30 Jun 2014

Haribo Fan Gums Brazil & Haribo Pasta Flagga

These Haribo Fan Gums Brazil were part of my recent Grocery Exchange with Steffi from Germany. Haribo, in Germany at least, have come up with some great new sweets to coincide with the World Cup in Brazil. These Fan Gums Brazil are not only football shaped AND filled with a soft fruity filling, but they're also inpired by the colours and flavours of Brazil. They've really tried to pack in a lot of different ideas into this one product and it's certainly much more exciting than any of the recent Haribo releases in the UK.

The sweets themselves are large half domed football shapes, and are all are foam backed jellies. There are three colours to represent the Brazilian flag; green, yellow and blue. I was able to find the specific flavours this time via the German Haribo site. These are yellow = tangerine & passion fruit, green = lime & watermelon, and blue = blueberry & coconut! It's a really interesting mix, especially compared to the disappointingly bland Haribo Minions I reviewed yesterday. 

A quick note about the "soft centre". Inside each sweet there is a also a gooey middle, which gives them a squidgy mouth feel. They ooze a little as you eat them, which gives an extra burst of flavour.

The flavours are all really unique and different from anything I have tried from Haribo before. The lime & watermelon (green) is dominated by the sweet watermelon flavour, I really enjoyed the fruity flavour here combined with the soft and gooey centre. The tangerine & passion fruit is the most complex flavour of the three. It starts off as a straight up unmistakeable passion fruit, but then intensifies to a full bodied citrus flavour. The blueberry & coconut starts off a little bland, and it's definitely the least fruity of the three, but then the coconut flavour really kicks in with the soft centre. It's quite strange to have a coconut Haribo, and it wasn't immediately my favourite, but overall I was still really impressed with the flavours in these Fan Gums Brazil.

I love the fact that the colours represent the Brazil flag. We tried to make the Brazilian flag but we didn't have quite enough green sweets! 

I was also sent these Haribo Pasta - Flagga in the colours of the German flag.

These are peelable straw sweet held together to represent the flag, and they really do look great. They're all blackcurrant flavoured, with a sour sugary coating and a sweet fruity flavour. These are brilliant for fans of sour laces, and the blackcurrant flavour here makes them far more interesting than the usual strawberry laces. 

Thanks again to the fabulous Steffi for choosing these wonderful sweets for me! And good luck to Deutschland in their World Cup game against Algeria tonight :)

Grocery Gems Verdict: Haribo Fan Gums Brazil & Haribo Pasta - Flagga

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes, especially the Pasta Flagga  

Vorrei Italian Online Food Shop - Lemon Virgole

I was recently contacted by Vorrei, a new online Italian food shop, that specialises in lovely Italian food from small scale suppliers and farms. They offered me the chance to try a box from their Calabrian chocolate covered figs and fruit range. I was sent the Lemon Virgole which are candied lemon peel covered in extra dark chocolate. These are made by Colavolpe in Belmonte, Calabria, who have been making fig specialities, chocolates, and more, by hand for three generations, using only local ingredients and traditional recipes.

The box is beautifully packaged with a gorgeously designed outer slipcase and inner box. It definitely looks like a product that has been lovingly put together and would make a visually appealing gift.

I must admit that at first I was a little worried that I had been sent the chocolate coated lemon instead of the figs, since I'm not usually keen on candied peel. However, as ever, I was still eager to try something new, and I've certainly never tried lemon peel that was actually made from the peel of locally grown Calabrian lemons. And I'm glad I put my reservations to one side as these delicacies were completely wonderful. The lemon peel has a zesty citrus flavour without any bitter aftertaste. The dark chocolate is also delicious being intense but still sweet at the same time. The two together, lemon and dark chocolate, make a wonderful combination. As with a most Italian sweet treats, I always find that they taste best with a strong espresso and that was certainly the case here - a sublime match of intensity and sweetness. 

