Healthier Baking for Christmas*

December is notoriously a month of over-indulgence- all those parties, meals out, chocolates, tins of biscuits and homemade treats. Most people find that by the end of the month they’ve packed on a few pounds and feel decidedly sluggish, especially if like me they love to bake and can’t resist filling the house with the sweet and spicy aromas of festive bakes. With that in mind I thought I’d explore a few ideas for healthier baking, mostly simple ingredient swaps to serve as inspiration for myself and also to inspire my fellow baking addicts- and nab your ideas for healthier cakes and biscuits too!
One simple swap you can make is to reduce saturated fats by replacing butter with an ingredient like rapeseed oil. The added bonus of Rapeseed oil is that it has a pretty neutral taste so it won’t detract from your delicious treats.

Obviously baked goods are notoriously laden with sugar and it’s hard to avoid it completely- and at this time of year why would you want it? What you can do though is look for sweeteners that have more nutritional benefits than refined white sugar- honey, apple puree, banana or sugar alternatives such as the SugaVida I previously featured are all good substitutes.

You can improve the nutritional content of cakes and bakes by adding in ingredients such as flaxseeds (also a great alternative to egg in vegan baking) to boost fibre content as well as providing a good source of vitamins and minerals. You won’t necessarily taste the difference but the benefits will be there. Adding plenty of dried fruit and nuts to your recipes, and less chocolate (or dark chocolate) will also help- and with the right blend of spices are just perfect for this time of year.

Using alternatives to standard white flour will also boost the nutritional content of your bakes- buckwheat or spelt flours will increase fibre whilst almond flour will add a protein and vitamin E boost.

Finally when it comes to topping your bakes try switching regular cream or icing for greek or natural yoghurts- you could also use fruit, nuts and spices to decorate with in place of icing, and make open topped mince tarts in place of the all out pastry fest that are traditional mince pies.

I’d love to know what smart-swaps you make for healthier baked goods, both for the run up to Christmas and for the new year when everyone is trying to be good and watch their weight.

end

The November Degustabox

Another month has passed us by, and another delivery from foodie subscription service Degustabox* has arrived. Unless you are brand new to my blog (in which case, Hi!) you’ll know this is a regular feature. As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am to know what they were like, I’m getting really quite adventurous with my food trying lately so with each month the arrival of this box brings a whole new level of excitement! This month the box had a distinct festive feel, and has to be one of my favourite boxes, contents wise in a long time.
Kicking off with some Kallo organic stock pots- I was sent the chicken variety which makes a great base for a hearty pan of soup, or a comforting stew. I always have stock pots in my cupboard and these ones are organic and all-natural which is a real selling point.
There was also a really rather fancy looking tin of tuna in this month’s box- I’m not a massive fan of tuna these days and I’m phobic of olive oil so I haven’t tried it yet. I have it earmarked for making some tuna pate in the coming weeks- my Nan and I used to make this all of the time and it’s delicious (and full of enough other ingredients foe me to be able to ignore the oil!
The tuna has a RRP of £3.00 and the stock pots are £1.80
Included in this month’s drinks selection was some rather fancy coffee from Taylor’s of Harrogate- a brand I often turn to when I want a touch of luxury. The Cacao Superior Colombia blend is truly magnificent and I highly recommend this to any coffee fan.
I haven’t tried the other two drinks included- the Alo water I just can’t get my head around if I’m honest. The Dalston’s Fizzy Apple appeals more, but, as long time readers know I’m not a big drinker of these kinds of things so I’ll be passing this along to someone who will appreciate it.
RRPs are £4.49 for the coffee, £1.99 for the Aloe Water and £1.89 for the apple fizz.
Pasta and pesto is such a great standby meal and one of my favourites too. This Filipo Berio Classic Pesto is really one of the best I’ve tried and well worth picking up as a storecupboard staple. I don’t have price information for it, but I imagine it to be around the £2.00 mark.

