Going Nuts…Over Nuts!

With the focus on healthy eating, there has been scare-mongering within the health PR industry to steer clear of items that are termed ‘junk’. Whether that’s pizzas, burgers and chips or crisps, chocolate and sweets.

So the search to find healthy replacements for these foods has surged with focus on energy bars and protein balls. Yet one of the food groups that has always seemed to balance between the healthy and the unhealthy are nuts and seeds.  This small yet powerful food group have been hailed as ‘superfoods’, ‘miracle-foods’ and everything else associated with ‘clean-eating’.  That is if you have them in moderate amounts of course otherwise they become the epitome of bad eating, unhealthy eating and everything else associated with over-eating!

Whilst nuts have been around for eons, and come in all shapes and sizes – the popularity of these have grown as consumers add pumpkin seeds to porridge, nibble on brazil nuts as an afternoon snack or grind almonds to make almond butter. They can be sweet or savoury, pre-meals or post-meals, starters or desserts.

The variety these little foods offer are endless.

Miss Nang Treats: Nang Cin-Almond, Nang Sweet Pea-Original, Nang Vee-Cornish

northernmunkeebites.missnang2Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: nut-lovers and those with a sweet tooth who want to (try) and be relatively healthy

Packaging:

These delights come packaged in little bags of equal looking delight. Wrapped in clear bags with tasteful ribbons, the consumer can see the nuts clearly which are attractive.  The colours of the nuts add to the overall look and feel, one can see these presented as favours in weddings or gifted to loved ones for special occasions.  I like the fact that these are small enough to pop into your bag as well rather than being in a box or dividing up a larger bag.  The tasteful sticker details the ingredients, although perhaps the brand could be a little more prominent on this.

Price:

For 100g bag, ranges from £2-£3. These can be purchased from the website directly.  Although the price is a steep for one bag, these are intended as gifts and can be bought in bulk for events.  The price though for one bag can be deemed fair as the nuts do last over a few days/weeks and can be shared.  It helps manage consumption that’s for sure!

Delivery:

These little bags of nuts are tasty! The three different flavours I tried were all spot onnorthernmunkeebites.missnang1 with my favourite being the Cin-Almond one.  These were so more-ish, sweet without being too sweet, tasty without being overpowering.  Whilst they were sweet flavoured nuts, at no point did I feel guilty for having one too many.  The Nang Sweet Pea – Original were just incredible too, the ingredients just say sugar and salt but these seemed to have just the right balance of delicious-ness.  There is definitely a certain je ne sais quoi as you can’t quite put your finger on the flavours but whilst popping these in your mouth, all you need to do is savour and enjoy them rather than trying to figure it out.  Although I may not purchase these regularly, I do know where to go now for a tasty nut treat and to order some packets for special friends.

Verdict: in a word –more-ish. Whilst the price can initially cause you to pause to purchase, after tasting it you can see that it’s actually a fairly reasonable price.  The whole look and feel is of something that is quite homely and very personal.

Details: https://missnang.com/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

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Make Healthy Chocolate Your Friend!

To say I’m a chocolate fiend is an understatement. Chocolate is my friend.  No really she is – she’s been there for me throughout all the key moments in my life.  Comforted me in sadness, celebrated with me in happiness, calmed me down in anger and prepped me up with energy when I’ve needed it.  Like for millions of others, chocolate is a warm comforting blanket.

When my health issues cropped up I actually had to abandon chocolate for a while as she became a toxic friend for me. So I did go chocolate-free for quite a while.  And when I decided to let her back in my life our relationship had changed.

Now she had to be a high quality friend. She couldn’t just satisfy a primary urge of a sugar fix but had to offer my body and health something more.  She also had to cater to my dietary requirements of being dairy free but she couldn’t compromise on taste.   As I started my journey for new friends, I was surprised to see how much the chocolate market had changed.  In fact there was so much choice that I was like a kid in a sweet shop!  The need for a ‘healthy’ chocolate friend didn’t appear to be just a unique thing for me but was in demand by a growing population who wanted what I did.  Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that this market will slow down anytime soon as there’s a whole host of new healthy chocolate desperate to be our friends. And I’m all too willing to make new friends….

northernmunkeebites.ombar1Ombar Chocolate 72% Raw Cacao

Rating: 8 out of 10

Appeals to: free-from lovers, healthy-conscious eaters and lovers of high quality chocolate

