We tried out some Japanese chocolate and snacks

So, this is the part where S gets roped into helping on the blog – by eating chocolate! Good deal, isn’t it?!

I decided that I wanted to try out some Japanese sweets and snacks, so to make it a tiny bit more objective, I bought up a bunch of stuff from Amazon and we had a taste test together – although not all at once! I was pleased to say that there were only a couple of things that I really didn’t like, and I enjoyed having the chance to munch on some new and unfamiliar snacks.

I was first introduced to Japanese food when a Japanese student, who soon became my friend, came to study at my school for 9 months when I was in year 12. She brought different things for us to try, such as seaweed and some cute little biscuit bears with chocolate in the middle!

So I was keen to see what else was available online – Amazon makes all things possible!

I bought two packs – one which was just different types of Japanese KitKat, and the other one was snacks. Actually I just thought they were sweets, but when it arrived, there was a mixture of sweet and savoury stuff in there. You don’t have to choose exactly what you want because you are given a random mixture each time, though no two things were the same.

There was no English on the packets, so it really was a lucky dip, unless you find the same picture on the internet with English descriptions – S did manage this for a couple of things, and he recognised some of the words. However, if you have an allergy and are used to checking ingredient lists before you eat things, this won’t be a good idea for you. It did concern me a bit, but my allergies aren’t life-threatening so I just did it at home with S so I could be comfortable if I didn’t feel great. I was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend that people with allergies do this!

KitKats

We got a pack of 14 Japanese KitKats. I didn’t measure them, but they’re minis, so you get two little fingers in each pack, or one of them just had one, like a mini KitKat chunky.

My favourites had to be the green tea ones. I’d never thought of chocolate and green tea before, but they went well together! I would buy those again. The sake (a type of alcoholic drink made with rice) KitKat with white chocolate was good too.

The only one I didn’t really like was made with some kind of nuts, and I’m not a fan of any kind of nutty chocolate, so that was to be expected. Still, I was happy that only one of the bars had nuts in it.

There were a couple that tasted like the KitKats you can buy here – a milk one and a plain one. They weren’t quite the same though, so as well as the packaging being different, there must be different ingredients in the chocolate too. The wafer in the plain one tasted less sweet than the ones you can buy in the UK. There was also a white chocolate one that must have had something else mixed in with it – I like white chocolate, but this one was very sweet.

There was also a mint one – yum yum! I do like a good bit of mint chocolate!

Another interesting taste was the ginger chocolate – I do wish we could have more experimental flavours in the UK. Ok you can find them if you know where to look, but you don’t get things like that in standard chocolate bars.

Finally I need to mention the strawberry one, because I’m a fan of fruity chocolate!

Snacks

So these were the snacks that I originally thought were just sweets – but they were actually a mixture of 20 sweet and savoury snacks. Here are some of the highlights although in some cases, I can’t tell you exactly what they were!

There was a packet with small, square snacks like rice crackers. I like the rice cracker idea, but I found these a bit salty. In fact, I’d say that about a lot of the savoury things, but then I’m not a fan of salty snacks in general.

There were a number of Umaibo – like long, thin, crunchy rolls made of puffed corn, which come in a variety of flavours:

Tonkatsu sauce – this was sweet and zingy – I could taste the vinegar!
Mentai – marinated roe of Pollock. I would eat these at a party or something, but not being a massive fish lover, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them!
Pizza – I could definitely taste the pepperoni or barbecue sauce
Peperoni
Green salad – this really tasted like slightly spicy whatsits!

We had a bag of some kind of cereal balls with something like tomato or prawn cocktail flavouring – a bit like skip-flavoured whatsits!

The only thing I couldn’t finish was the squid, but I really don’t like most seafood and some fish. Still, I gave it a go!

The other thing that I wasn’t particularly fond of but which I did manage to finish was the dried fish sticks. They tasted a bit like cardboard until you started to chew, and very fishy!

The first sweet thing I tried was the Daifuku – this was good, but we only got one, so I tried to tear it in half! It’s like a cross between a jelly sweet and a marshmellow, with a strawberry filling inside. I could definitely eat more of those!

There was a tasty star shaped chocolate infused wafer.

My favourites were some tasty, sweet cracker things, softer than rice cakes and a bit thicker than crisps. They were slightly sweet and tasted a bit like waffles!

There was one salty dried plumb – dried plum = good, salty dried plum = not good!

There was something like a boiled strawberry sweet – nice enough, but only one in a packet? It wasn’t very big!

