Aldi Winter Warmers

It is no secret I enjoy drinking a good wine. When Aldi got in touch asking if I’d like to try a bottle from their winter warmers range, I immediately agreed, after all, it’s wine and if I like it I’ll be going back to buy more. So what was the verdict?

Aldi Winter Warmers

Aldi’s new winter warmers range has a fine selection of wine and spirits. I was sent a bottle of white and red to try – and with both coming in at very reasonable prices, I wanted to see how they compared to wines we might buy closer to home around the same price.

I was sent the Vignobles Roussellet Pinot Noir (price £4.39) which is described as a delightful, elegant red with soft smooth flavours of rich red fruits and lush berries. With pinot noir grapes from across france, this wine is perfect with roast lamb.

Now, being a vegetarian I’m not about to try it with lamb, however, I can say this is easily one of the best red wines I’ve drunk in a long time. So much so, that when I went back to buy more I made sure I stocked up on this one for Christmas – it’s divine. You know how sometimes red wine has a certain taste, a heavier one? This feels light and fruity, without being too sweet. I loved it!

I was also sent The Exquisite Collection Gavi (price £5.49) which is produced from the cortese grapes grown around the town of Gavi in the Piemonte wine region. The Exquisite Collection Gavi is refreshing and has aromatic tangy lemon, weighty fruit and a subtle waxy nuttiness. This Italian white wine works well with antipasti, creamy pasta sauces or risotto. It’s a good wine too!

Both wines are available in-store at Aldi now in their Winter Warmers range – although if you’re anywhere near the Coulsdon branch then if there’s a shortage of these two wines, I’m sorry, I got there first…

We were sent the wines for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own!

belVita Soft Bakes

If you happen to work with me, you may think I’ve taken out shares in belVita, as I’m always well stocked up on their breakfast biscuits. The latest addition to their range is the belVita Soft Bakes – I was sent a box of each to try.

belVita Soft Bakes varieties

belVita Soft Bakes are now available in this country, in three varieties; chocolate, red berries and golden grain. So what’s different about these?

My breakfast involves a portion of pineapple and an apple, and I almost always follow this with a pack of belVita Honey and Nuts biscuits – the regular ones where you get four small biscuits – these keep me full until it’s time for my mid-morning snack.

I was given the chance to try the belVita Soft Bakes, and was immediately surprised at how it was just the one biscuit. Having said that, it kept me just as full as the regular smaller biscuits, so I was curious how they compared dietary-wise.

One belVita Soft Bakes biscuit comes in per 100g as much less than the thinner biscuits – 380 calories vs 455.  I found that I only needed one biscuit to stay full until lunch, which is good – I tend to snack easily, especially if I have something to hand. I need to stay full so I don’t want to reach into my work drawers.

belVita Soft Bakes Red Berries

Flavour-wise I liked the Red Berries the best – really soft and squishy with cranberries. The Golden Grain biscuits were plain, but still good. There is also a chocolate chips variety which I wasn’t sent which I’ll be looking out for in the shops! With each pack of biscuits in individually wrapped portions, so I’m not tempted to have more than one each day.

belVita Soft Bakes are made with five wholegrains and are rich in cereals. They offer a great source of fibre, containing vitamins B6, magnesium and iron. I like them as they have slow release carbohydrates which help keep me full.

belVita Soft Bakes have been touring around the UK – Shaun picked up some free samples at Victoria Station, and I’m holding out hope for a visit at Clapham Junction too!

belVita Soft Bakes portions

belVita Breakfast Soft Bakes Red Berries and Golden Grain are available in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons & Tesco at the recommended retail price is £2.79. belVita Breakfast Soft Bakes Choc Chip are available exclusively at Tesco until January 2016.

I was sent the belVita Soft Bakes for the purpose of review – all opinions are my own.

Nothing But, lots of low calorie snacks!

Nothing But are a new range of snacks, with freeze-dried fruit and vegetables. We were sent a selection to try.

Nothing But are a new range of snacks to me but sound ideal (and very low calorie). Being someone who often sits at my desk wanting to eat (rather than needing to eat), reviewing these sounded a good plan. So I enthusiastically accepted their very kind offer!

nothing but snacks

A day later my samples arrived – packets of Pea & Sweetcorn, Mange Tout & Red Pepper, Strawberry and Banana and Apple & Fig. They didn’t have stock of the Pineapple & Grape but I’m on the lookout for a packet.

