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Product Review | ASDA’s Free From Macaroni Cheese

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ASDA has recently brought out a new range of fresh gluten free products including this Macaroni Cheese. I tested it out!

My first plus point for this product is that it does not contain any onion or garlic! For someone who suffers from IBS this is a big deal – alliums are a big trigger for IBS and finding pre-made gluten free food that doesn’t use them is nearly impossible.

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As with classic ready meals this can either be microwaved for a 4-5 minutes or oven baked for 30 minutes. I opted for the microwave option to test out the convenience of this product. It heated through very easily in the time recommended and stayed warm for 15 or so minutes afterwards, unlike some microwave meals. I was worried that the pasta – being gluten free and therefore temperamental – might be hard or rubbery once microwaved, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was perfectly al dente and very similar to the gluten counterparts I’ve had in the past.

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I’m not going to pretend that this is anything more than a microwave meal taste-wise – was it the most delicious macaroni cheese I’ve ever had? No. Does it top my homemade version? No. But considering this product as a convenience item it is very tasty. It reminds me exactly of the ready meal macaroni cheeses I had before diagnosis. The sauce is creamy and not overly thick and stodgy, and the flavours are subtle – there is no overpowering cheesy aftertaste or kick of spice or mustard to this dish.

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Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this dish. It ticked all the boxes taste, texture and cooking-wise and satisfied my hunger one night after a long journey home and I was too tired to cook. What’s more, it didn’t upset my IBS – often gluten free ready meals are still a no-no for IBS sufferers, either because of the ingredients, or because the pre-cooked elements of the dish cause an issue. But with this dish, I didn’t experience any issues!

I’m definitely going to buy this again for the occasional nights when I’m just too tired to cook, or when I’m staying somewhere where I only have access to a microwave.

 

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Product Review (GF, V) | ASDA Free From Chocolate and Salted Caramel Naked Layered Gateau

Lots of us were very excited to see this cake in ASDA’s Free From freezer section just in time for Christmas, but is it worth buying for the big day?

We treated ourselves to this for my recent Master’s graduation instead of waiting until Christmas – to have a celebratory cake and to review it for you guys before the festive season really begins!

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Some were shocked at the price – £6.50! Even those of us used to the extortionate costs of gluten free living were stunned by it. That having been said, the gluten equivalent is £6, which is quite a marked difference compared to the price variation we usually see between gluten free and gluten.

The other issue I’ve seen discussed on Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram about this cake is the suggested portion size. The packet says “12 servings”, which a lot of people have pointed out may be optimistic. I think this cake could comfortably feed 10 people but perhaps ASDA are attempting to justify the price.

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So what of the taste? This cake has layers of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and ganache and so is very decadent. The flavours compliment each other well and it conjures nostalgic memories of pre-diagnosis gateaus.

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The only flaw with the taste of this cake is the sponge. It is rather dry, a fact which is only noticeable after a few bites and especially if eaten without any cream, ganache or caramel as an accompaniment.

Gluten free cakes have a terrible reputation for being dry – one that I consider to be completely unfounded. Only poorly made gluten free cakes are dry, and (especially in recent years) they can be just as moist and well textured as “normal” cakes.

This was not my only issue with the product. The packaging design made it difficult to get an already delicate pudding out its box. Ensure you remove it before it has begun to defrost and place into the fridge once defrosted to avoid seepage.

All in all, despite my comments on the texture and packaging, I might be inclined to buy this again for family occasions. The “normal” look of it would encourage my non-Coeliac relatives to indulge and its size would make it a good option for festive occasions.

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I would advise using a lot of cream with this product to mask the slightly dry sponge, but it is quite delicious otherwise!

 

What will you be having for Christmas pudding this year? Do you enjoy the traditional Christmas Pudding or Mince Pie? Or do you prefer something else?

 

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See the previous Monday’s recipe here.

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Product Review | Supermarket vs. Brand

If you’ve been gluten free for a while you may have noticed that some supermarket own brand Free From products often mimic the branded version. I’ve compared them for you so you can see whether the branded version is worth the extra money.

Even before I was diagnosed Coeliac our household food shopping budget was tight and so I’ve always been an advocate of supermarket own brand versions of branded products. There is no shame in  foregoing brands and supermarket versions are often nicer than the original. That being said, when it comes to Free From supermarket own brand products the quality can be very hit and miss. Here are a few comparisons and my opinions. Everyone has different tastes so I’d recommend trying the supermarket own brand versions yourself if you are trying to decrease your outgoings.

  1. Mrs Crimbles Cheese Cheese Crackers versus Marks and Spencer’s Cheese Crackers

These crackers are almost identical in look but the ingredients vary slightly.

