Visiting The Allergy & Free-From Show

Every year The Allergy & Free From Show exhibit at the London Olympia in Kensington. I’d been once before a couple of years back, but thought I’d give it another go this year! Tickets are free and as well as the  Allergy and Free From show, you also get access to the Just V Show (vegetarian and vegan) and Love Natural Love You (natural lifestyle and skincare) areas.

Once we got into the show we picked up our lanyards. This year the show organisers have arranged it so everyone who has bought a ticket gets a lanyard with a barcode and their name on it. Then if you’re interested in finding out more about a brand at any booth, they just scan your barcode and the show organisers will pass on your details to them. I’m sure this is a GDPR move, but it seemed very simple and effective!

The first booth I noticed was Haymax. I worked with them a little while ago, letting you all know about their fantastic natural hay fever remedies! It was great to see them there.

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By the time we had arrived, we were both pretty hungry so my focus was on finding something dairy-free to eat.

We tried a few samples on our way through the booths.

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At Portabello Attic I tried I sample of their vegan Nutty Nutella cheesecake. It was really amazing. Gooey and buttery tasting, but lovely knowing it was totally vegan.

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Then we spotted The White Rabbit Pizza Co who offered some vegan options. I love vegan pizza because the ingredients are usually more exciting than with standard pizza.

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Gary tried this pizza which is due to come out soon, and is on a brand new base style. He said it was amazing!

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I tried this vegan option and it was truly delicious. So flavourful and really yummy!

I have already looked and you can buy this brand in my local Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I’ll be heading there soon to pick one up!

By this point I knew I needed something proper to eat, rather than samples. The only issue with this show, is that unless you want to fill up on samples (which won’t be suitable for every dietary need) or buy something from the standard permanent and over-priced cafes that line the Olympia (which don’t offer anything dairy free) then you’re pretty much stumped for food. There was a lovely looking vegetarian stand with salads and quiche but nothing suitable for me. But then we stumbled over Mahi Vegan Street Food.

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I decided to go for the Mac N’Dawg and Gary got the V-Dawg, both seitan hotdogs with toppings. Gary’s had crispy onions, chopped pickles, mustard and ketchup. Mine had mac n’cheese, chives, crispy onions and ketchup (it was meant to have sriracha but I’m a wuss!) The staff were so nice, and really efficient.

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Neither of us had has seitan before, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our hotdogs. So, So tasty and just what I needed!

But of course after you’ve had your hotdog, you need ice cream right? So off I trotted to Booja-Booja, a brand I’ve known for years but only recently tried their ice creams. The staff were so lovely, and served their deserts from a cute converted Tuk Tuk!

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I went for a scoop of caramel pecan praline, and it was divine!

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Despite it being a warm and busy show, I really enjoyed seeing what was on offer this time around. It’s so good seeing so much being offered generally for people with allergies, intolerances and alternative dietary choices.

Anyway, now I’m off to dream about that hotdog…..

Food Challenge Recipe 14: Home Made Dole Whip!

This week’s recipe is for those Disney Parks fans out there! Yes, I made Dole Whip at home!

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For those who aren’t Disney Park fanatics, a Dole Whip is a pineapple soft serve dessert. The one in the parks is completely Vegan. My version wasn’t but can be made easily dairy-free or vegan.

I used a recipe I found via The Trackers, which can be found here if you’d like to see it.

It contains just 5 ingredients, all of which I already had apart from the frozen pineapple. But I was able to pick it up from Costco, and it can be found in most supermarkets.

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So, I needed 2 cups of frozen pineapple

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1/4 cup of whatever milk you want to use (you can also use canned coconut milk for a pina colada flavour), 1/16 tsp of salt (I put a tiny sprinkle in because who can measure 1/16 of a tsp?), 2 tbsp of sugar (or a pinch of pure stevia extract) and 1 tbsp lemon juice.

I put all this into my blender.

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But my blender didn’t want to do the job. My blender, though expensive, has not once been up to the task I’ve asked of it. So I transferred everything into my BlendActive smoothie maker.

