Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wish List ... Checking it Twice

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Amazon researching products as part of the column I write over at It's a fun job.

I have a whole lot of kitchen gadgets already, but every once in a while, I see a product and I think, gee, I'd like to test that. Because I like testing kitchen products. I like to see if they work, how they work, and what they can or can't do. I even like testing products that I really don't need. I just want to play with them.

So, here's my most current list of things I would like to test because I think they're cool.

Oh dear. I was researching electric egg cookers and I happened upon this lovely device. Not only does it steam eggs, but you can steam pretty much anything you'd want to steam, from eggs to fish to sausages to vegetables to rice. I just sounds like a fun thing to play with for a month or so.

This fascinates me. It cooks eggs in the microwave, but you don't have to pierce the shell. There's magic involved. The cooker shields the eggs from the microwaves, but it lets the microwaves heat the water. So it's the steam that cooks the eggs. I seriously want to play with this thing. It's under $10, so I might buy it, just for giggles. And I like eggs, so I'd probably keep it if it works.

I really, seriously want to play with this thing. I have no use for anything that cooks this much food, and I might never cook a whole turkey again, but this looks like it would be a lot of fun to test. I have no idea why I think it's so cool. I mean, I have an oven.

I don't use a LOT of maple syrup, but I'd love to taste-test this stuff. It's aged in bourbon barrels. How fun is that?

Okay, this is actually in my shopping cart - I haven't decided if I want the 10-pack of 1-pound bags, or the 3-pack of 1-pound bags. I mean, 10 pounds of popcorn is a freaking lot of popcorn, but the varieties look like a lot of fun. The 3-pack probably makes more sense. I'll buy one of them as soon as I need more popcorn.

I have knives, and I have garlic presses. But this thing looks really cool. I'd love to give it a test and see if it lives up to the reviews on Amazon.

You can't sharpen ceramic knives with the same kind of sharpeners you use for steel knives. I have a diamond stone that I've used for ceramic knives, but it takes a lot of time to get an edge. I'd love to see if an electric sharpener would work.

The ceramic coating on this one sounds like a great idea. I'd love to see if it works as well as they claim. 

The last thing I need is a turkey fryer, but the fact that this is infra-red is fascinating. I have a grill that is infrared and it heats up fast and furious. I don't think this would actually be the same as deep-frying, but I think it would be fun to check out. For chicken, maybe. If I was going to buy this, I'd probably get the value-added bundle, since it comes with the basket and other accessories.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Degustabox - December

Another month, another box of goodies from Degustabox.

Let me admit this. It's become a personal mission to try to get every item into one photo. It's challenging. They stuff a LOT into a box. There's almost no filler.

This month, I was a little surprised there weren't a bunch of holiday-themed items in the box, but to be honest, that was actually a good thing. It's nice to have a few things that aren't red, green, and pepperminty right now.

This month's box had a lot more "eat now" items than cooking-ingredient items, but that's fine. This time of year, people tend to entertain more, so it's good to have a stash of things that can be opened and served.

So here's the lowdown on what was in the box:

Pillsbury Purely Simple Cake and Frosting Mixes

This is a new line of products from Pillsbury, made with no coloring, preservatives, or artificial flavors. It's still dessert, but it doesn't include the extras that people don't like. I make a lot of cakes from scratch, but I also like to keep cake mix on hand for those cake emergencies that crop up once in a while. I also like to use mixes when I'm testing bakeware, because the results are so consistent.

The box came with a recipe for making a trifle with the mix using the cake mix, frosting mix, and strawberries. This time of year, I might go for a more seasonal fruit, but it would be a lovely dessert for a party. Or, you know, just make cupcakes and frost them.

Kala Beans

These are crisp dry fava beans, so they're a good option for people who can't have nuts. If you've eaten crisp chickpeas or soy nuts, you've got an idea of what these are like. Bonus, though, that that look sort of like large peanut halves, so they certainly look more like nuts than some of the other non-nut options.

