Saturday, August 18, 2018

Degustabox August 2018

Oh lookie! Another box of free stuff from Degustabox, just so I can tell you all about it. It's kind of amazing to me that after all this time, the boxes are still filled with things I haven't tried before. Of course there are some things I'm familiar with, and there are quite a few times when I've been familiar with the company. But there are still plenty of new things.

This one had products that were new to me, although I did know a few of the companies.

So, here we go for August:

The Good Crisp Company
These are potato crisps in a can, much like that other company that makes potato crisps in a can. These are non-GMO and have all natural ingredients. They tasted like potato crisps, and I have to say that the can is a convenient package. The ones I got were a sour cream and onion flavor

Wise Snacks Stadium Nacho Bravas Tortilla Chips
Mmm. Tortilla chips. I usually never buy little bags of chips, but I'm really liking having these come to me from Degustabox. They're the right size for a snack, and I get to try a different products rather than committing to a lot of one kind of thing. I have to say I'm becoming quite fond of Wise products. Nacho tortilla chips? Yes, please!

Post Frosted Shredded Wheat Chocolate Strawberry
I'm not a big breakfast cereal eater, and I had plenty on hand. So I'll be honest here. I passed these along to someone else to enjoy. The idea is interesting, though.

Sahale Snack Maple Pecan Glaze Mix
Mmmm. Maple pecans. These also had dried cherries and apples, so it wasn't ALL nuts, and I was giddy happy to see a snack mix that didn't have raisins or coconut. This is also a great take-with-you snack for those times when you need a little something to nosh on, but it's not mealtime.

Colombina Amazon Pepper Sweet Chili
Ohhh, yes. Mix this with cream cheese for a nice chip dip. Easy peasy. Also a good start for a sauce for shrimp. The one I got was mild, which makes me think there's also a hot version.

PR Bar
This is a chocolate and peanut bar. Yum. It's supposed to be the perfect blend of carbs and protein, but I have no actual proof of that perfect. But again, it would be a nice take-with-you snack or something to tuck into the desk at work for a little boost without a carb crash afterwards.

Ready Nutrition Protein Water
I have no idea how one gets protein into water, but there it is. The one I got was grapefruit flavored. Aside from coffee or tea, I don't drink a lot of flavored beverages, but I like to have some on hand when I'm in the mood. This one is chilling in the fridge for one of those days.

Popcorn, Indiana movie theater popcorn
I love popcorn. When I make it, I make a LOT. These little bags are so handy for snacking and they're just sitting there waiting for me without having to actually make it. This is made with real butter, which is actually my favorite flavoring for popcorn.

Country Archer jerky
Ah, jerky, the perfect little bite of protein. This was sweet pork barbecue flavored. If you like jerky, you'll probably love this stuff.

High Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee in a can. Could it be any more convenient? I'm actually setting this aside for emergency coffee, when I forget to brew my own, or when I'm out of ground coffee, or ... well, I'm sure there will be other reasons.

Prince of Peace ginger chews
These are chewy ginger-lemon candies, perfect for times when your tummy is a little grumbly, or pretty much any time you're in the mood for a spicy-sweet snack. Not as much bite as candied ginger, and not as sweet as regular candies.

So there we go. Lots of new treats for August. Thanks to Degustabox for sending me their boxes at no cost to me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


When I got an offer to sample Milkadamia (which is a macadamia nut milk) I hesitated because it's kind of silly to ship a refrigerated product. But, nope, this is a shelf-stable products, so shipping wasn't an issue.

It's also nice for home storage, since you can tuck a container in the pantry and it's there when you need it.

I actually buy almond milk once in a while. I like it for making hot chocolate, in particular. It seems somehow richer than regular milk. Oddly, I find the opposite is true in coffee, where almond milk seems thin.

Weird, right?

So anyway, the nice folks at Milkadamia sent along two different products - an unsweetened and a vanilla unsweetened. To be brutally honest, I didn't notice a huge difference in flavor between the two, but I also didn't do a head-to-head taste test.

I also didn't make any hot chocolate, because it's summer here and hot chocolate on a hot night makes no sense at all.

But I did use it for making cocktails a few times, and I also used it in my coffee, where I liked it better than almond milk. While it's not quite the same as regular milk, it wasn't super-thin like the almond milk I usually buy. So that was a plus. A huge plus. Because I ran out of milk and didn't want to run to the store for just one thing.

