Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Whitworths Blueberry and Seed Shot

I've mentioned before how I love finding healthy snacks. It's certainly nice to be able to balance out all the really indulgent stuff I eat! These Whitworths shots have been out for a while now but I've only just got round to trying them - and I wish I'd done it sooner!

The concept and packaging is great. Each 'shot' is a little 25g pack of dried fruit and extras that you can carry out and about for an easy, convenient snack and each 25g pouch is under 100 calories for a light guilt, free treat. I like the fact they're individual pouches as it makes for a controlled portion and you're not even forced to buy a multipack. At 49p each, I also think they're a decent price.

This shot contained a tempting mix of raisins, dried blueberries, pumpkin seeds and yoghurt coated sunflower seeds. It's a more unusual mix than other dried fruit mixes with a good ratio between soft, sweet fruit and crunchy seeds. There's a good balance of flavours and textures with nothing dominating the other ingredients. The yoghurt covered sunflower seeds were my personal favourite - smooth, creamy but with an addictive crunch.

I really enjoyed this. It satisfied a small, sweet craving but didn't leave me feeling sick or full. I like it's a fairly natural product and whilst there is some sugar in it, the positive goodness of the vitamins and minerals in the seeds and dried fruit also means you're getting some nutrition too. I'm definitely going to try the rest of the range.

Price. 49p
Available: Major supermarkets

Score: 8/10

Monday, 29 September 2014

Waitrose Ultimate Thin and Crispy Asparagus, Cherry Tomato and Pesto Pizza

Whenever buying something like a ready made pizza, I always like to splash out and get something extra special from somewhere like Waitrose. This new thin and crispy range provide authentic Italian style pizzas with proper slim and crunchy bases rather than American doughy or stodgy ones. The topping probably won't impress any real Italians but it is an interesting and different combination that sounded delicious.

One thing I really appreciated about this was that the ingredient list is refreshingly natural and simple. There is literally nothing in it, you wouldn't be forced to use if you were making it yourself. It's also not as salty as other store bought pizzas and because of the thin base is only 260 calories per half. Even if you ate the whole thing, it's probably about the same as a half of most other pizzas.

Its thinness also means it cooks very quickly in only 8 minutes and when it came out it looked and smelt pretty much of the same standards you get in restaurants. The base is deliciously satisfying with a good, crisp snap and doesn't go soggy. Its thinness means the topping also gets to take centre stage rather than taste bring overwhelmingly bready.

The pesto, tomato, asparagus combo work together brilliantly. It feels very vibrant and fresh and coupled with the thin base that makes for a nice light eat that doesn't make you feel bloated. I was really impressed how flavourful it was with hints of basil and the sweet juiciness of the perfectly sized tomatoes. I would happily try the rest of the range as the quality is as good as pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven.

Price: £3.29
Available: Waitrose

Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tesco Healthy Living Rice Cakes To Go

Portion packs are always a winner in my opinion. They stop things getting stale, they help you take things out and about and prevent you from eating too much.

These Tesco ricecakes are nothing particularly new or exciting but it's a simple idea and done well. It's just 5 individual packs of 3 ricecakes. No flavoring or interesting twists, although they do contain buckwheat for a little savoury edge and a bit more texture.

Each pack is a mere 75 calories for three whole slices. The pieces, I think, have a better shape than normal rice cakes and are good for dunking and dipping. They don't particularly have a strong taste but this makes them ideal for topping as you can completely customise them. They're also low in fat, salt and sugar.

At £1.59 for the 5 packs, it is a more expensive way to buy rice cakes but the convenient packaging outweighs this for me.

Price: £1.59
Available: Tesco

Score: 8/10

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Marks and Spencer Marquisette Biscuits

When buying something a bit special, I always head straight to M&S and these new Marquisette biscuits are something a little bit different. They're not completely brand new as I think I've seen them in continental selections before but this is the first time they've been sold as a seperate product. They are currently on half price at £1 along with some other new individual boxes of continental style biscuits.

