Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Chicken Hook

What the heck is this thing? How does it work?

Here's another view. Does that help?

So it 's like this.

I had a new grill on order. The old one hadn't been used in years. It was so badly rusted, I didn't want food near it, much less on it. And it didn't start without help. So there was a risk of kaboom, even before the rust problem.

I got an email from some folks who make a device called The Chicken Hook. For roasting chickens. Obviously. The hook suspends the chicken over the pan or grill, so the whole chicken gets time in the hot air.

Sure, why not, I said. I can try it on my grill.

Grill arrived (more on the grill at a later date), and I went out and bought a chicken to test the rotisserie.

Then the chicken hook arrived. Decisions, decisions. Rotisserie or hook?

I decided to test the hook, since I can cook other things using the rotisserie. Like roasts. Or other chickens.

The chicken goes on the hook breast down and butt (or tail, I guess) up. Then you put it on a pan in the oven, or in the grill. Of course I used the grill. It's hot out. No way am I turning on the oven. It looks kind of ridiculous, right?

I used indirect heat, so the bottom of the bird - which now was the breast - wouldn't cook too fast. I shoved some potatoes around it, thinking that the drippings on the spuds would be nice. Later, I moved the potatoes to a hotter spot on the grill. Indirect cooking was great for the chicken, but the potatoes weren't really amused.

After about 30 minutes, I had a beautiful golden skin, but the bird wasn't quite cooked all the way, so I let it keep on going until it was done. It didn't look quite as weird once it started cooking and wasn't sagging any more.

What would I do different next time? I think that at end of cooking, I might turn the heat on directly below the chicken to get that skin more brown. But other than that, it worked pretty well, although it looked bizarre as heck when I first put it on the hook.

The finished chicken looks pretty nice, though.

They also sent me three of their spice mixes. I've sniffed them, but haven't used them yet. All three look like they'll be pretty useful. Positano is an all purpose Italian mix, which is always handy to have on hand. Santa Clara is garlic-heavy. Yup, I like that. And Machu Piccho is a spicy Peruvian-inspired blend. Yum times three.

Who's it for: People who want to try a different way of cooking chicken.

Pros: Heat gets all the way around the chicken, and it's not as tall as with a beer-can style chicken that stands upright. Easier to fit in oven or grill.

Cons: If you put this thing away without the instructions and find it a year later, you might not have any idea what it is.

Wishes: There's really not a lot I can ask from a bent piece of metal.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Degustabox July 2018

Every month, Degustabox sends me one of these boxes of goodies (at no cost to me) so I can tell you all about it. This month was pretty easy to describe because I was familiar with most of the products already.

Maybe I was just hungry when this arrived, but I wanted to sample everything, as soon as I opened the box. But I waited until I got a photo. Dang. I wanted to bite ALL THE THINGS. Well, not the canned tomatoes ... but the snacky things!

So here we go!

Tickle Water
Okay, I'd never heard of this before, but it's flavored fizzy water. The name is cute, right? The can is quite different since it's clear plastic with a traditional metal top and pull-tab like a regular can. This drink is designed for kids, so it's a smaller can than usual, but it's a nice amount for adults who don't want to guzzle a full 12 ounces. I got the watermelon flavor and it was subtle, but tasty.

Walker's Shortbread
I've had these cookies quite a few times. They're good. What I find interesting is all the different shapes these come in, sometimes based on holidays or seasons. In any case, shortbreads are great for a snack or with coffee, but I've also used them as the base for cheesecakes. This is a cookie that's nice to have on hand, since it goes with pretty much everything.

True Citrus (True Lemon)
I actually wrote a whole blog post about this product ... a long time ago. It's basically crystallized lemon juice that you can add to water or tea, and it'a also good in recipes when you don't happen to have fresh lemon juice on hand. I like to add it to water that I carbonate. It's nicely tart and super-easy. Besides lemon flavor, you can get other citrus flavors as well.

