Saturday, 31 March 2012

Easter treats from Aldi review



When we received a hamper of Aldi products to review at Christmas (that I told you about here), we were all very impressed by the really high quality of the products as well as the low prices. I was therefore keen to see what we would receive when they sent us through a hamper of their Easter-themed goodies. 

When it arrived, I was impressed to discover a selection of own-brand products but also big-name brands, especially when I looked through the enclosed information sheets and checked out the prices.


First up, on the left in the top picture, you can see the 350g Choceur Milk Chocolate Flame Egg. We'd already tried and been very impressed with Aldi's own-brand Choceur chocolate. In my earlier review of Choceur Belgian Milk Chocolate, I said that we found it as good as the big brands at a fraction of the price. Well, this Choceur egg follows the trend because, despite the luxurious-looking packaging, the beautiful creaminess of the chocolate and the selection of milk and white chocolates inside, it only costs a very reasonable £2.99. That certainly won't break the bank !


Sticking with the Choceur, we moved on to the Mini Marzipan eggs. Now, I wasn't sure about these because I sometimes find marzipan a bit bitter but once I'd unwrapped one and popped it in my mouth, I was won over. The delicate flavour of the marzipan and the chocolate, whether milk or dark, really work well together and these ended up being my favourites, which surprised me. A 200g bag costs £1.49. There are also bigger 100g Chocoeur Marzipan eggs in three varieties - classic marzipan, rum & raisin and hazelnut praline - costing a measly 69p.

Moving on to the Dairyfine Milk Chocolate Eggs, I thought these were bog standard mini eggs but in fact they have popping candy in them, much to the Madhouse Mini-testers delight ! They come in two flavours - strawberry and milk cream - and a big 180g bag, perfect for Easter egg hunts, costs £1.89.

Also perfect for Easter egg hunts are the Dairyfine mini bunnies and eggs, at 59p for 70g or 90g respectively. There are also Choceur Filled Mini Eggs with five different fillings - almond, cocoa mousse, hazelnut, strawberry and vanilla (£1.89 for 280g), Dairyfine Easter Treasures - either hollow or solid chocolate - shaped as chicks, lambs, bunnies and eggs (99p for 100g) or - for something a bit different - rabbit-shaped Dominion Easter Marshmallows (99p for 225g).



The Madhouse Mini-testers totally fell in love with the Dairyfine Beanie Bunnie (in blue) which is filled with Smartie-like sweets (99p for 100g) and the Choceur Chocolate Bunny, which looks remarkably like a Lindt bunny in all respects except the 99p price tag !

But it's not all chocolate. I was surprised to learn that Haribo have also launched a new range of sweets called Animix which is available exclusively in Aldi. The range includes Jolly Jungle, Fizzy Sea World and Farmyard Friends, all of which were declared totally delicious and moreish by the Madhouse Mini-testers (ahem - and the grown-ups, once they'd gone to bed !). They are free of artificial colours, cost 89p for a big value 225g bag and the good news is, once all the Easter products that I mentioned above have been cleared from the shelves, these will still be there as they're part of the new permanent range that will be available all year round.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : from 69p, see individual prices in the review



Other reviews you may be interested in :


Organix Goodies Organic Mini Cheese Crackers review


We always love discovering new products from Organix because their No Junk promise is so reassuring, so we were very pleased when they offered to send us through some of their Organic Mini Cheese Crackers to review. As you can see from the little fingers hovering near the plate in the photo, Pierre couldn't wait to get testing !



The little square crackers come in perfectly sized, individual portion bags which are perfect for snacks on the move or for helping with portion control. A box contains 4 x 20g bags, which are just the right size for mini munchers. The top photo shows the contents of one bag. 


Pierre popped one in his mouth and had a tentative crunch. I asked him if it was nice and he nodded yes and popped another one in his mouth. Big sisters Sophie and Juliette asked if they could try them too and also enjoyed eating them, which isn't always the case with toddler snacks because they aren't always sweet or salty enough for more grown-up tastes.


 I had a nibble too and they're not bad, although they are a bit bland for my tastes, which have been destroyed by years of eating over-salted adult snacks ! They're perfectly crispy and crumbly with a delicate hint of cheesiness. They're light and not greasy - which makes sense when you look at the pack as they are baked, not fried.


