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We bought this pastry for the first time this week to make our first batch of mince pies of the festive season. We've always used Jus-Rol before but never the ready rolled variety so I was really interested to see how it compared.
The pastry comes in a long rectangular box containing 320g and at Asda it was £1.50.
Packaging and Storage
The pastry comes refrigerated and had a use by date two weeks ahead. It can also be frozen, the box says if freezing, it should be used within a month. It can be defrosted either overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for 2.5 hours. The pack contains a single sheet which is rolled up with a blue sheet of cellophane to keep it from sticking to itself.
The one thing I didn't think to do was to read the instructions before I was ready to use it. The instructions say that you should take it out of the fridge 35 minutes before you need to use it, so I sat back down and made a brew while I waited the 35 mins. To be fair, it does give instructions for microwaving it on high for 10 seconds to achieve the same result.
Once I had given the pastry 35 mins, I unrolled it as per the instructions. I personally found the pastry to be a little thicker than I would have rolled it if I had used the unrolled variety, and was a little disappointed at the size (9.5" x 14"), I guess it would have made half a dozen mince pies (we'd bought a large jar of mincemeat containing enough for 72 pies!). I decided to roll the pastry out a bit further to make it go further and avoid having pies with very thick pastry. I hadn't really planned on getting the rolling pin out so it was a bit more of a faff than I had expected when I bought the ready-rolled variety, but I did manage to roll it out to 16" x 16" which made 12 mince pies.
Taste and texture
The pastry took about 20 minutes to cook in the (fan) oven at 180. The pastry browned nicely and crisped up beautifully and had a lovely buttery taste.
Having initially been disappointed at the amount of pastry in this pack, I was really pleased with the overall result. I would certainly use it again now that I know what to expect and can plan how much I need for the cooking I am doing.
O% credit card deals were ten a penny a couple of years back, but such deals seemed to have all but dried up recently so I was keen to take advantage of the 0% for 15 months deal that the Tesco Clubcard credit card was offering.
~~The application process~~
This was really straightforward, you can apply online and you get a decision pretty much straight away. They ask you about your annual income and your employer's postcode and address and your current account details. I think I received my card within a week or so of applying and then a few days later they sent the details needed to monitor the account online.
The card acts as a Tesco clubcard as well as a credit card. This means that you get clubcard points in the same way as you would with a standard clubcard for all spending within Tesco stores. In addition, you also receive 1 point for every £4 spent outside of Tesco stores. This means we can shop around and buy our shopping wherever's cheapest (often Asda or Morrisons) and still get Tesco Clubcard points! The Clubcard points can then be redeemed either against shopping or for offers giving up to 3 times the value of the points.
You get all the usual benefits from using a credit card including protection against fraud and the ability to build up a good credit history if used wisely. In addition, if you are good at managing your spending, you can take advantage of the interest-free period on this card by using it for all routine spending and investing this money in a savings account to accrue interest until the interest-free period is over when you simply pay the balance off and keep the interest gained. You can set up a direct debit to make the minimum payment each month.
You can monitor your clubcard credit card account online at tescobank.com. You select a username, internet PIN and internet password and log in through the credit card option. The first screen you see is an account summary, showing your credit limit, current balance and credit available. You can then view all your transactions since your last statement as well as all statements from the past 18 months. These are in PDF format and can be downloaded and saved to your PC for reference.
You can also make payments to your credit card using a debit card, set up regular payments, view a history of your online payments, transfer a balance to your Tesco credit card and set up text alerts on your account.
This is a great credit card which gives a long interest free period on purchases as well as Clubcard points on spending at Tesco and elsewhere. Internet banking makes managing the account really straightforward. Can't fault it.
I decided I wanted a range type cooker when I had a new kitchen put in three years ago and selected this one mainly on the basis of styling and cost. The model I have is the DTC95 DF ANTH which is black - chosen to match my shiny black kitchen units.
