Monday, September 18, 2017

Degustabox - September

+*You know how this goes, right? Degustbox sends me one of their monthly boxes and I tell you all about the goodies in the box.

This month's box had quite a few things that I gave away - not that the products were undesirable, but just my personal taste.

Actually, that's kind of a nice thing about these boxes. I can always pull out a few things and set them aside for little gifts.

And then I hoard the rest for me. Because that's how I am.

King Arthur Flour Essential Goodness Lemon Bars - I've tried a number of different of these mixes, and I've liked all of them a lot. When this box arrived, I had no interesting sweets, so I baked this right away. It was the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and didn't need a whole lot of extra ingredients. Definitely recommended.

Reese Fruit Quinoa Cups - When quinoa first started appearing in stores, I went overboard a little bit with it. Quinoa everything. Since then, my love for it has waned a bit. This quinoa-mango fruit mix sounded and looked interesting, but I decided to pass it along to someone else who would appreciate it more.

Natural Sins Fruit and Vegetable Chips - The idea is good, but I got coconut chips, and that's one food I don't like at all. So ... off it went to a coconut lover who appreciated it very much.

SunRype Fruit-to-Go Bars - I packed these up in a little gift basket where they looked quite welcome. SunRype makes a bunch of different bars, so there's something for everyone. Take a look at 'em!

Lee Kum Kee Korean BBQ Stir Fry Sauce - Oh yeah! I've bought other Lee Kum Kee products, but I hadn't noticed this one in the store. This is a super-easy way to make a quick meal that isn't just a peanut butter sandwich. Have some rice on the side and you're the kitchen rock star.

Wild Planet Tuna - I've used this tuna before and it's really good. And there are a bunch of different varieties, unlike when I was a kid and the only options were oil and water - no big differences in the tuna itself. The Albacore tuna is line-caught and hand packed. They suggest you don't drain the tuna, but save the liquid for whatever it is you're cooking.

Post Shredded Wheat Mixed Berry - I'm currently full-up with cereal, so I handed this off to some friends who absolutely love cereal. They were pretty excited about this new variety.

Angelic Bakehouse Bread Crisps - These are cracker-sized slices of crisp bread. While I don't think I'd snack on them as-is, they're perfect for making little snacks and appetizers. I thought they were a tiny bit salty, so that's something to keep in mind when deciding on the toppings. Choose something that's not over-salted, and you'll be fine.

Mutti Passata (tomato puree) - Tomato puree is the secret ingredient in the tomato soup that my mom made, and so I was really happy to get this, since the other Mutti products I got were really good. Degustabox provided a recipe for using the puree, and it was pretty darned close to mom's soup recipe. There were a few differences, but I'm sure it would be really good.

Goya Rice Pilaf - I've been buying Goya products for years, but I've never tried this rice pilaf. What's not to love, though? Rice. tiny pasta, and seasonings. I'm going to hunt down the other flavors and see which other ones I might want to try. Perfect when I've grilled a steak, I want a side, and I don't want anything too complicated so I can get back to the rerun marathon that I'm amusing myself with.

I receive a monthly box from Degustabox at no cost to me, so I can write about it for you.

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Foods!

As much as I love testing new gadgets and small appliances, the food samples I get are a whole lot of fun, too. The things I get to sample are often new, improved, or updated items, and maybe not yet available in my local grocery store.

And, seriously, even if they are available at my local stores, most of the time they're foods that I might not pick up. There are plenty of shopping days when I'm pretty narrowly focused on getting exactly what I need for recipes, so I might not notice the new items even when they're right in front of me.

A lot of the samples I'm offered are sweets and snacks, which is great. Snacks are handy to have on hand for when I'm feeling particularly peckish. But the savory foods can be even more fun, since those are most likely to end up in recipes.

Here's a roundup of what showed up here recently!

Pereg Gourmet Freekeh


Pereg Gourmet sent me both Freekeh and Farro. I'm familiar with farro - it's a tasty grain that's a little bit hard to find. The farro they sent me was the basic grain with no added seasonings, so it was ready for any recipe or side dish. I actually like it fairly plain, with a little salt and a touch of butter or olive oil. If you think of it as a grain like rice or barley, you'll probably have a lot of ideas for how to use it.

