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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

D'Vash Date Nectar

So ... there are a bazillion types of sugar these days. Besides the crystallized white and brown sugars, there are the wet ones, like honey and agave. Coconut sugar seems to be getting more popular.

Recently, I got a chance to sample some date nectar (another wet sugar) from a company called D'Vash.

They sent little plastic tubes of the date nectar. Perfect for taking along for sugaring drinks at work or on the go. Or for sticking in the cabinet for pre-measured sugar. They also sell it in a bottle.

I tried it several times in tea. While I don't usually sweeten tea, there are some occasions where I like the little extra sweetness.

The verdict is that the D'Vash Date Nectar has good flavor, but not strong flavor. It didn't overpower the tea, but it added just a little bit or richness without really changing the flavor of the tea.

If you're trying to avoid the crystallized sugars, this one's a nice choice.

Who's it for: People who want to be sweeter.

Pros: Tastes good. Not weird.

Cons: It's a little spendy.

Wishes: This would be nice if it came in a much larger container to lower the per-serving price so it would be reasonable for baking.

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Degustabox April

Another month, another box of interesting goodies from Degustabox. They send me a box every month so I can tell you all about it.

This one was pretty interesting. I've saved the most ... unusual ... for last.

Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce
This is basically a hot sauce made from Bird's Eye chilis, along with spices. I've tried Nando's before, so I didn't open this bottle, but I'm sure it will be in the hot sauce rotation soon.

Mutti Tomato Concentrate
This stuff is awesome. Since it's in a squeeze tube, you can use a little bit, then just put the cap on and put it in the refrigerator. It's great in soup, stews, rice, or even to boost the tomato flavor in pasta sauces that are a little weak. Pretty much anywhere you might use a little bit of tomato paste. A must buy. I always have some of this on hand.

Skinnygirl Peach Bellini Green Tea K-Cups
Easy-to-make green tea with peach flavor. This is sweetened with stevia, so it's zero calorie. Personally, I thought it had a bit of astringency that's common in green teas, so I added just a tiny bit of sugar. Oopsie. I guess that ruined the no-calorie aspect, but I liked the flavor better when it was very lightly sweetened.

Since not all Degustabox subscribers have K-cup machines, they could opt for the following three items instead:

Cafe Bustelo Instant Expresso
I use this sort of thing for baking - you know, when a recipe calls for strong black coffee? Or sometimes I add just a little bit into chocolate desserts. It's great to have on hand, even if you don't drink espresso, and it's great when you need that really strong cup of coffee, but don't have an expresso machine.

Zenify
An anti-oxidant drink that has all the goodness of green tea, but no caffeine, in a convenient can. I haven't popped this one open yet, but it sounds like a good idea.

Steady Energy
An energy shot with coffee and cocoa. I didn't get to sample this one, but energy shots certainly are popular.

And now, back to what was in ALL the boxes:


Wilton Candy Drizzles
Here's an interesting idea. You melt the candy bits right in the pouch, then snip the corner and drizzle onto fruit, baked goods, or whatever you like. This is a genius idea. Great for people who don't want a lot of fuss.

Lovely Candy
Chewy caramels. Can I say more? I didn't buy any Easter candy, so this is a nice treat. This particular brand doesn't use any artificial flavors or colors, and not high fructose corn syrup. Munching on one of these while sipping coffee or hot tea is particularly nice.

PR Bar
Gluten-free, carbs, vitamins, and stuff to boost performance. I almost wish I worked outside the house so it would make sense to take these sorts of bars with me for road food. I've handed this off to someone who will make more use of it.

Better Oats
Here's something different. Steel cut oats that are quick-cooking. I'm not fond of rolled oats or quick cooking rolled oats or instant rolled oats. I don't like the texture. But I totally love steel cut oats. So I was really curious about this product. Could I really have steel-cut oats in a few minutes rather than having to plan ahead to have them cooking in the rice cooker on a timer for morning ... or without waiting a long time for them to cook? The answer is ... this stuff is decent. The only quibble I have is a personal one. I'm not a huge fan of sweet foods for breakfast, and the sample I got was a maple and brown sugar version. I think I would have liked the plain version better. But ... because I'm weird, I do like this sweet one as a dessert or snack with a little pat of butter.

