Firstly, I wanted to say a huge thank you for all of those people who read my ridiculously long last blog post, especially those who took the time to send me messages, comments and cards. I was so touched and overwhelmed by the incredible response I received from family and friends. I felt so much better for getting it all off my chest. All your love and support has made me feel like I don’t have to hide or be ashamed and feel like a failure anymore. Thank you so much to all!
Now I promise you I will get back to food in my next post I swear. I have a perfectly perfected granola recipe to share with you, as well as telling you all about the afternoon tea Nanna, Mum & I put together for my birthday, in an event I will be calling The Great Vegan Scone Off featuring reviews of recipes from Fearne Cotton, Livia’s Kitchen and Deliciously Ella.
But this is just going to be a super short one. Those of you who read my last post will know I was going into hospital for a little operation to investigate a potential CSF leak and I just wanted to let you all know I’m in hospital and it’s all gone well.
In fact I didn’t even notice the surgeon was doing anything and chatted away about films and cake to the other doctors throughout my procedure. I’ve now got to have a ‘bolt’ in my head til at least tomorrow afternoon to see what on earth is going on in my head (I know right, what have they let themselves in for :P).
I know having a hole in your head seems like a pretty big deal but, although I do have a slightly worse headache than usual, I’m more bothered by the cannula in my hand at the moment 😂
Not sure quite how I’m going to get a good night sleep whilst attached to a laptop by the head but I’m about to snuggle up with my stitch cuddly toy (Yes, I am 21 now :P) and watch I’m a celeb with a piece of my birthday cake 🙂
Wow, it’s been a while! My excuse for not having posted anything in such a long time was going to be that I haven’t been very well, but , of course, that’s a bit of a rubbish excuse, seen as, I wouldn’t have ever started this blog if I hadn’t been unwell. 😛
Anyway, I’m sorry I don’t have much of an excuse for not being very active. The last few months have been quite challenging and I wanted to get it all out there. Food wise, although I’m still very happy with my Gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar-free (apart from the very occasional Tesco’s free from chocolate chip cookies :P) way of life, getting back into a sort of routine; with the change over at work, dog sitting the gorgeous Molly and Guides being back after the summer break; I’ve been even more exhausted than usual. Plus, on top of that, I’ve been beaten down with colds and water infections which, as well as their own horrible symptoms, have sent my conditions into crazy flare ups. So if you were hoping for a food post, this won’t be it. I’ve still been cooking when I’ve felt up to it but it has been a case of Peanut Butter on Gluten Free toast, Walkers’ Ready Salted crisps and Deliciously Ella’s Mushroom Alfredo,
and although tasty, it’s not very exciting. I promise I will get back to it, my mind is whirring with recipe ideas and inventions ( a lot of which have been inspired by bake-off, may that glorious show rest in peace) but, of late, by body just hasn’t been up to it.
Over the past few months, and having not being able to return to Uni as I had foolishly hoped I might, I’ve come to the realisation that I am chronically ill ( I know right, finally!) and I will be facing the challenges that come with my illnesses (probably) for the rest of my life…But I haven’t really told anyone what’s going on. I guess I thought it would be easier. Carrying on like nothing had really changed and trying to be the same person I was, trying to do all the things I used to be able to do because I didn’t want people to think I was lazy or making excuses or being a drama queen. I’d just get on with it and save the tears, pain and exhaustion til I was in the safety of my own bed. I thought it was easier.
I recently met up with a friend I hadn’t seen since sixth form and hadn’t really spoken to properly since we were at school. We met up after I’d bumped into him and his family at work and they’d asked about uni and obviously I hadn’t been there for some time and it was unlikely I was going back. I thought I’d always been quite open and honest about everything but I realised then I’d done more than just tell people I was fine when I wasn’t, because it was easier, I hadn’t really said anything. I’d only Instagramed the good days, the memories, my new-found love of food and a few too many pictures of a certain cockapoo. So I think now is probably a good time to share the full picture and tell you my story so far and how I came to be the Invisible Girl.
I really don’t like opening up, this is going to be a really open and honest account of how I’ve felt and what I’ve been through. I have never liked talking about my problems as I know everyone has their own battles that they are facing and trying to win and I don’t like burdening people with my issues. My aim with this is really to shed some light and make people understand what it is really like to go through diagnosis and treatment of chronic, invisible conditions and to raise awareness of my conditions so people in the future won’t have t
o go through quite so much to get some answers. I’m sorry that It’s such a long story but it’s been a very slow process to get to where I am today. I’m removing my cloak of invisibility and my comfort blanket please be kind.
I’ve always had headaches, always. I got them as a tiny little girl guide of ten. They’d make me cry, they’d overwhelm me. At the time they were put down to hormones, I thought it was normal. I’m not sure now whether this was the start of my problem. I was always clumsy; a sprained ankle here, a cut or bruise there. I was always in a lot of pain, when I started working at 17 my ankles, knees and back would hurt so much even after a short shift, but back then I thought that was normal. I was tired all the time, mum just thought it was my iron levels because I didn’t eat meat, and I thought being a teenager meant you were tired all the time. I’ve had a lot of tummy trouble, pain and bloating, my mum did too. I’ve always been bendy and able to do strange things with my body, I thought having ‘double jointed’ elbows was a cool party trick that grossed out my friends. All of these just happen to be signs and symptoms of a condition I have. Some I didn’t realise were anything other than normal or at all related until I was diagnosed.