Packaging

Now I’m not too sure that I was first attracted by the packaging. It didn’t scream out to me from all the different varieties on the shelves.  A slightly muted brown paper packaging with a pop of colour is how it differentiates itself.  However upon a second and tertiary glance, it actually looks quite classy with a high quality wrapping and upon opening a golden inlay.  It feels smooth to hold and starts to cry out high quality.  What I particularly liked was the rather clean/clear writing and not too much information on the front – just key words that I needed for my requirements e.g. % of raw cacao, dairy free.  Looking on the back provides me with the full information that I do need and in an easy to read manner.

Price

£1.99 – I have purchased this from a few health shops including Planet Organic and Holland & Barret.  When I first purchased it I thought the price was pretty steep for what looks like a small bar (35g).  However having tasted it against other brands it is quite reasonable and there are often discounts available on it in the health stores I mentioned.  It also helps me manage my consumption as because it is quite a price tag I don’t gobble it all in one go but actually have started to have it over two or three days which then makes me think it’s worthwhile as well as making sure I don’t over indulge and spreading the cost!

Delivery

This chocolate delivers. There are other varieties of the brand that I haven’t tried because I enjoy this version so much.  For me, dark chocolate is now my preference over milk and white.  This bar provides that small chocolate fix without being overly rich.  It’s slightly bitter but there’s creaminess to it which takes the edge of it.  I find that if you take one slab of it and let it melt slowly in your mouth, it gives you that feeling of eating a full chocolate bar.  To me that screams quality and ticks off all my boxes.  The product states it contains natural antioxidants and live cultures and I don’t know whether that adds to the flavour or not; but either way this is a tasty chocolate and one that is becoming a firm friend.

Verdict – in a word, creamy! Whilst the price can initially cause you to pause to purchase, after tasting it you can see that it’s actually a fairly reasonable price.  The 6 bar chocolate is enough to keep you satisfied for a couple of days providing you with that chocolate fix in an allergy free manner.  Plus if it states it’s good for your gut, I’m not one to say no to chocolate!

Details: https://www.ombar.co.uk/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

Toppa the Salads!

OK, stop what you’re doing. Grab a pen and paper and prepare to write this down, What I’m about to say is ground breaking…

Health is a key trend in food and drink.

Now I’ll just pause so you can allow that to sink in as you recover and make yourself a brew to calm down.

I jest. This isn’t new news. In fact it could almost be classed as postmodern. This agenda has long been on the ‘To Do’ lists of food manufacturers and consumers. So what is new news in this world?

I’m currently sat writing this post at lunch time in the busy canteen of one of the biggest food retailers in the UK. In my proximity I can see one person has soup, another has a dry crisp bread and another has a jacket potato. No one has gone for the burger and chips that’s also on the menu today. So everyone is consciously watching what they’re consuming and opting for the healthier choice. But what’s missing? Well for one a smile on their faces! Now you can accuse me of jumping to conclusions but I think the joy has left their faces because the flavour has left their plates.

Now we have established that we, as a food eating nation, want a healthy option and we want the choice we are now demanding more from our healthy options. A healthy lifestyle should not be a compromise and a chore and…FLAVOUR IS KING.

A Food Adventurer should constantly be seeking out new and exciting flavours and we shouldn’t exclude the health conscious from this search.

Enter Toppa from Plain Tasty…

Plain Tasty

northernmunkeebites.toppa

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: vegitarians, flexitarians, free-from followers, food lovers, healthy-food-hunters and just about any body

Packaging

The packaging is very simple and a lot of the key cues emanate from the fresh, bright and simplistic branding. The packaging hints at the products’ flavour-enhancing qualities and would break-up an otherwise repetitive fixture. Another important element of any healthy product packaging is that you can clearly see the product., which you can here. This is vital in terms of giving potential shoppers confidence over quality and sets expectations.northernmunkeebites.toppa1

My only criticism of the packaging is that it doesn’t successfully communicate what the products’ functions are. Although toppers aren’t a completely new concept it would be difficult to attract new shoppers to buy if this isn’t clearly communicated.