Bush's Hummus Made Easy 
and Bush's Chickpeas
Genius. I love hummus and I make it at home quite often, but this makes it so much easier. Hummus ingredients aren't difficult, but tahini can be a little hard to find and it's somewhat perishable, so if you don't use a lot of it, it might be one of those things you throw out before you use up. Lemons are relatively cheap and easy, but some folks don't have lemons sitting around all the time. I gave this a try - just put the chickpeas and the Hummus Made Easy in the blender and let it do its job. Pretty tasty. I thought it was just a tad salty when I first tasted it, but pita chips usually aren't salty, so when I ate it with the chips, it was fine.

This hummus "kit" is a great compromise between home made hummus and store-bought, pre-made hummus, but it's got one advantage over both. It's shelf stable. So you can have hummus pretty much any time you can summon the effort to push the button on your food processor or blender.

Wild Planet Free Range Chicken
I've tried the Wild Planet tuna and it was high quality and really good. I haven't opened this can yet, but I think it will be a great product to have on hand when I want something with chicken but I don't have a cooked chicken lurking about. Like chicken and noodles. Or chicken fried rice. Or chicken salad. Or chicken soup. I'll tuck this in the cabinet for later use.



Last, and weirdest. These are chips made with cricket flour. Yup, you heard it right. Cricket flour. I stared at these bags for a long time. Waffled over whether I was brave enough. Crickets are high in protein ... I know that. But ... but ... but ... in the end I decided that it would be better to pass these along to someone else. I'm sure they're tasty. Crunch, crunch, chirp, chirp.

I get these boxes from Degustabox at no cost so I can describe them to you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Revablend

Among the many interesting items at the Housewares Show, there was the Revablend.

The Housewares Show (it's actually the International Home and Housewares Show or IHHS) is held each year in Chicago, and manufacturers large and small show off their products. Some of the booths are bigger than my house and some are the size of a large closet.

But ... size doesn't always matter. Revablend was in a small booth because it's a small company. I think they only had the one product, but it was pretty unique. It's a bottle - like the many drink bottles that exist - and it has blades in it like you'd see in a blender.

Actually, there are multiple blades.

Unlike a blender, the Revablend operated on people power. You twist or spin the bottom of the bottle to make the blades move.

For something that doesn't need a lot of speed, you can just twist by hand. For more speed, you can run the edge of the bottom of the bottle along the top of a flat surface - like you'd zoom a toy car - and the blades will spin at fast as you can move that bottle.

Zoom zoom zoom.

The lid has a spout for pouring or drinking or sticking a straw in.

This is a really interesting idea. I don't expect that people will throw away their electric blenders, but the Revablend would be great for camping where you can't plug in a blender. Or it would be great for taking to work to blend up a protein powder drink. Or taking on the road.

For giggles, I decided to see how it fared with a smoothie, so I tossed in a ripe banana to start, and I spun the blades to get it mushed up. The banana was ripe, but it wasn't overripe to the point of super soft.

Then I added a good splash of Cholaca. I blended again. Then I added almond milk and blended one last time. It was surprisingly smooth. Not quite as smooth and frothy as I'd get with my Vitamix, but it was nicely drinkable. I have to say I was impressed. So, it's not just for mixing in powders. Whoop, whoop! Mash those bananas!

If you're interested in Choloca - it's awesome - here's a link on Amazon, but I suggest you look for it at your local grocery store. Since it's a perishable item, shipping would be costly if you order online, so local shopping makes more sense.

My first impression was that people probably wouldn't use this on a daily basis at home if they have an electric blender, but it's less to wash than a blender jar. So maybe people would choose this.

I haven't tried emulsifying salad dressings or making mayonnaise in this, but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

It would also be useful for blending cocktails. I don't think it would be able to handle ice, but it could make other blended drinks. How fun would that be at a picnic? Cheers!

As far as cleaning, there doesn't seem to be any way to remove the bottom of the jar to get at the underside of the blades, but that shouldn't be an issue if you rinse the jar right after using. Add some hot water and a few drops of soap and spin the blades, and there shouldn't be anything left to worry about.

Who's it for: People who want to blend drinks or whatever without using electricity.

Pros: It works! Huzzah!

Cons: This is never going to be as good as an electric blender.

Wishes: As usual, I'd love to see this in a rainbow of colors. It's already available in six colors, but more would be better, right?