The Freekeh they sent me was in a mix that included dried vegetables and spices including carrots, peppers, currants. onions, and mustard seeds, so it was a pretty complete side dish.


When I emptied it into a pot to cook it, the scent of the dried vegetables reminded me of a dried soup mix that I've used on occasion, probably because of the dried vegetables. The flavor was good once it was cooked and the bits of vegetables added some color. I thought it needed a touch of salt. But that was easy to adjust.

Fatworks


So ... it's fairly easy to render fat from chicken. Just about as easy as making butter. Heh. It's not hard to do, but there are other things I'd rather do. It's nice to know these fats are available for times when I want some clean chicken fat for a recipe and I don't want to start by rendering the fat myself.

Fatworks sent me a nice selection of their products. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the tallow, but that chicken schmaltz was perfect for cooking potatoes (and freaking delicious). Goose fat is good for that, too. The leaf lard has a lot of uses, but I haven't yet opened it.

Before these arrived, I'd never seen them in a store, but recently I spotted them. I'm definitely going to be putting these on the list for when I need some really pure fat.

When you buy these, make sure you look at storage instructions. Some need to be refrigerated while others should be stored at room temperature.

Kettle & Fire Bone Broth


I'm generally opposed to the term "bone broth" because it's really just a good stock. But, hey, I can't blame a company for jumping on a trend. Ignoring that word on the label, this actually is a good stock. The containers hold slightly more than 16 ounces, which is a nice amount for me. Most of the stocks in the store are either a quart or a liter, and sometimes that's just too much for what I need.

I used one of the flavors to cook rice and the other to make soup. I'll be looking for these again because of the deep flavor and the convenient size. That's not to say that I won't make my own stock any more. But I like to have a container on hand for the times when I don't have any in the fridge or freezer.



Nutz. Er ..... nuts. I've tried a lot of different flavored nuts, and usually they have spices, salt and flavorings adhering to the nuts. A coating, if you will. The difference with these was that the flavor was infused into the nuts, so there wasn't really a coating.

I haven't tried all of them (there were a freaking lot of packages of different flavors!), so I guess it's possible some do have a coating, but it says on the package that they're infused, so ...

Anyway, the flavor on the ones I tried was in the nuts rather than on them, so I'm thinking they'd be interesting for baking. Also good for snacking without making a mess. The texture of these was slightly different than typical roasted nuts ... I'm not sure exactly how to describe it. Softer, maybe. Not actually soft, but not quite as crunchy as other nuts I've eaten. You'll see when you try them. They're interesting. And with the huge variety of flavors, there's something for everyone.



I've done a couple of posts using products from Honey Ridge Farms, and recently they sent me an email and said, "we're going to send you some stuff." They sure did. That honey balsamic vinegar is really stellar. I like it drizzled on fresh ripe tomatoes. It's also good on green salads or on asparagus.

The Blure is one of my favorite things ever. I've used it in a couple different cocktail recipes. I'm glad to have a refill. The tea is lovely and the honey is really nice. And who says no to fancy salts?

Overall, there's a lot of great stuff here. Something for everyone. Check 'em out!



I wrote about the Land O Lakes soft butter quite some time ago and I've been buying it ever since I ran out of the free stuff. Mostly I buy the version with olive oil, but I've also bought other versions. Now there's a new version that has 25% less sodium.

The nice buttery folks sent me a sample, and although I can taste a slight difference in saltiness when I try both versions next to each other, it's not so pronounced that I'd miss the salt in regular use. It's definitely not unsalted - although now that I think of it, and unsalted version would actually be kind of nice, too. I hope they decide to make that.

I mostly use this for spreading on toast, bread, or English muffins, but I've also used it for cooking when I don't need an exact measurement - because in that case, cutting a tablespoon or more off a stick is easier than measuring the soft butter.

So there ya go. Lots of fun food.

What new food products have you tried lately?

These were provided at no cost to me by the respective manufacturers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Paula Deen Speckled Bakeware (and King Arthur Flour cookies)

Let's be honest here. It's hard for me not to fall in love with new bakeware. I've been known to ogle new cake pans, pie plates, and Bundt pans whenever I see them in a store.

So when I saw a photo of the new Paula Deen speckled bakeware in dark blue, I had to ask for a sample.

Reminiscent of the old-school granite ware that my mom had when I was still using an Easy Bake Oven, this has random white speckles on a very dark blue background.