So what exactly are Nothing But snacks? They’re freeze-dried fruits and vegetables with nothing added, just the water taken away. They’re very low-calorie – and they’re healthy – counting towards your five a day (at just one portion). They’re small enough to fit in your bag, but the biggie for me, how do they taste?

I’m a vegetable kind of girl, so started with Mange Tout & Red Pepper (26 calories per pack). They’re interesting – the mange tout had a strange texture having been freeze-dried, of the two I definitely preferred the red pepper. They were kind of crunchy, without leaving crumbs – tasty too!

Nothing But Mange Tout and Red Pepper

Apple & Fig (45 calories per pack) were my second choice – as I do like a lot of dried fruit, so would freeze-dried work too? Actually, these were delicious! I wanted more in the pack, and was scrabbling for crumbs when they finished – really tasty and the two flavours work well together. I have bought freeze-dried apple in the past, and this was exactly as you’d expect – there isn’t much that changes!

Nothing But Apple and Fig

Strawberry & Banana (34 calories per pack) were next. I’ll often buy dried banana in snacks, and have tried dried strawberries too, so I thought I knew what to expect, but again, delicious! The freeze drying made the fruit feel a little more crumbly – definitely one I’d buy again, and possibly even as an alternative to dried bananas.

Nothing But banana and strawberry

Finally, I saved what I thought would be the best until last; Pea & Sweetcorn (76 calories per pack). It did not disappoint. Dried peas and dried sweetcorn – and of the four varieties I tried, you get the most in these packs. OH they were good. The sweetcorn wasn’t too dry either, as I wasn’t sure whether they might end up that way – so was pleased with that. The peas were as you’d expect, and having peas and sweetcorn together is the kind of thing you’d never go wrong with.

Nothing But Pea and Sweetcorn

So my overall view? I would definitely buy these Nothing But snacks again. Pea & Sweetcorn for the quantity you get, and Strawberry & Banana as a healthier alternative to what’s on offer in other places.

With my current trying-to-be-healthy regime, the Nothing But snacks fit in perfectly – with each bag being low-calorie.

Their website is over here. You can find the snacks for sale at Holland & Barrett, and their website has more information – – as well as a handy snack finder to see if you have a local stockist.

I was sent a selection of the Nothing But snacks for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own. 


I Heart Wines – Pinot Grigio

One day I received an email offering me the chance to review from the I Heart Wines range, and being a wine-loving kind I was not about to turn it down – so enthusiastically accepted! The only downside was finding time to drink it, but drink it we did, and here’s our thoughts.

I Heart Wines Pinot Grigio

I Heart Wines are a range of wines which are fruit-driven and great quality. We were sent the Pinot Grigio to try. I was saving it for our Wedding anniversary back in June, however on the day I had a funeral, so all celebrations were postponed. The following day I had my school reunion, so again, postponed. The following weekend we finally got to open the bottle, sit outside and relax, celebrate 12 years of marriage and chat, and it was a wonderful summer night.

I Heart Wines lid

My first thoughts, I liked the bottle and label. They get the type of wine across well, and there are suggestions of foods to eat with it which was helpful. We had already eaten so didn’t match our food, and instead just had it once H had gone to bed, I do always find it helpful with meal suggestions though as I don’t have the time to look it up. I Heart Wines have nice clear packaging, and I’m a sucker for the little details like the love heart on the cap.

The wine itself was a very light and crisp Pinot Grigio with hints of lemon, lime and peach, and suited our evening well. The label suggests seafood or chicken, but being vegetarian I settled with some plain crisps which were the perfect snack to drink alongside a glass. It dates back to 2013 and originates in Hungary, with an alcohol level of 11.5%.

I heart Wine Pinot Grigio label

I Heart Wines are available in many different varieties to suit all tastes, all packaged with their striking detail – you’d know one of their bottles when you see it. You can buy the wines in all good supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons. I’ve spotted Nisa stock them too, so I’ll be stocking up in our local store next time I’m there!

