Product review round-up

Here’s a little round-up of some of the food samples i’ve been sent lately, so you know what they’re like when you spot them in the supermarket aisles…

Be Good to Yourself ready meals

Be good to yourself ready mealsSainsbury’s got in touch to ask me to try out their improved range of healthy Be Good To Yourself ready meals on the back of some research that found Shepherds Pie is top of the UK’s list when it comes to comfort food in the chilly winter months.

We didn’t get hold of the Shepherds Pie but we tried:

spinach & ricotta cannelloni: 349 calories
A bit sauce-tastic, and the top looked a little watery, but it was actually pretty tasty and the spinach-filled pasta shells were firm. The tomato sauce underneath was good.

chicken & mushroom pie: 349 calories
Father-in-law was impressed with the size of the portion – a huge mash topping with a cheese crumb with a tasty filling with good meat content and excellent flavour.

cod & salmon fish pie: 363 calories
Mother-in-law really enjoyed this dish and gave it a big thumbs up. The chunks of fish were really substantial and great quality, and again the flavour good and portion size very satisfying.

I’m not hugely into ready meals, but when I was working I loved taking them into the office to heat up for my lunch to make a change from sandwiches.

They’re also great if you are watching your weight and want to have a super controlled day calorie-wise. They can easily make a quick weeknight meal bulked out with lots of veg or a big salad on the side. Just be careful when they come out of the microwave as they’re hotter than the sun.

I was really impressed with the quantity and flavour for so few calories. I was also pretty delighted to see regular ingredients listed on the packaging, and not lots of weird and wonderful processed nasties as you normally expect from ready meals.

All Be Good To Yourself ready meals are 400 calories or less.
Prices range from £2 to £3. 

Kiddylicious smoothie melts

smoothie meltsWhat the company says:  crunchy, bubbly honeycomb pieces that transform to a sweet smoothie juice sensation on the tongue to create a delicious food experience for your child

Available in two flavours: strawberry & banana and passion fruit, banana & mango – and handily count as one of your little one’s five a day.

I got very excited about these little packets. I thought they’d make fabulous lunchbox fillers for Arlo, who I struggle to get fruit into. He’s more of a veg man.

I held my breath when he tried one, then sighed as he spat it out and proclaimed it disgusting. I think the texture threw him to be honest.

Sam liked them, but then he loves fruit. So if your little one is a fruit bat then these could make a nice change for a lunchbox, but I don’t think it’ll be converting the non-fruit eaters.

59p per bag, available in Sainsburys 

Light at Heart Tate & Lyle sugar

Tate & Lyle Light at heart sugar

Tate & Lyle’s new lighter sugar is an all-natural cane sugar and Stevia blend that has twice the sweetness of sugar but with only half the calories.

When adding to drinks, sprinkling on cereal, or baking your favourite desserts you therefore halve what you normally use.

Stevia is a naturally sweet herb that grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil

I left the box by the kettle for the father-in-law to put in his tea – he didn’t notice the difference taste wise, so that’s a good sign.

I was a little more quizzical about how it would perform in baking – the product is billed as stable at cooking temperatures and so is said to work the same way as sugar when you cook with it.

I used it in my weekly batch of banana cake and you really wouldn’t know – it rose beautifully, the sponge was moist as ever, I guess the only thing missing was the treacly taste from the soft brown sugar I normally use.

I think i’ll definitely use it in future for my staple pot of sugar that sits on the side for spooning into hot drinks and sweetening sauces. I’m not convinced i’ll use it much in my baking though as I really like cakes to feel indulgent.

Available nationwide in all major supermarkets

Thanks to everyone involved for sending out the samples to review

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Are you cut out for an allotment?

A bounty of vegWe’ve had our plot for over a year now, so I thought it’d be good to write a round-up of what i’ve learnt from the experience.

There have been highs and lows – getting caught up in a tangle of netting in front of a beer-swilling group of guys on a neighbouring plot was perhaps one of the more humiliating moments.

However harvesting veg you’ve nurtured from seed to table is a pretty amazing feeling.

If you’re thinking about immersing yourself in the world of vegetable growing or you’re just starting out, then get yourself over to read my feature on Tesco Magazine’s website and see if you’ve got what it takes!

It’d be great to see some comments about your experiences on there too 🙂

Posted in allotment | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Another easy dessert: lemon possets

Lemon posset

Simple dessert of lemon posset

I’m all about make-ahead desserts this month, it’s not very on-trend with the usual winter health-kick, but I’ve had a bit of entertaining to do and ramekin-friendly recipes have won the day.

Quite similar to the berry fools, but even simpler. Only three ingredients required – double cream, sugar and lemon juice. It’s incredibly rich so you only need to serve up a tiny amount per portion.

The kids loved it, the grown ups loved it. I breathed a sigh of relief.

You could of course show off and make your own shortbread to serve with it, but I got mine out of a packet as the meal was quite short notice.

Lemon possets
serves 6-8

600 ml double cream
150g caster sugar
4 lemons, juice and some zest for garnish

1. Put the cream and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow to come to the boil, remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice.

2. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes and then pour into small ramekins or espresso cups. Cover with cling film and stick them in the fridge for at least 5 hours or over night.