I would love to try the chocolate Fig Bites next, they're made from dried figs that have been flavoured with vanilla and coated in an extra dark chocolate. Take a look at the wonderful range on the Vorrei Italian shop HERE

Grocery Gems Verdict: Lemon Virgole

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: Available from Vorrei (see links above).
Price: £8.50 (250g box).

Products sent for an honest review

29 Jun 2014

New Haribo Minions (UK)

The Despicable Me films are a firm family favourite in the Grocery Gems household, and I'd thoroughly recommend them for anyone to watch. They're delightfully feel good movies, which focuses on the life of an evil mastermind Gru (basically the classic "bad guy"), but does so with lots of humour and warmth. My kids were immediately drawn to the Minion characters, the "henchmen" of the lead criminal mastermind, who provide all the inevitable slapstick gags. They're now so popular that they are featuring in their own movie next year, and have recently joined the confectionery market in the form of these Haribo Minions.

The sweets themselves look quite cute, I like the way the figures are each half yellow and half blue, for the Minions' dungarees. The regular Minions are made up of a mix of full jellies and half foam backed jellies. If you've watched Despicable Me 2 then you'll know that the purple sweets represent Evil Minions - these are Minions who've been infected with the PX-41 serum and end up even more deranged and silly than their regular counterparts. It's a nice touch that these are included in the pack too.  

The flavour is described on the packet as "fruit flavoured" which is never a good sign, and I couldn't get much joy from the ingredients list (or from google) as to what the flavour of these is supposed to be. I taste tested them on my family and we all agreed that the Evil Minions had a blackcurrant taste (even though that's not listed on the ingredients), but it's only there as a very subtle fruity flavour. The Minions themselves are harder to pin down in terms of taste, they merely have a generic fruity flavour, with notes of apple, citrus and a sweet blueberry. I suppose many kids will still enjoy these sweets regardless, they're generic sweetness makes gives them a wide appeal. But for me, they were quite disappointing, especially since I know that Haribo can come up with some amazing flavours. I wish they had picked a specific flavour and used that rather than this indistinct fruitiness.  

Grocery Gems Verdict: Haribo Minions

RATING: 6.5 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Worth a try.
Purchased: Poundland.
Price: £1.00.

28 Jun 2014

The Fabulous Bakin' Boys World Cup-Cakes!

I think I've mentioned a few times of this blog that I love flags (not football just the flags!). Well you can imagine then just how much this box of World Cup-Cakes appealed to me! The Fabulous Bakin' Boys have come up with some great limited edition themes in their time but this multi flag themed box for the World Cup one surpasses them all. The St. George's Cross features prominently in the middle, whilst the cakes are also themed in red and white, with a red velvet sponge and a strawberry flavour topping.

At the moment I've got a box of these permanently on display on my kitchen table, I just love looking at it. It might be the first time in my life that I actually keep a product packaging - I don't think I can bear to throw this one away.

There are six cupcakes in each box, all individually sealed, perfect for packed lunches. 

The insides of the cakes are very disappointing when it comes to the "red velvet" sponge description on the box. A "pale pink" velvet would be a better description. They really should have just stuck to calling them "strawberries & cream flavoured" because these are not even remotely similar to red velvet cakes. The flavour here is all from the strawberry topping, with a fairly standard cupcake sponge underneath. It's a little dry, but I quite like the fact that these are not too greasy. As strawberry & cream flavoured cakes they are actually quite nice and we've been enjoying them with a tea or coffee (in fact I've since gone back and bought a few more boxes). I can't be too negative about them because I still love that flag box too much!

Funnily enough I haven't seen these in any supermarkets, only in discount stores. Has anyone else seen these in major stores? UPDATE: I spotted them today in Tesco, also for £1.00.

Grocery Gems Verdict: The Fabulous Bakin' Boys World Cup-Cakes

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Purchased: 99p Stores.
Nutrition 146 calories per cupcake.

