Thursday, 28 April 2016

March's Easter Themed Degustabox Review

March's Degustabox was a joy to open, and here is why!

 
 
This is my kinda box. Full of naughtiness goodness!
 
Lets take a closer look...
 
Savoury Snacks
 
 
Pipers Crisps (Cheddar & Onion)
I have always categorised Pipers Crisps into the 'posh crisp' category, mainly due to the price. I've never tried this flavour before but if I'm honest, I wasn't overly keen - I found the flavour quite overpowering to the point were I didn't overly enjoy them. Thankfully I shared these with Mike over a film otherwise I would have struggled to finish them!
 
Brioche Pasquier Pain Au Chocolat  
I'm a huge fan of a good croissant and a pain au chocolat, so these were a winner for me at breakfast. They are individually wrapped and I just found them so convenient in a morning, even on a work day. I got into a nice routine whereby I'd venture downstairs, preheat the oven, potter around doing the usual morning things, pop in a pastry, potter some more for a few minutes and bingo, my breakfast was complete. Due to not having a lot of time in a morning, I loved how I could multi-task whilst my breakfast was being prepared. I've had a few packs of these before and they never tire.
 
Parle Monaco
These thin savoury biscuits that are sprinkled with salt reminded me so much of Ritz crackers that you often find lying around houses at Christmas times. They weren't as tasty but they weren't far off either! 
 
Metcalfes Skinny Popcorn
These were yummy, and although they were low in calories, it didn't seem to alter the taste like it does with some food products. I don't often eat popcorn, but when I do, it tends to start a popcorn addiction with me for a few weeks afterwards!
 
Kallo Quinoa and seeds multigrain cakes
These were actually quite yummy, I had them for several lunches with different toppings. The seeds helped add flavour and I definitely felt like I was eating healthy when having these!
 
Kent's Kitchen - Cranberry & Orange stuffing
Unfortunately I'm yet to try this because I just haven't had the opportunity to use it with a meal but this flavour definitely intrigues me! The cooking procedure sounds so simple and convenient too. Simply add water, stir and bake and you're good to go!
 
Sweet Snacks
 
 
 
Chewits (x 4.. yes, I ate one before this photo!)
Who doesn't love a good chewit? They take me back to my childhood, just fruity and chewy goodness. I particularly enjoy them when they're a bit warm! Definitely wakes those taste buds up!
 
Parle Hide & Seek
These chocolate biscuits originate from India and were really moreish!  If at the right price, I wouldn't hesitate in buying these!
 
Lindt Gold Bunny
With this box being Easter themed, it was only right to include an easter themed item! Lindt is up there with one of my favourite chocolate brands, so I enjoyed these. Although I find white chocolate a little more sicklier than milk, it only meant it lasted me that little bit longer!
 
Kallo Milk Chocolate Rice Cakes
Similar to the seeded ones, but coated in chocolate instead, these were yummy, and I couldn't put them down!
 
Karyatis - Meze to go (below)
This Mediterranean red pepper and feta dip was rather different to what I'm used to. The convenience of having dip and crackers 'on the go' is great. There was a generous portion of dip (but not enough crackers!). Definitely tickled those taste buds!
 
 
 
Drinks
 
 

 
Weetabix 'on the go' protein breakfast drink x 2
I was happy when I spotted these in my box again. I've tried every flavour now I believe, and I have loved every one of them. These fit perfectly into a busy lifestyle, moreso a busy morning routine where sometimes you may not find time to eat, but may have a commute to work where you can grab a few minutes to eat/drink your breakfast. I took these to work with me and enjoyed them at my desk in a morning. It was nice to free up that breakfast time at home, and use it doing something else instead! The creamy texture and varieties of flavours will definitely keep me coming back!
 
Good Hemp Original Dairy Free Milk
Honestly? This is still sat in my fridge, although I do intend to use it because I hate wastage. I will hold my hands up and say that I'm not a fan of dairy free food/drink items. The taste just isn't the same, and the occasional dairy free products I've tried in the past have often had that bland 'diet food' taste to them. I will definitely try this though, maybe in a smoothie!
 
All in all, a very good box for me this month.
If you like the sound of receiving a Degustabox through the post every month, full of exciting food items, then use my code 8IGIDN to deduct a whopping £6 from your £12.99 order! What's not to like?!
 
If you want to find out more about Degustabox, visit them on their website for more details.



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Sunday, 17 April 2016

#CTGrowYourOwn Herb Cooking Challenge!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company on behalf of Cotton Traders to see if I would like to take part in an exclusive
 blogger cooking challenge. I'm no whizz in the kitchen, and I'm not overly adventurous when it comes to cooking, however I'm always game for something new so of course I said yes!