Not sure which wine to buy? Well never fear, as there are now miniature bottles available for six of the I Heart Wines summer range too – at 187ml that’s a nice size if you fancy trying a bit of each one. I’m looking out for the Zinfandel Rose myself – although I think I may just go for the bigger bottle!

As I Heart Wines say :

We love wine. We love everything about wine.
We love that there is always something new to try.
It might be a grape variety, a style, a country or even an unusual food match.
This range is a collection of some of our favourite wines.
All you have to do is follow your heart and pour yourself a glass

We were sent a bottle of I Heart Wines Pinot Grigio for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. 

New Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Range, May 2015

Today we were invited to the Good Housekeeping Institute in Central London for a taste of some of the dishes from the new Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, which will be in store in the next couple of weeks.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range from Tesco are set to launch some new dishes very soon – and we got a chance to try some today. One was a Mushroom Stroganoff dish, which I skipped – I’ve never been a fan of mushrooms. The other three dishes got a thumbs up from us though. First up was the spicy beanburger. I’ve always been a bit partial to them, and these did not disappoint. There are plenty of vegetables inside and to add the spice there’s some jalapenos, fresh coriander and smoky chipotle chile, not that you’d notice – and H definitely didn’t! They’re well disguised, so if you have a fussy eater who isn’t keen on spicy food, you may well get away with it. We enjoyed these so much we may have had many of them….

Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Bean Burger

Next up which was our joint favourite was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable and Cheese crispbakes. Think a bit like an escalope, but full of vegetables without the gushing garlic sauce – and gruyere cheese instead. H claimed she didn’t like gruyere the last time we had it, but scoffed the crispbake in record time without noticing. She really liked this one too, and didn’t spot there were bits of mushroom in there which was good – anything which hides food your child might turn their nose up at is a good thing in my world!

Tesco Vegetarian Cheese Crispbakes

The final dish I tried was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable Tikka Masala & Rice. H didn’t like this as she found it too spicy (to that I say : hurrah – more for me!) whereas I really enjoyed it. It had a good sauce, not too drippy and just the right level of spiciness. The dish comes with each part separate, so you can serve them as you wish. This is the kind of dish I’d pick up from a Tesco Metro when I fancy a takeaway – more often than not there are very few vegetarian options available, so I’ll definitely be buying this one.

One that caught my eye which I haven’t tried yet is the Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne – I love the idea of that combination. At the end we were given a goody bag, and inside was one of these so I’ll be reporting back.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

There are ten new dishes in all in the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, and a wide variety. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years now, and am happy to see that there’s a good selection available to suit all tastes, and even better they’re only £2.30 in-store.

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range will be in-store and online in the next two weeks – keep an eye out! The dishes we tried today all get the thumbs up – especially the bean burgers from H!

We were invited to try out the food, and received a goody bag for attending. All opinions are our own.

Great Fosters – Afternoon Tea and a Wander

Recently it was my birthday, and to celebrate, Shaun and I took the day off work. He did lots of research and booked us in for Afternoon Tea at Great Fosters, a gorgeous big house near Egham and Virginia Water.

Great Fosters

Great Fosters was my birthday destination this year – I decided I wanted Afternoon Tea, and Shaun decided where we would go – but things didn’t go quite to plan. We were about a minute from the venue and my phone went – H had fallen over at school and bumped her head, with a golf ball sized bump on it which they were applying a cold pack to – and could we come and pick her up please?

So we had to turn around. We went somewhere else locally (and eventually ended up in A&E – poor H!), but as we were so close when we got the call, I popped into the venue to tell them we couldn’t make it, and managed to reschedule so we all went two days later.

Great Fosters

You turn up the drive into the car park, entering the grounds and straight in front of you is the building – a grade 1 listed building at that – and oh, how gorgeous. To enter the house is a door which you need to duck down to get through – not ideal for tall people! Once inside the smell of burning log fires greeted us.

We were early for our Afternoon Tea, so had a wander around the grounds – pathways and streams, beautiful topiary, plants and flowers. Ducks, swans and even little baby chicks – they were all there. I had the worst shoes imaginable for walking around the grounds – but did it. H ran, ran, ran more while I became the helicopter parent “watch out for those raised slabs!” I’d call, as I ended up being the one who tripped over. Silly me.