When the cooker arrived, I was delighted, it looks amazing in the kitchen and was everything I wanted from my new cooker; five gas burners, including a wok ring and a low, low simmer light. The hob is gas which I prefer as the heat is extremely controllable, and the oven is electric - just what I have been used to over the years.
The oven has a range of settings depending on what you are cooking. It has a grill setting, fan oven setting, normal convection heating and any combination of these. It also cooks as low as 50 degrees right up to 250 degrees (which I have never used). Having said this, I only ever use the fan oven setting so maybe the seven different settings are a bit unnecessary - at least for my needs.
There is also a second smaller oven which has two settings; grill and oven. The grill temperature can be controlled using the oven setting knob and both grill and oven can be controlled between 50 and 230 degrees. We use this smaller oven a lot for grilling meat such as pork chops while the main oven is being used for other foods.
~~Reliability & Customer Service~~
I have had my oven for just under three years and have already had to have a new thermostat installed at a cost to myself of £125. About a year ago, we started to notice that food was burning in the main oven well before it should even have been cooked. At first I put it down to me not timing things properly and losing track of when they had gone in, but it was happening far too often to be an oversight. Eventually, we called out an electrician who had a look and used a heat probe which showed that the oven just kept on getting hotter and hotter regardless of what setting it was on. Unfortunately he was unable to repair the oven as he was not a gas engineer. Even though the fault was with the electrical side of the cooker, the gas still needed to be disconnected for the repair to take place and he advised us to go back to DeLonghi to see what they suggested - especially as it was only a couple of years old.
Here's where it got interesting - DeLonghi do not have anything to do with these ovens, they do not even make them and could not help in any way. They explained that they license Comet (where I purchased mine from) to use the DeLonghi brand on these ovens and that I needed to refer my complaint to Comet. I contacted Comet and they explained that they would not repair the oven unless I paid £125 which is their standard call out and repair fee for such a problem.
I was most disappointed firstly that my DeLonghi oven had broken down after only two years, second that my DeLonghi oven was not actually made by DeLonghi at all, and third that the shoddy service at Comet meant I had to pay £125 for it to be repaired even though it should never have broken down after such a short period of time.
Another observation with the main oven is that it seems to cook at a hotter temperature in the back right hand corner than in the rest of the oven. This means that we have to keep rotating food every ten minutes or so, otherwise we end up with some things burnt while the rest is not yet cooked.
I love the look of this cooker and it is a real focal point of my kitchen, but with hindsight, I would have done my research and spent a bit more money on a better brand - one that was actually made by the company displayed on its badge.
I would not recommend this oven and would advise people to research the market and know who they are dealing with. I would not have bought an oven manufactured by an electrical retailer had I realised this was what I was doing.
John West now make 'No Drain' tuna steak in just a little brine or spring water. These are a brilliant invention and super for taking out with you when it's more convenient to make your packed lunch while you're out and about.
We buy them in packs of three tins. The full price for a pack of 3 tins is £3.99 but they are often reduced to the equivalent of £1 per tin in the supermarkets.
The tins themselves have a ring pull so they are really convenient - no need for a can opener. They contain 130g each which is enough to make sandwiches for two of us or to use in a tuna pasta bake for two - or even three if we use peppers and mushrooms as well. The label states that the tins contain 97% tuna and 3% water. We find that when you open the ring pull just a small way and turn the can over, the smallest amount of water drips out and then the tuna is ready to use. We find these no drain tins are really useful when we are out and about on camping trips. We don't always make a packed lunch up, but just take a tin of this tuna and a small Frech loaf out and make sandwiches while we're on the go. The no drain cans are much easier to use when you're out and don't have access to mod cons like can openers!
This no-drain tuna tastes as good as the tuna steaks we used to buy in brine, where you have to remove the lid and drain the water away before using. My partner likes to open one of these tins, pour on some salad cream and eat it straight from the tin. He finds that one 130g tin is enough for his lunch eaten this way. I tend to have mine as part of a salad for lunch and find that half a tin is enough for me when I have it with lettuce and tomato. There is a warning on the tin that some bones may remain, but I have eaten a lot of this tuna and have never found one.
