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Cookbook Joy

11 Mar
 © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

A few of new recruits! © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

We’ve exchanged! At long last we have finally exchanged on our new house! I am so happy! And more than that I am incredibly relieved. It got very touch and go towards the end and looked many times like the whole deal was going to fall through. Thankfully that did not happen and now we have exchanged. Yippee!

For anyone not used to the idiosyncrasies of the British house buying system, exchanged means we have exchanged contracts, paid our deposit and are now legally bound to the transaction. Most importantly, our buyer is, at long last, legally bound to buy our flat. Hurrahhh!!! Completion is set for 27th March so we have a few weeks to get everything organised and packed.

The last few months have been very stressful and my health has taken a bit of hit as a result (things are improving again now thankfully). One of my coping mechanisms was to surround myself with interesting books to keep me occupied and distracted. This for me means one thing….cookbooks. I have a confession to make. I have a pretty large huge GIGANTIC cookbook collection. It is my pride and joy. I read them like novels, even taking them to bed to read before lights out. I dread to think how many boxes it’s going to take to pack them all up to move!

 © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Bed time reading © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Despite already having more than enough cookbooks to be able to cook something new every night of the week for the next year decade, the last couple of months I have purchased a few more…. all in the name of keeping me calm, sane and distracted through the house buying nonsense you understand 🙂 I thought I would share some of my new finds with you today.

Deliciously Ella Granola  © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Deliciously Ella Granola © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The first I have to mention is Deliciously Ella, the debut book by food blogger Ella Woodward. Ella had POTs and when conventional medicine didn’t work she changed her diet, cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs and meat. She has been a huge source of inspiration and her blog a great resource for me in navigating my own recovery from chronic illness. I was very excited for the release of her book – so excited that when I discovered my Amazon pre-order wasn’t going to arrive until a week after the launch date, I cancelled the hard copy order and got the Kindle e-book instead! Instant gratification! Dangerous… As I said, I may have a small problem where cookbooks are concerned…. Ella’s book lived up to expectations and I have already made numerous things from it – coconut thai chickpea curry with miso was delicious, as was the pea and mint cannellini soup (cannellini beans are used to thicken the soup and provide a good solid dose of plant protein) and the giant hash brown was a big hit with my dad and Mr B. Her cinnamon granola has been my go-to breakfast in recent weeks. I am keen to make the scones and carrot cake with creamy frosting next.

Chocolate – Covered Katie, the first book by Katie Higgins, the healthy dessert queen, is another new favourite. Again I have been a fan of Katie’s blog for a long time and love her healthified version of cakes, sweets and desserts. Whilst not all of Katie’s recipes are gluten and dairy free, the majority are, and when they are not, Katie is good at suggesting substitutions to adapt the recipe for particular dietary needs. I am head over heals in love with her deep dish cookie pie (secret ingredient chickpeas!) and her chocolate banana bread cupcakes were a big hit with my friend and her toddler! Whenever I bake something for friends and family they always ask, what’s the hidden vegetable or ingredient, so used are they to me making sweet goods with hidden healthy ingredients. Chocolate Covered Katie is my inspiration! Next up I want to make her Lemon Meltaway Pie – secret ingredient…frozen cauliflower! I have several cauliflower hating friends so I may have to keep very quiet about what’s in that pie until they’ve taken a bite and fallen in love!

© Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

© Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

I know my body works better when I eat minimal meat and as I can’t tolerate dairy, several of my new books are mainstream vegan. Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Mokowitz is a vegan bible jam packed with easy vegan meals from around the world. The photography is stunning and it is a beautiful book. I haven’t yet made anything from it but I’m very excited about trying out some of Isa’s recipes in my new kitchen in a few weeks, Dragoon Noodle Salad with its spicy peanut butter sauce and Red Lentil Thai Chilli  are vying for first spot on my to make list.

But I could never go vegan! Debut book by Keepin It Kind blogger Kristy Turner  © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved

But I could never go vegan! Debut book by Keepin It Kind blogger Kristy Turner © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved

As you’ve probably guessed, I love food and everything to do with it. Discovering a new food blog is to me what Christmas morning is like to a young child. I love it as it means I can spend hours losing myself perusing the recipe back catalogs. One such blog that I discovered recently was Keepin It Kind by Kristy Turner. I have to say I have no idea how I hadn’t come across it sooner! Once I’d perused the archive I obviously then had to buy myself the book (in Kindle format to save trees and reduce the packing load!)