I realised I had a problem in November 2014. That’s when I first went to my doctor at uni about the headaches and neck pain. Over the summer and beginning of uni they had been increasing in number and intensity until it was a daily occurrence that would often have me in tears in my room. I was given some medication and sent to a rheumatologist. Had blood work and MRIs, nothing came up. I had physiotherapy, 3 different ones, none of which could work out what was going on and why my body wasn’t responding to their treatment and things were getting worse. I’d been on a couple of different medications by this time and by April I’d had enough and went back to the rheumatologist, who after doing another MRI ( This time he MRIed where he was supposed to, as he hadn’t gone up as far as the neck or head the first time), found although there was an abnormality it was within the normal range but he sent me to the Neurologist anyway. I cried on the walk home with relief as he had finally admitted something wasn’t quite right but I cried even more on the way home from the Neurologist when he said there was nothing wrong with me. I think the emotional torment of having an undiagnosed problem, especially when you’re in so much pain and medical professionals are telling you it’s all in your head, is the worst
experience; you know deep down something isn’t right but people keep telling you otherwise and they make you think that you’re wrong and you’re just being a drama queen. That’s what I found toughest, trying to explain my pain so that I would be believed. I would love for every doctor that doubted my pain to live in my body for an hour or so and see how they would cope and then tell me there isn’t anything wrong.
By May 2015, I was having real problems, all I remember was my head being extraordinarily bad I kept feeling sick and being sick. I’ve had a headache everyday since. I had to take some time at home during the rehearsals for my exam performance and had to
be put in emergency accommodation when I got back to uni closer to the drama studio. I made it back for the tech and dress runs which were very difficult as I was having to do the sound tech and be on stage simultaneously. I wasn’t very well for the performances either but my course administrator said you’d never have known I was ill. I guess it was then I learnt how easy I made it look to hide my illness, and that I might be a decent actor after all 😛 I was put on some new medication called Amatriptyline, which works by blocking pain signals, and sent to a new specialist who admitted by body wasn’t right and gave me some nerve block injections to try to help. Despite still having a headache every day, the medication and treatments allowed me to enjoy my summer especially visiting my uncle over in Bali.
However, after going back to uni in September 2015, Things got really bad. The headaches were getting much worse, my whole body ached and I was exhausted all the time but was barely able to sleep. I had another round of injections but this time they didn’t make anything better. Then something else started to happen, my first year at uni I’d been fit and healthy I played on the badminton team and had kept up the activity over the summer, all of a sudden I could barely walk across campus without getting out of breath, I was dizzy a lot, I kept feeling sick and being sick. I felt kind of funny like I might faint or fall asleep, like I couldn’t keep my head up. I had to sit down all the time. Something was very wrong, I went straight to the medical centre. I turned up at reception white as a sheet and completely breathless, I don’t even think the receptionist spoke before rushing me round the corner and almost straight in to see a doctor. My heart rate was very high. I had an ECG and a blood test. They called a cardiologist and took me off the Amatriptyline as they thought it may be causing the problem and gave me something to take my heart rate down. I got a taxi home and went to bed but when I got up it started all over again. One of my housemates called an ambulance. The paramedics knew I wasn’t right. My heart rate was over 140 and I’d been doing nothing all day. They took me to the hospital. I was scared. I had some more ECGs, more blood test, urine tests, some worried phone calls from my parents. But after having laid down for a little while, I begin to feel a bit better. I’m told nothing’s wrong with me and I can go home. I feel like an idiot whose wasted everyone’s time. I struggled getting to and from uni, and even when I did get in I couldn’t concentrate. I was trying to tech shows and had to let other people run them. I had to listen to my friend Chad do our radio show from my bed. I felt bad, I was letting everyone down. But my body was letting me down. Now the Amatriptyline was gone I had nothing for the pain so more drugs were thrown at me to try to control it (and those were the days before I got myself a pre payment prescription card i.e expensive). I was struggling to cook. Tempers were fraying in the house as I was stupidly trying to organise everyone and everything. I was stressed. I wasn’t getting my uni work done. Staying in bed all day and being alone made me feel lower and lower. All the new medications I was trying each had their own nasty side effects which I had to contend with. I’d got some which were meant to help my head and my heart. They seemed to be doing okay with my heart until I had another episode which led to another cycle in a&e but this time I was having chest pains as well. All I had done was get out of bed to make some risotto for dinner. The GP refered me to a cardiologist for an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) to make sure there was nothing physically wrong. But of course there wasn’t. All my symptoms, the sickness, the dizziness, the high heart rates, the breathlessness were all put down to anxiety. I was seeing two different talking therapists to try and help but they just made me feel worse having to talk about everything I was going through. I spent more and more time back home in Essex. I ended up with a never-ending cold which didn’t help matters at all. I still spent most of my days in be in tears, feeling lonely, desperately longing to feel better and to have some answers, to not be made to feel like I was crazy, to do all the things I’d loved the year before; my badminton, my sound tech for shows, my radio. I was nominated for a student radio association award for Chad and I’s show. We were one of six shows in the country to have been nominated for best entertainment show! I was so proud and amazed, I went to the awards ceremony at the indigo O2 in london, it was great even though we didn’t win. But I couldn’t stay on for the after party, I could barely stay on my feet. By my birthday (11/11) I still felt awful. My boyfriend took me to a spa for the day, which was a lovely idea, but made me feel worse rather than better. I was sick twice on my birthday. I went back to the doctor the next day and she thought all the medication may have been causing the headache the whole time and none of it was helping. So I agreed from that point on to go cold turkey. I struggled on for another week or so before deciding I was going to take my extended christmas break. I knew I was much more ill that the doctors thought I was. I decided it was necessary to take a break and try to start again. I signed the paperwork and I went home. I didn’t really tell anyone I was going. I didn’t have the courage. I didn’t want to get more upset than I already was having made such a huge decision to leave my friends and have to start again. I also didn’t want to be questioned when I didn’t know what was going on. They’d realised I was ill and wasn’t doing as much as I used to and I was missing a lot of class but people didn’t realise how long-term it had been as I’d hidden it quite well.
