Monday, 2 January 2017

Free From Bristol - Tasting Evening at GandD Shop, Keynsham

Haul from the tasting evening at G&D shop in Keynsham

Lovely Voakes pie

After a bit of a pause from blogging, it seems appropriate that I jump back into the blogging game with a post on the same subject matter as my previous post!

There's not much that gets me out of the house on a week night, but the tasting evenings at G&D are always worth a trip. They do put on a lovely spread.

As a gluten free vegan, it's a real pleasure to walk into a shop and chat to knowledgeable staff. And have choices. For example, on my last trip, I almost picked up the chocolate I usually get, but was persuaded to try out I-Choc. Their white vanilla chocolate is really something else. And now I crave it all the time! (OK second thoughts, damn you G&D!!)

At the tasting evening, I purchased some tried and tested favourites as I rarely see them all in one place:

Meridian Korma Cooking Sauce - take the effort out of soaking cashews etc for a creamy curry sauce. This one tastes great, not artificial like some jar sauces and no one will know that it's vegan.

Lazy Day Foods Chocolate Orange Slices - I'm a big fan of the Millionaire's Shortbread (usually stocked in Holland & Barrett and Asda) but these ones make a lovely change.

Violife Smoked Flavour 'Cheese' - The best of the Violife range - I eat this straight from the packet but it's also so good on a cracker with pickle, in a sandwich or on pizza. Or on toast with Marmite (my new favourite thing. I have been advised that Marmite is OK for those on a gluten free diet, but not all people want to risk it.) If you normally buy the plain cheddar give the smoked a go. It really is superior!

Zest Vegan Basil Pesto - A jar of this lasts me ages. A tablespoon is easily enough for one portion of pasta and you've still got almost a full jar left. Easy dinners are at your fingertips! Add to pizza if you fancy being extra extravagant.

Voakes Spices Lentil & Vegetable Pie - I've raved about these before. You can see why they are award winning. The crust is held together with spells. This particular pie was full of flavour and easily the best vegan pie I've tried, but the real show stopper is their Sweet Roasted Roots Pie. If you can get your hands on one of these, find a quiet spot, light a candle and savour the moment.

Pukka Elderberry & Echinacea Tea - Their 3 mint tea is my all time favourite but unfortunately they missed the mark with this one. The flavour was too weird for me, sorry Pukka! (If you are looking for a source of Echinacea, Co-op do it in tablet form for a reasonable price.)

Finally some tempeh - One year vegan and I'm trying tempeh for the first time. I marinaded it in soy sauce and some Chinese spices and had it with a stir fry. The texture was very intriguing. More stodgy than I was expecting and fills you up quickly. I left some overnight and added it the next day to some pesto pasta and it seemed a lot more flavoursome and moreish. Not sure if I'll try it again but it was good to say I had!

7 High Street
BS31 1DP

Are you on Instagram? Come find me. I will follow back. (In a non creepy way.)

Are you thinking of giving Veganism a go? Head over to the Veganuary site. It's an excellent resource for all things vegan. AND there's a gluten free recipe section!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Free From Bristol - GandD Shop, Keynsham

We were recently invited to a tasting evening at GandD, an exclusively gluten and dairy free shop in south east Bristol.

You know how excited us free frommers get at a free from event - we get to touch things, try things and get really nerdy about things without judgement.

I was able to try everything on the 'gluten free and vegan' table while drinking some hot and chilled herbal tea. How very civilized!

The guys running the shop are very lovely and happy for feedback. They just want to make the shop a useful outlet for people of all fussy diets - coeliacs and vegans alike.

I think they've done rather well in the 6 months they've been open. It's definitely the best selection of brands I've seen, as well as of sundries, chilled and frozen in one place.

They have a particularly well stocked freezer with several types of dairy free ice cream and even the gluten and dairy free Amy's Mac & Cheese!

The prices are extremely good too. Compared to online and even at the vegan cafe/shop VX.