My love of food and cookbooks also extends to recipe apps. Green Kitchen Stories have two apps, one healthy desserts and the other full of savoury goodness. Mr B and I had a delicious brunch using their shakshuka baked egg recipe and their banana granola is so good. The photography is literally stunning and makes you want to make everything immediately!

I could go on and on talking about this topic! But I’ll restrain myself and leave you with a final few loves of mine: Oh She Glows blog and book by Angela Liddon (literally AMAZING, have made hundreds of things from these and they always work perfectly), Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (shows you new and inventive, yet simple, ways of making vegetables the star of the meal) and Yum Universe (another recent food blog discovery that had me lost for hours!).

Do you love cookbooks too? What are your favourites?

As a final note, it seems very fitting that I am writing this post today, 11th March, as it would have been my dearly beloved Nan’s birthday today. Nan, my maternal grandmother, passed away nearly 8 years ago. She was a wonderful cook and inspired a love of food in my Mum which has been passed onto both myself and my sister. So lots of love goes out to my Nan (who was also called Jess and who I’m named after), thank you for inspiring me. I love and miss you everyday.

Recipe Book Love

26 Sep

Whilst I am away on my mini break on the South coast, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite recipe books.

Food blogs are great, don’t get me wrong, love me a good food blog. I spend hours faffing on my Ipad perusing blogs, emailing myself (and my Mum and my sister) recipes that sound Jess friendly or adaptable to my exacting food intolerance demands and generally losing myself in the wonderful world of allergen friendly cooking and baking.

But nothing beats a good recipe book. I love it when I get a new one; with its pages all fresh with so many exciting ideas to try. My purchases from Amazon recently may suggest I have a slight addiction / obsession (yes remember that personality trait….) You see being diagnosed with so many food intolerances is not a problem in my eyes, instead it’s the perfect opportunity to change and refine my diet and the perfect excuse to invest in some new culinary reading matter! Here are a few of my recent finds that are becoming firm favourites in our household:



The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick

Every recipe I have made out of Pippa’s book has turned out wonderfully. Is that down to my cooking or the recipe creator?! The recipe creator I think. Pippa’s recipes are free from wheat, dairy, yeast, egg and soya. Her book is beautiful. Plain and Simple. Hard-backed, the recipes are clearly set out with lots of bright photos of fab looking food that just cries out to be made. Spanning light meals, main dishes, sweet treats and baking, Pippa offers the whole range of recipes arranged by season which provides a wonderful unique angle to this collection of inspiring recipes.

I have made her roasted vegetable quinoa salad with the Moroccan flavours of cumin, coriander and honey, as well as her basic biscuit recipe with add ins of peanut butter and chocolate chip. Both recipes were delicious.  The flat bread recipe was simple and tasty, forming the perfect wrap for our Greek chicken humus filling one evening. Mr B made us the hot smoked salmon creamy pasta sauce, using rice cream in place of the gluten-full oat cream as stated in the recipe. My whole family ate the creamy pasta carbonara that we made using the recipe in Pippa’s book that uses ground cashews to give the cheesy flavour. It was so good!

I am yet to try any of her yeast free bread recipes, but as soon as energy allows I will be straight onto it. I am very excited at the prospect of gluten, dairy and yeast free toast!

Pippa also has a blog, which you can find here. If you hadn’t guessed both the book and the blog are well worth checking out 🙂

6193275_origThe Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies by Laurie Sadowski

All the baked goods in Laurie’s book are gluten, dairy, egg and soya free. Oh and they are amazing! There are a number of no-bake treats in this book which are quick and easy, so perfect for an energy deprived cook like me. My favourite so far is her no-bake frosted mint brownies. I had to sub walnuts for almonds thanks to my almond intolerance and I didn’t have any fresh mint so used orange zest instead but these brownies were to die for! I mentioned in my last post my new love for avocado chocolate mousse and Laurie’s frosting uses avocado as it’s base. Healthy and yum!

Each recipe is clearly marked with which allergens it is free of in addition to the gluten, dairy, egg and soya that all of Laurie’s recipes exclude. This is particularly helpful for the fussy eater that I have unintentionally become thanks to my food intolerances.

There are helpful chapters on subbing common allergens and which alternative works best for what. For example did you know that baked goods using soya milk in place of dairy milk will brown much quicker and that rice milk will produce a thinner batter due to its much thinner consistency than nut or cow’s milk. The book is packed with useful tips like these.