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









Friday, April 7, 2017

Valek Large Embossed Rolling Pin

Just before I left for the Housewares Show, the folk at The Grommet sent me a really cool rolling pin to use.

I set it aside to use for baking some cookies.

Mmmm. Cookies.

The pin has little flowers cut into the pin so when you roll out cookies (or other baked goods that would keep their shape during baking) the flower shapes are raised up from the base of the dough.

Awwww. Isn't that sweet?

So anyway, I got home from the show, whipped up a batch of cookies from a cookbook, and used the Valek Large Embossed Rolling Pin to press the pattern into the cookies. It all went swimmingly well. The little flowers were visible as a pattern on top of the cookies, and they remained after the cookies were baked. I thought about dusting the cookies with some powdered sugar to make the flowers even more prominent.

And then when I started taking the cookies off the baking sheet, they broke. I waited until they were cool, and the situation didn't improve. The cookies fell apart like they were make out of wet sand. Blergh.

NONE of this is the fault of the rolling pin. Either the recipe was flawed, or I did something stupid when I made the recipe. I'm going to say it was me. It took me a while to get back into my groove after the trip, so it's pretty likely I measured something wrong.

But anyway, thanks to the cookie disaster, you aren't going to see finished photos of cookies. Nope, no cookies for you! I'll use the pin again, I'm sure. And you'll see the results over on my recipe blog. But for now, no cookies, just the pin.

As far as the pin, I like it. It's cute. The design is kind of all-purpose, so you it could be fine for spring, summer, fall, winter, birthdays, the demise of a favorite houseplant, anniversaries ... whatever. And it's easy to use. You just roll over the dough before you cut the cookies into shapes with your favorite cutters

I have a few unusual ideas for this, too. We'll see how it goes.

Nice pin. Bad cookies.

Who's it for: People who want fancy cookies.

Pros: Works well. Really easy to use. Solidly made. Packaged nicely in a tube.

Cons: Once you have one pattern, you'll probably want more.

Wishes: I wish my stupid cookies would have worked. *sigh*

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



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dripo Iced Coffee Maker

There must be a million ways to make coffee. And sometimes it feels like I've tried them all. But then something new comes along that's at least a little bit different. In this case, the new thing is the Dripo Japanese-style iced coffee maker.

Among the many styles of coffee makers, this is the style that slowly drips cold water onto coffee grounds to make a smooth, less-acidic cold coffee. This one suggests not only using cold water, but using ice.

In order to get the grounds thoroughly wet, there's a small round piece of coffee filter paper than you can put on top of the grounds. Or, you can wet the grounds first, before you start the dripping. If you don't do either of these, the water tends to run around the grounds rather than wetting them completely and extracting all the flavor.

I've used this to make both iced coffee and to make a concentrated cold brew to add to hot water to make hot coffee. My very first effort, the coffee was a little too weak, so I added more grounds for my next batch. Inexplicably, the water took a crazy long time to drip. Then I checked the directions again, and you can control the speed of the drip by tightening or loosening the container. Problem solved.

Now, I know what I'm doing, and I'm happy with the coffee I'm making. And ... I had a brainstorm. I can assemble this thing and put it in the fridge and let it work its magic in there overnight.

I'm mostly using this to make the more concentrated coffee that I combine with hot water. I have a larger cold brewer, but this one is handy for making flavored or specialty coffees. Because although that hazelnut coffee I bought a while back is tasty, I don't really need it every single day.

This would be great for making coffee while traveling, too, since it wouldn't take more space in your luggage than a regular travel mug or water bottle. In the hotel room, all you'd need is cold tap water to make your coffee. How easy is that?

Overall, this works well. It also comes in a fun box that is shaped like a milk carton, so it would be fun to wrap as a gift.

Who's it for: Coffee drinkers.

Pros: Works well, compact.

Cons: If you drink a LOT of coffee, you might want a brewer that makes more coffee.

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

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



Monday, March 13, 2017

Degustabox - March

I'm going to have a busy month, so I'm getting this one done early - or I might not have time to get it done at all. However, I did get a chance to cook a few things from this box, so that's a plus. The sampling is easy.

The March box includes:

Good Thins sweet potato crisps
I've had a bunch of different varieties of Good Thins products. The sweet potato ones are made from sweet potato and wheat and are a good lower-fat substitute for potato chips. They have a nice satisfying crunch and are a little sweeter than a standard potato chip, but are still savory enough to go with a sandwich or with a savory dip. Yum. I love crunchy stuff.