Each 20g bag contains 92 calories and 3.2g of fat, of which 1.4g saturates. The packaging suggests that you can eat them on their own or with dips. All three of the Madhouse Mini-testers asked if we can have them again, in place of other savoury snacks, and I certainly feel better giving them these rather than crisps so they may well be in luck !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.99 for 4 x 20g bags


Other reviews you may be interested in :

WeightWatchers recipe : Malaysian Pork With Pineapple


As I told you last week (here), I've just started trialling the WeightWatchers ProPoints system and have been busy exploring the welcome hamper that they kindly sent through. After a month of Jenny Craig, I'm really pleased to be getting back to cooking from scratch, as well as creating meals for the whole family (including me !) to enjoy together, rather than eating my lonesome Jenny Craig ready meals ! I decided to try one of the recipes from the WeightWatchers ProPoints One Pot Meals recipe book that I received in the hamper.


I wanted to find something that I could make with the contents of my fridge and cupboards, even if that meant tweaking the recipe slightly, and stumbled across the Malaysian Pork with Pineapple dish. It is also really quick to prepare and cook so was perfect for a week night after a long day at work.


A quick rummage around in the kitchen and I came up with pretty much everything I needed. I didn't have fresh coriander and I didn't have low fat coconut milk, so I substituted low fat crème fraîche and some dessicated coconut which worked fine. Looking through the ingredients list, my initial reaction (which was shared by both Madhouse Daddy Mike and Sophie) was yuck ! I was sure that there was no way that all these things could go together - pineapple juice and fish sauce ? red and green peppers and cream ? Are you sure ?!



Well, we decided to take a leap of faith and trust whoever created the recipe, even if we were dubious, to say the least. Sophie helped with the food prep and was delighted to discover a smiley face in our red onion ! Could this be a good omen ?!


Well, I have to say, I think our version looks EXACTLY like the picture in the recipe book and that doesn't happen very often !



Verdict - absolutely lovely ! The flavours all blend together to make a delicious, flavoursome sauce but also remain slightly separate, complementing each other perfectly and keeping your tastebuds on their toes, so you switch from the sweetness of the pineapple to the sourness of the fish sauce then the creaminess of the pork. Madhouse Daddy Mike said it was "strange but really nice" and had seconds AND thirds ! Even Sophie, who wasn't at all keen when looking at the ingredients, declared it delicious.

And the amazing thing is, it only contains 30 ProPoints for the entire pot full or an incredibly low 5 points per serving (unless you eat half of the pot all by yourself like Madhouse daddy Mike, in which case you can triple that !). I added half a sachet of Uncle Bens Mushroom Express Rice which added an extra 5 points, which is still extremely reasonable as I have an allowance of 27 points per day (not taking into account the weekly bonus points and any activity points earned).

for more information : www.weightwatchers.co.uk

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Help! I Am A Blogger! meme





The lovely Ali over at Dragons & Fairydust recently started up her very own Meme and tagged me, so here I am, telling you all about how Madhouse Family Reviews came to be.

What is your blog about?
Madhouse Family Reviews is - as the name suggests - the reviews branch of my original blog, called Welcome Back to the Madhouse (more about that in a moment). I love featuring fabulous, unusual or just plain weird products that I have stumbled across online or that have been sent to me for review and that can really make a difference to parents' lives. It may be new food products, recipes, toys, baby equipment ... I never fail to be amazed by the wide range of things that I'm offered to blog about ! I pride myself on being 100% honest though and I think that is respected, even when I have constructive criticism to make. A few times, I've been emailed to say that changes have been made to a product (a price lowered because I, and other reviewers, said it was too expensive for what it was, or an ingredients change when we all said that the flavour of a toothpaste was unpleasant). I'm not going to just say nice things about something because it was sent for free ! I also like sharing parenting advice, blogging about experiments in the kitchen and sharing my weight loss journey with you.

When and how did you start blogging?

My first "blog" was a website because blogs didn't exist back then ! I was pregnant with Sophie (so it must have been 2001) and I posted scan photos and a monthly "bump" photo for friends and family to see. When the kids were born, a blog seemed the ideal way to keep both sets of grandparents (in England and France) up to date so "Welcome to the Madhouse" was created. When that blog host disappeared, I started Welcome Back to the Madhouse on blogger. I used to post book reviews on amazon and different publishers' websites so I initially created Madhouse Family Reviews as a place to keep all my book reviews together. That was in July 2009 and it soon branched out into all things baby and family related.

