Tag Archives: Free From

A Crunchy Nutty Gorgeous Granola

20 Jul
My perfect breakfast granola. Photo by Jess B.

My perfect breakfast granola. Photo by Jess B.

As a teenager I hated breakfast. I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ to eat it and so didn’t want to. But my Mum, thankfully, refused to give in to my teenage grump and wouldn’t let me leave the house without something in my tummy.

How times change. Now I LOVE breakfast!

And one reason I love breakfast so much is that you get to eat delicious oaty nutty healthy things like this homemade granola. This recipe is quick and easy to throw together and tastes amazing. Using the ingredients I list below, this granola  is free from gluten, dairy, egg, almond & brazil, coconut, wheat, and soya so complies with my recently acquired long list of food intolerances! With sweetness coming from the dates and honey, this granola is also refined sugar free. The oats form the perfect high soluble fibre base for any unhappy IBS tummies.

Serve your cunchy nutty wholesome granola with milk and fruit of choice. My preference is rice milk with bananas (added soluble fibre) and strawberries which brighten up the bowl beautifully. Doesn’t that just sound like the perfect way to start the day?

Ingredients (makes 8 – 10 servings) 

  • 100g dried dates
  • 200g gluten free oats
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 80g cashews
  • 80g walnuts
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
Blended dates. Photo by Jess B.

Blended dates. Photo by Jess B.

Cashews and walnuts. Photo by Jess B.

Cashews and walnuts. Photo by Jess B.

The 'too small' sauce pan full of raw granola! Photo by Jess B.

The ‘too small’ sauce pan full of raw granola! Photo by Jess B.


  1. Preheat your oven to 160ºC / 325ºF / Gas Mark 3 (if fan assisted reduce by 20 degrees)
  2. Spread baking parchment on two baking sheets
  3. Place the dates in a large saucepan (not a small one like I used in the pics unless you want oats all over the place in step 5!) in about 1 inch of boiling water until they are nice and soft (about 20 – 25 mins but depends on size & softness of your dates to start with)
  4. Once the dates are nice and soft, blend them until smooth.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the saucepan along with the dates and mix thoroughly (if you’re an ME/CFSer like me, you may need to borrow someone’s arms for this bit).
  6. Once well combined spread the mixture onto your baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 110ºC / 225ºF / Gas Mark 1/4 (again 20 degrees less for fan assisted) and bake for a further 30 minutes until the granola is dry and crisp.
  8. Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets and then store in an airtight container. It will keep for a good few weeks, if you don’t eat it all way before then!

Recipe adapted from Honestly Healthy.


Deciphering Food Intolerances

16 Jul

As I mentioned in my post last week I have recently had a Food & Drink Intolerance Test done and surprise surprise I am intolerant to far more foods than I previously realized. If you missed the first part of my food intolerance saga, sorry I mean story, you can read it here.

Innocent Looking Grapes...Image credit Emlyn via Morgue File

Innocent Looking Grapes…Image credit Emlyn via Morgue File

Just to recap here’s the list of no-go foods for me now:

  • Grape
  • Brazil
  • Almond
  • Egg white
  • Egg Yolk
  • Coconut
  • Cows Milk
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Kiwi
  • Soya
  • Turkey
  • Yeast
  • Gluten
  • Wheat

I’m seeing this long list as an opportunity. It doesn’t scare me or make me feel fed up. In fact it gives me such hope. I have long thought that diet plays a major role in ME/CFS and could be the key I’ve been desperately searching for, to unlocking my health. Who knows, I may be heading off in totally the wrong direction, heading to Timbuktu as opposed to Recovery Central, but I suspect that by cutting out all of my trigger foods I will see improvement both in terms of my gastro symptoms and and my health overall.

As part of my intolerance testing I received a consultation with a nutritionist. It was done over the phone from the comfort of my bedroom so minimal energy was exerted, always a plus where ME/CFS is concerned.