Unlike that ancient cookware, this stuff is super-slippy nonstick, as I found out when I baked some cookies.

It took me a while to decide exactly what I wanted to make on my new baking sheet. I thought maybe a loaf of free-form rustic bread would be nice.

But then I decided I needed some dessert, and I remembered that I had a box of King Arthur Flour chocolate chip cookie mix in the pantry. They had send me samples of a few different mixes a while back, and this one was still waiting for me.

So the cookies had to be baked. Had to.

The cookie mix was super simple to put together, and the cookies were pretty darned good. The bakeware was very very nonstick ... much better than I expected. The baked cookies slipped around the pan easily, leaving very little trace of their presence on the pan when they were removed.

While I only received the cookie sheet, I'm sure the other bakeware is just as good - there are round cake pans and 9x13 cake pans available, as well.


Purty, isn't it?

And here's the cookie mix box:



FYI, King Arthur Flour donates money to Feeding America when you buy their Essential Goodness mixes. Check out their website for details.

Who's the bakeware for: People who bake. Also nice for food photos.

Pros: Pretty. Nonstick.

Cons: The baking sheet is 10x15, which is slightly smaller than a half-sheet pan which measures 11x16. This isn't going to make a difference to most people, but it's something to keep in mind.

Wishes: I'm hoping they add a pie plate to this collection. Not that I need one, but a speckled pie plate would look awesome in photos.

Source: I received the cookie sheet and cookie mix from their respective manufacturers at no cost to me.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Degustabox - August

Another month, another box from Degustabox. In case you're not familiar, they're a subscription service that sends a box of food various items once a month. I get the monthly box for free, so I can describe them to you.

One interesting thing in the box is that they list the retail value of all the items, so you can see that you're actually getting your money's worth.

A few times, I've wanted to buy more of a particular product, but it's not readily available in my area ... so I've checked Amazon for prices.

Those prices are always higher than the retail prices listed by Degustabox. Which makes sense, considering it's costly to ship things. I've actually been willing to pay extra for some items I've loved, and in other cases, I've stalked the local stores looking for the products.

So anyway, here's August.

Nature's Bakery whole wheat fig bars - while these sound like they could be lovely, Fig Newtons ruined my desire for figgy cookies. I passed these along to someone else who appreciated them more than me. Which, by the way, is a great thing about these shipments. There's always something gift-worthy.

Dole Fruit in Gels - Hmmm. Fruit in gelatin. Honestly, I've never been fond of gelatin, even as a kid. So here's another one I passed along. I think these are a great idea, by the way, for those who like gelatin and fruit. Just not for me.

Pasta Snacks - Rosemary Pasta Chips and Meatball Parm Pasta Bow Ties - These were fantastic. Straddling a line between savory cracker and snack chip, they were good on their own next to a sandwich, great with a dip, and a fine snack when I was feeling a little peckish. I really loved the shape of the bow ties.

Goya tostones chips - Seems like everything is turning into a chip these days, some more successfully than others. Unlike some odd chips that are made from questionable vegetables, tostones are the perfect thing to chipify. These would be great with a sandwich (I'd suggest a Cuban sandwich) or on their own as a snack.

Welch's fruit rolls - these are targeted at a much younger audience than those living in my house, so I passed them along. For a moment, I considered using them in a recipe - imagine them cut up and added to cookies or muffins - but then I decided that I'd leave that to someone else. These are super-popular, so there must be a reason.

Goya Maria Cookies - Maria cookies are super-popular at the Hispanic store where I sometimes shop, but they're not quite as well known at the chain stores. This version of the Maria cookies was filled with a chocolate cream. Nice!

Sunspire milk chocolate SunDrops - If you like those coated chocolate candies that have a pair of M's in their name, you'll like these. They have no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives ... and they're CHOCOLATE. You'd better believe I kept these all for myself!

Sharwood's Karma Cooking Sauce - Oh dear ... here's another sauce that's based on coconut. I had to pass this one along, since coconut and I are not friends. I've tried other Sharwood's products, and they were good, but this one just wasn't for me.

Perky Jerky - Here's a high protein, gluten-free snack that's great for anyone. Well, okay, anyone who isn't vegan or vegetarian, I guess. But great for folks who are on the Paleo diet or who are avoiding grains. If you like jerky, this is one you might want to take a closer look at.