Who remembers flumps? There was something that looked like a larger one of those, as well as a bag of teeny tiny marsh mellows!

There was a card with some chocolate-filled sweets that looked a bit like smarties, but you had to push them out of the plastic in the same way that you would headache tablets! Interesting packaging, but the sweets were good!

How about you?

Have you tried any of these things? If so, what did you think of them? Have you had any taste testing boxes from other countries? Let me know in the comments!

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Feel good teas for September – detox. Energise. Sleep. Repeat!

My review of the three new feel-good teas from teapigs!

I’m from a family of tea lovers, but as a child, I always told everyone that I thought tea was disgusting. If we’re talking about the standard, milky tea that my family drinks, I still think it’s disgusting, but fortunately I’ve now discovered herbal and fruit teas. For example, I had a pot of jasmin tea with the Chinese food I had at lunch time, and I love anything that has mango, lychee or pineapple in it. I’ve recently discovered the health benefits of turmeric tea as well – I didn’t even know that was a thing!

This month, teapigs has brought out a selection of “feel good” teas, which are designed to make you feel good for different reasons and at different times of the day.

Upbeat

There are three teas in the range. Let’s start with my favourite, Upbeat!

I like this because its strongest flavour is ginger. It also contains hibiscus, green tea and beetroot. I was a bit worried about the beetroot, but I can’t really say that you can taste it! I don’t know what hibiscus tastes like, but apparently both it and the beetroot are good for stamina.

I don’t hear the fridge calling my name in the middle of the afternoon like some people who work from home, but there is a chocolate stash in my office, and if I’m not careful, I can find myself reaching for it after lunch has worn off. I’m going to be honest – there are some days when only the chocolate will do, but I do appreciate having another source for energy, and I like the fact that as well as being good for you, these teas do actually taste good.

Also, by the time it gets to mid-afternoon, I’ve usually consumed a lot of coffee, so it’s good to space out the coffees with another kind of hot drink.

Clean n green

The Clean n green tea is intended for first thing in the morning. If anyone tries to come between me and my coffee first thing in the morning, things don’t go well for them! I’m one of those people who doesn’t function properly until the 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, so I’m not going to pretend that I started my day with these. However, when I don’t have any early meetings in the morning, I usually go for a run first, and I found that the Clean n green tea was a refreshing change after my run.

It contains green tea, lemongrass, ginger, coconut and dandelion leaves. As someone who can’t see, I pay particular attention to how things smell. It’s no good if something tastes delicious and smells strange, which is one of the reasons I was a bit concerned about how some of the ingredients that I hadn’t come across would smell. After all, I know what dandelions smell like, and I don’t want to smell like one too! However I needn’t have worried! This tea smelled predominantly fruity, and when I drank it, I found that the lemongrass was the main thing that I tasted, although perhaps not as sharp as lemon tea because of the other ingredients.

Both of these teas contain ginger, which has been used for hundreds of years in cooking and for medicinal purposes. It’s thought to help reduce nausea, pain and inflammation. I sometimes feel unwell as a result of food allergies, and I find that ginger teas can help me to feel better, so I like to keep a supply in. Both of these teas tick that box too because they both contain ginger.

I’m not going to say that the clean n green tea turned me into a morning person overnight, because I don’t think anything will manage that, but I like a fresh, detoxing lemon drink to set me up for the day!

Snooze

Finally, there is the Snooze tea for last thing at night.

The Snooze tea is a blend of chamomile, apple and lavender. Lavender is well-known for its soothing properties that help send you off to sleep. I often use products that contain lavender oil just before I go to bed. This tea smells wonderful, but I think I would prefer the taste more if the apple were a bit stronger to overpower the lavender taste! Maybe that’s because I’m a bit biased – I loved the apple tea when I went to Turkey!

Overall thoughts

This is the first time that I’ve tasted a blend of teas containing a number of ingredients and which were put together with a focus on the benefits that the individual ingredients can give you. Looking at the ingredients in these helped me to understand what benefits certain ingredients have, rather than focussing entirely on the taste.

Overall I enjoyed the teas and I’d definitely buy two out of the three again.

How about you? Have you tried any of these teas? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what do you drink just before you go to bed to give you a good night’s sleep?

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This post contains PR samples, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Don’t forget my giveaway is still open

My September giveaway is still open, so if you’d like to be in with a chance to win some skincare goodies from brands such as the Body Shop and Sanctuary Spa, this is where you can enter.