Definitely recommend no-drain over normal cans of tuna simply for the convenience. The taste is great and they are really good value at £1 a tin.
Skechers Shape Ups claim to help promote weight loss and strengthen core muscles. They work because they have a soft rolling sole which mimics the sensation of walking on soft ground such as sand.
They are a combination of leather and synthetic upper and have a mesh front which lets air in and keeps your feet cool while walking or running in them. The sole is at its thickets in the middle where it is a little over an inch thick. The style of the sole is a kind of rocker shape - tapering at the heel and toes. Mine are mainly white with a blue 'S' on the side and are quite understated - though there is no mistaking the higher than usual sole. The mesh upper means that they are most suited to pavement type walking (as opposed to hiking where it might be muddy) and they also let water in if it rains - so best in dry conditions.
How they work
The soles are quite soft and when you first put them on, the guide leaflet advises you to get used to them and find your centre of balance. You are told to walk by putting the middle of your foot down first and then rock forward to transfer your weight towards the front of your foot, before pushing off with your toes for your next step. The idea behind this is that we used to walk barefoot before we built everywhere and needed to wear shoes to protect our feet from the hard surfaces we created. These shoes are cushioned to protect your feet and joints from the impact of walking on hard surfaces. The style of walking that you use when walking in Shape Ups utilises more muscles than walking in normal shows including those in the buttocks, back and core.
The first time I wore these shoes, I went for a five mile walk in them - though the leaflet that comes with them does recommend building up gradually with shorter walks initially. I found they took a few minutes to get used to and occasionally found myself scraping my feet on the ground as I wasn't picking my feet up high enough for the thick soles. Once I was used to walking in them, I found them incredibly comfortable as the soles are so soft and cushioned. I didn't notice using any extra muscles particularly, although the next day, I found the muscles in my abdomen aching like mad - it felt as though I had done a load of sit-ups. I should say that other than walking, I do little other exercise so these muscles were probably a little out of shape - but the fact that they ached so much suggested to me that the shoes do actually do as they say. I wear my Shape Ups most days of the week, round the house and walking for exercise and find that they really help my posture and have helped strengthen my back and stomach muscles. I can't say that I have noticed any weight loss as a result of wearing these shoes though.
Definitely recommend these if you regularly walk on flat pavement type surfaces.
I have had my Rab Neutrino jacket for just over a year now and would not ever want to be without it. These coats are filled with goose down and I can honestly say it is the warmest most luxurious item of clothing I have ever owned.
They are not cheap at a little over £200, but if you spend any time outside in the cold, I cannot recommend this coat highly enough.
They come with a stuff sack so you can fold them away and put them into a rucksack. It is incredibly light, weighing only around 600g. The hood has a wired peak which keeps its shape when up, and also folds into the collar of the jacket and can be held out of the way with Velcro.
They come with two external pockets as well as an internal security pocket. The zip is waterproof and did I mention how warm it is? When I bought mine, I was advised by the sales person that she didn't wear hers when fell walking as it was just too warm. I tend to agree, I get loads of use out of mine for general walking, but it actually is too warm to take when I do hill walks.
This coat is absolutely amazing, it keeps you so warm, is incredibly light and folds away to fit into a stuff sack when the sun comes out.
I dye my hair around every five or six weeks to maintain my original shade of dark brown hair. If I left it, I think I would be completely grey - so I make sure I keep on top of it.
I am not loyal to any particular brand of hair dye and generally pick up whichever of the well-known brands is reduced in the supermarket. Garnier Nutrisse often has £1 off so I have used this on many occasions.
I use shade number 4 - Dark Brown which is closest to my natural colour (before my natural colour was grey!). The instructions are easy to follow and are pretty much the same as any home colourant. You squeeze the colour cream from the tube into the bottle containing the developer mix and give it a really good shake, break off the tip of the bottle and apply.