Laurie also has a blog which expands way beyond just sweet treats with regular savoury vegan dishes being posted as well as a good dose of breakfast and baked goodies too. I highly recommend both Laurie’s book and her blog, which you can find here.



Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book by Jennifer Katzinger

This is the newest member of my (exceedingly large and ever growing) cookbook family. I was so excited when the parcel arrived last week containing this book. There was the Triathlon Training Bible for Mr B in the parcel alongside this gorgeous gem of gluten free and vegan baking for me. Could our interests get any more different?! Luckily opposites attract and all that!

So yes this is the newbie in my recipe book collection. I haven’t actually made anything from this book yet but that doesn’t mean that it’s been neglected. Oh no. Remember that obsessive streak? Well this book is already well thumbed; I’ve lost count how many times I’ve picked it up and leafed through it. I have tabbed it with lots of yellow post-its labelled with which (20 or so) recipes I want to make first (cool I know – it’s the legal training)!!

Vegan baking is my new favourite thing. Naturally egg and dairy free, this book is also gluten and refined sugar free too. It is AMAZING!

The recipes on my must bake as soon as I have the energy list are: blueberry scones, chocolate muffins, apple pie, honey shortbread, thumb print cookies and spice cake.

For all you lucky folks living in the Seattle area, you are blessed as the Flying Apron author Jennifer runs a bakery and cafe there. I am very upset that I live so far away! But at least I have her book to console me. Read more about the cafe and the recipe book here.

Although my book shelves are struggling beneath the weight of all my cook books, and Mr B would definitely say I don’t need any more, but what are your favourite recipe books or food blogs for that matter? I’m always open to new discoveries 🙂

ME, my Digestion and I, The Tale of the Unhappy Threesome Continues

16 Jun
The ever present and growing food baby #bloated. Photo credit: Morguefiles user: grietgriet.

The ever present and growing food baby #bloated. Photo credit: Morguefiles user: grietgriet.

ME, my bloated belly and I are back to tell the second installment of my IBS tale. From the many comments I had on my previous post it seems IBS is a beast that bothers a lot of us. It’s really nice to know my bloated belly and I are not alone 🙂 so thank you for all your comments (if I’ve not yet replied, I will I promise. It’s just with ME/CFS I have to pace myself and this includes computer time so thank you for your comment and I will reply very soon).

Last post I gave a potted history of my experiences of IBS. Today I’m going to bring that history a bit closer to present day.

I can trace my current IBS ‘flare up’ back to last December. My ME/CFS specialist recommended I up my daily dose of Co-Enzyme Q10 from 200mg to 400mg. This I dutifully did, in the hope, as ever, of finding the magic cure for the crushing ME/CFS fatigue. But before my energy levels had chance to pick up even a little, my blasted bloated belly sprang into life. Pregnant food baby tummy was back. And back with vengeance. I quickly reduced my Q10 back to the lower dose and my GP gave me some meds to ease the reaction. But  it didn’t seem to make a jot of difference. My poorly gut was in a flare up and did not seem to be willing to quieten down. Depsite my many pleas. And in a nutshell, my gut has been playing up ever since.

Before last December I seemed to have my IBS symptoms under control (ish) through daily linseed and a gluten, dairy and low refined sugar diet. Things weren’t perfect but they were significantly better than they have been for the last 6 + months. Ever since that fateful day last December when I popped the extra Q10 into my mouth, my belly has bloated way WAY more than ‘my usual’ and I have not been as ‘regular’ in my waste disposal habits either! It seems to be a cumulative response. Generally it’s fine first thing and after breakfast. But by evening most days though my belly is bloated, stretched, tight, hard and sore. On really bad days, after lunch and early afternoon it is bad. Sometimes it eases down as the afternoon goes by and flares up again later on, other times it’s ever present.

