31 Jul 2014

Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars

I was recently sent a selection of Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars to review. The range is available at Tesco (free-from section), Holland & Barrett, and selected health food stores. These snack bars all contain nutrient dense ingredients that are 100% natural and raw. They're gluten-free and certified suitable for vegetarians and vegans. I'm always looking for healthier snacking choices so I was delighted to give these four flavours a try; Tropical Treat, Blissful Berry, Heavenly Cacoa, and Sublime Seed. 

Tropical Treat
The whole range is extremely tasty but I especially loved the wonderfully moist texture in each bar. This is due to the cold pressing technique used which retains all the lovely vitamins and minerals and gives these bars such a great consistency. 

Tropical Treat: This combination of ginger, coconut, pineapple and papaya was my favourite of the bunch (although it was very hard to pick an overall favourite!). The ginger is quite strong here, with a zingy flavour that I really enjoyed. The pieces of pineapple feel really moist and are packed full of flavour too. 

Blissful Berry:  This bar contains goji berries and cranberries, amongst other dried fruits, that gives it a super fruity and delicious flavour. There was something almost jam like and dense about the flavours, but I mean that in a good way!

Heavenly Cacao
Heavenly Cacao: This is a divine combination of raw cacao and dried fruits. It smells like a deliciously indulgent chocolate treat but has none of the nasty ingredients. The fruity base of sultanas, dates and goji berries, gives this bar a lovely moist texture and sweet flavour, whilst the cacao nibs and cacao powder add an extra richness and depth. 

Sublime Seed: This was the least sweet of the four bars, with a base of roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds, dates and hemp protein powder. The sunflower seeds are initially the strongest flavour which marries well with the sweetness provided by the dates, but then the peanut flavour kicks in too and gives these a real nutty edge. 

All four bars were really delicious and I have to admit that I much prefer the flavours here to other more well known brands of cold pressed fruit bars. My top picks are the Heavenly Cacao for a healthy chocolate tasting snack, and the Tropical Treat for it's zingy fresh flavours. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars

Rating: 9 out of 10
Purchased: Available at Tesco, health food stores and online HERE.
Price: £0.99p each (currently on a 4 for 3 offer at Tesco).

30 Jul 2014

Hyper Japan 2014 & my mini haul!

This weekend I visited Hyper Japan for the second year in a row. I had a great time last year with my eldest son and this time my youngest wanted to come along too. Once again the Tofu Cute store (above) was one of the highlights for me, but we also enjoyed meeting the various characters around the event (Mario & Luigi for example), and trying out Shaved Ice for the first time!

Lots of Hello Kitty cuteness to be found - I was good and resisted buying anything Hello Kitty related.

There's always so much adorable stationary, including a vast array of stickers.

I'm not sure what the fascination is with poop shaped stationary though! There were poo erasers, sharpeners, pens, in lots of pastel colours...

My boys are both big Nintendo fans so unsurprisingly we spent a lot of time in the large gaming zones. They even got to play a game that was only recently announced for release - Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It looked really good. I didn't take too many photos in the gaming area as it was always so busy and very crowded. The nearby Nintendo Store had loads of fun merchandise (above), all quite expensive though.

I wish I could have spent more looking at the beautiful kitchenware, unfortunately this was the closest I got! Maybe next time. 

We tried Shaved Ice for the first time and it was totally delicious and refreshing, perfect on a hot and humid afternoon. The ice is shaved so thin it's melts in the mouth instantly and the added fresh fruit and syrups were gorgeously flavoured. We also ate Chicken Katsu Curry and a chicken noodle dish from one of the food stalls, but I found this type of food to be very over priced and disappointing in taste. I had the same experience last year so maybe I'm just unlucky with the stalls I picked. 

And of course there was lots of cool Japanese candy and chocolate to look at. A new Snoopy Pocky!

I could spend days just looking at this stuff but here's what I bought in the end - my Hyper Japan mini haul:

There was lots of Pocky to choose from but in the end I went for this Berry Carnival flavour as it seemed the most unusual and is certainly one I've never seen before. I could have bought lots of different Kit Kat flavours but after lots of indecision I eventually chose this Raspberry flavour from their "adult sweetness" range. I was also very excited to finally get my hands on the Meiji Rich Banana 70% bar. This is one I've been wanting to try for ages and I can confirm it's extremely tasty!

