Friday, December 21, 2018

Pamela's Products

Pamela's Products makes gluten-free mixes and ingredients and finished goods as well, and they sent me a big box of stuff to try.

I passed along the few items that had coconut in them (coconut just isn't my thing, but I have friends who are more than happy to take them off my hands), then moved quickly into tasting the cookies. Because, well, cookies.

I'm not gluten-free, but I'm always interested in trying what's out there. While the cookies weren't the absolute best I've ever eaten, they were tasty. I liked the shortbreads, the best, but the others (chocolate mint, chocolate chunk, and chocolate chunk with walnuts) were good, too. For folks who can't have wheat flour, these would be a good option.

Among the bags of ingredients, there was almond flour, which is something that I often use, and tiger nut flour, which I've never used before. That's the best of both worlds - the familiar and the new. I haven't open the tiger nut flour yet, but the almond flour made its way into cookies pretty quickly.

Overall, it was a fun box of stuff to try, and I was able to share goodies with a friend who avoids gluten, so that's always a plus.

Being totally honest, I don't think I'll be buying gluten free cookies for myself, but I appreciate that Pamela's Products makes them for folks who need them. Apparently their pancake mix is a best seller, if you're looking for that, and even if you don't avoid gluten, things like almond flour can come in handy if you bake a lot.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out what I'm going to do with that tiger nut flour. I'm sure it will be amusing.

Why yes, I did get this stuff for free.

Pereg Gourmet Zahtar

Pereg Gourmet sells a whole bunch of spices, and this time they sent me a free sample of their zahtar (sometimes spelled zatar or za'atar) which is a Middle Eastern spice blend. It can be used as an at-the-table seasoning, or for cooking.

Like many blends, the ingredients can vary, depending on who is making it, so if you've tried one zahtar, it's worth it to look around and see what others have to offer. This version include hyssop parsley, sesame seeds, chickpea flour, coriander, olive oil, salt, and citric acid.

The flavor is unique, and a little hard to describe, but somehow it reminds of of pizza. Interestingly, one of the suggested uses is to sprinkle it on pizza, but I think I'd be more likely to use it on hummus or pita bread.

The jar from Pereg Gourmet was larger than I expected (5.3 ounces), which isn't a bad thing, particularly for a spice that you will use on the table and in the kitchen.

Pereg Gourmet makes a lot of different spice mixes along with selling single spices, so if zahtar isn't on your must-have list, it's a sure bet you'll find something you have to have.

I got this spice for free, and I've gotten spices from them previously, as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

T-fal Sapphire-Infused Triangle Pan

I can still remember the first time I saw T-fal cookware. I was just a little kid, and someone was doing a demo in a store. I never saw a live cooking demo before, and I was enthralled. Someone was actually cooking right there in the store!

Mom didn't buy the magical cookware that made eggs slide around in the pan, much to my disappointment.

T-fal cookware isn't the same as it was back then. There are new materials, and, as you can see from this pan, new shapes. The pan I tested was infused with sapphire on the nonstick surface and it had pretty blue glints in it when it was in the light. It was from the T-fal Heatmaster Collection, and there are several different pans with similar features.

But I guess the pretty blue speckles aren't all that important. What is important is that it's nonstick and not terribly expensive. I tested the 10-inch triangle shaped pan, and I managed to fit 12 large pierogi in the pan all at once. I've also used it for sauces, steak, and other basic cooking needs.

Do you need a triangle-shaped pan?

I don't know. One good thing about it is that the shape makes it easier to pour things out of the pan. However, you won't have a lid sitting around that will fit it. But the few times I've wanted to cover what I was cooking, I used a round silicone cover and it did what I needed it to do.

By the way, if you don't already have a round silicone cover, you should go buy one. Or a few. It's nice to have them in several sizes, to fit your largest pots and pans, to fit the small ones, and maybe some small ones to put on top of your drink to keep the flying things from diving in. They're great for us in the microwave, too, to keep stuff from splattering.

But, I digress.