I’ve never thought of myself as a fad dieter and I’m certainly not in the ‘magic way to lose weight’ sense. But I’m beginning to think I may be a fad dieter thanks to IBS… Over the years I’ve tried so many different diets and ‘eating plan’ combinations  to try and ease my IBS:

  • Wheat free
  • Gluten free
  • Yeast free
  • Dairy free
  • Lactose free
  • No refined sugar, low fructose
  • No sugar of any kind (fructose, sucrose, lactose etc etc)
  • Low GI
  • High fibre
  • Low fibre
  • Protein rich
  • Meat free
  • Low carb
  • FODMAP elimination
  • High soluable fibre
  • Low fat
  • etc etc

The list goes on and on and on…

With my IBS symptoms having gotten so bad in the last six months or so, I’ve renewed my attack on my digestion and poured my energy (what little I have) into trying to find a solution. I even got so desperate that I went for colonic hydrotherapy! That fun experience deserves its own post so that I can share all the lovely gory details so I’ll leave that one aside for now…

As you can probably guess from the list above diet has always been my preferred action plan for tackling my IBS. I’ve always shied away from prescription laxatives and antispasmodic drugs preferring a more natural approach: peppermint oil, linseed, prunes, psyllium husk (makes things veeeeeery smelly!), peppermint tea, fennel tea etc etc etc and managing symptoms by avoiding trigger foods (gluten and dairy in particular for me). I’ve tried too many things to remember them all!

Recently I embarked on the FODMAP elimination diet. I’m not going to use my precious energy explaining exactly what FODMAPs are, there are loads of great resources on this out there such as here and here. Suffice it to say FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates that are harder to digest. There’s quite a long and eclectic list of foods you need to cut out across a range of food groups, including: garlic, onion, apples, pears, broccoli, honey, fructose (a big FODMAP bad guy), legumes & pulses, lactose, wheat…the list is long. Again you can find good resources with FODMAP safe and unsafe food lists here and here.

The FODMAP elimination diet follows standard elimination principles. You cut out everything that contains FODMAPs for two weeks and then one category at a time you reintroduce them and in theory you will pinpoint which category of foods are your IBS triggers. I was so optimistic and hopeful that finally I’d got to the bottom of my IBS nightmare. For the first 5 days or so of the elimination things seemed to be going swimmingly. I wasn’t bloating and I was going to the toilet regularly – yippeeeeee. I felt euphoric! But then everything came to a crashing stop. Literally. My digestion and bowels decided to stop working. I was incredibly bloated, the food baby (I’d say it was twins) was back, and my body no longer wanted to, erm, relieve itself, erm, do a number two, erm, poo…. I continued with the FODMAP elimination for the rest of the 2 weeks but then gave up. The FODMAP literature all stated that by the end of the two week elimination period if FODMAPs were at the root of your problem then you would have seen noticeable improvement in your IBS symptoms. Erm no. Everything I read said that the FODMAP approach helped about 75% of IBS sufferers. Bloody typical my stubborn body decided it wanted to be in the minority…

So that was the end of avoiding FODMAPs.

One thing I did learn from FODMAPs was that lactose free dairy is not good for me. On the FODMAP elimination diet you’re not allowed cows milk dairy products but it recommends you use lactose free (ie. cows milk that has been treated with the enzyme lactase to reduce the lactose content) milk products instead. I dutifully bought lacto free milk and cheese. On eating these, I suffered cramps and pain worse than I’ve had for years and I put this down to having lactose free dairy for the 2 weeks of the FODMAP elimination. For the last few years the only dairy I’ve had is goats yoghurt and goats cheese. This is lower in lactose and I seemed to tolerate it okay. I used soya, nut or coconut milk. And I seemed okay on that. But lactose free cows milk certainly did my insides no good. So clearly I have a problem with cows milk dairy products that goes beyond lactose. So the FODMAP diet was not all in vain. I did learn something valuable from it. Always look for the silver lining in every cloud and all that….

Aside from no gluten and no dairy, I’m beginning to think it literally doesn’t matter what I eat. Little miss food baby is ever present. It seems by mid afternoon or early evening, food baby is back each and every day. It’s pretty dispiriting and disheartening. Pretty much downright frustrating and very very annoying.

Please don’t be put off trying the FODMAP diet by my account of it. It may not have worked for me, but you may be lucky and find yourself in the 75% portion of people it does help. If you are considering trying the FODMAP elimination diet I’d highly recommend Patsy Catsos’ book IBS Free at Last! It’s really comprehensive and clearly sets out how to follow the elimination diet and how to manage the reintroduction challenge phase.

Next post….the IBS strategy of high soluable fibre and low fat. This is the ‘fad’ I’m currently pursuing ever hopeful that there is an answer out there to my IBS nightmare.

For now, from me and my food baby, good night!

Have you tried the FODMAP elimination diet? How did you find it? What magic tricks (I’m beginning to think it requires magic) do you use to keep your IBS in check? 

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