Friday, October 28, 2016

Bear Naked Custom Granola

A few years back, it seemed like everyone was intent on sending me or giving me granola. There were samples at the farmer's market, samples in the mail, samples at the grocery store.

At first, I was like ... "Oooooh, granola." Then after a while, I was like, "Ewwww, granola." It's not that I disliked it. It was more that I was tired of it.

But ... it's been a while since I had any granola, so when the folks at Bear Naked offered me the opportunity to make my own granola blend, I figured I'd give it a try. I mean, if I was making a custom blend, it would have things I liked, right?

The custom blends start with three different bases. I chose the chocolate. Then you add three extra ingredients. I added bourbon flavor, little pretzels, and walnuts. the bourbon flavor is pretty unusual, right? But it's not the most unusual of the choices. There were some that were even more unusual, like beet powder or dried olives or oregano.

Then, once you've figured out ingredients, you choose a bear for the front of the canister, and a name for the mix that goes on the label.

And a short time later, the granola arrived at my door, with the canister inside a sturdy box. The bourbon was an interesting flavor. At first, I wasn't sure if I loved it, but the more I ate, the more I liked it. It really was a good mix, but if I order again, I'd probably do something completely different. Just because I can.

If you want to give it a try, you can get 10% off your order with the code READ039. I don't get anything for the referral. It's just a little extra for you. I'm nice like that.

Bear Naked also sells pre-made granola mixes. Maybe at your local store, but I found a whole lot of Bear Naked Granolas on Amazon. But you can only get the custom blends from their site.

Who's it for: People who want to create a custom granola blend without messing up the kitchen.

Pros: It's kind of fun. I liked the result.

Cons: It's not the cheapest granola on the market.

Wishes: I wish they listed the ingredients in the base mixes on the page where you choose them. You can look at the ingredients once the blend is made by looking at the nutrition label, but that's at the very end of the process.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sansaire Searing Kit

When I went to the housewares show last March, one of the things I wanted to get into my kitchen was the searing kit from Sansaire. Basically, it's a torch. But not a wimpy little torch that refills from the same canister you'd use for a cigarette lighter. This is a serious torch that runs off of a small propane tank, the size you'd use for a camping stove.

And, since it's designed for use with food, the torch tip is designed for searing foods rather than ... doing whatever else you'd do with a torch in the garage.

The first thing I used it for was ...

Not creme brulee.

I know that's probably one of the first things people think of when it comes to torching. Instead, I used it to blacken some red bell peppers so I could peel them. I love roasted red peppers, and it was fun using the torch rather than roasting the peppers on the stove top, which is a bit less precise.

While that was successful, the searing kit is meant for searing meats after cooking them via sous vide. So my next test was some pork chops.

The kit, by the way, includes a pan and rack that are really handy. If you're throwing flame around, you want to have a safe, fire-safe place to put the food on.

So, anyway, I got a nice browning on the outside of those pork chops and just a little char to get that smoky flavor you'd get from a grill or grill pan. It was really easy.

I still haven't used the torch for creme brulee. I'm not sure if I will, since I don't make a whole lot of creme brulee. But it's sure fun for other things. Marshmallows should fear me.

Who's it for: People who want a large kitchen torch.

Pros: Fire! Flame! Hot! Also, the replacement propane tanks are inexpensive and easy to find.

Cons: My dog barks when I use it. Seriously. It's weird.

Wishes: Can't think of any offhand.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I Ate Jell-o and I Liked It

This is big news, folks. Big.

I've never (ever) been a fan of Jell-o gelatin. Not even when I was a kid. Maybe it was the trauma inflicted upon me by the aunt who made endless variations of Jell-o molds that were stunningly beautiful but all tasted of disappointment and weirdness.

Or maybe I just didn't like the flavors.

But that didn't stop me from saying I'd take sample of the Jell-o Simply Good gelatin and pudding mixes that are being made with no artificial flavors or colors. While I've never been fond of the gelatin, I've been known to use the pudding mix in ice cream, so I figured that I'd like that, at least.

But ... I figured I'd have to try the Jell-o at least once. For science, you know.

And here's the weird thing. I actually liked it. It made a nice, light snack.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? Me, eating Jell-o, willingly?

What's the world coming to? Next thing you know, the Cubs will be playing in the World Series...

Oh. Wait.

So that's the big news. The less-shocking news is that I also tried the pudding. Chocolate first. Of course. And it seemed different, too, in a good way. Perhaps its the new flavorings.

So, there ya go. If you haven't tried the new Jell-o yet, maybe it's time to try again. I probably won't be making Jell-o molds that look like the Taj Mahal any time soon, but I'll be making Jell-o once in a while as snack.

Who's it for: People who like Jell-o or who haven't tried it recently and might want to try again.

Pros: Tastes better. Natural flavors and stuff.

Cons: Someone could still use it to make a horrible Jell-o mold.

Wishes: I really really really really hope they expand this line with more flavors.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Degustabox - October

Another month, another fun box from Degustabox. I have to say that I've been enjoying the variety of products that come in the boxes. There are always some things I like, some I love, and some I'm glad I got a chance to try for free because I probably won't buy them again.