May favourites – fragrance, sushi, and lots of mangos!

The food, fragrance, and skin care products that I have been enjoying this month!

Hi and welcome to my May favourites! At the beginning of May, I spent some time in Amsterdam, and some of the favourites, including the chocolate in the picture, come from there.

Food and drink

We make a habit of trying out new chocolate when we go on business travel or city breaks, and Amsterdam was no exception. We tried some Dutch milk and white chocolate, and it was really good. I also came back with a mouse heaven supply of cheese in my suitcase – pesto cheese, cumin cheese, truffle cheese, and three of the Reypenaer cheeses. WE didn’t do the cheese tasting tour again, but we stocked up on some more cheese!

I also discovered, to my surprise, that I actually like sushi. I don’t usually like fish. The sushi restaurant had been chosen by one of my partner’s colleagues, so I went along with the idea that I’d just try it, and get something from the Turkish restaurant near our hotel if I really didn’t like the sushi. But I did like the sushi. I’d only had it once, but not in a proper restaurant, and I think that if done properly, it can taste really good! I even suggested going back the next day on our own because we don’t have any sushi bars near where we live!

On another note, I know it’s a bit lazy not making your own mango lassi, but I discovered two in the supermarket. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a kind of fruity yoghurt drink, sometimes with spices. The first one is Nomadic mango lassi from Morrisons. A bit less sweet than you might get in a restaurant, but I guess that’s a good thing! The one from Pakeeza is sweeter and more like the traditional lassi. I like them both!

Fragrance

I discovered the Hugo Boss deep red perfume for women last year. I sprayed it in a department store, but ended up buying it on Amazon because it was on sale. Although this perfume does have some floral notes, it also contains orange and blackcurrant, so it’s great for people who like a more fruity scent, as I do. This isn’t a new fragrance for me, but I’ve been wearing it a lot this month, which is why I have included it.

Skin care

After trying out the Yes to Cucumber mask last month, I also discovered that they do make-up wipes named after different fruit and vegetables. I’m not so sure that I’d recommend the mask now that the second one irritated my skin quite badly, but the make-up wipes are good.

I know some people are totally against make-up wipes, and I don’t use them all the time, but I think they do have their place, and I think that some of the people who say they would never, ever use them, just to be cool, have a secret stash of them somewhere.

Anyway, I got the cucumber ones and the grapefruit ones – because grapefruit, but then I actually realised that they are for different kinds of skin. The cucumber ones are gentle and for sensitive skin. I don’t have sensitive skin, but I never mind buying these products because I think they will be soothing and gentle on the skin. I have tried the grapefruit ones too, but they are really for pore perfection and even skin tone, which isn’t my main concern. So I’ll use them up, but in future I’ll stick to the cucumber ones, or the ones that are probably best suited to my skin – the coconut ones which are moisturising too. I haven’t tried those out yet, but I’ll be reporting back later when I have.

I like to mix up my body lotions and shower gels. I use a lot of Body Shop products, but this month I’ve gone back to this favourite Victoria’s Secret mango body lotion because I love the juicy mango scent. It’s the only range I’ve tried from this brand – I just got it because of the mango, but it also does a good job at hydrating the skin and making the room smell delicious!

I wouldn’t say this is a favourite, but it’s helped me out. Back at the end of last year I got the Tea Tree night lotion from the Body Shop. I put it to the back of the drawer because I don’t like the smell of Tea Tree oil and I realised that it was more for oily skin, which is exactly the opposite of what I have. However, when a couple of stubborn spots appeared, I rubbed some of this on the affected area and they went down really quickly. I wouldn’t use this all over my face, but it came in handy for the spots!

Find more skin care products here!

Hair care

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m going through different hair products – shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks – to find some new products that I like. Something that has really impressed me this month is the Avon Advance Techniques instant repair mask because it smells great, leaves my hair feeling nourished, silky and smooth, and it feels as though these results last a couple of days.

Find more hair care products here

make-up

I never seem to get through my make-up, probably because I buy one-colour eye creams, rather than palates, and it takes for ever to use up a lipstick. Anyway, I try to switch out my lipsticks and at the moment I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my L’Oréal Color Riche Garnet Rose lipstick and my Maybelline Colour Sensational Lipstick – 740 Coffee Craze .

I got a mini sample of the Porefessional face primer from Benefit Cosmetics in my Latest in Beauty box, and I really like it. It’s more expensive than the one I usually use, but you can feel the difference. I wear make-up most days, so I think I’ll keep going with my cheaper one and get this for when I want a special treat.