The consultation was really useful and helped me to scope out exactly what my list of trigger foods means. Here are some of the main points:

  • Grape – I haven’t eaten grapes as fresh fruit in a long time (high glycemic index). But I do occasionally drink white wine (shock horror!) and eat raisins.  Bye bye raisins.  I only occasionally drink alcohol these days, and when I do it’s usually only half a glass of sparkling wine (gives me less of a headache than flat white), but I am going to France, the land of wine soon for a fortnight’s holiday…I imagine you can feel my pain, no sipping wine under the Mediterranean sun, as well of course no cheese, croissants etc.. 😦 Grape juice is also used as a sweetener in all manner of different things from bread to jam. Label reading just became my full time hobby. The fact my intolerance reaction was v high to grape even tho I don’t eat the actual fruit, suggests that grape juice has been getting into me in other ways and now I have to be super vigilant.
  • Image credit Wildeme via Morgue File

    Image credit Wildeme via Morgue File

    Cows Milk – I haven’t actually eaten cows milk or yoghurt for a long time now. But until recently I’d been having goats cheese and yoghurt. Similar to the grape situation, as I reacted so strongly to the cow’s milk sample, despite not consuming it, I am clearly severely intolerant to the stuff. So all animal milk based products are now out.

  • Eggs – this is a real blow. Eggs provide such a quick and easy meal, not to mention their role in baking! On the baking side, I’ve been reading and found egg substitutes you can use such as ground flax with water, applesauce and commercially made egg replacement powders are available. Rest assured I will keep baking and eating cake.  Phew! The bigger problem is that eggs are an easy low energy meal for me to prepare, a lifesaver on bad ME/CFS days. You can’t really boil an apple or make scrambled eggs with egg replacement powder…and I don’t have any toast soldiers to dip anyway thanks to the yeast intolerance (see below).
  • Brazils & almonds – interestingly other nuts are fine, so I can substitute easily here. I had been having almond milk as a non-dairy alternative so that’s now out the window. But I have found both rice and hazelnut milks readily available that taste pretty good (yes I was surprised too)! And I live in hope of having enough energy one day to make my own rice and nut milks. Watch this space.
  • Wine aging in oak barrels. Photo credit missyredboots via Morgue File

    Wine aging in oak barrels. Photo credit missyredboots via Morgue File

    Yeast – no bread obviously. Or at least highly restricted bread options, gluten free flat bread anyone? But given my recent experience with eating more bread products, the bread isn’t too much of a problem. But no yeast means nothing fermented or aged (there’s the wine gone again): no soya sauce or its gluten free counterpart tamari, no vinegar except spirit which means no salad cream or dressings other than lemon juice and oil, no prunes (another blow given their, ahem, loosening effect on the bowels) and some other dried fruits whose skins go ‘yeasty’ in the drying process. Attention must be paid to labels, yeast creeps in all over the place e.g. it’s in some stock cubes and powders. Again, read labels! Noticing a theme here yet?

  • Soya – no more tofu, soya milk, soya yoghurt or soya sauce. Thankfully soya lecithin is okay, much to my relief as that is used as an emulsifier in dark chocolate!!
  • Thai Yellow Prawn Curry. Photo by Jess B.

    Thai Yellow Prawn Curry. Photo by Jess B.

    Coconut- this is more of a pain than you might realize. Coconut oil is a real buzz food at the moment in the dairy free baking world. But I think I should be able to substitute other solid fat (vegetable shortening or sunflower spread). Not sure how I’m going to recreate yummy thai dishes (such as my thai yellow prawn curry pictured here) without coconut milk but I’m definitely going to try. Maybe rice or hazelnut milk would work…

  • Turkey – what about Christmas Lunch?! Think I’ll leave that worry for a time closer to December 25th…
  • Kiwis – until the FODMAP elimination diet debacle, I was having a kiwi (with a few almonds and brazils…) each morning as my mid morning snack…that was a good plan wasn’t it…hmmm not so much.

Is this a life sentence?

This mush is baked banana baked in the skin with dark chocolate. Recipe coming soon! Photo by Jess B.

This mush is banana baked in the skin with dark chocolate. Recipe coming soon! Photo by Jess B.

By cutting out all of my trigger foods the science follows that in time my gut will heal and I will be able to eat them again so not necessarily forever.

The recommended minimum time frames to cut out my trigger foods are 12 months for the nuts, grapes and animal milk; 6 months for eggs, coconut, yeast, soya and fishes and 3 months for kiwi and turkey. This is based on the level of my reactions to these foods.

But….always a but, especially where chronic illnesses are concerned. Given my IBS symptoms are part of a wider health picture, ie. ME/CFS, my gut issues may take longer to resolve than for the average Joe.

Good job I like bananas and dark chocolate then…

If you missed the first part of my food intolerance story, you can read it here.

A Recipe for a Summer’s Day: Frozen Banana Pops!

