Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Burnout Travel Tumbler

There are a lot of people who want to send me coffee mugs, travel tumblers, and other drinking devices that are meant to take your beverage on the go. Mostly, I say "no" because I don't see a lot that are truly different.

Then I heard about the Burnout, and I had to give it a try.

Have you ever poured coffee from your pot into your to-go insulated tumbler, then opened it 10 minutes later to take a sip, and it's too darned hot for sipping?

The Burnout is designed to solve that problem.

When you pour hot coffee into the tumbler, it immediately starts getting cooler. The temperature drops, then levels out, and it stays warm for quite a while.

I was skeptical, so I tested it, measuring the temperature in short intervals until it stopped getting cooler, then I checked it every hour or so. Eventually, like any insulated drink container, it got a little cooler than most people would like for drinking, but if your coffee has been sitting around for three or four hours, maybe it's time for a fresh cup, anyway.

What voodoo is this?

I'm not really sure, but it seems that the tumbler first absorbs the heat, which cools the coffee to a reasonable drinking temperature, then that stored heat helps to keep the coffee at a reasonable drinking temperature.

This is a really cool thing! Seriously. I'm impressed, and I don't say that very often about tumblers.

I received this at no cost to me.

Friday, October 26, 2018

DiamoTech Skillet

So many skillets, not nearly enough eggs.

The nice folks at DiamoTech sent me one of their 9 1/2 inche skillets to test, and I've left it out on the stove since it arrived, so I remember to use it every time I cook something.

This is a nonstick skillet with an interesting finish. It's extremely smooth and it's very dark gray with tiny glitter-like spots that look blue and purple in the light of my kitchen. When I took it out of the package, I thought, oooh, that would be a cool look for fabric. Or jewelry. Or some kind of decorative vase.

Alas, it's just a skillet.

So, I lived with this glittery skillet for a while, cooking everything from eggs to meat to sauces. After a couple of nonstick pans that failed after a short time, I simply don't trust the first test. This one, however, is still nonstick, still not scratched, and still very glittery.

I've only washed it by hand, because that's the way I wash all my pots and pans, but this is supposed to be dishwasher safe. Good to know, if I ever actually have space in my dishwasher for cookware. It's also oven safe which is actually more important to me than dishwasher safe. If I'm cooking something on the stove and want to finish it in the oven, it's nice to be able to do it in the same pan.

On the other hand, nothing sticks to it, so hand washing it isn't all that much of a chore. These new nonstick cooking surfaces are kinda spooky, right?

It's fairly lightweight, so it's good for flipping vegetables, and it has good balance when holding it. It's also on the inexpensive end, when we're talking about cookware, so even if it only lasts a couple years because you backed over it with your car, it's still a good deal.

This stuff comes in single pieces, there are lids, and there are sets. Overall, it's a nice pan. I'm going to keep using it and see if it starts getting weird after many months. But for now it seems like it should last.

The one downside of this pan - and it's not a big one - is that you're supposed to season it before the first use. The instructions are on the label, and you just need to wipe a little oil on, and put it in the oven. To be honest. I'm not sure if that's actually necessary (skeptical that I am) since the oil didn't actually want to stick to the surface of the pan, so it kind of beaded up ... but I did it anyway. If it helped the pan, that's great. If not, I wasted a couple drops of oil. No big deal.

I got a sample pan from DiamoTech for testing, at no cost to me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Field Company Lightweight Iron Skillet

I've been using cast iron skillets since I was a kid using my mom's cookware, and I'm a big fan. Properly seasoned and cared for, a cast iron skillet will be just as nonstick as your modern nonstick cookware, and it can last for generations.

Aside from extreme thermal shock, I can't imagine how you could seriously damage a cast iron pan. Even if you left it out in the snow all winter and it started to rust, you could sand off the rust and re-season the pan and it would be just fine.

Speaking of thermal shock, I'm not talking about the kind of shock that can break a glass casserole. More like heating it red hot, then pouring liquid nitrogen into it. And I'm not sure that would actually damage it. Not that I want to try. I like my cast iron.