How about you?

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments, and also feel free to drop a favourites link if you’ve written a post about this.

Do you know any more good mango products?

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The Co-Op puts Braille on some of its products to make them accessible to blind customers

“It says chocolate cake!”

It was only when I was tidying up the kitchen and moving empty cake boxes that I noticed it! The Braille on the bottom of a chocolate cake from the co-op.

Braille is a system of patterns of dots that blind people use in order to read. Some blind people label things in Braille, I have sticky labels on my spice rack, but it’s still quite uncommon to find products that have been labelled in Braille by the manufacturer.

Legally, tablets and medicines have to be labelled in Braille (let’s see if we’re as fortunate when the UK leaves the EU). This is nothing new, although I did have to point out to the vet that sticking their own labels over the Braille ones kind of defeated the object of having it in the first place.

Anyway, as long as I keep things in their original cardboard boxes, it’s easy enough to identify what tablets are. But chocolate cake? That was something new.

Of course the discovery meant that we had to buy more chocolate cake in order to get a photo for this blog. See the hardship I went to for you, my readers?!

I contacted the Co-op to find out a bit more about why they had decided to label some of their products in Braille. This is the response I received back from Ian Ferguson, Manager on the Food Policy Team:

“We are the only retailer to carry braille on food and non-food products as we understand how important braille is to help for our visually impaired customers to lead independent lives, and we take very seriously our commitment to our customers to provide excellent products and customer service.”

“The Co-operative Food provides braille on all of its own-brand food and non-food product packaging, where it is technically feasible.

We first introduced braille onto our own-brand medicines in 2001, and then onto all products, where technically possible, from 2002.

Unique braille files and metal printing blocks are created for each of the many thousands of individual products, and are checked before being printed on pack.

For cardboard we would use a unique set of metal printing blocks, for self-adhesive labels we would use silk-screen printing.”

I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually shop at the Co-op. I used to live near one, and it was really handy to have it so close by if I forgot something. But I would like to support what they’re doing, and also to make other blind shoppers aware of it. After all, I only discovered the Braille by accident as I was tidying up.

As I mentioned in my article about Braille products from L’Occitane, having Braille labels on products wouldn’t necessarily help me in the store (I’m not going to pick up every box on the shelf to see whether it’s what I’m looking for), but once in the home, it’s nice not to have to remember what things are or label them myself. Also, if you know that the label is on the bottom of the box, for boxes with no plastic insert, it’s also a good way to know which way up they should go!

The statement doesn’t give further examples of Braille products. I’ve seen it on cakes and pizza bases, but I’d be interested to know what else you’ve come across with Braille on it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found Braille on other Co-op products too!

So well done to the Co-op!

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Chocolate tasting – German and Swedish chocolate

Hello to all the chocolate lovers out there!

One of the things we do when we visit new countries is a chocolate test! We look for a few different types of chocolate from that country, buy it, and chomp our way through it! All in the name of cultural research! Good idea, right?

Today’s post is about chocolate from Sweden and Germany.

Swedish chocolate

We tested three types of Swedish chocolate. My favourite is the Marabou apelsin krokant milk chocolate bar, which is a delicious chocolate orange bar with crispy bits! If you like Terry’s chocolate oranges, you will like this bar too! It’s got a distinct orange flavour and the crunchy bits just add to the texture! Yum! We buy one every time we go to Sweden now!

The other Marabou product is the Marabou mint krokant milk chocolate bar which is basically a crunchy mint bar! The crunchy pieces in this bar are not as soft as the orange ones – they’re more like tiny bits of butterscotch or something like that, so they don’t melt in your mouth straight away. I do like this one too, but it also has tiny bits of nut in it, and I think the mint would be better without them.

I couldn’t find the third one online, but it’s the Plopp bar! Ok, I admit it, I bought it because of the name, which is at first a bit amusing for English speakers, but I wasn’t disappointed with the milk chocolate and soft caramel centre! These are slightly smaller than the other two, and also very moreish!

German chocolate

In terms of German chocolate, it wasn’t as much about trying out new things, but sending my partner off with a list of things to bring back when he went on a business trip there! I haven’t been to Germany for a while, but I used to go regularly, and I always left a bit of room in my suitcase for chocolate – specifically coffee and strawberry chocolate!

I don’t know what it is about the English chocolate market, but we are not very adventurous when it comes to chocolate with coffee or fruity fillings.

