Sunday 21 May 2017

Aldi Pea Snacks - Chilli with a twist of lime

I'm a big fan of Yushoi crisps,which are a vegan crisp alternative made from peas and it looks like Aldi are trying to copy them with their pea snacks under their Passion deli brand. Like Yushoi these are made peas (marrow fat peas in this case) and are gluten free and from what I can see in the ingredients list also dairy free and vegan.

They offer multipacks of 6 offering a cheaper way of stocking up on these baked not fried crisp alternatives and also offer a flavour twist with this chilli with a twist of lime of flavour.

They're just as good as Yushoi ones in my opinion although I do love the Yushoi brand and would continue to buy them in the future too. They have a nice, light crisp and airy texture , which reminds me of the texture of the salt and vinegar chipsticks even though they're made from peas. You'd never guess they were made from peas and because of this it means the pack also contains 4g protein per pack.

The flavour is really nice, a little bit of mild heat with a lovely zing of lime that I think works really well in savoury snacks. Lime is definitely underused in crisps and snacks. At 88 calories per pack, they're also a guilt free treat. A good little find in Aldi.

Bought at: Aldi
Nutrition per pack: 88 calories, 2.9g fat, 0.2g sat fat, 0.6g sugars, 0.21g salt

Score: 8/10

Thursday 18 May 2017

Weetabix Additions Raisin and Apple

Weetabix is a staple in my house, it's a really healthy choice: low in sugar, fat and salt and you can customise it with different dairy free milks and toppings or fruit every morning for a brand new take on breakfast each day. I really highly rate the Weetabix Protein from last year, which took everything I love about one of my most eaten cereals and then gave it a protein boost to provide a plant based protein boost at breakfast.

Capitalising on what I assume was the success of Weetabix Protein is these two Additions versions of Weeabix - one with coconut and raisins and one with apple and raisins. Nutribrex already does a coconut wheat free cereal, which I love so thought I'd give the apple and raisin one a go. They're vegan and high in fibre, low in salt and full of wholegrains.

It certainly smelt of apple and raisin with also a noticeable hint of cinnamon giving it that crumble/ autumnal pudding kind of smell and feel. They look like standard Weetabix although you can see a few little raisins studded throughout.

Texturally they're similar to Weetabix to so you can either soak them in milk and let them go soggy or briefly dowse in milk and then eat them whilst they're still solid. Because these are flavoured I decided to go for almond milk as it's quite neutral rather than my preferred coconut milk or cashew milk, which have stronger flavours, which might not work with these. Unfortunately the taste didn't work for me and it just tasted slightly odd, a little too sweet and a bit too artificial. The raisins are quite small and certainly not juicy, although the cinnamon notes are quite warming and pleasant.

It's not awful or inedible but my main problem is they've taken a great, healthy breakfast and added in a load of sugar and syrups and odd sounding ingredients. The original Weetabix is low in sugars whereas these have 15g sugars per 100g or 6.5g per two biscuit serving. It's not horrendously unhealthy but I don't see why you would pick something like these at breakfast over the original although I might eaten these as a healthier dessert/ evening snack.

It also ruins what for me is the key point of Weetabix - its blankness and neutrality. With a strong apple and cinnamon flavour, it makes the product a lot less versatile and stops you adding your own flavour combinations and individual twists, which you can do with the original.

It's a nice idea but not properly executed in my opinion and I'll stick with my low sugar and neutral original Weetabix.

Bought at: Tesco
Nutrition per 2 biscuits: 149 calories, 0.8g fat, 0.2g sat fat, 6.5g sugars, 0.08g salt

Score: 5/10

Sunday 14 May 2017

Starbucks Vegan Wrap - Kale, Jalapeno and Slaw

Yet another veggie sandwich being tasted again. As soon as I heard about Starbucks' new vegan wrap, I had to try it on my next visit. Starbucks isn't my preferred coffee shop and I tend to go more to the likes of Pret and Leon so it's good to see a mass chain offering healthier options.

The wrap promises crushed corn, kale and jalapeno bites with a California inspired slaw with spinach and a hot chilli jam, surrounded by a plain tortilla wrap. It looks pretty impressive with lots of colour and things going on in there and it's always a pretty hefty wrap - it's an absolute beast of a sandwich.