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With a few shakes and knocks of encouragement, the task was complete!

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I can’t knock the recipe. The flavour was so creamy and almost spot on compared with what you get in the parks. I’ll definitely be making this again.

This recipe made two large portions of whip, and as long as your blender is up to the task, I’d recommend any Dole Whip fan to give this a try!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 13: Flapjacks!

The week I made these flapjacks it was my other half’s birthday and I had a week off. And he happened to request I made them – he loves flapjacks and I’d never made them before, but they looked pretty easy so I said yes!

For my American readers (you probably already know this, but….) flapjacks in the UK are not pancakes, but a baked sweet rolled oat-based square.

Happily, these flapjacks ended up being Vegan!

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I started with 175g of Vitalite (vegan sunflower spread) which I melted slowly on a low/medium heat.

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Then I added 175g of soft brown sugar, and 175ml of golden syrup.

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You’ve got to heat and stir this until all the sugar grains are dissolved.

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Then you take this off the heat and stir in 350g of porridge oats.

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I stirred half the oats in to coat and then the other half, just to ensure everything was coated properly.

I then pressed the mixture into a 20×20 cm pan which has been lined and greased, and pop into an oven at 150c for 25-30 mins.

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The top will be turning golden brown. I left the bake inside the tray until it was completely cool. At which point lifted the whole thing out using the sides of the paper, and I cut it into squares. I made about 16 squares.

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These flapjacks passed my husband’s taste test, and he even took some into work for his vegan workmates to enjoy! Being dairy-free I know what’s like to have to pass on all the goodies people bring into work, so it’s always nice to be able to say yes to a sweet treat now and then!

I give this recipe 10/10!

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Food Challenge Week 3: Chocolate Fridge Cake

After having made 2 savoury recipes, I wanted to try something sweet. Despite everyone being on diets this month, I figured screw that because I’m not.

I wanted something fairly low maintenance and also something I could easily make dairy-free.

Enter the Hummingbird Bakery Fridge Cake. This is NOT a healthy recipe. It’s got so much sugar and fat in it that I felt bad every time I ate one. And this recipe makes so much I took a load into work and a week later they’re not all gone yet…. I should probably chuck them. BUT if you’re having a party or need something for a bake sale or coffee morning then these would be perfect.

There’s no baking involved in this recipe, hence the name ‘fridge cake’ and you can play around with what you put inside it. I decided that because I don’t like raisins, I would add some jelly beans. I also wanted to add pop rocks, but couldn’t find any…. alas.

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The first thing I did for this recipe was to smash up 800g of digestive biscuits (I found the Tesco own-brand ones are vegan, so no dairy!) I used a rolling pin and bashed them lightly inside a ziplock bag.

To this I added 200g of jelly beans, but you can add raisins if you like them.

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To bind all this together, you need to make the liquid for the cake, so you put cocoa powder (100g), butter (400g! – I used Vitalite) and then 200ml of golden syrup, into a large saucepan. I warned you this wasn’t for the health-conscious!

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Look at all that butter sitting proudly in my saucepan…… I can feel my arteries hardening just looking at the picture…..

Heat all this over a medium heat, until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.

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You can see from my picture, when you raise the spoon, you’ll be able to see if your butter hasn’t melted yet as the mix runs off. Just make sure it’s all melted through before you combine your ingredients.

Then you mix the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients until completely coated.

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It’ll look like a nice brown mess!

You need to line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. I put clingfilm in first, because I wanted to be able to lift the whole lot out easily. I made sure the clingfilm hung long over the sides, and then lined on top of that with greaseproof paper. Then you put the whole lot into the tray, pressing down with a large metal spoon as you go. Then lay another sheet of greaseproof paper on top, grab another baking tray (you’re going to use this as a makeshift lid) and push down. Then pop some heavy cans on top of that to weigh it down, and leave until completely cool. Once you’re happy everything has cooled down, transfer the whole thing into the fridge for a minimum of a couple of hours, but preferably over night.