Price

£3.75 (based on company website) – on first glance you may think this is a little steep but I actually think it’s market appropriate. Consider the items that it’s likely to be purchased with (oils, crutons and spices) and this price point works really well within that.

northernmunkeebites.toppa2Delivery

Chilli and Lime, Lime & Seaweed

Now, this is a very versatile product but the beauty in it is its texture and flavour enhancing qualities. The magical mix is a blend of textures and ingredients in itself which marry together to produce a symphony of flavours. However, when you add the mix to a soft salad or soup it really comes to life and offers a stark juxtaposition in mouth feel.

I tried the product all three ways that are recommended on the packaging: as a snack, with soup and on a salad. I must admit the product performs exceptionally well as a meal topper but it’s not something I’d choose to snack on in isolation. This product comes alive and is really at home when it’s enhancing and adding another dimension to food. Banish the bland!

Verdict – in a word, tops! There are a few branding tweaks that I’d suggest but on the whole this really delivers against expectations. It’s a fantastic food flavour enhancer and it certainly would have brightened up some of the faces of the people around me right now!

Details: www.plaintasty.com

Any comments, thoughts or questions? Or are you a healthy-food-hunter yourself and you want to offer me some tips? Leave a little comment below because sharing is caring!

Northern Munkee.

Souper Recipes

Souper Swap Challenge

Last week I was challenged to take on the Souper Swap Challenge by the good folk at Baxters; so, being the Food Adventurer that I am, I took it on and replaced my lunches for their Hearty Soup range for a week.

The soup category in UK retail has taken a hammering over recent years as its perceived as being old-fashioned, uninspiring and bland. Manufacturers, like Heinz and Baxters, have invested heavily in product innovation to re-capture the hearts and minds of the soup eating population. This won’t be a quick turnaround but soups are certainly becoming more popular as in scratch-cooking option as we become more health and waste conscious.

Soups are a brilliant, healthy and easy food for time-poor shoppers and I for one always have a good cupboard-full. Instead of me just diarising my Souper Swap Challenge I thought I’d go creative and employ the expertise of Master Chef David Greenwood-Haigh to come up with some recipes using Baxters soups…I’ve also added a little Northern Munkee flair!

Enjoy…

Souper Pasta Bake

northernmunkeebites.baxters

Ingredients

  • 300g penne pasta
  • 400g broccoli (cut into small florets)
  • 185g boiled ham (diced)
  • 300ml semi skimmed milk
  • 150g mature cheddar (coarsely grated)
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 400g Baxters Hearty Chicken & Sweetcorn Chowder

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/428°F/gas 7.

Firstly, you need to cook your pasta and broccoli. So take a large pan, throw in your pasta with some water and a couple of dashes of olive oil. Boil your pasta for 8-9 minutes and then add in your broccoli florets. Boil for another 2-3 minutes until your broccoli is tender. Drain the water and return to the warm pan.

Throw in your diced ham, milk, half of the cheese and your Baxters Hearty Chicken & Sweetcorn Chowder. Stir the mixture until it’s completely immersed and add to a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese, evenly on the top.

Now you’re ready for the oven. Pop into the oven towards the top and bake for 15mins until the cheese is all gooey and golden!

Boom! Mic Drop!

Souper Chicken Pie

northernmunkeebites.chickenpie

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 500g diced chicken
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 500g short crust pastry
  • 1 beaten egg
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 400g Baxters Hearty Country Vegetable Soup

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/392°F/gas 6.

First thing’s first, .add 1tbsp oil to a large non-stick frying pan and gently fry the chicken until it’s browned; this should take 7-8 minutes. At this stage add a little salt and pepper to flavour your meat. Take your chicken out of the pan and put in a bowl to one side.

Now take the same pan and add 1 tbsp. oil and throw in your onions. After 2-3 minutes add your thyme and heat for a further 3 minutes until the onions start to colour. At this stage you could get creative and add some petit pois or butter beans if you’re that way inclined!

Now add your Baxters Country Vegetable Soup to the pan but keep the can. Bring the mixture to a simmer then fill your can half full (not half empty) with water; add to your pie filling. Now re-introduce the chicken to the filling and stir in. Turn off the heat and leave in the pan.

northernmunkeebites.chickenpie1Now for the pastry. Before you start grease your pie tin making sure you get into all the little nooks and crannies. Flour your surface and roll out the pastry sheet until it’s 2-3mm thick. Measure your pie tin and cut out a section that is 5mm larger than your pie tin, that’s your lid. Line your tin with the remainder of the pastry (you may need to re-roll depending on where you’ve taken your lid from) and press the pastry into all corners.