What was your first post?
A very quick blogpost called "Welcome to the reviews team" followed by lots of book reviews ! Pierre was two weeks old - it seems unbelievable now that I started a new blog with a brand new baby in the house !

Does blogging affect your life and if so how?
Yes - we're always getting involved in blogger challenges, cooking recipes that have been sent through or trying out new products as a family. The kids have received some fabulous toys that we'd never have bought otherwise and really love getting involved with the reviewing, giving their comments and posing for photos ! We've had some great days out too, at Nausicaa sealife centre, on a Keycamp break or at Build A Bear Workshop, for example. My kitchen is full of the latest gadgets now that I couldn't be without - an Actifry, slow cooker and bread machine being my favourites.

What do you love most about blogging?
I'm not obsessed with stats but I am a bit obsessed with finding out who's been visiting my blog ! I love looking at the "which country did your visitors come from" section because there are some really obscure countries on there and it always amazes me that people across the whole world have found my humble blog ! I also love the "what keywords did people search to find your blog" part because there are some absolutely hilarious things in there. I'm always slightly perturbed to see how many people find my blog googling about whether or not it is safe to use Savlon on dogs ! Reading comments from blog visitors and comparing notes with other bloggers is also great fun. I've been very proud to be selected as a blogger ambassador for some huge brands too, including Morphy Richards, Graco and Sterimar, who I've really enjoyed working with.

As always with Meme's, it's time to pass this on to some other bloggers, so I'll tag the following blogger friends :

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Friday, 30 March 2012

Giveaway #179 : 3 x Adventures In Lalaloopsy Land: The Search for Pillow DVD - closed - winners @pipersky1 @phyllgerry @gholmes724


Adventures In Lalaloopsy Land: The Search for Pillow was released on DVD this week, on the 26th March, and I've just reviewed it here. I'm pleased to announce that three lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers will be able to get their mitts on their very own copy.


To be in with a chance of winning, just do the following three things : 

(1) follow my blog on google friends connect (over on the sidebar on the right)

(2) leave me a comment on one of my blogposts (other giveaways don't count)

(3) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email) and tell me which of my blogposts you commented on.

Bonus entries

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !

(1) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my competition. You can use the handy retweet button over in my side bar or write your own tweet but make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this



(2) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5 - other giveaways don't count !) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one. Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.

(3) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning

(4) click on the google +1 button over in my sidebar

(5) add a +k klout point to @cherylp59 on Klout and tell me which category you added it to

(6)  pin one of my images on pinterest (tell me which one)

(7) "favourite" this blog on Technorati by clicking on the button in my sidebar

UK only. Closing date : 14/4/12

Other giveaways you may be interested in :   

Adventures In Lalaloopsy Land: The Search for Pillow DVD review


*** Don't miss my giveaway to win three copies of the DVD right here ! ***

This week saw the release of a brand new full-length feature film called Adventures in Lalaloopsy Land: The Search for Pillow on DVD. Already a massive hit in the US, the Lalaloopsy dolls are now set to hit the UK bigtime.


If you're unfamiliar with the Lalaloopsy dolls, they are magical ragdolls who come to life when their last stitch is sewn. Each doll has their own individual personality created by the fabrics used to make them. 

For example, in this film, where the Lalaloopsy dolls go looking for their friend Pillow Featherbed, who has sneaked off for a nap and risks missing out on a big surprise, they all have their own ideas of how best to find her. Mittens Fluff 'N' Stuff wants to hit the ski slopes to look for her ; Jewel Sparkles thinks that singing and dancing will lure her out; Crumbs Sugar Cookie wants to tempt her with some delicious freshly baked cookies (definitely the idea that would work best here at The Madhouse !); Bea Spells-a-Lot wants to look for her in an aeroplane. The Lalaloopsy dolls - and their young viewers - have to learn that teamwork is the best way to succeed.