That's It
This is a little fruit/snack bar. The one I got was the zesty version with apple, mango, and chili. There are other versions with other fruits and vegetables, as well as chocolate. This is a raw product that is kosher and vegan and has no preservatives. Seems like it's about as close as you'll get to fresh fruit in a super-compact form.

Goya Low Sodium Black Beans
I've been using Goya products for ... decades ... and I've always been happy with them. And black beans are something that I like to keep on hand. I've become awfully fond of black bean and corn salad, and they're also great for other salads, soups, and even black bean hummus.

Goya Sazonador Total
The label says this is the perfect seasoning. I have to agree that it's pretty much an all-purpose seasoning for most Mexican foods. Like, you know, that black bean and corn salad I mentioned earlier. Since this has cumin in it, it won't be appropriate for your spaghetti sauce, but it would be lovely on grilled meats, added to tacos, sprinkled onto quesadillas, or ... you know, a black bean and corn salad. I also used it as a sprinkle on popcorn, which was fun.

Goya Corn Tortillas
I always have tortillas on hand, so I'm more than happy to get a package of corn tortillas in one of these boxes. Leftover chicken, pork, and steak often turn into tacos, and I particularly like corn tortillas for quesadillas. I've bought Goya tortillas quite a few times, and I've always been happy with them. Yum. Tacos.

Mutti Whole Peeled Tomatoes
I never paid attention to the Mutti brand of tomato products before I started getting these boxes, but now I'm quite fond of them. They're good quality, with lovely flavor. I've tried quite a few different products from them, and I'm more than happy to have more. I'm not sure yet what I'll use these for, but I can guarantee that they won't be hanging around here for very long.

Lundberg Family Farms Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips
I'm most familiar with Lundberg Family Farms because of their wide variety of grains and rices, so I was a little surprised to see the name on a bag 'o chips. And now I wonder why I've never seen cinnamon sugar tortilla chips before. It makes so much sense!

I got a few pops along with a coupon for a full-size package. These are candies that have an ingredient that's supposed to be good for your teeth, which is kind of a neat idea. A little candy after dinner now makes a whole lot more sense.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but every box comes with a sheet that shows what's on the box, and then there's something on the back - like a word search puzzle, a recipe, or something else of interest. This time, there's a recipe and an announcement about a context for Degustabox subscribers. Fun!

In case you missed it, I get these boxes for free from Degustabox. Yay, free.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Made In Cookware

First of all, Made In is kind of a weird name, right? But, hey, it's also memorable.

The nice folks at Made In sent me their new saucier (coming soon!) as well as a small nonstick frying pan so I could test and review them. So, that gives a pretty good idea of what the rest of the cookware like is like, yes?

The first thing I noticed with the frying pan was how well balanced it was. You hear that a lot about knives, but it matters with a lot of things - pens, swords, cookware, flaming torches, chain saws - and it means that when you're using it, you're not struggling to maintain it at a good angle for use. When you lift a pan off the stove, you don't want it to feel like it's going to tip downwards and spill all over the place. When you're juggling flaming torches, you don't want to accidentally grab the flaming end.

Of course, what you put in a pan is going to affect that balance. A full pot of water will feel different than a pot that's full of air. But still, that balance is important. It makes using the pot much easier.

Second, I've been using that 8-inch nonstick frying pan as often as I have a use for a small pan, and it shows very little wear. The bottom is getting a little discolored from the heat, but I'm not the type who scrubs cookware until it looks new, and particularly not on the bottom. I mean, I don't let them get caked with goo, but if there's a little heat-staining, I don't fret. I own pans because I use them, not so I can show them off.

I have no idea what the nonstick interior stuff is, but it's definitely not old-style Teflon that flaked off. This stuff is sturdy and very slippery. While the pan is 8 inches across the top, the sides have a pretty steep slope, so the bottom surface is small. Which isn't a bad thing. It's a great pan for cooking one or two eggs and not having them spread all far and wide. Particularly nice if I'm planning on an egg sandwich. Or an egg on a sandwich.

