Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Tesco Crispy Nutty Seedy Bites Review

Just a very quick review on these nutty, seedy bites a friend gave to me as I often look for snacks that are a little bit healthier. These bites are basically a mix of nutritionally healthy sounding sunflower seeds, currants, peanuts, oats and sesame seeds bound with sugar, syrup and honey.

They reminded be very strongly of sesame snaps but with a thicker, more crunchy and satisfying texture due to the added nuts and currants, of which there were plenty. Tesco were certainly very generous with the inclusions and no two bites were the same. I also loved their mini, bitesize nature, making them ideal for both sharing and grazing on at work.

Yes, they contain sugar and syrup - but less so than cakes, sweets or chocolate and the fruit and nuts means you are getting some goodness the same time, as well as making them more filling.

And for a healthier snack, they taste fantastic. The honey add sweetness to the nuttiness and they were incredibly moreish. So much so, I demolished the bag in a single sitting!

Price: £1.49
Available: Tesco

Pros: Healthier, generous with ingredients, great taste, different to anything else I've seen.
Cons: Bag isn't resealable and too easy to eat them all. Portion control packs would be good.

Score: 8/10

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

New Covent Garden Soup: Souper Green with Italian Basil Soup Review

A suddenly chill this afternoon meant I broke away from my usual lunch choice of a salad or a sandwich and instead plumped for soup. I haven't bought a New Covent Garden soup for a few years now. Pre packaged soup doesn't really appeal to me and they can be pretty high in salt. However, Covent Garden last year launched skinny soups. These not only give you 2 of your 5 (or should that be 7) a day, but also get green lights in terms of fat, sugar and salt.

This Souper green variety certainly makes a very healthy choice and was only 108 calories per half pack. It also had a very natural ingredients list containing only water, peas, leeks, courgettes, broccoli, onion, potato, green beans, spinach, pesto, butter and some seasonings.

With a very long list of vegetables in it, I had high hopes for this and hoped it would be as of high quality as the cool, bright green packaging.

Unfortunately, it didn't deliver. The soup had a very watery and thin texture that wasn't easy to eat and meant it wasn't very satisfying. I appreciated the inclusion of lots of chunks of actual veg floating in it but it was really pretty bland. The basil pesto flavour didn't come through at all and with no one dominant vegetable flavour to give it body, it was really quite weak and tasteless.

It‘s a shame because it is a genuinely healthy choice but without the enjoyment or taste element, I doubt I would buy it again.

Price: £2.20
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Very healthy, generous with ingredients and veg
Cons: No pesto flavoring, watery and little taste

Score: 4/10

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Marks and Spencer Berry Bagels

Bagels are usually one of the biggest disappointments in the supermarket. A proper bagel is an absolute joy to eat - tangy, chewy, with a dense texture and a hint of sweet maltiness. However, what you usually get is just a bread roll with a hole in the middle. These new berry bagels from M&S looked the part so I thought they would be worth a try.

The bagels were not uniform in size, which appealed to me as they looked more homespun and interesting and the barley flakes sprinkled on top added to their wholesome charm. I loved the idea of bagels with blueberries and cranberries and they sounded like an indulgent weekend treat.

The bagels look absolutely stunning and M&S were really generous with their dried fruit. The blueberries and cranberries were quite subtle and you only really noticed them if you bit into one and got a brief explosion of fruity flavour.

However, the actual bagels were fantastic and probably one of the best packaged ones I've tried. They had a great soft but chewy texture with a lovely shiny glaze and the barley flakes gave a lovely bit of nuttiness.

I also really appreciated the salt level in this. It's quite faint but adds a savoury backbone that perfectly complements the sweetness of the bagel.

Price: £1.50
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Fab texture, nice flavour twist, added barley flakes
Cons: Blueberries and cranberries not coming through as strongly as I'd like

Score: 7/10

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Marks & Spencer Seeded Oatcakes with pumpkin, sunflower and linseed

Walking around M&S in town today, I was so excited by all the new products and summer ranges. M&S is always great for finding new foodie finds with interesting flavours and clever twists. I always think they're at the forefront of food trends and this was certainly true of all the new summer ranges, which are also heavily health based as people look to slim down for their summer breaks.

One of the great finds I found today were these seeded oatcakes with pumpkin, sunflower and linseed. Savoury biscuits seem to be a bit of a trend at the moment - gone are the days of plain old cream crackers and Ritz - and lots of companies and supermarkets are offering really intresting new types, shapes and flavours.