It's a lovely cheerful DVD with bright colours, appealing characters and lots of action that was a big hit with the Madhouse Mini-testers of both sexes, not just the girls. Some parents may be put off by the American accents but it got a resounding thumbs up from the kids and I like the general cheerfulness and positive values of the dolls.

 To celebrate the DVD release, a limited edition  is also available as an exclusive toy-pack which includes a double-sided colouring poster and your very own Pillow Lalaloopsy Doll, with a RRP of £15.99. If you have some little viewers who you think would enjoy watching the Lalaloopsy dolls, don't miss out on my giveaway coming up in just a moment where you will be able to win one of three copies.

star rating :  4.5/5

ADVENTURES IN LALALOOPSY LAND: THE SEARCH FOR PILLOW DVD Technical Details:
  • Certificate: U
  • RRP: Single DVD £15.99 / Doll & Poster DVD Pack £15.99
  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Run Time: 73mins approx.
  • Special Features: 5 x cute new mini webisodes



Other reviews you may be interested in :



ASDA PHARMACY TO OFFER FREE VITAMIN D TABLETS FOR KIDS

Just a quick heads-up about a fabulous, free initiative from ASDA Pharmacies from April 1st (no, it's not an April Fool's Day joke !) allowing you to get free vitamin D supplements to help keep your children's bones nice and healthy.

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All children from six months to five years should take supplements containing Vitamin D to maintain adequate levels of the vitamin in their blood and to prevent Vitamin D deficiency during this critical period of development, it was reported last month by the Chief Medical Officer.

As part of a new initiative, Asda Pharmacy will be giving away free Vitamin D chewable tablets to all children from the age of three from the 1st of April, to help them get the Vitamin D that they need.

The one month (30 tablets) pack of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ will be available across every Asda Pharmacy nationwide – 218 in total. Specially formulated for children over the age of three, the chewable tablets will be available in a great-tasting raspberry flavour.

Recent research shows that rickets, a childhood disease that results in softening bones and can potentially lead to fractures or deformity, is on the increase and it has been estimated to affect 1 in 1,000 children. Furthermore, national surveys by the Government have shown that up to a quarter of people in the UK have low levels of Vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D supplementation can help to prevent rickets, so it’s very important that children and at risk groups* get their recommended levels.
Faisal Tuddy, Asda pharmacist, commented: “To support the Government’s drive around raising awareness of Vitamin D in children Asda Pharmacy will be giving away free supplements from the beginning of April.

Children should take Vitamin D supplements to help them meet the recommended intake of Vitamin D, and our raspberry flavour chewable tablets will provide a great tasting source of the vitamin to ensure that your little ones get enough of this important vitamin needed for normal growth and development of bones. We hope that this new initiative will keep our customers and their families healthy by making this indispensable supplement available to all.”

For any questions or queries please contact you local Asda Pharmacist and if you’re not sure where that is you can find details at the store locator at www.asda.co.uk.

The Chief Medical Officer identifies the below groups to be at risk* of low Vitamin D levels:
  • All pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Infants and children under 5 years of age
  • Older people aged 65 years and over
  • People who have low or no exposure to the sun
  • People who have darker skin

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So, UK kids think Simon Cowell invented the Internet... !!



Research reveals the truth about children’s perceptions of the internet

Research released today by internet safety expert Trend Micro reveals that nearly a quarter of children aged 7-16 years think that the World Wide Web was invented by the late Steve Jobs or co-creator of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. While one in ten, and a quarter of those aged seven, believe music mogul Simon Cowell is responsible for the birth of the web – with a further one in ten seven year olds attributing the innovation to Alexander Graham Bell and Albert Einstein.

While the findings, launched as part of the company’s What’s your Story? project might be viewed as good fun, further findings reveal a more concerning side to internet usage by youngsters. Although they’re deemed old enough to use the internet, over three quarters of children admit to accidently clicking links which led them to adult websites, downloading viruses to their computers and visiting a website they were unsure of ‘because it sounded like fun’. A further one in five confess to being embarrassed by a picture someone else has posted of them online and downloading ‘free’ music from the internet. One in ten also report being upset by something they’ve seen online, admit to being friends with people on Facebook who they don’t know in real life – and of more concern, admit to bullying others online.

Rik Ferguson, Director Security & Communication EMEA at Trend Micro said: “The findings of the survey reveal a light-hearted insight into what children love about the internet, but it’s important that it also reinforces the safety message. The internet is a powerful tool and using it safely is an important life skill.”