Once I was at home I took charge of my situation, determined to get a second opinion. I picked a neurologist, back home, fairly randomly and booked in an appointment. I went back to work, that was so tough. At first I was on box office which was okay as I was sat down for my shifts, but then all the tills broke and we haven’t really used box office since.
I struggled, the pain in my back and knees and ankles was worse than ever before. I’d get random rashes on my chest. I had new pains in my hips and the pain in my head worsened. I couldn’t bend, I couldn’t lift, I could barely walk sometimes. I’d get home crying with pain and exhaustion. I was sent home a few times where I’d had an episode with my heart or I was in screaming pain with my head and needed to lie down. I had another MRI and this time the Neurologist took my ‘inside normal range’ abnormality seriously and noticed other things that weren’t quite right. This is when he sent me to a neurologist in London. I spent New Year’s eve with one of my worst headaches and in tears wanting to join in the celebrations. I put a smile on my face and came downstairs and pretended I was okay ( There’s a recurrent theme here :P)
January 2016. This is when things started to change. Yes, I had yet another MRI. I go back for my follow-up fearing the worst, fearing that I was wasting everyone’s time all over again. But not this time. He thinks I have 4 problems. 4! I was so happy ( yes you can be happy when you find out you’re ill). I hadn’t dropped out of uni for nothing, I hadn’t been wasting my time, there was actually something wrong with me, there were actually maybe 4 things wrong with me! The first was chronic migraine, which was kind of a given, and for the other 3 I was sent of to specialists for more investigations. As soon as I looked into each of the problems, I knew they were what I had, and everything that had happened over the last year, and some things that had happened in my life, fell into place and made perfect sense.
I Have Ehlers- Danlos Syndrome Type 3 ( Hypermobility Type). Diagnosed 18th February 2016. https://www.ehlers-danlos.org/
EDS is a connective tissue disorder. In simple terms it means by body is too stretchy. My joints are the main problem and this can cause me a lot of pain. the pain for me is mainly in my hips, knees and back but it affects all my joints and they click a lot as they are in slightly the wrong position. Many people dislocate very easily, I’m lucky that I don’t and think my sporting background has helped with this.However I do injure and sprain very easily. Some days I can barely walk because of the pain and use my walking stick. If I’m going shopping I will use a wheelchair, many with EDS are in a wheelchair full-time and even compete in the Paralympics such as silver medalist Piers Gilliver. I can’t even use a chair for very long as it causes my hips and back to flare up. EDS is all about fidgeting to get comfortable without over extending your joints. Working is very difficult as being on my feet so much can cause flare ups in my joints and often wear a variety of supports to work under my uniform especially my knee supports and full body Tubigrip. EDS also causes many of my digestive issues and means I can’t eat big meals. Cutting out gluten and dairy has really helped cut the bloating down but I also can’t eat random things like Quinoa as it aggravates my stomach. I have other bladder and tummy issues too. It also causes major fatigue and brain fog, stretchy skin that bruises and scars easily ( I will have a stab wound from a sword fight on my thigh forever). I’m exhausted all the time and never have enough energy to do the simplest of tasks.There is no cure for EDS and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life. I can only learn to manage my symptoms. Since March I have been having some great physiotherapy from my amazing physio and although I don’t feel like it’s helping a great deal at the moment, when I have my other problems under control I will have an amazing tool box of exercises, tricks and tips from someone who really seems to understand! I am very sad to be finishing physio next week and I worry how I will cope without it but I hope I will eventually be able to get stronger again.
I Have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Diagnosed 18th March 2016. http://www.potsuk.org/
So you know I said my body was too stretchy from my EDS, well my Blood vessels are stretchy too, and this causes me to have POTS. The definition of POTS is that when you go from sitting or lying to a standing position your heart rate goes up by 30 beats or more OR your heart rate is over 120. Let me put that into perspective a healthy individuals heart rate will go up about 2-5 beats when you stand up…sometimes mine jumps by 50! So when I stand up my heart thinks it’s doing cardio, no wonder I was out of breath, dizzy and nauseous. And no wonder they couldn’t find anything wrong when I laid down. It also causes sweating and shaking, weakness and fatigue. Many people also faint, I just feel like I might. This is why I sometimes also use a stick as I can feel very wobbly. On especially bad days I will use a wheelchair to go out as I feel I will fall every time I get up and can only stand for 30 seconds or so. I often use a wheelchair to go shopping as I can’t walk round shops for even short periods without needing a rest. I have been on medication to help my POTS since March, one to bring my Blood pressure up,which I must have half an hour before a meal, and one to slow my heart rate down which I just have in the morning. I have been stable on the right doses since July and it has generally improved but even with the Medication certain things can cause flare ups. Firstly, infection or a cold, in the first week of this water infection I was back to square one was so shaking ( my dad thought I was having a fit my shakes were so violent) and having such bad palpitations I ended up in a&e and I could barely stand for a week. It’s not laziness, I don’t have much of a choice, I do spend as much time as possible horizontal, not because I like it but because it helps.But other things that make it worse are heat, eating too much, upright exercise ( no more badminton for me 😦 ), having my hands above my head and long periods of standing. Things like this make something as simple as having a shower (heat, hands washing hair and standing) a real struggleand forget about drying your hair. I also couldn’t drive for several months whilst they were getting my medication right. In addition to my medication I wear sexy compression tights to help push the blood up, drink much more water than a healthy person and add more salt too my food. It also means I can’t tolerate alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar or a lot of white carbohydrate. My food idol Deliciously Ella also has POTS. POTS is all to do with the Autonomic Nervous System and October is Dysautonomia awareness month so this is my way of spreading a little awareness for a little known condition.