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This is what I had after about 4 hours in the fridge. I lifted the whole lot out of the tray, using the clingfilm, which made it so much easier. And then I sliced the slab into squares using a large sharp knife.

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The recipe states it makes 14 bars, but I cut this into about 25 squares, which were plenty large and filling.

At first I was a little put off by the jelly bean’s fruity flavour, but I have quickly gotten used to them and have eaten far too many in one week for my liking.

This is definitely a great recipe though, and I’ll keep it in my repertoire for when I need to make something for a party or occasion! Tasty and dairy-free too! I’ll give this recipe an 8/10!

Food Challenge Week 2: NY Deli Style Dill Potato Salad

Two weeks into my challenge and I’m feeling pretty good. I have been asked a few times whether I have a list of possible recipes, which sounds like a good idea, but I haven’t had the time to sit and think of one yet!

Last week’s recipe was a little of a let down, so this week I decided to try something a little lighter, and make something I would be able to add to my daily work lunches.

I’m a HUGE fan of the humble potato. If I was told I could only pick one ingredient to eat the rest of my lifetime it would be a potato. When I was in New York last, I ate the most incredible potato salad at Katz’s Deli, I think I reminisce about this salad at least a few times a week still, and this trip was over 2 years ago now!

So, a while back I picked up a recipe book called New York Cult Recipes.

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Inside it talks about fantastic eateries (Katz’s being one of them) and although the recipe for potato salad inside this book doesn’t replicate the one I ate on that trip, having never made potato salad before, I thought this was probably a good place to start.

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You start off with your potatoes (700g) and you chop them into quarters or smaller, depending on how big your new potatoes are.

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The recipe said to peel the potatoes first, but who has the patience to peel new potatoes? You boil them for about 10 minutes on a slow boil until they’re cooked through but still a little firm. Then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. These then can be left to cool.

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Chop your red onion (50g) really small, and then put this into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes and drain. This will get rid of some of that acridity you get from a raw onion.

You put 1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, the drained red onion and the cooled potatoes into a big bowl, ready for the dressing.

Now, there’s a lot of sugar in this dressing. An alarming amount – and when I tasted it after I’d made it, I was a little shocked. But actually it worked really well with the rest of the ingredients and there was a good balance of flavours. So please run with it.

For the dressing you add caster sugar (40g), 2 pinches of salt and 2 grinds of the pepper mill, 1 garlic clove, 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar), mayonnaise (60g) and natural yogurt (60g). Mix all of this together until all the sugar has dissolved and everything is combined. Give it a taste and make sure it feels balanced – it will taste sweet, like I said.

Then you add some finely chopped fresh dill (1 tablespoon).

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Add all of this to the potatoes, and stir gently, making sure not to crush the potatoes.

My potatoes were still quite firm (that’s what she said), so there was no risk of that!

Then you just chill and serve as and when you want to eat it. This recipe says it’ll serve 6 people. I divided it between 5 working days as an accompaniment to a fresh salad.

I used soy plain yogurt and found the dressing to be fairly runny. It also separated a bit between servings so I had to keep mixing it before serving. But it tasted REALLY good.

Not the most photogenic of concoctions though…

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I really enjoyed the addition of the dill in this, which made the whole dish special in my opinion. I’ll probably end up making this again!

I give this recipe 8/10 🙂

Food Challenge Week 1: One Pan Pesto Chicken

For the first week of my food challenge (and if you don’t know what that is, please refer to a previous post for the sitch), I knew I wanted to choose something fairly healthy, fairly simple and something I knew I had the skill to cook.

Enter Pinterest for inspiration. It being the New Year, after having indulged in a lot of heavy and rich foods (my skin is screaming for respite) I picked something of the roasted chicken and vegetables variety.

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Being dairy-free (not by choice, I’ll add) means I can veto a huge bunch of recipes, but there’s also a huge bunch I can adapt. The recipe I actually found was promoting the Sacla Free From Pesto. I already knew this existed, but I think seeing the post promoting this ingredient probably spurred me on to choose it over any others.

