A New Year and a New Foodhall for M&S

It’s January, so that means we are all on a healthy eating kick right? We are certainly trying here, but its not always easy with busy lives always cooking great healthy tasty food from scratch. A few days ago I went along to the newly opened Marks & Spencer Foodhall in Wednesbury to have a look around at the brand spanking new store ( helpfully only a 5 minute drive from my current pace of work!) and to hear a bit about their healthy eating ranges and new products. This store has only been open 6 weeks and is a really large store complete with spacious cafe too.

It was nice to see a large area dedicated to their healthy eating ranges, Balanced For You and Count on Us, as well as a big Made Without area too.

There were some very tasty sounding new meals including Chipotle chilli chicken with quinoa & corn, roasted squash and lime pickled onions and  Tandoori chicken with spiced pilau rice and sweet date & tamarind onions

The Balanced For You range  are high in protein with balanced carbohydrates and are, most importantly, deliciously healthy. You can expect to find all sorts of nutritious carbs in each meal, from beans and pulses to grains. All Balanced For You dishes also carry the healthy Eat Well logo and many provide at least one of your five-a-day.

Also from the Eat Well range are a few new smaller dishes like the ones below – in fact I’ve just had this Mixed Bean Chipotle Chilli with Wild Rice for my lunch and can confirm its tastiness!

I like that the labels are easy to spot  too – Vegetarian, 2 or your 5 a day, Gluten Free etc.

The Eating Well doesn’t end at savoury food either with these yummy sounding pots that could work as a dessert or just a snack

We are big fans of M&S’s ‘TASTE’ range too – particularly the Far East Flavours and I often pick us up a few bits for a treat at the weekend.

Obviously M&S has its fair share of non virtuous foods too, including these New Milk Chocolate Honeycomb pieces. You’ve got to treat yourself sometimes haven’t you!

If you’re in the Wednesbury or Black Country area it’s definitely worth a look around the spacious and sparkly new store and checking out all the new products!

Thanks to M&S and Greyling for showing me round the store. Some of the products above were samples of new products, no other compensation was received. 

 

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Review: The Malvern Spa

I really do love a spa day, and have enjoyed quite a few lovely luxurious places over the last few years, but the chance for Spa days are few and far between now the little one has arrived. So when we were invited down to enjoy the facilities at The Malvern Spa for the day I was determined to fit it in!

Last week during half term both Lee and I had some annual leave booked, so took advantage of Imogen now being in nursery and headed down the motorway for an hour into Worcestershire. For some reason I was expecting the Spa Hotel to be deep in the countryside but as it happens its more in the town than I anticipated and easy to find.

We were welcomed by the lovely spa hostesses, who go through your day with you and let you what to expect, where to get refreshments and how the lunch or afternoon tea process works, depending on what type of package you have booked, and then give you a quick tour of the facilities. The entrance foyer was a lovely relaxing space, where you can revisit throughout the day to have a drink or snack or just relax.

We only had a few hours in the spa itself before our afternoon tea at 2pm, so didn’t opt for any particular treatments, choosing just to relax instead.

The facilities here at the spa are second to none with a unique 20m indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool accommodating numerous individual features including vigorous bubble massage stations, powerful water jets, gentle hydrotherapy beds, and spacious, relaxing booths for you to chillout whilst  soaking in the warmed Malvern spring waters. I can’tell you how impressed I was with the pool area and the pool itself, definitely one of the best I’ve seen.

You can enjoy hot and cold drinks by the pools as well which is a bonus, as many spas only allow water poolside. As well as the amazing pool, you can also enjoy the Crystal Steam Room with a fibre-optic ceiling display, infused with essential oils, Salt Grotto, Herb Sauna and a Kelo Sauna – one of only 10 in the UK, this unique rustic sauna is constructed from naturally fragrant wood found only in the arctic circle. I enjoyed the choice of steam rooms and saunas – and found the crystal steam room one of the best I’ve been in recently!

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There are also fragrant showers, a foot spa area, ice fountain and bucket drench shower filled with icy water to complete the experience. (And yes, we both dared the ice cold bucket shower!) If you’re feeling energetic there is also a fitness suite to get your gym fix too, or at the other end of the scale a dimly lit relaxation room to read or snooze your time away.

We had a lovely few hours in the spa and came away feeling a lot more relaxed than when we had entered.

Alongside the foyer is the bar and restaurant. I found it a rather perfunctory space, not really in keeping with the rest of the spa, it was here we were to have our afternoon tea.

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We sat down for afternoon tea at 2pm, when the lunch for the spa day guests was still in full swing, so if you want the area a bit more peaceful I would opt for a little later. We were offered a choice of tea or coffee, but it was a bit disappointing that there was no choice of teas, just their standard tea, whatever that was.

According to the website description, for the Afternoon Tea you can expect ‘a selection of finely cut sandwiches, fancies and freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream’. When the tea arrived we were a little disappointed that its appearance didn’t really live up to either that description or the pictures on the website, it wasn’t as refined as we had expected. No one explained what was on the afternoon tea until we asked or offered us any refills on the tea either.

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I would question whether the scones and cakes were homemade, which I think is so important for an afternoon tea. The scones themselves and the carrot cake were the best of the sweet treats.

