Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hepp's Salt Passport Collection

Salt is something you'll find in pretty much every kitchen. Even people who don't use salt in cooking probably have some sitting around for guests who want to add salt at the table.

Some people have more than one kind of salt. Perhaps it's a flavored salt. Perhaps it's bigger flakes. Perhaps it's canning salt. And then some other people have a lot of salts.

This passport collection from Hepp's Salt is perfect for people who want to explore different salts, but who don't want to commit to large quantities. It would also be a sweet gift if you have a friend who likes to cook.

The jars are small, but since these are meant as finishing salts, there's enough for several recipes or many plates of food. So they're not just tasters. There's enough to use. And then when you decide that you love the lemon salt but the ghost pepper salt is too scary, you can order just the salts you love the most.

Not only is this a fun collection, the packaging is nice, too. The box holds the little jars neatly and the cover slides on to keep them secure. I could imagine using the jars and the box afterwards for other things. Maybe spices. Maybe crafty things.

My favorite was the lemon, which is nice on a lot of things. Salad, fish, vegetables. The black lava makes a pretty presentation. Imagine it sprinkled on shortbread cookies or eggs. The Thai ginger was different. I've tried flavored salts before, but I don't think I've ever seen a ginger salt.

All of the salts were interesting, though. I loved some more than others, but that's kind of the point of a collection like this. You get a chance to try before you buy the big bottles.

I got these at no cost to me from Hepp's Salt. Besides these salts, they have others that aren't part of this collection. They also have flavored sugars. Yum.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

True Made Sauces

My dad wasn't a particularly demanding guy, when it came to food. Whatever my mom cooked, he was happy with. It helped that she was a pretty good cook, but he was also pretty chill about whatever got put on the table.

I can only think of three times when he said anything negative about food. The first was the great rant about ketchup on a hot dog. The short version is that hot dogs are sausages, and you put mustard on sausage. Ketchup is for burgers and meat loaf.

The second time was when my mom tried instant mashed potatoes. Let's just say that she didn't buy them a second time.

The third was not at all my mom's fault. He read somewhere that a ketchup manufacturer was using sugar beet pulp to help thicken their ketchup. This was well before there were GMOs, and he had nothing in particular against sugar (which he put into his coffee) or sugar beets, when used as a sweetener. What he didn't like was the pulp. It was an impostor!

Prior to this horror, ketchup was thickened using tomato pulp. Allegedly. According to my dad. But I don't actually know for sure. I just remember him being all mad about sugar beet pulp that was being substituted for tasty tomatoes.

The reason this comes to mind is that the nice folks at True Made sent me a selection of their sauces. There was barbecue sauce, ketchup, and sriracha. The labels make a point of saying that these are vegetable sauces, which I thought was kind of odd because I didn't expect to find meat in my ketchup. But their point, really, is that they use a selection of vegetables to make these sauces, and they don't include sugar. Or no sugar beets, I guess. Which would have made my dad really happy. The ketchup label lists tomatoes, butternut squash, carrots, and spinach.

To be honest, I wouldn't have noticed that these were so vegetable-forward if the information wasn't on the label. Which is a good thing. I like it when my food tastes like it's supposed to, and the healthy aspect is just there, in the background.

If you're looking for tasty and less sugary condiments, these are worth a look. If you're not stuck on particular brands and you like trying different flavors, for sure give 'em a try when you see them.

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Degusta Box February 2019

Another month, another box of goodies from Degusta Box. They send me a box every month, at no cost, so I can tell you all about it.

The theme for this month's box was ... hmmm ... I'm not sure. There were some Mexican-related items, but there were others as well. In any case, here's how it went:

Manitou Trading Company Truffle, Parmesan and Black Garlic Seasoning
Okay, I'll admit it. I've been sniffing at this stuff like a bloodhound. Or maybe a truffle dog. I haven't used it yet, but this would be excellent on popcorn. Or chicken, I think. Or anywhere that truffle, parmesan and black garlic would play well. Oh! On potatoes! That would be awesome. So anyway, it's a standard size spice jar full of yum.