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I’ll post a link to the particular recipe I used, but it’s dead simple.

Roasting new potatoes in a little oil, then adding the chicken, then smothering it all in pesto before introducing the green beans and vine tomatoes towards the end and basting with the chicken/pesto juices. Then serve. It’s as simple as that!

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I won’t lie, I avoided basting the tomatoes in the pesto mainly because I ran out of room in my pan and for the sake of nice photos (!) I didn’t want them to break off the vine during vigorous jigging of veg. So these probably didn’t cook down as much as they’re supposed to. But they did start to burst a little and were pleasant enough. I’m not a massive fan of a cooked tomato, but that’s what this challenge is about – broadening my food horizons….

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So, as you can see, the potatoes cooked down beautifully, and were nice and buttery-soft on the inside but lovely and browned and nutty on the outside. (Just writing this is making me hungry…) The green beans were roasted but still moist (yes, I said moist) and had a little crunch to them when you bit in. The chicken was… I’ll say, okay – I didn’t like the chicken we’d bought from Tesco if I’m honest. I’d much rather pick mine up from Costco, but I didn’t have any of theirs in the house. But the pesto on top was a nice addition. And the tomatoes I’ve mentioned. They were warm roasted tomatoes – not much else you can say about them!

plate of pesto chicken and vegetables

As an overall dish, the flavours and textures were nice together. It wasn’t too greasy, despite pesto being traditionally oily. I feel like the Free-From iteration was less oily – on opening the jar I didn’t need to stir in any oil on the top into the pesto, which you do with standard pesto. I do feel like this pesto was a lot less salty, and the whole dish was fairly under seasoned, despite me adding what I would consider to be enough salt and pepper. If I was to make this again, I’d add some more salt.

All in all I’d give this recipe a 6/10 – it was fine, but I don’t like fine for dinner – I like yummy!

If you’d like to see the original recipe I used, you can find it at The Taming Twins here.

Let me know if you’ve tried or if you will be trying this recipe, and how you got on with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So, on to week 2! I already know what the next recipe for my challenge is going to be, so stay tuned for next week’s post!

This Week I Have Been Mostly

this week i have been mostly

Firstly I’d like to say well done to everyone for surviving Lost day….. Yeah it passed me by too, but it’s pretty cool.

On 4th August 2015 at 16:23 and 42 seconds the date and time aligned to make up The Numbers from the tv series Lost. People wondered what would happen. And obviously, much like the whole tv series, nothing happened…. So there you go. But, you know, pat on the back for surviving.

The last few weeks have been pretty uneventful – or should I say blissfully uneventful. We were feeling rather burnt out from the busy start to our summer, and have very much enjoyed the lie-ins and chilled out evenings. Catching up on movies and being generally lazy.

Still recovering from my injury and getting my first tattoo (pictures once it’s healed, but hop over to instagram if you can’t wait) has meant that swimming training has halted for the time being. Which is both good and bad. It’s 26 days until my Ibiza trip and I’d hoped to be feeling a little fitter and looking a little more toned by then, but hey. What you see now is what you get!

We’ve had, until this weekend, terrible weather. One of the past weekends was positively autumnal and saw us hunkered down under a blanket, drinking tea and watching movies.

I’ve tried a few new recipes, one from a new dairy free cook book. It’s the kind of ‘dairy free’ book which calls for a lot of dairy free cheese, dairy free milk and dairy free cream. I consider this as cheating in allergy recipes because I could look at any recipe and make those substitutions myself – I do have a brain. But one recipe caught my eye. Boston Baked Beans with Chipolatas and Dumplings. Unfortunately I failed to take a photo before I served it up, but it was so delicious there’s no doubt I’ll be making another pot shortly. It’s definitely an autumnal dish and can see it featuring in regular rotation on my repertoire.