So who does know the most when it comes to using the internet? For those aged 7-13 one in ten believe its them, while over a quarter of 14-16 year olds believe they know more than everyone else in the family. Dad definitely rules the roost overall with a third of children revealing he knows his stuff when it comes to the internet, followed by older siblings and Mum. And the story isn’t that different when it comes to sharing internet safety, nearly a third say it’s Mum or Dad who’s had ‘the talk’ with them, followed by one in five who get their advice from teachers or grandparents.

Rik continued: “Like everything in life, the internet is about learning, education, and creating a two way dialogue between parents or teachers and children. To reinforce this message, we recently launched the What’s your Story? competition, in partnership with Get Safe Online and supported by a number of internet safety and anti-bullying charities. The competition helps teachers, parents, and young people to become more aware of internet safety.” 

So when it comes to Facebook, who is it children really want to befriend? Justin Bieber tops the chart with nearly one in five (18%) young fans, followed by over one in ten (14%) of One Direction-ers, with Amy Childs and Cheryl Cole fighting it out for third place in the hearts of the UK’s children (8% and 9% respectively). Perhaps of more concern then, is nearly a fifth of children aged 7-12 years have a Facebook page, given the minimum age limit to open an account on the social networking site is 13 years.

The Facebook BFF wishlist:
Girls (aged 7-16)
Boys (aged 7-16)
1. Justin Bieber
1. Justin Bieber
2. One Direction
2. One Direction
3. Amy Childs
3. Cheryl Cole
4. Cheryl Cole
4. Amy Childs
5. Joey Essex
4. Joey Essex
6. Jessie J
5. Robert Pattinson
7. Robert Pattinson
6. Jessie J
8. Jedward
7. Tulisa Contostavlos
9. Tulisa Contostavlos
8. Jedward
9. Peppa Pig
9. Rastamouse


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Moon Sand Pet Shop review



Spring has sprung and we're enjoying the lovely warm weather so I think we might actually be able to set up the new sandpit on our patio very soon, which the Madhouse kids are very excited about ! In the meantime, they can still play with sand indoors, thanks to the magic of Moon Sand.

We already had a few sets of Moon Sand here at The Madhouse - in the past, we've reviewed the Moon Sand Candy Factory and the Moon Sand Ice Cream set as well as buying extra sets and sand refills - and they've always got a very warm reception so we were really pleased to be picked by BlogMatch to review the Moon Sand Pet Shop set.

Although the kids always love them, some of the Moon Sand sets are a bit lacking in variety when it comes to the moulds but this is certainly not the case for the Pet Shop set, which contains an impressive selection of 13 moulds, allowing you to make everything from cats, turtles, dogs, flowers, people and bunnies to radishes, bones, carrots and dog food. The huge variety means that you can actually make up stories with your creations, which is rare for a Moon Sand Set, which usually puts the emphasis on having fun creating the shapes.


The sand is quite crumbly so lots of the moulded shapes come out less than perfect, especially when the younger Madhouse Mini-testers were having a go, and you'll end up with the two colours of sand getting mixed together, but as long as you don't have a perfectionist in the family (ahem Sophie!), this won't be a problem.


The packaging is ingenious. You can use it as a play station and just shove everything back inside and close it up when you've finished so tidying up takes literally a couple of minutes - not counting the quick vacuum session afterwards because it gets everywhere ! It is easy to hoover up though (especially with out fab new Dirt Devil Tempest vacuum cleaner) and laying out a play mat or - even better - putting the play table outside on the patio gets around this problem.


Moon Sand promises to be the sand that never dries out and I can confirm that even that the packs that we have had and that have been open for a couple of years are still as fresh as the day we opened them - it really is magical stuff ! You do have the option of baking it in the oven so that it goes hard and you can then paint it, although the kids never want to do this when I suggest it because they enjoy making shapes, then breaking them up and starting all over again.