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M and S tends to be a bit pricier, even when compared to brands, but I would always choose the M and S crackers over Mrs Crimbles for one reason – this:

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Every box of Mrs Crimbles cheese crackers that I have bought has been 50% broken. M and S’s cheese crackers have always been whole with very little crumbling. I think the price difference should not be an issue with this product.

Brand Price: £1.75

Supermarket Price: Currently Unknown

WINNER: Supermarket!

 

2. Prewett’s Triple Chocolate Cookies versus Tesco Free From

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I’m a big fan of Prewett’s in general (see my review here) but when it comes to this product I think the supermarket own brand version (in particular Tesco’s, but Sainsbury’s and ASDA make their own versions too) are pretty good competition. Prewett’s make speciality gluten free biscuits and they are heavenly, but when it comes to this product, the supermarket own brand version is cheaper and the difference in taste is not that big. Sorry Prewett’s but Tesco win this battle!

Brand Price: £2.29

Supermarket Price: £1.80

WINNER: Supermarket!

 

3. ASDA Free From Penne versus Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Organic Penne

Dove’s Farm are well known for creating quality gluten free flour but when it comes to pasta I don’t think they are the best product on the market. Both of these products are made from the same base ingredients – rice and corn flours – yet the difference in price is astronomical. At 500g each the price difference is over a pound and all for the label of “organic”. I’ve found Dove’ Farm to be a temperamental pasta to cook anyway – the ASDA own brand is much more consistent.

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Dove’s Farm Penne

This is definitely a supermarket versus brand where the supermarket triumphs. 107443

This is one swap where the budget won’t leave you feeling

 

unsatisfied.

Brand Price: £2.50

Supermarket Price: £1.35

WINNER: Supermarket!

 

4. Genius Bread versus Tesco Free From Bread

Gluten free bread is always quite hit and miss – some brands are quite unlike the original (sorry BFree, wasn’t keen! – but don’t forget they are GF and suitable for vegans) and it can take some time to find one you like.

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Genius get a bad reputation because their slices are known to be full of holes or falling apart (read more about Genius bread here) but compared to supermarket own brand breads I always choose Genius. The taste and texture is always far superior and Genius seems to go off much slower than other brands. It is more expensive, of course, but for this product I think it’s worth it.

Brand Price: £2.70

Supermarket Price: £2.00

WINNER: Brand!

 

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See the previous Monday’s recipe here.

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Coeliac Awareness Week | Product Review | Pots & Co.

Pots & Co. make several gluten free dessert pots many of which are gluten free. I was lucky enough to find some in my local Tesco. I picked up the Salted Caramel and the Chocolate Orange to give them a whirl!

Salted Caramel

This really is what it says on the pot – a layer of creamy chocolate ganache with a salty kick. This one is perfect for those of you who are more into savoury flavours than sweet as the salted caramel balances out the sweeter flavour of the chocolate. Whilst this isn’t my favourite flavour of dessert in general, this pot is luxurious and creamy enough to make me want to buy it again!

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Chocolate Orange

This is by far my favourite of the two. Creamy, decadent and impossibly smooth chocolate ganache with a zesty hint of orange. This flavour combination is always a winner for me but especially so with this pot. I’m gushing praise for this product – it’s reminiscent of restaurant desserts that I had before diagnosis. My only criticism would be that it is a little small for the price but both come in reusable ceramic dishes so this is reflected in the price.

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I would buy both of these again and would be excited to try other gluten free flavours such as Chocolate and Roasted Hazelnut and Chocolate and Vanilla (should my local supermarkets start to stock them).

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For those of you who do not like chocolate but still want something sweet they also make fruit flavours such as Mango, Lime & Coconut and Rhubarb & Custard. If you are looking for a gluten free alternative to puddings like GU then these are definitely the right choice!

Product Review | Prewett’s Biscuits

Prewett’s make a range of delicious gluten free biscuits. You can see my live taste test video on my Youtube, here.

Milk Chocolate Digestives

These chocolatey snacks are so moreish that it didn’t take my boyfriend and I long to polish them off! They are the perfect addition to any cup of tea or hot chocolate. Whilst they lack the very crumbly textures that gluten containing digestives tend to have, their consistency is perfect for dunking.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for absolutely delicious and moreish biscuits.

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Chocoful Bars

These are another winner. Not only chocolatey and delicious, they are individually wrapped, making them perfect for lunch boxes.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for delicious and portable chocolate biscuits. These were both mine and my boyfriend’s overall favourite.

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White Chocolate and Cranberry

For those who prefer a lighter taste, the zingy cranberries and smooth white chocolate in these cookie style biscuits make a welcome change from milk chocolate. I would have preferred raspberries to cranberries (which is purely a matter of personal taste rather than a comment on flavour balances) but the fruit and white chocolate combination works wonderfully.