There are instructions for both full head application where you have not recently coloured your hair, and root touch-up which involves applying the dye to the roots and then leaving before applying the rest of the bottle to the rest of your hair after 10 minutes. The instructions also advise the use of a strand test to ensure the dye doesn't cause any adverse reaction.
The good thing about this particular dye compared with many other permanent colourants is the fresh fruity smell. Most permanent dyes I have used have a strong smell of peroxide, but this one is quite pleasant.
The pack also comes with a bottle of conditioner which is designed to be used over several washes to maintain the colour and condition of your hair. The conditioner is a lovely thick texture and the whole process leaves my hair really shiny and in great condition - not to mention covering all my greys.
I would definitely recommend this hair dye subject to the advice provided within the pack for the safe use of the product. It covers my grey hairs and leaves my hair feeling soft and looking shiny.
I only realised I had sensitive teeth recently, I think it must have crept up on me over a few months. I decided to pick up a can of this toothpaste just to see if it would stop the sensitivity I was experiencing. It was on offer down from about £4 to £2 which made it cheaper than a standard tube of sensitive toothpaste but still more expensive than the ordinary paste I had been using up to this point. I was therefore hoping for it to be effective and resolved to go back to my ordinary brand if it didn't work. Suffice to say I have never gone back - this toothpaste really does stop sensitivity.
It comes in a white and blue pump action can rather than the more normal squeezy tube we're used to getting our toothpaste out of. It looks quite classy and worth paying a bit more for. The can contains 100g which lasts me around a month so even at the full price of £4 is not really expensive. The pump action dispenser works fine, though I do find that after a few days there is excess toothpaste stuck around the opening.
The toothpaste itself
The can claims that being ISO Active, this toothpaste penetrates hard to reach areas and I have certainly found this to be the case. I seem to need to use less on my brush than I have with other toothpastes in the past and yet once you start to use it, this toothpaste foams up and fills your mouth with a kind of minty foam. It tastes great, really fresh and minty and leaves my teeth feeling clean and smooth. This toothpaste definitely relieves my sensitive teeth and since I started using it, I have never experienced a problem.
I would definitely recommend this Sensodyne iso-active to anyone suffering from sensitive teeth.
I have to admit that I am not particularly loyal to any brand of deodorant. I tend to buy whatever is on offer in whichever supermarket I'm shopping in when I need a new one. I picked this Nivea one up in Asda when it was 'rolled back' to £1.
The deodorant comes in a spray can containing 150ml. The can is half black and half white to reflect its 'For Black & White' claim. This means that it doesn't leave white marks on black clothes and that it stops yellow sweat marks from appearing on white clothes. The can also states that it gives anti-perspirant protection for 48 hours.
The product itself
I find the deodorant easy to use, it has a small lid which needs to be removed from the can before spraying - I suppose this could be an inconvenience as there are many deodorants on the market these days which do not have a removable lid, but I am happy with either style. The scent is delicate, it is called 'Pure' on the can and is similar to the scent that is sometimes called 'cotton fresh' by other brands.
The deodorant feels pleasant when applied, didn't sting after shaving and clothes can be put on straight away. I find that it keeps me dry and fresh for the full day regardless of what I do. I have been for long walks of several miles in hot weather, while using this product and have never been concerned about odour or perspiration.
I must admit I have not tested its claim to last for 48 hours so am unable to comment on how true this is, but it is certainly effective over the course of a day.
I would definitely recommend this as an effective deodorant which lives up to its claim to protect clothing from white or yellow stains and keep you fresh.
We chose the Qashqai as we wanted something big enough to carry our camping gear without needing a roof box or trailer. The Qashqai came up as an option on the work lease car scheme and we decided to go for it.
