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 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.


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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Geoffrey Zakarian's Pro Home Food Storage by Tarhong

When I went to the Housewares Show in Chicago this past March, one of the coolest things was when I met Geoffrey Zakarian and he showed me his new line of kitchen storage products. He was friendly and warm and really enthusiastic about the products.

Well, of course he was enthusiastic about the products, because he designed them. He said that after working in restaurants for years and seeing and understanding the proper way to store food, he was disappointed that there weren't similar storage products sized for home kitchens.

So he decided to create them.

The containers are clear, so you can see what's in them. They seal well, and have a tab on the corner that makes it easy to remove the lid. They are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. And there are removable trays so food doesn't sit in liquid, if it's not supposed to. Obviously, if you're marinating, you want it in liquid. But if you're storing fresh strawberries, you don't want them sitting in any sort of moisture that could cause rotting.

The containers nest for storage and they stack when they're full. They also include a pen that can be used to write on the containers to label them, and it wipes off nicely so you can re-label again cleanly.

I only got one container at the show (which was plenty, because there's only so much stuff that can be stuffed into a suitcase) so I haven't used it a lot, but it's really a nice container. Sturdy, solid, well made. If I was tossing out all my current containers and starting over, I'd definitely be looking at a set of these.

He also has some other products that are in the design stage that aren't for sale yet that looked interesting. I'll be curious to see how well his new product line does, considering there are w whole lot of storage containers on the market. Right now, I'm not finding them widely distributed, but I hope we'll be seeing more of them.

As a side note ... my one regret about meeting Geoffrey Zakarian at the show was that after I walked away, I realized it would have been totally cool to get a video of him telling me that I'd been chopped. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Who's it for: People who store food in the refrigerator.

Pros: Nice containers, made similar to professional storage.

Cons: Limited distribution right now.

Wishes: I'd love to be able to just buy the sizes I need at the grocery store.

Source: I received this as a sample at no cost when I was at the Housewares Show.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Degustabox - June

Another month, another mystery box of goodies from Degustabox. I get these boxes for free so I can tell you all about them.

This month's had some items I liked a lot, along with a few I passed along to some very appreciative friends and neighbors. (Don't you want to be my neighbor?)

I get a lot of free samples (ain't it great to be a food blogger?) and I know it makes no sense for me to sample things that I know I won't like (for example, anything with coconut) or things that I know that someone else would appreciate much more than I would (gluten-free or high-caffeine foods, for example).

If I know I won't like something (hello, coconut), there's no way I could honestly say nice things about it. It would be a waste to open it. And in the case of gluten free products or others that just don't fit my food agenda, it simply makes more sense to give them to someone who will love them, instead of me eating a bite and saying, "yeah, it's okay but just not my thing."

There were quite a few things in this box that I like, a few I tried before ... and some that I passed along to other deserving folks.

So ... here we go. 

Amazon links are included for products or companies, where available, so you can find more information on individual items.

Nativas Naturals
This is another nutrition bar, this time minimally processed, organic, and plant based. Since I work from home, there really aren't a whole lot of times when I want an energy bar to fill the food gap. There's pretty much always something here I can eat. So ... this one I passed along.

Briannas Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing
Honestly, I don't buy a lot of bottled dressings, but I might seek this one out. It was good on salad, but I also drizzled some on half of an avocado that I devoured. This would also make a lovely sauce on top of poached or roasted chicken.

Ritz Crisp & Thins
Sort of like a cracker and sort of like a chip, these were great for snacking. Or they'd be good next to a bowl of soup. These are good as-is, but they'd be great with a dip or some cheese. Since they're baked rather than fried, they're lower in calorie that fried chips and crisps.

Hodgson Mills gluten free muffin mix
I passed these along to a gluten-free friend. I've tried a lot of Hodgson Mills products and they've all been high quality. I'm betting these are darned good, too. The mix can also be used to make pancakes, so it's not a one-trick pony.'

Brooklyn Organics ginger ale
I'm a sucker for ginger ale, so I liked this. It's sweetened with stevia and organic. There are several different flavors of this ginger soda. I got to sample one of them, but I'm sure they're all pretty tasty.

Julian's Recipe Waffle Thins
These are cracker-like waffle-textured snacks that come in both sweet and savory flavors. I got the meyer lemon, but there are also cheese-flavored and herby ones. I'm going to look for the cheesy variety because I love cheesy crackers. The lemon was good, but wouldn't be my first choice if a cheesy one was within reach.