If you go to Germany, or a German shop here in the UK, you don’t have this problem, because Ritter produces both coffee and strawberry chocolate.

My favourite is the Ritter Sport Espresso (5 bars). It’s quite strong, and ideal for coffee lovers. I find in the UK, there are only really weak, creamy alternatives with a hint of coffee flavour, but this is not like that, which is why I like it.

There is also a strawberry one – the Ritter Sport strawberry yoghurt chocolate bar (5 bars). This has a creamy yoghurt centre with strawberry in the centre of each square and is a treat for anyone who likes to mix chocolate and fruit as I do!

My other strawberry favourites are the Ferrero Yogurette bars, which are individually wrapped, thin, finger bars of chocolate with a smooth strawberry yoghurt filling inside. This is different to the Ritter one, because that has tiny strawberry bits in it. I remember several years ago that there was also a special mango edition of these, but I haven’t seen them since.

When I went on my school exchange to Germany, I collected a selection of the Yogurette bars and bottles of sparkling mineral water. My host family was concerned that I was hungry and thirsty, but the real problem was that some of the English students didn’t like these things, so I rescued them before they got thrown away! Because you can’t throw Yogurette away!!! That’s just wrong!

What do you think?

Have you tried any of these bars? What do you think of them?

If you’re Swedish or German, are there other things that you think I should try?

Or maybe you’re from another country – I’m always looking for chocolate recommendations, so let me know your suggestions in the comments!

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My review of our spice box subscription

Find out what I think of the monthly food subscription bx from the Spicery.

An interesting way to discover new dishes

In 2014, one of my boyfriend’s Christmas gifts was a 6-month subscription to the Spicebox from The Spicery. Our friends knew he liked curry and thought this would make an interesting gift. Well actually I stole my friend’s idea of what to buy him, so she had to come up with something else! Two years later, we have kept renewing the subscription and we’re still enjoying the boxes!

Each month you receive a box that contains a recipe along with various packets of spice and hard-to-get dry ingredients such as certain types of chillis. You buy the rest of the ingredients and then follow the instructions to create a range of delicious dishes.

We really like spicy food, so we choose the curry boxes, but there are other alternatives, such as world kitchen explorer, date night, and a meat-free option.

Our spice rack is fairly well-stocked, but some of the ingredients would be pretty hard to come by unless you went to specialist shops. With the spice box, the spices are measured out and ground for you, so you can just add them when necessary, with no hunting around for ingredients, and no wastage because you bought a big pot of something you’ll never use again.

Occasionally we swap ingredients out if there’s something I can’t have because of my allergy or something that neither of us like (fish curries often become chicken curries!), but generally we follow the recipes exactly. I think it’s a fantastic way to discover food from around the world – we’ve had meals from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Jamaica, and different countries in Africa. It also gives you the confidence to try making things that you would usually just buy in the shops, such as naan bread.

Each month you are given a preview of what’s in the box. If you don’t fancy that particular meal, you can swap to one of the other options. We don’t usually do this, but I think we’ve done it once or twice and it’s nice to have the option.

On Sunday we cooked Andhra Guntur Chicken with Tamarind Mango and Cauliflower. I’m not a fan of raw cabbage, but everything else was really good – the spicy chicken curry, the tasty rice, and of course the mango made me happy! I’ve never eaten cauliflower that tasted so good. As a child, I thought I didn’t like vegetables. But the problem was that I don’t like bland vegetables. Once you’ve spiced them up, they’re delicious!

Obviously we’ve liked some curries more than others, but there hasn’t been one that we haven’t enjoyed.

In terms of accessibility, I think it might be difficult for a blind person to cook these meals without any assistance because even though you could scan the recipe, the spices are in little plastic packets, and although I haven’t tried it, I don’t think the shiny material would scan very well using OCR software to read the text. We either put a text copy of the recipe on my phone so that I can read it using Voiceover, or my partner reads it out as we complete the various stages, dividing up the tasks between us.

We enjoy cooking together, learning new skills and eating our creations afterwards. It’s a kind of stay-at-home date night! Ok, I know that not all couples would make a good team in the kitchen, but if you enjoy working together, it’s a fun thing to do and of course, as long as you follow the steps on the recipe, you get rewarded afterwards with some good food! If you like the sound of this, I would definitely recommend the Spicebox!

How about you?

Have you tried any subscription services such as the Spicebox? How do you discover new recipes and new things to try?

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