Hummustir - this was an interesting concept. It came in a coated cardboard container, and for some reason I thought it was going to be a dehydrated product. Instead, there were two pouches - one with the chickpea component and one with the tahini component. You simply open both and stir to combine. The container gives you something to mix them in, if you're on the go. At home, it made more sense to mix them in a little glass bowl. It's nice to have another shelf-stable, non-refrigerated option for hummus lovers. Of course, if you have leftovers, you'd need to refrigerate that.

Nuttzo chocolate spread (gift item) - Degustabox tossed this in as a little gift, since it's not a retail portion. It's a chocolate nut spread with no extra sugars. I mean ... it's chocolate. How can that be bad?

Monday, August 14, 2017

WÜSTHOF Burger Knives

When I got a set of burger knives from WÜSTHOF, I posted a photo on Facebook, and one of the first comments was something about how people don't need knives for burgers ... how silly is that?

Well, I can kind of see the point, but then again, I have steak knives. And butter knives. And cheese spreading knives. And lots and lots and lots of kitchen knives.

I also have regular forks and salad forks and weird little seafood forks. My everyday flatware includes regular small spoons, tablespoons, and soup spoons.

Are burger knives necessary? Well, no, but neither are my salad forks but I use them a lot. Those weird little seafood forks, however, don't get used very often at all.

Burger knives might not be the best name for these knives because it doesn't really explain how versatile they are. The wide, flat, rounded blade is great for spreading mustard or mayo or other sauces. The serrated part of the knife was perfect for slicing a tomato. And then the knife also did a fine job slicing the burger neatly in half to make it a little easier to eat..

It's also great for stabbing into a burger from the top to make an interesting presentation.

So, yeah, the knives are good for burgers, but they'd be good for pretty much any sandwich assembly job. And probably other jobs as well. This time of year, there are a lot of tomatoes in my kitchen that need slicing.

Who's it for: People who make burgers and other sandwiches.

Pros: Nice multi-use knives. They look good stabbing a burger.

Cons: If you're counting down the top 3 knives everyone needs, these probably aren't on the list.

Wishes: Hmmm. They're knives. They cut. It's hard to come up with something I'd change.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review. The plate in the top photo was provided by Zak!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Better Bean

When the folks at Better Bean offered me samples of their "kid-friendly" bean products, I asked just how young the kid could be. While I don't have any younglings of my own, I do have a faux-grandchild right next door that I could borrow, and he's at the stage when he's starting to eat mushy solid foods.


The sample arrived, and snacking commenced. While the beans are kid-friendly, they aren't adult-hostile. They actually tasted pretty good. They were flavorful and even had a hint of heat. Not super-spicy that would make kids wince. But enough to introduce kids to the concept of peppers.

While I always enjoy sampling foods, the best part was watching the faux-grandchild's response to the new food.


More mama!


Mmmm! New flavor!

We didn't go through all of the flavors, but enough to get a good idea of what they were like. While they were all ready to eat as-is, many of them could work as part of a recipe. I thought one of the black bean items would have made a pretty good black bean soup, simply by mixing it into some stock.

And of course they could have worked as additions to tacos or burritos.

Mom friendly. Kid approved.

Who's it for: Pretty much anyone who likes beans.

Pros: Ready to eat as-is. Also could be used in recipes. Flavorful.

Cons: Perishable - needs to be refrigerated. So this isn't something you could stock up on for weeks and weeks in advance.

Wishes: Hmmm. I was pretty pleased with them as-is.

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

Note: there's currently a popup on the website so you can get a coupon for a free container of beans. I have no idea how long it will be there, and it's not a promo from this blog. But, hey, it's free!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Yonanas

Yonanas with cherries!
You might have heard of Yonanas. I certainly knew the concept before I was sent a unit to test. You freeze bananas and you run them through the machine and you end up with something that's the consistency of soft-serve ice cream but that is 100 percent bananas.

Well, it's 100 bananas until you start adding other things. I tried both frozen cherries and frozen pineapple and I ended up with something like a sorbet. And then I tried them mixed with banana. There's a cookbook included with even more ideas, and not all of them are desserts. And some are pretty surprising.

Yup, Yonanas isn't just for bananas.

But then again, Yonanas is named for bananas, so ... the key to the perfect Yonanas banana is to make sure the bananas are speckled with brown before you freeze them. This makes sure you get something with the right texture and some sweetness. Freeze the bananas too early and, since cold dulls the sweet flavor, you get something that's not very sweet at all.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't stir in some honey or maple syrup or chocolate or a pinch of salt. I also mixed banana with yogurt to add more of the dairy "feel" to the dessert.

The Yonanas machine certainly isn't a must-have item, but it's fun. And since the blades are deep into the machine, it's pretty safe for kids to use. Since the food dispenses into your bowl or cup, kids don't need to pour or scoop as they would with something like a blender or food processor, so they're less likely to make a horrendous mess.

Adults should be in charge of taking it apart for cleaning, which is pretty simple. Parts just twist off and you can get to every surface to do the cleaning, then put it back together so it's ready for the next use.

The one cleaning tip I have is that it's smart to remove the mechanism from the machine right after you're done. I left mine unattended while I sampled, and as the frozen residue melted, it dripped on the counter and dripped even more as I took it apart. Not a major disaster, but it doesn't drip at all if you deal with it right after using.
Photo courtesy of Yonanas

After I was done testing the yo-machine at my house, I brought it to my neighbor's house to give it a test run with my faux-grandchild.

They unboxed it immediately and grabbed some frozen fruit they had on hand. Mixed berries and mangoes went into the maw of the machine. The little man, with a tooth or two not yet emerged, was delighted.

What sorcery is this?

While I was there, they brainstormed what else they might throw into the machine. Frozen peas, perhaps?

Oooh, how about cooked carrot sorbet? 

I left the machine with them to see what the longer-term review would be, and so far it's been a big hit. Unlike throwing fruit into a blender where you need a certain quantity for optimum blending, this can make small, baby-sized single servings. Which means it can be a different flavor each time. Or obviously you can keep throwing fruit into it for bigger adult-sized servings. It's easy to clean. The result is super-healthy, since it's just fruit. And the little guy loves it.

Who's it for: This one has two major markets where I think this hits the sweet spot - families with babies and kids, and also dieters who want to make sweet, simple, small desserts on the fly. Of course, non-dieters who crave slushy fruit desserts would also like it, but the kid market is probably where it's most useful.

Pros: Works well. Flavor options are endless. Easy cleaning. Great for kids. Littlest kids can eat it, and older kids can use it to make their own desserts. And everyone can have a different flavor.

Cons: It's another countertop appliance that will compete for space. Fortunately it's small and lightweight so you can find space for it in cabinet or in the pantry, but households with kids might find themselves using this daily. Move over, coffee maker.

Wishes: A slightly wider feed tube might be nice. But if it's being used by kids, I can see why you wouldn't want it too large.

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delicious & Sons

Photo courtesy of Delicious & Sons
Mmm. Delicious.

And sons.

Okay, so Delicious & Sons is a company that sells sauces, spreads, and condiments. Not long ago, they sent me a few products to sample.

'Tis true. They're delicious.

Garlic aioli with saffron and orange was lovely on some shrimp that I served with rice.

Served? Who am I kidding? I plopped it on a plate and blobbed the aioli onto some of the shrimp and enjoyed it. There was no fancy plating, although I did use utensils.

I brought the aioli to a friend's house and we used it as a base for a spinach and feta pizza, where it also worked really well. I still have quite a bit left, because a little aioli goes a long way. Maybe next, I'll try it in potato salad.

Note to self. Put potatoes on the shopping list.

Sundried tomato pesto rosso also became part of a pizza. I brought home leftovers and used it for a impromptu pasta sauce, along with some jarred antipasto that I chopped up. Just those two and pasta, and I had dinner.

Boom.

There is also a black olive spread roaming around my kitchen. I haven't yet decided what I'll do with it, but I'm sure it will find a good home. Maybe on some crusty bread. Or IN some crusty bread - yes! Olive loaf!

Who's it for: People who like pestos and stuff. This would also be nice if you're putting together a gift basket for someone, or for a little housewarming present.

Pros: Yum.

Cons: You'll probably need to order this online.

Wishes: I wish it was available in the stores where I shop. It would be a perfect impulse buy.