3. When ready to serve scatter with some lemon zest and serve with a shortbread biscuit or two on the side.

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Banana, sultana and almond loaf

Manky banana alert – why can’t we ever get through the damned things? No matter how green they are when I buy them they ripen in an instant – infuriating. Well only slightly coz it’s always an excuse to bake a cake with them.

I’d put a recipe for Banana and Date loaf from Sian over at Fishfingers For Tea in my must bake folder but never got around to buying any dates. Instead I fished a very old packet of sultanas out of the baking cupboard, and also some remnants of ground almonds.

What I especially like about this recipe is the use of melted butter and dark brown sugar – it results in a moist and treacley sponge that is super delicious eaten when it’s still warm. It’d also be fabulous with a big splodge of custard on it. And if it lasts that long you could freeze slices down and put them in the kids’ lunchboxes.

Banana and sultana loaf

Doesn't look that special, but it smells and tastes DIVINE

Banana, sultana and almond loaf
adapted from Fishfingers for tea recipe

125g butter, melted
150g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
100g sultanas
125g plain flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Mix the melted butter and sugar in a bowl, add the eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate.
  3. Add the mashed bananas and sultanas. Thoroughly mix in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  4. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 1-1 ¼ hours, until it is risen, golden and a sharp knife comes out clean.
  5. Leave in its tin for 10 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack. Slice and serve. Freezes well.
Posted in Baking, Storecupboard cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Win valentine lovetub hamper worth £60

lovetub puds

I’d not seen these desserts before, but lovetubs are a warm, rich, melt-in-your-mouth pudding which can be found in the dessert chiller in selected Sainsbury’s stores. It’s definitely the kind of baltic weather that makes me crave for a lovely hot pud.

Available in both Sticky Toffee Pudding and Chocolate Pudding flavours, lovetub can be microwaved in just 30 seconds, and eaten straight from the tub – deadly! Usually priced at £1.29 so pretty affordable.

And even better you can get your hands on one for free if you’re quick!

Check out the facebook page where you get the chance to get a free 100g pudding from your local Sainsbury’s store. There are 15,000 puddings to giveaway in total before the 7th February.

And as if that’s not enough to get excited about, Feeding Boys readers have the chance to win a ‘feel the love, share the love’ hamper right here – worth £60 – how’s about that for a Valentine’s treat?

lovetub hamper

The hamper includes:

  • Moet Chandon Champagne
  • Hotel Chocolat Chocolates
  • £10 M&S food voucher
  • bear (soft toy)
  • lovetub samples

    ***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. NO MORE ENTRIES PLEASE!***

WIN WIN WIN!

There is one main way to enter and several ways to get bonus entries.  You must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted.

***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. NO MORE ENTRIES PLEASE!***

1. Mandatory. Leave a comment below telling me what your favourite hot pudding is

2. For a second chance to win tweet a link to this giveaway as follows: Win lovetub valentine hamper worth £60 @cookingkt http://wp.me/pU5T8-1aA #win #prize
Then leave a second comment saying you’ve done so telling me your Twitter ID.

3. Follow me @cookingkt on Twitter and comment to tell me you have done so.

4. You can get another bonus entry by liking the Feeding Boys and a Firefighter page on Facebook too, not forgetting to head back here and comment to tell me you have done so.

5. For a cheeky fifth entry add Feeding Boys and a Firefighter to your Google reader and then come straight back here to leave a comment to tell me you’ve done so.

Good Luck!

***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. NO MORE ENTRIES PLEASE!***

GIVEAWAY RULES

This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a postal address in the UK.  The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced in a subsequent post.

I am running this competition on behalf of lovetub who will be sending the prizes out to the lucky winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Closing date:  10pm Sunday 12th February 2012
***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. NO MORE ENTRIES PLEASE!***
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January competition winners

Just to let you know the lucky winners of my January competitions are:

A selection of unearthed® dips and meat platters

Helena Hewett

Aldo Zilli’s Fresh & Green

Maxine Grant
Pippa Ainsworth

As ever, thanks to everyone who took the time to enter and congratulations to the winners.

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Leek, chickpea and lemon soup

Leek, chickpea, lemon soup

A sunshiney bowl of soup for winter

My home-made soup campaign continues, this one is particularly fragrant with leeks and lemon zest filling the kitchen with fresh aromas.

I made it for my marvellous in-laws who are staying for a few weeks to help me with the boys while Matthew is away for work. They deserve a medal, but soup will have to do!

The chickpeas are filling without being stodgy, and the lemon really gives it an upbeat vibe that banishes those winter doldrums.

Sam wasn’t too keen on eating it, purely because of how it looked, but Arlo was very happy to dunk his bread in the bowl repeatedly.

Leek, chickpea and lemon soup
serves 4

30g butter
pinch saffron
3 leeks, chopped
1 lemon, zest only
1 large carrot, grated
handful chopped flat-leaf parsely
1 litre vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

1. Melt the butter with the saffron threads, then add the leeks and sweat until soft. Stir in the lemon zest, carrot and parsley and allow to cook for a minute or two, then add the stock and chickpeas.

2. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 15 mins.

Posted in Lunches, One pot suppers, Soup, Speedy suppers, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments