31 Oct 2013

Happy Halloween!


I can't resist posting another photo of this Halloween traybake that we made last year. It's a simple cake base, topped with crushed Oreo cookies for the mud, Nice biscuits for the gravestones, white chocolate mice, sprinkles, and a large spider and snake shaped sweets from the Pick n Mix counter at Wilkinsons. No Halloween baking for us this year as we're currently in the middle of some building works, and as of this week, I don't have a usable kitchen - scary!

If anyone has any recommendations for good microwaveable meals I'd be very grateful!

We could still carve pumpkins however, and yet again my hubby did a fantastic job. The kids loved this Pacman and ghost pumpkin design and it casts some great shadows on the walls.

Now I'm off to watch some scary movies whilst trying not to consume any more sugar today.

30 Oct 2013

Review: Skittles Darkside

From "the other side of the rainbow" come these sinister Skittles Darkside, a variety which was released in the US earlier this year. Thank you to the lovely folks at Monster Sweets who sent them to me recently for review.

The flavours are suitably shadowy for this Darkside mix; Dark Berry, Pomegranate, Forbidden Fruit, Midnight Lime, and Blood Orange.

It's an interesting mix of flavours, with a somewhat muted spectrum of colours.

Dark Berry: These are unsurprisingly the darkest of the bunch, a deep brownish purple. The flavour here is sweet, with a fruity taste was most reminiscent of blackcurrants.

Pomegranate: This deep red sweet had a tangy edge, and a strong overall flavour. The pomegranate fruit was not really detectable, if anything the flavour reminded me more of a tart apple with a bit of sweet cherry mixed in.

Forbidden Fruit: Probably the hardest flavour to describe, I really couldn't pin this one down at all. It has a sweet generic berry flavour without any real depth to it. A bit dull as a whole, the best part about it is it's dark blue colour.

Midnight Lime: A lovely lime flavoured sweet with a rich green colour. It's tangy but with a pleasantly zesty sweetness. A bit of an artificial aftertaste but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of this one.

Blood Orange: This one was slightly disappointing and didn't really live up to the promise of it's name. They're certainly tasty as a mild orange flavour, but they lack any of the intensity of a real blood orange.

Overall this was a very pleasant mix of new Skittles flavours. I sometimes find American sweets far too artificial tasting, but that wasn't the case here; these Skittles Darkside were very enjoyable.

Monster Sweets kindly sent me this product for an honest review but all views expressed are my own. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Skittles Darkside Skittles

RATING: 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Price: £1.25

28 Oct 2013

Review: Marks & Spencer Peanut Butter Heaven Dessert

It's taken me a while to find this Peanut Butter Heaven dessert after visiting quite a few branches of M&S (I eventually found it in their Westfield Stratford store), but it's probably no surprise that it was absolutely worth the wait.

There are two elegant looking Peanut Butter Heaven desserts in each pack. They consist of a main layer of peanut butter mousse, with further layers of caramel sauce, shortbread biscuit crumb, and dark chocolate ganache topped with marbled chocolate curls.

Each dessert is quite generously sized, but so completely delicious that I could have easily eaten both pots by myself. The peanut butter mousse layer in particularly is just divine; creamy, with a lightly whipped texture and full of peanut butter flavour. This is combined with a richly flavoured dulce de leche type caramel sauce underneath. At the very bottom is a layer of crumbed shortbread biscuits, providing some lovely crumbly texture against all the other completely smooth layers. The dark chocolate ganache topping was surprisingly bitter, but it did give a welcome contrast to the very sweet layers beneath. I would have preferred a bit of extra peanut butter flavour in this chocolate ganache, that would have really take this dessert into the realms of peanut butter "heaven" for me, but perhaps I'm just being a bit greedy!

Overall this is a fantastic dessert from M&S, and one that I would buy again without hesitation.
Grocery Gems Verdict: M&S Peanut Butter Heaven

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition (per 116g pot): 385 calories. 
Vegetarian: Suitable for vegetarians.
Purchased: M&S.

26 Oct 2013

Review: Lindt Ghosts - Halloween Chocolate Sticks

A very quick review for these delightful Lindt Ghosts. Many years ago, my grandparents used to buy me chocolates on a stick that were shaped to look like little umbrellas. These Lindt Ghosts have a very similar shape, which gives them a fair amount of nostalgic value for me.