I couldn't resist picking up a few sweets too. The Puccho Cola and Soda flavours are ones I've tried before but the Puccho Pyramid Blue Soda Candy Balls are new (top of the photo above). They have awesome triangular shaped packaging.

In the end I did buy a little bit of stationery too, there was just so much temptation. The syringe pens are filled with colourful liquid and are very odd I admit, but funny at the same time. I figured I can't have too many notepads and these mushroom ones are just so bright and fun. 

My Hyper Japan round up seems quite shopping obsessed but there were lots of other cool Japanese events that we enjoyed. There were wrestling fights, singers, dancers, karaoke, cosplayers everywhere, kawaii dress up, and lots more :)

29 Jul 2014

Lidl Sol & Mar Range - Chorizo Pizza... and Churros!

I often get lured to visit Lidl when I hear about their latest themed special offers, and I certainly couldn't resist when I saw that this week features Spanish & Portuguese products. From several varieties of chorizo to Spanish Manchego cheese, I was quite impressed by the range, but surprisingly enough it was in the frozen section that I picked up the most. I don't usually buy ready made pizzas, having a bread maker at home it's easy enough to make my own, but this Chorizo Pizza looked interesting and for only 99p it's a real bargain too.

Before Cooking
I was impressed by the amount of toppings on the pizza, it's not overloaded, but it's a generous enough amount for a pizza of this medium size. 

After Cooking
Usually I wouldn't bother blogging about a 99p pizza that I happened to pick up, but this one was so delicious that I really had to feature it here. The base is very thin but extremely tasty. The combinations of toppings might seem fairly simple; chorizo, olives, onions, green peppers, but the whole thing is packed with gorgeous Spanish flavours. Even my kids, who are usually fussy about pizza toppings, ate everything without even picking off a single onion. I'll definitely be heading back to Lidl to stock up on a few more!

Here's a few of the other items that I picked up from the Sol & Mar frozen section, although I haven't tried these yet (all were 99p). Patatas Bravas - fried potatoes in a seasoned breadcrumb coating.

Caprichos Ibéricos - mini Spanish Croquettes with Iberian Ham and these are actually made in Spain too.

Of course I was most excited about this large bag of ready made Churros! The ingredients list here is wonderfully simple; water, wheat flour and salt. These need to be fried or deep fried, so not the healthiest, but we're saving them for a family birthday next week. I can't wait to give them a try with extra cinnamon sugar and a dark chocolate dip!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Lidl Chorizo Pizza

Rating: 8 out of 10
Purchased: Lidl
Price: £0.99p

28 Jul 2014

Beech's Dark Chocolate Marzipan

I've been lucky enough to review some really gorgeous chocolates from the Beech's Fine Chocolate range in the past, and this month I was delighted to try out their classic Original Dark Chocolate Marzipan box. Made using own traditional recipe dating back to the 1930's, these Marzipan chocolates also contain the finest almonds, with only natural colours and flavourings. 

10% Discount Code:

Beech's have kindly offered my readers a 10% discount on all purchases until the end of July. Simply enter this promotional code at checkout - BFC24061410

The packaging is simple and sleek, but as with the rest of the Beech's chocolate box range, features a patterned background that gives it a classic yet distinctive appearance. Each box contains 150g, equating to 14 chocolates.

As always the dark chocolate coating used by Beech's is lovely, it has a rich cocoa flavour without being too strong or bitter. The inner marzipan filling has a gorgeous texture, slightly moist and dense, rather than crumbly or dry. It's absolutely delicious too, with the sweet almond flavour perfectly complimenting the dark chocolate covering. All my taste testers loved these chocolates, one of them said it reminded them of cake, which I thought was brilliant! I especially wanted my brother to give these a try as he loves dark chocolate covered marzipans, and he absolutely loved the combination here. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Beech's Dark Chocolate Marzipan

Rating: 9 out of 10.
Buy it again: Yes.
Nutrition: 455 calories per 100g.
Vegetarian: Suitable for vegetarians.
Purchased: Available HERE
Price: £4.99.

Product sent for an honest review.