Popcorners Salt of the Earth Bean Crisps
I loved Popcorners snacks that tasted like popcorn, so I was pretty interested in this version with beans along with the corn. I haven't actually opened it yet since I had other open snack foods and there's only so many crispy snacks I can shove into my maw in a given week. But if you're looking for a new snack, I think this one would be a good bet.

Entenmann's mini apple snacks
I used to work near an Entenmann's bakery and the smells coming from that place were intoxicating. I had a few favorites among their offerings, but this seems to be a new one. They're little hand pies, about the size of the bottom half of a slider bun. I loved these. They'd be too sweet for me if they were larger, but this was a perfect little dessert.

Bibigo Go-Chu-Jang Barbecue sauce
I haven't opened this one yet because I had two other kinds of barbecue sauce already opened, but I'm seriously looking forward to trying it. It's described as bold, smoky, and spicy. I'm betting it would be awesome on wings, which are now on the shopping list.

Sir Kensington's Ketchup
Another interesting ketchup. If your idea of ketchup is the sweet stuff we all grew up with, maybe it's time to venture into new ketchup territory. I suggest slathering this on a burger or using it as a topping on a meatloaf.

Viter Energy Mints
This was an added "gift" in the box. These are little breath mints with 40mg of caffeine and B vitamins. While I tend to keep my caffeine intake fairly low these days, these would be awesome to tuck into a purse for those time when someone is out and about and feeling a little tired, particularly when there's a boring drive home on the agenda. Probably also good before a test at school or a before a business meeting.

Thanks to Degustabox for supplying these fun boxes (at no cost to me).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Red's Natural Foods Burritos

Let me be perfectly honest.

Since I've been living alone, I've been buying more heat-and-eat foods. I still cook from scratch, and I still like making some more complicated dishes, but there are days when I get busy, I'm past hungry, and all I want is a quick lunch.

So, when the folks at Red's Natural Foods sent me a bunch of coupons, I stocked up. (Red's also makes "bowls" but they didn't have them at the store I went to.

I tossed the burritos in the freezer and munched on them when I had one of those day. Home from shopping and too hungry to make something else. Saving the leftovers for dinner. Whatever.

I've tried frozen burritos before, and the one thing I remembered was that they were pretty much all the same, no matter if you got chicken, beef, or pork. Same flavors. Nothing to see here.

I bought a bunch of different Red's burritos, and every one was different. It tasted like what the label said it was. There was cilantro and lime flavor in the one that was supposed to have those flavors, and there was steak in the steak burrito. And they were super-easy. Just microwave and eat.

The burritos were the perfect size for a lunch for me, but they'd be a little small for someone with a larger appetite. Or maybe serve them with sides and toppings. But really, the whole point for me was to have a super-quick and easy meal. So I didn't serve them with any sides or toppings.

If it's important, these are natural, non-GMO, and organic.

Who's it for: Hungry people who like burritos.

Pros: Easy, tasty.

Cons: A little more expensive than the non-natural brands.

Wishes: I wish I could find their other products at my local store. I'll be looking.

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Organic Mahatma and Organic Carolina

I am a rice fiend. I'm always trying new brands, new types, new recipes, and new gadgets for cooking the rice.

So, when a company asked if I wanted samples of their white and brown rice to try, I said yes. They sent me Mahatma Organic Brown Rice ...

 ... and Carolina Organic Long Grain White Rice.

I tried both of them, in both of my rice cookers, and in different recipes. The result? To be honest, the white rice was pretty similar to the rice I had been using. Which is a very good thing. It was a nice rice with good flavor when I cooked it very plainly, and it was perfectly happy to have flavor added to it.

The brown rice, though, was a little different. It seemed to cook better, and had a better texture. When I cooked it until it was "just done" the rice had nice chew and the grains stayed separate. When I cooked it further with more water (not quite risotto, but a softer texture) the grains still stayed separate rather than going pasty, which sometimes happens. This was really nice.

Overall, I like both of them, and I'll look for them in stores.

Who's it for:  People who like rice.

Pros: Good flavor, good quality.

Cons: Let's face it; rice isn't very exciting.

Wishes: I'd love to see these in 5-pound bags. Did I mention that I eat a lot of rice?

