Following my article detailing my journey to being truly sugar free, I’ve decided to share a lot more recipes here on the blog. What better to kick start the new feature than my ultimate free from cheesecake? 

Over the last few years I have created some awesome (if I do say so myself) sugar free deserts, which also happen to be grain (not just gluten!) and dairy free too. The best feedback I get is that you would never know they are ‘free from’. I take this as a huge compliment, and am chuffed to know that some of my most sugar addicted friends are the biggest fans of my work. Not to mention my hubby, who has a very sweet tooth. 

blueberry cheesecakeThis cheesecake is a seriously tasty piece of pie – exceptionally rich and decadent, yet devoid of all the ingredients that cause so many of us such horrible digestive problems. The only spanner in the works would be if you have to avoid nuts, because two of the three layers are made from them.

Although it’s what I call a show stopping desert, it is unbelievably easy to make, providing you have a powerful blender or food processor. I have a Vitamix (lucky me) which makes light work of grinding up nuts and dried fruit.

This recipe is free from: gluten, grains, dairy and refined sugar

Ingredients
(crust) 200g macadamia nuts
50g dates
15g desiccated coconut
(filling) 220g cashew nuts
120ml lemon juice
120ml coconut oil
2-4 tbsp honey
tsp lemon oil
(topping) 250g blueberries

Method
blueberry cheesecake– I have used a traditional 26cm flan dish, which I’d highly recommend as it makes the perfectly sized end result which you can cut into thin slices. As I said before, it’s a very rich desert and a little goes a long way

– to make the crust, put the macadamias and dates into your blender or food processor and whiz until they come together to form a sticky dough

– scatter the desiccated coconut onto the bottom of the dish which helps the crust not to stick, then press the dough down firmly 

– now make your filling by adding the cashews, lemon juice and oil, coconut oil and honey to your blender or food processor. Then whiz until you have the consistency of a very very thick milkshake (as pictured). I find that two tbsp of honey is more than enough for my palate, but sweeten yours according to taste

– pour the filling evenly on top of the crust, cover with cling film and place in the freezer for 30 mins

– to make the topping simply place your blueberries into a saucepan over a high heat. You can use fresh or frozen, they both work just as well. When you hear sizzling after 30 seconds or so turn the heat low and simmer for 10-15 mins

– once the blueberries are cooked and have cooled down, take the cheesecake out of the freezer and pour them over the top. Then re-wrap in cling film and place back in the freezer for at least three hours until you’re ready to serve

– remove from the freezer 30 mins before you want to serve and allow to defrost a little before slicing and serving

This really is the most AMAZING free from cheesecake you’ll ever taste. Trust me, I’m fussy with my treats 😉

These delightful little pumpkin pie cupcakes are a throwback to Polly’s egg allergy. During those desperate days, I spent too much time wondering what on earth I’d feed my child. Thankfully we’re in a much better place now, but I learnt how to be creative back then. 

I remember trawling the internet searching for recipes that were not just grain free, but egg free too. It was much harder than I thought it would be, so I did what I always do. Got out my apron, and started chucking ingredients together until I was happy with the taste. 

Need a healthy guilt free treat? You’re in the right place! 

The pumpkin/butternut squash base make these cupcakes a truly guilt free bake. Flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, they are dense and fudgey, and super moreish. The best thing of all is that they won’t leave you feeling meh afterwards, as they’re free from grains and refined sugar. The icing is made primarily from cashew nuts, which sounds a bit random, but trust me, it’s absolutely delicious. Overall they’re a win for any time of the day. 

I had a bit of an epiphany while I was trying to take photos of these cakes over the weekend. I’ve known for a long time that my sweet treats will never look as good as their sugary/gluteny/buttery counterparts, but I’ve made my peace with that. My food is all about the flavour, and the fact that it’s great for my family. If you’re in need of healthy inspiration, you’re definitely in the right place. Take a look at this Pinterest board for more yummy recipes.  

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Sweet Icing. This recipe is free from all grains (not just gluten), dairy, egg and refined sugar.     

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Sweet Icing (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free)Ingredients to make 12

(for the cupcakes) 400g pumpkin or butternut squash
120ml coconut oil
40g coconut flour
40g ground almonds
40g ground flaxseed
2 tbsp water
1-2 tbsp honey
Tbsp cinnamon
Tsp vanilla
Tsp bicarb of soda
(for the icing) 200g cashew nuts
60ml coconut oil
2-3 tbsp honey

Method

– two hours ahead of baking, put the cashew nuts into a bowl and cover with cold water. Soaking the nuts will make them easier to blend, and also easier to digest  

– preheat your oven to 170c and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with cases

– peel and de-seed your pumpkin/butternut squash and cut into small chunks. Place in a saucepan with the cinnamon and water. Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat with the lid on for about 40 mins until it is fork-mashable

– tip the contents into your blender or food processor, along with all the other cake ingredients and whiz until well combined. Sweeten the batter to your taste, one tablespoon of honey is enough for us, but you might want to add a little extra