Mrs. Thinsters cookie thins
Speaking of crunchy, we have cookie thins. Thin cookies. Crisp. Satisfying. Crunchy. Really nice as a little snack, but I think they'd be fun for making ice cream sandwiches, too. I haven't tried that yet, but it seems like it ought to work.

Tolerant Foods legume pasta
Sounds like a good option for folks who are gluten free. I passed these along to someone who need gluten-free foods. I'm perfectly fine with wheat.

Goya Quinoa Blend

I've used a LOT of Goya products, so I was pretty sure I'd like this. It's an interesting combo of quinoa, rice, and black beans, along with spices. Great as a side dish, and really flavorful. If you prefer milder flavors, you could easily mix this with more rice, or add a can of black beans, and it would still be nicely flavored. I needed to use more water and cook for a little longer than the instructions recommended, but that's to be expected since I live at high altitude. Besides using it as a straight-up side dish, this would make a really nice addition to a vegetarian burrito with some roasted vegetables and maybe some avocado.

Loacker cookies
I've gotten varieties of these cookies before. The ones I got had dark chocolate and hazelnut cream. Oh heck yeah. The cookie part is a crunchy wafter that's crisp but not hard, and the chocolate is really nice. A lovely treat.

Paul's Quinoa Bars
I don't really eat a lot of bars like this, but I tucked this one away as a traveling snack. It's got quinoa flakes and puffs, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds, peanuts, and honey. Sounds reasonably healthy and filling, right?

Energems
These are little bite-size chocolate and caffeine goodies with a dose of vitamins B and D. Three gems have the same caffeine as a cup of coffee, so they'd make a nice pick-me-up for days when you're too far from your coffee cup. Maybe that mid-afternoon slump.

7 Days croissants and bagel chips
Bagged bakery snacks. I got a croissant with peanut butter and jelly that I passed along to a friend. I like peanut butter and I like jelly, but I'm not fond of the two together. It looked good, though.

Boboli
I'm sure you've seen these before. They're baked pizza crust rounds that you can just top and bake to melt the cheese and warm the rest of it. It's an easy dinner or snack or lunch or cut the finished pizza really small for appetizers. The great thing about these is that they're pre-cooked so they're not as perishable as raw dough. This isn't quite the same as pizza from your local pizzeria, but it's better than an English muffin pizza. I made mine with a tomato-based jarred bruschetta instead of sauce with cheese and vegetables. It was pretty good and crazy easy.

Lemoncocco
This is a non-carbonated lemon and coconut drink. Like coconut lemonade, I guess. It might be fun for cocktails, but I'm not a fan of coconut, so I gave it a pass.

I get these Degustabox packages at no cost to me so I can describe them to you. Yum.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Giveaway for #NationalCerealDay

There are a whole lot of national food holidays, some of them sillier than others. March 7 happens to be National Cereal Day. Seems legit, right?


To help me celebrate in style, my buddies at General Mills send me a sweet package to have fun with. Cereal, of course, but also a cereal spoon with the Cookistry name stamped in the bowl of the spoon.


Sweet, huh? It goes nicely with a bowl that has my blog name on it.

The cool thing about the gifts that General Mills sends is that they support small artisans. The spoons came from SweetMintHandmade.etsy.com. Go check 'em out! 

There were also photo booth props (glasses, lips, etc) from PartyGoodies.etsy.com. Fun stuff.

Plus, some coasters and placemats and noisemaker things. And a tee shirt. Ooooh. Another cereal tee to add to my collection. I swear, I can go out in a nice top and no one pays attention. If I'm wearing a cereal-related tee shirt, random strangers talk to me about their favorite cereals from childhood.

So anyway, I got my package, and you can have one, too. I'm making this giveaway super-simple. Just fill in the form and leave a comment on this blog post. No follows, likes or other stuff needed. Of course, if you want to like my blog on Facebook, that's cool. If not, that's okay too.

This is a quick giveaway, so enter NOW.


General Mills sends stuff to me at no cost on occasion and is shipping the prize to the winner.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Nocciolata

I'm a huge fan of the combination of nuts and chocolate. That includes chocolate covered nuts of all types, peanut butter cups, and pretty much every choco-nut thing that exists.

Hazelnuts and chocolate are really good together, and when they're blended and creamy ... yum!

Speaking of "yum," the folks at Rigoni di Asiago, who make Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread, sent me some of that spread. I've tried it before, but it's been a while, so I figured it was time to give it another go.

And, yum. I like this better than the other chocolate hazelnut spreads out there. And yes, I did and actual taste test. I like the texture and the flavor of this one best. Not saying the others were bad in any way, just that this one hit all the right marks for me. Or maybe it's the Italian hazelnuts that make a difference. Did I mention that this is made in Italy?

I was going to use it in a recipe. I was, but I didn't. I've used it before to make ice cream, and I might do that again one of these days. But really, it's just good on its own. Spread it on a shortbread cookie, if you must. But it's also really good on a spoon. A little spoonful to savor.

If you haven't tried this brand, I suggest you look for it. It's not quite as easy to find in grocery stores as some of the others, but I've been seeing it a little more often. Not in every store I go to, and not all the time. But it's out there.

Needless to say, taste is subjective. So maybe this won't be your favorite. But just maybe ...

Who's it for: Nutty people who like chocolate, too.

Pros: Yum.

Cons: Yum.

Wishes: I wish this was as common as peanut butter.

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Degustabox - February

Another month, another box full of goodies from Degustabox, so I can tell you all about it.

The interesting thing about this month's box was that either I was very familiar with the foods, or I'd never heard of them. There weren't any where I had heard of them vaguely, but hadn't yet tried.

So here we go:

Popchips Ridges

I've tried a bunch of the different flavors of regular Popchips. If you're not familiar, they're like potato chips but they're baked and puffy, so they seem more substantial than regular thin potato chips. Still great for dipping, though. These new ones have ridges. Yum.

Grace Foods Coconut Chips

Oh dear. Coconut. Not my thing. I gave these away to someone who was totally thrilled with them. So that's good. If you're a fan of coconut, you might want to look this up. If you're me, it's good to have friends.

Walkers Shortbreads
I totally adore shortbread cookies and these are the real deal. They're traditional shortbreads, with just butter, flour, sugar, and salt, so there's no preservatives, colors, artificial flavors, or anything else to detract from cookie goodness. Shortbread cookies also make a great crust for cheesecakes, if you've got extra cookies.

Nando's Peri-Peri hot sauce

I have a bottle of this in the fridge. It's pretty hot. So I'm more likely to use it sparingly than to slather it on something. But along with the heat, it's got good flavor, which I think is important. Besides putting it (sparingly) on tacos, it's good as part of a marinade or a sauce. Or added to chili. Or soup. Or whatever.

Slendier pasta
This is konjac pasta, which is gluten-free, high in fiber, and very low in calories. I have a ridiculous amount of pasta in my pantry, so I decided to pass it along to someone who is avoiding gluten. If you're gluten-free and/or looking for something lower in calories, this might be a good alternative to traditional wheat pastas.

Ricola losenges
Great for when you have a sore throat or when you're in that pre-cold, tickly throat stage. This has a bunch of different herbs along with ginseng. It's a unique flavor, but I happen to like it. This sort of thing is nice to have on hand, just in case ... because once you're starting to feel cruddy, you don't want to be running to the store, right?

PR Bars
Vitamins, carbs, whey, soy protein. Gluten free. This bar is supposed to be balanced to give you fuel and "keep you performance ready." I don't eat a whole lot of bars like this since I work from home and there's usually something more meal-like at hand, so I passed it along to someone else to sample. It sounded good, and they're not crazy expensive, so if you're not happy with your current energy/snack bars, look for these.

Jones Soda
Ooooh. Orange and cream. Jones Sodas have some interesting flavors and they use cane sugar rather than corn syrup. I've bought this before and I have to say it's pretty good.

Green & Black's dark chocolate with sea salt
I've bought a lot of Green & Black's chocolates over the years, and they've always been good. I've also baked with some of them. Anyway, this is a dark chocolate with sea salt, so it's got a little crunch and then the saltiness that makes the chocolate seem sweeter for just a moment. This is the kind of chocolate bar that lasts me several days, in little indulgent pieces. So good.

So there you have it. The current box. I get these boxes from Degustabox at no cost to me, just so I can describe them to you.