I had mine with an almond milk latte (keeping it fully dairy free!) and I think it's probably the best sandwich I've had in a mass chain. It's not quite as fresh and natural tasting as the likes of Pret, which are made from scratch each day but for a prepackaged option, this is very good and miles better than the generic falafel option that vegans typically get offered.

I've said it already but this is a big wrap and I thought this was going to be a very messy affair. In some ways it was just because Starbucks have jam packed this with filling and veg but amazingly the tortilla holds together and it all held together perfectly during the entire eat. The bottom didn't collapse and whilst I did get a few bits on me, that was due to my clumsiness and this wrap really is bit to burst with filling. There is no skimping on ingredients here.

And the filling is delicious. The kale and jalapeno bites are a more interesting twist of falafel that are nice and moist and paired well with the crunchy slaw with cooling cabbage and carrot and some spinach. The chilli jam helps bring it all together with a nice sweet flavour, that has a nice mild bit of heat in it making for a deliciously sticky, spicy taste.

I'm really impressed with this offering from Starbucks and it would be great to see them trying to do more healthy Pret-style options.

Bought at: Starbucks
Score: 8/10

Thursday 11 May 2017

Waitrose Good to Go Veggie Rueben Sandwich Review

Moving on from Marks and Spencer's veggie butternut squash and tabbouleh wrap to another veggie sandwich, this time from Waitrose. New and exclusive to Waitrose is this veggie take on a rueben sandwich. Now I've never had a rueben before so can't do a fair comparison and I've also had to look up what a reuben sandwich is - apparently it's an American sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing sandwiched in rye bread.

The Waitrose veggie rueben appears fairly authentic with dark rye bread encompassing Emmental cheese, pickled slaw with American mustard dressing and a Russian dressing. The veggie twist is provided by switching the corned beef for roasted chesnut mushrooms, which I could see working as mushrooms have a nice meaty, umami, savoury flavour.

I love dense Scandinavian bread so the rye bread is a much welcome change to your standard pre packaged sandwich. It's dark and nutty and gives a strong flavour that holds its own against some even stronger fillings. This sandwich has a very hard hitting flavour punch due to some real hard hitting flavours. Particularly strong is the slaw and Russian dressing, which have a very strong, salty taste with a real flavour of gherkins. Gherkin haters avoid as this comes through strongly but I really liked it.

Emmental cheese provides a nice Swiss creamy cheese with a nutty tone that works well with the nuttiness of the bread and a nice creamy contrast to the crunchy slaw. The mushrooms aren't particularly identifiable against the other strong flavours but they are in there and give a nice bit of moisture and bulk to the sandwich and in my mind doing a good job as a veggie alternative to corned beef,

Whilst not as jam packed with textures and flavours as the M&S butternut squash, it's another winner of a veggie sandwich - so much more interesting than a bog standard egg and cress or cheese and tomato. It's very Scandinavian tasting and for all its bold , salty tones, it's quite a light eat so you don't feel too bogged down after eating it.

Price: £3.20
Bought at: Waitrose
Nutrition per pack: 374 calories, 14.4g fat, 3.9g sat fat, 7.8g sugars, 1.74g salt

Score: 8/10

Marks and Spencer Vegan Butternut Squash and Tabbouleh Wrap

M&S seem to be really trying to make some moves in plant based this year. After the launch of the vegan sandwiches at the beginning of the year and some of the plant based snack pots, they've launched what I believe is their first vegan wrap for the summer and it sounds pretty good.

I've said before I've always found plant based sandwiches more interesting, it makes the flavour combos and textural contrasts work harder and makes for some really interesting and tasty combinations. This starts off with a red pepper and chilli wrap so even the base is more interesting than your usual wrap or sandwich. Packed with butternut squash, a vegetable slaw, a butternut salad, butternout houmous (lots of butternut here) and a sumac dressing it's a fantastic mix of flavours and textures.

The wrap is soft and pliable and adds a nice Mediterranean undertone to a more middle Eastern filling. The butternut squash is soft and sweet, the slaw is a lovely mix of all sorts of crunchy veg with carrot and cabbage for a nice bit of bite against the softer elements.

The salad provides a light crispness and the houmous adds moisture and rich creaminess. All topped off with the sumac dressing - a fantastic lightly spiced flavour punch of cumin, coriander, lemon, orange and chilli for a lovely summery taste. It all works well together and makes for a more interesting wrap than your standard one.

It's a really tasty wrap and once again there's no reason not to buy this even if you're not vegan. It's just a fresh tasting lunch with lots of crunch and contrast and it feels like quite a light eat too so perfect for the summer.

Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per pack: 434 calories

Score: 8/10

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Hotel Chocolat 100% Cocoa Easter Egg

Okay we are really past Easter now but I've always been one to hoard my Easter eggs and eke them out over a longer period rather than demolish them over the Easter weekend. I was really lucky to receive one of the new 100% cocoa Easter eggs from Hotel Chocolat. This is a pretty unique offering being the only Easter egg I've ever seen that is sugar and sweetener free plus it's pure 100% cocoa status. Those who don't like dark chocolate look away now.

I don't eat milk chocolate these days and 70% dark chocolate is my minimum with 85% being my preferred. I've enjoyed Lindt's 90% bar before but never ventured beyond that. Is a completely unsweetened dark chocolate going to be too much.

Like all Hotel Chocolat products, it looks premium, beautifully packaged and very sleek. Inside you get the 100% cocoa egg which is studded on the inside with raisins and roasted almonds and you also get a little tray of hazelnuts panned in 100% St Lucian cocoa as well. This egg picked up a lot of press attention as its dairy free, sugar free and suitable for vegans but does it taste any good.

Like I said those who don't like dark chocolate will in all honesty not like this at all and even 70% aficiandos might find it difficult to stomach. It's really quite earthy and the lack of sweetness is really noticeable. It's a raw intense deep and slightly dry taste from the St Lucian chocolate. It's very pure but also quite a complex flavour. I could get hints of slight earthy fruitiness within it and I can understand how chocolate experts can really compare and notice the subtleties like a fine wine. It's got a hint of maltiness and taste utterly different to any chocolate I've had before.

However, as said the lack of sweetness is very noticeable. When you eat it with the studded raisins in that natural sweetness for me is enough to elevate it but the bites without although very tasty don't feel as much of pleasure as 70-90% chocolate. I still enjoyed it however and I think it is all about how you train your palate and reliance on sugar. As I've eaten this more over a few days I've liked it more. The roasted almonds add crunch and the raisins sweet chewiness. I remember when I found 70% chocolate just right and 90% too earthy but now I find 70% a little sweet so it's all taste perception.

No, I don't quite like this as much as 85% and 90% chocolate but I did like it and would like to have one of these again next year. However I'll stick to dark chocolate with a little sugar.

Price: £15
Bought at: Hotel Chocolat

Monday 1 May 2017

Marks and Spencer Spiced Carrot Muffins

I've been interested in these since I saw them reviewed at Amy Seeks New Treats and as it's a bank holiday weekend I thought I deserved a treat. I'm also looking to do a half marathon in 2 weeks time so if there's any time I can justify treats it's when I'm running a lot!

Promising all the taste of carrot cake in muffin format, they are beautifully attractive little muffins with a rustic topping of granola and pumpkin seeds. I must admit I don't normally like muffins and find them overly sweet, dry and a bit sickly but M&S tend to be good with flavours and if they could get that lovely spicing of carrot cake right they would be on to a winner.

It started off well as I spelt the cinnamon and nutmeg as I opened the pack and the muffins didn't feel overly aerated, puffy or dry but were rather smaller without the big puffy tops you get in those monstrosities in coffee shops. Look how tasty it looks with all those oats and seeds all over the top and remarkably they don't fall off too much.

Cutting it in half there's also a pleasing cream cheese filling to really replicate the carrot cake experience. And it really does taste quite like carrot cake in flavour, if not texture. The texture is a good muffin, through and through, surprisingly moist but very airy and light and not too heavy and there's lots of juicy currants throughout for bursts of sweetness and texture. Combined with a slightly crunchy topping it's a good balance of textures. I must admit the pumpkin seeds were unnecessary in my opinion - a bit too dry and plain tasting and they jar with the soft, sweet taste of the sponge a bit.

The sponge is where it's at. It's got an authentic carrot taste with a decent hint of spiciness and the cream cheese filling adds an extra spot of sweet, creamy indulgence that complements rather than makes it sickly.

Very yummy muffins indeed and just right with a cup of tea.

Price: £1.50
Bought at: Marks and Spencer

Score: 8/10