So anyway, the folks at Field Company offered to send me one of their lighter weight cast iron skillets.

Let me be clear here. There's no voodoo involved. It's still real cast iron, just like your foremothers used. The metal is the same. But the skillet is just a little thinner, so it's lighter. It's also smoother, so you don't have a bumpy surface. I'm guessing that rather than just casting it and doing some rough finishing, these are machined to get that smooth surface and thinner metal. But, I'm just guessing. It could be voodoo.

Now, when I'm saying that this skillet is lighter, it's lighter than a standard cast iron skillet of the same size. It's not as light as aluminum. Because that would be actual voodoo.

I went through my usual seasoning process, using the skillet in between. Mostly searing steaks, because that's something that cast iron is excellent at.

As far as performance, there's a slight difference between this pan and my other cast iron pans. Cast iron is desirable for its ability to retain heat, and this did that very well. When I was first heating it, it heated a little unevenly, getting hotter faster right above the flame. However, once it was hot, it all evened out. Since I always preheat cast iron pans, I can't even say this was a drawback. Just something that I noticed. You know, with an infrared thermometer in my hands. Otherwise, I'm not even sure I would have noticed.

Overall, this is a nice pan and I can definitely feel the difference in weight, so I'll be keeping it handy for cooking. And baking. And roasting. And in the grill. And pretty much every way I use cast iron pans.

Like many of the things I review here, I got this pan at no cost to me.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Quick Peek: Ninja Foodi

Ninja has made some innovative products, and I've reviewed a few of them over the years. Their slow cooker was on my kitchen counter for many years, and their blenders are real beasts.

The latest from Ninja's warped mind is the Foodi. As soon as I saw it, I pre-ordered the danged thing because I just had to try it. I had to.

And then I waited for it to show up.

And then it arrived. I had the box ripped open and it was on my counter running through a test before the delivery guy had gotten to the end of the block. puff, puff

The Foodi is the mutant stepchild of a pressure cooker and an air fryer. Yeah, you heard that. It pressure cooks AND it air fries.

That's why I had to have it. This is a new category of product, and it actually makes sense.

I've owned pressure cookers of all types, and I use mine regularly. Air fryers, though ... I've used them, I've liked the results, but I never loved them enough to keep them on my counter top long term. The idea of combining an air fryer with a machine I use often just made sense.

I did a quick pressure test to make sure the pressure cooker function was working correctly, then I browsed through the recipe book that came with the machine to see what I could make right away. I settled on potato wedges because I had a bag of potatoes and I knew I liked them in an air fryer.

The instructions were a little different than what I made in the air fryer. These were pressure cooked for a short time, then I drizzled on some oil, and then I air fried them. The result was very much like what I'd gotten from the previous air fryer, but faster.

The cooking bowl of the Foodi is wider than any of my other electric pressure cookers - a bit over 9 inches in diameter - so it will fit larger accessories and larger hunks of food, as long as they're not super tall. And for sure it can hold more than the air fryers I've used, so that's a bonus. It also seems to be willing to work with less liquid than some pressure cookers I've used. For the potatoes, I only needed 1/2 cup of water, which isn't much at all.

I'm kind of curious about that wide bowl, particularly for cooking cheesecakes. I've made cheesecakes in my other pressure cookers before, but they were pretty small, since larger pans wouldn't fit. With this wide pan, I can fit at least an 8-inch springform pan, and possibly even a 9-inch pan. I guess I'll be experimenting with cooking times.

Besides the machine and the nonstick cooking pot, this comes with a "cook and crisp" basket that I used for the potato wedges. And I have to mention that the potatoes got brown and crisp on both the top and bottom. It also includes a rack that can be used in two different ways, either as a steaming rack to keep food low in the cooking pot, or as a broiler rack, holding the food close to the top where the heat is generated.

It has one lid that's permanent - that's the air fryer lid. And there's a removable lid for pressure cooking. When you use the pressure cooker lid, you simply flip the fryer lid up.