Last night the Book Club met at a local TGI Friday’s to celebrate a few of our birthdays. We have 2 birthdays in June, 2 in July and 2 in August so we took the opportunity to push July and August’s into one and have a meal together. Fantastic company and hearty food – with free desserts courtesy of the Friday’s Birthday Club – AND 4 free huge slices of birthday cake for the birthday girls. We had to stand on our chairs and shout across the restaurant to earn them, but I have little shame so all was good.

11828664_10152876895446511_2124377560263580556_nI even had a cheeky cocktail, called Summer Peach, which had orange sherbet in it. Perfectly refreshing and juicy.

I took my cake home to share with Gary – I was truly stuffed!

So, next weekend is my birthday! I’m turning the big 32 and have no idea what I’ll be getting up to, but I intend to rinse the whole weekend doing fun things 🙂 You only get one birthday a year, after all!

Eating Las Vegas

Anyone who reads Shutterbug regularly will know I love my food. And I have no problems with whipping my camera out to photograph the food I’m served all over the world. My Dad has actually started requesting pictures of things I eat when I’m away, and I’m more than happy to oblige!

If food photos don’t float your boat, then feel free to skip this post. I won’t hold it against you! All the more for the rest of us 🙂

My foodie journey began on our flight. After being recently confirmed as lactose intolerant, I knew I assumed I would have a hard time finding things I’d be happy to eat. We updated my flight details and opted for a vegan diet on both flights there and back, since the vegetarian option couldn’t guarantee there would be no cheese in the food. A long flight isn’t the kind of place you want to have ‘those’ kind of problems….

I had remembered from a previous flight, years back, that airlines like to stuff you with food, but hadn’t flown with Virgin before so had no idea of what to expect. Here’s a section from my travel journal about the flight:

What’s with all the food?! Still five hours to go on an 11 hour flight and we’ve already had…. a snack, full 3 course meal, ice cream lolly and now a ciabatta/calzone (huge). Will we starve for the rest of the flight? Who knows? Apparently we have afternoon tea an hour and a half before we land. I need never eat again!

The three course meal was really nice. It was a tomato orzo salad, then chickpea dahl, pea and spinach paneer and basmati rice. Then a fruit salad. The calzone weren’t dairy free but I was given a full-sized mixed bean ciabatta roll. I couldn’t eat the pretzels, ice cream lolly or the afternoon tea because it was all cheese and chocolate. By the second half of the flight my stomach was expecting food every half an hour so by the time we were at the hotel (and after a little nap) we were starving!

We headed out to the Rainforest Cafe, in our hotel, since we knew there was a good chance that we would get tired very fast and we knew there was stuff we’d eat there as we’d eaten at the Cafe in Disneyland.

10923641_10155478210920727_4900933054957404483_nI opted for the Paradise Pot Roast which came served on mashed potatoes. I’ve been taking lactase tablets a little before eating anything with a small amount of dairy in, so I popped a few of those knowing there was likely cream in the mash. They seem to work quite well for things like this. Despite the messy bowl, I loved the presentation and the food was yummy and comforting. Just what I needed after a long flight!

After a fairly good night’s sleep, and checking Facebook, a friend Carrie had recommended eating breakfast at a place called Hash House a Go Go. It looked great on the website and had been featured on Man Vs Food. Since we were awake stupidly early, and starving we hot footed it to this 24 hour restaurant, and got seated straight away.

10945409_10155478211130727_6074142470278156142_nGary had a massive pancake (they call these flapjacks) and I had an avocado, swiss cheese and bacon scramble with crispy seasoned potatoes and a buttermilk biscuit. It was all amazing. They gave me some strawberry jam for the biscuit which was wonderful.

We also tried the Cheesecake Factory during our stay. I had a wonderful salad, and thought I’d risk the cheesecake.

1491766_10155478214140727_1435444263095033494_nI got a little emotional eating this, it was so good. I chose Key Lime Cheesecake. But despite it being wonderful to eat, no amount of lactase tablets could save me and let’s just say my afternoon wasn’t as pleasant as my morning had been. You can get lactose free Philadelphia now, so it looks like the only cheesecake I’ll be eating from now on will be home-made!