– divide the batter between the cases and bake for 25 mins

pumpkin pie cupcakes– allow to cool completely before icing them

– to make the icing, drain the cashews and tip them into your blender or food processor

– blend the cashews, along with the coconut oil and 2 tbsp of honey, adding more honey to taste if needs be

– you’ll now be ready to ice the cakes, get the piping bag out if you’re feeling fancy otherwise use a knife to spread over the cakes 

– serve immediately, or make in advance and store in a cake tin. They are particularly delish after they’ve been in the fridge 

welcome to the Polly show

welcome to the Polly show

There has been something going on with my eldest daughter Polly since she was a tiny baby. First it was reflux and eczema covering her face – related to reacting to dairy coming through my breast milk. Then came the multitude of food sensitivities which we discovered at two and a half.

A few months previous to that she stopped sleeping (both during the day and at night) and was waking up ten times plus. Even now she hardly ever sleeps through, and she is six next month. On top of all this she never outgrew the toddler meltdowns, and her violent outbursts have been steadily getting worse over the years.

Always something

Something has felt not quite right for a very long time, and I just knew there was more to this story than everyone else allowed me to think.

“She’ll grow out of the allergies, don’t worry”

“She’ll be so tired when she starts school that she’ll start sleeping all night, don’t worry”

“It’s all normal kids stuff, mine fight like cat and dog all the time, don’t worry”

The well intentioned, yet largely unsolicited advice, has been of little comfort to me over the years.

I’m kooky when it comes to my gut instincts, but they very rarely let me down. Last summer P had a whole bunch of gastro tests done, to investigate whether there was something medical going on, but every single one came back negative. It was a huge relief, I had major stomach surgery at 5yo and would do anything for my own kids to not have to go through the same. It left us not really knowing where to turn next though. So on we plodded with the best parenting we were capable of on no sleep, and a diet so wholesome that her teachers regularly comment on how envious they are of her lunch.

Last September I wrote this over on my GAPS blog.

“I’m going to set the cat among the pigeons here. What if her problems aren’t being caused by standard allergic reactions to food, but by a toxic overload and leaky gut syndrome? What if the super clean diet of cooked from scratch organic goodness she has been eating all her life is the only thing saving her from an ASD diagnosis? It’s no secret that ASD and food sensitivities go hand in hand. I’m starting to think that my hubby and I have been tearing ourselves into pieces looking in all the wrong places.”

wpid-img_20150509_103810.jpgChristmas saw my family in absolute dire straights. Hubby and I then went on a mission to try and turn it all around, and totally eradicate our own negative behaviour. Which trust me was bloody hard, but we didn’t so much as raise a voice over the two week holiday. We saw improvements but it didn’t work the miracles we were hoping it would. By Easter her sleep had gone to pot again, and her violent outbursts were getting more frequent and intense. To the point where we couldn’t trust her to be alone with her baby brother in case she hurt him. I conceded that what we were doing wasn’t enough and that perhaps my theory about autism wasn’t so whacky after all. Then I read this post by fellow blogger Reprobate Mum and alarm bells started well and truly ringing.

Our biggest red flags
– lack of empathy
– inability to read body language or communicate non-verbally
– toddler like temper tantrums
– obsessive about her likes
– has to be in control
– incredibly poor sleep

Getting the help we desperately needed

We are lucky to have private medical insurance through work, and jumped the queue massively to see a top specialist at The Portland Hospital two months ago. Dr. K assessed Polly and asked me a million questions, all the time being privy to her full range of emotions. Dr. K told me it would be high functioning, but there was definitely something needing to be investigated. I booked a follow up (again lucky enough to queue jump) and in the mean time had to complete more questionnaires, as did P’s school and our GP. We had the appointment yesterday and went through what the sheets said, and were asked even more questions. Dr. K also got to see the way P interacts with her little brother (little sister was left with the Grandparents).

To be completely honest I think Dr. K had made up her mind about Polly last time, she is a leading expert in autism and sleep disorders after all. The questionnaires seem to be just a formality. We were asked whether we wanted to contest her diagnosis of High Functioning ASD, and see another doctor to have an independent assessment done, but we declined. She was just confirming what we had already come to terms with. Now we have a diagnosis on its way, we can start to access the support our family so desperately needs.

It’s Official. She’s on the Spectrum. Now What?

Why am I writing this and telling the world that my kid is autistic? Quite simply because there is no shame in having a child on the autistic spectrum. P’s condition hasn’t been caused by anything that anyone has done, or could have done differently. There will be no guilt, and there will be no apologising. This is the way she was born and what my husband and I now need to do is start equipping her and the rest of the family with the tools we all need to live a happier life.

Attitudes will only change once people start talking about this stuff out in the open.

I keep hearing the term early intervention over and again, and because she isn’t even six yet I am very hopeful that we will be able to get ourselves to a much happier place fairly quickly. Hubby and I will be tapping into the support networks and parenting groups that will help us do this. You can learn more through the National Autistic Society.

