Gluten free fajita kits from BFree

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Having been gluten free for a number of years now, the one thing I really, really missed was fajitas. They are without a doubt one of the best Friday night indulgencies – quick, easy and bloody delicious!

Of course, even just a few years ago the chances of coming across gluten free wraps was nought percent, they just weren’t available anywhere in the UK or at least to my knowledge, and sadly fajitas and enchiladas were a thing of the past for me. Obviously, having to watch my housemates at uni and my family scoffing these delicious Mexican treats was pretty soul destroying.

However, with the creation of Warbutons gluten free wraps and the Santa Maria UK (formerly Discovery Mexican) stir in sauces, fajitas have become a part of my weekend feasts again – which I have to say is about the best ‘welcome back to my life’ free-from find of 2014 so far.

The best thing about Santa Maria though is the fajita kits they manufacture. They are perfect for a family or friends wanting a quick, cheap and delicious meal mid-week as they incorporate the wraps, spice mixes and sauces without needing to buy it all separately. I was really happy when I discovered that one of my favourite free-from brands, BFree, had just launched a gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, nut, egg free version of these kits.

I found the fajita kits in my local Tesco and actually, I wouldn’t normally be too concerned to comment about the packaging, but the box just looked really appealing with the picture of two yummy chicken fajitas on the front and what also looks like a satisfied chilli complete with a face and arms telling me that it was of a ‘mild’ heat.

I have to say that one of the selling points of BFree products is their calorie count. As I’m sure many people know, gluten free foods usually contain double the amount of calories, fat and sugar than that of their ‘normal’ equivalents, and so it can be hard to follow a strict calorie controlled gluten free diet if you don’t want to give up the occasional slice of bread or cake. But the BFree kit, consisting of the wrap, seasoning and salsa, contains just 127 calories, which I don’t think is at all bad.

With six wraps contained, the kit could easily feed a few people for either a quick lunch or dinner, and of course the main problem with having such a big appetite as mine was trying desperately hard to fold the wraps once all the meat, salad and toppings were dolloped on top.

I have already prepared two meals out of the kit, one containing chicken, peppers and salad, and the other incorporating beef mince, kidney beans, peppers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, grated cheese and a dollop of soya yoghurt on top (which is obviously the one I had to fight with in order to contain all of the ingredients in the wraps)

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The fajitas tasted absolutely delicious – really fresh, seasoned to perfection and most of all, they were the ultimate comfort food for my Friday night treat. I’m really pleased that BFree launched these kits, as I think the free-from market is really missing a trick with easy to make, take-away style sort of food.

I really hope that the company continues to make them, as from now on I’d quite like to make sure I have a kit in the cupboard for times when I need an easy meal or snack. I know the fajitas must have tasted good to ‘normal’ eaters, as my brother was hanging around in the kitchen waiting to taste some of the mix, and his reaction was “mmmm that’s gwwoourd” with a mouth full of food. Overall, BFree gets 10/10 yet for yet another great free-from invention. Thanks guys!

My Gluten Free Christmas

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Christmas time can be a bit of a hassle for anyone avoiding gluten, wheat or dairy. It is the one time of year when invitations to parties and pub meals are non-stop and the risk of being glutened or accidently eating something with an evil ingredient can be like playing Russian roulette – you just can’t help feeling anxious upon being presented with a meal.

This year was my first works Christmas outing in my new job and I was presented on my first day in the new role with the festive menu for our meal out. Upon reading the menu, I realised I couldn’t eat a thing due to the fact that roast dinners in a pub obviously contain a generous helping of wheat and dairy and I admit I felt awful when my colleague offered to sort something out for me to eat.

I was very lucky as I got a phone call off the chef at the Navigation Inn, located in Bromsgrove, telling me how he had done a lot of gluten free catering in the past and then going on to give me a long list of what he could do to incorporate my roast dinner into a gluten and dairy free three course meal. I honestly have never had such fantastic service, with ham hock for starter, a large turkey dinner complete with gluten free stuffing and gravy, vegetables and roast potatoes for main, and then a homemade Christmas pudding drizzled in brandy sauce for pud, I couldn’t speak highly enough of the place and I would recommend both the pub and the chef to anyone looking for somewhere safe to eat in the local area. Here is a link to their website – http://www.steakandciderpubs.co.uk/

Christmas dinner was lovely for me as we can easily adapt the roast into a free from meal, by keeping things like stuffing and gravy apart from each other and making my own sauce for the prawn cocktail using Tiger Tiger gluten free tomato and mayo sauces. I used Tesco’s gluten free cocktail sausages for my pigs in blankets, and I actually thought they tasted fresher after wrapping my own bacon around them. I used Antony Worrall Thompson’s gluten free beef gravy to be quick and easy, and although the jars can no longer be found on the shelves at Sainsbury’s, it is available to buy online from mysupermarket and Ocado. I used some of the Sainsbury’s gluten free cranberry and orange stuffing balls, as well as the pork, thyme and chestnut stuffing which I really enjoyed.