★★★★☆

4 out of 5 stars for light and chewy cookie style biscuits. We reserved 5 stars for our absolute favourites but these were up there.

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Jammy Wheels

If you were a Jammy Dodger fan before diagnosis these are definitely the biscuit for you. They have the same texture, the same delicate jam taste. These are so reminiscent of the original that I think you could easily fool non-Coeliacs.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for an uncanny substitute for a gluten containing favourite. I have nothing but praise for this product.

 

If you want the chance to win some of Prewett’s yummy products you can enter my giveaway (closes Monday 8th May 2017) by following the instructions outlined on this blog post.

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See Monday’s recipe here.

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Product Review | Nature’s Path Cereals

Nature’s Path are a gluten free cereal brand. They make many flavours, some of which imitate your pre-diagnosis favourites! Check out my Youtube live taste test to see what our first impressions were!

Berry Granola

This granola has oat clusters, a mix of freeze dried berries and yoghurt chips. Having never had “normal” granola before my diagnosis, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s safe to say that I thought it was delicious. These cereals are not overly sugary and this one especially was packed with flavours. The texture varied between the crunchy oats and soft yoghurt chips which made a nice change from other cereals. I would definitely buy this again.

★★★★☆

4 out of 5 stars for a delicious alternative to normal cereals. I would have liked to see a wider range of granola flavours – a chocolate and berry one would be amazing.

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Os

This cereal is a clear substitute for gluten containing brand Cheerio’s and I think it succeeds very well if this was its aim was to replicate this. I would however say that this is one of their plainer cereals – if you like stronger flavours this probably isn’t the cereal for you.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars for a good replica of Cheerios which can be a little lacking in flavour for my taste.

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Crispy Rice

Again this cereal is filling the role that Rice Crispies play in the “normal” market. I think these have a very satisfying texture and made fantastic rice crispy cakes for my Easter recipe. Again, this is a plainer tasting cereal compared to the granola, but if you liked Rice Crispies before diagnosis, these will be perfect for you.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars again for a convincing Rice Crispies substitute which just needed an extra boost to become something I would buy again.

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Chocomunch

This cereal is by far my favourite. I’m some what of a chocolate addict which makes me favour this cereal over the others. It should be noted that this cereal – whilst undeniably chocolatey and a perfect replacement for Nesquik’s cereals – is not much higher in calories or sugar than their other cereals. For example, Chocomunch contains 138 kcal and 12g of sugar per serving, whilst Crispy Rice is 260 kcal and 9.6g of sugar and the Os are 120 kcal and 3.9g of sugar. It still tastes just like the chocolatey children’s cereals I loved!

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for my all time favourite gluten free cereal. Enough said I think.

Choc Chip Granola Bars

These are another winner for me. Firstly, they are delicious – not overly sweet again but with the right level of chocolatey goodness and oaty texture. Secondly, they are individually wrapped and so make the ideal snack to take travelling or to university or school.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for a delicious portable snack.

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Check out how you can win some yummy Nature’s Path goodies here (deadline 8th May 2017)

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See Monday’s recipe here.

Social Media:

Youtube: The Gluten Free Veggie – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-b7T1VFTZqYq15aPvdlNwA

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Product Review | Propercorn popcorn

Please read to the end of my review for my conclusion and star rating.

I love popcorn! There are lots of brands/supermarket own brands that are suitable for Coeliacs – popcorn is of course naturally gluten free anyway – but Propercorn is my favourite. They have several flavours to chose from and their gluten free and vegan flavours are very clearly labelled on the back so you have nothing to worry about!

All six of their popcorn flavours are gluten and wheat free and five are vegan:

Sweet Vanilla and Coconut

Sweet and Salty

Fiery Worcester Sauce and Sundried Tomato

Sour Cream and Black Pepper (not suitable for vegans)

Lightly Sea Salted

Smooth Peanut and Almond

My local Waitrose only stocks two flavours but I have had most of them at one time or another and they are all incredible.

The thing that always hits me the most about this product is just how flavourful each piece is – I never thought that popcorn could be so tasty! Cinema popcorn was always a bit dull and involved too much chewing for my liking, so my first expectation for this product was that it would be the same. I was pleasantly surprised and happy to be proven wrong when I first picked up a bag of the Sour Cream and Black Pepper a few years ago.

My absolute favourite flavour is the Peanut and Almond – the taste is unparalleled by any popcorn I’ve ever had. It’s sweet but salty, smooth but with a nutty taste and most importantly for me, doesn’t have an overpowering peanut taste. I am one of those weird people that really doesn’t like peanut butter – I will eat cashew butter all day long, but I peanut butter is rather cloying and has a very overpowering taste. As a result I was sceptical to try this flavour but now it’s my firm favourite! The almond balances out the peanut perfectly.