Everything about these is just adorable, from the happy ghost and pumpkin on the top of the stick, to the smiley ghostly faces on the packaging. I'm definitely someone who enjoys the cuter side of Halloween so these are immediately appealing.

Lindt milk chocolate is always delicious, and it's even more so here when given an added hazelnut flavour. The chocolate has such a creamy and smooth flavour that works perfectly with the richness from the hazelnuts. My children absolutely loved these Lindt Ghosts, and the central stick means they're great for keeping hands mess free!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Lindt Ghosts

RATING: 9 out of 10
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Waitrose.
Price: 2 for £1.00.

25 Oct 2013

Review: Spooky Halloween Sweets at Waitrose - Monster Street!

These brilliant looking Monster Street sweets are produced in France by a company called Ger'son Pierrot Gourmand. I spotted them in the Waitrose Halloween aisle, where they are currently on special offer for any two multipacks for £2.50. Take a look below for some Oozing Pumpkins, Squirting Brains and bright pink and blue Phantoms!

The Oozing Pumpkins & Squirting Brains are fun shaped sweets with a liquid centre, just like the Haribo Happy Cola from Germany I reviewed previously (review HERE).

I really like the packaging of these, the clear plastic and black detailing is very effective. Even though each individual sweet is quite large, it's worth noting that there are only about 3 or 4 sweets in each mini bag.

The sweets do look great though, especially the brain - it's completely gross!

Inside the sweets are hollow, with a fairly big cavity for the liquid filling. The packaging annoyingly doesn't mention what flavour these sweets are supposed to be, but I could detect a fruity apple flavour with berry undertones in the brains, and a more sour based orange flavour in the pumpkins. The filling is very sweet but has a mildly sour edge to it, which makes these sweets enjoyable and moreish.

I also picked up these Monster Street Phantoms, which are very colourful foam type sweets.

The inner packaging is the same as the previous sweets, but there are more individual sweets per bag, about 5 or 6 in each. They're also the strangest phantoms I've ever seen, with their fat bellies, smiley faces and protruding belly buttons! The texture of these sweets is very chewy, almost rubbery at first, although they do give way to an easier chew quite quickly. The flavour here is pure bubblegum, and unsurprisingly both my kids really enjoyed these!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Monster Street

RATING: Pumpkins & Brains - 8 out of 10, Phantoms - 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition (per 100g): Pumpkins & Brains - 334 calories, Phantoms - 330 calories.
Purchased: Waitrose.
Price: Any 2 multipacks for £2.50.

24 Oct 2013

Review: NEW McCain Quick Cook French Fries & McCain Waffles

McCain have released a Quick Cook version of their classic frozen French fries which are ready to eat in only 5 minutes. Seeing as I love french fries (who doesn't?) I was super happy to be asked to put them to the test!

The McCain Quick cook French Fries are made from specially selected potatoes, and prepared with sunflower oil. The instructions are simply to preheat the oven, place the fries on a baking tray and bake them for 5 minutes.

I have to admit I was slightly sceptical about whether the fries would be ready in that short amount of time, but not only were they perfectly cooked, they were also absolutely delicious. They're certainly much tastier than the usual results achieved from frozen French fries, which are often too dry and crunchy. These Quick Cook French fries were golden, crispy, but still with a thin core of fluffy potato.

A similar product has been available across the pond, called McCain "5 Minute Fries" and I'm so glad to see the idea has made it's way over here. They're just perfect for accompanying a quick meal, like an omelette or sandwich - lovely hot fries on the side that are ready in minutes.

I was also sent some new McCain Waffles to try. At first I didn't realise that McCain didn't already make frozen waffles, as there are already a few brands and supermarkets who make boxed varieties. I haven't bought any potato waffles for a while now, so I was curious to see whether the McCain version could rekindle my kids' interest.

Made from quality potatoes, the McCain Waffles are then shaped into fun grids. They take 15 minutes to cook in a pre-heated oven. The result was extremely tasty and I was pleased to see that the kids ate them all up and both thoroughly enjoyed them. The McCain waffles have a lovely golden crispy coating, and are not pale and hard like some potato waffles can be. I'll definitely be buying these again in future!