This is the potential cause of my daily headaches as well as my extreme ones where all I can’t do anything but lie there clutching my head, screaming and crying waiting for the wave to pass. From my MRIs and the positions of some of the part of my brain, they think I may have a leak of brain fluid somewhere in my head or spine meaning there isn’t enough pressure in my head. However, to fully see if this is a problem they have to do an invasive procedure called ICP monitoring where they drill a small hole in my skull and place a monitor known as a bolt there for a day or so and they will then know what the pressure is like in my head. But as both POTS and EDS can cause headaches they wanted to treat those as much a possible before going down this route. We’ve got the POTS basically under control ( when there’s no pesky infection holding me back, I mean I can stand up without feeling dizzy I’m not doing the marathon anytime soon) and I still have pretty bad headaches all of the time, that sometimes still cause me to scream in pain, so this is the last option and I’m undertaking the surgery next month. Part of me is happy as its been a long time coming but I’m also very scared not only because its surgery and its my head but because It could come back that it isn’t a problem and I’ll still have these debilitating headaches which I started my journey with 2 years ago and I still wont know where they’re coming from. If I’m honest with myself I couldn’t have gone back to uni this year still feeling the way I feel but this op is the main reason I’m not back. And it’s also taken much longer to get my POTS under control than first thought so I’d originally thought I may have been done and sorted by september. It’s dragging on.
Since I’ve been in my treatment phase with everything I’ve had good days and bad days, I always will. It’s been tough. On my journey so far I’ve seen 2 rheumatologists, a cardiologist, 4 neurologists, a autonomic (pots) specialist, a neurosurgeon, 4 physiotherapists and 3 psychologists and been on countless medications to get me to where I am now and part of me still feels I haven’t achieved anything since leaving uni nearly a year ago. I take ten tablets a day just to be able to function (and I was the girl who could never swallow tablets) , none of those are for pain. I’ve tried every treatment possible and it’s exhausting when nothing works. Yes, I’ve got my diagnosis and I’ve started treatment and I’m trying to do things rather than staying in bed but I don’t feel that much better.
I worry about a lot of things. I worry about seeing new doctors, because of the bad experiences I’ve had in the past, I worry they won’t believe me or they’ll palm off my conditions because they don’t know enough about them. I worry about social and family occasions where I have to still pretend to be okay as it takes too much out of me to explain the reasons I’m not okay. I worry about losing friends because I’ve let them down one too many times. I worry about money; i had to continue to pay rent whilst i wasn’t at uni with not enough income, I’ve had to pay for equipment to help with my physiotherapy, I stupidly paid for some expensive counselling for too long when it wasn’t helping , I have to pay to travel into london for all of my appointments, I find it very difficult to work; i can’t work many hours and if i have an episode or a really bad day and end up getting sent home I don’t earn anything, if I’m off sick with an infection I don’t get paid. I feel bad that my mum has to support me when she shouldn’t have to. I feel very guilty about not helping out enough and not being able to do things. I worry about my health and if despite everything I do to try to get better it will get worse. I worry about the future; if I’ll get back to uni, if I’ll be able to work at all let alone find my dream job, what I’ll be able to afford, If i’ll be able to have children and if I am how would I cope with a pregnancy without medication, how would I be able to hold and look after a child, would I pass all this on and have to see them in pain. I worry that this will be my life forever. It gets me down.
But on this journey I have learnt a lot. I’ve learnt who will always be there for me and who my true friends really are, I’ve learnt that I’m stronger than I believe I am and I’ve overcome a lot and, most importantly for me I think, I’ve learnt what is best for my body and when to say no. I’ve had new experiences, picked up new hobbies in dogs, food and craft (not that knitting lasted long) and met some great people including medical professionals and fellow sufferers. My little support groups on Facebook remind me that however alone I feel I’m not alone.
The other day we visited my boyfriend’s Nan and told her about my upcoming operation and told her the basics of this story and she said I was so Brave. I’m no braver than the next person everyone has their battles, everyone has their own little victories. I’m not doing this for sympathy or admiration. This isn’t my sob story VT before I emerge in front of the judges as a star. This is my life everyday: the pain, the symptoms, the treatments, the sadness, the fear but most importantly the hope that something better will come…eventually. I know I can’t be fixed but I know I’m going to die trying to get better. Thanking for reading and hopefully understanding a little better.
‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’
Again, I’m apologising for being so quiet but its been a long two or three weeks trying to sort my life (and my bedroom) out a bit. Quite a lot has been changing in my life the last few weeks; my work is totally changing as the branch of Empire Cinemas I’ve been
working at for the last 3 and a half years is becoming Cineworld so that’s an exciting, yet scary,change; I’ve started some new medication which seems to be helping my heart palpitations; I’m back driving again after 7 months out because of my health; and I’ve managed to, after being home for 9 months I’ve finally moved my uni stuff back into my room and organised and cleaned everything so I now have a better space to work and rest peacefully. All of this has taken a lot out of me so I’ve slept most of this week meaning there hasn’t been much time for food. So I’ve decided to write this weeks blog about one of my favourite staples, the humble chickpea. Apart from being a great protein hit, they are quick, easy and cheap!… and tasty of course. So here are some great recipes I’ve created whether you’re in need of a snappy snack, light lunch or speedy supper.