On one of the afternoons there was a Man Utd game on which Gary wanted to watch so we headed to a sports bar in our hotel called Tap. It’s actually owned by a guy from Watford, who we chatted to for a bit on the last day. We had intended on just having a few drinks and watching the game, since neither of us were really hungry, but we were lured in by their bar snacks. We ended up ordering to share, pig in blanket (a sausage in pastry) which came with an amazing brown beer mustard sauce, and some fried green beans.

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We ate at a Denny’s one morning. After being educated by Beckie, I discovered I should have asked for my eggs ‘over easy’ to get them how I like (we only have one way with fried eggs in the UK!) so I was able to ask for this later on in the holiday. We also ate at a Johnny Rockets and PanAsian. But we really enjoyed the restaurant food. We had planned on eating at a buffet on one of the lunchtimes but ended up eating in Serendipity 3 instead. Home of their famous frozen hot chocolate (which I decided was probably not safe to try after the cheesecake incident!), we were really surprised by how good their savoury meals were.

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I had a pulled pork and slaw pretzel roll with fries. It was so full I had to eat it with knife and fork, but so so delicious! They need to open one of these in London!

Finally, on our last day, we woke late, packed and checked out and then headed back to Hash House a Go Go. This being a lot later than on our first morning we had an hour wait to be seated and then half an hour wait for food once ordered. The atmosphere was great though, since it was so busy.

10171730_10155478209675727_8909387152905351245_nThis time I went for a skillet of artichoke, spinach and mushroom with crispy potatoes and eggs (over easy!). Again the food was amazing. I’d never had artichoke before and was delighted with the flavour. It was like a cross between celery and cabbage but a really light flavour.

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And I didn’t miss out on desert in The Venetian, where I had some dairy free strawberry and apple sorbetto. Just as good as ice cream, if not better!

I was really pleasantly surprised by the amount of food I could eat, which was dairy free, and I haven’t even mentioned the best steak ever that I ate, on one of the evenings! On my return, I expected to have put loads of weight on but was happy to have remained the same as when I left. We worked out we averaged 10 miles a day, walking, which will have helped burn off the calories!

I am missing the amazing choice of foods, and different places to eat, but I will admit I am ready for some home cooking. There’s nothing wrong with a baked chicken breast with a side of broccoli and new potatoes!

 

Free From Nasties

I’m part of a Tesco programme called Orchard where you can sample products for free or for less with vouchers they send. They recently sent me some vouchers for their Free From range.

This range offers gluten, wheat and dairy free products and though I’m not familiar with their whole Free From range I have been buying their coconut milk for a good 8 months now. I don’t drink dairy milk at all, not through an intolerance but just through choice, and now I prefer it (and so does my body!)

I decided to use my vouchers, not on the milk I usually buy, but to treat myself to a couple of their chilled desserts. I enjoyed them so much I had to share them with you!

indexTesco Free From Rich Choco Mousse Dessert (the old packaging is pictured) was literally the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever eaten. No exaggeration. I made so much noise whilst eating it that Gary told me off….. It was a lovely aerated but dense texture and the top is sprinkled with cocoa powder. The flavour was rich but not too rich and I basically licked the bowl clean. You couldn’t tell it was dairy free. It’s vegetarian so no gelatine concerns and it’s also gluten and wheat free. I felt positively virtuous eating it.

Next I tried their Creme Caramel Soya desserts.

photo credit fatgayvegan.com

Again these are vegetarian, which surprised me, dairy, gluten and egg free. They didn’t lose anything in their texture, were creamy and light with a nice wobble and the caramel sauce was delightful.

I have a couple of lactose intolerant friends, gluten intolerant friends and vegetarian friends and family, hence my insistence to share my findings. If you frequent Tescos and find yourself down the dairy aisle, give these a look. You won’t be disappointed!

I wasn’t asked to write this blog, I just really really wanted to share! I was able to get these items for free using the Tesco Orchard programme. Give it a try if you want to!