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sabatier Edgekeeper Self Sharpening Knives

Sharp knives are a pleasure to use in the kitchen, but I have feeling that most folks don't recognize when their knives need sharpening. The dulling process happens pretty slowly, so it's not like one day you're slicing through carrots like a pro and the next day you're struggling to cut through a hard boiled egg.

What I hear often is that someone will get a new knife and they'll be all giddy about how sharp it is compared to the old ones they have. It's not that the old knives were always sup-bar. It's just that over time, they got dull, and the new knife is perfectly sharp.

While there are a ton of different sharpening tools, it seems that most folks don't own them, they don't use them, or they don't know how to use them. So their knives just get duller and duller.

When I heard about the self- sharpening knives from Sabatier, I was intrigued. How does this magic work? I imagined the knives coming to life at night and getting to work on keeping that sharp slicing edge.

So I said, yes, send me samples. I received the 8-inch slicer, the 8-inch chef's knife and the 3 1/2 inch paring knife to test. They came securely packaged, and each included a sheath. I unpackaged, inspected, sliced, and even took a knife to a friend's house to get a second opinion.

Alas, the magic is not quite as mystical as I imagined. Each of the knifes sheaths has a little embedded sharpener, so every time you insert the knife or take it out, the blade runs through that sharpener.

Well, sort of. If you slide the knife into the sheath with the top edge (the flat unsharp side) sliding against the sheath, the sharp edge of the blade doesn't make much contact with the sharpener. So you do need to pay attention to how you're sliding the knife in and out of the sheath. It's not difficult, and it's certainly not necessary to slide against the sharpener every single time. But if it's your goal to keep the knife sharp at all times, it's a good idea to get into the habit of letting the blade contact that sharpener regularly.

For me, that took a little bit of thought to make it a habit. I don't use a lot of sheaths - my favorite knives are on a magnetic hanger, and other knives are in a block - but when I use a sheath, I tend to try to keep the blade from scraping the sheath. So I had to remember to run the blade along the sharpener, and in the case of knives with a curved edge, I had to make sure the whole length of the blade contacted the sharpener. Once it became a habit, it was easy peasy.

I think this is a genius idea, particularly for people who don't want to deal with sharpening knives regularly and for people who are intimidated by the idea of doing their own sharpening. Even better, these knives are affordable. Most of them are under $20, so these would be great for new kitchens, vacation homes, for a take-along knife in the picnic basket, or in a desk drawer at work for apple emergencies.

Who's it for: Everyone needs a good knife, right? But these are particularly good for people just starting out, or for anyone who's averse to sharpening their knives with a stand-alone sharpener.

Pros: It really works.

Cons: I haven't had these long enough to know how long the sharpener will remain useful. I imagine it will be years, but not generations. On the other hand, the knives are not expensive, so I don't think anyone will expect to pass them down to grandchildren.

Wishes: A self-sharpening steak knife set would be kind of sweet. Does anyone ever sharpen those? And having sheaths to store them would be better than a box.

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Degustabox - May

Every month, I get a free box of goodies from Degustabox, so I can tell you all about it. Sometimes they they send boxes to customers with different options, based on customer requests. But (lucky me!) I get all the options. Yum yum.

This time, some customers get a box with tea for Keurig-style coffee makers, while another box is for folks who don't have Keurigs.

I have to say that this might be my favorite box so far. It was sort-of Italian themed, and I love Italian and Mediterranean foods.

I say that it was "sort-of" Italian themed, because while there were quite a few Italian items, there were other product as well. You'll see.

Mulino Bianco shortbread cookies
I love shortbread cookies. They're buttery and not too sweet, and they're sort of a "pure" cookie since they don't include a lot of extra ingredients. So I don't need to worry about finding coconut in there. Also, shortbreads are great for making cookie crusts for cheesecakes or similar desserts. I hadn't tried this brand before, so I was happy to have another option. These were pretty typical shortbreads, except that they had a bit of a toasty flavor. They were nice. I got the "Galetti" cookies which have a rooster stamped on them, but Mulino Bianco has a whole bunch of other shortbread cookies as well.

Mulino Bianco tomato and oregano bread sticks
I adore bread sticks. They're perfect with soup or salad, but I also like them as a snack. Kind of like pretzels without all the extra salt. These were flavored with tomato and oregano, so they had plenty of flavor.

Barilla Farfalle Pasta
When I was a kid, we called this shape of pasta "bow ties" and my mom often used them for tuna noodle casserole, but now I know they're supposed to be butterflies. It doesn't matter what the shape is supposed to represent, I still like it. I like it a lot for pasta salads. Hmmm. Pasta salad with pesto would be good, right?

