Friday, 31 October 2014

Rude Health Coconut Milk

Rude Health is probably one of, if not my favourite brand. Pure, natural ingredients with loads of good stuff, packed full of flavour and with funky packaging, I return to it time and time again.

Whilst buying their delicious bircher muesli on Ocado, they had a bundle deal with their coconut milk. I'm not allergic to dairy but I like trying nut milks so decided to give it a go.

It's not coconut milk as you would get in a can so it's not the thick type to cook with. Instead, it's a dairy free alternative for use on cereal or in hot drinks. Once again, the packaging really stands out and is vibrant and modern.

It's got no weird emulsifiers or thickerners like other dairy free milks and there's no added sugar either. It's just rice, water, coconut and sea salt, all of which is organic.

It's absolutely delicious and whilst not particularly coconutty in taste, it has a mild, sweet, fragrant taste which doesn't dominate what you have it on. In something like porridge, it doesn't comega to the front or on flavoured cereals but on something like Weetabix, you get a nice touch of coconut in each bite.

It's a little pricey at £1.99 but on offer, it makes a refreshing change to regular milk.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A moment of pure indulgence: Marks and Spencer's Spiced Toffee Apple, Pear and Almond Cake

I try to eat healthily and most of the time I succeed. Sometimes, however, you just have to not care, give in and wallow in a little bit of gluttony.

At over 500 calories a slice, this seasonal cake in the M&S cafe should definitely be filed as an occasional treat. But frankly, it was so delicious, I didn't regret one bite of this sticky, fruity treat.

The texture was sublime. It was a dense cake, more akin to a bread pudding than an airy Victoria sponge but it wasn't heavy at all. It was sticky, sweet and felt deliciously substantial. In a world of low cal snacks that leave you ultimately unsatisfied, I felt I had had a treat here.

It's got a lovely complex flavour. It's fruity with little plump raisins throughout and has a heady mix of sweet autumnal spices, perfect for this time of year.

I had it with a flat white and I can honestly say this was a moment of pure bliss. Every crumb of this was worth every calorie.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Porridge with dates, raspberries and pumpkin seeds

Healthy can be luxurious as in this autumnal porridge. Dates provide a natural sweetness but one that is still sticky and a bi naughty. Pumpkin seeds add fibre, good fats and texture and a mix of freeze dried and fresh raspberries provide a dingy freshness with some tartness to complement the date's sugar.

50g of porridge oats
250ml of coconut milk
Handful of finely chopped dates
Handful of pumpkin seeds
A teaspoon of freeze dried raspberries
2 handfuls of fresh raspberries

Combine and mix the oats, milk, dates, seeds and freeze dried raspberries. Give it a good stired.

Microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Give it a good stir and leave for 1 minute.

Microwave on full power for 1 minute, 30 seconds, give it another stir. Leave to harden up to your desired consistency.

Top with the fresh raspberries and enjoy!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Marks and Spencer Taste Thailand Chicken Satay with Peanut and Chilli Dip

I'm still exploring the new Taste collection at M&S. I love all the new products. Lots of lovely, exciting flavour combinations from around the world that just sound so fresh and tantalizing. After my foray into Mexican last time, this time I decided to transport myself to Thailand.

Chicken Satay isn't by any means new or innovative but it looked appetizing with its little wooden skewers and individual pot of dip. In theory it's a starter for two but I had it for myself as a main.

I simply served it with some jasmine and coriander rice I made and some stir fried vegetables I cooked in a lemongrass and coconut sauce. All together, I thought it looked visually very appealing and it smelt fragrant and exotic.

One thing I was realky impressed by was the amount and quality of chicken. The four little skewers were very filling and the meat was so succulent and tender. Coated in coconut, galangal and lemongrass, it was mildly spicy but just so fresh and aromatic. The peanut and chilli sauce was thick, sticky and deliciously sweet, spicy and salty at the same time. It completed the meal and even went well with the vegetables I did.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Breakfast Treat - Bagel, Hazelnuts, Peanuts and Banana

As good as it looks. Every Friday I make a break from my usual porridge or muesli or shredded wheat with fruit and treat myself to something a little naughty and indulgent.