Manitou Trading Company Piri Piri Sauce Starter
This is a pouch that you'd use to make a piri piri sauce - which means "pepper pepper" in Swahili - that can then be used for cooking, sauces, dressings, and dips. I haven't tried this yet, but I've had piri piri sauces before. Tasty stuff.

Just Add Guacamole Quick Mix
This was interesting. It's a powder that you add to two avocados when you're making guacamole. It add flavor, but it also helped to keep the guacamole from browning, so it can sit out at a party and not get all brown before the night is over.

Raindrops Candy Taco
This was candy in the shape of a taco. It was a bit much for me, so I passed it along to someone else. It looked interesting, though, and one would be plenty to share.

PB Fit
I've had this stuff before. It's powdered peanut butter with the fat removed. You can make fat-free peanut butter by adding some water to it, or you can add the powder to smoothies or baked goods or wherever you want peanut flavor. They sent three pouches, which is enough to see if you like it before you commit to a big jar.

Sourdough Craft Beer Pretzel Rings
Hey. they're pretzels, Ring-shaped. And they include malted barley and some hops. Good for snacking. I thought they were particularly good with a little smear of pimento cheese. But I'm weird like that.

These are little cups with dehydrated refried beans. You just add boiling water or you add tap water and then microwave it. Then wait and stir. Admittedly, these weren't the best refried beans I've ever eaten, but those take hours. These were ready in no time. When I need a lot of refried beans, I'll probably spend the time with them, but when I want just a little for a few tacos or a side for a single meal, or when I'm craving beans and chips, these make sense. They sent two of these in different flavors, but I've only tried the cheesy one so far.

I freaking LOVE these things after getting my first sample from Degusta Box, and I've gone on to buy them several times. They're triangle-shaped, like a tortilla chop, but they taste like popcorn. The ones they sent this time were spicy queso flavor which was pretty darned good.

Emmy's Organics Coconut Cookies
And here it is, the item with coconut. I really wish coconut wasn't so trendy, since it's showing up everywhere. But hey, other people like coconut, so I found a good home for these cookies. I'm sure they were good. Just not my thing.

So there we go. Lots of stuff, lots of winners. And, no, you can't have my PopCorners. As I mentioned up top, I get these boxes from Degusta Box every month, at no cost to me. Yum.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Renato's Brewing System for Coffee, Tea, and Espresso

Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm a total freak for gadgets. I adore cooking gadgets most of all, but I can get a little giddy about a new lawnmower or power tool, too. When someone sends me a new cooking gadget to test, I'm happy as a clam.

How happy are clams, anyway? Has anyone heard a clam laugh, or even giggle?

I like testing new gadgets even if I already have something similar, and even when the gadget isn't the perfect fit for me or my kitchen. It's just so much fun to set them up and see how they work. Wheeee!

So when I got an email about Renato's new brewing system that's just now on Kickstarter, I ignored the perfectly find coffee maker on my counter. And that other one stored in the garage. And ... well, there might be one more. Does a French press or espresso pot count? Nah, I don't think so.

But I ignored all those and said, sure, send me this thing.

And they did. And they sent pods, because it's a pod-eating device.

Okay, so it doesn't actually eat the pods, but you insert them in the machine, and they disappear. Later, they emerge in the discard container where you can leave them pile up until it's convenient to dispose of them.

It's different, that's for sure. No need to remove the used pod right after brewing.

I really liked the design of the thing. It's a square box-like device and most of what it does is hidden from view. You see a few buttons and the place to set your cup, and you see the liquid coming out, but that's really about it. It's clean look, in shiny black.

It makes three sizes of beverages. One is and espresso shot. One is espresso lungo. And the third doesn't really have a name yet, but it's a larger amount, like you'd use for brewing tea (they sent me green tea, but they have other options, as well.)

Since what I got was a prototype, the manual left out a few bits of details, and a few things were a little fiddly, but I've already been told that all of those are going being buffed and polished before the final units ship. But first, they're raising funds on Kickstarter. So you get your chance to order one of these things for your very own kitchen.