Honey Acres Honey Straws

These are plastic "straws" filled with honey - perfect for honey-to-go for adding to tea, squeezing onto muffins, or maybe just having a little honey pick-me-up in the middle of the day. Honey Acres also sells full jars of honey. Yum.

Chips Ahoy Thins Cinnamon Sugar

I know the Chips Ahoy brand from their chocolate chip cookies - it was a brand my mom would buy once in a while as a treat. The Thins are completely different. They're thin. They're crisp. And these have cinnamon flavor.

Smuckers Fruit and Honey Fruit Spread

If you like jams and jellies, here's an option that's sweetened with honey instead of sugar. I'd suggest stocking up on English muffins to make good use of this, but it would also make a tasty glaze on ham or chicken or a pork roast.

Urbane Grain

This is an on-the-go meal made with ancient grains. You'll need to add water and heat it up, so it's great for stashing in your desk at work where you have access to a microwave. Not so great if you're going to be on the road. There are several different flavors, and they also sell larger packs of quinoa blends as well as bean an quinoa blends.


If you have an itchy throat, these honey lozenges will make you feel a little better. The Honey Herb Supplement Lozenges have ginseng and vitamins besides the soothing honey. And they taste good, too.

Good Thins Sweet Oat and Flax

Looking for something crunchy to snack on? These thin little lovelies have oats and flax, so they're good for you. Great plain, but for a party they'd be happy to go along with a dip or a spread. Good Thins also come in a whole bunch of other flavors, so if you're not feeling oaty, maybe you'll like one of the others.

Loacker Gran Patisserie

Can you say dessert? There are chocolate-covered layered wafer-like cookies and cream. They looked really good, but the ones I got had a coconut cream and a chocolate-orange cream, and I'm not particularly fond of either of those. But the person I gave them to said they were really good.

Wise Popcorn

Yeah, I know how to make popcorn, but these guys make a good product. The White Cheddar is particularly yummy, but there are other flavors, too.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gift Guide: Boxes and Baskets

If you're looking for a gift that keeps on going, maybe a subscription box will be perfect. You can usually sign up for one or several months worth of goodies. The great thing is that there are so many of these to choose from. Some are just snacks, some are meals, and some are a mix of sweet and savory foods. There's something for everyone.

I've been getting these boxes regularly, and they're always fun. There are some I've liked more than others, but I've found quite a few items that I've looked for an purchased after I ate what was in the box. It's usually a mix of foods to cook with and foods to snack on, which is great. There have been just a few items I didn't care for, but that's sort of a win, too, since I know what I don't want to buy. Read a recent review here.

This is a meal-box, where you get food items and recipes and you cook your own dinner. Sun Basket differentiates itself from other similar programs because the foods are more health- and diet-conscious. Read my complete review here.

It's all in the name. Baskets that are ready for gifting. I got a box full of different types of popcorn from King of Pop, which was a whole lot of fun. Crazy flavors, too, like eggnog, chocolate orange, and peppermint kettle corn. There were 10 bags with different flavors. But Gourmet Gift baskets aren't all popcorn, there are plenty of other baskets to choose from. And it's not just for Christmas. Plan ahead for New Year's, Valentine's Day, and birthdays, too.

Unlike meal plan boxes that send you ingredients that you need to cook, this meal plan sends pre-made dinners. They're all fresh, rather than frozen, and they heat up in one or two minutes in the microwave. The ones I tried were all pretty tasty. Look for my complete review here.

Photo courtesy of Butcher Box

Oh heck, yeah. This is a box of meat. Frozen. You choose your favorite combo of beef and/or pork and/or chicken and you a box with a variety of those. It's nice because you get to try cuts you might not normally have available. A thin-cut steak was interesting. It was paper-thin, not just a sort-of thin steak. Perfect for sandwiches. FYI, I used one of the company's photos because the product came frozen, and I wasn't going to thaw it all to make a pretty tableaux. I'll do a photo when I publish a recipe and there will be a more comprehensive review then.