This month's box included:

Pumpkin Pie Soda from Jones Soda
I'm not a huge soda drinker, but this was interesting. And different. Then again, this company is known for having some odd soda flavors. I thought it might be too weird, but it was good. I don't know if I'd want it on a regular basis, but it's getting to be pumpkin season. It might make a good cocktail with ... bourbon, maybe.

Hometown Bagel Chips
These were nice on their own and also with a cream cheese spread. I love crunchy snacks, so these were right up my alley.

Wasa Thins crackers
I think these were my favorite thing in the box, but then again, I'm a fiend for sesame seeds, and that what these had. They had great flavor on their own, and nice with a thin smear of butter. Good with soup. I need to find these at the grocery store or I'm going to be buying them online.

Barilla marinara sauce
I've bought this before, but I didn't mind getting it in the box. I like to have an "emergency" jar of pasta sauce for those days when I don't want to cook. Good for basic pasta, but also for simmering meatballs or for the sauce on something like chicken or eggplant parmesan.

Barilla ProteinPlus Pasta
Although I've tried Barilla pasta before, I never tried this variety. It didn't taste any different from regular pasta, which is exactly what you're looking for with an enhanced sort of noodle. If you're trying to get more protein and fewer carbs, this is is certainly an easy way to make it happen. Of course there are still carbs - just fewer than regular pasta.

Numi Tea
This was a nice little sampler of teas. I liked some, loved others, and some weren't my cup of tea. But that's kind of the point of having a sampler. You can try different ones to see what you like, or have a variety onhand for visitors. The one I wasn't crazy about was the one with chamomile. I've never really cared for chamomile, but I don't mind having a packet on hand in case guests like it.

Lovely Candy
Not too sweet, and not too tart, with real fruit flavors. The flavors were cranberry, raspberry, and blueberry, so these might be more adult flavors than typical candies. They're a little chewy, but not the sort of chew that will rip out a filling. Or they dissolve.

These are little chocolate-flavored energy supplements with vitamin B, D, and caffeine. I haven't tried them yet because I haven't needed an energy boost. I've got them set aside for now.

Palo Popcorn
The white cheddar popcorn was good, but the bacon cheddar was freaking amazing. I was sad when the little bag was empty. To be honest, I didn't think I'd be that crazy about it, since it's cooked in coconut oil (and I'm not crazy about coconut) and I thought the bacon flavor might be weird. But the bacon added a nice smokiness that I loved.

La Tortilla Factory low-carb tortillas
This was the one item that I wasn't crazy about. If I was seriously going low-carb and denying myself regular tortillas, these might be a miracle to have on hand. But I had a bag of regular tortillas sitting on the counter, and these just didn't stack up. I've bought other La Tortilla Factory tortillas before, and I've liked them, so it's not the brand, just this particular variety of tortilla. The hand-made style that are a blend of corn and wheat are my favorites from them. They're not like any other tortillas I've tried, and I buy them quite often.

Crown Nut flavored almonds
Nuts. I love nuts. These were pretty spicy, but that's to be expected when they're flavored with sriracha, right? If you don't like super-hot stuff, they might be a bit much all by themselves, but they'd be pretty good added to a mix. Or used for cooking.

I received this box from Degustabox at no cost to me. I included links to Amazon for products sold there, or links to manufacturers, so you can find more information about the individual items.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


There are all kinds of box subscriptions these days. Treatsie is one that was recently sent to me. Unlike the boxes that have cooking ingredients, this one is all about, well, treats.

There were bakery treats, candies, and nuts.

The first thing I tried was a caramel apple whoopie pie from a bakery called Cuit. They also sent a raspberry crumble. There was a note that said that that the Cuit items were freshly made and should be eaten soon.

That was easy. I liked the whoopie pie better than the crumble, but I wouldn't turn either one down.

The little packets were single pieces of candy from chuao. One was caramel apple chocolate and the other was a crunchy chocolate with cinnamon. They were both good and a nice size for a little snack.

And last was a cute little bag of candied pecans. Sweet, salty, crunchy, yum.

It's a nice little box. Not so much that you'd struggle to eat them all before another box showed up, and a pretty diverse selection.

Who's it for: People who want to try different sorts of snacks.

Pros: Snacks!

Cons: Probably not great for people who have favorites they buy all the time.

Wishes: I would have liked more of the chuao chocolates.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Microplane 3-in-1 Ginger Tool

I've been a huge fan of Microplane product since they first hit the cooking market. I mean, they were originally made for woodworking, so they're certainly up to the task of grating hard cheeses or zesting citrus. So any time they have a new product, I'm anxious to try it.

This time around, they've got a 3-in-1 ginger tool that's used for slicing, grating and peeling ginger.

I gave it a whirl with some fresh ginger that I used in some chicken soup. MMmm. Soup.

The tool worked well, which is what I expected. It made nice thin slices of the ginger, and it grated it well, too. The peeling area worked well, but I have to be honest and say that I prefer peeling ginger with a spoon. It's not that the tool isn't good, it's just a personal preference. You might prefer peeling with the tool.

While this is made for ginger, there's no reason you couldn't use it for other things, particularly if you're cooking them together, like garlic or citrus.

Who's it for: People who use a lot of ginger.

Pros: Works well. Can be used for more than ginger. Hanging hole.

Cons: If you already have other graters, this could be a duplicate item - but the slicing is something you might not have.

Wishes: I always say that more colors are cool.

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