Miss Roben’s Carrot Cake Breakfast

Miss Roben’s is a dedicated allergy-free bakery range from the US and now available in the UK. I posted about them here and they were kind enough to send some samples to try. I started with the carrot cake (well why not?) and accidentally developed a fab fruity breakfast!

On a day when I was feeling I needed something goodish but sweet, I thought I would try the carrot cake mix. Instead of making a cake, I used muffin cases and made 18 pretty large muffins. Goodness knows what size the cake would be! Making them is simplicity itself (as long as your whisk is working and the lid doesn’t blow off your food mixer like mine did. Harrumph.) You add oil, water and eggs plus some vanilla extract if you like, mix the whole thing really well, leave to stand, pour into muffin cases or tins and bake.

I was a bit worried about the amount of oil and sugar and think next time I will follow the advice on the packet and substitute some fruit puree to bring the levels of fat and calories down. However, this time, purely in the interests of research you understand, I did it as per the pack. Nothing whatsoever to do with the fact  was having a bad day and craved sugar, promise.

Anyway, they took a bit longer than the pack said to cook but then my oven is a bit rubbish, but I checked them with a long pointy thing and judged they were ‘done’ when it came out clean. They took about 45 minutes.  They sank a bit. I held my breath. They stopped sinking. Yay! A muffin.

Why so excited; it’s only a muffin? One: because I rarely have cake and am sad, and two: because it is made with NO GRAINS! Yep, impossible as it sounds, the cake mix is made with a base of potato and tapioca. Most people think tapioca is a grain, but actually it comes from cassava, a root vegetable. You might also know it as manioc or yucca flour. The rest of the ingredients are:

  • Ingredients:  Tapioca Starch, potato starch, unrefined cane sugar, refined cane sugar, corn free baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, potato starch, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), unsulfured dried carrots, cinnamon, nutmeg,guar gum, cloves.  
  • Additional needed ingredients:  Eggs or acceptable substitute, oil, vanilla extract (optional), water.

No Wheat, Gluten, Barley, Oats, Rye, Dairy, Casein, Lactose, Whey, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Egg, Soy Protein, Soy Oil, Fish, Shellfish, Sesame, Onion, Latex.

So, after I had noshed a muffin straight out of the oven and another one later, I realised they need to settle a bit and are better cold! I didn’t want to add more sugar as a frosting as suggested on the pack, but if you wish to, simply combine some water and icing sugar plain or with any flavour or colour you like and heat until melted, then pour on the top and leave to set. If you want to limit the frosting, a good tip is just to drizzle the warm sugar mix from a height off the end of a spoon and make a criss-crossy pattern rather than dollop a whole thick load on top. Unless you’re having a REALLY bad day.

The muffins are quite spicy as they contain cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, which I liked actually although some might think them too strong. The only thing I didn’t like was the little bits of dried carrot which were still a bit hard and get caught in your teeth. Yum. I think perhaps if you  stirred the water in at the start and made sure it was mixed thoroughly and let it sit for a while to hydrate the bits better before adding the oil and eggs, that might work. I shall have to have another go to find out!

I think also I would only make half the pack next time as there was such a lot, but you can probably keep some in the fridge for a few days or freeze them. The cat is refusing to eat them and I can’t eat 18 muffins, much as I would like to, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Anyway, to the breakfast idea (“at last,” you say). Easy peasy but actually really nice and filling: 

Pop muffin in bowl, chop up some pineapple (I happened to have some fresh left over in the fridge), pour on a little pineapple juice, spoon some soya yogurt over and demolish. It went down a treat and even Philip liked it. None of yer boring muffins for us! Something about the spicyness of the muffin and the pineapple went really well together. Very decadent. Just needs a little rum….

You can get the mix via www.allergyessex.co.uk. Their website is a little slow unfortunately so I have been looking at the rest of the range on the manufacturer’s site at www.allergygrocer.com. Next up,  I will be trying the tortilla mix. The cat better watch out.

Wheat In Tabasco

This is the one I checked; others may be different

Just thought I’d let you know that this week I checked with the makers of Tabasco chilli sauce what the vinegar in it was made out of – and they came back and said: “The grains used to form the alcohol are corn, milo, and wheat,”  so watch it!

And, by the way, I didn’t know what ‘milo’ was either; it’s sorghum, a native berry in Asia and Africa. So now you know!

FreeFrom Award Winners

Ages ago (oops!) I promised to let you know which food products won the prestigious freefrom food awards this year.

You can get the full list from their site here: http://www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/winners.10.html

I note a cake won the best FF prize, Mrs Crimbles beat Genius bread to the top bread spot, Oatly cream won the dairy-free category and Youngs GF fish fingers got a good rating too.

Have a peek.

Does ‘Gluten-Free’ Really Mean ‘Gluten-Free’?

By January 2012, all gluten free labels will be changed. Some labels have already changed and here is what they mean:

Gluten-Free means a food has less than 20 parts per million. It used to mean 200ppm.

Very Low Gluten means the old gluten labelling of 200ppm.

Some gluten intolerants and coeliacs can get away with the 200ppm but other can’t. It’s a case of trial and error.

Actually it is impossible to have a completely gluten free diet unfortunately as a lot of foods you wouldn’t think of as containing gluten do, like rice, although this is said to be the type of gluten that doesn’t affect coeliacs.

That may be, but gluten intolerants are often even more sensitive so you have to find what works for you. Oats, for example, are not a gluten grain, but much of it nowadays is contaminated with gluten from wheat, rye or barley during milling which is no doubt partly why many people can react to it.

In some supposedly gluten-free (<20ppm) products, manufacturers can use things like Codex wheat starch, which is supposedly manufactured to gluten free standards. However, as a severely wheat and gluten intolerant myself, I can tell you that that would set me off.