As for my haul - the only thing I'd tried before was the quinoa crisps - dairy free, vegan sour cream and chives - my absolute favourite. The other products were all fantastic too. The food heaven ice cream was served to my family and they couldn't tell it was dairy free, the Voakes pie was delicious (how do they make the crust so buttery?) and even the vegan jerky was amazing (like, how?) I think that will be going on a pizza in the very near future! On the subject of pizza, smoked Violife cheese! And in a larger pack too. It goes with everything and is brilliant on a cracker with a blob of chutney. The yoghurts were dark chocolate and coconut. It's just so good to try different flavours after so long.

I hope you'll check this fantastic place out soon if you're nearby -

7 High Street
BS31 1DP

In the meantime;



01179 865 511

Friday, 18 March 2016

From Awkward to Awkwarder - The Post Veganuary Post

It's been a while since I last wrote. January and February are lost in a mist of long working hours and flu. It's probably no coincidence that I have also been feeling thoroughly miserable and as we tend to do, the ones with the tendency towards black cloud days and weeks, I avoided doing the things I love the most.

But the sun is shining and I feel renewed. My writing is rusty again so this post will be very photo heavy. In January, me and my husband took part in #Veganuary. We liked how it made us feel. I immersed myself in veganism, followed vegans on Instagram and Twitter and absorbed every email from the Veganuary team. I felt the scales fall from my eyes. 

I love animals. We have helped to rescue and re-home quite a few during our time as fosterers. What were we doing eating them and supporting the meat, egg and dairy industries? Animals are not 'happy', there is no happy ending or blissful life for animals that are forced to breed, grow unnaturally large too quickly and exist for as little time as possible for as little money as possible. Watching the film Cowspiracy changed my life. It's on Netflix if you want to check it out.

The blog as ever will be about living without gluten, eggs and dairy - but now also about living without meat. The term 'awkward eater' has never been so apt. I'm experimenting more than ever now and buying more weird and wonderful products. My whole way of eating has changed. We still eat junk and pig out, but I'm thinking about what I can do to make my meals more nutritious and where my goods fats, calcium and protein is coming from. My body has changed so much. I lost 7 pounds, I don't get spots at all, my digestion is working so well and I have a load of energy. Nothing tastes as good as vegan feels.

My fridge now looks like this;

My breakfasts look like this;

Gluten free and vegan breakfast from Maitreya, Bristol

My work lunches now look like this;
Lemongrass and coconut rice with salad, seeds, sweet chilli humous and egg free salad cream

Our dinners now look like this;
Potato and cauli korma made with cashew cream

Our junk food now looks like this;
Nachos and hot dog from Vx store in Bristol

Going out for a Chinese looks like this;
Gluten free and vegan dishes from Toro in Bristol

And my clothing looks like this;
Tshirt from All Glamour No Guts

Veganuary doesn't stop in January. Head over to their site for more info.

For more gluten free and vegan food pr0n from me, you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

My Coeliac Test Story

Here lies my coeliac test story, of beige food, a blood test and temperamental bowels. Of thinking more about the food we buy, where we buy it and why we buy it.

I have food intolerances and this means that I probably won't be intolerant to certain foods forever. Some intolerances linger for years, some go in a few months, sometimes it feels as though I'm intolerant to water.

In September, after I got back from holiday and things had settled down a bit in my new job, I decided to go for a coliac disease test. The GP had finally agreed to test me back in April but it wasn't the right time.

I wanted to rule it out once and for all. I argued that if I had a medical condition then I should know about it. If it was positive, I would stop doing damage to myself by being lazy about crumbs in the marge and the odd pot of KFC gravy.

Before you can have the initial test for coliac disease (a blood test), you must eat a 'normal' diet (with gluten) for 6 weeks. The equivalent of 4 slices of bread a day. I tried keeping a diary.