I plan on doing some more testing with this, but I wanted to give you a heads-up on it, since it's so new and weird.

So far, I like it. Next, I'm going to try some chicken. There is a recipe in the book for a whole "roasted" chicken that is first pressure cooked, then air fried, and that's kind of fascinating. This could also be great for ribs, since they could be pressure cooked, then slathered with sauce and air fried or broiled.

I haven't tried all the buttons yet, so I'm not sure how they all function. Unlike many of the electric pressure cookers that have buttons for everything from cake to poultry, this doesn't have presets for different foods. And that's fine with me. I seldom use the presents on my pressure cooker.

When you're ready to press buttons, this senses whether the fryer lid is in place or not, and the cooking options change based on that. If you're already cooking with the fryer lid in place, the lid will turn itself off while you check the food. Then it turns on again and cooking resumes when the lid is down again.

But back to buttons ...

With the fryer lid down, you have options to air fry, bake/roast, or broil. With the fryer lid lifted, you have your choice of pressure cook, steam, slow cook, and sear/saute. It won't actually pressure cook without the lid, but the settings are there. Up and down buttons let you change the temperature and set the time. There's also a keep warm function, a start/stop button, and a power-off button.

So, yeah, I have a lot of testing to do. Lots of buttons to press. But first, I need to buy a chicken.

I bought this. Nada freebies.

Note: as I'm writing this, Amazon only has these from third-party sellers at a considerably higher price than I paid. Wait until the price comes back down if you're as crazy as me and you need one of these.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Drinkmate Spritzer

A while back, I reviewed the original Drinkmate carbonator, and gave it my thumbs up.

This time, they sent me their new Spritzer, which is a smaller, more compact unit.

Basically, they got rid of the stand, so it's just the head that attaches to the bottle you're going to carbonate, and a connector to the CO2 tanks.

It's not quite as industrial looking as that sounds, as you can see from the photo, although if you found it in someone's kitchen drawer, you might not know exactly what it is.

The Drinkmate Spritzer came with the smaller water bottles, rather than the larger one that came with the original Drinkmate. It also included two 3-ounce CO2 canisters for carbonating.

First, the operation of these two devices is nearly identical, and they use the same type of bottles, so you can swap between the two devices - for example if you have one at home and one at work. When using a small 3-ounce CO2 canister with the Spritzer, the canister is completely enclosed. The Spritzer can also use the larger 60-liter canister, but then it would be much bulkier. If you're making a lot of fizzy water, the larger canisters might make more sense even though it wouldn't look quite as sleek. But if you want to take the carbonator along on a picnic or tuck it in your desk drawer, the smaller canister, enclosed in the device, might make a lot more sense.

One of the main selling points of the Drinkmates is that you can use them to carbonate any beverage. With other carbonators, you can only carbonate water, then add flavor. That means you can't carbonate things like wine or juice or tea. While I mostly use mine for water, it's kind of fun to carbonate other things.

After I used the Spritzer a few times, I realized there were some distinct advantages to the smaller bottles. For one thing, that's a nice serving size for me. When I used the bigger bottles, I poured the fizzy water into a glass. With the smaller bottles, I drank straight from the bottle.

So I bought extra bottles. And that was even a better idea. You see, cold water carbonates better than cool water, so now I just leave filled bottles in the fridge and I carbonate them when I want them. When I'm done drinking, I clean the used bottle, refill, and tuck it back into the fridge.

Do I like this better than the original Drinkmate? Hmmm. I think I do, since it's smaller. But that's a personal decision.

Since the operation of the two is pretty much the same, I'd say that it's really a tossup as to which is better. The original carbonator doesn't take a lot of counter space, so if you want it handy at all times, you might like that better than a device that you'll tuck in a drawer.

Either way, it's a cool device.

Here's my original review.

I received this as no cost to me; I bought extra bottles.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Degustabox - October 2018

Yup, they just keep sending these boxes, month after month. Free snacks!