27 Jun 2014

Quick Review: Limited Edition Ski Smooth Coconut

Funnily enough as much as I love coconut flavoured products, this one seemed a little boring to me. I suppose there are enough coconut flavoured yogurts available already. However I finally decided to give the Limited Edition Ski Smooth a try when I saw it on special offer in Asda. 

The yogurt is creamy and smooth with a pleasant consistency, not too thick or too runny. The coconut flavour is lovely and sweet and strong enough to satisfy a coconut fan like me. It's quite a simple yogurt which makes it a nice base for adding to. I've been having it for breakfast by serving it in a bowl and adding some granola and extra fruit. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Ski Smooth Coconut

RATING: 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
Nutrition: 113 calories. 
Purchased: Asda. 
Price: £1.00 per four pack (special offer).

25 Jun 2014

Degustabox June - Foodie Surprise Box & Discount Code!

The latest Degustabox arrived today and once again I was excited to find out what would be included in this months box. Degustabox is a surprise foodie subscription service that sends out an exciting selection of products from new and well known brands each month, direct to your door. You can take a look at some of the previous boxes I've received HERE. There were nine different products in this month's box, and as usual there was an interesting mix and selection of products.

Discount Code2DRIP

Each Degustabox cost £12.99 a month, which includes delivery, with no fixed contract involved. Degustabox have kindly provided my readers with the following Discount Code for £3.00 off your next Degustabox, bringing the cost to £9.99 delivered. Enter the code - 2DRIP

Here's a quick round up of all the products inside this months Degustabox:

BEAR Alphabites: These are crunchy cereal letters that contain no refined sugar, no salt and no added nonsense! Coconut blossom is used instead of refined sugars to create a naturally sweet and crunchy cereal. I've been wanting to try these for quite some time now so I was pleased to find this (huge!) box included in the Degustabox.

Lambrini Strawberry: Wow, I never expected to find an entire bottle of wine in my Degustabox! This is a brand new summer flavour from Lambrini, makers of fun and fruity drinks. The timing is very apt for a strawberry themed version, what with Wimbledon starting this week. 

Veetee: A convenient range of microwaveable rice that's ready in two minutes. I received the Basmati & Wild Rice but it's also available in Egg Fried and Wholegrain Brown varieties. Even though I'm perfectly capable of making my own rice I've become a bit dependent on microwaveable rice in the last few months. I've never tried the Veetee range so I'm looking forward to see how it compares to some of the bigger brands.

Urban Fruit Pineapple: I hadn't heard of this brand before, but that's one of the things I enjoy about Degustabox - discovering new products. The Urban Fruit range is made from just fruit that has been gently baked making it easier to munch on when you're out and about. They contain no added sugars or preservatives, and are available in three fruits; strawberry, mango and pineapple.

Cawston Press Rhubarb: I think this must be an extra for this month's box as it wasn't mentioned on the Degustabox leaflet that details all the products. However, I already know the Cawston Press range well after it was included in the previous Degustabox too. It's an absolutely gorgeous range of fruity sparkling drinks so I'm more than happy to receive another one.

Be Fast Breakfast: This is described as an ideal breakfast on the go for those morning when you need something nutritious and filling without sitting down at home. Each drink is high in fibre, a source of protein and also low in fat. There are four flavours in the range; Strawberry, Chocolate, Banana and Vanilla. It would have been nice to have received two different flavours to get to know the range a bit more but I'm looking forward to trying the Banana flavour. 

Elizabeth Shaw Milk Chocolate Amaretto Flutes: These chocolate batons combine milk chocolate with the sweet Italian taste of Amaretto. They're part of the new Flutes range from Elizabeth Shaw that features batons of chocolate in a selection of tempting flavours. 