After 13 years on the wagon, there were quite a few things I was excited to eat again and many new things that I hadn't tried. Put it this way, I didn't do it the healthy way. Greggs, Dominoes, Krispy Kreme, Lidl bakery, naan breads with a curry, mixed starters from the Chinese, battered sausages, bacon and cheese slices, proper noodles, chicken kievs, cherry pie. I discovered that a few of my old favourites were no longer as great and I discovered many new favourites.

Week 1 observations - Sat: Buy multipack of Scampi Fries in B&M. Husband says "you may want to consider a gym membership". We shop for dinner. The husband seems more excited about shopping options than I do. I'm still waiting for the world of pain. Brunch is fried breakfast with soda bread. It's not as exciting as my usual colourful veggie concoctions. Sun: Up early but no need to pre-prepare breakfast or lunch. Breakfast is a sausage sandwich which is awesomely dull. Later on I buy a chicken slice and I all I can taste is salt. I check the packet, not good. No wonder people are getting so ill. 5 minutes later i feel drained. Is it the salt or wheat making me feel like I just woke up in a hedge? It feels like I haven't eaten a vegetable in days. Had a poo that definitely isn't on the Bristol Poo Scale.

Week 2 observations - Thu: Almost completely out of love with gluten after a very disappointing lunch. Weirdly I miss GF food. Perhaps they use better quality ingredients? I'm certainly more excited about a new GF product than eating something with gluten in it.

Week 4 observations - Normal foods feels so below par. Like no effort has been made to make it nice. Nothing is memorable. I'm struggling to think of any product I'd buy again. All the food discounted in the supermarkets is convenient with minimal nutrition. It's so easy to be very lazy.

But there were bigger discoveries during this time. There were whole aisles in the supermarket I'd never walked down in years, except to get to the tills. I had to take the supermarkets a section at a time. Week 1 breads, week 2 cereals etc. It was too much to do in one go. The choice was overwhelming and seemingly more ridiculous than 13 years ago. Why was there a whole aisle of breakfast oat bars? Why sell individual giant bourbon biscuits?

My plates became beiger. I missed colour and everything tasted way too salty. I put on weight quickly and my metabolism slowed to nothing.

Also during week 4, I wrote 'Realising how much we're ripped off. The supermarkets didn't just replace the flour in normal items. They created new and very expensive ranges of 'free from' food.'

I realised that I'd become completely reliant on these ranges. As much as I shopped at Lidl and Aldi for fruit, veg, rice etc, I needed bread and pasta. I had no choice but to slope back to the bigger chains for some essentials. I hated them for this. If they removed flour from normal foods, there would be more choice overall.

My general wellbeing was suffering but gluten wasn't giving me any bowel trouble. I kept waiting for it, but nothing happened. By the end of the 6 weeks, something started to feel not right. I started to feel like I had years ago, it felt so odd to feel a discomfort and a worry after so many years. I was getting a soreness in my lower abdomen, I couldn't go to the toilet properly (too hard, too soft or too infrequent), I was permanently bloated, I felt depressed, my immunity was down and my mouth was full of ulcers. I thought maybe the results might be positive.

2 weeks after the blood test I rang the GP. The test was negative.

I was confused, relieved, annoyed, frustrated, upset. I booked to see the GP for a chat. He told me to go on the FODMAP diet. Me and the husband went completely dairy, onion and garlic free straight away and the husband's IBS has improved considerably. Mine, not so much. I'll do the full diet after Christmas, I promised myself. Instead I'm taking part in Veganuary. The animals come first.

I'm in a weird place diet wise. I dread being asked to someones house for food. I'm clearly not as intolerant to gluten as I used to be. I can tolerate a bit. Which is great. I can eat my mum's gravy, the odd battered sausage. I just need to be careful. I suffer slightly and it can last for weeks. Or not.

It has been an odd learning experience. I have learned that I was too obsessed with being gluten free. I see people doing it now and it frustrates me. Like any illness, you shouldn't let it take over your life. I imagine I've annoyed/bored a lot of people over the years.

However, I also learned that the gluten free life isn't such a bad one after all. I didn't appreciate what I had, and that was a wonderfully varied, healthy diet. I know what's in my food and I can control the amount of fat, sugar and salt I eat very easily.