I love crackers and oatcakes - they're a pretty saintly snack. Not sugary or fatty and so much more substantial and nourishing than crisps. Oatcakes in particular are a great, permissible snack due to the goodness of oats and I find they certainly fill a gap. The lovely packaging of these oatcakes with its hand drawn like pictures conjures up images of summer and naturalness and I couldn't wait to get stuck in.

One thing I particularly appreciated about this product is that the oatcakes are wrapped in four seperate packs. I hate opening a big bag of crisps or crackers and feeling like I need to eat them quickly before they go off so this added touch for extra freshness is much appreciated. It also makes them great for popping in a bag and taking out and about with you.

The oatcakes had a lovely freshly baked appearance and looked very rustic and crumbly. Perfectly round with the little seeds speckled throughout, they looked very appetising. They're also charmingly thin and feel very sophisticated because of this. Breaking one in half gave a solid and satisfying snap and revealed further generosity with the seeds.

The seeds really elevated these oatcakes beyond normal ones. It gave them an interesting texture and added some extra nuttiness and graininess to the mix. But the actual oatcakes are great quality too. Deeply savoury with a goodly pinch of salt, they're crumbly and very oaty. They almost taste like a savoury hobnob with a lovely toasted oat flavour. And despite how thin they are, they are a very filling and satisying eat. Due to the strong oat flavour and fabulously munchy texture, I only had two and that was enough and yet was only 117 calories.

These were absolutely delicious as they were, making a tasty alternative to crisps or nuts but would also be great for lunches, with cheeseboards, dipped in houmous or spread with peanut butter. Frankly, I could eat these with anything.

Price: £1.20
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Added pumpkin, sunflower and linseed, portion control packs, salty and satisfying, a quick, healthy and tasty snack
Cons: Maybe they should be wrapped in twos rather than fours

Score: 8/10

Friday, 25 April 2014

Harvest Morn Milled Linseed, Gojiberries, Sunflower & Pumpkinseeds (Aldi)

Whilst I love seeing innovation from my favourite brands and think it‘s generally worth paying for them for their exciting flavour twists, I happily also eat own label brands and this Linseed with gojiberries, sunflower and pumpkinseeds from Aldi shows you don't always have to pay over the odds for something great.

I've previously paid £5.99 for linseed but this was a mere £1.99 (although it's not organic like my regular brand). I've also never seen it with gojiberries and pumpkin and sunflowerseeds included. As if linseed with its high fibre and omega content wasn't healthy enough, you get extra vitamins and minerals from the seeds and gojiberries are one of the so called 'superfoods'.

The packet gives loads of serving suggestions from adding it to salads, soups and yoghurt but I always use it on cereal or porridge. It's an extra dose of goodness in the morning, makes your breakfast more filling and adds an interesting texture.

Sprinkling this over porridge really showed off the added ingredients. There were lots of nuggets of seeds and berries nestled away in the golden sand of linseed. For £1.99, I couldn't believe how generous the inclusions were.

Stirring this into my porridge gave it a more interesting consistency. Linseed doesn't really have a flavour as such but adds a general toasty nuttiness to the porridge and the gojiberries added even more variety. It's not crunchy but makes the porridge thicker with little grains of goodness studded throughout.

Frankly, I can't believe how good it was for the price. Super healthy, tasty, filling and economical, I would happily start every day with a sprinkle of this.

Price: £1.99
Available: Aldi

Pros: Healthy, plenty of seeds and gojiberries, great value, filling
Cons: Not organic like more expensive brands

Score: 8/10

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Twinings Infusions: Cherry & Cinnamon Review

I'm increasingly drinking more and more fruit teas. Refreshing, caffeine free and with interesting and innovative flavours, they make a great guilt free snack and are great for unwinding at the end of the day.

Twinings are probably my favorite brand due to the sheer number of enticing sounding flavours they offer. I absolutely adore cherries and happily douse my morning porridge in cinnamon so this cherry and cinnamon fruit tea sounded perfect.

Opening the box, a lovely faint cherry smell hit my nose. A really sweet one that almost reminded me of the Haribo Cherry sour sweets! The tea bags also looked very clean and natural. The ingredients list is very pure and you can see all the little bits of herbs and spices mingled in the bag.

Upon adding to hot water, the spicy aroma of cinnamon also wafted up though the lovely cherry smell also persisted. The water turned a beautiful ruby red and holding the warm, fruity smell cup in your hands is a comforting experience.

Taste is what I always worry about with fruit teas. Often they sound great, they smell even better but then taste of nothing, only vaguely scented water (blueberry tea I'm looking at you!)

Thankfully, this delivered. That Haribo like cherry smell also gave a Haribo like taste - sweet and almost Christmas like - and the cinnamon delivered a warming tingle. Although like most fruit teas, the smell was stronger than the taste.