Dr. Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Grinder: This little pot contains Madagascan Vanilla pods with an easy to use mill with fine or coarse grinding option. It can be used to grind the flavour of whole vanilla pods into cake and dessert mixes or used as a topping to enhance the flavour of hot drinks or ice cream. This is my favourite product in this months Degustabox and I can't wait to use it in my next baking session or to pep up a home made latte!

Estrella Damm: This imported award winning premium Spanish lager is probably best known at the moment for it's summery advert with a very catchy tune. I can imagine this Estrella Damm cerveja will be the perfect accompaniment for Mediterranean dishes, especially tapas.

Overall, I was once again impressed by my Degustabox. It had a very different feel to previous boxes, even though a few of the products have been seen before. It definitely seems like a higher value box than I have seen before from Degustabox, for example, the Dr. Oetker grinder on it's own is £4.99! If you received the June Degustabox then I'd love to know what you thought of it in the comments below. 

For more details:
Degustabox website: www.degustabox.com
I received a Degustabox in order to provide an honest review.

24 Jun 2014

Colman's Mustard Limited Edition Vintage Jars

Colman's is celebrating it's 200th anniversary with three limited edition vintage jars. The range was created in 1814 by Jeremiah Colman in his factory in Norwich and gained the Royal seal of approval from Queen Victoria in 1866. The new jars have been inspired by the iconic vintage adverts that were used by Colman's throughout it's past two centuries as one of Britains best loved brands. They feature unique designs and slogans from some of it's classic advertising campaigns, which have been put to great use to celebrate their staggering longevity. 

I was a bit confused when I saw this polar bear on the label, it's not entirely obviously what a polar bear has to do with mustard, but there really is a charming story behind it. The polar bear image signifies the medicinal properties that were traditionally associated with mustard, from relieving tooth-ache to curing colds! 

The "Meat needs Mustard" advert however doesn't need any explanation, it simply conveys the historic link between Colman's mustard and meat. Even without any illustrations, this label immediately makes me think of a roast beef Sunday lunch! I can't eat one without a bit of mustard on the side (or in the gravy!).

I think these celebratory jars are a very fitting tribute to mark the 200th anniversary of Colman's. They also appeal to my love of quirky vintage adverts and memorabilia and make such a lovely little collectors item for this family favourite brand. 

The jars will be available from May 2013 in all retailers with RRPs of £0.99p (100g) and £1.59p (170g).

PR Samples. 

23 Jun 2014

Limited Edition Haribo Cherry Cola with Liquid Filling

Last year I was lucky enough to try the Haribo Happy Cola with Liquid Filling which I enjoyed so much that they won the Sweets Category in my Best of 2013 review. They were sent to me as part of a Grocery Exchange that I took part in with the wonderful Steffi from Germany. We recently took part in Grocery Exchange Part III and I was thrilled to find a Limited Edition Cherry Cola version of my favourite sweets. 

Even though Haribo Happy Cola sweets are easy to find in the UK, I've still never seen the liquid filling versions available. Come on Haribo please bring these to the UK! Each bottle shaped sweet is a vibrant red colour with a white foam backing. They look fantastic with the darker coloured liquid filling showing through the red jelly. 

The sweetness of the cola flavour is well matched by the fruity and slightly tangy edge from the cherry. I was pleased to find the cherry flavour is not too overpowering, I sometimes find that cherry can be a bit medicinal, but that's not the case here at all. It's definitely a cherry cola flavour rather than just a cherry on it's own. The liquid centres give an extra burst of sugary cola flavour, with their almost syrupy nature, and add a nice squidgy texture to the sweets.

I couldn't resist the above photo to show the liquid cola centre! In reality the filling is not as runny as the photo would suggest, but it does ooze out like this if you squeeze them! Unfortunately I doubt these Haribo will be available in the UK soon, although there are Ebay sellers who are stocking them (at ouchy prices!). British brand Candy Land does there own version of liquid filled cola bottles called Bursting Cola Bottles - see here

Thanks again to the lovely Steffi for sending these out! I think I've already found my winner for Best Sweet of 2014 :)

Grocery Gems Verdict: Haribo Cherry Happy Cola with Liquid Filling

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: YES! 
Nutrition (per 100g serving): 336 calories.