Goya lentil and vegetable soup
I was going to make soup, but then this showed up and I decided to give it a try. It was supposed to be cooked in 30 minutes (to cook the dried lentils all the way) but I needed about 10 minutes more, since I live at high altitude. This was a good soup and super-easy. For a heartier meal, it would be great with some leftover chicken tossed in.

Pure Growth Organic Oatmeal
Since there was a photo of SpongeBob on the box, I'm guessing this is aimed at kids, but it's basically an instant oatmeal. I prefer steel cut oats, but I use instant and rolled oats quite often for baking, so I still have a good use for these.

La Tortilla Factory corn and wheat tortillas
These are awesome. They're made from both wheat and corn, so you have the flavor of corn tortillas, but they're more pliable and less prone to cracking and breaking that's typical with corn tortillas, while not being fluffy and bready like flour tortillas.

Mutti finely chopped tomatoes
I use a lot of canned tomatoes. I even use them when tomatoes are in season, because they're so convenient. I'll be looking for these at the store since the finely diced texture is great when you want pieces of tomato rather than a puree, but you don't want giant pieces. Like for a salsa, where you want to get all the ingredients onto a chip.

Barilla traditional pesto
Pesto is easy to make, but it takes a lot of basil. If I have a garden growing, I might have enough basil. If not, this stuff is handy to have on hand. Pesto is great mixed with pasta, but I also like it mixed with broccoli.

Some boxes contain the following two:

Soy Vay honey barbecue sauce
I've tried a bunch of different Soy Vay products, but I didn't know they made a barbecue sauce - I thought they mostly made things like teriyaki. This was an asian-style sauce with honey and soy, and it had sesame seeds floating in it. So it's not what you'd find at your local barbecue place ... or maybe it is, if they have a lot of sauce.

Village Harvest quick-cook whole grain blends
This includes rice, lentils, and spices, and cooks in 15 minutes ... or a little longer for me, since I'm at high altitude. I usually make rice in my rice cooker since I can put it in early and it keeps the rice warm and fluffy until I need it. But this is great for when rice is more of a side dish than something that's there to sop up a sauce. And it's done in 15 minutes. Easy peasy.

Other boxes contain the following two:

Chicago Vegan dandies marshmallows
These vegan marshmallows are made without any gelatin, but I didn't notice any significant differences between these and regular marshmallows, except seemed a little softer than the usual store-bought brands. Perhaps that's just because they were fresher and probably made in a small batch. When I make my own marshmallows, they're usually a lot softer than purchased marshmallows when they're first made, but they get firmer over time. If you're vegan and want marshmallows, these are worth a look.

Skinnygirl Mojito Mint green tea for Keurig
I love mint tea, so I was pretty happy to get this. It's got green tea as its base, so it's not all mint - a nice mix, actually. The mint helps make the green tea seem sweeter and not quite as astringent as a typical green tea. Overall, I liked it.

I receive these boxes at no cos to me, so I can describe them to you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Keli's Sauces

It's kind of hard to review food products, because what you get is my personal taste. But still, there are some things that can be described, right?
I got a selection of sauces from a company called Keli's that makes Hawaiian-style sauces.

Since I've never been to Hawaii, I can't tell you whether these sauces really are typical in Hawaii, but I am a big fan of teriyaki sauce. Sometimes I even make my own, although I don't do it very often.

Now that I've tried Keli's, I'm perfectly happy to not have to make it at all.

I haven't tried all of the products yet, since I don't have room in the fridge for a bazillion bottles of sauces that I would use in the same way. But so far, I'm pretty happy with what I've tried. the sauces aren't too sweet or too salty or too ... anything. They're well balanced and flavorful.

My first attempt was some sous vide chicken breasts. Basically, I put some of the sauce in the sous vide bag before cooking. And then I served it with a little extra sauce on top. Good stuff.

So far I haven't tried all of the sauces I received (and I didn't get every single one, but I got enough to keep me happy for a while) so I can't really say which is best. But if you like teriyaki, I think these are worth giving a try.

FYI, these come in smaller bottles as well as big jugs, in cake you're really a fan of teriyaki.

Who's it for: Peeps who like teriyaki.

Pros: Yum.

Cons: Might be hard to find at your grocer. But you can buy it from the company's website or Amazon.

Wishes: Ummmm. Can't think of anything at the moment.

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