Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms

I had heard about Trader Joe's for along time before I actually stepped foot in one. And my first shopping experience was less than life changing. I was on vacation and I wasn't going to be doing any cooking until I got home. I picked up a couple jars of ... things ... shrugged my shoulders, and went on my merry way.

When a Trader Joe's opened in nearby Boulder, I decided I had to give it another try. There were some fresh vegetable options that I liked, and the frozen langostino tails were great. But I still hadn't explored the vast array of frozen foods that people raved about. I like to cook, so I'm more about ingredients than bagged meals.

On my last trip, I decided to avail myself of some easy meals, so I ventured into the frozen section. I have to say, things looked pretty good. There were a lot of them I wanted to try. A lot.

I came home with the Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms. It seemed like the perfect intersection of easy, fast, convenient, while also being something of a treat. I don't buy a lot of scallops. And while I still cook a lot of foods from scratch, there are days when I've got too many other things going on to fuss with dinner.

There are cooking directions for microwave, stovetop, an oven. I opted for the stovetop method and dumped the bag into the saute pan. There were white round things that looked like albino meatballs, but were actually the sauce that was frozen around the scallops. This makes so much sense. Less change of getting freezer burn on the delicate scallops.

I forgot to take a photo of that, so you'll just have to trust me.

The cooking was simple. Basically you're just heating it until it's all nice and warm. Easy peasy.

The sauce was cheesy, which I know is supposed to be forbidden with fish, but it was good. My one complaint, and it's going to sound pretty silly, is that I wish there were more mushrooms. I'm a mushroom fiend, and I would have been happy with equal amounts of mushrooms and scallops. Instead, it looked like there were more peas than mushrooms. Which was fine. I like peas.

I'll probably buy this again, but next time I'll add a good fist full of my own mushrooms to the mix. And now that I've tried one of their frozen entrees, I'll probably indulge in more. What have you tried? Did you like it?

Oh, and I served it on top of some brown rice.

Who's it for: People who want food, fast.

Pros: Easy. Lots of scallops compared to the rest of the ingredients.

Cons: Lazy. Oh so lazy.

Wishes: I would have liked more mushrooms. But not fewer scallops. Hah!

Source: I bought this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Mighty Mug

Seconds after I dumped a cup of coffee all over myself, the floor, and the couch (missing my laptop and the dog) I got an email from a place that wanted to send me a magical mug that wouldn't tip over.

How could I refuse?

When The Mighty Mug arrived, I opened the box, set the mug on the kitchen counter and pushed. And pushed. It held firm. I mean, I don't know if I'd want to tie a rope around it and dangle from a seventh-floor window, but it was stuck tight to the counter when I tried pushing or pulling it sideways or at an angle.

But when I lifted straight up, it lifted just fine.

What sorcery is this?

Something to do with a vacuum seal on the bottom of the mug. Lifting straight up breaks the seal, but when you push, bump, or nudge it, it holds firm.


But wait a minute.

I put the mug on the wooden table where I usually rest my coffee next to the couch and it was completely tippable. It didn't stick at all.

Wha? Did I use up all the magic? I went back to the kitchen, and it stuck just fine on the decades-old and somewhat ugly countertop. I went to the dining room table and it stuck, mostly, but not as firmly.


I walked around the house, setting the mug on different surfaces. Marble table - sticks.  Paperback book - sticks. Glass surface - sticks. Smooth plastic tray - sticks. Slotted bamboo tray - doesn't stick. Wooden floor- sticks as long as it's not over a seam. Textured card table - doesn't stick. The dog - doesn't stick. Entertainment center wood top - sort of sticks.

I pondered. Then I figured it out. If the mug is on a flat smooth surface, it will create that vacuum that holds it in place. But if you put the mug on a bumpy or deeply scratched or textured surface, it can't hold as well. My dining room table has some wood grain that you can feel, but not a lot. But it does have a smooth painted surface (where it isn't scratched). Thus, the mug held on, but not quite as tight as the completely smooth counter.

On the other hand, the wooden table where my coffee usually rests is not slick or smooth. There's enough texture that the mug won't grip very much at all.

So ... if you're going to set this mug on a smooth surface - glass, polished wood, granite ... or any other smooth surface, you'll be safe. If you think this will work on the picnic table, the rustic wood tray, the pebble-surfaced Formica counter top, or any other uneven, scratched, grouted, un-smooth surface, then you're out of luck. You probably also don't want to set it on top of the corner of a napkin or on top of that ginormous jelly spill (come on, now, clean that up!) or it might not hold the way you expect it to.