Dorset Cereals: What Makes You Happy? #lifebeginsatbreakfast

Dorset Cereals are known for their range of delicious cereals that use only the finest natural ingredients. They recently asked me to get involved in a simple happiness challenge and think about my top five happiness actions. To really ask the important question - What Makes You Happy? Of course, Dorset Cereals believe that happiness, and life, begins at breakfast (#lifebeginsatbreakfast) and it's easy to understand why. I'm sure we all get that positive feeling that having a good start to the day gives. It's a feeling that can carry through the rest of the day. 

Dorset Cereals own advice about starting the day is all about being thoughtful. They explain that breakfast is the perfect time to set a positive intention and tone for the day and take a moment to appreciate the good things around us. Small changes in how we start the day really can make a big difference:

·         THINK: As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So focus on the good stuff. What happened yesterday, what’s good about today. And feel the benefits of a little reflection and observation. Miss this at breakfast and you won’t have time to catch up during the day.
·         TALK: The work/life balance can classically kill off family time, but as you wake up this is the time you are most likely to be together as a family group. Don’t leave it for ‘later’ when ‘later’ inevitably changes shape during the day.
·         MOVE:  Dorset residents might benefit from acres of coastline and countryside all around, but planning something active shouldn’t rest on this alone. Think as you chew about whether you’re pacing up and down the office when on a call, or actually walking up an escalator. If you plan it before you leave home, you will do it, rather than fall into the fug of routine. And feel good about it.
·         ENJOY: Quality of life needs some…quality. From a particular coffee smell that beats all others, to ingredients in your food that you can actually savour above the functional, to little moments of pleasure that you can plan into each day. The link again is the planning, the enjoyment factor and the few minutes to work into the day that make everything a little more enjoyable.

Words of wisdom that I'm sure anyone living a busy lifestyle can relate to, for me especially the "don't leave it until later" bit really resonates, I'm often guilty of that!

I was sent a lovely parcel of cereals and a copy of their gorgeous Breakfast Book. This is full of delicious recipes from Peanut Butter Energy Bars to Danish Puff Pancakes, and also reminds us along the way of the simple pleasures in life, like knitting or the perfect cup of tea. 

I used this idea of the Simple Pleasures in Life as my inspiration for my top five happiness actions. I decided to focus on the little personal things that make me happy on a daily basis.

Image: Etsy
1 - Discovering Something New: Not surprising given what I blog about, but I love discovering new things, and not just new products. There is something so wonderful about being introduced to a fantastic undiscovered book or film. Happiness is definitely found in visiting a new place or making a new friend - life feels good when you keep exploring, growing and discovering the new. 

2 - Reflection: I don't have many vices in life. Well, okay, maybe chocolate, but apart from that I don't drink or smoke and I try to have a balanced diet. I grew up with a Meditteranean style diet so that's how I continue nowadays. When it comes to coffee however, I'm happy to admit that I'm addicted to my morning cup! I actually only drink one cup a day (maybe two at the weekend!) but it really is my way of reflecting on the day before and getting ready for the day ahead. Just give me my five minutes of peace in the morning and I'm happy for the rest of the day! :)

3 - HUGS (and laughter!) - Day to day I don't think anything can make you feel instantly happier than a hug, as long as it's from the right person (or pet!). Just this weekend I had an awful time with the simplest thing - making dinner. The first dinner I made (quorn stir fry & noodles) was completely burnt after I got distracted for a few minutes. Then I managed to drop the second dinner I made on the floor, the whole thing, oven tray and all. All that was forgotten when my youngest son rushed over and gave me the biggest bear hug ever = instant happiness! This also goes hand in hand with generally smiling, laughing and having a good giggle in the face of little mishaps.

