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 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