And then there's the saucier.

I have to say that I'm rather fond of that shape in general, but this one is a bit different than other sauciers I have.

In a good way.

The sides on this are tall enough so you can fill the thing with a decent amount of sauce, but the magic in a saucier is that instead of a sharp corner between the bottom and sides, there's a rounded edge. The idea is that if you're stirring with a whisk or even a spoon or spatula, you can get right into those corners so your sauce will blend evenly with no burned or overcooked bits at the edges and less chance of burning.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I like the shape of this one better than others that feel more like slope-sided frying pans with taller sides. Whisking in this feels more like whisking in a bowl. And that's a good thing.

Like the little frying pan, this had good balance and a comfortable handle, so it's easy to hang onto and when it's time to pour stuff out, it's not a juggling act.

Overall, I like both of these, and I'll be keeping them in regular use, along with the other cookware that I'm fond of.

OH! And the Made In folks also sent me some of their cleaner for stainless steel cookware. I haven't needed it yet in the saucier, but I have used it on other stainless steel and it works really well.

Who's it for: People who are looking for better cookware without breaking the bank.

Pros: Nice stuff.

Cons: Sold direct to consumer, so you can't put it in your Amazon cart.

Wishes: Colors! Oh, wait. They just recently introduced colored cookware.

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

OXO Silicone Egg Poachers

OXO Egg Poachers
No, these aren't for poaching silicone eggs ... nor are they weird looking kids toys (Although kids would probably love fiddling with them.

These egg poachers by OXO are designed for people who like poached eggs but just can't get them right.

In other words ... me.

I know the proper technique for poaching eggs, but it takes practice to get it right every time. I don't poach eggs often enough to get that practice. But I still like a nice poached egg every once in a while.

So, I like the idea of a gadget that can help get the job done.

These silicone egg poachers are different from others I've tried in that the egg is actually cooking IN the water rather than being steamed while sitting in a floating silicone boat.

Well, okay then. I took some eggs for a swim.

The idea is simple. You put the poachers in a pot (they come in a set of two) with the holey side down and fill the pot with water up the the squiggly line marked on the upper cup. You add a splash of vinegar to the water, then bring the water to a simmer.

Easy so far, right?

Then you crack an egg into the center of the poacher and watch it float down into the basket below. Buh-buy, eggie!

Then you just set a timer for the style of egg you want. The time, of course, depends on how large and cold your eggs are. And for me, there's also altitude to consider. In general, though a large egg should cook in about 3 1/2 minutes.

And that's it. Remove the poaching device and collect the eggs with a slotted spoon.

So far, I like these. They work as promised, they're made from silicone so nothing stick, and they can be tossed in the dishwasher to clean them. They collapse for storage into the size of just one cup, and they nest into each other to save even more space.

Who's it for: People who want an easier way to poach eggs

Pros: Hey, they work!

Cons: Err ... not much to complain about. It's a simple idea.

Wishes: Erm ... okay, my last resort is usually that it would be nice if they came in a rainbow of colors. Given that most folks aren't going to want dozens of them, I don't know if that would be much of a selling point, though.

Source: I bought these. You can buy them on Amazon HERE.

Friday, June 1, 2018

New Metro Pouring Chute

Do you like my hippie-dippy background? I was amused.
I saw this pouring chute at the International Housewares Show a couple years ago, when it was just a prototype, and I thought it was a genius idea.

It doesn't look like much, just a piece of bent metal with some notches cut out of it, but the New Metro Design Pouring Chute is designed well, it's super-sturdy, and when I saw it at the show I though it would be great for neatly adding things to the bowl of the KitchenAid mixer.

While I love-love-love my stand mixer, adding ingredients isn't really elegant, and I dislike the pouring attachment that came with my mixer.

I kind of forgot about the New Metro pouring chute in the intervening years, but finally got around to buying one.

I'm sorry that I waited. This thing is genius.

I mean, it's still a bent piece of metal, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do. It makes it easy to add ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer without stopping the mixer, lifting the tilt head, or making a freaking mess.