Today I simply had a toasted bagel. One half I had spread with Meridian peanut butter. The other with chocolate hazelnut spread from Wholefoods Market. I then topped both with sliced banana. Utterly delicious. There was some health benefits as both nuts spreads were natural with no salts or oils and high nut content for protein. Bananas are obviously a rich source of potassium and natural energy.

I had this with a latte from Waitrose, which I spruced up with a dash of hazelnut syrup for my own hazelnut latte.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Waitrose Berbere Spiced Chicken with lemon and mint

I found this new Berbere spiced chicken breast in Waitrose and it made a really nice, easy meal for one. It's healthy with lean protein, low in fat, sugar and salt and it's mess and fuss free. It cooks in just 20 minutes and serves one perfectly. The range is also 25% off at the moment.

With chilli, paprika, black pepper, fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, ginger, coriander, black onion seed, pimento and nutmeg, it's a deliciously aromatic mix. Preserved lemons and mint on top add further flavour, the juices keeping the chicken succulent, as well as giving it a professional look.

It tasted sublime. The chicken was so tender and obviously of high quality with no fat and it cuts beautifully. The spice mix made it fragrant and when paired with some jasmine rice, butternut squash and roasted tomatoes transported me to exotic shores. This proves healthy food can be utterly delicious.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Healthier Take On Chilli

Autumn and winter makes me crave warming evening meals that are cosy, fill me up and insulate me. Unfortunately a lot of my favourite winter dishes - see sticky toffee pudding, chicken and leek pie or cottage pie - don't hold back on the fat, sugar or salt. Delicious, undoubtedly, but not great for every day.

Chilli is another comforting hot meal but I decided to try lightening it up for my dinner today. Butternut squash is an unusual addition but makes for a healthy base along with onions and garlic, giving you a good boost of carotenes. It also adds a subtle, mellow sweetness and is beautifully autumnal.

Turkey mince helps lower the fat content, kidney beans add fibre and more protein for satiety and I love the nuttiness of brown rice. It's also lower GI than white rice and pairs well with the spices I use - including a little addition of cinnamon for a warming twist.

150g of butternut squash slices
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
400g of Turkey mince
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram
1 teaspoon of Very Lazy chopped chilli (or use some fresh)
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato puree (I used one with added chilli flavour)
5ml of Worcestershire sauce - adds depth and umami bUT with much less salt than stock
A drizzle of hot chilli sauce (optional - I like it hot! I used Lingham's)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
400g tin of kidney beans, drained to give 240g
Freshly ground black pepper

Brown rice to serve

Makes enough for 3 to 4

Either with a food processor or by hand, dice the butternut squash, garlic and onion and fry with the chilli flakes, cumin, paprika and marjoram for around 5 minutes

Add the turkey mince and fry until it browns, breaking it up with a wooden spoon

Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh chilli, the chilli sauce if using, the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and the cinnamon along with as much water as you feel necessary to get the sauce consistency to your liking - I used about half the empty chopped tomato can

Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Check the taste and add more of any of the spices depending on your tastes along with the black pepper for seasoning.

Add the kidney beans and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add a little more black pepper if desired and serve with Brown rice.

Comforting, warm and spick but with plenty of nutrition and no added salt.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

New Covent Garden Pumpkin Ghoulash Soup

I've been disappointed by New Covent Garden Soup in the past but this seasonal limited edition was interesting enough to bring me back. I absolutely adore pumpkin and I'm pretty obsessed by it at the moment. Those beautiful orange fleshy squashes just sum up Autumn and October for me. Warm and rich in colour with a soft, comforting taste that just seems perfect as the cold weather comes in.

With lots of Starbucks pumpkin spiced lattes being drunk, I'm on the look out for anything else to feed my yearly pumpkin craving. Previously, I tried the Collective Dairy Spiced Pumpkin Yoghurt - a delicious, sweet, fruity yoghurt with lovely spicing. Spotting this soup in Sainsburys, it made a great lunch for what has been a very wet day.

With peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage and tomatoes, as well as the pumpkin, half a carton counts towards your five a day and is only 87 calories making this a nice light lunch that does you some good. Visibily, it looks so autumnal with lovely warming colours. I found myself getting warmer just looking at it and the paprika and cayenne pepper give it a lovely aroma.

I had this with some nice crusty, freshly baked walnut bread and it was just lovely. With a slight spice, it's got lots of flavour and the vegetable mix is so comforting - you just feel yourself getting nourishment with every slurp.