Overall, the pan I tested did everything I needed it to. The surface seems pretty durable - it's even metal-utensil safe. It's oven-safe to 500 degrees, which is great if you want to start cooking something on the stove and finish it in the oven. The stainless steel on the bottom helps distribute heat and it also means it can be used on induction cooktops. So you get a lot for your dollars.

If you're looking for a nonstick pan, consider the T-fal line. As far as the triangle shape, that's going to be a personal preference. I can see reasons why it might be useful, but on the other hand, it's not going to nest as well as round pans, if you're short on storage space.

Like many other products reviewed here, I received this at no cost to me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Nope, this isn't something that you have to catch. It's the tasty, saucey child of ...

... drumroll, please ...

Mustard and Ketchup.

When I got the pitch about this product, they talked about how Chicago folks don't use ketchup on hot dogs, but you could use this stuff instead.

I thought that was kind of funny, but perhaps it's true. Perhaps.

I got to sample three versions of MustKetch, the original, the zesty, and the smoky. It's hard to describe this stuff. At one moment, it's like a mustardy ketchup. The it's like a tomato-y mustard. It's different. And kind of orangy-red.

You're saying to yourself that you can just grab ketchup and then mustard and add them separately. Well, sure, you could do that. But this is somehow more than just a blend of two condiments. It has become it's own condiment, if that makes any sense.

So far, I've just used this on burgers and sausages, but I think it would be pretty awesome on a meatloaf sandwich. I'm also thinking about using it as a glaze on meat. The smoky, in particular, is on my list for slathering on pork. Maybe even ribs. Or for adding to a stew, perhaps.

Yup, is might actually be a must catch.

Hehe. I'm funny. But looks aren't everything.

By the way, I did get this at no cost to me. Freebie in mah belly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cosori Multi Cooker

I had a multi-cooker years ago, and I loved that darned thing. It was the replacement for a slow cooker, but it could also saute prior to cooking, which was totally awesome.

Eventually, it got shoved to a corner of the counter and finally it moved itself into storage when the pressure cooker invasion began. Sort of like the British invasion, but without shaggy hair and guitars. I started loving the idea of quick cooking, and they could slow cook when I was in that mood.

Then, I started missing it, because some things just don't fit well into a pressure cooker. So, when the nice folks at Cosori offered me a unit to test, I said yes.

I wasn't familiar with the brand, but after checking reviews online, I saw that users liked their products, and the features looked pretty good. The multi-cooker looked like it was solidly built, and when it showed up it looked like a quality product.

One thing that puzzled me was that the gasket that fits around the lid was not installed, but then it made sense. Users should remove the gasket to clean the lid completely, and having it packed separately makes it obvious that it can be removed and replaced easily. Kind of a smart thing to do.

This critter has a much slicker, shinier, more modern look than the one I had before, One knob selects the type of cooking and the other knob selects time and temperature. There are buttons to start or cancel the cooking process, to select time or temperature to be adjusted, to set the delay timer to start later, and to keep the food warm.

One nice feature is that the handles on the cooking pot have silicone covers, so they're not as hot as screaming hot metal. I'd suggest using pot holders, anyway, when you're removing a hot cooking pot, just to be safe.

First I tested the simmer function using plain water, and it was a nice, perky simmer. I steamed, roasted, and slow cooked, too. I haven't yet baked anything, nor have I made rice or yogurt, but I'm sure those functions are fine, too.

Overall, this is a really nice cooker. The shape is nice, so you can get a roast or a chicken in there, and the cooking pot is nonstick, so it's easy to clean. This came with a chrome-plated rack that fits the pot. The rack has reasonably tall handles, so you can get it out of the cooker easier, even if you've got liquid in the bottom of the pot. I used the rack for steaming and roasting.

Why yes, I did get to test this for free!

Monday, December 10, 2018

DiSaronno wears Trussardi

When they holidays come, it's a sure bet that liquor stores will have displays of a variety of products that are fit for celebrating or for gifting. Some of the most interesting are the limited-edition boxed products, some of which include extras, like fancy glasses.