Great Fosters Afternoon Tea

And then – the Afternoon Tea. Great Fosters treated us amazingly – I felt so special! The most delicious sandwiches, followed by warm scones, cream cakes, more cream cakes and even more cream cakes. We took a box home. We were then told our portion size was for two people – not three!! Delicious though, with divine Jing teas to accompany them – I had Blackcurrant and Hibiscus, followed by a pot of Rooibos.

Great Fosters Flowers

Afterwards, completely stuffed we wandered around the grounds again, this time H and Shaun went all the way to the auditorium at the end of the grounds – with the M25 just the other side! There are beehives and pigs too – we went to visit them, H was super impressed and chatted away to them for a bit.

Great Fosters

Great Fosters website is here. Our Afternoon Tea came in at around £56 which I think is a bargain considering what you get.

souper booster

Souper Booster from the New Covent Garden Soup Co

We love our soups in this house – and while they always seem to fall into the very convenient vegetable stock to pad out the taste a bit, I do like to try and jazz it up. When a friend pointed out that the New Covent Garden Soup Co had an offer for their new Souper Booster I had to give it a go.

souper booster

Souper Booster tubes are available in four flavours. Given H’s current dislike of anything spicy (generally when it’s pointed out to her), I opted for the ‘Wild Garlic and Herbs’ tubes – the Facebook deal was to get a free tube. However, I could see that the New Covent Garden Soup Co give you free postage when you buy two tubes – so I added another – may as well spend £2 and get two tubes, rather than £2 and get one! The deal worked, and my tubes arrived the following week. (the deal has now expired)

First observations – you need to put the best part of half of the Souper Booster tube into the soup. This isn’t a ‘delicate squeeze and it’s done’ – it’s a proper blob it on top to really make the flavour.

There is a soup recipe on the tube, but I used our Morphy Richards Soup Maker – this may make a difference with the overall volume of water used vs flavour – I would say definitely use less water in the soup maker (fill it to the minimum rather than higher).

souper booster

For my soup it was my Typical Tuesday recipe – anything left in the cupboard that needs using, as our food delivery is tomorrow – so today it was half a butternut squash, five carrots, a red pepper, some basil leaves and finally the Souper Booster on the top. I set the soup to be smooth and left the machine to work its magic.

The Souper Booster verdict? It’s a nice subtle garlic taste to it – not too overbearing, and almost sweet smelling too. It has a definite italian herbs aroma to it as well – it has definitely made the soup smell and taste more interesting.

The kitchen smells pretty good too! We served it with sliced up ciabatta rolls, and it was a nice filling tea.

souper booster

You can buy The Covent Garden Soup Co’s Souper Boosters direct from their website – I think I’ll be heading back to try the moroccan spice tube – yum!

Celebrate With Cake!

I don’t celebrate birthdays very well. However, there is one part of birthdays that I do manage to do well – and that usually involves cake. If there is cake on offer I’ll eat it – though I shouldn’t go too crazy with my diabetes history. It isn’t my birthday just yet, but last week a day passed by in its own little way, marked with some delightful cakes from Mr Kipling – Mum Friendly turned four.

better with cake

So we had a little celebration. Thanks to BritMums we were sent three different kinds of Mr Kipling’s cakes – French Fancies, Cherry Bakewells and Viennese Whirls – so I loaded up the cake stand and we helped ourselves after our main meal.

better with cake

Yum! French Fancies always bring back memories for me, I remember eating them when I was little, just like H does now. “Mummy, can I have another cake?” she asked, as she eyed up the lemon variety… oh, and let’s not mention her licking the top of every single Cherry Bakewell. I have no idea why – she said there were crumbs.

better with cake

So we chose a couple of the cakes each, so as not to go overboard in one evening (there are plenty of days after school we can eat the rest) and settled down to eat them.

better with cake

The following day we sat outside in the sun, giant glasses of water with a cake to accompany it. This isn’t just one birthday party, it’s several celebrations until the cakes run out! Oh yes.

better with cake

Easter was a bit of a washout for us in the end – I got ill, Shaun got it and finally H got it – so the cakes were perfect for the Mum Friendly birthday party – as we could all eat again – and we made the most of it.

better with cake

What’s even better is I popped them in the fridge, so even a week later I’m helping myself to a sneaky cake – they keep well!