14 Jul
Mr Banana Pop enjoying the sunshine out in the garden. Photo by Jess B.

Mr Banana Pop enjoying the sunshine out in the garden. Photo by Jess B.

Summer has finally arrived.

Yesterday the temperature outside hit a balmy 24°C – mid 70s Farenheit for all you non Brit readers! This is positively tropical for rural north east England!

Photo by Jess B.

Photo by Jess B.

Inside the house, well inside my compression stockings (that I’m now wearing to help with the dizziness and purple feet issues) at least, I swear the temperature hit 40°C / 100°F +. Oh my gosh July at the peak of British summer was not the time to need to start wearing compression stockings. I can not tell you how hot my little legs are! How you POTS readers living in far warmer climes than Britain cope, I have no idea!

With the temperature rising – “barometer’s getting low, according to all sources, the street’s the place to go…It’s raining men!”

Sorry, as I typed the start of that sentence The Weather Girls song popped into my head reminding me of my student days & nights out in cheesy clubs in Cambridge!

Song lyrics tangent aside – with the weather finally nice and hot, I decided it was time to make a frozen dessert. As previously mentioned, the list of Jess friendly foods has shrunk in the last few weeks, so buying ice cream that I can eat is now basically impossible.

Drum roll please….enter my new staple foods: bananas and dark chocolate! Yep that’s what it is people. A frozen dessert made from (amongst other things) bananas and dark chocolate. These are soooo quick and easy to make (who wants to be slaving away in a hot kitchen on a hot summer’s day? Not me in my compression stockings for starters!).

Fresh Fruit ready to go! Photo by Jess B.

Fresh Fruit ready to go! Photo by Jess B.

Lots of fresh fruit, a few nuts, some milk, throw it all in your blender and Bob’s your Uncle (what does that expression mean?!) you’re already half way to having a very happy, healthy and refreshing summer treat. What’s more, the bananas provide a nice high soluble fibre base to keep our digestions happy 🙂

Using the ingredients I list below, these babies are free from: gluten, dairy, eggs, soya, wheat, almonds, coconut, brazils, yeast. They are also very low refined sugar too – only refined sugar being that in the dark chocolate. I used 74% cocoa dark chocolate and general rule of thumb is the higher the cocoa content the lower the sugar (and dairy) content – at 74% there is no dairy. Not a drop.

Pop gets a close up! Photo by Jess B.

Mr Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Right enough waffling. Here’s the recipe. Make, chill, enjoy.

This quantity made me 18 pops.


  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 a small whole fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of hazelnut milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp dairy free Pure sunflower spread
Naked Pops! Photo by Jess B.

Naked Pops! Photo by Jess B.

With their chocolate coats! Photo by Jess B.

With their chocolate coats! Photo by Jess B.


  1. Place the bananas, pineapple and milk in the blender and blitz until smooth.
  2. Add the strawberries and walnuts to the blender and mix through with a spoon (don’t blend) in order to keep the pieces intact.
  3. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or silicone cake cases and freeze for a couple of hours until solid.
  4. After a couple of hours, place the chocolate and dairy free spread in a small bowl and microwave on medium power until melted, stopping the microwave and stirring the chocolate a couple of times as you go.
  5. Whilst the chocolate is melting place baking parchment on a couple of baking sheets.
  6. Once the chocolate is melted you’re ready to go! Time to get messy (or perhaps that’s just me)!
  7. Remove the frozen delights from the freezer and carefully relieve them of their cases/molds placing them on the baking parchment.
  8. Using a teaspoon drizzle the chocolate over the frozen pops and pop the pops back in the freezer for a few minutes to set the chocolate.
  9. Sit back in a deck chair in your garden and enjoy a nice and refreshing, happy and healthy Frozen Banana Pop! Delicious even if I do say so myself 🙂

Quick note on molds to freeze these bad boys in – if you’re using silicone cake cases  instead of proper popsicle / ice lolly molds, which don’t have sticks, remove your pops from the freezer about 30 mins before you want to eat them so that they soften enough to be able to get a spoon into them without sending poor old Mr Pop flying! I left mine on the kitchen side and after 20 – 30 mins they were soft enough to easily eat. You could also thaw them for longer in the fridge.

Eat me! Eat me! Frozen Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Eat me! Eat me! Frozen Banana Pop. Photo by Jess B.

Recipe adapted from Pocketfuls food blog.

%d bloggers like this: