Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vita Clay Multi Cooker

This review took quite a while to get written, because I wanted to be as thorough as possible. I didn't want to cook one or two recipes and go on my merry way without answering some important questions.

And those questions took time to answer. So ... I've been living with this on my counter for months.

The Vita Clay company makes slow cookers and rice cookers with a twist. Instead of a metal cooking pot, the Vita Clay appliances have a clay pot. Crockery. Without a glazed coating. So ... completely different from everything else on the market.

Or anything else that's an electric appliance. There are plenty of clay cookers for oven and some that are good for the stovetop as well.

One of the biggest questions was whether the clay would absorb flavors and odors that would then transfer to other foods. The surprising answer is no. I've cooked everything from pork and sauerkraut to chili to soup in my cooker, and I've also cooked plain white rice after those more pungent foods. And ... there's been no transfer of flavor.

Honestly, I was surprised by that. I expected to have to tell you that you shouldn't cook your yogurt after cooking your kielbasa surprise.

The other surprise was that the clay pot was much easier to clean than I expected. Even with foods as sticky as rice can be, I was able to wash the pot easily afterwards.

There are some downsides to this cooker. You've got a clay inner cooking pot and a clay lid. If you're a klutz and you drop it, it's going to break. If you're not in the habit of dropping your other cookware on a regular basis, you should be fine. There's also some risk of thermal breakage, so you shouldn't take out the hot inner pot and put it on a cold surface. Also, the pot shouldn't be stored while it's still wet or damp, so you need to let it dry completely before putting it back into the cooker and closing the lid.

Cooking in this is much like any other slow cooker or rice cooker, with a couple of exceptions. For one thing, since the clay is porous, you'll loose a little more moisture than when you're cooking in a similar device with a metal pot. If you've ever made a soup or stew in a slow cooker and wished that it wasn't so thin and watery, you'll love that the liquid disappears a bit more in this cooker. In that sense, it's similar to cooking on the stove.

It has a buttons for different foods (rice, soup, stew, yogurt). I was quite surprised at how short the cooking time was for the soup and stews, so you shouldn't plan on putting food into the cooker before you go to work unless you've got some kind of super-tough meat. On the other hand, it would be ideal for unattended after-work cooking. Think of it as a stovetop replacement rather than a slow cooker, and you've got the idea.

The rice was also a success. I tried both white rice and brown rice, and both turned out perfectly. There's also a special button for reheating rice, in case you want to make a lot in advance and reheat as needed.

I haven't tried the yogurt, but I'm pretty sure that will be just fine, too, based on everything else I've made.

Who's it for: Great for people who want a countertop appliance for cooking, but prefer more natural cooking vessels.

Pros: Works well, foods cook quickly and aren't watery as can happen with slow cookers or pressure cookers.

Cons: The clay insert is breakable and it needs a little more care than a teflon-coated metal pot. Good news is that there are replacements available.

Wishes: Since this is really different from a standard slow cooker, it would be great if there was a larger cookbook with recipes (it did come with a recipe book, but more is always good.) While I'm pretty adept at creating and adapting recipes, some folks might appreciate more recipes to get the most use out of the cooker.

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

The Vita Clay folks make a pretty large variety of appliances. Some are better for rice, so if that's a priority, make sure you pick one that is designed for that use.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Degustabox - October

Once again, the nice folks at Degustabox sent me one of their boxes, so I can describe the goodies you'd get if you subscribed. For the most part, all the items are full-size items, like you'd buy in the store. On occasion, there are small samples that are tossed in as extras.

The October box had some really fun items. Some were new to me, and some were very familiar. Overall, a good mix.

Kernel's Seasons
Popcorn seasoning! If you're a popcorn fiend like me, you've probably messed around with adding different flavors to you popcorn. Some work and some ... are just weird. Kernel's Seasons has 13 different flavors; two were included in my box.

I know you've seen these in your grocery store. Boboli is a pre-baked pizza crust that makes it super-easy to whip up a pizza at home. Just add toppings and bake until the cheese melts and everything is warm. While this isn't the same as a home-made crust, it's a nice compromise between frozen pizza and totally home made.

Goetze's Candy Company Cow Tales
Caramel candies with a cream center. I wasn't familiar with these until they appeared in a box quite some time ago. They're a nice little individually wrapped sweet treat.

Chickpea puffs. If you're trying to avoid corn products and you're staying gluten-free, these are a nice alternative snack. They satisfy that need for crunch.

Loacker wafer cookies
I remember something similar from my childhood, but these are higher quality.

If you like the idea of peanut butter, but you can't have peanuts, this is a great alternative. it's made from sunflower seeds, so it's safe for people with nut allergies. It's also great for people who happen to love the flavor of sunflower seeds. I got two smaller samples of this one rather than a large jar, but I'm guessing it would be great for nut-free cookies that are similar to peanut butter cookies.

Welch's Fruit'n Yogurt Snacks
I've gotten these before. They're sweet snacks made from fruit and yogurt.

Bush's chili beans
As soon as this box arrived, I grabbed one of the cans of chili beans to make a quick chili. So simple, since the spices are right in the can.

Dave's Gourmet overnight oats
I've tried other Dave's Gourmet products before (mostly pasta sauces) but this was new to me. I'm not a huge fan of overnight oats, so I passed them along to a friend. Based on my previous experience with the brand, I'm sure they're good.

I get a free box from Degustabox in order to write about it.