I actually reviewed a large selection of The English Provender Co’s products last year and loved them- their caramalised red onion chutney was a favourite so I was excited to see a jar of it nestled inside this month’s box. Perfect with goat’s cheese in a toasted sandwich, this jar won’t be lasting me long! RRP £1.99

December isn’t really known as being the month for healthy eating, but I do like to try my best. With the current freezing temperatures I’m enjoying a lot of soup and the Ryvita Multigrain Rye Cakes are the perfect thing to dunk in it. Equally they’d be great as part of a cheeseboard over the festive season, unless, like myself you aren’t a fan of cheese.
Having an allergy to peanuts meant I couldn’t try the Planters Fruity Chocolate Crunch but given that the bag has since vanished from the house I’m guessing they were a hit. This kind of product seems synonymous with this time of year- and this pack with it’s mix of peanuts, cranberries and milk chocolate buttons sounds wonderfully festive. RRP £2.00
Finally on the savoury snack front we have Filipo Berio Formaggio Crostini- I haven’t tried these yet but you can expect a review over the coming weeks. It should be noted that Degustabox subscribers will only get one of the three Filipo Berio products mentioned.
I’m a huge fan of Popcorn and Propercorn is my current go-to brand when I’m on a snack mission at work. The Perfectly Sweet variety is a welcome addition to the range- sprinkled with unrefined, fairtrade sugar it’s utterly addictive and I’ve eaten about a dozen bags of it since my Degustabox arrived.

When it comes to sweets Jelly Beans are my ultimate favourite so I carefully hid this bag of super sours from The Jelly Bean Factory. Made with natural colours and suitable for vegetarians I’d be delighted to find these hiding in my Christmas stocking.

Finally we have Cadbury Picnic Bites which my Dad devoured due to aforementioned peanut allergy. I used to love Picnic bars so I was saddened I now can’t have them, it might be a bit of a gimmick but I can’t resist a minature version of anything.

Last but not least we have Weetabix Additions in apple and raisin. I’ve reviewed other products in this range before and really enjoyed them, but this one, with it’s warming hints of cinnamon is my favourite- perfect with hot milk on a cold morning. RRP £2.99 for a box of 24.

For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.
On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this as you can see if you do the maths.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

end

The October Degustabox

Another month and another delivery from foodie subscription service Degustabox*. Unless you are brand new to my blog (in which case, Hi!) you’ll know this is a regular feature. As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am to know what they were like, I’m getting really quite adventurous with my food trying lately so with each month the arrival of this box brings a whole new level of excitement!
This month I’m kicking off with the box’s sweet treats- always my favourite part! First up was a new take on a blast from the past- any one remember KP Choc Dips? I absolutely loved the white chocolate ones but they were a rare treat due to them not exactly being healthy. Nuttiva have bought out a new take- chocolate hazelnut spread (that boasts zero palm oil and 97% less sugar) paired with crunchy breadsticks. Not going to lie, I still prefer the old school favourite best, but these are a tasty and healthier alternative, although pricey at £1.70.

Continuing on the chooclate and hazelnut theme we have giant cookies from Michel et Augustin- melt in the middle cookies packed full of chocolate chips, fresh butter and free range eggs as well as a delicious chocolate and hazelnut filling. Delicious, but again pricey at £1.60 for a pack.

I’ve been wanting to try these Pulsin Kids’ Fruity Oat bars ever since seeing them on Twitter. These might be designed for kids but also make a healthy snack for work- chocolate orange is a can’t go wrong combination and these are really delicious, one of your five a day and low in sugar- £0.59 each with other flavours available.

Finally, in the spirit of Halloween comes a Misfortune Cookie from Pechkeks. These appeared in a box last year too and I still think they are bloomin’ genius. A tasty cookie containing a tongue in cheek misfortune message, a great novelty gift idea at £1.50 each.

Feel Good Drinks are a brand I buy regularly for taking to work. Simple water based blends made with 100% natural ingredients. I really like these as an alternative to fizzy drinks on my desk at work, and at £1.20 a bottle they are comparable in price. The Strawberry and Mint is a particular favourite.
Hippeas are one of my go-to savoury snacks, with serious flavour and a decent punch of protein and fibre they are vegan friendly and utterly addictive. I was sent the “in herbs we trust” flavour which isn’t my favourite from the brand but still entirely edible- my favourite from the brand is definitely the sweet & smokin’. They cost £2.29 for a share size bag, but seriously they really might as well be marketed as single serving!
I’ve been trying to make more effort to take lunches in to work with me rather than nipping to the shops and spending a fortune on impulse snacks. Kabuto Noodles are a long standing favourite and the thai green chicken curry is another welcome addition to the range. They cost £1.99 per pot which is much cheaper than my usual sushi fix and much more warming on these chillier days.
I’ve also been really enjoying the cous-cous pouch, mixed with some protein (chicken, chickpeas, tofu, prawns) this makes a tasty lunch which is easily portable too. £2.29 per pouch and microwaveable in just one minute!
I’ve really been getting in to cooking lately so I was quite excited to see these sauces from Lee Kum Kee- there’s a sauce for tomato and garlic prawns (which worked wonderfully with the cous-cous. I haven’t tried the honey and garlic spare rib sachet yet as I’m not a ribs person but between Bob and my Dad it’ll get tested in no time. The sauce pouches cost £0.85 each.
Millions are one of my favourite sweets ever, and the vimto ones are absolutely delicious- it’s the perfect combination of two classics and this little gift jar (£2.99) didn’t last long!
Another tasty treat was Pip’s Real Hot Chocolate Co real hot chocolate coins- real Belgian chocolate handwrapped and perfect for warming up after a long and frosty stroll. They cost £1.50 each and would also be a great addition to a cosy night in Christmas hamper.