I've also learnt that you should never stop listening to your body. Things change and it's worth having the occasional overhaul of your diet to see if the same things cause you problems.

I'm going to keep experimenting and keep changing things up. For now, I'm enjoying not harming living creatures so I can fill my belly. It feels good.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

IBS at Work - The Results

I was in a cafe with my husband and a friend of ours today. We all suffer from IBS and we were having a fairly open conversation about its joys, particularly how it affects us at work. Our friend said that he's left a room at work before, simply shouting "IBS!" behind him. I responded that there should be a new rule - if you work with someone with IBS, under no circumstances should you stop them for a chat while they're on their way to the loo.

Joking aside IBS at work is a serious issue and one which millions of us face. My survey gave me an interesting insight into the suffering of others. I kept it anonymous so I hope no-one minds me quoting them within this post.

I asked for yes and no answers, but several people elaborated on their responses.

Have you spoken to your manager or HR department about your IBS?

Yes - 34%
No - 66%

Do you have private i.e. completely blocked in loos at work that you can use?

Yes - 47%
No - 53%

Do you aim for the loos during quiet times or try use a more private loo whilst you are at work?

Yes - 66%
No - 34%

Have you ever had an embarrassing incident at work because of your IBS?

Yes - 47%
No - 53%

Would your work be understanding if you took time off or worked from home because of a flare up?

Yes - 50%
No - 50%

Have you ever been reprimanded or penalised for taking time off work due to IBS?

Yes - 16%
No - 84%

Do you think that stress causes or can exaggerate IBS symptoms?

Yes - 91%
No - 9%

Do you consciously avoid stressful situations at work because of your IBS?

Yes - 34%
No - 66%

Do you think that people with IBS should be considered when building new offices etc?

Yes - 60%
No - 40%

While it's great that not many of us have been penalised for taking time off or away from our desks due to IBS, not many of us are speaking to our bosses about it. So the conclusion is that many of us are hiding the situation as best we can. Is drawing attention to our condition a positive thing? Do we worry that once the long toilet breaks are explained then they are more noticeable? That is certainly how I feel. As one respondent put it "I worry that it detracts from my overall professional reputation."

I worked from home for a few years and I find that hiding my IBS now that I work in an office is a daily struggle. I don't want my toilet habits to become a running joke. I also get a few remarks about my 'bump' - "am I sure that it's not something else?" - definitely sure that's it's a poo baby, thanks for asking.

The question regarding stress and IBS garnered the strongest responses. I can't say that I personally suffer more with IBS when I'm stressed and I always denied any link in the doctor's surgery when the GP tried explaining that I should avoid it. (Didn't help that they starting saying this when I was about 12!) Beyond doubt there is a link between emotions and the bowel so it does add up that in times of high emotion, your digestion is under stress too. This delightful response puts it thus; "I pooed my pants when under severe stress from a deadline." Deadlines are unavoidable as is stress, so what is the answer? Clearly access to proper toilets should be paramount. If my colleague can chat to me from the other loo, then I'm having kittens worrying about any embarrassing noises I'm about to make. Closed in toilets, preferably with a window, should be mandatory. Not just for sufferers of IBS, but for sufferers of any bowel condition or incontinence etc. If you need any more convincing, how about this heart-wrenching response - "Messing your pants in public can ruin people's lives."

To conclude, IBS is a horrible condition that really does impact every day life. Should we start a movement (excuse the pun) to raise awareness in the workplace? Is our silence perpetuating the malaise surrounding the condition? Should we make it an open conversation just like my chat in the cafe earlier? We all poo, right? And I'm sure that more IBS sufferers would come out of the woodwork at work.

What do you think? Silence is golden or let's start the conversation?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Fusion Cakes and Bakes Launch, Bristol

Bored of brownies, meringues a little mundane? Check out new gluten free cake company 'Fusion Cakes and Bakes'.

