Thursday 7 July 2022

June 2022 Degustabox review : Picnic

When the postie dropped off the latest Degustabox a couple of weeks ago, I excitedly ripped open the box and grabbed the info sheet to discover this month's theme. As we were in the middle of a heatwave and sweating buckets, I was hoping for something summery that would give me some ideas for cold food options such as salads and sandwiches. At the top of the page, I could see the monthly theme - Picnic. Sounds perfect !

As I unpacked the contents, I could see it was the kind of box I love - a few products that we already know and love, some new products from well-known brands and some totally random items that I had never seen before and probably would never have picked up in the supermarket even if I had ! Let's have a closer look ...


First up was this duo of Boost Iced Coffee cans (RRP 2 x £1), featuring Rich & Chocolatey Mocha and Silky Smooth CaffĂ© Latte. I don't like coffee so I'll be passing these on, but the idea of a chilled, refreshing, heat-busting drink really appeals to me right now. The blend contains 60% robusta and 40% arabica coffee, originating from Vietnam and Brazil. They're priced at £1 a can, which sounds very reasonable to me.

J20 Spritz Apple & Watermelon (RRP £2.65 for a single unit (in bars and restaurants for example), £4 for a multipack) is another refreshing drink option for when the temperatures are soaring. It's a lightly, sparkling drink, perfect straight from the fridge or served over ice. I love the fruity flavour and the fact that it is only 55 calories a bottle.

Cherry Chewits (RRP 50p) and Sour Lemon Xtreme Chewits (RRP 50p) are the latest flavours to be added to the much-loved sweetie brand. The Madhouse kids were big fans of both but I will admit, the sour lemon ones had me puckering up my face as I ate them ! Very nice and a real blast from the past for me as I used to love buying Chewits with my pocket money ! They're suitable for vegetarians and contain no artificial colours or flavours.

Guinness Cooking Paste (RRP £3) is dubbed the new secret ingredient to add a rich and smoky flavour to chilli, casseroles and stews. I was dubious at first but thinking about it, we love beef in beer or beef carbonnade, which both involve adding beer to stewed meat dishes. The product description says " it's guaranteed to add oomph to just about anything". It says to just add a spoonful and that's what I did. Well, I have to say, I agree with them. It does add a rich depth of flavour to casseroles, gravy and other meat dishes. I'd say it's more of an autumn/winter ingredient, when we're eating more rich and hearty stews, but maybe I just need to experiment more ! Available in Tesco.

Hippeas Sriracha Chilli Chickpea Puff Snacks (RRP 99p) are a fiery hot version of the crunchy snack that we've discovered in past Degustaboxes. They are loaded with punchy spices including paprika, chilli, cumin and pepper. Well, I think we're wimps because they were a bit too spicy for us ! We love the texture of the snacks though and the fact that they are low calorie means that you can nibble them guilt-free.

Kind Maple Pecan Almond (RRP £1.49) is a snack bar packed with whole nuts - in fact over 80% of the ingredients is nuts - so if you like the taste of nuts, you'll love it. It is a filling and natural-tasting snack that promises to give you the energy to keep you going for longer. That's not all though. As the company explains, "Here at KIND®, we think a little differently. Instead of "or" we say "and'. We choose nutritious and delicious, convenient and wholesome, economically sustainable and socially impactful. From the snacks we make, to the way we work, live and give back, our goal is to make KIND® not just a brand but also a state of mind and a community that works together to build a kinder world." Can't say fairer than that !


Kit Kat Bites Sharing Bag (RRP £1.59) is a new way to enjoy the flavours of Kit Kat - whether or not you want to share is entirely up to you though ! The bite-sized pieces have a smooth chocolatey centre with crispy wafer pieces, as you'd expect from the normal sized bars. They're a great way of avoiding the melty mess of big Kit Kats (or other chocolate treats) when your kids hold on to them for too long in the sun ! Also a great way of limiting your portion size, if you're trying to cut down on excess calories. Very tasty and they contain absolutely no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and use 100% certified sustainable cocoa beans.

