Nut Butter and Banana Protein Smoothie

Food and Lifestyle blog

Living a busy lifestyle and trying to balance healthy eating, fitness, socialising and family time can be tricky. Not to mention work and the commute; things can get a little bit hectic.

This is why I sometimes use protein powder as a supplement in my diet, to make sure I am getting the right balance of protein, vegetables, carbs, complex carbs and fish. I’m no nutritionist, but I thought I’d use this post to tell you more about whey and why I sometimes use it in my diet.

What is whey protein?

For those that don’t know, whey protein is a by-product of cheese production, it’s effectively the watery substance that’s removed when milk is coagulated in order to produce cheese. Otherwise wasted, whey, which begins its life in liquid form, is often dried out and turned into powder for use as a protein supplement.

Why use a protein supplement?

When you exercise, your body needs protein in order to build muscle and strength and help your body repair itself. Eating protein-rich foods such as lean meat and fish, nuts, free-range eggs and greens like spinach and kale are the best way to do this, however, I find that after exercise a protein smoothie is a great way to satisfy my hunger and nourish my body post-workout.

If I am ever in a rush in a morning, I find a quick protein oat smoothie is a brilliant on-the-go breakfast which is easy for me to drink on my commute to the office. The carbs from the oats give me the energy to burn throughout the morning and the protein keeps the hunger pangs at bay until lunchtime. Win-win.

The Good Stuff Organic Whey Protein

So when Alexandra from The Good Stuff got in touch to see if I wanted to try their 100% Organic Whey Protein I was more than up for giving it a go.

The Good Stuff came about last year when Alexandra and her husband started doing triathlons and their personal trainer said they’d benefit from increasing their protein intake. Whey protein seemed like the answer, so they set about looking for one. Finding a whey that wasn’t full of nasties and came from happy, healthy cows proved impossible, so they decided to do something about it.
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In June 2016 they founded The Good Stuff. Their whey is 100% organic and is fully traceable from grass-fed cows who roam freely in their fields. It contains absolutely NOTHING ELSE. Which is a lot more than you can say for most other protein brands on the market.
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As their protein is unflavoured, the challenge is to flavour it yourself, which is great because you know exactly what’s in it. I can honestly say this is the nicest, creamiest, cleanest tasting whey protein I’ve ever tried. It’s so light and fluffy and lends itself so well to being whizzed-up alongside other natural ingredients into a silky smooth milkshake-like consistency.

I came up with this recipe using my Nutri-Bullet, but any regular blender will achieve the same results. There are also two variations depending on what you need / fancy…

*SO MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL DOWN FOR THE CHOCOLATE VERSION (it’s still healthy) and the BREAKFAST VERSION* you’re welcome.

Recipe: Nut Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie

What you need:

  • 400ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 small banana (for best results, use a ripe banana that you’ve already chopped up and frozen. This helps make the smoothie nice and cold!)
  • 1 tbsp. nut butter (I use Whole Earth CRUNCHY Organic peanut butter)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 scoop The Good Stuff Organic Whey Protein powder

What to do:

Add all ingredients into your Nutri-Bullet or blender. Whizz up until light, creamy and frothy. Pour into your favourite shaker and enjoy!

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Variation 1: with a Chocolatey hit (great as an extra treat)

Follow the recipe above, but add a tbsp. of cacao or cocoa powder for a choco-hit.

Variation 2: with oats (great breakfast smoothie)

Follow the recipe above, but add 1-2 scoops of oats. If you are using a Nutri-Bullet or similar, you can add regular rolled oats straight from the packet and they will smooth out into a fine consistency.

If using a blender, try instant oats instead which you get by from My Protein.

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Let us know if you give them a go: @sophiesscran and @thegoodstufforg on Twitter!

Ten Acre snacks.

I really love crisps. They are my ultimate favourite snack, ever. Did anyone read this recent article in the Guardian, about the potential fall of crisps due to the rise and shine of posh popcorn? Well I did. And it made me a little sad. I for one don’t think Brits will ever fall out of love with crisps. And I don’t think they will every be fully replaced by ‘poshcorn’ either.

Which is exactly why, when a company called Ten Acre snacks (who specialise in both varieties of snack) contacted me I was excited to taste them, and see just how a brand can target both crisp lovers and popcorn addicts simultaneously.

Surely one product would be stronger than the other? Surely most flavours would be savoury, thus making them not so appealing to all the sweet-toothed Tessies out there?

I simply had to investigate…

A Manchester based company with a ‘free from’ attitude

Brought to us by Yumsh Snacks who say they make snacks that everyone can enjoy, and when they say everyone, they mean everyone. Pioneering a concept they call ‘free-from plus’ their snacks boast an impressive list of things they are free from:

Gluten, dairy and MSG. Plus, they are vegan, halal and kosher.

So, if that’s what they are free from, the what are they full of? First of all they are British. All of their potatoes, flavourings and packaging are sourced from the UK. And they are made in small batches in the UK too, which I think is very impressive.

I was very generously sent their full range of 10 flavours of hand-cooked crisps, and seven flavours of hand-picked popcorn. Here’s my summary of their stand-out flavours (the full list of flavours is at the bottom of this post).

Crisp taste-testing

The Secret Of Mr Salt – Ready Salted Crisps

I know what you’re thinking. Why is she starting with the boring flavour? Well, my friend. These are not boring. They were the first packet I sampled and they were delicious. It was mainly the texture that got me (which is applicable to all other flavours I sampled).

They have the most delicious crunch – but aren’t too hard like some other hand-cooked crisps out there. Lightly salted but enough so that the seasoning can cut through a decent scoop of plain hummus (which I enjoyed alongside the packet). A fine bag of crisps indeed.

When the Pepper Crack’d – Black Pepper and Sea Salt Crisps

As above, but with lashing of freshly ground black pepper. Which gives them a great little kick. Also sensational alongside a good pot of hummus for dipping.

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beautiful Bombay spices

When Bombay Got Spicy – Bombay Spice Flavour Crisps

I love Bombay mix, and have honestly never come across a bag of crisps this flavour before. They were delicious, warming, spicy and a great balance of flavours that really did remind me of a handful of Bombay mix. These would be great by the bowlful when you have friends over as something a little different and unexpected.

Pastrami In The Rye – Pastrami Flavour Hand Cooked Crisps

These little beauties were peppery and salty and meaty, all with the same great texture and crunch. Again, another well executed and innovative flavour. Making Walker’s weird and wonderful range look even more horrendous!

 

The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion – Cheese and Onion Flavour Crisps

Cheese and onion are my favourite flavour crisps, and I have to admit I like the Walker’s variety. Other attempts at cheese and onion just seem to take it too far. Kettle Chips’ mature cheddar and red onion are too intense: too cheesy, and too onion-y. These ones however don’t try to be overly fancy. They are just cheese and onion, very well done.

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delicious crisps with a crispy crunch (that doesn’t break your teeth)

Popcorn taste-testing

Sweet and Salty 

I’m starting with this one, as in our house, we consider ourselves connoisseurs of sweet and salty popcorn varieties. I know that’s not a thing, but trust me – it should be. We have tried alllllllll the brands. And we have our favourite. Here’s how this one holds up: The balance between sweet and salty is good. The sweet pieces are in the form of crystallised chunks that have a light crunch to them. And the rest are dusted with a light salty powder.

So they haven’t quite replaced my favourite brand yet, but their other inventive flavours more than make up for it…

Wasabi 

Well, this flavour is amazing. The best wasabi flavoured product I have tested to date (apart from the real thing). Hot, spicy, gets up your nose a little bit like English mustard. Again, this flavour features the light, crunchy, crystallised kernels which had an almost sweetness to them. Mindbogglingly full of flavour. Nailed it.

Cappuccino

I took one look at this flavour in the extensive collection and thought ‘no’. Just no. Cappuccino flavour? That will be awful, I said. There’s no way that one will work, I said. So I left it until last. Boy, on boy, was I wrong. It was my second favourite after the wasabi and completely different. Much sweeter than I had imagined, with a subtle coffee flavour that added a welcomed bitterness. Delicious and very clever indeed. Hats off, chef.

Overall, I really enjoyed this taste test

The fact that these products are made self-contained here in the UK is great – it’s nice to see a company really embracing what we have here instead of importing bits and bobs from elsewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the crisps and the popcorn, but slightly more so the crisps as they are pretty much my Achilles heel. Their flavours are inventive, well executed and their branding is cute and honest. Packaging lovely. I am not surprised they have won awards. They are a really great product, and there is something for everyone.

You can read more about Ten Acre snacks on their fun and cute website.

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All available flavours:

  1. The Secret Of Mr Salt – Ready Salted Crisps
  2. When the Pepper Crack’d – Black Pepper and Sea Salt Crisps
  3. When Bombay Got Spicy – Bombay Spice Flavour Crisps
  4. Pastrami In The Rye – Pastrami Flavour Hand Cooked Crisps
  5. How Chicken Soup Saved The Day – Chicken Soup Flavour Crisps
  6. When the Chilli got Sweet – Sweet Chilli Flavour Crisps
  7. The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion – Cheese and Onion Flavour Crisps
  8. The Amazing Adventures of Salt and Vinegar – Salt and Vinegar Flavour Crisps
  9. When Hickory Got BBQ’d – Hickory BBQ Flavour Crisps
  10. The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends -Sweet & Sour Flavour Crisps
  11. Cousin Maisie’s Fennel and Lemon Popcorn – Fennel and Lemon Flavour
  12. Ambrose Popperley’s Wasabi Popcorn – Wasabi Flavour
  13. Aunty Winifred’s Sweet and Salty Popcorn – Sweet and Salty Flavour
  14. Captain Theodore’s Lime and Sea Salt Popcorn – Lime and Salt Flavour
  15. Cornelius Popperley’s Sour Cream and Chive Popcorn – Sour Cream and Chive Flavour
  16. Lucia Popperley’s Cappuccino Popcorn- Cappuccino Flavour
  17. Cousin Penelope’s Strawberry & Cream Popcorn – Strawberry & Cream Flavour

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Review: new PERK!ER Bars

In theme with my healthy approach to eating and lifestyle, I decided to review these lush new snack bars from PERK!ER.

Packed full of 100% plant-based, natural ingredients such as goji berries, chia seeds, cashew nuts and cacao I thought I would give them a go as part of my daily scoffing and snacking routine. Here’s how I got on…

I was sent the full range of 4 flavours;

  • Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Bar
  • Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bar
  • Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar
  • Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar Enhanced with Sprouted Buckwheat

and I decided that the best way to try them was either as part of my breakfast, mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack game (which I must admit, is already pretty strong!)

As I commute to work for approximately 45 minutes in the car each morning, my breakfast needs to be quick, nutritious, tasty and easy. My favourites are porridge oats with either chia seeds and honey, goji berries and honey or linseeds and, you guessed it, honey. I just love the stuff! Another common breakfast I turn to (particularly if I’m in a rush, or literally need to eat on-the-go) is an oat protein shake with instant oats and a scoop of flavoured whey protein.

On the day I opt for an oat protein shake – I am always full up until lunch time as the early morning dose of protein really does help keep you fuller for longer. Teamed with the slow-release carbs from the oats, it is a match made in heaven if you need to power through your morning and not be distracted by the need to nibble. However, drinking your breakfast and not eating it can leave you feeling a little hard done by – so I substituted a few oats for a Perkier breakfast bar on the commute to work, and it worked a treat. I opted for the  Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed and Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bars when doing this and they really balanced well. It was so nice to have something equally as good for me and that tasted fantastic. They also don’t leave you on a sugar high at all like many other breakfast bars do!

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

Next up was replacing my mid-afternoon snack. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know my usual suspects for my afternoon snack are grapes, almonds, sliced plum with almond butter, a rice cake with either almond butter or low fat hummus on top or a small avocado scooped straight out of its skin. Mmmm. Or, if I am totally disorganised and craving sugar – it’s a quick trip to the vending machine for a Twix or a Cadbury’s Snack Bar (you know, the shortbread biscuits ones? Yep. #guiltypleasure.

But these sugary snacks aren’t exactly sustainable. They perk you up momentarily but soon comes the sugar dump – not what I need on the long(ish) drive home so I try to stick to what will give me sustained energy. The Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar was my absolute favourite for an afternoon snack. The cacao satisfies the choco-craving whilst still being free of sugar and instead packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. The cashews give a perfect balance of crunch and nuttiness that afternoon snacking is made for! Win-win.

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

The Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar with Sprouted buckwheat was also really delicious. All the bars seem to have a nice mix of texture, chew, crunch and natural sweetness that are balanced really well.

Although the Perkier bars were sent to me on a promotional basis, I would genuinely recommend them to anyone who is looking to enhance their breakfast or to slay their afternoon-snack game with something really satisfying, nutritional and enjoyable (without the hip-hugging calories of chocolate!)

You can buy Perkier bars from Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco, Ocado, Amazon and Wholefoods Market stores nationwide. They start from 75p per bar or £1.90 for multi-packs so seem good value for money too!

Follow Perkier Foods on Twitter @Perkierfoods and Facebook: PerkierFoods. <3

Meet the Makers, Selfridges Food Hall

Cheshire Food Blog
Canapé plates being prepared by Selfridge’s Food Hall Chefs

Last month I got to go to a great event at Selfridges Food Hall in the Trafford Centre, ‘Meet the Makers’. Events at the Trafford Centre (Manchester’s largest indoor shopping mall) are usually pretty epic; like the time we got to Dine our way around the Dome… man, that was fun. This time, we were focussed on Selfridge’s and Selfridge’s only, and boy does this place have an eclectic mix of local, artisan and bigger more well known brands – all showcasing their individual offerings.

The event was an opportunity for brands both big and small to show off their products to a load of hungry food and drink lovers. Hopefully it will be a regular event, rotating the suppliers each time to give them all a chance to shine!

I went along with my sister, Hannah; and as we arrived we were taken straight over to meet the lovely Sarah, founder of Hey Little Cupcake. She was manning her stall and poised, ready to teach us how to hand-ice the perfect cookie monster Cupcake. We each had a go at making our own. As if that wasn’t fun enough on its own, we also got to take a “Cupcake Selfie” which was later printed on a Cupcake complete with Violet sparkly icing underneath. One for each of us to take home. Off we went to sample further delights whilst our cupcake selfie was prepared…

Cheshire Food Blog
Hey Little Cupcake – making Cookie Monster Cookies

Next up was wine tasting, and the cupcake making certainly got us ready for a little tipple. It was off to The Wine Shop where the very knowledgeable, Carl, gave us a great talk about sparking wine. The talk was focused on the key differences between the ever popular and ‘wine of the moment’ Prosecco and it’s 2 main counterparts – Cava and of course,  Champagne. We got to sample all 3, and I can confirm these three things: I still love Champagne, Selfridge’s own-brand Prosecco is to die for and Cava still reminds me of my Nan (in a good way!)

Cheshire Food Blog
Fizzy Wine sampling at Selfridge’s Wine Shop

After a little tipple we were ready for some more action. This time, Krispy Kreme invited us over to try our hand at icing our own doughnuts. This was fun. It’s sort of a “dunk and swoop” motion that’s required. I didn’t eat the doughnut though… I’m not really a fan, but my boyfriend Bradley is, so I saved mine for him and I’m pretty sure he ate it in about 4 bites when I got home later that evening 🙂

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Krispy Kreme Doughnut Glazing skills

It was around this time we headed over to Yo! Sushi, to view a sample of their “Sushi School Masterclass” and of course, eat some sushi! Hosted by the lovely Kat and Kai (pictured below), this was a real chance to see some sushi masters at work. At 23, Kat is Yo! Sushi’s youngest Head Chef and Kai, her  eager Sous Chef showed off her speedy wrapping and chopping skills. They made avocado hand rolls, cucumber and avocado Maki and California rolls with salmon and fish roe on the outside. Very clever indeed. It was great to see how they make the different kinds of sushi shapes – I have yet to try making my own sushi, so would be interested in trying out a full-length class there in the future.

