Baked ‘Risotto’ with Roast Veg

This is a bit of a ‘mish mash’ dinner and I’m loosly referring to it as risotto. You can put pretty much any vegetables in there and while I’d usually do the roast the veg and rice separately, I made it even more simple and just put it all in the oven.

It took about 40 minutes but would have probably been ready earlier had I actually checked on it. A hearty, warm dinner that is really simple to make.

Ingredients

  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Risotto Rice
  • Vegetable stock
  • Red pepper
  • Orange pepper
  • Vegan cheese
  • Baby plum tomatoes

Method

  • Throw it all the vegetables, rice and stock in the tray and cover with tin foil
  • Check about 20 minutes in and mix, adding more stock if required and removing the tin foil – I also added the cheese here
  • Bake for a further 20 minutes
  • Serve

Removing the foil allowed it to get a little crispy and for the vegetables to roast up a little bit. I served it on its own, but you could add a bit of salad too if you like.

This was super simple and naturally gluten free. Substituting goats cheese for vegan cheese made it dairy free and vegan too.

I love recipes like this because they are quick to prepare and you can walk away and do other things while it cooks, so it’s a great option for mid-week cooking. I made plenty, so I portioned it up into containers and had lunches and dinners for a couple of days.

I’ll definitely make this one again and you could probably do it with any rice.

Cauliflower & Chickpea Satay with Flatbread

BBC Good Food is always my go to place when I’m looking for recipes, especially when I have a couple of ingredients and don’t know what to make.

I have a store cupboard full of the essentials, so looking for inspiration I found this recipe for a Cauliflower & Chickpea Satay Curry with Homemade Flatbread. The recipe wasn’t initially gluten free, but it was dairy free. A simple swap of gluten free flour and I was sorted.

Having never made flatbread before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Ingredients

Curry

  • Cauliflower (1 head)
  • Chickpeas (400g)
  • White onion (1)
  • Garlic (2 tsp chopped)
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp)
  • Curry paste (2 tbsp)
  • Coconut milk (200ml)
  • Water (100ml)

Flatbread

  • Gluten free plain flour (250g)
  • Coconut milk (200ml)
  • Baking powder (2 tsp)
  • Salt (1/4 tsp)

Simply fry the onion until soft before adding the garlic. Combine with the peanut butter and curry paste (I used tikka paste). Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, water and coconut milk and cook for roughly 20 minutes.

For the flatbread, combine the ingredients and fry in a medium/hot, dry frying pan. Flip half way.

Serve with rice… done! How easy is that?

Personally, I would probably replace the water with more coconut milk and add more peanut butter to make a thicker sauce but it was a good place to start.

I love cooking and playing with recipes to make them different or more up my street. I’ll definitely try this out again, but with a few tweaks.

Psoriasis – what is it?

Often, you’ll hear people say that they have psoriasis. It’s become a bit of a buzzword for skin conditions of late. It might be that the person has undiagnosed psoriasis or they actually have eczema or other forms of dermatitis, but psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disease.

What is an autoimmune disease

Firstly, it’s worth understanding what an autoimmune disease actually is.

An autoimmune disease is, in its basic term, is a conditional that causes an abnormal reaction to what is a normal body part or function. There are loads of autoimmune diseases out there and nearly all body parts can be affected by some form of autoimmune disease.

The causes are unknown, some can be hereditary and others completely independent of genetics. Some common autoimmune diseases you may have heard of include celiac diseasediabetes mellitus type 1 (type 1 diabetes), inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), multiple sclerosispsoriasisrheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus).

Treatment for autoimmune diseases can vary drastically depending on the condition but can include taking immunosuppressants or anti-inflammatory medication.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune diseases that affects the skin – the bodies largest organ. It’s a long-lasting autoimmune disease that causes abnormal, raised areas of skin which is typically red/purple in colour and often has a scale like texture.

A common symptom to accompany the scaly, raised and discoloured skin is intense itchiness – which, as you can image, causes quite a bit of discomfort. Though it looks so, it is important to note that psoriasis is not contagious. Studies show it’s likely to be a genetic condition, although this isn’t always the case.

There is no cure for psoriasis and it’s like to come in cycles. “Flares” (a common term relating to autoimmune diseases) can come when your immune system is compromised and other factors such as stress and environment can have an affect.

Treatments for psoriasis can include steroid creamsvitamin D3 cream, ultraviolet light and immune system suppressing medications. Unfortunately, having psoriasis – like other autoimmune diseases – comes with an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases in the future.

Maintaining a good immune system

While having a good immune system is important overall, it’s even more important when you have any type of autoimmune disease.

A low or poorly supported immune system increases the likelihood of flares in autoimmune disease symptoms.

Anything from stress, illness and environmental factors like smoking or too much alcohol can result in a weak or compromised immune system, increasing the likelihood of symptoms occuring.

There are a number of ways to ensure your immune system is working tip top, such as:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating antioxidant rich foods, like fruit and vegetables
  • Eating healthy fats, like fish and nuts
  • Limiting added sugars or additives
  • Maintaining good gut health
  • Reducing stress
  • Exercising

Generally living a health lifestyle will result in a better supported immune system. That doesn’t mean not being allowed to partake in alcohol or sweets/fatty foods, but it’s about everything in moderation.

Emotional/mental impact of Psoriasis

While psoriasis is manageable, it often takes its toll both physically and mentally.

Imagine how you feel when you look in the mirror and a new spot has appeared on your face. For most people, it makes them sad or frustrated. That’s amplified when you have a skin condition (whether it’s psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis), but those negative feelings often exacerbate psoriasis systems. Increases in feelings of stress often cause symptoms to become worse.

Psoriasis can also affect any area of the body, including the face, scalp, arms and legs. These are areas that are particularly difficult to cover up. Psoriasis symptoms aren’t nice to look at and often people see someone with psoriasis and instantly think they have a contagious skin condition, leading to the desire to hide it. Piling on clothes causes irritation and is uncomfortable for psoriasis prone skin.

All of this can lead to feeling incredible unhappy, self-conscious and generally has a negative impact on the sufferers mood, feelings and emotions. This can lead to a long term negative impact on their general mental wellbeing.

The overall impact of autoimmune diseases if often overlooked, but the short and long term effects that those suffering with these lifelong conditions face is something that shouldn’t be brushed aside.

Why am I going gluten and dairy free?

I thought it probably made sense to start from the beginning right?

I was born lactose intolerant but I’ve always been a pretty stubborn person. Adamant to be able to eat ice cream and cheese, like every other 8 year old, meant that I just would. I wouldn’t be very well, but as I got older I built up a bit of a tolerance. Although it worked for me, I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

As a result, I’ve probably put a lot of the symptoms down to just being normal for me. Who isn’t lathargic most of the time? Who isn’t bloated constantly?

I’ve always suffered from pretty frustrating eczema. Unlike the more traditional “in the crook of your elbow or behind your knees” type eczema, mine would typically present on the opposite, so the outsides of my elbows resulting in my being unable to rest them on a table. Or completely down the back of my ear, causing them to split and bleed constantly. I’d wake up with my hair stuck in the resulting wounds and the only way to get it out was to go in hot showers to literally soften the skin enough that I could break my hair free… I used to cry so much, because I was nearly always in some sort of pain.

When I was older, I started wearing acrylic nails to stop from breaking my own skin. I’d wake in the mornings having hacked at my legs and arms at night and my parents had grown an acute sense of hearing to the sound of my scratching, something that I’m rarely aware that I’m even doing.

Sometimes, it didn’t even show the traditional symptoms – or so I thought. For as long as I could remember I have had permanently itchy shins and calves. I thought it was totally normal, it wasn’t. When I was 19/20 I was finally diagnosed with having psoriasis.

Suddenly, a number of things made sense. My eczema wasn’t always showing symptoms because sometimes it wasn’t eczema at all. Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease is weird because there is initially a sense of relief, but then there’s the “what next” thought.

Of all of the autoimmune diseases out there, and there is a lot, psoriasis is one of the few I’d say really isn’t that bad. I say that not from the experience of others, but because when you look at autoimmune diseases like Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), Lyme disease (chronic) or Behçet’s disease, I can cope with the flare ups of psoriasis and they’re much less symptomatic than others, but more on that another day.

When you’re diagnosed with an autoimmune disease you get to researching and one of the things that comes up, particularly with psoriasis, is to cut out gluten. Honestly, like most people, gluten probably isn’t really the best for me anyway, but given my reluctance to give up dairy and lactose, who knows.

So, with all of that combined, I decided that it’s time to make a bit of a lifestyle shift. I’ve been looking into how to go gluten and dairy free for some time and honestly, it’s a minefield. There’s so much information out there, but I wanted something that will not only keep my accountable but hopefully help other people who find this just as confusing and stressful as me.

Who knows how I’ll do. I love cheese. I love pasta. But, let’s see… There are so many alternatives out there that I’m bound to find a dairy free milk that I actually like in a latte, or find gluten free alternatives that are truly just as good. I hope so anyway.

Lactose intolerance and dairy allergies, what is the difference?

While many think they’re interchangeable, they aren’t.

Lactose Intolerance 

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products and results in the digestive system. Our bodies produce an enzyme called lactase, which helps us to digest lactose properly. The body stops producing enough lactase and they are unable to digest the sugar properly, causing gastric discomforts such as gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.

Lactose intolerance is common, particularly in adults, and though the symptoms are different that those of a dairy allergy they can cause a lot of discomfort to someone who is lactose intolerant.

Dairy Allergy (Milk Allergy) 

A person with a milk allergy is often allergic to one of two protein components of milk (​casein or whey) and results in the bodies immune system. The body’s immune system overreacts to the proteins, potentially causing symptoms such as hives, itching, and swelling, or more serious symptoms like wheezing, trouble breathing, and unwellness. Those with a milk allergy should not ingest any food that contains milk/dairy. 

Dairy allergies can be serious. Though not as common as lactose intolerance, dairy allergies affect the immune system and the symptoms can be incredible dangerous if left unchecked.

Getting tested

The tests for lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are different.

When being tested for lactose intolerance, often you will be given a drink that is high in lactose and your symptoms will be monitored before having a glucose test (blood test). Traditional symptoms can take up to 48 hours to appear after ingesting a substance that you are intolerant to, sometimes making it difficult to identify what your intolerance is, so it’s important to undergo testing from a medical professional.

Allergy testing can be done through blood tests or a skin prick test. The substance (dairy in this case) will be placed under or on the skin and then monitored to see if an allergic reaction (redness/bumps) are seen.

While these aren’t the only way to be tested for intolerances or allergies, they are some of the most common.

Living with lactose intolerance

Of the two, lactose intolerance is far easier to live with – because ingesting lactose, while uncomfortable, is unlikely to cause any serious symptoms. Opting for foods that are lactose free means that you won’t have to give up milk and cheese. There are definitely far less options available to you, but they are there and becoming much more frequent.

Living with a dairy allergy

Though much more intrusive than lactose intolerance, living with a dairy allergy is becoming considerably easier that in previous years. If allergic to dairy, you’ll want to avoid any food that contains dairy or milk, including cheese, ice cream and whey (think protein powders).

As there has been a rise in dairy free, or vegan type, diets, it has become considerably easier to find dairy alternatives. Where previously only soya milk was readily available, there is now a whole host of dairy free, plant based milk alternatives available and likewise for ice creams, cheese and other dairy products.

What is gluten and why is it so bad for some of us?

This is something that I have googled so many times before. I don’t know why, but it didn’t matter how much reading I did, I would just feel so overwhelmed about what gluten was, what foods I had to look out for it in or how I’d know if something contained it.

Gluten is a group of proteins, called prolamins and glutelins, which occur with starch in the endosperm of various cereal grains. It’s commonly found in wheat, rye and barley. So, in simple terms, this means that most foods containing flour, such as bread, will contain gluten.

About gluten

  • Gluten is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye.
  • Gluten is found in foods like bread, pasta, cereals, flour, cakes and biscuits.
  • It can also be found in processed foods such as soups, sauces and ready meals.

You won’t find gluten in other traditional carbohydrates, like potato and rice.

Why does gluten negatively affect some people?

There are various ways you could be negatively impacted by gluten and those are through sensitivity or intolerance and allergy (coeliac).

The existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, as it’s called, has been under debate recently in the medical community but researchers believe that it may not be gluten at all, but instead a combination of carbohydrates and sugars known as FODMAPs, which are often found in gluten-containing foods.

Those who are allergic to gluten have a considerably different reaction. For coeliac’s (or celiac if you’re not British) gluten damages the small intestine resulting in you being unable to take in nutrients. For those who are coeliac, which is an autoimmune disease, digesting gluten make you incredibly ill. Symptoms can include bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, but the long term effects can be considerably worse.