Best Baked Chickpeas
This is a super snack or quick lunch that’s really easy on the go and can be enjoyed cold or fresh out of the oven, alone or with salad and/or sweet potato fries.
Total cost: 76p
In recent months everyone has gone crazy for the colour green with green juices and smoothies taking over the health food world so I decided to make one of my favourite dips green. Wether you say hummus or houmous ( I’m really not sure either) this pea and mint version is great for spreading on some oatcakes for lunch or putting out as a summer party or bbq dip to go with crisps and crudities.
Makes: a good-sized pot (see picture below)
Total Cost: £1.21
Takes: 10 mins
Super Speedy One-Pot Pasta
One of my go to dinners when I’m hangry ( hungry and angry) and can’t wait to eat it’s so nourishing, yet comforting, with a tiny little kick of chilli to keep you awake, and easy when you need food but don’t have the energy. Of course you can cook the pasta in a separate pot to the sauce but if, like me, you hate washing up, you can do it this way.
Serves: 2 with some leftovers
Total Cost: £1.41
Takes: 20 mins
Doesn’t everyone love a good cupcake? Well the Alzheimer’s Society definitely think we do! Their new big fundraiser, in an attempt to defeat dementia, is #cupcakeday which is taking place across the country this Thursday (16/06/16). Now I heard about this a few weeks ago (thanks Magic fm) and it inspired me to get baking. But there was one problem… I couldn’t find a really good looking vegan cupcake recipe, let alone one that was gluten-free and free from refined sugar as well! This is fair enough as the main ingredients of cupcakes are butter, sugar, flour and eggs but it wasn’t good enough for me. So if, like me, you want to enjoy cupcake day and maybe raise a little money for charity but in a healthy and happy way I have created the recipe for you to spoil your friends and family with and they’ll never know it’s not got any of the normal ‘good stuff’ in (my housemates at uni definitely didn’t notice :P)
Cacao Crazy Cupcakes
I love chocolate so there was no question for me my cupcakes had to be chocolatey but I made sure they were full of goodness too. Raw cacao is full of calcium, iron, vitamin c and magnesium; flaxseed is bursting with fiber and omega 3; and, interestingly enough, there was a study in 2006 which showed that coconut oil can boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients. I timed myself the second time I made the cupcakes and full prep and cooking time came to just under 30mins. The frosting is super simple and takes no time at all to whizz up and put top but the cakes also taste great without it. One thing I thought was important was that there were no nuts involved in my recipe as, although I love them and they’re really nutritious, I know a lot of people with but allergies so wanted to make something they could have too 🙂 Although for some of you that read my blog regularly you will be surprised to see banana pop up in the frosting but I doesn’t taste that bananay I swear.This recipe makes 12 cupcakes so if you’re having a little party double it and make 24! You might need that many, they really are that good 😛 They keep for about a week in an airtight container in the fridge but are best straight out of the oven. Total cost: £4.68, Cost per cupcake: 39p!
For the cupcakes:
For the frosting:
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Society in their attempt to raise money to defeat dementia and/or support your local #cupcakeday events.
To donate and find out more about cupcake day visit the Cupcake day website here.
If you donate let me know and I’ll owe you a hug and a cupcake 😛 Hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe 🙂
I’ve had a pretty bad day. I’ve been left stuck on the sofa paying for my long weekend visiting my uni friends in Norwich and I needed to make a yummy but super quick treat to get me away from watching It’s Me Or The Dog on repeat ( I love that show!) I’d got this recipe through on Livia’s Kitchen’s mailing list at the weekend and with her blog suggesting it took 29mins to make I thought it was perfect!
Olivia Wollenberg, the mastermind behind Livia’s kitchen, has recently published a book full of purely sweet treats which are all Dairy,Gluten and refined sugar free as she was diagnosed with severe food intolerances. She also has an amazing line of healthy, raw millionaire shortbreads which are an amazing treat stocked in Selfridges and other places. I found her after she was a guest Deliciously Ella’s blog and I’m very glad I did as her blog is phenomenal and, although she does do savoury recipes, she is my go to when I want something sweet but nourishing and free of refined sugar.
Before I quit sugar I did like a good biscuit. I’ve never had a massive sweet tooth but when I was a kid I could easily get through a pack of tesco everyday Bourbons despite the fact my dad’s biscuit tin ‘The Cookie Cop’ would shout at me every time I went back for more so these were something I definitely had to try.
Time to make: 31 mins (without cooling time then 5 mins putting together)
Servings Made: 8 double biscuits (well 7 & a half one broke and I couldn’t wait to eat them :P)
Total Cost: £4.51, 56p per biscuit
Accessibility to ingredients:
All these ingredients are staples for me and I often buy them in bulk from Amazon to cut costs. The only ingredient which I’ve never seen in the shops, one which Livia’s Kitchen use a lot, is Oat Flour. But I just used Buckwheat instead.
Already being Sugar free, gluten free and vegan there’s not too much adapting you need to do. I swapped the flour just because it was what I had in the house and you could do that very easily.