A plea to trust your gut

I’ve also written this as a little plea to parents to trust their gut instincts when it comes to your kids. If you know something is up then fight for an answer, and do not allow yourself to be rail roaded into thinking that everything is fine, when you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not.

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Anyone that has had to deal with allergies and intolerances will be able to relate to this post and for those that haven’t, perhaps you’ll read something here that will trigger alarm bells. Or perhaps you’ll just have a bit more sympathy next time you see your friend whose kid can’t eat wheat/dairy/soya…

I have always struggled with dairy, never been the hugest fan as I’ve known throughout adulthood that my system has problems digesting it. I would often feel bloated and have stomach cramps or diarrhoea after a dairy laden meal. I cut it out of my diet altogether over a decade ago and felt great for it, but re-added it when I was pregnant with 4yo as I’d allowed myself to believe the hype that it’s the best source of calcium for a growing baby. I now know there are far better sources out there than cows dairy but didn’t then. This is more than likely why she suffers now, because when a pregnant woman eats food she is intolerant of the intolerance can be passed onto the foetus. This fact has played heavily on my heart, but short of time travel there isn’t much I can do about it now.

Being an exclusively breastfed baby all the dairy I was eating will have gone into her milk, and it was obvious (to me at least) that she had food sensitivities from very early on. At two weeks she developed reflux and by six weeks her face was covered in scabby eczema. Our doctor was supremely unhelpful, practically laughed at my suggestion to get her allergy tested and prescribed hydrocortisone cream to clear up her skin. I was incredulous that they would rather put steroids on a six week old baby than get to the root of the problem. I cut dairy back out of my diet and it definitely helped. From the research I did, it seems dairy and reflux often go hand in hand, along with eczema especially when it’s on the face.

When it came to weaning at six months, we decided to allow her to have small quantities of dairy to try and build up a tolerance as opposed to not having it at all which can bring on a full blown allergy. We fared up pretty well in the first year or so when I had strict control over everything she ate. We never gave her cows milk to drink, and we didn’t give her huge amounts of dairy in one day. The rule of thumb being if lunch contained it then tea wouldn’t.

Just after she turned two her facial eczema flared up for the first time since she was a baby, and we just couldn’t get it under control. I went to see the doctor (again) and was told that even if it was related to issues with food the allergy clinic in our area was so over-subscribed they wouldn’t see her because she wasn’t a bad enough case. After six months of not sleeping, exceptionally challenging behaviour, horrible eczema and generally going round in circles we found a private allergy nurse. She confirmed that food intolerances were indeed at the root of our troubles, but it wasn’t just dairy; it was a whole host of food and ingredients. Her advice was complete exclusion all of the allergens from her diet for three months, as this is usually enough time for the body to rid itself of an intolerance.

And so it began. To say it was a ball ache would be an understatement. I cook mainly from scratch, but all our little shortcuts and cheats had to go. Nursery were supportive to a degree, but slipped up on a weekly basis at first meaning we had to keep going back to the start with the exclusion. The diet dictated our lives for a whole year – during which time we also saw two homoeopaths. I now strongly feel that they ripped us off and we may as well have thrown the money down the toilet. A year of being told no all the time, always having different meals to her friends and not being able to eat the food at birthday parties took their toll on our little girl. She became quite miserable, depressed even. The crunch came on holiday in Spain last May, where policing every single thing she ate was almost impossible. We decided to do an experiment and see if she was ready to start eating foods on the banned list again. Amazingly she didn’t appear to have any adverse reactions, and all seemed to be great.

Things were fine for a couple of months, but the tell-tale signs that she was struggling again soon crept back. She was up to nocturnal tricks for some reason or other every night for two weeks. Her eczema flared up, behaviour got really bad and she would get an intermittent sky high temperature that would disappear as quickly as it came. This was a regular occurrence pre-diet, and our allergy nurse was convinced we would see the back of it once we had everything under control. Sure as anything it didn’t feature in our lives for months. We didn’t hang around waiting and put her straight back onto the exclusion diet.

This was a whole year ago, and we have still not been able to reintroduce a single thing. After doing a fair bit of research, I now think she may have gut allergies. We *finally* have an appointment coming up with a paediatrician so will hopefully get to the bottom of it once and for all.

I feel her pain because over the last few years I have become intolerant of coffee, cocoa, peaches, tea, lemongrass, apples and cashew nuts to name the ones that I can remember. My symptoms include headaches, irritability, wind, acne, insomnia and a bright red rash (mainly on my arms and legs). According to the allergy nurse if you are pre-disposed to intolerances you need to ensure you don’t eat the same food more than twice in one day otherwise you are likely to become intolerant of it – e.g. if you had toast for breakfast, then pasta for lunch you can not so much as look at a breadcrumb for the rest of the day.

It’s a real pain the butt, and I’ve had it with exclusion diets! Which is why I have embarked on GAPS, in a bid to wave goodbye to my food sensitivities for good! You can read the full story here:

My GAPS Journey