Luckily, gluten and the grains that contain it, have to be listed on the labels anyway now under common allergens so you should be able to see what’s in a product. But ALWAYS read the label like a hawk anyway if you are sensitive.

And, if you find a source of oats that is purely gluten free and doesn’t set you off, let us all know; I don’t ‘alf miss them!

Did You Know…?

…that malt comes mostly from barley? This is a gluten grain and so you need to be aware that a lot of foods have malt added to them for flavour. Malt extract is used very commonly in breakfast cereals, for example. Watch out for it. It was the malted barley in my rice krispies that kept me ill as an undiagnosed coeliac for ages.

Why Milk Is Linked To Hormones, Belly Fat and Acne

Today, I got a reminder about just why dairy doesn’t help with so many conditions.

Milk contains  ‘insulin growth factor-1’ or IGF-1 which regulates cell growth and development. There is lots of IGF-1 in cow’s milk so that calves can grow fast. But what about us? No-one really knows what the effects of having all this extra grwoth hormone does to us.

I always joke that it’s one of the reasons why we are all growing taller. Did you know builders now have to make doors taller on new builds because of that? (No joke really.) Also, I have long suspected it could be a factor in the rising levels of obesity and cancer. And now it seems that science may be bearing me out.  

Here is what the PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) Health Team in the US (www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com) had to say about it in their newsletter this morning. They were writing about PCOS specifically but a lot of this applies to many of us:

“1) IGF-1 stimulates cell division and retards cell death. Therefore, it is a supporter of cancer growth.

2) IGF-1 in milk appears to increase your insulin levels and possibly increases IGF-1 production inside your body. Excessively high insulin levels are a huge problem for women with PCOS, resulting in a condition called “insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance in turn is a driving force behind infertility, weight gain, and all the other symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

(Ed’s note – and not just for PCOS sufferers; that goes for all of us – insulin resistance is one of the main factors in developing belly fat and obesity, let alone diabetes and metabolic syndrome.)

“3) IGF-1 stimulates an enzyme called 5alpha-reductase. 5alpha-reductase in turn stimulates the production of DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is thought to be the #1 cause of acne, hirsutism, and hair loss.

4) IGF-1 stimulates production of male hormones by your ovaries and adrenal glands. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen. Your male hormone levels are already too high if you have PCOS.

Milk also contains something called 5-alpha-P which has several effects, especially on hormone balance. First, it can be converted into DHT (dihydro-testosterone), which is a factor in acne, hirsutism and hair loss. It appears it may also make you more sensitive to estrogen. Many women are oestrogen dominant, where they have too much oestrogen in relation to progesterone. So, if you have too much unopposed oestrogen and if 5-alpa-P makes you more sensitive to it, there’s a possibility that you may be more at risk of oestrogen sensitive issues like endometriosis, endometrial cancer and breast cancer.

So, all in all, reminds us why dairy is not the superfood it has been painted.

There is a simple urine test by the way if you want to know if you are oestrogen dominant. Read about that here. This costs £120 but could be a really useful prevention test for later life – there is a way of offsetting the high oestrogen levels too if you need to.

However, note that if you are menopausal or post menopause, this test is even better as it costs the same, but also includes an osteoporosis risk urine test, which we recommend for all women over 40.

You can have the bone test done separately too if you need it. Costs £70 and will show if you are losing bone long before any DEXA scan will so you can take preventative steps way earlier if you need to. A no-brainer really.  

Anyway, hope that was helpful – useful to remind ourselves why we keep saying ‘stay away from dairy’ – these are just some of the reasons. If you want to read some more, download the 15 page factsheet I’ve written which talks further about this and wheat, shows you how to discover if you are intolerant to them and where to start to solve it. Just £2.50. Bargain! (Note that this is also included in the How To Eat Well Recipe book so you don’t need it if you already have the book.)

Sources: Melnik B et al, Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris, Exp Dermatol. 2009 Oct;18(10):833-41
Danby FW, Acne, dairy and cancer: The 5alpha-P link, Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Jan;1(1):12-6
Melnik B, Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies, J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2009 Apr;7(4):364-70
Melnik B, Milk–the promoter of chronic Western diseases, Med Hypotheses. 2009 Jun;72(6):631-9

Wheat, Gluten & Dairy in Ecover Washing Up Liquid!

Well I never! I was looking at Ecover washing up liquids today in the shops as I needed to buy some more. I naturally picked up the one I’ve been using for donkeys years – Chamomile & Marigold, and absent-mindedly looked at the ingredients (as you do when you are constantly label-watching!) and there it was: Whey!!! (dairy, for those of you who are uninitiated in the whys and wherefores of dairy intolerance). I nearly fell over. Have I really been washing my pots in dairy stuff all these years?

I picked up another ‘flavour’. The lemon version had wheat gluten in it!!! My flabber was truly gasted.

Why oh why put two common allergens into products that many ‘sensitive’ people would use? I know the likelihood is that any residue should be rinsed off, but what if it isn’t? For someone like me who is ultra sensitive, that’s not good to be putting on your plates and dishes, is it?!

I am most dischuffed. I have checked out some other flavours – the grapefruit one doesn’t have any wheat, gluten or dairy in it so that would be OK, but I didn’t see that in any of the shops. 

I have since looked at some other brands and have found there are a few that look good – and allergen-free. I have swapped to Bio-D which looks good and is also fragrance free. Earth-Friendly looks good too, and Method has pretty bottles. So, perhaps time to swap. Is your washing up allergen-free? Worth a check.

Wheat in White Pepper

A quickie. Dorothy just called having read my latest piece about coeliac disease to tell me to be careful with white pepper. She says it is often bulked out with wheat! Well, that’s a new one on me – so watch out for it! Thanks D.