I think I've found something else to feed my pumpkin glut and will be feasting on this limited edition whilst it's around.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Cosy Autumnal Sunday Treat - Marks and Spencer Gingerbread Swirl

It's getting cold, it's getting wintery and I love it. I love the spices and flavours you get around this time of year and am already anticipating my first Starbucks gingerbread latte of the season. To tide me over until then I treated myself to one of the new items in Marks and Spencer's In Store bakery: a gingerbread swirl.

It's essentially the same kind of pastry you have for something like a pain aux raisins. Flaky, buttery with a beautiful texture combination of crunchy outer and soft, squidgy inner. Instead of raisins however, gingerbread is the theme. It might not be authentically French but it's a nice seasonal twist on a classic. The swirl is coated with a light layer of a gingerbread glaze and there's also little pockets of a kind of gingerbread flavoured creme patisserie inside too.

It's not a full on sticky gingerbread taste but rather the scents and spices that are used in gingerbread with tones of ginger, nutmeg and cloves. All warming, wintery spices that have that 'Christmassy' smell. It's not overly sweet either as it's a pastry rather than a cake. It's a subtle gingerbread flavour rather than being dominant. The rich, crumbly pastry is the focus here and the high quality ingredients shine through with a real melt in the mouth flavour.

It's definitely more of a breakfast product rather than a pudding or something for afternoon tea because the flavour is quite subtle and it's not particularly sweet. However, for a real wintery treat of a breakfast, this served with a warming mug of coffee or hot chocolate is perfect. I heated it in the oven to really emphasise the spicy aromas and it paired beautifully with my coffee.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Marks and Spencer Pecan, Cranberry Couscous Salad with Orange, Maple and Cinnamon Dressing

Pecan, Maple and cinnamon are such autumnal, comforting flavours and as we get closer to my favourite time of the year for delicious food - Christmas! - anything with cranberries in is welcome in my book.

This couscous helped make a delicious Saturday Salad. I simply topped some organic spinach and cucumber with the mix and then drizzled on the gorgeous, syrupy dressing. A few Portguese Sardines in tomato sauce on the side provided a good source of protein.

Even just looking at this picture of the plate cheers me up. It looks so pretty with all the different textures, colours and ingredients. The pecan nuts studded throughout look like little treasures and the cranberries and pomegranate seeds twinkle like jewels amongst the fluffy couscous. The flavour combination works wonderfully well together. The sweetness of the fruit is tempered by the comforting couscous which absorbs all the flavours beautifully with its neutrality.

The smoky pecans were the highlight - they add a delicious crunch and add some protein and good fats to the meal. They're woody and savoury and pair beautifully with the sweet maple in the dressing. The orange, maple and cinnamon dressing is glossy and sleek and adds so much flavour to both the couscous and the spinach leaves I served it with that you feel like you're having something really special despite it being so healthy.

Marks and Spencer Taste Mexico Steak Chilli and Coriander Rice

There's so many new and exciting ranges in M&S at the moment that I'm overwhelmed by all the lovely food and don't know how I'll ever get around to trying them all. But starting up from the Taste range is this steak chilli and coriander rice. The Taste collection is all about transporting you around the world and tantalising your tastebuds with exotic ingredients and fresh flavour combinations.

I started off my culinary exploration with an interesting take on chilli. This one uses steak mince for a really luxurious twist but also includes pork and chorizo for a powerful meaty trio that is delicously savoury with a real smokiness. Pinto beans meanwhile make an interesting swap for the standard kidney beans you get in a chilli and the inclusion of coriander rice uplifts your usual longgrain rice for a fresher and more fragrance dish.

It was a pretty pricey ready meal but the Taste collection is currently 25% off so now was as good a time as any to try it. Serving it out onto a dish, I wasn't disappointed. It looked very presentable with delicious chilli and coriander aromas lingering in the air. The pork, braised beef and chorizo gave it a really meaty taste and thick texture that felt positively luxurious. The coriander rice meanwhile was so uplifting, I could have happily eaten it plain.

