and farm shops. One of my farm shops has the most fantastic range of wheat free foods and often has deals on.
Ethnic shops can be great. I get my rice flour, tapioca flour and potato flour plus rice noodles from the Chinese shop and my chickpea flour from the Indian shop. Much cheaper than anywhere else.
Although the premixed flours you can buy are easy they are not always the best, try mixing your own blends. I find rice flour with cornmeal and rye flour is good for bread.
Making your own bread is cheaper and usually better for you as you can control what you put in and add extra bits….I like a selection of seeds in my bread.
Most bought bread has a high salt content, when I make mine I put a tiny amount in or none at all.
Other wheat free goodies I regularly make are crumpets, pancakes and scones. Yum.
Here is a selection of the goodies I bought today from my local Chinese shop, now to get baking 🙂
Freelance Dietitian specialising in helping those with Eating Disorders and a Media Spokesperson for the profession.