The model we chose is the n-tec 1.5 dCi which is a diesel 2 wheel drive model which has a six-speed gearbox. The official figures for fuel economy are 47mpg in town and 58mpg on the motorway and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of these figures. My Qashqai does the vast majority of its miles on the motorway and given the high number of miles I drive each week and the current cost of fuel, I have strated driving everywhere at 60mph. The difference in fuel economy between this and say 75mph is amazing and I will never go back to driving faster. We are now getting approximately 60mpg from the Qashqai which is more than I used to get from a diesel mini!
Inside this model are a few pretty neat features, the first you notice is the ceiling which slides back (at the touch of a button) to reveal a huge glass roof. This give the car so much light and is great to look up out of if you are not driving. We have never slid the inner ceiling back across, preferring the feeling of light and space we get from the glass roof.
Other features of the n-tec include 18in alloys, dark rear glass, climate control, cruise control which is great for fuel economy as well as taking away the risk of being caught speeding. It also has a trip computer which allows you to monitor your fuel consumption constantly, and the Nissan Connect system as standard. Nissan Connect includes the CD player, FM/AM radio, a USB port and a mini-jack socket, as well as built-in sat-nav with touch-screen, traffic info and Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.
It comfortably seats five people with plenty of head and leg room in both the front and back and still has room in the boot for the camping gear, though we usually fold the back seats down if there are only two of us. This creates a huge amount of boot space.
I personally cannot fault this car; it is by far the best I've ever owned in terms of styling, features, fuel economy and comfort. If there were one additional feature I could do with, it would be a second 12V connector, I am sure I have seen cars with a second one in the boot which would mean I could plug the cool box in without the wire trailing across the handbrake and gear lever - but this is really very minor.
The Blueberry Body Butter is one of a fairly large range of body butters from the Body Shop. I have tried several of these and think they are great. The Blueberry one is no different.
They come in a good sized tub containing 200g of the butter which you just scoop out with your fingers to apply. The tub is lilac in colour with the Body Shop label on the top full of lots of blueberries.
The label states that the body butter contains blueberry oil to moisturise DRY SKIN which is perfect for me as I find my knees and elbows in particular tend to become dry. I use this body butter to moisturise after bathing and find my skin stays beautifully soft and moisturised. I also like the way that the scent of the cream stays on your skin for a few hours after applying as it is a really lovely vibrant fruity aroma.
As with all Body Shop Body Butters, the cream is very thick and luxurious which does mean that it takes a while to soak into your skin. I find it helpful to wait a short while before getting dressed once I have applied the body butter. I think it is this rich texture that makes it so effective as a moisturiser.
The full cost of the body butter is £12.50, but I managed to find it reduced to £5 along with a couple of other varieties last summer and bought a few of them - hence I am only just using this one now.
I would recommend Blueberry Body Shop Body Butter to anyone looking for a rich, indulgent and really fruity moisturiser.
I picked up a bottle of the pink grapefruit flavour from the Robinson's Fruit and Barley range at the Co-op while on holiday this week. I wanted a bottle of cordial to have in at the cottage we are staying in and wasn't too bothered what brand or flavour - I usually drink bottled water but fancied a change while on holiday and the Robinson's Pink Grapefruit was on offer at £1.
The bottle contains 1 litre of the cordial which is equivalent to 20 servings, and a serving contains just 7 calories. The bottle is easily recognisable as Robinson's with their logo, the 'Fruit & Barley' tag and a blue band across the bottom of the label stating 'No Added Sugar'. The label also states that there are no artificial colours or flavours.
The juice itself is a dusky shade of pink which lightens slightly when diluted in water, but still retains its clear pink colour. The flavour is sweeter than I expected, having been used to fresh grapefruit juice from the chilled drinks section, but is no less refreshing. It definitely tastes of pink grapefruit, just sweeter and the fact that a glass contains less than 10 calories means I don't have to think about how much of it I drink.