Inclusions of ancho chilli gave the sauce an interesting mild spiciness although I would have preferred something a bit hotter. However, I am a bit of a chilli fiend and the combination of paprika, ancho chilli, garlic, coriander and several other spices gave this a flavour combination that was delicious. This was absolutely perfect on an Autumn night - taking me somewhere much hotter than the wet UK. I'm looking forward to giving the Vietnam, Thai and Japanese Taste dishes a go.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Marks and Spencer's Japanese Style Rice Crackers

This rice cracker and peanut mix is the type of snack I really look out for. I'm a real grazer. I like things just to pick at mindlessly but obviously I don't want such snacks to be too heavy or unhealthy. These, in theory, should be perfect for me. It's a pretty substantial sized pot, not in terms of fillingness, but in time to eat.

Like popcorn, you get something that takes a while to get through and satisfies any boredom eating and the whole pot is 115 calories. I also liked the fact the pot is self contained, giving you enough for one snack and no more. It's also easy to carry around and take on the go.

However, the actual contents wasn't exciting enough to get me to buy again. There were very few peanuts. This is fair enough in keeping the calories down but the rice crackers just weren't as explosive as I'd like.

There was nothing wrong with them but M&S are usually very good at real culinary sensations. These were slightly salty with a nice savoury edge but didn't really set my tastebuds alight. Nice enough but nothing to get excited about.

Available: M&S
Score: 6.5/10

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Collective Dairy Spiced Pumpkin Yoghurt

I've been a fan of the Collective Dairy now for years. They make absolutely luxurious yoghurts that really are desserts. They also always do really interesting abduction unique flavours, especially for their limited editions, with decadent flavours like raspberry and amaretto and creme brulee. Last year's festive edition of Christmas pudding was particularly interesting but this Halloween limited edition is something really special.

Pumpkin flavored things are a particular love of mine although bar Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte (one of my favourite autumnal treats) it's not a particularly common flavour yet. I love the sweet and spice combination and at this time of year, I can't think of anything more appropriate for Halloween.

The packaging on this is brilliant and suitably spooky. I love how the usual cow logo has a skeleton theme and the bright orange colour and pumpkin images help gear this to Halloween. Even the plastic sheet under the lid is really cool looking.

Opening it up, the autumnal orange theme continues with the pumpkin compote daintingly swirled through thick, white yoghurt. You can also see little specks of all the spices and it smells utterly divine and fragrant.

The yoghurt is up to the usual Collective standard. It's rich, creamy and luxurious. The cream and fat content gives it a really smooth, indulgent mouthfeel. The pumpkin compote then really elevates this. It's sweet and spicy with the taste of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It's absolutely perfect for winter and I'll be stocking up whilst it's around.

Price: £2.40
Bought at Sainsbury's

Score: 8/10

Friday, 10 October 2014

Marks and Spencer's Rooibos, Vanilla and Cocoa Infusions

As we move from summer into the cooler months, M&S have got loads of exciting, new products ready for winter and Christmas. I've loved the summer of flavour foods they had out - there were some really intense taste sensations and really innovative infusions. However, as the nights get colder, I'm now ready for all the scrumptious new ranges as M&S always excels in Autumn and Winter.

There were loads of new things I was desperate to try during my last trip to the foodhall and I will definitely be trying loads of the new things in the future but first up were these amazing teabags.

The ingredients list really is just the three flavours in the title and they work wonderfully together. Rooibos is a great tea anyway with loads of health benefits but it's the mellow, fragrant vanilla and the dark cocoa nibs that make this into a luxurious treat.

These bags use the finest cocoa nibs that are rich, dark and sumptuous. They suggest a little splash of milk and sugar to really bring out the chocolatey tones, which is what I did and it really works. The pyramid teabags are a great format too as they really let the intense flavours infuse sufficiently into the water.

It's  a smooth, rich drink that tastes like indulgent hot chocolate but without any calories or sugar. The 15 bags are pricier than other teabags but in the grand scheme of things they're cheaper than a takeaway latte from a coffee shop. As it gets colder and darker, these will be a nightly winter warmer.

Price: £2.90
Available: M&S

Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Homemade Healthy Banana and Blackberry 'Ice Cream'

I love snacking and sweet treats but it's always nice to try to have something a little bit natural and lighter where possible and this 'ice cream' is perfect for that.

1 large banana chopped or broken into bitesize pieces and frozen
2 handfuls of blackberries (ideally frozen as well)

That's really it. All you need to do is then check these into a good blender or, as I did, a nutribullet. I love my nutribullet - it blends healthy food into tasty treats in seconds! Just blitz the ingredients until it forms a creamy, pretty purple creamy ice cream. You may need to scrape down the mixture a few times if you're using a blender but persevere for a guilt free treat. It literally takes a minute if that!