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Degustabox - July

Whoop! Whoop! Another month, another free delivery from Degustabox so I can tell you all about the products in the shipment.

This one had a few things I was very familiar with, and a few others that were completely new to me. Here's the whole lot of 'em:

Karma Wellness Water - a special cap keeps the vitamins separate from the water until you peel, push, and shake introduce the good stuff to the water. It's only 20 calories and has 110 percent of 7 vitamins. I haven't actually tried this yet, but it sounds like a good supplement.

Vermont Smoke & Cure sticks - Mmm, beef sticks. I love smoked sausage products, and these make a nice little snack. No need to buy larger sausages that need to be refrigerated - these can hang out in the snack bowl for a quick nosh whenever I'm in the mood.

Kala beans - these little darlings are dried crunchy beans that look a little like peanuts. They don't actually taste nutty, but they scratch that same itch. The ones I got were curry flavored, but they weren't in-your-face curry - just nicely seasoned and perfect for snacking.

King Arthur Flour Essential Goodness baking mix - this is funny. They sent a box of the chocolate chip cookie mix, but I had just made a batch of the coffee cake from the same product line. If you don't like the sometimes-artificial flavors of many inexpensive baking mixes, this mix is different. It tastes much more home made. I haven't yet baked the cookies (it's been pretty warm here) but I know this will be as good as other mixes that I've tried. Even better, for every box of mix that's purchased, King Arthur Flour donates a meal to Feeding America.

Goya olive oil - made from Spanish olives, this is a relatively bold flavored oil. I go through a whole lot of olive oil, and this is one of the brands I buy, depending on where I'm shopping and what my mood is.

Mutti Tomato Sauce - I got a Mutti tomato product in a previous box. I use a lot of canned tomato products, so it's nice to know there's another brand that I like. I'm not sure I've seen this one sold locally, but I'll look for it.

Wise popcorn - I make a lot of popcorn, but when I do, it's practically a mean. Okay, sometimes it is a meal.I got little single serve bags of popped Wise popcorn and thought that a single bag was a perfect snack. I was skeptical about the Cinnabon flavor, but it was actually really good. Totally fun.

Mrs. Thinsters - Thin,crunchy cookies. What's not to like? These are made from the same sort of ingredients you'd use in your kitchen, so they're great for people who want an indulgence but also want to avoid preservatives and other additives that are common in commercially baked products.

Waffle Waffle - it's a little waffle! I set this one aside for a morning when I want something sweet with my coffee, but I haven't had that urge yet. Maybe I'll have it for dessert, instead. It's meant to be portable, and they say no syrup is needed. Sounds good to me!

RXBAR (coupon) - the box contained a coupon for a full-size RXBAR protein bar. I haven't shopped for it yet, so I can't tell you what it's like. But it's nice to have a coupon handy in case I want a snack on the run.

So there ya go. Lots of tasty stuff this month. For more info, check out Degustabox,who sends a box to me at no charge every month so I can describe 'em to you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tonnino Tuna

As a blogger (and particularly because I have this review blog along with my recipe blog) I get a lot of offers for products to review.

The gadgets are fun, and the small appliances are always a blast. But food products are very cool, too. For one thing, they cut down on my actual food budget. For another, I get to try things I might never buy on my own. And last, I don't need to find a place to store them.

Well, sometimes they need storage before they're used up. But once I've done my job by sampling them, I have nothing left but the packaging (which is often recyclable!)

When the folks at Tonnino Tuna contacted me, I didn't hesitate. I grew up in love with tuna casserole and since then I've learned that canned and jarred tuna can be pretty darned high quality. Not like the stuff mom used for that beloved casserole. That stuff belonged in that casserole. High quality tuna can be used for soooo many things.

Not only are there different types of tuna in the Tonnino jars (the photo is just some of the tunas), there are also different flavors.

Tuna with lemon and pepper was perfect for a cold pasta salad.

Tuna with jalapeno is perfect on tacos. Add some avocado and shredded lettuce or cabbage, and dinner is done. Perfect on a hot night when you don't want to cook anything.

The garlic-flavored and the tuna with oregano are both recipe-ready, as well. Perhaps a hot pasta or a fancy tuna sandwich. Maybe mixed with some cucumber and red bell pepper and stuffed into a tomato. A jar of one of these, and you really don't need to do a lot to have a super-flavorful meal on the table.