Opening the pack, you can see they look quite simple yet they're still very elegant. Their petite size and delicate shape make them look quite sophisticated and the ends dipped in Belgian chocolate only add to their visual appeal. Serving one or two of these would look so appealing with a strong rich coffee, for a real European indulgence.

They're also quite understated in taste as well but this works for this style of biscuit. The actual biscuit isn't particularly buttery or rich and is fairly dryish but it does have a simple vanilla taste and crumbly texture that isn't sickly. The little bits of deep dark chocolate at the end provide the highlight at the beginning and end of eating each piece. It's smooth and creamy with no bitterness but isn't sweet either and complements the actual biscuit very well.

Each one is only 50 calories too so a relatively guilt free please. It's not the biggest treat ever but they are very nice as a mini bit of continental treating.

Price: £1.99 but currently £1
Available: M&S
Score: 8.5/10

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Linwood's Milled Flaxseed, Cocoa and Berries

As I've said before many times, I absolutely love breakfast. It's my favourite meal of the day and I'm always on the look out for new things to mix it up or to put a twist on my staples.

Health is another thing I look out for - it's always nice to get the day off to a good start even if your good intentions slip by the end of the day. So, this pack of flaxseed, cocoa and berries seemed a good idea. I often sprinkle flaxseed on my cereal or porridge as it's a great source of fibre and kicks your day off with some protein to keep you satisfied until lunch. It's also a great source of omega 3 and magnesium. It doesn't really have a flavour so it doesn't overwhelm your base cereal. However, I was interested to see how cocoa and berries added, if any, flavour.

I sprinkled it over mini shredded wheat and added some blackberries for even more fruity goodness and texture. Disappointingly, the cocoa didn't come through overly strongly. I think I was expecting a real chocolate hit in the style of chocolate Shreddies. However, it is a health product and it's low sugar so probably unrealistic to expect this.

Mostly, it's quite a subtle, if slightly bitter, flavour that didn't dominate over the shredded wheat. The freeze dried strawberries and blueberries add some texture and interest, plus further health benefits.

Whilst this isn't the most delectable thing ever, it is super nutritious and makes everyday breakfast a bit more varied and different so I would buy again.

Price: £5.99
Score: 7.5/10

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Nairns Astrobites

After really liking the Nairns Muesli Breaks - which were a sweet biscuit version of an oatcake that was both a treat and healthy - these new mini bites from Nairns looked equally appealing. This is a box of 5 individually wrapped bags of little bite sized oat based biscuits. This product also claims to have 40% less sugar than the average kids biscuit. They are certainly a lot lower in sugar than most sweet foods at only 17g per 100g and just 4g per individual packet!

Despite being healthier, they're not bland at all. Sweetness comes from currants and cranberries and these also provide an extra depth to the texture as well, giving each bite little bursts of juiciness.

The oat bakes come in a variety of novel space shapes like rockets, astronaughts and planets. Each box also contains a space themed sticker, furthering the appeal for kids.

Though these are aimed at children, I liked them too. The individual bags make them great for carrying out and about and also helps with portion control. As they're based on oats, it makes them a more sustaining snack and it's always great to see lower sugar and more natural options out there. Each bag is only 104 calories.

As such, they're never going to be a proper sweet treat but that's not to say they're not delicious. The bites all contain soya crunchies. These add a lovely popping and crunchy sensation to the bites. It's a pretty simple snack when you want something sweet but that isn't overly filling.

Price: £1.69
Score: 8/10

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Cucina Focaccia (Aldi)

I'm not a massive Aldi shopper but do pop in every now and then to have a different experience to the other supermarkets. On my last trip, I decided to give these focaccia a go. I bought a rosemary flavoured one but there was also a cheese and red onion version too. At 99p I thought it couldn't hurt to give them  whirl.