The campaign was to promote cooking with your own home-grown herbs, and its mission is to show that you don't need a huge garden to grow herbs (in fact with most you just need your kitchen windowsill!).

The only rule was we were provided with a grow-your-own herb kit, and we had to make a recipe that included one of these herbs. The idea was to grow our own then cook with what we had created, however due to timing issues, this wasn't feasible, so whilst the little seedlings are sat on my kitchen windowsill eagerly waiting to grow, I had to cheat and rallied round Tesco's to pick up some fresh herbs instead.

The herb I decided to opt for was mint, and here's why:

I was sat in a Giraffe restaurant in an airport one spring morning, eagerly waiting to board my plane to Paris for some birthday antics, when I decided to order a mint lemonade with my fried breakfast. I'd never had mint in my drink before, but being the adventurous type, I like to give things a go. Oh. My. God. It was de-licious! The more I prodded the mint with my straw, the more flavour it released, and honestly, I couldn't get enough of it! Since then, whenever I see mint on a menu in a restaurant, I go for it! I've also been known to make the odd cocktail with mint in at home too. Yum!

First ever mint lemonade drink!
However! I've never really cooked with mint in food before. After looking at a few herbs hints & tips from both Cotton Traders and elsewhere, I discovered that mint apparently compliments chicken fairly well, as well as being used in lots of healthy salads. Light bulb moment - why not conjure up a healthy chicken salad? If you know me, you know I don't often do healthy, even when it comes to salads. My salads usually consist of tuna & mayonnaise pasta, slabs of cheese, boiled egg, cous cous, tomatoes, and a few leaves thrown in there to kid people into making me look like I'm trying to be healthy. However I've wanted to try and switch up my salads for SO long, and maybe lean more towards the healthier side, but have never really had the imagination to do so.

After a lot of research and adapting, I finally came up with quite an adventurous but healthy salad (for me!) and do you know what? I bloody loved it!

Ingredients:

1 small red cabbage
1 red onion
1 handful of croutons
1 handful cashew nuts
1 handful sesame seeds
Drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil
Rocket and spinach leaves
1 Chicken fillet
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
1 red pepper
1 small can mandarin segments

 


Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and cook the chicken for around 25-30 minutes, or until the juice runs clear.
In the meantime, dice up the cabbage, cut the red pepper into thick chunks, and cut the onion into rings.

 
 



Wash the rocket and spinach and make a 'bed' on the plate.
Place prepared cabbage, pepper and onion on top, spreading evenly.
Evenly sprinkle over cashews.
Once chicken is cooked, cut into strips and place on top of bed of salad.
Place 4 mandarin segments either side of chicken.
Drizzle sesame oil over and sprinkle with handful of sesame seeds.
Top with fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

 



This made a really tasty and flavoursome light salad that includes some really healthy nutrients. I was amazed at how many different flavours my palette was experiencing! The fresh mint complimented everything perfectly and the sesame oil seemed to bring everything together. I'd usually turn my nose up at fruit being included in my salad but the sweetness of the mandarin really worked with the other foods, and balanced other flavours out.

To wash it down, I decided to make my own blueberry and mint lemonade.

Ingredients:

Lemonade
Handful fresh blueberries
Handful fresh mint leaves

Recipe:

Pop a few blueberries in your favourite glass, along with a few mint leaves. Give these a bit of a pummel to release the flavour.
Pour in cold lemonade.
Top with more mint leaves and stir.
(Tip: Its handy to drink this with a straw as you can use this as a mixing/pummelling tool to release more flavours as you go along).






I love how you can control how minty (or non minty!) you make this drink, depending on preference. I like mine to have a strong mint kick to it, I find it really refreshing and tasty.

I think both the salad and drink combined would make a perfect light and refreshing meal on a summers evening. I can't wait to be more adventurous with my salads this year and see what other recipes I can conjure up!
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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Afternoon Tea at Petit Delight, Lincolnshire

I'd visited here once before for afternoon tea and remembering it was one of the best I'd had in the area. Fast forward almost 1 year and I was back, this time with my cousin in tow, treating her for her 30th birthday.

Although the setting isn't as grand and peaceful as most afternoon tea environments, the quality of food overrides this aspect and you learn to filter out the background noise in this fairly loud French inspired restaurant.

The staff were attentive and helpful, and gave us 2 options for afternoon tea; a traditional one that consisted of sandwiches and pastries, the other that was more antipasti based, including cold meats, garlic bread, olives etc. Neither of us are fans of olives, so we didn't hesitate in deciding on traditional.