Because we all know what that leads to. Extra stuff in the basket.

The flavor of the milkadamia was really mild - not super nutty - so this could would work well in pretty much any drink and any recipe, since you wouldn't be adding a flavor that might potentially clash.

Overall, I liked this stuff. I'll be looking for it at the store, and checking out the other flavor options.

Yup, this was sent to me from the Milkadamia folks, at no cost to me. Slurp, slurp.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Salviana Raw Maguey Sap

When I was offered a sample of maguey sap from a company called Saviana (people send me lots of stuff to sample for free), I first had to ask what "pre-Hispanic" on the label meant. I'd ever seen that particular terminology before.

Easy answer: this is a food product that predated the time when Spaniards came to the Americas. In other words, the maguey is a native plant and the sap was being used by people who lived here a long time ago.

Okay, then.

After a little research, I found out that maguey is actually agave. Whether it's the same agave that goes into the agave syrup that you see on store shelves. It didn't taste like any agave syrup I've had, so perhaps it's because it's raw. Or maybe it's another species of agave. I really have no idea.

Like all the other natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, etc.) the maguey sap I got had a distinct scent and flavor. It reminded me a lot of corn. Now, when you're adding it to something, it's not like you're going to feel like you're gnawing on a corn cob while you're drinking your sweet tea. But it does have a corn-like aroma and flavor, so you might want to think about what you're adding it to and decide whether a hint of corn would be delicious or weird.

So far, I've added it to savory dishes, and just a little bit since savory doesn't need a lot of sweet. I think it would be lovely in cornbread or drizzled on cornbread, if that's the sort of thing you do. Or drizzled on chicken and waffles, if that's your thing. It was nice in a corn and bean salad I made, with just a little to balance the tartness of other ingredients. I'd use it for sure in corn muffins.

I think strong flavors would obliterate that hint of corn, particularly if you're not using a lot of it, but I think I'd hesitate to add it to anything with delicate flavor where corn would be a distraction.

So there we go. Raw maguey. Another first for me.

Yup, I got Salviana Raw Maguey Sap this for free.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Degustabox July 2018

How time flies! It's time for another box from Degustabox. They send me one every month, so I can tell you allllll about it.

This month's box had a summer-like feel to it, which kind of makes sense since it's summer.

Uncle Dougie's Sweet n Snappy Barbecue Sauce
Yikes, I used 3/4 of this bottle in about a week. Good flavor, not too sweet or tart, and thick enough to stick to all the ribs I was cooking. Prior to this, I'd only tried Uncle Dougie's wing sauce, which is also good, but I might have to admit that I like BBQ sauce better, in general. This one is definitely worth a taste,

Lee Kum Kee plum sauce
If you order moo shoo pork (or other moo shoo) at Chinese restaurants, this is the dark sauce that comes with it. I'm not sure exactly what else you'd do with plum sauce, but it's awesome with stir fry whether or not you're serving it with those pancakes. Good stuff.

Loacker cookies
I've gotten these before, but this time they were little packs that would be great for tucking into a lunch or for portion control. I got the cocoa and cream version, which were pretty tasty.

Aiya Matcha
This is single serve matcha tea plus sugar so you can make yourself a quick cup of tea anywhere you can find some hot water. Nice for taking to work for a little midday pick-me-up or you could add it to recipes.

Sir Kensington's chipotle mayonnaise
A lovely spicy condiment for burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pretty much anywhere you want a creamy, spicy sauce. This would be perfect for fish tacos with a little shredded lettuce. Yum.

Wise Snacks Cheez Doodles
Oh my heck. I think I need a case of these. Or two cases. I like the other cheesy puffy snacks, but these have even more cheese flavor. Where have these been all my life?

Chomps turkey sticks
Thin little smokey sausage-like snack. Perfect when you want a little something to eat, but you don't want sweets or carbs.

Goetze's Candy chocolate caramel creams
These are sort of like the ones that are caramel and cream, but ... chocolate. They're nice and chewy without welding themselves to my teeth and they have a nice flavor. Yum.

So that's it for the month ... lots of tasty treats and at least a few things that I'll be buying again, when I'm done with the goodies I got. How many of these have you tried?

Yup, I get these boxes for free. Lucky me, right?

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.