I attended their opening evening in a space on Bristol Harbourside (complete with gorgeous sunset, pictured above).

I entered the space and was faced with a long table covered in free from cakes, bakes and loaves. Everything was available to try, you just needed to grab a knife or spoon and tuck in.

Some of the products were both gluten and egg free, including Hazelnut & Chocolate Squares and the Rosemary & Orange Cake.

I cut myself a few slices and sat down with an espresso. I can still taste the rosemary and orange cake now. I'm glad I finally got to try cake with rosemary as it's not something I would have made myself. It was very well balanced with a satisfying dense texture. Definitely the work of someone who knows their onions.

The ingredients used are inventive and healthier than the standard gluten, dairy and egg alternatives. Organic ingredients and natural sweeteners are used where possible. Many classics were on offer (a tiramisu looked especially appetising) as well as some exciting flavour combinations like Chestnut and Pear Chocolate Frangipan and Lime and Matcha Madeleines.

The brains behind the company, Rosa, started baking for coliac friends after finding that shop bought alternatives can be high in sugar, salt and artificial thickeners.

If you'd like to order any of Rosa's fantastic products, you just need to call this number with your order - 07850 471667 or email

When we left, full of cake and coffee, we popped into the Arnolfini to check out Richard Long's 'Time & Space' exhibition. A perfectly haunting and atmospheric end to an early autumn evening. Cake, art and Bristol! Is there a greater combination?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Gluten Free Day Out in Bath

It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone that Bath caters very well for specialist diets. Areas with a lot of wealth have a higher proportion of places that cater for specialist diets. Why is that? A discussion for another time maybe. 

Me and the husband went for a day out in Bath for my birthday. I found out that there is a bus that goes from the end of my street straight there. It's funny what you find out after 1.5 years of living somewhere. The bus really appealed to me as parking issues have always marred our previous trips to Bath.

We departed at about 9.30am. The logic behind this was that I wanted to get beat the crowds and to get on a quiet bus, And because I wanted to fit in at least 2 meals while I was in Bath. I don't think of myself as greedy, I'm deprived of proper food for most of my waking life! 

We got there and pretty much went straight to The Whole Bagel for breakfast. I chose a New Yorker - pastrami, red onion, tomato, mustard and dill pickles. Unfortunately, the gluten free option was white sliced bread rather than bagel. Hopefully they'll look into that in the future, especially as brands like Udi's now produce bagels of such great quality.

Our meals came with a side portion of potato salad and were wrapped up in little paper bags. My sandwich was delicious, if a bit heavy on the raw onion (the husband is a bit phobic of raw onion but he tried his best to stand near me for the rest of the day, as it was my birthday.)

This set us up brilliantly for a day of sight-seeing. The husband hadn't been to the Bath baths before so we sucked it up and joined a massive queue to get in. It was very much worth it though. The place was unrecognisable from 1992 which was the last time I was there. 

After that we went into the Cathedral (stunning) and then found ourselves in a really cute monastery museum. The couple running it were very welcoming and I got to try my first mead (naturally gluten free, sweet and potent.) After that we were looking for our next food stop and I remembered about The Green Rocket which is a vegetarian cafe who also accommodate for specialist diets.

I enjoyed an ice cold bottle of Daas Blonde while I surveyed the menu and took in the impressive cake menu (pictured below). There was a lot to choose from but I finally decided on Sesame Ramen Noodles with Lime Satay. The menu said that a gluten free option was available which I made the waitress aware of when I ordered. Unfortunately there was an annoyingly long wait for our food and my dish came with rice instead of noodles. It was tasty but I'd had my heart set on birthday noodles.

We finished the day with a pint in the cute Coeur De Lion pub, found nestled in one of the old alleyways. Had we stayed for a third meal, I'd have chosen Acorn - Vegetarian Kitchen whose menu was full of intriguing and local ingredients. I'm sure we have only scratched the surface of the free from option in Bath. If you're looking for more, check out Gluten Free Queen's post and the Twitter account Gluten Free Bath.