This month’s box also included some Heinz No Added Sugar Hoops and some LoSalt both of which I absolutely failed to photograph for some reason. I’m not one who really pays attention to their salt or sugar intake (woops!) and in fact I’m quite the salt fiend. The Hoops were ok but I prefer the original but I appreciate these would be much better for kids or those who have to watch their sugar intake. The LoSalt is quite palatable, it’s hard to tell the difference between that and regular rock salt. It costs £1.75 for a 350g tub.

For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.
On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this as you can see if you do the maths.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

end

The September 2017 Degustabox

Another month and another delivery from foodie subscription service Degustabox*. Unless you are brand new to my blog (in which case, Hi!) you’ll know this is a regular feature. As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am to know what they were like, I’m getting really quite adventurous with my food trying lately so with each month the arrival of this box brings a whole new level of excitement!
Once again kicking off with the drinks selection, this month Degustabox presented me with a bottle of San Miguel Gluten Free (£2 per bottle, or £9 for a six pack). I’m not a beer drinker so haven’t tried this, but it’s essentially a gluten free variety of the ever popular San Miguel. Available for purchase from Tesco for anyone who’s been missing out on a cheeky evening beer.
I’ve become a bit dependent on energy drinks of late, and as much as I love my Red Bull I was pleased to have a healthier variety to try out. Virtue energy water (£1.35 each) costs about the same per can as my current crutch but contains zero calories, no sweeteners and the same amount of caffeine as your average cup of coffee. Once I got over how tart these are I really enjoyed them. The berry flavour was my overall favourite, but if I saw these in my local shop I’d pick these up over a can filled with artificial everything. As an added bonus, for every can sold Virtue will donate 500l clean drinking water.
I’m a serial cereal eater so discovering anything new is always a joy. Cheerios are one of my all time favourites so I was excited by Cheerios Oat Crisp (£2.49) which has whole grain oats mixed in with my favourite loops. It was developed to help lower cholesterol as well as being high in fibre, low in saturated fat and contains beta-glucan from the oat fibre which helps to keep your heart healthy. They don’t have quite the same appeal as a massive bowl of the original, but for a healthy breakfast and for anyone looking to lower their cholesterol through diet rather than medication then I do recommend giving these a go.

I’m not a huge fan of dairy milks on my breakfast and was hugely intrigued to see Dream Ancient Grains (£1.60) included in this month’s box. Ancient grains is made with buckwheat, oat, spelt and linseed. I haven’t tried this yet but I have it ear-marked for porridge and will report back in due course.