It's lovely to find a toy that siblings of all ages can share, even if the fiddly moulds are too difficult for younger players to use with any success.


star rating : 4.5/5


RRP : £14.99



Other reviews you may be interested in :

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cookery book review : Marshmallow Madness – Shauna Sever



I have to say, hats off to the marketing team at Quirk Books because they've come up with a book that physically resembles its content. The word marshmallows conjures up soft, airy, pastel colours and that's exactly what you get when you pick up the book because it has a squishy, puffy padded cover covered in pictures of beautiful marshmallows and promises “dozens of puffalicious recipes”.

I have to admit that until a very short time ago, when I reviewed the Leon recipe book, I never would have dreamed of making marshmallows at home. They just seemed like one of those highly complicated, artificially manufactured products that you'd never be able to create in your own kitchen. Well, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one because the introduction is called “Wait, you can MAKE marshmallows ?” ! The author, Shauna Sever, explains that it's part confectionery and part science experiment (sounds fun !) and that the “fluffy, soft, whipped pillows of sugar” that you can make at home are nothing like the ones you buy in bags in the supermarket.

Did you know, for example, that the original marshmallows were created by the ancient Egyptians who worked out how to extract the sticky, gelatinous gel from marshmallow roots and combined it with honey ? For the modern day version though, all you actually need is a handful of ingredients – sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, water, salt, vanilla extract and coating (confectioner's sugar and potato starch). The ingredients list gives it away – this is an American book so, if you're reading it on this side of the Pond, you will need to do a bit of converting and translating – confectioner's sugar is icing sugar to us Brits and potato starch is ... well, I'm not actually sure so I'll have to investigate !

As well as providing us with the traditional vanilla recipe, the book offers a surprisingly varied selection of recipes, including Kahlua-filled marshmallows, chocolate-peppermint marshmallows and Jam-filled marshmallows. I thought that was an impressive enough selection but that was just “The Classics” ! The following sections get “Fresh and Fruity” (apple-cinnamon, honeyed apricot and pumpkin spice all sound very intriguing) using natural fruit flavours and essential oils, before moving on to “Happy Hour” with its cocktail-inspired marshmallows (be warned, the alcohol makes it all a lot trickier apparently so don't attempt these until you've had a play with the basic recipes first !) and gourmet flavours and textures “For The Mallow Connoisseur”. Who would have dreamed that you could make maple-bacon marshmallows (nicknamed The Elvis) ?!

I love the “Fluffy Puffs For Gifting” and “Kids In A Candy Store” suggestions which look amazing. If you want to do more than just eat marshmallows as they are, the final section also offers you some great ways of incorporating them into sticky desserts and treats, including cookie sandwiches, rocky road, hot chocolate and Ballpark Popcorn Balls, which sound gooey and delicious.

I haven't had time to have a play yet but the book has really made me want to give it a go. I think I might have to invest in a confectioner's thermometer first though as it all sounds quite precise !

Star rating : 4/5

RRP : £11.99

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (5 April 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745720
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 19.6 x 2.5 cm



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WeightWatchers Garlic & Herb Bag n Bake review


 As I told you earlier in the week, I've just started a trial of WeightWatchers, using their online weight and food tracking tool and also trying out a number of their products that I'm sent through to review. The online tool is brilliant and really motivating. The weight tracker allows (and actively encourages) you to make achievable goals (5% of your weight to start with, which I upped to 10% because it didn't seem challenging enough !). The food tracker is brilliant - you type in what you've eaten and it will suggest a list of different brands or food items, with serving sizes that you can modify to accurately reflect what you've eaten. It gives you a really good idea of the ProPoints value of each food and I've been really pleased to see that lots of things - especially fruit and veg, but also things like sugar free jelly - have zero points ! I've been able to stick to my daily allowance with no problems so far and haven't even begun to use my weekly bonus allowance - which is great news, as we're having a meal with friends for Juliette's birthday at the weekend so I'll be able to blow them all in one go !


 I decided to try out their Garlic & Herb Bag 'n' Bake this week, as a light dinner option. When you first start out, it's hard to really know which foods are low in points and which ones are higher, so I just followed my logic and went with what I'd consider healthy, low calorie foods.


Helped by Sophie,  I just put some chicken fillet and a selection of vegetables in the bag (red onion, red, green and orange pepper, courgette and cherry tomatoes), poured in the seasoning, shook it up and put it in the oven to cook.


This is very similar to the Colman's Season and Shake seasoning that I reviewed here but the added advantage is that you know it only counts as 1 ProPoint, which makes it much easier to tot up your daily points.