This makes a great sugar free drink and is perfect for any time of day.

Price: £1.39
Available: Twinings website or major supermarkets

Pros: Sweet, sugar free, warming and comforting, actually tastes of cherry
Cons: Taste could be a litter bit stronger to match the smell.

Score: 7/10

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Thorntons Vanilla Fudge Review

Amongst all the chocolate, sweets don't get much of a look in over Easter but I decided to give these charming pieces of fudge a go.

In beautifully charming and whimsical packaging, the pictures bring back memories of childhood and fairgrounds. In nice pastel colours, they feel like something from a sweet shop in a bygone age.

When I opened the packet, a really sweet , creamy aroma dreamily floated out of the packet that had me salivating. I was surprised by how small the pieces of fudge were. Little golden nuggets of joy rather than clunky cubes. They would be perfect for baking with I'd imagine, as well as scoffing straight from the pack.

The fudge is made with real clotted cream and butter and this quality is evident in the eating. Really thick, rich and creamy, the fudge is soft and comforting and blissfully coats the mouth in a sweet vanilla melt. However, they are sweet so four or five pieces is enough.

Price: £1.49
Available: Thorntons, Tesco

Pros: Good quality ingredients, rich, buttery and generous portion in a pack
Cons: Very sweet so can only be eaten in small quantities

Score: 7/10

Monday, 21 April 2014

Heston Blumenthal Ginger and Honey Acacia Honey Hot Cross Bun Review

As an Easter Monday treat, I decided to splash out and get some of Waitrose's limited edition Heston Blumenthal hot cross buns. After last year's Earl Grey and mandarin buns, this year's interesting combination is ginger and acacia honey.

All of the supermarkets are increasingly offering more adventurous and less traditional hot cross buns, with variations including Kentish apple, golden syrup, double chocolate and even fudge and choc chip.

However, when it comes to seasonal food, I like to play it conservatively. I would try any of the above variants but they do all sound a little sickly or too far removed from a traditional hot cross bun for me. This Heston bun was a little more closely aligned to the ones my family traditionally bought in at Easter however, featuring all the traditional spices and no flavours that are more suited to confectionary. As many morning goods and traditional teabreads use ginger or honey, these seemed better suited to a hot cross bun whilst still promising an interesting twist.

At £1.69 for two, they do cost considerably more than other offerings. However, these are positioned as a premium product and really are no more expensive per bun than anything from a fresh in store bakery. And with treats I'm happy to pay for quality over quantity.  Better to have 2 really satisfying eats than 6 dry and average eats (plus it reduces the risk of over indulging!)

These certainty look premium. Tall, puffed up and proud buns that look more similar to a muffin rather than a sad, squashed and flat traditional bun. They look very inviting with their plump exterior and juicy raisins rising from the golden bake.

Pulling the buns out of the packet further showcased further attention to detail.  The base is a dark jet black with silver Heston signatures that make these feel like they were handmade rather than produced on a conveyor best. And indeed, according to the Waitrose Weekender, these buns are made without high speed mixers and the crosses are piped by hand.

As I removed one from the packet, a very faint aroma of honey tinged with the spiciness of ginger wafted up but for the most part, it was the sweet sultanas and raisins and traditional hot cross bun that dominated.

 The buns felt gorgeously soft and squishy but still hold their shape if you give the plumptious beauties a squeeze. The buns are made with real butter and this shined through their golden crumb, adorned with the distinctive cross. They also have a wickedly sticky glaze that gleams in the light and leaves a sticky and sweet imprint on your fingers when touched.

Cutting in half revealed many more plump and fat pieces of fruit and the base is a mellow golden hue. Appearance wise these tick all the boxes. As said, their sheet size gives them more in common with a scone or muffin than a hot cross bun and they look and feel more indulgent.

Taste wise, they were very indulgent too but failed to deliver on the intriguing concept. That isn't to say it wasn't a very high quality bun. I grilled mine as they're so big that they wouldn't fit in the toaster. They turned a lovely dark hue with a bit of toasty crispness but still soft, doughy and melt in the mouth, especially smothered in butter!

The buns have one of the best textures I've tasted in a hot cross bun - really buttery and sweet and not too bread like unlike other buns. However, they failed to deliver on the honey and ginger taste. The taste was in the background, though very subtle, and there was some warmth from the ginger but ultimately they tasted like a standard hot cross bun - albeit a premium one. The fruit was sweet, generous and juicy and this was a really satisfying eat so would still be recommended for that alone.