When the nice folks at DiSaronno emailed me about their limited edition bottles, covered with a design by a fashion designer, I thought, well, sure, I'll take a free sample.

I've loved DiSaronno for a long time. It's great over ice, and there are plenty of cocktails where it fits the glass, too. It's sweet and a little nutty, and it has a nice warmth without being harsh. While I normally think if it as a winter drink, I've also seen it used in an "Italian Margarita" which included lime juice for a refreshing, summery cocktail.

Luckily, the bottles I got were full and not just samples of the design. Lucky, lucky me, right? Not only did I get a single boxed bottle, but also a set that included some pretty glasses, and some three packs of little bottles that would make awesome stocking stuffers. Look for 'em next time you're shopping for beverages - they'd all be darned easy to wrap.

Trussardi is an Italian fashion house, so it's a good pair for the liquor, and the colors are interesting with bright yellow, bright and light pink, pale blue, and orange, among other colors. My inner hippie approves. These are not your usual Christmas colors, so it will look good behind the bar long after the tree is kindling and the presents are no longer new and shiny.

Why yes, I did get these at no cost to me.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Stillhouse Whiskey

Oooooh, lookie here. It's hand packed for ME.

What could it possibly be?

Does it get any better? Okay, sampling is better. The smaller metal flask contains black bourbon that's been "mellowed in coffee beans." I didn't notice a coffee flavor, but this was definitely mellow. No harsh flavor. Smoooooooth. It would be great neat or over ice, but I'll admit that I've been spiking eggnog with it.

Since it's not actually flavored, you could use this in any cocktail that uses bourbon. I'd suggest something where the flavor comes through.

The Apple Crisp Whiskey is corn whiskey infused with apple crisp whiskey. It's got a nice green apple flavor and it's just slightly sweet. Not super sweet, but just slightly. So it would be good for mixing into fruity cocktails. I'm thinking perhaps something with a little lemon or orange. Maybe a bit of cinnamon.

Hush, I'm thinking here.

So many cocktail ideas. So many.

But it could also work well all by itself, over ice.

Wait, could I make a margarita with this? It's not tequila, obviously, but it would pair well with lime. Oh, the possibilities!

The Apple Crisp Whiskey came in a box that would be nice for gifting, and included two shotglasses, plus a pourer that fits the metal flask. Aside from being a unique container, the metal flask and metal accessories also makes this whole thing a lot more sturdy for gifting and sending. If it drops, nothing's going to break.

This is a fairly new company founded in 2016. They've got a bunch of other flavors, too, including spiced cherry (yum), mint chip (yum) and coconut (the dreaded coconut!)

I'll be looking for these at the liquor store. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying my free samples.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dave's Sweet Tooth Toffee

One of my favorite candies is toffee. It's just sooooo good. So when the folks at Dave's Sweet Tooth asked me if I wanted samples, I said "heck no."

No, I'm kidding. Of course I said yes.

This stuff is really good.

The toffee was the perfect texture. Crisp and crunchy, but not so hard that you feel like you're going to crack a tooth. And the flavors were nice.

I'll be honest. I was a tad skeptical about the pumpkin spice, but I was very happy munching on it. The warm spices work well with the chocolate and sweetness. Nothing to complain about here.

But ... I think my favorites were the traditional milk and dark chocolate, along with the coffee toffee. Or maybe I just like saying coffee toffee. Coffeeeee tofffffeeee.

You can order these either in plastic jars or in bags that sort of look like jars. I think I like the bags better. The jars seem sturdier at first glance, but the toffee moved around in the jar and smudged the inside, so it wasn't particularly pretty. The same thing probably happened inside the packages, but you couldn't see it.

Then again, if you need some plastic jars for storage, they could be a pretty good option.

Oh, and these aren't all the flavors. So go check 'em out. Great stocking stuffers. Or stuffers for people who are stuffing stockings.