Cooking is a re-discovered passion of mine but when pushed for time it’s great to have some short-cuts to creating a quick and easy meal. Latin America Kitchen by Santa Maria is a new line inspired by the many varied flavours of this part of the world.
I haven’t had a chance to cook with these yet but the Caribbean sticky pineapple and chilli sauce (£1.85) is earmarked for a chicken dish ASAP- of course combined with the Aroz Amarillo yellow rice- I don’t yet know what’s special about it, but it certainly sounds fancy! Rice pouches also cost £1.85.
More savoury inclusions in the box, and more that I haven’t yet had a chance to try. Knorr concentrated stock (£2.20) is gluten free and made with real beef extract. This versatile sounding pot can be used to add flavour to meaty dishes such as bolognese or to make a rich stock for soups and stews.
A random but welcome inclusion to the box was Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna- I love tuna and this tin contains 100% pole and line caught steaks. There’s no need to drain making it perfect for a packed lunch addition to a salad- hopefully this tastes amazing enough to justify the £3.49 price tag.
Possibly the most exciting inclusion in the box (and one I don’t have the information for) is the Ramen Noodle kit from Miso Tasty. I love noodle dishes and Bob and I are planning to create something awesome this weekend- watch this space!
Mentos are one of my favourite sweets and this mixed up bag of mints has long been devoured. A resealable pouch (£1.19) perfect for keeping on your desk at work, or for sharing (maybe!)- as the slogan says, who says no to mentos?
A more grown up sweet option next in the form of Green & Black’s velvet edition- this is 70% dark chocolate combined with sweet Madagascan Vanilla, this is rich and smooth and entirely delicious. I had intended to share but it just didn’t happen. £1.99 and entirely worth every penny!
Last but not least a blast from the past- Green’s Egg Custard mix (69p) is the perfect way to create a comfort food classic. Egg custard tarts are a secret pleasure of mine, although it’s been far too long since I last had one. I must add pastry cases to my shopping list for a quick and easy fix!
For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.

On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this as you can see if you do the maths.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

end

Degustabox August 2017

Another month and another delivery from foodie subscription service Degustabox*. Unless you are brand new to my blog (in which case, Hi!) you’ll know this is a regular feature. As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am.

For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.

Kicking off with the drinks selection, this month we have some coconut water with ginger and vodka from Twisted Halo (£1.50) and limited edition summer bottles from Orangina. I haven’t tried the Vodka drink yet, although it does sound tempting even to my coconut water hating self. I kind of feel like it might be a bit of a gimmick tapping in to the coconut water craze, but the flavour combination sounds lovely and it’s chilling in my fridge just waiting for the weekend.
Orangina is of course nothing new but these summer bottles are worth checking out. It reminds me of long, hot summer days- bought bang up to date with it’s trendy nautical stripes! You can pick these up for £1.20 each.
Tapping in to the “back to school” market is JellySqueeze- jelly in a pouch that is ideal for eating on the go and suitable those who are gluten and lactose free, vegan or vegetarian. I won’t be trying this as I have a long-standing aversion to jelly but they seem like a great idea for lunch boxes and picnics (£0.69 each).
These Light Bites popped chips are a diet product that is exclusive to Superdrug and something I’d ignore on the shelf due to it’s branding. However, they are delicious, especially the pesto and sundried tomato flavour and at under 100 calories per pack are great for anyone counting calories (or to eat two bags at once if you are me- all in the name of a fair review). A bit pricey at 99p a bag, but a nice treat.
I love noodles and these packs from Maggi are great. These “fusian” noodles come infused with sauce and veggies and create a light meal or side in only four minutes- a great emergency dinner and super tasty. £1.39 per pack.
I think I’ve mentioned my love of condiments before and Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce (£1.89) is a welcome addition to my cupboard. Delivery more tang than spice I’ve been putting this on literally everything- pizza, pasta, fish, meat…you name it and I’ve tried it!
Helmans mayonnaise needs no introduction or a review but this squeezy bottle is a no fuss, no mess solution to picnics and BBQs and a handy size if you’re not a frequent consumer (£1.69).
When I was growing up Seabrook crisps were a weekend treat- my favourite back then, and still is now the salt & vinegar flavour- so packed full of taste and at £1.00 for a multipack of six (also contains sea salted and cheese & onion) they are a bit of a bargain too.
Saving the best ’til last, I always look forward to the monthly sweet treats in Degustabox! This month we had Curlywurly Squirlies (£1.99) which are bite size Curlywurly bars in a sharing (hah!) format, as well as Cadbury Dairy Milk big taste toffee whole nut (£0.65) which I passed to my Dad- we reviewed the large format of this bar a couple of months ago and it was a hit, so this single serving bar was needless to say, also a winner.

Refreshers sweets were another childhood favourite and they’ve now been reinvented in to a softies format (£1.00). All the fizz you remember but in a soft and chewy sweet instead- I’d say these aren’t quite as fizzy and I still prefer the original but at the same time I happily worked my way through this bag.

Last but not least comes the Black ‘N White PICK UP! bar from Bahlsen (£1.69) which I think I reviewed once before. A delicious bar of white chocolate sandwiched between two chocolate flavour biscuits- these are so good. Seriously. It’s just as well they are individually wrapped because otherwise I’d be tempted to see the entire pack as a serving size.

On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this as you can see if you do the maths.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.