Spoon in your pie filling and level out. Lay your pastry lid across the mixture and crimp the edges using a fork.  Brush your beaten egg across the surface of the lid, this will make your pastry golden and shiny.

You’re now oven-ready. Pop your pie in towards the top of the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is slightly rise and beautifully golden. Et voila!

For more recipes from David visit: http://www.coeurdexocolat.co.uk/recipes

If you liked what you read please give me a follow, a retweet and all that good stuff. If you really liked what you read then why not leave me a comment below?

Northern Munkee.

P.S. In the interest of honesty and transparency I need to let you know that the Baxters soups were supplied to me, free of charge, for the purposes of promotions…and they tasted bloody good!

Eating Well This January: Eating In

OK, so I’m going to assume that a lot of you are like me in that you may have over indulged a little over the Christmas break; am I right? Well if you’ve done that then you probably also spent most of the Twixmas period trying to eat all the bad things left in the house before January arrives; still on track? Now it’s time to admit that you’ve started making strange noises when you raise yourself out of a chair and to do something about it.

I’m not into that ‘New Year, New Me’ bullshit but I do believe that making lifestyle changes can provide a good platform to being a bit happier and a bit healthier. So, I’m on a quest to find ways to eat well but improve my health at the same time.

Mrs Munkee and I have opted to give the paleo diet a try. Now, I’m not usually a fad-follower but I want to get my mission into print then I will feel more obliged to stick to it and will be publically shamed if I fail! I do want to be clear though: this does NOT mean that I will be neglecting my duties as a Food Adventurer. Instead, what I want to do is find ways to eat great food that fit within the parameters of a healthy lifestyle and food routine.

Please don’t be alarmed though. January’s blog series won’t be preachy and I won’t be turning into a spandex-clad-Mr Motivator-look-a-like. It’s just another leg to my Food Adventure.

Juicy Fuel Cola

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: just about anyone but the discovery of a natural fruit cola will be music to the ears of anyone who is just in the process of making the lifestyle change

Packaging

Fantastic. In my view a big amount of this product’s charm is held in the packaging. The soft drinks category is fast-paced, noisy and ruthless so differentiated, honest and en vogue designs will certainly help to stand out from the wallpaper. In addition to this, the messaging that comes across from the can is spot on. The product’s USP is that it is natural, simple and is one of your five a day. Well I can see that easily from the shelf. Job done.

Pricing

£1.00 – well, it’s the magic price point so you can’t really argue. Yes, it’s steeper than it’s famously red counterpart but just how much can you trust the ingredients of a drink that I use to clean my toilet?

Delivery

Genuinely outstanding. Both the cola and the cherry cola variants are fantastic. In my opinion they have echoes of the familiar flavour with a non-synthetic aftertaste. A natural efficionado would be able to identify each fruit as it bursts in the mouth.

My only complaint about these drinks is that they may have spoiled my enjoyment of the better-known brands!

Verdict – in a word, superb! Managing a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy with temptation lurking behind every supermarket shelf however it’s products like Juicy Fuel Cola that make that transition that bit easier. My belief is that you should be able to lead a healthy life without breaking the bank or punishing your tastebuds; more of these types of products please!

Details: http://www.thejuiceshedcompany.com/

Northern Munkee.

Eating Well This January: Eating In

OK, so I’m going to assume that a lot of you are like me in that you may have overindulged a little over the Christmas break; am I right? Well if you’ve done that then you probably also spent most of the Twixmas period trying to eat all the bad things left in the house before January arrives; still on track? Now it’s time to admit that you’ve started making strange noises when you raise yourself out of a chair and to do something about it.

I’m not into that ‘New Year, New Me’ bullshit but I do believe that making lifestyle changes can provide a good platform to being a bit happier and a bit healthier. So, I’m on a quest to find ways to eat well but improve my health at the same time.

Mrs Munkee and I have opted to give the paleo diet a try. Now, I’m not usually a fad-follower but I want to get my mission into print then I will feel more obliged to stick to it and will be publically shamed if I fail! I do want to be clear though: this does NOT mean that I will be neglecting my duties as a Food Adventurer. Instead, what I want to do is find ways to eat great food that fit within the parameters of a healthy lifestyle and food routine.