I got these at no cost to me from Dave's Sweet Tooth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Spiced Ghee

Ghee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee heeee he eeeeeeeee

It's just a fun word. It's butter that has been heated and the solids have been removed so you've got the clarified pure fat that's just a bit toasty. Sure, you can do it yourself, but it's easy to buy these days, too.

One of the cool things about ghee is that although it's made from butter, it doesn't have to be kept refrigerated. You can, if you want, to but you could also tuck it into a convenient cabinet or store it in your pantry.

I recently got a sample pack of spiced ghee from Pure Indian Foods. Interestingly, one of them was called Italian ghee, and it smelled a bit like oregano, but it also had rosemary and thyme. I can imagine using it for toasting gnocchi or other pastas, or for vegetables.

The garlic ghee was appropriately garlicky. I used it on some roasted cauliflower, but it would be pretty awesome for sauteeing shrimp or chicken. Of course, there's always the very obvious garlic bread. Herbs de provence ghee was pretty self-explanatory. Lots of uses for that.

Digestive ghee smelled vaguely minty to me, but the ingredients listed cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Hmmm. This could be good in a dessert, perhaps. Speaking of dessert, the Indian dessert ghee included fennel, cardamom, and saffron. That could be good in shortbread cookies, Or maybe just on toast.

Last, we have Niter Kibbeh ghee, which for sure I've never heard of. It had cardamom, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and nutmeg. Each jar has suggested uses, and this one suggests using it for a curry. I could see that.

The sample pack included small jars, so this would be an awesome stocking stuffer or part of a hostess gift. Or, you know, if you want to taste a bunch of flavored ghees before committing to a larger jar of one of them.

I got these at no cost to me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wusthoff Charcuterie Set

Did you ever get a cheese knife set and then need to read the instructions to see what each knife is used for? And the you lose the instructions and you have these odd knives that you're totally not sure about?

Yeah, me too. A cheesemonger might know, but my cheese needs aren't quite that finicky.

This set is different. It's dubbed a charcuterie set, no doubt because of the robust serrated knife that's supposed to be used for sausage. It's pretty darned obvious that's what it's for. It's got mean teeth. It can handle your pepperoni and your salami and your bratwurst.

The paddle-shaped knife is the perfect device for scooping and spreading pate or soft cheeses onto bread or crackers. It's nice and wide, so you can make one decisive swoop to cover a cracker instead of a bunch of small smears.

The third knife in the set is the one with the holes in the blade. This isn't some kind of metal-saving tactic. The holes are there so that when you slice the cheese, there's less blade surface for it to stick to, so it will release from the knife easier.

While these would look lovely nestled together on your charcuterie platter, that's not what my life is like. I'm more likely to be cutting cheese for a snack, not lovingly placing it on a platter. Schmears of food on a cracker might be pimento cheese or it might be herbed cream cheese, or it might be (gasp!) peanut butter. And that toothed knife? Sure, I might slice sausage, but I might also grab it for slicing a crusty sandwich.

The point (haha, knife pun) is that all of these knives will find uses in your kitchen aside from displaying them on the cheese board once a year. You'll use them a lot.

Like all Wusthof knives, these are well made, and with that comes with a price tag that's not cheap. Honestly, though, I think these are worth it. I have a set in my Amazon cart right now, waiting for Santa to press the button.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Horseshoe Brand Hot Sauces

My relationship with spicy foods is interesting. I don't eat spicy foods all the time, but when I start, I go a little crazy. Spice on everything!

The nice people at Horseshoe Brand sent me some samples of their hot sauces just in time to scratch my spicy itch. I got four bottles, but they've got a LOT more flavors. Which is very cool.

Different peppers have different flavors and different types of heat. And different amounts of heat, too. So, just the choice of peppers makes a difference.

And then they add other flavors, like garlic or kiwi. Some of the sauces are smoother and some have bits of stuff. And there are a ton of different colors of sauces, so you can pick the perfect one to be the right garnish for whatever you're making.