This month's box didn't have an announced theme, but it seemed rather Halloweenish. Like, if kids actually came to my house on Halloween, there were lots of things in the box that I could give them. If I hadn't eaten them first.

Oh well. Sorry kiddies. I had fun.

Brown & Haley's
Caramel Roca! If you've had almond roca, you pretty much know what this is, but this has a browned-buttery caramel flavor. This was a bag of wrapped candies, so it wasn't really appropriate for Halloween giving as it was packaged. Too bad, kids, this one is all mine. Bwaa ha ha!

Pirate's Booty
When I unpacked the box, I though, okay, more popcorn. But it's not. It's actually baked corn and rice puffs with a white cheddar flavor. Duh. These might be okay for Halloween giving, but there were only three bags, and now just two. Seems silly to have two of something in case there are four kids at the door. Sorry, kids. I'll be crunching these.

Bahlsen Waffeletten
These seem to be what some of my European friends refer to as wafer rolls. There's a crisp waffle-like cookie thing that rolled up and introduced to some chocolate. I picture these being eaten with coffee or tea while admiring the countryside. Maybe a castle off to the left. Or, you know, they're nice snacking cookie things. No way am I going to give a kid a whole box of cookies. Also, it's open now, so ... hmmm. I guess these are mine, too.

Peanut butter chips. You know, like chocolate chips, but made with peanut butter instead of chocolate. I didn't open this yet, but I have ideas. Maybe chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. Or oatmeal cookies with peanut butter chips. Too bad trick or treaters don't like home made goodies.

Bush's Best
Crisp roasted chickpeas. I've made these before, and they're a lovely snack that's not terrible for you, since they're full of fiber and not super fatty. Having them show up in a handy package is nice. I buy a LOT of Bush's products and they're always high quality, but usually I'm buying canned beans. This is an interesting addition to their product line. The ones I got were Sriracha Lime. Would kids like these for Halloween? Too LATE! (oopsie)

This was interesting. Most of the package was not in English, so I wasn't sure what it was. It was a small roll candy with chocolate on the outside and a dense caramel-like interior with banana flavor. I've never had these before, and I've never even seen them before, so it was interesting to try. Happy Halloween to me. There was just one piece, and now it's gone.

I got one bag of chocolately Sixlets and one bag of chewy fruity ones. They're round candies with the choco ones in primary colors and the fruity ones with a glimmer-dust look. A bag of these would be nice for a Halloween witch at my door, but I had to taste test, so ... none left for the kids. Oh well, I guess I'll just keep looking.

I got one slice of a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a three-pack of Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. The yellow cake was just a little sweet for my taste, but still good. The Kandy Kakes seemed a little less sweet, maybe because of the peanut butter inside. There was also a little cakey layer, so it wasn't quite as dense as a peanut butter cup. Would kids like these for Halloween? I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter because they don't seem to be here any more.

Welches Fruit Snacks
I've had these before, but now there are new flavors like pomegranate-passionfruit or goji-apricot. Made from real fruit. Probably good for you. To be honest, I don't tend to reach for things like this often enough to want to keep a whole bag of them here, so I passed them along to someone else. For some strange reason, now I'm craving grape juice.

Idahoan Foods
Steakhouse Potato soup in a bag. Hmmmm. So, this arrived on the day that the weather went from nice to "oh heck, it's really cold now" so I decided to make this. It couldn't be easier. I just boiled water, added the contents of the package, and cooked for about 5 minutes. Then it was supposed to rest for another five, and it thickened a bit during that rest. During cold weather, I make a lot of soups from scratch, so I don't know how often I'd use something like this, but it would be handy to have for emergency soup days. There was more than enough for a couple meals, so on the second day I added cheese. I was tempted to add some hot sauce, but refrained. Needless to say, I'm not offering bowls of soup to trick or treaters.

Oh well, I still have the empty box.

I get these boxes delivered at no cost to me every month, so I can tell you all about 'em. Ain't I the lucky one?