Whitworths Protein By Nature Moroccan Grains (RRP £2) is perfect when you rush home late from work and need food on the table in minutes for a hungry family (or alternatively if you want a fuss-free lunch in the office kitchen that only has a microwave and kettle available !) The pouch contains grains, mung dal (split mung beans) and soya (containing all nine natural essential amino acids) with warming ras-el-hanout spices. It can be eaten as it is, in which case it is a vegan dish, or as an alternative to rice, pasta or mash alongside meat or eggs. Ready in just two minutes, it's convenient and makes a nice change when you want something a bit different. Protein By Nature pouches are available in Co-op, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsburys and contain 20g of protein.

Knorr Fish Stock Pots (RRP £1.65) are a simple way of adding a rich flavour to your home-cooked fishy dishes. Whether it's paella, fish pie or prawn curry on the menu, they add a great depth of flavour and really perk up bland sauces. They're slowly simmered with onion and garlic so just popping one into your dish to melt is a real time-saver. They're gluten free and contain no added MSG, artificial colours or preservatives.

Napolina Drained & Ready To Serve range (RRP 75p) is a great base for salads and cold dishes when temperatures are rising, but they can also be heated up if preferred. 
Cannellini Beans have a smooth, creamy texture and a slightly nutty flavour. I mixed them with tuna, tomatoes and salad and was surprised when everyone (even the kids !) ate them and murmured appreciatively. They could also be used in chilli, soup or crushed and seasoned as a topping for crackers. I knew that the quinoa would be less popular so I "hid" it in a tomato sauce with mushrooms and red kidney beans, as another heat-busting salad dish that was also eaten by the whole family. The cans are vacuum packed so they're quick and simple to use, with no liquid to drain. The range is naturally low in fat, a great source of protein and counts towards one of the recommended 5 a day. Definitely worth investigating as they're perfect for livening up packed lunches and creating new dishes for hot summertime meals. Available at ASDA and on Ocado.

Plantastic Chocolate and Cherry Flapjacks (RRP £2.25) are a delicious snack, made with chocolate chips, glacĂ© cherries and crunchy sunflower seeds. They were a big hit with the whole family, based on taste alone, but they are also plant-based, avoiding all ingredients from animals. They're also available in Zingy Lemon and Sweet Apricot and Ginger with Almonds varieties, which I will definitely look out for. Available at Tesco.

Urban Fruit Pineapple (RRP 2 x £1) is a high fibre snack that counts towards your 5-a-day portions but I'd eat it just because it tastes great ! I love the taste of pineapple but cutting up a fresh pineapple is so messy. This is a great way of avoiding the mess and the hassle. Just enjoy the delicious, sweet flavour of pineapple in an instant - yum ! This is a great summer option for snacking when you're out and about as, unlike chocolatey snacks, it won't melt all over your fingers. 

 A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which means you'll get the first box for just £9.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout. 

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Sunday 3 July 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 27

Into our last week at school ! Monday is a normal day (but hardly any pupils will come as they usually count the three days off when the school is closed for exams as the end of term), Tuesday we are taking anyone who does come to the start of the Tour de France (which is passing through Dunkirk for the first time in about fifteen years), Wednesday and Thursday morning are meetings and Thursday lunchtime is the end-of-year BBQ ... then that's it ! Sophie's covid has gone - she didn't even have any symptoms luckily - and the girls are off to see concerts in Paris and Antwerp. Another busy week but I'm getting into the summer holiday way of thinking ... bring it on !


lunch- canteen for me - leftovers for Pierre

dinner - chilli con carne and rice


lunch- I need a packed lunch to eat at the beach with the kids from school - Pierre can go fridge or freezer-diving (there should be leftovers)

dinner- smoked sausages, mash and beans


lunch- chipolatas with rice & veg

dinner- spaghetti carbonara


lunch - end-of-term BBQ for me, not sure if the girls will be home or just Pierre but there should be stuff in the fridge

dinner- tacos


lunch- bacon sandwiches

dinner -  grilled ham with baked potato and coleslaw


lunch- beefburgers (or hamburgers if I pick up some buns) with chips and coleslaw

dinner- nibbly bits from the freezer : Chinese chicken/veg snacks, pork banh bao, mini spring rolls, whatever else I picked up during Oriental week at the supermarket a few weeks ago !


lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg & gravy

dinner- pork/beef meatballs with pasta or maybe just leftovers/fridge grazing if nobody's hungry

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Linking up with the Menu Plan Roundup over at Cats, Kids, Chaos

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