The unflavored tunas are perfect for pretty much any tuna recipe you like, whether it's a more traditional salad or something a little more unusual. I've kind of fallen in love with tuna tacos, to be honest.

I haven't made my way through every variety they sent me yet, but I'm working on it. So far, they've all been winners. Of course I have favorites, but I don't think you could go wrong with any of them.

Who's it for: People who don't want their mama's tuna casserole.

Pros: Good quality.

Cons: Might not be easy to find at your local store. Oh, if only there was a place to shop online for Tonnino Tuna!

Wishes: I really wish this was carried in the stores I usually shop at.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Does an electric appliance save you money over using your stove and/or oven?

I've seen the argument numerous times that using a small electric appliance (electric pressure cooker, countertop oven, slow cooker, etc.) saves electricity compared to heating up that huuuuuge stove.

I'm guessing that a lot of people think that because a stove is sooooo big, it consumes a lot of power.

But does it?

I decided to do a little research, and I was pretty surprised at the results.

I found a site that compared the cost of gas and electric ranges, with normal usage of each, and using both the cooktop and oven on a somewhat normal schedule. A modern gas stove with electric ignition would cost about $18 per year to operate. If the oven is not included, it goes down to $15 per year.

With the same usage, an all-electric stove would cost $45 to operate per year. If the oven is convection, the cost would go down to $43 per year. If the oven is not included at all, the cost goes down to $39 per year.

Since an electric pressure cooker is more likely to replace stovetop cooking than oven use, I was most interested in the cost that didn't include oven use. But I have to say I was surprised that my stove wasn't costing me more. Like other folks, I assumed that the big thing was costing me a lot of money. In comparison, the other big thing in the kitchen - the refrigerator - costs about $16 per month. So my refrigerator costs me as much in a month as my stove does in a whole year.

Of course, costs ultimately depend on gas and electric costs in your area, which can vary seasonally. But we're just doing comparisons for giggles, not trying to create the national budget.

I found one manufacturer that had specifications on the kilowatts used for an average cooking session in their pressure cooking appliance. I did some math using the same kw/h price from the stove comparison site, and if the electric pressure cooker was used for that amount of time every single day would cost about $15 per year to operate.

Of course, that's not how people use that sort of appliance. Some weeks they might make a batch of yogurt that takes 8 hours. Another week they might use it for 20 minutes every day. Or they might skip a week when they're cooking on the grill. Just like not everyone uses their stove for the same amount of time every week of every year. It's all about the averages.

The $15 per year assumes an average use of the electric pressure cooker for 4 hours per week.

There are other financial considerations. 

An electric pressure cooker throws off less heat than cooking on the stove or in the oven.

In the summer, this means you'd save on air conditioning, so that's one point for the pressure cooker.

But in winter, that extra warmth in the kitchen is a good thing, and depending on the configuration of the house it can also warm adjoining rooms. So the stove gets one point there for cutting down on heating costs in winter.

No one wins this battle.

Of course, all these numbers are estimates and averages. Different electric pressure cookers draw different amounts of power, as do different stoves. Cooking habits and local power costs will make a difference. People who have electric pressure cookers will probably continue to use their stoves for some things. Some people will opt to cook on a grill in the summer and do a lot of baking and roasting in the winter.

My own personal experience (which somehow I forget until I'm reminded) is that a stove does not consume enough power to make a noticeable difference in my utilities, even though I cook a lot. I was without a stove for a significant amount of time on three separate occasions. Twice, I did the majority of my cooking on my outdoor grill, and the third time (winter, ya know) I relied on electric appliances for my cooking. I saw no significant change in utilities any of those times. When I was working on my cookbook, my oven was on nonstop from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night. The utility bills weren't any higher than normal during that time.

If you like your electric pressure cooker, toaster oven, microwave, rice cooker, slow cooker, or other appliances, they're fine tools to have. But if you're looking for money savings, you're probably not going to move that needle by filling up your counter with things that plug in, simply because your stove isn't costing you a whole lot to operate if you use gas or electric. (I've heard that propane is higher, but I don't have numbers on that.)

On the other hand, next time you need a new stove, gas will save you a little money over electric. Not enough to make it worthwhile to buy a stove before it's necessary, though.

Bottom line: use what you like.