We nibbled on sea-salted edamame beans (yum) whilst the sushi was prepared, and also got to try some of Yo! Sushi’s warm dishes. These dishes are made to order if you’re there as a regular diner (i.e. not on the famous conveyor belt). We went for the chilli beef dish – it was warming with a hint of spice and was a really nice addition alongside the chilled sushi. Also up for sampling was some authentic sake which I really love. The perfect way to wash down sushi!

After sushi, it was time to meet more makers! This time though, back to beverages – we met the very friendly Andy from Just Bee Drinks, a Manchester-based duo of friends who love bees and honey. The two decided to make these wonderfully balanced and refreshing soft drinks by infusing spring water with honey and other natural ingredients like blueberry, ginger and lemon. Which is just genius if you ask me. These little bad boys have been on sale in my gym for a while now and I have purchased them on a couple of occasions before meeting Andy at this event.

It was great to speak to maker direct I really wish the two all the best with these lovely little beverages. My favourite is the Apple, Ginger and a hint of Honey. They are all thirst-quenching and flavourful drinks so I am sure they will be flying off the shelves for a long time to come.

Cheshire Food Blog
Just Bee Drinks

To continue with the tour – yes, we ate more food. Last, but not least, was an impressive showcase of Selfridge’s Food Hall’s ‘party food’ offerings. All prepared by their very own chefs who work onsite. We could see the chefs putting the finishing touches to the canapé-style dishes, and although we were full they just looked too tempting not to try them!

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

The quiche was still warm which was really delicious, and it was amazing how much flavour came through each little mouthful. My personal favourite was the blue cheese and chutney, whereas Hannah loved the tomato, mozzarella and basil bites. All gorgeous party food I must say.

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Canapé plates at Selfridge’s Food Hall

To round things off, we ventured back across to Hey Little Cupcake to pick up our Cupcake Selfie (yes, the cupcake with a an edible photograph of our selfie on it) which pretty much blew my mind. Ha. <3

Cheshire Food Blog
Our Cupcake Selfie – Hey Little Cupcake

Overall this was a fantastic event and a great opportunity to meet and speak to local, artisan food suppliers. All of which were offering a great range of products to try. The more ‘hands on’ elements were particularly fun, and I hope they host another event like this soon!

The Portly Grocer, Knutsford

I recently received a wonderful artisan food hamper from The Portly Grocer, a Knutsford-based company who work to support Britain’s finest artisans. Always one to support local businesses, I was delighted to learn that they wanted to send me some of their offerings to try, so I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in.

The hamper itself was packed full of goods – from Prince & Sons Tea Co. Jasmine Pearls tea bags to an array of Spice Entice Spice Kits (Thai Green Curry, Jamaican Jerk and Rogan Josh to be precise). Also packed in was the most delightful array of C&B CHOCOLATE BISCUITS, which really went down a treat with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon and on a dull Tuesday in the office. I can also now say I’ve tried Wild Boar Game Pâté (delicious), and that Aubergine and Basil Paste is sooo the new pesto and if you haven’t tried it, you should… It’s heavenly.

The Portly Grocer is a husband and wife team who operate an online fine food & drinks business specialising in new up-and-coming, mainly British artisan foods.  They started nearly 12 months ago and aim to help small food producers launch their products and provide free business advice. They also don’t charge the producers to sell on their (lovely) website. Whatsmore, they have a rather wonderful story that dates back to 1884, which explains how and why they came to be in the business of sourcing and selling fine food products. If you fancy a nice little read, find the full story here.

Artisan Food Hampers

When the box promptly arrived, I was first impressed by the sheer range of goodies inside. Other things it contained included Amaretto flavoured ground coffee, luxury breakfast granola, a salad dressing vinaigrette, some chutneys and a range of rather ‘grown up’ crackers made by Cartwright & Butler. So to save this being the longest blog post in the world, here’s my thoughts on a few key products.

Spice Entice Thai Green Curry

This little spice kit promised ‘lovingly selected herbs and spices with a recipe to make a delicious dish of Thai Green Curry, to serve four’. The shopping list was quite long, but luckily I had most of it in; soy sauce, fish sauce, stock, coconut milk, palm sugar… that sort of thing, plus some fresh ingredients like garlic, onions, birds-eye chillies, veg, and chicken. I was surprised not to see fresh ginger on the shopping list for this curry, but not all green curry pastes contain it. As I had some monkfish in I was eager to use, I substituted this for the chicken. I would highly recommend this, just reduce the cooking time a little to suit the fish instead.

The recipe was really easy to follow, you do need a blender to whizz up all the ingredients for the paste (it perhaps should say that on the outer packaging) but that’s my only gripe as it was quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Just how I like it.

Mellow Yellow Classic Vinaigrette

Apologies for the photo of the half empty bottle, but I think that goes to show how much I am enjoying this item! The main ingredient is Rapeseed oil so it’s lighter than olive oil dressings, which it really nice. And very convenient for my ‘health kick’. It’s scent and flavour is tangy as you would expect from a classic vinaigrette, and it seems to have the perfect balance of oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Below I have served it with a simple couscous salad with baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Very easy to put together for a working lunch and absolutely maximum flavour with very little effort.

Olive Branch Aubergine & Basil Paste

This stuff came as a real surprise as it was wrapped so beautifully, which is part of the service if you wish, complete with cute personalised labels! At first I was a little unsure of what to make of it. Was it a pesto, a dip, a sauce? Turns out it’s all three… Such a versatile little jar of deliciousness. So far I have used it as a dip with the Cartwright & Butler Linseed and Sesame Flatbreads which worked really well. I’ve also used it in a simple pasta dish, instead of pesto and it made a really creamy, yummy sauce to coat the pasta.

Olive Branch Paste
Olive Branch Paste

Sweet Treats – Breakfast Granola and Chocolate Biscuits

Other highlights were these delicious sweeter items in the hamper. Sensible Dave’s Strawberry Granola with White Chocolate shavings is a real delight. I wouldn’t eat this on a regular basis for breakfast, but, on a Saturday morning after being good all week it’s the perfect treat and much quicker to put together than a bacon sarnie!

The Chocolate Oat Crumbles were also a firm favourite. Beautifully rich and creamy chocolate, and the biscuits were buttery and crumbly and very, very morrish. The wafers and dark chocolate and lemon varieties were also lovely, but the oat crumbles stole the show for sure.

Packaging & Attention to Detail

As The Portly Grocer’s story dates back to fine foods during the 1920’s, they are keen to replicate the attention to detail of that era; by hand-wrapping each product in luxury brown paper, and tying each one with twine in a vintage style. I must admit, the products look as good as they taste and it really makes it clear you’ve got something special on your hands.

Overall, I am really impressed with The Portly Grocer’s range of products, packaging and the service in general. Their website is also beautifully simple and very easy to navigate. It also has a lovely blog and some fantastic recipes ideas. They seemingly sell products to suit everyone – teas and biscuits for Grandma, Curry Kits for Dad’s and a huge array of everyday products that are bound to jazz-up your experience in the kitchen, all whilst supporting independent artisans – the ethos at the very heart of what they do.

If you’re looking for a gift idea for literally any type of person and for any occasion – then I would highly recommend you give these guys a whirl!

They also have an alcohol licence and have started retailing British produced spirits, with plans to expand into British gins, cassis and wines later this year. Also, you can look out for their pop-up stalls at various food & drink events in the North West.

Visit their website at www.theportlygrocer.co.uk and make sure you follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and give them a Like to show your support on Facebook.

The Home & Fine Food Co.
T/A The Portly Grocer
Booths Hall Estate
Chelford Road
Knutsford
WA16 8GS

0161 241 2791
info@theportlygrocer.co.uk


The Portly Grocer sent me this hamper to sample on a complimentary basis, but, as always my review is as honest and objective as possible <3

Soulful Food Co. 'One Pots' plus Discount Code!

I have recently been in touch with the lovely and super-cool people at Soulful Food Co. and have been sampling their #SoulfulOnePots, with the view that if I like them, I will share a discount-code with you all as a little thank you for reading and following my blog. You will be pleased to know, they have turned out to be an absolute delight!

As you know, I have recently been on a health-kick. I’ve decided to get my ass in gear and start exercising, as I was starting to feel a little ‘under the weather’ (as we all do from time to time). I attributed these feelings to my sheer lack of exercise, eating too many calories and not getting the right balance of nutrition in my diet. Over the past few weeks, I have cleaned up my diet, stopped eating for the sake of it and joined a really nice gym where I have been working my ass of to try and get into better shape and health.

So… The arrival of 6 healthy, hearty #SoulfulOnePots therefore, couldn’t have come at a better time. For the past week, I have been fitting them into my diet (mostly for lunch, which means snacking less in the day) and sometimes for dinner (perfect when you’re in a rush – you will see why later).

Here is a summary of what I thought of each pot – and at the end of the article, there is a discount code for you to enjoy a whopping 35% off your #SoufulOnePots online order! You are welcome!!

How they taste:

Official Name & Description: Mexican Bean & Sweet Potato with Quinoa. A rich & warming bean fiesta of a stew, with sweet red pepper, tomatoes & lentils.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low Salt, Gluten Free, Vegan, 262 Calories per tub.

My Verdict: Overall this tasted absolutely fantastic. Great textures from the variety of beans (black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans) and also green lentils. The lentils have a slight bite to them which is lovely. The sweet potato is firm but squidgy and soft in the middle, nice bite-sized chunks. Loads of flavours from the added herbs and spices, particularly fennel seeds and cumin which gives an authentic Mexican flavour. LOVELY!

Official Name & Description: British Pulled Beef Chilli with Black Barley. West Country Beef, slow cooked till tender, in our fresh take on the classic chilli con carne.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Dairy Free, Lean Protein, 2 of your 5-a-Day,  391 calories per tub.

My Verdict: The beef in this one pot is tender, meaty and there is plenty of it. Absolutely no accompaniment needed if you’re having this for lunch like I was. It’s packed full of loads of fresh red peppers, onions, kidney beans and celery which all contribute to the wholesome flavour. A great level of spice and seasoning, from both the fresh red chilli used and the cayenne pepper, chilli powder and pepper. Delicious.

Official Name & Description: Free Range Thai Green Chicken Curry with Kelp Noodles. Our own fragrant take on the eastern classic with babycorn, sweet potato and red pepper.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 441 calories per tub.

My Verdict: This was one of my favourites, simply because I love Thai curry and this one is done really well, whilst still maintaining balanced nutrition. I had never tried Kelp noodles before, but can honestly say they are light with a great texture (a little bit like glass noodles but without the starch). As the kelp is raw and very low in carbs, this allows rest of the food fill you up, which I found kept me fuller for much longer (so less/NO snacking, yay!) The chicken had a great ‘pulled chicken’ texture, and the veggies were crunchy as if they has just been stir-fried. Absolutely tonnes of fragrant, tasty Thai flavours coming through too: lemongrass, coconut, basil, coriander and chilli. So much nicer than the Innocent Veg Pot ‘Thai Green Curry,’ by a clear mile. DIVINE!

Official Name & Description: Free Range British Pulled Pork Stew with Chorizo, Beans and Spelt. Hearty & rustic, with smokey British chorizo & nutty grains of finest Somerset spelt.

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No picture! So here’s a pretty picture of the packaging!

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low G.I, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 315 calories per tub.

My Verdict: For just 315 calories per tub – this is seriously impressive. I forgot to take a photo of this one, as I was in a rush after work to get home, eat dinner, and get my ass to the gym. So, I just grabbed this one pot from the fridge, heated it in the microwave and ate it straight out of the tub. As I am used to brown rice, I must say the texture of spelt as an alternative is a little strange to get used to at first – but it is an overall more nutritious option with more fibre and less calories per portion. The sheer flavour from the pulled pork and smoky chorizo more than made up for the new texture. You can tell a lot of love has been put into slow cooking this very hearty and nutritious stew. I ate it about 45 minutes before my gym session and it gave me enough energy to absolutely smash it!

Official Name & Description: Free Range Moroccan Chicken Tagine with British Spelt. Chunks of chicken, veg, apricots & almond, slow cooked in delicious North African spices.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Low G.I., 2 of your 5-a-Day, 395 calories per tub.

My Verdict: Lovely and warming spices (ginger, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cinnamon). There is less spelt in this one so the texture less noticeable. There was perhaps a little bit too much carrot for my liking, but for lunch this was a very satisfying dish, which would be lovely as a dinner with some homemade chapatis.

Official Name & Description: Butternut, Lentil & Spinach Hotpot. Gently cooked with coconut, lemongrass & a warming hint of Indian spices.

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Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low G.I., Gluten Free, Vegan, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 388 calories per tub.

My Verdict: I must admit, I think (subconsciously) I saved this one until last, because I didn’t fancy it as much as the others. However, this one turned out to be my favourite overall. The chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, split peas and green lentils all work together really well to give a light but hearty texture. The spices used are really warming (turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamon powder, ginger and red chilli), which give the hot pot a lovely little kick. The only drawback is that the potato-to-squash ratio favoured potato a little too much for my liking. On the ingredients it says 7% of both, but there was certainly a lot more potato than squash!

Overall, I would highly recommend these lovely pots of flavour-packed wholesome goodness. I think they would be a great purchase to supplement your own home-cooking as they are healthy, nutritious and overall taste fantastic! They are £3.49 per tub plus P&P to buy online, which is a little bit on the pricy side, but you get what you pay for, and these really do taste great and the ingredients are top notch. Use the discount code for 35% off your order, see below. 

All of their packaging is fully recyclable too, which is awesome.

As promised, please use code SCRAN35, for 35% off  your Soulful Food order, which is valid until the end of May 2015.

I was sent the Soulful Food One Pots on a free-of-charge basis, to taste and try and feature on my blog. All opinions above are my honest and actual thoughts on the products supplied.

Artisan Market, Great Northern Pie Co. & Pure Origin Chocolate

You would think, the weekend after Easter, I would be fed up of chocolate by now. Well, the truth is, I am. But, something caught my eye at the market today – I just had to have a little taste. Then, I was converted 🙂

It was the lovely stall of Pure Origin, who hand-make a lovely range of milk, dark and white chocolates in Congleton, Cheshire. The company have 2 brands, their Pure Origin flavours, and the Tree Frog Chocolate range. We sampled a few flavours, but two stood out and we really couldn’t resist buying them (despite having 3 Easter eggs at home still uneaten!)

The lovely stall of Pure Origin / Tree Frog Chocolate Co. at Northwich, Artisan Market
Artisan Milk Chocolate: Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds
Artisan Milk Chocolate: Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds

The two we chose were both milk chocolate, Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds. The almonds are smoked by The Cheshire Smokehouse too, which makes it all the more special and it’s great to see the local collaboration. The hickory smoked nuts are delicate against the only slightly sweet milk chocolate, and the crunchy texture is the perfect match for the smooth chocolate too.

Hickory Smoked Almond Milk Chocolate, nuts smoked by The Cheshire Smokehouse

The Sea Salt & Caramel flavour is also so gorgeous, it literally melts in your mouth and has the perfect amount of bite in its texture. So much better than any Easter egg!

The second highlight of the market was The Great Northern Pie Co. Even though these guys have a permanent spot at Altrincham Market House, I have still yet to try one of their Award winning pastry delights.

The Great Northern Pie Co. Spring Menu, Northwich Artisan Market

There were 4 flavours on offer from their lovely seasonal ‘Spring Menu’ but honestly, it was a no brainer. We chose the Ham, Stornoway Black Pudding & Mustard Cream. And boy oh boy, did we choose good. The perfectly seasoned, firm yet crumbly pastry is filled with slow-roast ham, Charles MacLeod’d black pudding, English mustard cream, carrots, tarragon, lemon, paxo ‘stuffing’ breadcrumbs and mustard seeds. It really was the nicest pie I’ve ever tasted!!