24 Jul 2014

Thorntons Christmas 2014 Preview

I was lucky enough to be able to pop into the Thorntons Christmas In July event yesterday. It's an early Christmas party where I got to meet Santa and even hang some chocolate decorations on a Christmas Tree! It was slightly surreal given how hot it is in London at the moment but seeing as I'm the type of person who looks forward to Christmas all year round, it was great fun! And the best part of course was finding out all about the new products for Christmas 2014 (and tasting a few of them too!).

At the selection table (first photo at the top of the post), I was told all about the latest Thorntons chocolates for Christmas 2014. Following on from the summer inspired Dreamy Desserts range will be a Dreamy WINTER desserts box of chocolates, with flavours such as Almond & Cranberry Torte, Clementine Creme Caramel and Ginger Cheesecake. The Almond & Cranberry Torte chocolate was particularly delicious, I loved the creamy almond flavour with the tart fruitiness of the cranberry (it's pictured in the box above, top row, second from left).

This year is the 60th birthday of the Continental range and to celebrate Thorntons is bringing back some classic recipes from years gone by, including Apricot Parfait, Mandarin Truffle and Brandy Noisette. Available as limited editions in single bags (above) or in the larger Continental selection boxes. 

Classics like the Continental Alpini chocolates have new packaging for their Christmas boxes featuring the "Celebrating 60 Years" golden badge (Alpini box RRP £5.00).

I love the European city feel to the Continental collection box packaging, it's really beautifully decorated (Continental Birthday Box RRP £15.00). 

This Christmas Collection box has a very fun and festive appeal. All the chocolates inside are Christmas themed in appearance and name; from Snowballs and Yule Logs to Star of Wonder chocolates. It's a great gift collection. (RRP £6.50). 

There were quite a few Advent Calendars on display, from the traditional Continental Advent Calendar and the cute The Snowman and the Snowdog Advent Calendar, but I found this brand new Thorntons Smiles Advent Calendar (RRP £7.00) especially appealing. I'll definitely be buying this one for my kids in December, it's such a great idea. The packaging has a rotating panel at the front which you have to turn to find the correct door to open, with a few Christmas jokes along the way - it's a really fun product. 

I was lucky enough to get one of The Snowman and the Snowdog white chocolate figures in my goody bag (RRP. £10.00), but there was also a 1kg model on display that will cost £50 - that's a lot of chocolate! Also new in The Snowman and the Snowdog range is a lovely gift pack designed as a bandstand, where the box can also be used to play with or for display (RRP. £10.00).

The Thorntons Irresistibles range is available in Belgian Truffle, Irish Cream, Gooey Caramel or Nutty Praline. There's also a new Limited Edition Smooth Coconut available now and a Limited Edition Salted Caramel too. I need to try those! (RRP. £5.00). 

23 Jul 2014

New Danio Minis

I love the Danio range of Super Thick yogurts, their thick and creamy strained Greek style yogurts are absolutely delicious. However, in my review or the original pots I did mention that I found them a bit too large for me. I had already switched to other brands of strained yogurts that offered smaller pots in multipacks, but I've always preferred the fruity layers in the Danio range. It's great news that Danio have now released their own smaller versions. 

Even though they are called Danio Minis, they are still a decent size at 100g each, and come in multipacks of four pots. 

There are three flavours in the range so far; Strawberry, Blueberry and Mango.

Once again the consistency of the strained yogurt really is Super Thick. It's even thicker than a Greek Style yogurt but still has the same type of rich and creamy flavour. The density of the yogurt makes it even more suitable to this smaller size as I find this type of yogurt very filling. The fruity layers on the bottom are all extremely tasty too, not too runny or too sweet like some other brands of strained yogurts. The Mango has a lovely tropical sweetness with lots of flavourful chunks of mango to give texture. The Blueberry is my husband's favourite, it's not as sweet but has a perfect fruity flavour. I was quite surprised by just how much I liked the Strawberry variety. I don't tend to buy strawberry flavoured yogurts, but these are absolutely gorgeous, so fruity and fresh. I'll definitely be buying all the varieties again and I'd even like to see multipack that has a few different varieties included in the range.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Danio Minis

RATING: 9 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition: 80 calories per pot.

Vegetarian: Suitable for vegetarians.
Purchased: Available at most supermarkets.
Price: £2.49p per multipack of four pots.