They looked pretty good with a nice colour and lots of visible strands of rosemary. Reassuringly, the ingredients list is pretty high quality with real ingredients: flour, water, extra virgin olive oil, yeast, rosemary, salt and malted barley flour. All stuff you would use in a homemade version. It's also not overly salty, like a lot of breads.

Opening the pack, you could tell there was a generosity with the rosemary as the fragrant, herby smell was very apparent. Heating it in the oven produced a lovely golden colour with a nice crispness that further enhanced the rosemary smell.

Whilst, it wasn't quite as nice as a real restaurant focaccia, it was pretty good and certainly on par, if not better, than a lot of store bought ones. Many can just be like white rolls but this had an authentic texture that was warm with lots of air pockets and a good crunch. The rosemary came through for a lovely Mediterranean taste. I served it as a side to some tortellini Bolognese and it complemented it perfectly.

Price: 99p
Available: Aldi

Score: 7.5/10

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Twinings Pineapple and Grapefruit Green Tea

The moment I saw this on the shelf, the enchanting flavour idea captivated me. I drink a lot of green tea but appreciate it's not everyone's cup of tea (literally!)  as some find it very strong and bitter.

This provides a nice entry point to green tea. It's a lot less harsh and the lovely fruity flavours mellow it out. The combo works brilliantly. The tropical and fruity taste of pineapple is balanced by the more sour grapefruit tones.

Both fruits are easily detectable and the tea has a lovely aroma. It's zingy, vibrant but most of all so refreshing. The grapefruit in particular is so thirst quenching and delicious. I can't get enough of this. All of the health benefits of green tea with a truly sweet and fruity taste. If you want to give green tea another go, this is a great choice.

Price: £1.69
Score: 8/10

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Rude Health Bircher Muesli

Wow, wow and wow - sorry to be upfront but this gets the first 10/10 I've ever given. I've always liked the Rude Health granolas and mueslis with their lower sugar content and because they are chock full of all kinds of natural goodness like seeds and nuts. Bircher muesli is probably my absolute favourite breakfast (although porridge comes a close second!). It's creamy, soft, smooth and sweet and frankly tastes like a dessert if it came from a health spa.

This is the first 'dry' packet Bircher muesli I've ever seen. The original recipe from the Swiss Dr Bircher called for simply oats, yoghurt and a little grated apple to make a comforting invalid's breakfast. Rude Health have upped the fruitiness and modernised it with some apple, raisins and banana. This lends it a delicious sweetness in every mouthful that is tantalising rather than a full on sugar hit or sickliness.

Homemade Bircher muesli requires leaving it to steep overnight but Rude Health have finely ground the oats. This means it absorbs milk like a sponge, quickly and conveniently giving you something thick and creamy without all the hassle and preparation.

It tastes absolutely gorgeous - thick, indulgent but also healthy. I improved it even more with a little bit of trail mix for a real sense and taste explosion to kick start my morning. As a box of cereal, it also makes it cheaper than buying the Bircher mueslis you get in the yoghurt aisle as well. Sad as it sounds but I'm aready looking forward to tomorrow morning so I can eat it again!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Little's Cafe Amaretto Flavour Instant Coffee

I'm probably a little bit of a coffee snob. If I can't have a properly made one from a coffee shop or one from my Tassimo machine, I tend not to bother. I don't drink it at work as I just don't drink instant.

This instant caught my eye however as it contained one of my favourite flavours: amaretto. The fact it's a small, independent company rather than from a big corporation also made me give it a go. And actually it's pretty nice for an instant.

Opening the jar, you instantly get lovely aromas of almond and a roasted nuttiness that is sweet and inviting. As an instant, it's pretty simple to use - just add boiling water to a spoonful and you're done. They recommend adding milk and I would agree. I like my coffee black and intense but milk seems appropriate here. It gives the coffee a lovely creamy caramel colour and makes it seem a bit more special.