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Sweet and salty popcorn is something I had never tried before finding this product. I never used to like salty popcorn as it made me drink a lot but this flavour works really well. Including both sweet and salty means you don’t get bored of the flavour like I used to with salty popcorn.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for a product that I can’t really fault. Propercorn if you’re reading this, you’ve done a brilliant job with making gluten free and veggie popcorn flavours and I can’t wait to see what other flavours you might produce in the future!

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See Monday’s recipe here.

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Product Review | Genius “Toastie” Loaf

Please read to the end of my review for my conclusion and star rating.

 

Previously, I reviewed Genius’ new recipe loaf with mixed opinions. I then spoke to a Genius representative on the phone and posted this update. I was excited to see that another loaf has been added to Genius’ collection of products – the “Toastie” loaf. I decided to review it to see how this loaf compares to their other three loaves – white, brown and seeded.

I can see why Genius have created a new loaf. Other gluten free companies have recently started to branch into fresh bread (see my review of Newburn Bakehouse’s Fresh Artisan Loaf, for example). Once Genius held an oligopoly on the gluten free bread market in Britain – this has all changed in recent years with European competitors Schar starting to dominate the bakery goods in the Free From aisle. It seems that Genius are trying to find a niche in the gluten free bread market with their “Toastie” loaf, and that should be commended.

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It is important first of all to highlight that the “Toastie” loaf is more expensive than their normal white loaf – £2.60 compared to £2.50, which might only be 10p difference but it’s worth taking note if you are on a tight budget like myself.

The first noticeable difference between this loaf and Genius’ other loaves is the shape – the “Toastie” loaf has a recognisably square shape. The crusts are lighter in colour and the loaf looks a little more like the classic gluten filled sliced white bread that we all remember.

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I tested this product is several ways – toast, sandwiches and, as the name demands, a toastie. This loaf still has the usual structural problem that Coeliacs have gotten used to with Genius products – two of the slices in my loaf fell apart and were unusable, which is better than some people’s experience of this product.

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Despite this I have nothing bad to say about this loaf – but I also don’t really have anything good to say either. I’m disappointed to say that I can’t find any difference other than looks between Genius’ “Toastie” loaf and their other loaves. The taste is the same, the texture is the same and the usability is the same. For 10p extra, I can’t find any reason to buy this over the other loaves. This isn’t to say that the loaf isn’t nice, it just is almost identical to their existing products!

As I said above, I can’t see any real reason to buy this product over Genius’ other loaves, unless looks factor into your buying decisions. That’s the real reason for my star rating, but the quality of the product is fairly identical to their other bread.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars for a frankly disappointing loaf that doesn’t seem to differ in function or taste from Genius’ other loaves.

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My reviews are from my own experience of the product or eatery and are honest. I am not sponsored by any companies and I write my opinions based on individual merit. I do not print retractions but I will post updates if and when new information comes to light.

 

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See Monday’s recipe here.

Social Media:

Youtube: The Gluten Free Veggie – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-b7T1VFTZqYq15aPvdlNwA

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Product Review | Newburn Bakehouse Artisan Bread

Please read to the end of my review for my conclusion and star rating.

I always try to be as honest as possible in my reviews, so I have mixed things to report about this loaf.

Firstly, I was delighted to find fresh gluten free bread in a normal supermarket. There were three from this brand offered in my local Sainsbury’s, two sourdough types and this one.

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I was curious to try it toasted first, and so I opted for butter and yeast extract (ASDA’s own brand is gluten free). The taste was fantastic – just like “real” bread. The crusts especially were sturdy and had that recognisable toasty taste that is sometimes lacking in pre-sliced gluten free bread.

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Untoasted this bread was a equally pleasing – no holes or structural weakness but also not too close or doughy. It did have a slight aftertaste (not necessarily unpleasant) that I expect was only noticeable because my tastebuds have become too used to the hideously processed taste of the pre-sliced brands.

Secondly, I have to report a rather converse view on this bread – from my stomach! Having IBS means that sometimes things just don’t agree. I feel I have to be honest in case those of you with IBS want to try this bread – it did trigger my IBS unfortunately. This is likely due to it being high in fibre, and because of the psyllium husk (see “Vegetable Fibre [Psylium]” in the ingredients below) this bread was always going to be a risk for me. It’s a shame but I think I will try it again at some point.

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I don’t think it’s effect on my IBS should necessarily impact on this bread’s reputation as a gluten free product – it’s certainly the highest quality gluten free bread that I’ve found in a supermarket but I have to include my experience as a warning to those of you with IBS like me.

★★★★☆

4 out of 5 stars for delicious and fluffy fresh gluten free bread, but a potential risk food for those of us with IBS. I would recommend this as a bread product for any Coeliac.

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