PR Samples

20 Jul 2014

New Cadbury Roses Pots of Joy Hazel Whirl

The Cadbury Pots of Joy range certainly seems to be a popular one judging by the number of new releases and limited editions continually added to the range. Following on from the Pots of Joy Strawberry Dream is another Cadbury Roses inspired flavour; Hazel Whirl.

I bought a twin pack from my local Co-Op for £1.29. The Cadbury Pots of Joy Hazel Whirl is described as a dessert made with melted Cadbury milk chocolate, a centre with chopped hazelnuts on a smooth hazelnut flavour fondant.

The flavour is initially very similar to most of the other milk chocolate based Pots of Joy I've tried, the thick chocolate layer on top being identical. Once you get beneath that layer the dessert is slightly more interesting, the hazelnut fondant does have a nice nutty flavour that is reinforced by the chopped nuts which are layered in the centre. I do think that Cadbury missed a trick by not having the chocolate layer on top also being hazelnut flavoured, that would have really taken this dessert to another level. As it is, the hazelnut flavours are somewhat dominated by the chocolate layer. 

I always make this point with the Pots of Joy range and it's worth making again - these are really calorific for such small pots! Each pot is only 70g (in comparison a regular sized yogurt is about 100g) but over 150 calories each. For me, these are definitely one-off purchases, rather than something I would regularly buy.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Cadbury Roses Pots of Joy Hazel Whirl

RATING: 6 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Probably not.
Nutrition (per 70g)
155 calories.
Vegetarian: Not suitable.
Purchased: Co-op.
Price: £1.29p for 2 pack.

17 Jul 2014

Book Review & Competition: Vanilla Salt by Ada Parellada

Something a little different from me today. I was sent this beautiful looking book, Vanilla Salt, released this week by Alma Books. It's the debut novel of acclaimed Catalan chef Ada Parellada, who owns restaurants in Barcelona and Lisbon and is the author of several cookery books as well as collaborating with various newspapers and TV channels in Spain. A brief description of the novel:

VANILLA SALT - The perfect Condiment to Happiness

Álex is a brilliant Catalan chef, but he struggles to fill his restaurant because of his gruff, eccentric personality and his refusal to use ingredients that trace their culinary origins to America, such as potatoes and tomatoes. When he meets the young, enthusiastic and beautiful Canadian Annette, he finds his ideas and narrow-minded outlook challenged, and discovers that they are both concealing painful pasts. Vanilla Salt is a sensual and mouth-watering exploration of the kitchen and the human heart, as well as the tale of simmering passions and the need to confront personal truths.

Available at www.almabooks.com


Alma Books are also offering TWO of my readers the chance to win a copy of Vanilla Salt by Ada Parellada. Simply enter via the Rafflecopter form after my review below.

When we first meet Álex, owner and chef of the Antic Món restaurant, he's rude and inflexible, and refuses to see what being friendly and sociable has to do with making good food. The result is that his once popular and award winning restaurant has now been abandoned by customers and staff alike, and sits as lonely and sad as the owner himself. This is a man who needs serious help, and that aid soon arrives in the form of the mysterious Annette, who despite being an inexperienced cook and only speaking in broken Catalan, provides a new lease of life for the ailing restaurant and it's owner. She's knowledgeable about the history of food, with her anecdotes about the origins of ingredients being some of my favourite parts of the story, and brings with her a flair for social media and food blogging - her laptop is her most prized possession! Even though Álex and Annette are in many ways polar opposites, they are also kindred spirits, both expressing themselves in the kitchen with the creation of delectable recipes, and both sharing dark and painful pasts.

The story zips along in a flurry of delicious ingredients, with themes of friendship, loyalty, distrust and betrayal running strongly throughout. It's comical and almost farcical at times, but still capable of darker elements. Annette can be quite a contradictory character, confident in standing up to Alex at work, but shockingly weak in some areas of her private life. Most of the characters reveal weaknesses in one way or another, and some develop in unexpected ways that I didn't always appreciate, but in the end, it all added to the twists and turns of the story. The love of food and ingredients is the most positive and wonderful aspect of this novel, with the restaurant and kitchen essentially being a major character in itself, capable of bringing characters together through a shared passion for flavours. I enjoyed how food is shown to influence and affect all the characters. It's a thoroughly modern story and one which I think most food lovers will enjoy.