Using frozen banana means the mix is delightfully cool and refreshing but it also gives the banana thick and creamy texture that really does replicate ice cream.

I love how sweet and delightfully smooth this and the blackberries give it a wonderful fruity flavour. Blackberries are in season now so it's a great excuse to go foraging in the countryside for fresh, free fruit. And best of all, it's two portions of fruit with no sugar or fat. I topped mine with a little muesli for some crunch and to give it a 'sundae' feel.

This tastes as beautiful as it looks and with all the antioxidants in the blackberries and potassium in the banana, this does you good as well as tasting great.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Nothing But Mange Tout and Red Pepper Snack

Kale crisps are all the rage at the moment like the lovely M&S ones I tried last month and Pret are also selling their own version. But I haven't seen anything as innovative as these interesting bites anywhere.

The full ingredients list for these really is just what it says in the title. It's just mange tout and red pepper and that really is it. No oil, no salt, no flavourings. It's simply vegetables that have been dehydrated. I loved how natural these are. It's only 26 calories per packet and one of your five a day as well. It really is no different to just eating raw vegetables.

And as such, they do just taste very strongly of vegetables rather than being masked by salt or spices. The mange tout in particular has the exact same taste as it would if you stir fried or steamed it from fresh.

What is different is the texture. Whist the taste is overwhelmingly vegetables, they have a crisp like crunch and snap. I found them very moreish but there was no guilt for mindlessly munching on these.

Price: 99p
Found: Wholefoods Market

Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Marks and Spencer Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

I love browsing M&S' sweet aisle - it's an explosion of colour and naughty little sweet things that make me want to buy everything on show. Percy Pigs is what they're famous for but they also have really nice version of other types of sweets like these jelly beans.

Flipping the box over, you can see that there's some really interesting flavours here like barbecue banana, liquorice and coconut as well as more normal fruits. It's certainly a really great mix and the amazing thing about this is just how distinctive each flavour is - the strawberry jam one for instance is completely different to wild berry. Usually with these types of jelly beans, a lot of the flavours taste quite similar and in the worst cases all the jelly beans just have the same sweet taste with the colours just there for show and appearance.

Here, each beans is completely different to one another and you have no difficulty in grasping what flavour it is. Whether it's the sweet juiciness of peach or the sharper aniseed taste of the liquorice, each one is a real sensual delight and a complete explosion of flavour. Because the flavours are so intense and real, you find it a lot easier for portion control. Rather than just shovelling a load into your mouth in one go, you want to eat each one by itself, one at a time, to get the full taste experience.

They're not too sweet either and the flavours are the main thing you taste rather than just sugar. I enjoyed every single one but the highlights for me were

1. Cherry - lovely and sweet with a little sour edge.Cherry flavour is always one of my favourites.
2. Peach - succulent anf sweet with rich honeyed tones. Feels very tropical.
3. Plum - something a bit different with a real depth

But the great thing is with such an array, there really is something for everyone. The fact they come in a nice little carton rather than a plastic bag means they keep fresh and can be stored away easily too.

Price: £1.40
Available: Marks and Spencer

Score: 8.5/10

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Glaceau Smart Water

It's a bottle of water. I don't even know why I bought this, as there is nothing wrong with tap water, yet alone why I'm reviewing it. But something about the packaging and the recent advertising with Jennifer Aniston just seemed to captivate me. It looks like a really pure and healthy product and I'm always on the lookout for things to make me feel good.

Although it really just is a bottle of water I'm reviewing, it does have nice spin and it's description certainly makes it sound premium. It's 'vapor distilled electrolyte enhanced water'. Apparently electrolytes help prevent dehydration so you get all the benefits of sports drinks but without the additives and sugar too.

It is all supposed to be inspired by clouds for a crisp, clean taste. To be fair, when I drank it it was extremely refreshing with a really clean and pure taste and I like the fact that its green credentials are enhanced further through using British spring water.

It's difficult to review as it's hard to get excited by water but I would buy it again as it makes me feel good. I didn't think it was overly pricey either and at 600ml it's a bigger bottle than others out there.

Price: 60p
Available: Bought in a Tesco
Score: 7/10