Grocery Gems Verdict:McCain Quick Cook French Fries & McCain Waffles

RATING: 9 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Available at all major retailers.
Price: Quick Cook French Fries: RRP £2.50, Waffles: RRP. £1.20

Halloween Recipes for all the family from Ella's Kitchen

It's always fun to get the kids involved in cooking and baking, so I was delighted to receive some great Halloween inspired recipes from Ella's Kitchen to share with you all. They're all made with healthy ingredients and are easy enough for the whole family to get involved with - perfect for half term treats!

Swirly Whirly Cheesecake

Serves 12; Prep = 10 minutes + chilling
This is definitely among Ella’s favourite dessert of all time - it’s a delicious sweet treat
without any added sugar. Enjoy it when you have friends to tea.

What you need:

· 50 g /1 ¾ oz roasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
· 100 g/3 ½ oz Scottish oatcakes, broken up
· 50 g/1 ¾ oz stoned dates
· 50 g/1 ¾ oz unsalted butter, melted
· 400 g/ 14 oz cream cheese
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 300 g/10 ½ oz strawberries, puréed, plus extra to serve (optional)
· 300 ml/ ½ pint double cream

What to do:

· Line the base of a 20 cm/8 inch loose-based cake tin with baking parchment. Put
the hazelnuts and oatcakes in a food processor and blitz them for a few seconds
until everything is finely chopped and looks like breadcrumbs. Add the dates and
blitz again until the mixture is soft. Add the melted butter; mix well and press
the mixture into the tin with the back of a spoon. Chill this in the fridge for 15
· Meanwhile, make the topping. In a bowl mix together the cream cheese, vanilla
extract and three-quarters of the puréed strawberries.
· Whisk the cream until it is stiff, but still soft. Fold it gently into the cream
cheese mixture. Remove the base from the fridge and spoon over the topping.
· Drizzle over the remaining strawberry purée in an outward spiral from the
centre and then run a skewer through the spiral to get a marbled effect.
Chill the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 1 hour and then serve with
strawberries on the side (if using).

Marble-ous: Try out your tot’s artistic talents by asking him or her to have a go at making the swirly whirly marbling pattern on the top of the cheesecake.

Ella’s Shortcut: You can sidestep making the strawberry purée by substituting 2 x 90g/3 ¼ oz pouches of Ella’s Kitchen Smoothie Fruits – The Red One.


Makes 8 cakes; prep=20 minutes, cook=30-35 minutes
This cake is a sweet and scrummy introduction to ginger – have fun helping your little
ones discover new tastes for their developing taste buds.

What you need

· 75 g/2½ oz unsalted butter
· 150 g/5½ oz golden syrup or black treacle
· 225 g/8 oz self-raising flour
· 2 teaspoons ground ginger
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 225 g/8 oz coarse cut orange marmalade
· 1 egg, beaten
· 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

What to do

· Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark. Grease a 20 cm/8 inch square cake
tin and line the base with baking parchment.
· Melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring well to combine.
Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.
· Sift the flour, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl, then slowly pour the syrup
mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the marmalade, egg,
orange juice and 1 tablespoon of hot water and combine to make a soft mixture.
Add a further 1–2 tablespoons of hot water if it is too stiff.
· Pour the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly. Bake the cake for 30–35
minutes until golden and firm to the touch.
· Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before carefully removing it to a
wire rack. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cold with a glass of
freshly squeezed orange juice.


Makes 6; Prep=20 minutes, cook=15-20 minutes
Who knew apple tarts could taste this good? Little ones will love to get involved using
pastry cutters and decorating the tarts with apple slices.

What you need:

· 320 g/11¼ oz ready-made puff pastry
· 2 eating apples (Granny Smith or Royal Gala work best)
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· 50 g/1¾ oz unsalted butter, cut into 6 cubes
· ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 25 g/1 oz soft light brown Sugar

What to do:

· Preheat the oven to 200ºC /400ºF/Gas Mark 6.
· Roll out the puff pastry until it is 0.5 cm/¼ in thick. Using a 10 cm/4 inch pastry
cutter, cut out 6 circles from the pastry and place them spaced well apart on a
baking sheet.
· Core the apples, then cut them into very thin slices and put them in a bowl with
the lemon juice. Toss the apple slices well to coat them in the juice. Arrange the
apple slices on top of the dough circles in a ‘flower’ pattern.
· Place a cube of butter on each tart, then sprinkle the tarts with a little
cinnamon (to taste) and the sugar.
· Bake the tarts in the oven for 15–20 minutes until golden brown. Serve them
warm or cold with vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche.

Can I help?: Roll, cut, fill.
Tots of all ages get to play at being baker with these simple apple tarts. Making them is
a brilliant activity for a play date. One friend rolls the dough, another cuts the circles
and another fills the tart with pieces of apple.

Ella's Kitchen The Cook Book - The Red One is out now (£14.99 Hamlyn)

23 Oct 2013

Around The World: Polish Chocolate Bars Round Up

This lovely selection of Polish chocolates bars was sent to me recently by @Banjo_Chocolate, who is extremely knowledgeable about many snacks, past and present. If the name Banjo chocolate sound familiar to you then please take a few seconds to like the Bring Back Banjo Chocolate Bar Facebook page and sign the petition to get Mars to bring the much missed Banjo chocolate bar back in production!

This Limited Edition Szkolny released in September 2013, is made by one of the most well known Polish based chocolate companies, E. Wedel. Apparently the name Szkolny translates as "School" with this chocolate bar being described as an ideal snack for young people. The mix of milk chocolate with peanuts, orange candy bits and crispy pieces is certainly an unusual one.

The combination however, is ultimately very successful. The milk chocolate has a deliciously sweet orange flavour running throughout. This base of chocolate orange is joined by a scattering of orange pieces, which have a soft candy like texture and add lots of extra orange zestiness. There is a lovely crunch from the "crispy pieces", which I'm assuming are rice crispy pieces, they certainly have a similar texture. To finish there are lots of small peanut pieces, which at first don't seem to add much flavour, but they do  add a subtle nuttiness as the chocolate melts. Essentially this is a chocolate orange bar, with a crunchy texture and nutty undertones - delicious! 8 out of 10.

The Pierrot, also made by E.Wedel, is a real Polish classic. It's a simple combination of milk chocolate with a peanut praline and peanut pieces filling.

The milk chocolate (minimum 31% cocoa) has a sweet edge which works well with the peanut flavours within. The peanut itself is very well defined in terms of taste and is not just a vaguely nutty flavour. This is definitely a full flavoured peanut praline, and it creates a very moreish chocolate bar. 9 out of 10.

The lovely @Banjo_Chocolate knows that I'm slightly obsessed with coconut, and I couldn't wait to try this Prince Polo XXL, a coconut wafer bar. The reason for the XXL in the name is obviously because, at 52g, this is larger than the usual Prince Polo bars.

I loved the gorgeous light coloured wafer layers within, they look instantly appealing, with their snowy white appearance. The wafers are packed full of creamy coconut flavour, making this the most coconutty wafer I've tried yet! 8.5 out of 10.

Grocery Gems Verdict

RATING: See end of each individual reviews above.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Check out your local Polish or East European grocery shops.

22 Oct 2013

Review: Milka Leo and Milka Toffee Whole Hazelnut (Zack) Bars

These Milka Leo and Toffee Ganznuss bars were recently sent to me by the fab folks at Monster Sweets. The bars both feature a rather nifty quick release wrapper - they just pull off at the end - although funnily enough I don't ever seem to have trouble opening up chocolate bars!

The Milka Leo is usually packaged in a four finger format, very much like a Kit Kat. This Milka Leo Zack version appears to be the equivalent of a Kit Kat Chunky - but is infinitely nicer in terms of taste!

Here, the vanilla wafer is covered in a thick layer of the classic Milka alpine milk chocolate. It's not as sickly sweet as the chocolate on a Kit Kat Chunky, giving the Milka Leo a more balanced and enjoyable flavour. It's a simple chocolate bar but it's completely delicious.

The Milka Toffee Ganznuss (or Toffee Whole Hazelnut) is described as milk chocolate with a milk cream, caramel cream and whole hazelnut filling.

It has a distinctive look, like lots of barrels in a row. It's worth noting that both these Milka chocolate bars are a very decent size, 45g and 43g respectively.

When I first cut into a segment, the delicious toffee scent was immediately evident. The flavour here was wonderfully creamy, with lots of extra sweetness from the soft toffee layer.

As I cut through a bit more, I discovered the whole hazelnut within. Each barrel shaped segment has one whole hazelnut, which adds a lovely crunch and subtle nuttiness. The inner filling is mostly dominated by the deliciously smooth toffee, and even though it's all very sweet, I absolutely loved the overall flavours.