Without question I would go back to the Malvern Spa as we LOVED the spa facilities, but I’m not sure I would book an afternoon tea again, perhaps the savoury lunch options may have been better.

Thanks to the Malvern Spa for inviting us down to try out the facilities and the afternoon tea. 

 

 

A Day Out At Chester Zoo

Join us on Imogen’s birthday trip to Chester Zoo! She’s been showing a real interest in animals int he past few months so thought a trip to one of the best zoos in the in country was in order! It’s changed quite a lot since we last visited and we loved the new areas and how interactive it was. A great day out for children and Imogen Loved it! Have a watch below of what we got up to.

Where’s Your Happy Place?

Where is your happy place? Recently, SACO asked 1500 adults across Britain about their happy place, and the results are really interesting!

If put on the spot, I would have to say that my happy place is somewhere by the seaside. Living in Birmingham, about as far from the sea in the UK as you can get, I often feel starved of the sea and sea air, so maybe this is why I love it so much when I am there. Saying this, I am equally happy closer to home. Having a staycation in my home city of Birmingham and eating out at one of brilliant restaurants here gets me just as happy!

The research, carried out by SACO who offer serviced apartments in Birmingham, showed that almost one in four (23%) people from Birmingham said a cosy gastro pub in the heart of the Cotswolds was their preferred choice, closely followed by eating an ice cream on Brighton Beach (22.6%) and hiking around the picturesque Lake District (22%). Tucking into fish and chips in Padstow came in fourth place (20%), while walking in the Peak District rounded off the top five (19%).

I would say that the top result was a little surprising to me but I would wholeheartedly agree with the others!

I think my top 3 happy places in the UK would be

  • Eating fish and chips on the pier in Bournemouth
  • Ice creams on the beach (any beach!)
  • A relaxing cream tea in the countryside in Devon

Oh look – they all include food, no surprise there!

Cornwall came out on top in the staycation stakes, with 28% of people listing it as their preferred destination , with Devon hot on its heals. I can totally see why people choose these places, however having recently visited Dorset for the first time, I would put this up there too.

Food was found to be a big factor in Birmingham residents’ happiness levels on holiday too with 57% saying that eating fish and chips by the sea is an absolute must, while 53% liked going for pub lunches while on a staycation and 35% lust after cream teas. These are certainly people after my own heart!

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According to SACO’s research, the top 10 happy places for Birmingham residents were:

Pub lunch in the Cotswolds
Eating ice cream on Brighton Beach
Walking / hiking in the Lake District
Eating fish and chips in Padstow
Walking in the Peak District
Enjoying a pasty in St Ives
Admiring the white sandy beaches of the Hebrides
Enjoying a cream tea in the Isles of Scilly
Visiting the Roman baths at Bath
Eating candy floss on Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Have a look at the infographic below for the results in full!

*This post was in collaboration with SACO who supplied the infographic and research.

 

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Where would your happy place be? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Trying Out A New VonShef Food Processor

Over the last few weeks we’ve been trying out a new food processor – the 1000 watts perfomance range from VonShef in Matte Black, available to buy from Domu.co.uk

 

First off, lets look at the design, because obviously, if it isn’t aesthetically pleasing then you’re probably not going to buy it. Black might not be to everyones tastes, but It was very appealing to me and fits in well with our kitchen, looking sleek and modern.  I find white/cream appliances of which there are a lot out there,  show up dirt and water marks more readily, even when kept clean. The design is quite compact, so doesn’t take up much space on your counter top, although is quite tall when the blender jug is in use.

 

The facts:

  • This model has a 3.5-litre capacity bowl and generous 1.8-litre blender jar so it’s easy to process large amounts of food at once – great for batch cooking and freezing.
  • The processor also features a twin-speed operation with pulse option too
  • There’s a lid-locking system to avoid accidental spills
  • Dishwasher safe detachable parts make cleaning simple.

The processor also comes with various attachments including, Medium and Fine Slicing Blade, Medium and Fine Grating Blades, Shredding Blade, Kneading Blade and a Plastic spatula which is a lot more than some on the market.

The processor also features an integrated storage drawer at the bottom of the machine meaning you can safely store your all the blades and attachments when not in use. This is possibly the greatest feature for me – no more rummaging around at the back of the kitchen drawers and cupboards trying to find that grating blade because there is nowhere to store them and then accidentally cutting your finger when you do find it!

The actually main processor blades are also stored in this drawer down the side too – everything  in one place – perfect.

In the process of testing it out we’ve made soups, smoothies and pestos as well as slicing and grating copious amounts of veg for meals, and it has done all of the above with ease. The only thing I think we’ve yet to try out is the dough blade – I love making bread and cakes but it’s something that I’ve not done much of recently due to the mini foodie but I’m sure I will get into again soon.

Overall I would have to give a huge thumbs up to this food processor, it stands shoulders above our last machine in both design, performance and ease of use and I look forward to using it more and more!


THIS PRODUCT WAS GIFTED TO US IN RETURN FOR GIVING IT A WHIRL WITH SOME ONLINE FEEDBACK. NO OTHER COMPENSATION WAS RECEIVED. 

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