The only big allergen left is nuts and I have worked out a solution. For the nuts in the actual biscuits you can just cut them maybe add a little more flour instead (30-40g). For the filling I have created an icing which I will post the recipe for later in the week which would work very well and contains no nuts!
For the sauce I used Meridian’s peanut butter, which although is a great peanut butter was way too runny for this recipe. If I was doing it again I would used Pic’s (as suggested by Livia) or whole earth.
The recipe was amazing and easy to follow. She suggested it would take 29mins and including getting all the ingredients and weighing them out it took me 31mins! I left them to cool whilst I did my 9min physio bike exercise then put the biscuits together in about 5 mins. So all in all in took 45mins which was amazing. The re
cipe was well structured and all the ingredients had obviously been tried and tested.
The only tip I would give was that I decided to transfer them to a cooling rack to cool which was a bad idea as a lot of them broke as I moved them across. I would wait for them to cool as they are still on the baking tray as once they’d cooled and hardened they were perfect 🙂
The filling was super easy to make but it was very thin and runny so went everywhere and the biscuits taste great without it. I will definitely have to try it again with a thicker peanut butter. It also made way too much filling because you couldn’t fill it generously because of how runny it is so there was a lot left over. I would use half the recipe.
If you like chocolate, nutty biscuits this is definitely one for you to try for yourself as they taste amazing. So chocolatey and crunchy and tasty and I could easily polish them all off. They got the mum seal of approval too.
Although they are a little messy and maybe a little pricey they are super quick, easy and yummy. So worth it!
Find the recipe here:
I love making up my own recipes and/or making meals up as I go along but I also love learning recipes from various bloggers and writers. However, especially when making a recipe from a book I get frustrated when, after putting in a lot of effort, things don’t go quite right, especially when it comes to the time it is meant to take, the ingredients it needs or the amount of servings you get. So I wanted to start reviewing other people’s recipes so you can read a real life experience and see the real life image and decide if the recipe you think looks good is really for you. I’ll also give you some interesting little tips, tricks and information such as cost per serving, additions and alternatives to make recipe’s work for you.
So today I have made and am reviewing…
Fearne Cotton’s Cook Happy, Cook Healthy:
Now Fearne Cotton is one of my all time idols! I’ve
loved her since I was a little kid watching her on tv and when I got to meet her, and be on radio 1 with her, last year at Norwich’s Radio 1 academy before Big Weekend it was one of the best days of my life. Although Fearne is best known for her work on tv and radio she is incredibly talented and has turned her talents to many other ventures including art, fashion and beauty (her nail varnishes are THE BEST, and I told her so). Now she has turned her talents to cooking and, in eager anticipation, I waited, watching pictures of her food pop up looking sensational on instagram and seeing how much her famous pals such as Tom & Giovanna Fletcher and Denise Van Outen were enjoying her food so I just had to pre-order her cookbook ‘Cook Happy, Cook Healthy’ and was very excited. After seeing her instagram posts, and knowing she had also been a Veggie for a long time, I was looking forward to some good veggie, gluten free and sugar free recipes, however, the recipe’s are not quite as gluten free as I had hoped. In general, the book also has quite a few meat and fish recipes which don’t have an obvious veggie alternative with
them, which I wasn’t expecting. I do cook meat for my family but as an addition to a vegetarian or vegan dish, not the other way around. Anyway, before seeing what her recipes would be like with gluten free, rather than just wheat free( she uses a lot of spelt flour in her recipes), alternatives, I picked something that didn’t need the alternative. I also didn’t have any coconut sugar (I’ve now got some on the way; thank goodness from amazon prime) so there was only really 1 sweet recipe left for me to try: Mini coconut cherry tarts. Although I don’t have any cherries but, as these are just for a topping, I decided to make them anyway and below you will find the result of my attempts. This recipe is also the back cover shot for the book, so it should be good right?… 🙂
Accessibility of ingredients:
Pretty much everything on the ingredients list is readily available in your local supermarket although you may have to look in bigger stores for good quality coconut milk and maple syrup which isn’t full of other ingredients i.e added sugar. You may also want to shop around for your almonds and dates as they can be really expensive I got mine on BOGOF and 3 for 2 respectably and its a good idea to stock up whilst they’re on offer. I also buy my maple syrup, coconut oil and cacao powder and although you can get these in supermarkets they are much cheaper online.
These are pretty great as this recipe is already gluten and sugar free and can be made vegan very easily by simply switching the honey for maple syrup. The one big allergen in this is nuts in this case almonds. If you are just allergic to almonds then they could be easily swap for cashews or pecans etc but if you can’t touch nuts then sadly these aren’t for you.
If you simply don’t like cherries or pistachios , or, like me, just don’t have them in the house, they are basically just toppings so can swap them for whatever fruit and nuts or seeds you want. I used blueberries and pumpkin seeds which worked really nicely. I also used half of a proper vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract just as personal preference.
Also the bases for these tarts could be filled up with literally anything. I think they would work really nicely with any nut or seed butter (there are recipe’s for these in Cook Happy, Cook Healthy too) or even with a chia seed jam.
There was also a lot of base mix left so I decide to throw some on a baking tray in biscuit shape and bake for 12 mins (I did 15mins that’s why they’re a little burnt) and they turned out pretty nice too if you didn’t want to mess about with a filling at all.
For the most part, this recipe is fairly straight forward, It’s basically roast nuts, blitz base ingredients, freeze bases, blitz toppings then add the two together. However, it is written in a strange order which would take even longer than it did as it basically said to let the bases freeze then make the filling whereas its much easier and quicker to make the filling whilst the bases are in the freezer.