So yes, Happy Birthday Mum Friendly, four years old. We had a little party with deliciously marvellous cakes!

better with cake

This post is an entry for #betterwithcake Linky Challenge, sponsored by Mr Kipling. Learn more at

Takeaway Dilemma – Food Hygiene

Most Fridays, after a busy and tiring week at work and school we can’t be bothered to cook. This has led us to head down the murky road into takeaways…

One week we had decided we wanted a chinese meal, so I started to research my local options. There’s plenty of choice, and going on the reviews at Just Eat and Hungry House, everything seemed pretty good with lots of glowing reviews.

But then I decided to have a search around at other ratings – food hygiene ones. Each food establishment is marked out of five, five being a spotless clean place, whereas 1 or 2 needs a lot of work (and I’d definitely avoid anywhere rated with a 0!). Which got me thinking – it’s all well and good ordering food via the aforementioned places, but food hygiene doesn’t come into it. What exactly was I ordering? How clean are the places I’ve been ordering from? And how often does the rating change?

The results were grim. Almost every single takeaway closest to us has a food hygene rating of 1. That’s not good at all. I immediately went off the idea of ordering from them, despite the good reviews.

food hygiene rating 1

A few came in with a 3. I can live with that, after all, it is described as satisfactory, but I felt like if I was going to buy in food, I wanted the best!

food hygiene rating 3

So I decided to go for a minimum rating of  4.  But nothing existed locally – and that was quite a surprise.

I tried a bit further out, and eventually one came up in Morden – not too far up the road, but still, not that close either. Plus the food arrived late and it was cold.

But regardless of this, it has got me thinking. Websites where you can order food don’t go into hygiene. Maybe they should? Maybe people who occasionally think too much like me would appreciate this information to hand.

food hygiene rating 5

Have you ever checked the hygiene rating before ordering a takeaway? I have to say, I was surprised with the results, and it’s definitely made me think about what I’m eating. If anything, it’s made me think about buying meals from supermarkets rather than put my business their way, if we really want someone else to do the food prep for us (and thankfully we have a Cook store in Banstead which isn’t too far out of the way.

You can search here at the Food Standards Agency website. It makes interesting reading, anyway.

Alphabites – Create Your Own Monsterbet!

We’re big fans in this house of Bear’s Alphabites cereal, they’re regularly bought as H’s breakfast option – having letters in her cereal as well as it being healthy is ideal for us! Alphabites have got a great goody or four in packs at the moment – read on to find out about the Monsterbet – and why not try making one too!


Monsterbet? What’s that then? You’re probably wondering. Or you may have worked it out – a different monster with a letter from the alphabet making up his name is the easy answer – and you can find four monsterbet magnets inside all packs of Bear’s Alphabites cereal at the moment.

bears monsterbet magnets

Here’s the advert – we spotted it on tv tonight!

We were really happy to get a box of both types of Alphabites cereals, as well as some crafty bits to make our own monsterbet. H being as particular as she is, decided her monster would begin with H – and was called Herrumph – except I asked her to spell it, so we now have Hiuimghi which is pronounced the same way (never argue with a five year old). We had lots of fun making the monster – and this isn’t just a bloggers thing – you can do it too – head over here to the Monsterbet page – two winners are announced every month, and there’s lots of goodies to try to win!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Alphabites cereals have been reviewed by us in the past – over here – I love the fact they’re a healthy breakfast option and aren’t overloaded with sugar. The Bear site says: “Alphabites are a delicious healthy breakfast cereal with no refined sugar, salt, or any other nonsense. Grrr. Instead of refined sugars, we use coconut blossom nectar which contains twice the calcium of milk, and has a naturally low GI.”

Alphabites Monsterbet

Add to that the Monsterbet magnets (and each monster also has a little speech bubble type magnet that goes with it which is pretty cute), and Bear have definitely put the fun back into breakfast again – with added spelling and plenty of creativity if you choose! Of course, there’s plenty of Monster facts on the back of each pack as well!

Alphabites can be found in all good stores, including Waitrose, Ocado, Wholefoods, Holland and Barrett, Planet Organic and many more.

Bear Alphabites

We were sent two boxes of Bear Alphabites and some crafty bits, as well as the Monster poster for our Monsterbet entry – all opinions are our own!