Just half an hour in the oven and dinner was ready ! I added some rice and it was a very satisfying meal, but the seasoning wasn't as strong as I'd hoped, which was a shame. This could be because I put too many vegetables in (as I was cooking for the whole family) so there wasn't enough to go round and cover all the ingredients sufficiently.

From looking around on the WeightWatchers website, they suggest you can have the odd day off tracking your points and just eat "filling and healthy" foods in any quantities you wish, using your feelings of hunger satisfaction to guide you. All of the ingredients I used in this meal are in that list so it's great to see that WeightWatchers is an instinctive, natural diet to follow that uses logic and common sense more than any complicated system.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1 per box


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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Easter themed recipes from Asda and Leith’s School of Food and Wine

Asda has teamed up with Leith’s School of Food and Wine to create a selection of Easter themed recipes for families to create over the long weekend, using ingredients from Asda’s premium Extra Special range. The recipes have been created by Camilla Schneideman, Managing Director of Leiths, to allow people to whip up recipes to impress, that are deliciously simple to make. There's even one to use up leftover Easter eggs !

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Mini chocolate truffle cakes
A rich, indulgent Easter treat the whole family will love

Makes 12
Ready in 45 minutes
125g Asda Unsalted Butter, softened
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
2 level tbsp cocoa
2 large free-range eggs
2 level tsp baking powder
2-3tbsp milk

For the truffle topping
150g Asda Extra Special Dark Chocolate, grated or chopped into very small pieces
200ml Asda Double Cream
2 level tbsp caster sugar
Flake chocolate bar and mini sugar-coated eggs, to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line a 12-hole patty tin with large cupcake cases.

  1. Put all the ingredients for the cakes except the milk into a bowl and beat together using an electric whisk or wooden spoon. Add the milk a little at a time to bring to a dropping consistency.
  2. Share the mixture between the cake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

  1. To make the truffle topping, put the chocolate into a bowl. Put the cream and caster sugar into a small saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly until spreadable.

  1. When the cakes are cold, spread the soft, room temperature truffle topping over the top of each one. Crumble a Flake bar and sprinkle a little over the topping to make a small nest. Carefully place a couple of mini sugar-coated eggs on top of each one. Alternatively, dust the truffle topping with a little coca powder.

Chocolate Fondue

This is a great recipe to use up surplus Easter eggs – if you’ve got any, that is!


Serves 4-6
Ready in 10 minutes

150g Asda Extra Special Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
250ml Asda Extra Special Extra Thick Channel Island Double Cream
2tbsp golden syrup
Asda Extra Special Strawberries (and other fresh fruit eg. pineapple and banana chunks) and marshmallows, to serve

  1. Melt the chocolate with the cream and golden syrup in a bowl standing over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

  1. Stir until completely smooth.

  1. Put in the centre of the table and, using wooden skewers, dip the fruit and marshmallows into the chocolate.

Tip: Try adding the finely grated zest of ½ an orange or 2tbsp brandy or Cointreau to the fondue.


Smoked cod chowder

Served with crusty bread, this rich, creamy soup is really a meal in a bowl!

Serves 4
Ready in 30 minutes

25g Asda Unsalted Butter
1 medium onion, chopped
180g Asda Extra Special Dry Cured Oak Smoked Bacon Lardons
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
450ml fish or vegetable stock
150ml milk
150ml Asda Extra Special French Crème Fraîche d’Isigny
250g Asda Extra Special Line Caught Smoked Cod Loins, cut into small pieces
100g frozen petits pois

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onions over a low heat until soft and translucent.

  1. Add the bacon and cook until golden.

  1. Add the potatoes, stock and milk and bring to the boil. Partially cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.

  1. Add the crème fraîche and bring up to a gentle simmer.

  1. Add the cod and peas and continue to cook until the fish is cooked through – try not to stir too much or the fish will break up.

  1. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


Hot smoked salmon and king prawn pie

This pie is also delicious topped with puff pastry or mashed potato

Serves 4

Ready in 35 minutes


50g Asda salted butter
25g plain flour
150ml milk
150ml Asda Extra Special French Crème Fraîche d’Isigny
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley
200g Asda Extra Special Golden Roast Smoked Scottish Salmon, skin removed
240g Asda Extra Special Cooked Peeled Jumbo King Prawns
4 sheets filo pastry


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.