But if you're using this at your desk and it has a smooth, uninterrupted surface, you'll be happy as a clam. (How happy are clams, anyway? I mean before they're stuff with bread crumbs and broiled?)

I still plan on using the mug on my wooden table - I have a piece of counter top material - something like Corian - that I bought for use in photos. It's the perfect fit for my little table and the mug sticks to it very nicely. Problem solved. And, if we're being honest, it looks better than the distressed wood. Which is a nice way of saying the varnish has worn off the table top in places and it's kind of scratched here and there.

The mug comes in a couple of different styles, including one that's heat-proof for coffee and another that's designed for cold drinks. I opted for the heat-proof since it works for hot and there's no reason not to put a cold drink in there. The cold one, however, would not have been as useful for hot beverages. Which I really don't want to spill all over me.

The dog is also looking a bit relieved.

Who's it for: Klutzes like me.

Pros: They don't tip! (On many surfaces.) Dishwasher safe.

Cons: They look like standard travel mugs. They will tip if they're not on a smooth surface. So don't show off unless you know it's actually safe.

Wishes: I sort of wish it had a handle, like a coffee mug does. But that's not mission critical.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Degustabox - January

Another month, another box 'o goodies from Degustabox. As usual, it was a mix of things I was familiar with, things I'd never heard of, things I liked, and a few things that I was glad to try, but probably won't buy again.

After getting these boxes for many months, I've sampled a lot of food, and I've also given a bit of it away. It's just me, so it makes sense for me to be generous with the extras. And of course it makes sense for me to give away the things that include ingredients I know I won't like. I'm looking at you, coconut.

Welch's Fruit 'n Yogurt Snacks
There are single-serve bags of fruity snacks that have a thin yogurt coating. The coating adds a nice amount of creamy flavor to the snacks. They're sweet, but not overly sweet. A nice little nosh. If I worked in an office, this is the kind of thing I'd have stashed in a desk drawer for a little mid-day snack.

Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter Microwave Popcorn
Oh heck yes. Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks, and this is one of the brands that I buy when I don't buy plain kernels. Let's face it, popcorn in a bag is super-easy and these are a little lower in calorie that the full-fat versions you can get.

Go Organically Fruit Snacks
These are little soft gummy fruit treats in single serve bags for snacks. Not super-sweet, but not tart, either. I thought they were nice, but not exciting. I'll bet kids would love 'em.

Prince of Peace Ginger Honey Crystals
These crystals are mixed with hot water to make a hot tea. The ginger was there, but not super-strong and biting. The honey flavor was definitely there, too. While it's meant as a hot drink, I think it would work well chilled or fizzed, too. Each packet makes one drink.

Hungry Jack Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix
I seldom eat pancakes, so I passed these along to someone else who would appreciate them more. I thought it was interesting that there was a pancake mix with pumpkin spice flavor - you probably wouldn't need syrup with these.

Entenmann's Little Bites Party Cakes
If you're familiar with Entenmann's bakery goods, these are mini versions packed in bag. I got the party cakes, that had colored sprinkles baked into the caked. I thought they were a bit sweet - or they would have been if I was eating a while slice of cake. Since these were just one or two bites, it was fine that they were a little bit sweet.

ALO Refresh Aloe Beverage with Cucumber and Cantaloupe
I don't usually drink flavored drinks except coffee or tea, so this one is still unopened. It sounds like it would be comforting and refreshing, though.

Cello Whisps Cheese Crisps
These little crackers are totally addictive in the best possible way. They're nothing but cheese, cooked until they're crisp. Unlike the ones I've made at home that are super-thin, these are a little thicker. I was thinking these would be awesome on a salad, but I loved snacking on them, like crackers. They'd also be fun with soup.

McDonnells Korma Coconut-Flavored Curry Sauce
While this sound yummy, I'm not a big fan of coconut, so I decided to pass it along to someone else. Sorry, coconut, but I just don't love you. This is supposed to be a mild-flavored sauce mix, so it would be good for people who don't like super-spicy curries.

Live Smart Kids Bars
These bars are all-natural, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO and vegan and are designed to be healthy and delicious for kids. Since I don't have any of those small people here, I passed it along to someone else who would like it better.

One and Done Seasoning
While not an official part of the box, this was included in some boxes this month as a "thank-you" for answering some survey questions. I sniffed, but didn't use it, but this seems like it would be a good all-around seasoning for a lot of things.

I receive these boxes from Degustabox at no cost to me, so I can tell you all about them.