Ham, Stornoway Black Pudding & Mustard Cream Pie

Other flavours they had on offer were Meats & Potatoes, Lancashire Cheese & Onion and Goats Cheese, Peas, Lemon & Mint. All sound delicious!

So there is a little insight to mine & boyfriend Bradley’s trip to the Artisan Market in Northwich, Cheshire today. We were on a slight budget, so didn’t go too mad buying loads of different foods, however, we could have spent more as almost all of the stalls had something lovely to offer. We will certainly be returning!


 

Mr. Sherick’s Shakes

I was recently contacted by The Food Sauce UK to sample some of Mr Sherick’s gourmet milkshakes. Now available in selected shops across the UK, I get the feeling you may be seeing a little more of these naughty little bottles of pure indulgence.

“Crammed full of the finest, ethically sourced ingredients, beautifully blended with fresh British milk, and made extraordinary with exciting bursts of flavours and texture. A little bit of heaven in every bottle.”

That’s the description on their rather groovy website, and I must say, flavour-wise they do live up to expectations. I noticed that in a couple of the creamier flavours, palm oil was present on the ingredients list.

Although it says ingredients are ‘ethically sourced’ the individual ingredients are not listed, nor is there any mention of sustainable palm oil usage.

So, I contacted Mr Sherick himself to clarify. He got back to me right away to confirm that “the palm oil we use is from certified sustainable sources.” He went on to confirm that “all our ingredients are ethically sourced and our factory is SEDEX affiliated.” I suppose I was pleased to hear this (but it did seem a bit of a textbook answer).

I think they should make more effort to state this on their site, which is pretty but not very forthcoming with information.

A little background information:

Andrew Sherick, founder of Mr Sherick’s Shakes, former M&S Food Buyer and Chairman of the British Sandwich Association, launched his Shakes in Selfridges in late 2013. Consumer research and his own love of sweet, indulgent treats, identified a gap in the market for premium, luxurious milkshakes aimed primarily at adults.

Mr Sherick’s Shakes first launched in Selfridges in October 2013. Harrods shortly followed suit, as did selected Waitrose, Booths and Partridges. Alongside launching into some of these excellent food stores, they have also won a number of awards including the ‘Gold Innovation Challenge award’ at the Lunch! 2013 show, and ‘Best New Product of the Year 2014’ for the ‘Pot Au Choc’ shake, from The Grocer.

The flavours I sampled were:

  • Pot Au Choc
  • Hint of Mint (same base as Pot Au Choc but with a ‘hint’ of mint)
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Softly Banoffee
  • Strawberry Pavlova

I found all of the flavours to be truly indulgent, and at almost 500 calories per bottle – I wouldn’t expect any less! You can absolutely tell that they use ‘real’ ingredients, as none of the flavours are smooth – they each contain real pieces of the actual ingredients. For example, the Strawberry Pavlova contains real meringue pieces, and the Softly Banoffee contains real toffee pieces, and so on. I really liked this in the chocolate shakes (being a chocolate lover,) but it was quite strange swallowing real pieces of softened meringue with the strawberry shake. It’s nice to have texture, but I think it works better in some of the shakes than others.

Maybe I am missing something, but I do think it would help if their website contained the shakes nutritional information, so people could make more informed choices about whether or not they are willing to spend a big chunk of the days calorie intake in one small little bottle of joy. 🙂

Mr Sherick's Pot Au Choc flavour - yummy.
Mr Sherick’s Pot Au Choc flavour – yummy.

My favourite shake was by far the Pot Au Choc. You can really taste the Belgian chocolate – and I would certainly consider swapping this for a donut or a pudding after my lunch time sandwich… if I ever did that. The packaging and design is also gorgeous – certainly very aesthetically pleasing and unlike any other brand – I think a true representation that these shakes really are like no others on the shelves.

Overall, the shakes are lovely, once you get used to the texture, and sheer and utter indulgence. However, in recent times where people seem to be more and more health conscious (and becoming more attracted to ‘natural juices’ and ‘detox smoothie’ products), I am not sure these will be on the top of my shopping list, as I too am aiming to slim down for the summer!

Mr Sherick's Shakes - the full range in all their glory.
Mr Sherick’s Shakes – the full range in all their glory.

Disclaimer: Mr Sherick’s Shakes were sent to me on a promotional basis, to sample the flavours, via the wonderful The Food Sauce UK. 

The Handmade Ice Cream Company

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When Steve from The Handmade Ice Cream Company contacted Sophie’s Scran to see if we wanted to sample and review some of their ice creams I must admit, I was rather excited.

However, getting the ice cream to me (from Cumbria- where it’s made, to Cheshire) during the week when I am at work in Manchester all day where we don’t have a freezer – did prove a bit of a challenge.

So, I roped in my Grandparents to help, as they live in Cheshire, have a large freezer and are generally in the house all day. So Steve dropped it off with them – safe to say, they were more than happy to help, being true ice cream connoisseurs themselves…

Best Products, Best Ingredients

Steve’s ethos is pretty simple – “the best products require the best ingredients,” so by sourcing the finest ingredients (and if he can’t find them – he makes them himself, having spent 15 years as a professional pastry chef) his ice creams are truly handcrafted. The final products are indulgent, naturally flavoursome and textured. It’s tricky to find a bad word to say…

Let the taste-test begin!