4 - Reading - Books make me happy. I don't read nearly as many books as I used to but I can still lose myself in a book for hours. It's so therapeutic sometimes to just forget about everything else and get lost in a different place and time. Luckily I've passed on my love of reading to my children and there really is nothing better than cuddling up together and embarking on a new story. When they were really little, instead of playing "shops", they preferred to set up a little pretend library at home!

5 - Eating: Not in the sense of gluttony, but in the sociableness and memories that are often associated with food. Family gatherings, birthday parties, and many other social occasions often revolve around the enjoyment of food. But it all starts at home, and just the pleasure of cooking itself (despite the mishaps!), and making the time to enjoy family mealtimes together is where the happiness lies for me.

Putting together this list was an interesting experience and I realised that there were so many other little actions I could have included here that make me happy; walking, cross stitching, exercise (sometimes!), writing... there are just too many to list. What simple pleasures make you happiest?

PR Samples.

22 Jun 2014

Review: Market Deli Potato Chips (from the makers of Walkers)

A few days ago I attended a launch event for Market Deli, a new range of premium snacks from the makers of Walkers Crisps (see more about the event here). The range is due to be released in shops on 23rd June (tomorrow!) so do let me know if you spot them instore. Anyway, not only was I lucky enough to get to try the new flavours on the night, I also got to take away a few packs to sample at home. I received two flavours from the new Market Deli Potato Chips range; Cornish Mature Cheddar, and Wiltshire Cured Ham, Mature Cheddar and Farmhouse Chutney. 

The Market Deli range is inspired by the flavours and produce found in the finest European markets and delicatessens. Each individual flavour in the range contains real ingredients for an authentic taste. The Potato Chips are described as being cut thicker and cooked for longer to ensure a perfect bite. They're made with natural flavours and contain no artificial colours or MSG. These larger sharing bags are 165g in size and have a distinctive sack like shape.

Market Deli Wiltshire Cured Ham, Mature Cheddar and Farmhouse Chutney Potato Chips: These contain British ham, Wiltshire cured ham to be exact, as their "real" ingredient. Unlike many other meaty flavoured crisps these are definitely not suitable for vegetarians. The first thing I noticed about the Market Deli crisps is that they have a robust crunch, they feel a lot more substantial than regular Walkers crisps. More crunchy and less crispy in fact. The flavouring here is lovely and strong, with a gorgeous flavour from the ham that soon gives way to the sweet and tangy chutney. These were one of my favourite flavours from the launch event evening, and they taste just as good on second bite. However, the more I ate them the more the flavour reminded me of a classic prawn cocktail. They just have that whole sweet yet tangy thing going on.

Market Deli Cornish Mature Cheddar: I got to try some Cornish mature cheddar alongside these crisps at the launch event, and it was absolutely delicious, creamy but with a zingy mature flavour. The crisps themselves have a very simple flavour, these are cheese pure and simple without any added sweetness from the usual cheese crisp partnership with onion or chive. If you're a fan of cheesy crisps, and I'm including cheese puffs in this, then you will love these. Personally I found them a bit salty for my liking, but I think I did miss that extra sweetness to counterbalance the cheese.  

The other flavours in the Market Deli Potato Chips range are; Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. The Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion were my favourite on the night so I can't wait to find those instore!

Market Deli Potato Chips will be available in 165g sharing bags with a RRP of £2.39 and 40g single bags with a RRP of £0.83p. There are also Tortilla Chips and Pita Chips available in the Market Deli range.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Market Deli Potato Chips

RATING: Wiltshire Ham - 8 out of 10, Cornish Cheddar - 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes - I'd try more from the range.
Purchased: Available at all major supermarkets from 23rd June.
Nutrition: (per 30g bag) 140 calories.

Price: 165g sharing bags RRP - £2.39, 40g single bags RRP - £0.83p.

PR Samples.
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