Because heavens knows I don't need help making a mess. I'm really good at doing that all on my own.

In theory, you could attach this to a regular bowl, but I'm not entirely sure why you'd need to, and it should fit the bowl of other mixer brands, but I can't guarantee that.

Yeah, you probably need one.

Who's it for: People who own a KitchenAid mixer.

Pros: It works!

Cons: It's kind of hard to justify spending good money on a bent piece of metal.

Wishes: Oh, come on! It's a bent piece of metal. What would I want it to do, whistle?

Source: I bought this.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Turbo Pot Cookware

Many years ago, I acquired a piece of cookware called the Turbo Cooker. Or something like that.
This is NOT that. At all.

This cookware - called Turbo Pot Cookware - has an aluminum ... er ... radiator-like-surface on the bottom that makes the pot heat faster and more efficiently on gas cooktops.

Or I guess it's more like a heat sink. But anyway, it doesn't look like the bottom of your normal pots. Take a look at the second photo for a better view.

This is NOT some kind of made-for-TV questionable infomercial thing. This is MAGIC.

Okay, it's not actually magic. It's science. The deep ridges on the bottom of the pot create a greater surface area and let me tell you, this pot heats up a LOT faster. You want boiling water? Don't walk too far away!

It also uses less energy to stay hot. Which means that you can maintain a lively simmer on a low setting. On your small burner. Or a candle.

Okay, not a candle. You might need more than one. But seriously (I keep saying that, don't I?) seriously, this is a thing that actually works the way they say it does. It heats up faster, uses less energy, and is kind of cool to look at.

They gave me my choice of cookware to try, and I opted for the 3.5 quart casserole because I already have too much cookware around here, and it looked small enough that I could find a place for it. But there are other pieces where this fast heating could be really handy.

Decisions, decisions.

The teakettle would be great for rapid heating of water for tea or whatever else you heat coffee for. Right? You wouldn't have to wait nearly as long!

And the frying pan would be awesome for heating to high temperatures to sear a steak, and then because it heats so fast, the pan would be right back up to temperature after the steak cooled it down.

And of course saucepans and stockpots and whatnot could all benefit from heating faster.

The one downside is that if you know how to set your stove for a low simmer using your regular cookware, you might have to readjust that thinking, since this will likely be simmering a lot faster - or even boiling - at that same setting.

Who's it for: People who cook!

Pros: Heats quickly and efficiently. Uses less energy.

Cons: You'll need to learn how low you should set the heat for slower, lower cooking. Also, this is designed for gas cooktops.

Wishes: More, please. I don't really need a kettle, but I desire one.

Source: I was sent a sample at no cost to me. And I've been using it regularly.

Murder on the Orient Express Tea

I usually refuse offers to review tea, mostly because I have an insane amount of tea on hand. And I tend to drink tea in binges. I'll go crazy for iced tea for a while, then get tired of it. I'll drink mint tea in the evening, then stop for no reason. I'll brew herbal teas or green teas, and then forget about them for a while.

But when I got an offer to sample a tea called Murder on the Orient Express, the name intrigued me so much that I had to say yes. What does a murder mystery taste like?

It turns out, this tea is very aptly named, and I can't quite explain why. But the scent is ... hmmm ... mysterious and old fashioned and exotic all at once.

I can imagine sipping this in the elegant but somewhat worn dining car while a passenger in a nearby car succumbs to some bad oysters.

But is that really what happened? Was it really bad oysters, or was it a here-to-for undisclosed shellfish allergy that the murderer was privy to? And who is this gallant but somewhat odd stranger who wants to escort me back to my car, so I won't be perturbed by the sudden flurry of activity surrounding the mysterious death?

These are questions that might never be answered.

But the tea is pretty darned good.

The teabags are cute mesh pyramid-like devices that also amused the hell out of me.

If murderous tea isn't your thing, Harney & Sons has a mind-boggling array of others to choose from.