In many ways it's similar to an amaretto latte but without the sugary, artificial syrup. The taste is mild and very smooth with no harshness at all. It's slightly sweet with a distinct, obvious amaretto flavour. It will never compete with a well made flat white but it's excellent instant with a lovely different taste.

Score: 8.5/10

Monday, 8 September 2014

Cadbury Dairy Milk with Oreo Single Bar

I'm very much late to the party with this one. The Cadbury Dairy Milk with Oreo tablet sized bar has been out for years. I've always thought it looked interesting every time I've passed it in the shops but never got round to buying it as I didn't really want to buy such a big bar.

Luckily, Cadbury have launched it as a single bar now and with a modest intro price of 50p it gave me the perfect excuse to finally get round to trying it.

Opening the pack, it has the lovely, distinct sweet familiar smell of Dairy Milk. The bar looks very attractive with a lovely smooth rounded shape and lots of visible bits of Oreo cocoa goodness studded throughout. There's a faint aroma of Oreo too, making it even more enticing. I like the fact it's six individual pieces that you can snap apart rather than one solid bar like a Wispa or Crunchie. I actually ate only 3 pieces in one sitting then resealed the bar with its recloseable packaging and had the other 3 pieces another day, making this good for portion control too.

Snapping a piece off, the bar is jam packed with filling. Surprisingly, it's a lovely, slightly gooey Oreo cream filled bar with additional pieces of crunchy Oreo biscuit flecked throughout. I was just expecting the bits of biscuit but its the gooey, sweet vanilla cream that really elevates this bar. It's generously packed and has a lovely taste.

I actually prefer good, high quality dark chocolate and am the first to criticise things for being too sweet but I adored the sweetness of this. It isn't sickly, just silky, smooth and indulgent. The strong cocoa flavour and contrasting gritty texture of the biscuit also tempers it. The whole thing was lovely and moreish. The cookie and cream flavour works so well and I would definitely buy this again.

Score: 9/10

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Kirsty's Moroccan Vegetables with Quinoa

I don't usually buy ready meals. All the scare stories, the high salt, the added sugars, their processed nature and  the weird ingredients that sound like chemicals all put me off. However, I have to say these Kirsty's ready meals break the mould and really pleasantly surprised me.

I think the original concept behind these is that they are suitable for the 5:2 diet. This pack was a mere 276 calories for the whole contents so is great for anyone looking to cut calories. But this isn't one of those low calorie products that is then compensated for by bulking up with artificial ingredients or loads of sugar.

It's actually low in sugar with sweetness coming from apricots and sweet potato. With peppers and pinto and aduki beans in as well, it also counts as 2 of your 5 day. The rice portion of the dish is brown rice and is studded with quinoa and puy lentils for wholegrain and fibre. With bits of courgette, carrot, onion, chickpeas and raisins as well, there's lots of good stuff going on.

So it certainly ticks all the health credentials. It's also wheat, dairy and gluten free so suitable for those with food allergies. But it actually tastes really good too. The Moroccan sauce is delicately flavoured with a lot going on. There's ginger, cumin, harissa paste, chilli powder, paprika, garlic, coriander and cinnamon in it so it's anything but bland. It's sweet, rich and warming. And with all this flavour, it doesn't need as much salt as other ready meals.

My only concern was whether it would be filling. I'm not on a diet - I just picked it up as a convenient lunch for work that was fast, easy and healthy. Because of the high protein in the quinoa, this, along with a side salad, actually left me quite satisfied.

I guess this shows that ready meals need not be nutritional nightmares. I was really impressed by it and will probably try other meals in the Kirsty's range in the future.

Score: 8.5/10

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Walker's Do Us A Flavour Emma C's Cheesy Beans on Toast Crisps

Though I said I was probably done with the limited editions of the Walker's flavours suggested by members of the public, I decided to give these Cheesy Beans on Toast Crisps a whirl nonetheless. I actually really don't like overly cheesy things and whilst I like beans on toast, I would never put cheese on them as I find melted cheese quite gooey and overpowering.