Crockery at Petit Delight is very plain and basic. You will not see any mis-matched floral vintage here, which in my opinion was a little disappointing. The teapots and cups were standard white, and there were no fancy tea strainers or sugar cubes to ask '1 lump or 2?'



Food on the other hand was pretty much top notch. We were given a selection of 3 different sandwich fillings - Tuna & Mayonnaise, Prawn, or Chicken & Bacon. We both opted for the latter and glad we did because the filling was on point with both quantity and quality. Also on the savoury tier was a miniature cheese and ham toastie, which was gorgeous. Something so basic but tasted so good. I've never experienced a warm toastie with afternoon tea before so this made a refreshing change!



There was also a thin slither of quiche which is rare on afternoon tea's, but welcome nonetheless! I know this had leek in but any other ingredients are beyond me! Either way, it was tasty.
The sun dried tomato and brie croissant was nice, it was slightly warm and almost buttery, yum! 

Onto the top tier, the desserts! Unfortunately not knowing the names of the majority of these puddings, I can only describe! It consisted of a chocolate brownie, a bakewell tart style finger, a white chocolate and chocolate orange meringue dessert. Last but not least, a crème brulee (this one neither of us entertained). The desserts tier consisted of a good selection of cakes, tastes and textures, and nothing was too over-powering, instead complimenting one another very well.



Although the experience isn't on top form, the quality of food on the other hand is almost perfect.

Cost - £15pp
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Monday, 11 April 2016

Easter Themed Afternoon Tea at Cuthberts Bakehouse, Liverpool

Visiting another city only means one thing; another afternoon tea! And Liverpool was no exception.

I always do research in advance when knowing I'm due to have afternoon tea. I always think life is too short to waste time, money and opportunity on a poor eating experience! After scouring a few websites, I finally settled on Cuthberts Bakehouse, a family run business just a short walk from the city centre. As I devour more and more afternoon teas, I tend to find myself leaning more towards family run businesses or smaller independent tea rooms as opposed to grand 5* hotels as they are a lot more unique and more importantly, better tasting! The interior of this tea room caught my eye, with its cute shabby chic furniture and pastel bunting, it was right up my street.

Arriving on Good Friday afternoon, the place was bustling, which always suggests only good things.

We were seated in the corner, which, if it was just Mike and I, that would have been fine, however we had his parents in tow so things were a little squashed, to say the least. I felt this had an impact on our overall experience, which was a shame because it was his mum and dad's first time experiencing afternoon tea, so we wanted it to be perfect, however the space issue was a slight problem.

Issues aside, we ordered our drinks. Both Mike and I opted for our usual loose leaf Earl Grey, whilst Mike's parents chose an Americano each (I believe this was extra). These came in quirky teapots to match the mis-matched vintage floral teacups and saucers. Floral mis-matched crockery is always a tick in my book when it comes to afternoon tea.


Shortly after, out came the food. Wow, just wow. The amount of food and variety was unbelievable. I've had many afternoon teas in my time but I don't think I've ever received that much food in one sitting!


When previously booking, we had opted to have another filling in place of salmon because none of us are keen raw fish eaters. We were given free range egg mayonnaise and also roast turkey and cranberry sauce. Each filling was perfect in both quantity and quality. The bread was fresh and there were other savoury items that were sat alongside the sandwiches such as chicken Caesar salad and honey roast ham salad canapes on crunchy bruschetta style bread. There was even a handmade sausage roll thrown in there which was absolutely divine.


The selection of cakes were on point - there was the perfect mix of both fruit and chocolate desserts, and nothing was too overpowering and sickly. The chocolate fondant brownie I thought was going to be extremely sickly but it was the perfect amount of chocolate-ness! The 'vanilla infused tart' tasted identical to a custard tart, which wouldn't be my first pick of dessert, but the flavours balanced the other food out very well. The macchiato mousse cake was infused with coffee (obviously!), and although I'm not a huge coffee lover, it was subtle enough to still be enjoyable. The quirky extras that aren't often found in afternoon teas, such as the elderflower mint jelly made a lovely change from your standard choices, and complimented the palette well after all those other treats! The macaroon's seem to be a popular choice for most afternoon teas now, but I personally think this dessert is very pretentious and over-rated (but that's a story for a different day!).