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Boxing day in my family is Christmas Day re-visited, another 2 course meal before heading over to my cousins house for a large buffet selection. My cousin suffers from food intolerances herself and so I had no worries, knowing she would cook me something I could eat. A selection of cranberry stuffed chicken, meatloaf, roasted peppers and potatoes were piled up on my plate, with poached pears in red wine with edible glitter presented to me for pudding, which looked great and are simple to cook if anyone is looking for inspiration for cooking for guests. Floater coffees were made using St Helen’s Farm goats cream and Plamil mint chocolate flakes and I really enjoyed having creamy coffees back in my life.

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Father Christmas delivered what I asked for this year – Phil Vickery’s Seriously Good Gluten Free Cooking and the Guilt Free Gourmet cookery books. I am really looking forward to cooking up the delicious looking recipes featured knowing they will be okay for me.

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I was given some of the Moo Free chocolate pralines and button drops for a present, it is no secret that I love the Hammy Hamster choccies the most and so I can’t wait to dive into the box. Of course, luckily wine and snowballs are gluten free and so there was no need to go to any special effort in order to get a little bit tipsy and merry!

To everyone reading, have a very happy and healthy new year!!

An honest account of living with undiagnosed food problems

I’m going to be completely honest, because quite frankly I have far overstretched my wits end here when it comes to eating.

Yet again I am sat at home on a Saturday night ill, and before you wonder if it is self- inflicted due to too much alcohol, I wish it was because then I could control it. No, I am ill yet again due to food.

At the age of 11 and 12, I had two operations. They were relatively minor operations and I should have been back to full health within a matter of weeks, but unfortunately the first one did not quite go to plan and I had to be operated on a second time. I am now nearly 23 and have suffered with my health since, the most ongoing problem being the awful reaction I get to a range of food.

The first time I had a bad reaction was when I was still recovering from my second operation. I had been out for a cream tea at a café where I ate a sandwich and a scone with jam and cream to which I got home and had the most excruciating stomach pains, I lay on my bed crying and barely able to breathe for all the pain – I have experienced this same reaction many times since.

Upon telling the doctor of my reaction to wheat, his advice was to cut wheat out of my diet without so much as doing a simple set of blood tests. I have now obviously discovered since that that is the worst advice a doctor should give as gluten should never be removed from a diet until a person has been tested for coeliac disease. Having been wheat and gluten free for years now, I could never even comprehend putting gluten back into my diet without being extremely ill.

Doctors have been my worst enemy with my ongoing food problems, I have been told there is no such thing as food intolerances and that it is just in the mind, I have also been accused of having eating disorders, with doctors often asking me ‘do you make yourself sick after eating,’ I can tell you I have never done that. I absolutely love food and hate the fact that so much food is off limits to me, quite frankly maybe if I did have bulimia, doctors might help me and I could find a way to cure myself.

Over the years, my reactions to food have got worse and worse. I have developed a massive intolerance to cow’s milk, even the smallest drop gives me awful stomach pains and I find that too much dairy makes me feel sick. A small shot of Guinness which I now can’t touch, once gave me stomach pains, sickness and breathlessness within a couple of minutes. Sugar is also my biggest enemy, even natural sugars from fruit gives me awful pains and bloatedness and I have to limit my fruit intake to just two pieces a day.

Tonight I am unwell even though I gave waiters strict orders in the pub on what I could eat. I had mackerel with green salad and lamb with roasted vegetables, completely dry with no sauces or ‘evil food’ on the plate. I also had a glass of wine, but obviously something didn’t digest very well and I came home and was ill – what was wrong with the food or wine I had I have no idea.

My nights out always seem to get ruined with me going home ill, instead of looking forward to going out to eat or drink, I now dread it because I wonder what I am going to have. It is taking over my life and I just can’t take it anymore, I really need some help and a proper diagnosis by someone who actually listens and takes me seriously. I just need some help finding out how to live with such a restricting diet and the best way to live with whatever it is that I have.

In the last week, I have finally made a bit of a breakthrough after seeing a specialist who specialises in coeliac disease. He is referring me to a dietician and I am to go back in a couple of months for tests to try and find out what is wrong with me. It sounds weird, but the best Christmas present I could get this year would be a diagnosis so that I can begin getting better. To think it has taken me 10 years to convince a doctor to send me to a specialist, which I am now paying for as I was so desperate to get sorted, is beyond a joke. I know there are many people in exactly the same position as myself and it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one going through this. I can only hope that in the future, doctors will be less dismissive of people complaining of food problems and will try and help instead of turning us away.