  1. Melt 25g butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the flour and stir over the heat for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk.

  1. Return the pan to the heat and, stirring continuously, slowly bring to the boil. Whisk in the crème fraîche.

  1. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

  1. Break the salmon into large flakes and carefully add to the sauce with the prawns. Transfer to an ovenproof dish.

  1. Melt the remaining butter. Brush each sheet of filo pastry with the butter and loosely scrunch up on the top of the fish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the filling hot.

Tip: Keep the filo pastry covered with a damp tea towel as you prepare each sheet or it will dry out.




Glazed gammon with leek and cider sauce

As an alternative to cider, you could try making this dish with apple juice

Serves 4 - 6
Ready in 1 hour 30 minutes

1-1.4kg Asda Extra Special Wiltshire Cured Unsmoked Silverside Gammon Joint
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
5 black peppercorns
440ml can dry cider
50g butter
4 small or 2 medium leeks, finely sliced and rinsed
50g plain flour
300ml milk
2tbsp Asda Extra Special Spanish Orange Blossom Honey
2tbsp Asda Extra Special Tewkesbury Mustard
4tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Asda Extra Special Creamy Marilyn Potatoes and Asda Extra Special Purple Sprouting Broccoli, to serve

  1. Put the gammon joint in a large saucepan with the onion, carrot, thyme, peppercorns and cider. Cover the joint with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes per 450g. (Make sure the water level is topped up to cover the joint during cooking.) 
     
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the leeks and cook over a very low heat until completely soft, but not brown.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Set aside until the gammon is cooked. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  4. Remove the joint from the pan and leave to cool slightly. Turn the heat up and reduce the liquid by boiling rapidly until the flavour is strong, but not too salty. 
     
  5. Wearing rubber gloves, remove the skin from the gammon but leave the fat underneath. Mix together the honey and mustard and spread over the gammon. Put it on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until brown and caramelised.
  6. Strain the reduced cooking liquor and slowly add 200ml of it to the leek sauce, stirring. Bring the sauce up to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve with the gammon, potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.


Smoked mackerel pâté
You can make this pâté in advance and keep it well covered in the fridge for 2-3 days

Serves 4
Ready in 10 minutes

200g pack Asda Extra Special Chilli & Garlic Smoked Mackerel Strips
150ml Asda Extra Special French Crème Fraîche d’Isigny
Juice of ½ lemon
25g capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
25g gherkins, rinsed, drained and chopped
Asda Extra Special Artisan Bakery Sesame & Pumpkin Seed and Seeded Flatbreads and green salad, to serve


  1. Remove any bones and the skin from the mackerel. Put the mackerel, crème fraîche and lemon juice into a processor and pulse until combined.
  2. Turn into a bowl and add the capers and gherkins, and season with salt and pepper. Combine well and turn into 4 ramekins. Keep covered and chilled until ready to serve.
  3. Serve with the flatbreads and a green salad.


Tip: Substitute the gherkins and capers with 1tbsp Asda Extra Special Horseradish Sauce and some chopped fresh parsley.

Tip: You could also make this recipe using smoked trout instead of mackerel.



Strawberry tartlets
It’s best to assemble the tartlets just before you serve them as the pastry cases can become soggy

Makes 8
Ready in 10 minutes

150ml Asda Extra Special Creamy French Whipped Soft Cheese
50g icing sugar
250ml Asda Extra Special Extra Thick Channel Island Double Cream
1tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice ½ unwaxed lemon (optional)
250g pack Asda Extra Special Strawberries
8 Asda Extra Special All Butter Pastry Cases

For the glaze
2tbsp Asda Extra Special Strawberry Conserve


  1. Put the soft whipped cheese in a bowl and mix in the icing sugar. Gradually stir in the cream, so you have a smooth mixture. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice and zest, if using.

  1. Share the cream mixture between the pastry cases and level the top.

  1. Cut the green tops off the strawberries, then cut into halves or slices, depending on their size, and arrange over the tartlets.

  1. For the glaze, melt the strawberry conserve with 1tbsp water. Brush over the tartlets and allow to cool.


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