I got this sample at no cost to me. Unfortunately, train tickets were not included.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Amped Wireless Smart Plug

I am a total geek. I love computers and wireless gadgets and remote control stuff. So when I got an offer to review the Amped Wireless Smart Plug, I immediately started brainstorming what I could plug into it. It works with Alexa, so it turns analog devices into super-smart ones that can be controlled by voice.

It was suggested that it could be used for a slow cooker or any other kitchen device that's not so smart. It would need to be a thing that turns on when it's plugged in, rather than something that has a bunch of smart settings.

I knew that my slow cooker was way too smart for it, but I decided to test it with some lights that are frankly a bit annoying to turn on and off.

I have to say that this was super-easy to set up compared to a few other devices that were a little quirky. And it works every time. Whoop, whoop.

Anywhere in the house, you could control anything that plugs into an outlet. Turn on a lamp in the living room or turn off the bedroom lamp without lifting your head from the pillow. In the kitchen, it could certain control that slow cooker, but after brainstorming a bit, I thought that it would be genius for an electric water kettle. You could turn it on from the bedroom and the water would be piping hot for your tea by the time you got to the kitchen.

I have a feeling that most folks who've adopted Alexa also have smart appliances, so they might not actually need this in the kitchen. On the other hand, we all have lamps, lights, and other things that plug into non-smart outlets all over the house.

I received this at no cost.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Degustabox May 2018

Another month, another fun box of goodies from Degustabox. They send me their monthly boxes at no cost to me, so I can describe the contents to you.

This month's box didn't seem to have a theme, but there was still plenty of fun.

Karma Probiotics is a drink that includes ... well, probiotics. This is a little different, though, since the active cultures are kept separate from the liquid until you release them and shake the bottle. I guess that makes sense for stocking up. Unlike yogurt, that can get a little fuzzy if it's in the fridge too long.

Goya Maria Cookies are from Spain and are apparently quite popular. There and here. I see variations of these at most of the stores around here that sell Mexican food. Yum, cookies.

Zaffi Taffy, the clean teeth taffy. These are a sweet treat that's supposed to be good for your teeth. Interesting idea, yes? These are sugar-free and a lot of other -frees as well, so they'd be safe for kids with the most common allergies. Tasty and good for you? Yeah, I'm down with that. Although this was the first time I tried the taffy, I have sampled some of the other candies from this candy.

Goya green salsa is worth checking out at your local grocery store. I've bought a whole lot of Goya products over the years, and I've always been happy with them. There are soooo many salsas, and it's a bit of a personal preference, but I have to say I liked this one, particularly with eggs. Like ... egg tacos.

Cello Whisps have come in these boxes before, and the info on this said "Back by popular demand." I'm not surprised. I can polish off a bag of these in no time. They're crispy cheese, and the one I got this time was cheddar. You can eat them like a cracker or add them to the top of a salad, or just snack on them. I wouldn't mind if someone sent me a whole case of these. Yeah, they're good.

Rufus Teague barbecue sauce is pretty good stuff. There are a couple sauces that I return to for recipes, but when it comes to sauces for chicken or ribs, I tend to try different ones, so I was pretty happy to get this sample. There were two possible flavors that came randomly in boxes, either Honey Sweet or Smoky Apple. Now I just need some ribs. And chicken.

Post Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch is a granola with Grape Nuts, cranberries, and puffed barley. I passed this one along to someone else since I have more snacks around here than I can eat. It's an interesting idea, though. I like cereals as a snack, so it makes sense to granola-ize it.

Deep River Snacks thick cut potato chips arrived just as I was having a chip craving. The little bag disappeared pretty quickly. Munch, munch. These are thick cut, so they stand up to dips without crumbling into bits.

Indiana Kettlecorn Popcorn is sweet and salty and the little bag was just enough of a snack to ward off the grumpies. There were two bags of these in the box, so I got a chance to have a second sample.