If you don’t like washing up this recipe probably isn’t for you. Not because there is a great deal of washing up more because you have to wash your food processor up in-between making the base and filling. And to me that’s way more effort than necessary.
A positive about this recipe is that in the book it reckons it only makes 6 tarts but I managed to make 12 plus made 3 biscuits with it too so you definitely get more for your money than first thought making it only 56p rather that over £1.00 each. and you definitely only need one can of coconut milk rather than 2 too!
The downsides to the recipe, however, for the base, if you use the suggested ingredients it is way too crumbly and not sticky enough to make into tarts at all so I added an extra 4 more tablespoons on coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup so they’d stick together, which is a crazy amount! (First picture when it was too crumbly the added oil and syrup for second picture much firmer and pliable). Really, I think, this recipe needs a lot more dates in it to form the base properly as similar recipes from Deliciously Ella and Livia’s Kitchen contain over double the amount of dates Fearne uses to make sure everything sticks together. I also found that even just using the coconut cream it really wasnt thick enough so i added a tablespoon of chia seeds just to thicken it up a little.
Also, I don’t know what kind of muffin tins Fearne Cotton used but mine look absolutely nothing like the picture as in the book they have really solid sides so the filling doesn’t fall out but mine are a lot more like Reese’s peanut butter cups in shape than the ones in the book which look more like shot glasses.
I was a little worried as I am not normally a fan of creamy things or coconut but these surprised me. For me the filling is a little too sweet but that’s probably just because I don’t normally have that much maple syrup in things from someone starting the transition to sugar free they would be perfect. First you get hit with a sweet and surprisingly refreshing hint of coconut then the base is really soft, nutty and chocolatey then the fruit adds another burst of freshness so they aren’t too heavy but just enough not to want to eat more than one. They are not my favourite thing but definitely tasty.
I dislike these because: by following the recipe it wouldn’t have stuck together well enough at all, I want to know how they make them look so tall and rounded in the book as I’ve never seen a muffin tin that deep, They are pretty time-consuming for not that much of a reward.
I like them because: they are pretty cheap, it makes more than it says in the book and they are pretty tasty.
Overall, I would make them again, but more for an occasional summer party, than an everyday treat.
Expectation Vs. Reality
Thank you for reading. I hope you find this useful. I’d love you to let me know if you’ve found it useful and want me to write more reviews like this or if there’s anything specific you’d like me to try making and review whether its your own recipe or one you’ve found 🙂
Wow, It’s been a busy three weeks! You know that feeling when time has completely disappeared and its suddenly June and you’re not really sure what happened to May? My inspiration for this post, and the reason I’ve not really stopped since my last post, is my Boyfriend has just bought his very first flat so we’ve been very busy painting, decorating and cleaning to make it into somewhere that can be called home.
Now, being so busy, we (I mean I) have had very little time to cook; we may have resorted to a couple of indians and a gluten free dominos before the cooker was installed. The main problem I had when trying to decide what on earth we we’re going to eat was finding things that were quick and easy and still delicious because many of my favourite recipe’s are amazing but take an extortionate amount of time, time I wished I had. So my recipe’s for you today are simple, yummy, comfort food that take less than half an hour whether you’re busy making your home sweeter, rushed off your feet or simply wanting to spend a little more time snuggled up on the sofa in an oversized hoodie which reminds you of someone or somewhere special with a bowl of tasty goodness.
Todays recipes include a super simple vegetable curry, the best baked sweet potato with ‘cheese’ and beans and vegan chocolate ice cream. And, of course, all these recipes are Gluten Free (I accidentally ate a hash brown at Ikea when going to pick up some furniture yesterday, lets just say it was a very, very bad mistake which I will not be making again.) , Refined Sugar Free and Vegan. My playlist for you this week is made up of some my favourite new music, as well as some great throwbacks, which are great for just chilling out, cooking and eating, or belting out tunes using a roller as a microphone (i.e me last week). These songs remind me of, and make me feel at home, wherever I am and I hope these, and the recipes, make you feel the same. 🙂
Super Simple Vegetable Curry
This was one of the first meals I made in the new flat. It may be mild but it’s so warming on a rainy day. I just made this with fresh veggies as I haven’t stocked the cupboards with my various tins yet but when I’m at home I normally add chickpeas, lentils or both to give a bit more of a protein hit. This recipe served two very hungry people but could probably have served 3. I would’ve frozen the other portion, if there had been any, for another time.
The Best Baked Sweet Potato with ‘Cheese’ and Beans
This has always been one of my favourite quick and easy dinners and when I first became a vegetarian, 8 and a half years ago, it was a dinner that my Nanna would always make me when I go round there. Since cutting down on the dairy and cutting out the sugar (why baked beans contain so much sugar I will never know!) I havent had it in a long time. So I decided, whilst I had a nice evening a home alone tonight I decided to adapt the classic so it would be healthier and make my poor little tummy (after yesterday’s
hash brown fiasco) a little happier. The recipe for the ‘cheese’ element of this is not my own and can be found at http://deliciouslyella.com/creamy-raw-cashew-nut-cheese/ . I used the recipe from Deliciously Ella’s app which also included a quarter cup of olive oil. I added a little extra water (about 30ml) and another tbs of Nutritional yeast. My recipe serves one but there’s a lot more cheese so you can have some the day after with some rice cakes or oatcakes (well at least that’s my plan for tomorrow, in between making furniture).
Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream
There were 2 reasons for deciding to make this ice cream. Firstly, my day job is to basically scoop ice creams, and not just any ice cream, but Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and although I’ve never been an ice cream lover, I prefer a sorbet or a lolly, but working around it so much and cutting down on dairy I’ve, of course, really fancied it. Secondly, I’ve been wanting to attempt to make Vegan Ice Cream with Bananas for a long time but since I really don’t like bananas (I never have, and although my mum thinks I’m changing, I don’t think I ever will) I’ve not had any around to try it out. But my boyfriend was given a big fruit basket as a house-warming gift and whilst we ate most fruit or turned it into smoothies neither of us can stomach bananas in normal or smoothie form so I decided to turn them into an unrecognisable form and if it would taste any good as I have tried eating it before and it has still been too bananay for me. This time was different and it was good! and so simple! and so chocolatey you didn’t notice the banana! This recipe makes one good-sized tub of ice cream. I don’t know whether it’s just my freezer but it was very solid baring in mind that I’m a professional scooper 😉 – so you might want to let it defrost a little before serving.
Here’s my Home Sweet Home playlist full of comforting and fun tunes, both old and new, which will hopefully make you feel at home, whilst you’re cooking or chilling, wherever you are as I know they do that for me 🙂
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy trying these out for yourself. Thank you for your lovely feedback from my first post and sorry that it’s been so long since my last post. Can’t wait to hear what you think of these & I hope they make your home a little sweeter 🙂
#Vegetable #Curry #SweetPotato #Cheese #Beans #IceCream #Vegan #SugarFree #GlutenFree #Food #Home #ComfortFood #Quick #Simple #DiaryFree
Wether you love it or hate it Eurovision is always a big, and controversial, event in anyone’s calendar. Although the UK are never going get very far, wether we’ve got Joe & Jake, bless them, or if we bribed Adele to get up there, Eurovision has always been a little guilty pleasure of mine and, occasionally, produces some half decent songs. And for a good night in watching Graham Norton taking the mickey out of every European country and, for some reason, Australia (No, I don’t understand either) it is essential to have some yummy treats to get you through and,in my family, this has always been pizza followed by an awesome desert (I made Deliciously Ella’s Chocolate Caramel Slices which I plan to review soon, recipe from her new book). But since I gave up gluten and refined sugar, and cut down on dairy (I’m really trying but no one is perfect) in order to help calm my medical conditions down I knew this year was going to be a challenge. But here’s what I did and how I did it to make sure this years Eurovision Pizza , or any saturday night pizza night up to scratch. This includes the recipes for a gluten free Pizza base, a tasty tomato sauce free from refined sugar and a nutritious and vegan Garlic and Herb dip all with my best of Eurovision playlist to get you through the 45-55 mins of prepping and cooking. Have fun and Enjoy 😀
First I made the pizza base:
Now my mum has just bought some fancy dough mixing machine which I struggled to get my head around, so if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty it’s probably much easier to use a spoon and your hands. This recipe will make two small thin pizzas. ( I made one big one and it was just too thick much better making two smaller, thinner ones)
I like to make some sweet potato wedges to go with my pizza (my boyfriend likes them with every meal). They take about 40mins in the oven so I would put them in at this point, before you start the sauce and your oven should already be pre-heated. After oiling a baking tray I cover the chopped sweet potato in a little oil, salt, pepper and herbs.
For The Tomato Sauce:
Now for the toppings:
If you can tolerate dairy and or can’t imagine having a cheeseless pizza I’m not going to stop you smothering the beautiful tomato sauce you’ve made with cheese ( I did for my boyfriend) but if, like me, you’re trying to cut down, you can either just put your toppings straight onto the tomato sauce or sprinkle some nutritional yeast over it. Nutritional yeast has become my best friend recently, not only does it have a really cheesy, nutty taste but, it is, also, vegan and gluten free and full of awesome health benefits such as folic acid and vitamin B12.
I like to top my pizza with chopped mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn and spinach. but once you’ve got your base and sauce you can top it with whatever you want.
So now you’ve got all your elements and it’s only taken about half an hour, you can pop your pizza in your pre-heated oven let it cook for 15 minutes and enjoy 😀
You can also store any you don’t eat in an air tight container in the fridge and re-heat in the microwave for about 2mins the next day.
Whilst the pizza is in the oven I like to make a cheeky little extra. I used to adore Dominos’ famous Garlic & Herb dip and have found pizza crusts so bland since giving up refined sugar and cutting down on dairy. So with the Domino’s version being so full of rubbish, however yummy it is, I decided to make my own much healthier version. Now it might not be as good but I think it’s a pretty reasonable replacement to give a go.
For the Garlic & Herb Dip:
This does make quite a lot of dip so if you’re cooking for four or more who all love garlic dip I’d make this recipe but if it’s just for one or two I’d make a half batch. You could also probably use this instead of the tomato sauce if you wanted a garlic pizza bread.
Here’s my best of Eurovision playlist full of Uk classics, old favourites, memorable & half decent tracks and all my favourites from last night. It’s about 55mins worth of pure EuroPop so should get you through cooking all your pizza elements even if you have to skip a few songs.
If you’re interested the costs of this whole meal which would serve 2-4 people would be:
This makes a total meal cost of £5.77 which makes it very reasonable and shows gluten free, vegan and sugar free food doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Thank you very much for reading my very first blog post. I hope you enjoy it and would love your feedback 😀
#Eurovision #Pizza #GarlicHerbDip #Vegan #GlutenFree #SugarFree #DairyFree #Food #Blog #POTS #EDS