  • Simply fill in the Rafflecopter entry form below to verify your entries (refresh page if not showing)
  • Entries will be via Blog comment, Twitter or Facebook
  • Competition open to UK residents only
  • Closing date 31 JULY 2014
  • Winner will be chosen by a random draw and contacted within 48 hours of competition end
  • The winner will have one week to respond, after that time I'll have to choose a new winner
  • Prizes will be sent out by Alma Books directly to the winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway

16 Jul 2014

Limited Edition Twix White Minis (White Chocolate Twix)

Just a quick post for this pack of 11 mini Twix White which I picked up in a discount store at the weekend. I've reviewed the Limited Edition White Twix before here, but on that occasion I'd bought a (regular sized) bar while on holiday in Portugal. I don't think I've ever come across them in the UK, although I know from comments left on my original review that they have been spotted in discount stores before. This multipack bag of Twix White Minis is a German import - bargain!

This bag of mini sized Twix was displayed on a special stand with other multipacks of Mars Funsized products, no doubt gearing up for the end of term school parties next week. I'm just waiting for the annual conversation that usually goes like this - Son at bedtime: "Mum I need 30 x cakes/chocolates/crisps for our class party", Me: "no problem, when do you need them by?", Son: "...tomorrow of course". Arrrrgggh! 

Anyway, the Twix White tastes just like I remember; super sweet and creamy. It's a sugary treat which will test the mettle of even the biggest sweet tooths out there, so it's nice that it comes in this smaller size. Although, if I'm honest, it's a bit too small, and just left me craving another one! 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Twix White Minis

RATING: 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition (per 20g bar)
: 101 calories.

Purchased: 99p Stores.
Price: £0.99p for 11 mini bars.

15 Jul 2014

Review: Tango Jaffa Cakes

There are so many branded Tango grocery products about at the moment, from shower gels to freezable ice pops. I'm aware that Tango is a very popular drink amongst some of the youngsters that I know, especially the teenagers, so are these products designed to appeal to the younger market? Whatever the reason for the sudden Tango popularity, even I couldn't resist picking up the new Tango Jaffa Cakes when I spotted them a few days ago. 

Inside the box, the Tango Jaffa Cakes are safely presented in a little plastic tray. There are 24 Jaffa Cakes in each box.

The box promises a tangy Tango orange filling, emphasised with a tagline "will the Tangy Orange get ya?", so I was expecting the filling in these to be a bit different from ordinary Jaffa Cakes. However, that was the wrong assumption to make. These are very plain orange flavoured Jaffa Cakes, and not even very good ones at that. The filling is a sweet and fairly bland orange, whilst the chocolate coating is very thin. But my main gripe here is the sponge part of the cake, it's too dry and crumbly and just ends up tasting quite stale. There are plenty of cheaper store branded Jaffa Cakes around that are excellent (I love the Aldi ones especially), and these Tango Jaffa Cakes are nowhere near as good. 

And now a little rant about Jaffa Cakes... Jaffa Cakes are one of my favourite biscuits/cakes and I'd really like to see some more interesting flavours available, like peach or mango. I remember when there were Strawberry Jaffa Cakes and Blackcurrant Jaffa Cakes but now we're lucky to get the occasionally Halloween themed Lemon/Lime variety. The M&S Passionfruit & Peach Jaffa Cakes I tried earlier in the year were disappointing flavourwise and not that different from orange Jaffa Cakes. I've also tried some different brands purchased from Polish shops, including the Milka ChocoJaffa which were raspberry flavoured. I didn't even bother reviewing those because they tasted horrendous - stale and horrible. I suspect I got a dud packet that hadn't been stored properly. (I know there is a Polish brand called Delicje that has very good reviews and I've been keeping my eye out for their Cherry Jaffa Cakes). If McVities can make Tropical and Berry flavoured Jaffa Cake Mini Rolls then surely they can put those flavours into actual Jaffa Cakes? Here's hoping!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Tango Jaffa Cakes:

Rating: 4 out of 10. 
Buy Again: No. 
Purchased: 99p Stores.
Price: £0.99p.

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