Explore Cuisine chickpea pasta is a protein-rich alternative to wheat pasta. I'm fascinated by the wide variety of non-wheat pastas on the market these days. Although I'm not gluten-free, I still think it's a great idea to offer options, and since chickpeas have a relatively mild flavor, this makes a lot of sense. I'm actually saving these for a pasta salad ... and I might even add chickpeas to it. Because I'm crazy like that.

So there you go. A month's work of snacking and savoring. In case you missed it, I get these shipments at no cost from Degustabox.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Degustabox April 2018

Every month, Degustabox sends me a box full of goodies so I can tell you all about them. These are the same boxes you'd get if you subscribed. Most of the products are full-size products, although some small free samples are also included.

This is April's box, which they called a "Roadtrip" box. It makes sense, since there are a lot of items you'd take with you on a road trip.

Alo Spring aloe juice
Hey, it's aloe juice with fruits! This would be great for a road trip, right? You absolutely need to bring along some tasty beverages. This one was blended with cranberry, mulberry, and blackberry juice.

Popchips Nutter Puffs
Hmmm. How to describe? Like those puffy cheese snacks, but with peanut butter flavor instead of cheese. These would be really interesting to mix with other snacks ... pretzels, cheese crackers, nuts. It would be fun on a trip. Or of course they're good on their own, too.

Amazin' Raisins
We agree that I don't like raisins, right? Okay, so I tried the lemon-flavored ones, and they were REALLY lemony. They were interesting. Now that I'm thinking about it, they could be fun baked into blueberry muffins. I'm still not sold on raisins in general, but these have potential.

Fini Sweets
Fini Shock Tongues Chewy Candy, Kollisions Chewy Candy, Tornadoes Fizzy Chewy Candy
For sure you need candy on a road trip, and Fini Sweets sent along an interesting selection of gummy candies. I haven't tried all of them because I'm opening one bag at a time, but I'd definitely like to take them on a trip. Okay, maybe I should plan a trip.

La Tortilla Factory tortillas
The tortillas I got are a blend of corn and wheat. I've bought these many times. They have the flavor or corn tortillas, but they're more flexible and less prone to breaking and crumbling because of the wheat. I'm more than happy to get more because these are really good.

Ah, popcorn. When I make popcorn, it's usually a pretty big bowl, but it's nice to have snack-sized bags for a little nosh when I've just gotten home and I need a little something to tide me over until I can cobble together a real meal. These would be great for a trip, too. Hey, add them to the snack mix!

Zeigler's Fruit & Veggie Juices
This sounded interesting, but unfortunately it arrived with a leak and I decided not to risk it. It smelled really good though. I'm sure I would have sent me a replacement if I asked, but I didn't ask. These are shelf-stable which is great for a trip - no need to keep them on ice, so you can just chill the ones you want to drink.

Country Archer Jerky
Jerky seems like a natural for a road trip since its packed with protein and very portable. This one was mango habanero, which would certainly wake everyone up. And then you've got drinks handy!

Torie and Howard chewy candy
Ooooh, more chewy candies for the road trip! These are vegan, free of the eight major allergens, gluten free, and they don't have any artificial colors or flavors. It must be tough to travel if your family members have allergies. At home, you know what you're cooking, and you probably know what local restaurants are safe. But on the road ...? It's nice to have a snack that everyone can share.

La Tortilla Factory barbacoa slow cooker sauce
I don't think this would go on the road, but it would make a nice, easy meal if you're heading towards a cabin with a slow cooker, or if the road trip is in an RV. Cook the beef, shred, make tacos with those tortillas you brought along, and dinner's ready. Okay, maybe add some condiments, if you must.

Goya plantain chips
Definitely road trip food since these are thin, crunchy, and tasty. Plaintains are like starchy, potato-y bananas, if you haven't had them. So it makes sense someone has turned them into chips. And hey, if you like the idea of peanut butter and bananas, you could eat these with the peanut butter puffy things! Or, they'd be a nice side dish with those barbacoa tacos, right?

In case you missed it up there at the top, I get these boxes from Degustabox for free every month.