Please don’t be alarmed though. January’s blog series won’t be preachy and I won’t be turning into a spandex-clad-Mr Motivator-look-a-like. It’s just another leg to my Food Adventure.

Buko Coconut Jam

Rating: 7.5/10

Appeals to: lifestyle managers, competent culinologists and DIY foodies

Packaging

The spreads market is very crowded but it doesn’t take much to interrupt the fixture and the shopper. Buko’s simple technique of using a different shape jar and more vibrant colours will achieve that disruption. The packaging also emanates healthy cues and communicates what it is and what it should be bought very quickly and simply.

Price

£4.50 – £5.00 – I’ve said this in previous blogs but price points are a tool that manufacturers can use to set customer expectations. What would you think of a product that claimed to be healthy and luxurious but was selling for 32p…erm, what’s the catch, right? Buko’s price point isn’t cheap but it is appropriate for the market.

Delivery

This is my second round of reviewing Buko’s Coconut Jams so I have a bit of an advantage here.

Instead of just tucking in with a spoon I used these widely diverse jams in a number of different ways: to accompany meat, to flavour smoothies, to work through porridge, to bake with and even to enhance sauces.

Verdict – in a word, versatile! These coconut jams should be a staple for any healthy warriors cupboard as a brilliant defence against the bland. Keep it coming Buko!

Details: www.bukofoods.com

Northern Munkee.

 

Eating Well This January: Eating In

OK, so I’m going to assume that a lot of you are like me in that you may have over indulged a little over the Christmas break; am I right? Well if you’ve done that then you probably also spent most of the Twixmas period trying to eat all the bad things left in the house before January arrives; still on track? Now it’s time to admit that you’ve started making strange noises when you raise yourself out of a chair and to do something about it.

I’m not into that ‘New Year, New Me’ bullshit but I do believe that making lifestyle changes can provide a good platform to being a bit happier and a bit healthier. So, I’m on a quest to find ways to eat well but improve my health at the same time.

Mrs Munkee and I have opted to give the paleo diet a try. Now, I’m not usually a fad-follower but I want to get my mission into print then I will feel more obliged to stick to it and will be publically shamed if I fail! I do want to be clear though: this does NOT mean that I will be neglecting my duties as a Food Adventurer. Instead, what I want to do is find ways to eat great food that fit within the parameters of a healthy lifestyle and food routine.

Please don’t be alarmed though. January’s blog series won’t be preachy and I won’t be turning into a spandex-clad-Mr Motivator-look-a-like. It’s just another leg to my Food Adventure.

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: healthy, on-the-hoof snackers and early adopters

Packaging

There is nothing else like this in the mainstream marketplace so Bounce needs to stand out and it certainly achieves that. The packaging is vibrant, bright and simple and will definitely appeal to its target market. The one miss, in my view, is in portraying what the food actually is. If I’m honest I didn’t know what I was opening apart from I knew it was a healthy, protein ball. If you’re already bought into the concept of Bounce snacks then you will go looking for it and be able to find it but I’d question whether a teetering shopper would be swayed to trial without knowing what’s inside.

Price

£1.42 – this price point goes further to establishing what the product actually is and where it should sit in store. This would look out of place next to a 40g packet of crisps but sit comfortably in the healthy snacking arena in between nut mixes and baked oat bars.

Delivery

Surprisingly brilliant. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened my first Bounce ball. I was presented with what I can only describe as a multi-textured, dense pebble. So I was still sceptical.

However, once I’d worked my way through my first bite I could instantly understand the popularity of this brand. The producers have managed to create a symphony of delicate flavours in a very small package; but the best thing about it was: I was full. This is the perfect pre-workout/post-workout/3pm slump at your desk/hungover-need-food snack!

Verdict – in a word, serendipitous! If you’re not familiar with the concept of Energy Balls, as I wasn’t, then it does require a leap of faith but I would urge you to take that dive. There is a huge need for great tasting functional snacks to cater for the lifestyle managing masses and suppliers are following over themselves to meet it; I think Bounce have certainly found their path!

Details: http://www.uk.bouncefoods.com

 Northern Munkee.