Of course afternoon tea wouldn't be complete without traditional scones, jam and clotted cream, although by this point I was bursting at the seams so I could only manage a few mouthfuls, but these were just as good as everything else. If you look close enough, you will see the scones have the cross on, similar to hot cross buns. Unfortunately this was the only hint that reflected this 'Easter themed' afternoon tea which was a bit disappointing. Also, I'm not sure what ingredients are used to make the cross on hot cross buns, but I didn't feel that the texture of the cross on these scones complimented the scone itself. It almost felt like I wasn't meant to be putting it in my mouth.
The chocolate covered strawberries were well received, although by the time I had reached this tier, I unfortunately had to peel a lot of the white chocolate off as I think sugar overloaded had kicked in by then!


All in all, a good quality selection of treats, and definitely up there with some of my favourites. However unfortunately the cramped environment gets a thumbs down from me. Sometimes I feel that businesses attempt to cram as many people in a room as possible and forget about customer experience, but just see pound signs instead. I would visit again, but next time ensure I'm visiting when it's quiet for a less chaotic and cramped atmosphere.

Cost - £20pp
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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

24 Hours in Liverpool

A day before Easter bank holiday, Mike and I, along with his parents, jumped in the car and took the 2.5hr drive to Liverpool. I was lucky enough to win a competition a few months prior on twitter. It included lots of nice treats and was for 4 people. It was Mike's mums birthday coming up, so we tied it altogether and treat her to a quick weekend away.

We arrived at The Holiday Inn on Albert Dock (our first freebie!), checked in and had a quick freshen up before heading back out to a nearby coffee shop for drinks and cake (our second freebie!). After filling a hole in our bellies, we headed to another one of the prizes; a tour of The Beatles Story Museum. Both Mike and I had visited here 8 years ago, so I could still remember bits of it. I'm not a big Beatles fan, but both Mike and his dad are so it made sense to do it again. We spent a few hours in there, then took the short walk back to the hotel.

We showered then headed back out again for yet another freebie - a 730 table booking at PanAm restaurant, which was also very close to the hotel. We were led upstairs and given a window seat which had fantastic views over the Albert Dock all lit up at night. I'm a sucker for good table views so I really appreciated this! The food was gorgeous, top quality meat and presentation was on point.




We left the restaurant and headed back to our rooms. I was shattered (long car journeys aren't good for me!) so I resorted to my bed and had an early night (old before my time, me!)

The next day we headed to the breakfast buffet within our hotel, chaotic but nice, we filled our tummies up, but leaving room for the afternoon tea we had booked for later!
We checked out of our hotel, had a quick mooch around the shops on the docks then made our way to the Liverpool wheel (fifth and final freebie!) whilst Mike's dad was bag watcher (that's what you get when you have a phobia of heights!). We spent 20 minutes on the wheel, seeing the sights of Liverpool, obviously not as scenic as The London Eye views, but still nice nonetheless.


We took a slow stroll into the centre which was only a short walk away. I may or may not have stocked up on a few Lush goodies! We then made our way to our Easter themed afternoon tea booking, which was about a 10 minute walk out of the centre (a review on this is to come!).

After this, we popped into The Cavern, more for Mikes parents to say they'd 'done it', before heading back to our car before our journey home.

A whirlwind tour of Liverpool but a lovely way to start the bank holiday weekend.

Did you get up to anything exciting?

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Friday, 1 April 2016

March Round-Up - Amsterdam, Liverpool & Afternoon Tea!

March has been yet another jam-packed month full of exciting happenings!

I managed to travel to Amsterdam with my mum over her birthday and spend a whopping 5 hours in this canal-filled city (here's what I got up to). We took a canal tour, learnt about the history of Amsterdam, and spent time chatting over tea in a quirky café watching the world go by (or as I like to call it, people watching).

I also baked my very first cheesecake - filled with nutella and Ferrero rocher, baking it myself made me realise just how many calories go into cheesecakes, but I don't want to think about that right now! Either way, it was a success, Mike said it was 'the best cheesecake' he's ever had (and that's bloody good coming from him!)

At the end of the month, Mike and I, along with his parents, drove to Liverpool for a nights stay on Albert Dock. This trip was packed full of lots of things - a trip to The Beatles Story Museum, a meal in the PanAm restaurant, a ride on the Liverpool wheel alongside treats in a coffee shop. Best of all, it was all free! I won a twitter competition a few months back so finally took my prize. We also had afternoon tea which was gorgeous, but more on that in a different post!

We then finished the month off with a lovely long bank holiday weekend. I looked after my niece and did an easter egg treasure hunt for her, she loved it!

March has whizzed by in the blink of an eye. April will be a much quieter month in terms of plans, with nothing in the pipeline! I've been away every fortnight for the past 2-3 months, so it'll actually be nice to spend time at home and catch up on those errands that always gets put on the back burner...

Till next month!
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