The only downside I can see with this drink probably applies to all 'no added sugar' drinks, and that is a slight aftertaste of artificial sweetener. It wouldn't stop me buying from the Fruit & Barley range again, but I might try a different flavour next time.
This is my favourite of the Lloyd Grossman curry sauces - and I have tried most if not all of them. The dopiaza is a medium spiced curry and the serving suggestion on the jar is to serve with diced chicken. You fry the chicken and then add the sauce and heat until the meat is cooked through. Being veggie, I use Quorn pieces for mine, but the method is pretty much the same. I usually cook it through for about 10 - 15 minutes to give the frozen Quorn time to heat through. My partner uses chicken for his and it takes about the same length of time. The jar also suggests mixing the Dopiaza sauce with minced lamb and moulding on skewers to make lamb kofte.
The jars are priced at around £1.99 for 350g though they do vary across the main supermarkets and Asda frequently have them on offer for £1 each. The sauce is very easy to use and really great on flavour. The main flavours in this curry are tomato and fried onion and they really come through, with just a taste of garlic and coriander.
We use a jar of this sauce for two adults (though that does make a really good sized portion) and serve with rice, naan breads and poppadums. Half a jar contains 170 calories (97 kcal / 100g) which makes it is a healthier option than some of the cream based sauces.
We bought this mustard from Asda in a 397g squeezy bottle which seems to be the standard size, when it was on offer for £1 - it is usually £1.79. We have it with loads of our meals and absolutely love it. I first tried this type of mild American style mustard on hotdogs at Ikea and soon decided that this is the only sauce to have on a hotdog.
It has the tangy flavour of mustard but is much creamier than English mustard, making it an accessible option for anyone looking for an alternative relish with a slightly spicy flavour. It allows you the taste of mustard without being overpowering.
The bottle suggests serving the mustard with hotdogs, burgers, ribs and steaks as well as salads, sandwiches and bagels. My partner also has it with pork chops and sausages, and it's great for dipping chips in as an alternative to ketchup or mayo. We started buying this mustard to take on camping trips - it's become a ritual that we have hot dogs (mine are veggie) with French's mustard on the first night of every camping weekend. It's a great size bottle to take away and it keeps really well in a cool box to take back home with us - it does need to be refrigerated after opening, although we didn't realise this with our first couple of bottles and left them in the cupboard. They seemed to keep perfectly fine, though now I know they need to be refrigerated, I do stick to this.
It is free from any artificial colours and preservatives, yet the colour is a rich shade of yellow as you'd expect from mustard. The texture is nice and thick and creamy and the mustard squeezes out of the bottle in a nice steady stream - without squirting out too fast!
It has 73 kcal/100g, which is less than tomato ketchup or mayonnaise so is a more healthy option too.
For the last couple of years, Tuesday nights have been 'curry night' in our house and I can honestly say we have never used anything but Lloyd Grossman sauces. We tend to pick them up in bulk when they are reduced to £1 in Asda or at 99p in Lidl. The prices vary across the supermarkets, so while the full price is £2, we never pay this.
The fact that we have never used any other curry sauces means that I am unable to say how this compares with other brands, but it also reflects the fact that we think they are brilliant and wouldn't consider switching to any other make.
I cook my curry with Quorn pieces which involves nothing more than placing a handful of Quorn pieces in a pan, adding half a jar of the sauce, and warming through for about 15 minutes.
I generally like my curries fairly spicy, so initially wasn't too bothered about trying this one which is a mild sauce containing fresh cream. I usually go for sauces like the Dopiaza and Rogan Josh, but was persuaded to try the Tikka Masala by my partner and was really genuinely pleasantly surprised. The sauce has a gorgeous creamy tomato flavour with mild spices and a hint of honey which gives it a slight sweetness. This is a great curry for people who maybe don't like their food too spicy, or as an intro to curry for children.
We serve our curry with boil in the bag rice from Aldi (way cheaper than Uncle Bens) and naans and poppadums from Asda (again these are really good value).