The perfect box subscription for people who love Italian food. The box I received had cookies, hiney, pasta, rice, dried mushrooms, and more. Look here for my complete review.

Treatsie is just what it sounds like. A little box of treats. Just enough to have some fun with, without ruining your diet. Look here for a complete review.

I received these at no cost to me; some have already been reviewed. I'm just recapping for your shopping convenience.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gift Guide: Food Gifts

Yum! Food gifts. Some of these could be standalone gifts, while others would be better as part of a gift basket. I've munched my way though these, and cooked with some of them. After the holidays, I'll be featuring some of them in recipes. Not the chips, probably. I think those are all gone. Sorry.

Fun flavors and lovely chips in bright bags. These would be fun in a gift basket, tucked into a stocking or as part of a hostess gift. The sriracha and Montreal steak sauce flavors were both pretty spicy. So yum! You can find these at Whole Foods.

A perfect gift to ship, the cookies are neatly double-bagged then packed in a tin and surrounded by festive packaging, and then the tin goes into a shipping box. The cookies were soft, yet chewy with a lovely malty taste. There are a bunch of different flavors to choose from and the tins are personalized.

Here's something for chocolate lovers - hot cocoa mix. There are a bunch of different flavors and for gifting, you can get them in these cute bottles or in tins. Nice for a stocking stuffer, or buy a whole bunch of flavors for someone who's a fiend for hot chocolate.

Does flour seem like a weird gift? Maybe not for bakers in your life. These are all alternative non-wheat flours, so they're great for folks who can't have flour or for anyone who wants to experiment a bit with different flavors and textures in baking. And, seriously, a "bouquet or flours" is just fun.

Good for snacking, there are chocolate-covered fruits or uncoated. Or, these could be used in baking, as well. Tuck them into a stocking or add then to a gift basket. My favorite was the plain tart cherries, but the chocolate covered fruits were fun, too.

So many cranberries! So many! You can choose from whole or julienned berries for baking, or whole jumbo cranberries, or fortified berries. These would be a great addition to a gift basket for anyone who loves baking, or use some to make cranberry muffins, cookies, or even pies or tarts.

Okay, who would turn down whipped chocolate honey? Not me. Savannah bee makes all kinds of different honey products. Great stocking stuffers, Also lovely to tuck into a gift basket. This isn't just for cooks, but great for anyone who sweetens their tea or who likes honey on biscuits, muffins, or pancakes.

These cute little sugars are flavored, for use in tea or coffee or other drinks. They come in different pretty shapes, too from tiny gingerbread men to little animals to flowers. These are lots of fun and small enough to tuck into a stocking or add to another gift. Great for anyone who loves sweetened coffee or tea - and there are a lot of flavors and shapes to choose from.

Choices. You get choices. Different salts, different flavors, different containers. For gifting, these jars are cute, but there are also tins and shaker jars and packets. Nice for anyone who cooks.

A gift that gives back, Women's Bean Project helps women who need a leg up. My favorite products are the chocolate brownie mix, the cornbread mix, and the black bean mix, but I've tried a lot of them (some are sold at local supermarkets, which makes it easy) and they've all been good. Pretty much the same ingredients as if you measured it out yourself - no preservatives or odd ingredients - but it's really easy when you don't have time to do the measuring. They also sell some jewelry and other gift-worthy items.

Ahhh, tapas. Little plates. A fun way to eat dinner, and also great for snacking. These would make great hostess gifts, or use them to make some fantastic dishes to take to a potluck. Since these need to be refrigerated, they wouldn't be good gifts to wrap up an put under the tree, but they'd be great for immediate delivery. Just let the recipient know they need refrigeration.

Pacific Resources International has a whole bunch of New Zealand foods including Proper Crisps, sea salts, and candies with manuka honey. You could pick one item as a stocking stuffer, pick a few for a gift basket, or keep on shopping to fill a whole box.

I received products from these companies at no cost to me.