So I was prepared to really not like this, especially considering most of the reviews I have seen of this edition have been negative. I actually didn't think they were bad though. At least they live up to the flavour the packet promises.

The toast element is completely missing from the flavour and I do agree with other reviewers who say part of the probem is that the flavour doesn't translate into a crisp because it lacks the comforting crunch and toasted bread flavour of real beans on toast.

However, at least it makes some resemblance to the dish, unlike the completely bland chip shop chicken curry crisps and the pulled pork ones, which just tasted sweet. There is a slightly sweet tomato flavour first, followed by an immediate cheese flavour that isn't too strong. The two together do vaguely resemble melted cheese and beans.

Whilst I prefer the Hot Dog and tomato sauce and the steak fajita flavours, this one was a decent enough eat. The only question now is whether to try the ranch racoon flavour?

Friday, 5 September 2014

Walker's Do Us A Flavour Jed's Sizzling Steak Fajita Crisps

After the hot dog with ketchup flavour redeemed the slightly bland chip shop curry and pulled pork limited editions, I was eager to try another of the new Walker's Do Us A Flavour range. Ranch Racoon and Cheesy Beans on Toast didn't really appeal to me so I went for the steak fajita flavour.

These were pretty good too. They smell meaty and have a pretty decent steak like flavour. They're quite smoky and deeply savoury with a good umami like kick. There's also some fairly authentic pepper and onion flavoring going on as well so it replicates the whole fajita theme quite nicely.

Hot dog with tomato sauce is still my winner but this one I'd probably buy again as well. I also have a suspicion that this will be crowned the winner by the Great British public.

Score: 7.5/10

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Moma Bircher Muesli Breakfast Pots Multipack

I've been a big fan of the Moma brand for a few years now. Their porridges and bircher mueslis make a perfect on the go breakfast as they're convenient, healthy and utterly delicious. They're mostly found in on the go type outlets like train stations or Boots but as they've become more well known, they're becoming easier to find in supermarkets.

This multipack is simply a new pack format twist on the standard bircher muesli pots but rather than the standard 150g or 220g individual pots, it's 4x 125g.

Taste wise, I absolutely adore these. They're totally natural, containing lots of healthy ingredients with yoghurt, apple juice, oats and mixed berries, although there is also a strawberry and banana version too. Despite being healthy, it still tastes decadent and indulgent.

They have a lovely thick, creamy texture that has a lovely mouthfeel and are nicely sweetened, despite having no actual sugar in them. What I love about these smaller pots is that it makes them perfect for snacking or a healthy dessert as the normal pots are a little too large for this. I don't think these would be as good for breakfast as they're too small to see me through to lunch (unless I had something else) but as a real guilt free treat, it can't be beat.

Score: 9/10

Monday, 1 September 2014

Walker's Do Us A Flavour Sarah's Hot Dog with Tomato Ketchup Crisps

After severe disappointment with the Chip Shop Curry and Pulled Pork flavours, I've finally found one of the new Walker's Do Us A flavour range that I actually quite liked.

Hot Dog with tomato sauce probably doesn't sound as interesting as the likes of pulled pork or curry but that's probably why it works better. Crisps suit simple flavours really. Promising complex flavours doesn't really work as you're better off eating the real thing.

As such, this made a tasty, moreish snack that didn't overpromise and therefore didn't fail to deliver. There's the standard sweet tomato sauce flavour that we're already used to but there is a second aftertaste of sausage that does actually mimic hot dog quite well. It's a strong Frankfurter-esque flavour that is smoky, rich with a salty and deeply savoury taste.

Whilst I thought the previous limited editions were quite bland, I thought this worked quite well as it wasn't trying to replicate a full on meal. So far, this is the one I'd like to see win although I assume it probably won't seem interesting enough to garner enough votes.

Score: 7.5/10