WHITE CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY

As well as looking absolutely stunning, this flavour tastes fresh, indulgent and not overly sweet. The tangy raspberry balances so well with the white chocolate, cutting through the sweetness – a match made in heaven. My Grandma loved this – and that is saying something, as she is usually averse to raspberries after her mother used to crush up aspirin in

My Grandma loved this – and that is saying something, as she is usually averse to raspberries after her mother used to crush up aspirin in raspberry jam when she was a little girl in an attempt to make her take medicine when she was poorly!

Steve and his team have helped her appreciate raspberries again for all their wonderfulness 🙂 The raspberry flavour and texture is there – but it’s delicate and not overpowering, with the white chocolatiness sweet and creamy, as expected.

SALTED CARAMEL

Salted Caramel seems to be an ever more popular flavour nowadays, and this one is creamy, sweet with a sharp salty tinge that really packs a punch. The texture of this one is very smooth – almost more like a sorbet texture, which keeps it light, and rather too easy to have ‘just one more scoop’ – lovely. I would have preferred a slightly firmer texture to this flavour, however, I feel like this would go well with a dark chocolate torte or brownie dessert due to its softness. Perfect for an alternative Christmas day pud!

CHOCOLATE

This is a chocoholics dream. A truly indulgent chocolate fix – it comes served with an extremely generous sprinkle of chunky dark chocolate shavings on top, and then the same laced throughout the ice cream itself. The added chocolate shavings add a wonderful texture – a sharp chocolate crunch every now and again really makes this one special. This was one of my Grandad’s favourites too.

CARAMEL, FUDGE & HONEYCOMB

Another one my Grandad couldn’t get enough of – and it’s the same for me. I love honeycomb ice cream, and this one had plenty of perfectly sized honeycomb pieces throughout. The caramel and fudge add a whole other dimension, making this the sort of ice cream whereby all you need is the tub and a spoon. Very tempting just to polish the whole lot off, without sharing. The texture is creamy, the caramel running smoothly throughout with the odd sticky bit here and there where the flavour lingers for a while afterwards. The fudge pieces are small but add just the right amount of solid texture to compete with the honeycomb. Very yummy indeed.

GINGERBREAD

This flavour is somewhat festive. It has a slight citrusy orange taste in the background, which compliments the small gingerbread pieces really well. The ice cream itself is smooth and light, and although it features tiny cakey pieces, they are so small and evenly distributed they come together perfectly. Much nicer than the brash efforts the likes of Ben & Jerry’s make to incorporate cake/biscuits into their ice creams. I feel like a scoop of this would go well with Christmas pud for a nice little twist on the Christmas day classic!

The full range of The Handmade Ice Cream Company’s flavours can be found here, and the great news is they are willing to create bespoke flavours for you – great if you run a restaurant and need the perfect ice cream to serve alongside your decadent desserts!

The Handmade Ice Cream Company allowed Sophie’s Scran to taste their delicious ice creams for no cost – the review above is a true representation of how we feel about each of the flavours sampled.

You can also find The Handmade Ice Cream Company on Facebook and Twitter, and for any further information please contact: info@handmadeicecream.co.uk / 015395 31021.

The Handmade Ice Cream Company
The Handmade Ice Cream Company

My Artisan Selection box has arrived!

My Artisan Selection Box from http://compareyourartisan.com/
My Artisan Selection Box from compareyourartisan.com #artisanselection

My beautiful #ArtisanSelection box from compareyourartisan.com has arrived, and first off I must say the delivery service was super-prompt. I can get a little impatient when it comes to food (because I love it so much, duhhh), so it was great they didn’t keep me waiting long at all!

I went for “The Foodie” – 8 assorted foodie-friendly Artisan selection items from their lovely range, and I let them surprise me, so had no idea what it was going to contain. It was as if they knew about my obsession with obscure and specialty teas (stemmed from a visit to Nepal in 2011) so I was delighted to see a box of wild, organic, hand-picked Mountain Tea from Greece… I have never seen anything like it, super intrigued… Cannot wait to try it. It also seemed a bit like magic that the box featured a chilli sauce – if you know me, you know I am obsessed with spice. These guys really do know their buyers & suppliers well, and I’m impressed already.

The box features a range of wonderful products, some local to the UK and some from as far afield as Italy & Greece! Details listed below:

~ Riverside Lifestyle Strawberry & Lavender Jam: riversidelifestyle.co.uk

~ Chilli Drops ‘BollyGood’ chilli sauce: chillidrops.co.uk

~ Urbangrains Organic Mountain Tea: urbangrains.net

~ Hasting’s Ketchup Company Lemon Ketchup: hastingsketchup.co.uk

~ Via Emilia Crema per Crostini di Olive Nere (Black Olive Crostini Spread): viaemilia.net

~ Agnes Rose Raspberry Vinegar: agnesrose.co.uk

~ Bonilla a la Vista Patatas Fritas: bonillaalavista.com

~ Breckland Orchard Cherry & Plum Posh Pop: brecklandorchard.co.uk

I will be trying each item in turn, keeping you posted on what each one tastes like. I’m excited already. In fact, I think I fancy croissants with Strawberry & Lavender Jam for breakfast. Yum.

If you guys have any ideas or recommendations, please use the comments below to post them.

In the meantime, follow CompareYourSupplier (@UK_CYS) on Twitter for updates & information on their artisan selection boxes.

Love, Sophie -x-