Price: £1.69 for two
Available: Waitrose (limited time only)

Pros: Thick, generous size with plenty of fruit, buttery and sweet. Subtle spiciness and high quality dough. Very indulgent tasting.
Cons: Pricey and doesn't deliver on the ginger and honey promised

Score: 7/10

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Tesco Greek Style 0% Fat Yoghurt Review

With all the chocolate and sweet treats we eat during the Easter bank holiday, I decided to balance it out with a healthy breakfast of raspberries, banana, muesli and yoghurt.

Greek yoghurt is the big trend within the yoghurt aisle with Muller, Danio, Weightwatchers, Total and Liberte all releasing ever new flavours and products. But supermarket own brand is now trying to muscle in on the action and today I tried Tesco‘s 0% Greek yoghurt.

Usually I buy Total 0% Fat Greek yoghurt. Pure, natural, low in sugar and with nothing added, Total Yoghurt is a genuinely healthy treat. And it is a treat - it so thick and creamy, you can literally stand a spoon up in it. How they do it, I'll never know. But at over a £1 per 170g pot and rarely on promotion, it is an expensive treat. With Tesco's own version costing only 50p for 200g, I thought it would be worth giving it a try.

As I spooned it over my fruit, I noticed how pure and natural it looked. A lovely unblemished white with a smooth spreadable consistency. It was runnier than Total and slid off the spoon rather than staying firm and stiff but nevertheless was thicker than standard yoghurt.

And it also delivered on taste. Very smooth and clean tasting. It perfectly complemented the banana and raspberry, coating them in a cooling, slightly tangy cream that offset the fruit's natural sweetness for a melt in the mouth consistency that blankets your tongue.

It also softened up the muesli but the overall eating experience was still thick and luxurious rather than wet and sloppy. And whilst Tesco's yoghurt may not be as decadent as Total yoghurt, it is as healthy. Only 55 calories per half a tub and only 4.2g of sugar. Usually, low fat yoghurts are compensated for by boosting sugar but this is lower than the majority of natural yoghurts on the market. And at a good price, this is perfect for everyday breakfasts.

Price: 50p
Available at: Tesco

Pros: Thick, good value, natural, satisfying and filling and low in sugar
Cons: Not as thick as Total so not as luxurious

Score: 7.5/10

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Subway Oat and Raisin Cookie Review

I love to eat - all kinds of food and there is very little I dislike. Seriously little. Every day I try to taste at least one new thing or product or brand because, cliche as it is, variety is the spice of life.

I love finding new products in the supermarket, at cafes and restaurants or even specialist suppliers. I'm not a food snob but neither am I against paying a premium for something special.

I am happy to try own brand, big name brands or something from a specialist or independent or up and coming company. As long as it's tasty, exciting and a new experience, I'll appreciate it!

So I'm starting a blog to record all those tasty little treats that bring a little bit of joy and excitement to a standard day. From cereal to chocolate, spice mixes to sweets, it's all good to me.

So for my first blog, I'm going to talk about a sweet little snack from Subway - the Oat and Raisin Cookie.

Now I have clearly been living under a Subway-Cookie-less rock most of my life as I tend to always only get a sandwich from Subway - well it is what they're known for!

But today, the unit of cookies lined up in tidy rows just seemed to call to me and actually it's a fairly nice looking display with a good selection of standard chocolate variants to the more interesting raspberry cheesecake cookie.

However, I plumped for the oat and raisin Cookie in a vaguely vain attempt to keep my choice healthier. And plumped is an appropriate choice of word, considering the generous amount of juicy, oozy raisins winking at me from beneath the sandy oat biscuit.

Compared to standard supermarket in store bakery cookie offerings, Subway‘s are considerably smaller. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. At only 191 calories and with half the sugar of a Sainsburys in store bakery oat and raisin cookie, it's a not too sinful treat.

And being smaller made for a firmer, more biscuit like texture as some cookies can be more like flapjacks. Not that this was crunchy and hard either. There was a bit of bite and munch to the edges with a buttery crumb but the middle was soft, yielding and melting. The base was also a nice dark, baked colour, providing a bit of substance and an almost crumble like texture.

With a fairly strong cinnamon and spice flavour infused within the gooey oats, the cookie also provided gentle warmth and comfort for an eat that is as cosy as an Autumn's night in. The spices also perfectly counteracted the sugar and raisins to make a treat that wasn't overly sweet.

Frankly, I'm stunned I've waited this long to try a Subway cookie and look forward to trying more of the range.

Price: 50p
Available: Subway branches

Pros: Not too unhealthy but still fairly substantial and at a good price. Nice buttery biscuit that isn't greasy. Lots of flavour and spice for a more subtle sweetness.

Cons: Not the most decadent of treats.

Score: 7/10