To be honest, I'm kind of enamored with these. They're spicy, but the flavor really comes through. They're not so spicy that one drop is too much. And the multitude of flavors and colors made me happy.

Horseshoe Brand is a small company, and these are said to be handcrafted, and these taste like it. There's just ... something ... about them that made them really appealing. I'm slurping my way through the ones they sent me, and there's a darned good chance I'll be ordering some as well, or seeking them out at my local stores that carry the brand, like Whole Foods.

They also seem to have barbecue sauce, but I haven't had a chance to try those yet. The hot sauces, though ... yum.

Yup, I got these fer free. I'm lucky like that.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Thermoworks Signals

I got my first Thermoworks Thermapen some years ago, when I bought it as a Christmas present for myself. It was a bit of an indulgent purchase. It wasn't quite a budget breaker, but it was a budget stretcher, to be sure. But I'd been wanting one for years.

I was tired of cheap thermometers, like the one that told me that my turkey had reached the internal temperature of an active volcano.

So, I bought the Thermapen, and since then I've added to my collection of their devices When I got an email about the Signals thermometer, I decided that I had to have it, and they offered it to me at a discount. I whipped out that credit card so fast, my wallet didn't even notice the intrusion.

It arrived in record time and I tore open the box.

I'm all about the box tearing.

So, this is a leave-in remote thermometer with space for four different probes. FOUR. It's supposed to be targeted toward professional barbecue folks, but it could be really handy in a lot of kitchens. And it's not like you need to use all the probes at the same time.

One probe is designed to measure air temperature, and it comes with a handy clip that keeps it above the grill grate or oven rack. The other three probes are basic probes like you'd use for meat. But they also have other probes you can buy separately, including one that's waterproof. I might be buying that one, for sure. There is also a probe extension wire, so you can move the base unit even further from the grill or oven.

Oh, but four probes isn't the coolest thing. The coolest thing (puts on geek hat) is the app that you can use to monitor and control the thing. No matter how easy a thermometer is to set, an app can make it easier AND an app can have more features. Like, you can NAME the four different things you're measuring. So, on Christmas, you can have one probe testing the air temperature, one probe in the turkey breast, one probe in the turkey thigh and one probe in the stuffing bread pudding or the ham loaf, and you can tell which is which, because you named all of them. Bill, Joe, Fritz ... no, I mean you'd name them oven, thigh, breast, and side. So when you glance at the app or the thermometer, you wouldn't have to remember if the breast is #1 or #4.

They also included eight little silicone rings, two in each color. I wasn't sure what they were for, so I sent an email to them, and they responded quickly. The idea is that you put the rings on the probes, one on the end that connect to the thermometer, and one on the probe end. That way, if you mix up the wires, you can match the colors to know which probe is in the casserole.

Each probe can be set for minimum and maximum temperatures, so you could use it to see if your ice cream base has chilled enough (I really do need that waterproof probe) or it could warn you when the gravy is starting to take a chill and it needs a little reheat.

Setup on this thing was simple. I mislaid the instruction sheet (okay, it was right under the molded holder for all the stuff that came in the box) but I still was able to turn it on and mess with the temperatures. Then I went to the Google Play store and typed in Thermoworks and the app was right there. I installed that, it suggested that I hadn't added a device, and it walked me through the setup. Easy peasy.

There are no batteries to change. This has a USB connector on the thermometer base and it came with a cord and a plug that you use for charging, so that's pretty convenient. And this comes in several colors, so you can pick a color you like. I got purrrrrple.

This has pretty much everything I could need or want in a remote thermometer. The only thing I can think of that would be nice to have is some kind of pouch to hold all of it. Once the probe wires are unraveled from their very neat packing, they're not going to fit back into the molded plastic holder they were packed in, and I'd rather not have them loose in a drawer. I ended up tossing the plastic and put the thermometer, probes, and the charging plug and cord into the box for storage. That works well enough for now, but I might find them a decorative little box or container instead.

I paid for this, but got a discount.