Monster Sweets kindly sent me these products for an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Check out Monster Sweets full range of European and US goodies HERE.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Milka Leo & Milka Toffee Whole Hazelnut

RATING: Milka Leo - 9 out of 10, 
Milka Toffee Whole Hazelnut - 10 out of 10 (loved it!).
Buy them again?: Absolutely.
Purchased: Available at Monster Sweets
Price: £1.09p each.

21 Oct 2013

Asda's Spooktacular Halloween!

With Halloween just around the corner, I was excited when Asda asked me to take a look at their Spooktacular Halloween range, and choose some products to review. Just like last year, my local Asda is currently featuring a fully themed and decorated Halloween aisle, packed with lots of gholish products. My eldest son was more than happy to accompany me and help in choosing some ghastly Halloween goodies!

Chosen by You Graveyard Ginger Ghouls - £1.00

I have to start with the bakery range, as we were spoilt for choice here. My son loves gingerbread biscuits so these Graveyard Ginger Ghouls were a must buy for us.

There are four fun shapes in the pack, which are all spookily themed but still very cute. The biscuits are very tasty too, nicely crunchy and with a lovely warming ginger flavour that is great with a cup of tea.
The same gingerbread biscuits are also available in this Chosen by You Spooktacular Sharer dipping set, with marshmallows and chocolate dip for £3.00.  A great idea for a Halloween themed movie night!

Chosen by You Scary Slime Tarts -£1.00

I haven't eaten a jam tart in years, but I couldn't resist these mini ones with their lime green jam filling.

Chosen by You Frightening Fairy Cakes - £2.00

These 12 mini fairy cakes come in bright orange cases, and are topped with bright orange icing and sprinkles. Very simple but instantly appealing. There is also a pack of 18 Creepy Cupcakes available (first picture in this post) for £5.00.

Chosen by You Deadly Donuts - £1.00

The mini doughnuts tubs have been given a Halloween makeover- well they're brightly coloured in purple icing with red sprinkles anyway!

There are 15 mini doughnuts in each tub.

Chosen by You Shocking Shortbread Bats - £1.00

These novelty shaped bat biscuits are very buttery and delicious - perfect chocolate chip shortbreads. My husband really enjoyed these.

Chosen by You Monstrous Mega Roll - £2.00

I'm more used to seeing these types of cakes at Christmas, but this very large swiss roll cake, has been given a Halloween twist with a chocolate orange filling.

Zombielicious Brain Mould £1.00

How could I resist? I can't wait to give this a go with some strawberry jelly! We also chose a few other Halloween basics:

Pumpkin Pail - £0 50p

My son loved the look of these colourful buckets, which are only 50p each. They're a decent size for the price, and will hold plenty of sweets for kids out trick or teating. I also picked up a matching one in bright green for my youngest son.

Grisly Grinning Pumpkin - £1.00

We bought two of these light up Grisly Grinning Pumpkin. for £1 each. I will update the photo with a lighting up version soon, so check back!

Carving Pumpkin - £2.00

Asda's Carving Pumpkins are £2 each or 2 for £3. It wouldn't be Halloween without getting some pumpkins to carve and my kids always look forward to this part of Halloween the most (yes, even more than the sweets!). Here's the Sonic the Hedgehog pumpkin that my husband expertly carved last year - he did an amazing job with it. This year the kids are wanting the pumpkin to be carved as a Minecraft Creeper - should be slightly easier than Sonic at least!

Chosen by You Mummy Cake £5.00
This Mummy Cake was top of my list when I went shopping but unfortunately it wasn't instock yet,. I'll be back to pick one up closer to Halloween. It's a classic madeira cake, filled with bloody plum and raspberry jam and topped with vanilla icing.

As you can see we picked up lots of goodies, but there's even more instore. Here's a few more that we spotted.

Chosen by You Gruesome Gooballs £1.00 

Skull Goblets £2.00

Skeletal Salad Servers £1.00.

Tableware from £1.00 each

There are lots more Halloween products to check out at Asda this year, such as sweets, chocolates, decorations and costumes - from the cute and spooky to the more gruesome and grisly!

I received an Asda Giftcard in order to purchase some Halloween products.

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