One downside to this device is that you need the proprietary pods, but they say that they're cheaper than those other guys who make pods. To be honest, I haven't compared prices, but it seems like people either love the convenience of pods or they refuse to use them. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. So, this uses pods. You drop them into a hole, push down the lever that's over the hole, and you choose your size of brew. And off it goes, sending coffee or tea or espresso right into the cup that you remember to set under the spout.

Or, it goes into the drip tray because you forgot the cup and you grumble.

Grumble, grumble.

There's a swing-around tray that holds smaller cups closer to the spout, or you swing that around to give you room for a larger cup, like if you're going to fill a cup with steamed milk, for example, and it's not going to fit in that shorter space.

The water reservoir seems like a reasonable size. Big enough so you can brew a lot of shots before you have to refill, but not so huge that it's taking excess space. The reservoir removes from the unit for easy filling and washing, but since it's just holding clean water, it shouldn't need a ton of attention. The drip tray and the container for used pods pulls out so you can empty and clean those.

So, should you kick-start this thing?

I have to say that the espresso I brewed was good (as was the green tea) and it was super-simple to use. Since the pods disappear, you don't have to remove and replace them with each brew, so you can just keep adding pods and brewing more coffee if you're serving a bunch of people. So that's convenient. Of course, you eventually have to empty it, but it's all in one place so you just dump it into the trash, give it a rinse, and you're back in business.

I received a prototype to test at no cost to me.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Degusta Box January 2019

It's a new year, and I'm still getting a free boxes of goodies from Degusta Box every month, so I can tell you all about the stuff in the box. They want you to see what you could get if you subscribe. I'm okay with that.

So here we go.

Chocolate Frey
Hey, Frey, it's a chocolate bar! The difference here is that the bar is more than 25 percent nuts, so you get a lot of nuts in every bite. Edging closer to chocolate covered nuts than a chocolate bar with bits of nuts. And I'm totally fine with that. Totally.

Partners Crackers
Slow-baked crackers. Yum. I love crackers. The ones I got were flavored with olive oil and sea salt. So ... not really strong flavors which is perfect when I'm looking for something to serve with a flavorful cheese and I don't want clashing herbs. I've had these crackers before, and they're pretty danged good.

Idahoan Foods
Instant mashed potatoes, here. Flavored versions. I got cheddar and sour cream as well as smokey cheese and bacon. I used instant mashed potatoes in bread but they're also useful as a thickener for soups and stews. I haven't tried the one with bacon yet, but it sounds pretty interesting. I'm thinking about using it to make a loaded baked potato soup. Sounds good, right?

They sent almond butter snack packets, little single serve goodies that would be good as is or spread on a cracker or with fruit. I got one each of dark chocolate, coconut, and caramel. I've never seen these little packs in the store, but I've seen jars. But if you're sticking something into your purse or backpack, these make a lot more sense than a jar, right?

Breakfast strawberry pillows. Hmmm. These are like a rice breakfast cereal, or maybe a snack. I think I'd opt for a snack. There was also a chocolate version that went into some boxes. This wasn't my favorite concept in the box, but it's certainly different.

La Tortilla Factory (low carb version)
I've bought this brand of tortillas many times, but I've never seen the low-carb version (or more likely, I just didn't look for them) so it's good to know they exist, even though I'm not following a low-carb lifestyle. Because you never know when I might decide to so that, right? These are also high in fiber, so that's a good thing for most of us.

Michel et Augustin cookie squares
Oooh, cookie squares. These were baked in France and had chocolate and hazelnuts. Yum. I like chocolate and hazelnuts! These were wee little things, so not a big calorie commitment, so they were nice as that little sweet thing after dinner without being an actual big dessert.

Lundberg Family Farms grounded snacks
Described as "baked grain bites" I'm not even sure how to describe these. They were flavored with vanilla and chai flavors, so they're an interesting crunchy snack. I know Lundberg Farms from their grain products, like rice for cooking, so I guess it makes sense that they're using their grains to make ready-made products as well.

The name might not be familiar, but the product should be very recognizable. This is a crispy rice treat bar thingie. In a single-serve package. But with a twist, because these had flavors. I got one that was cinnamon churro and one that was strawberries and cream. If you like those crispy treats, these are worth a peek.

Sweet Baby Ray's hot sauce
I know this brand from their barbecue sauce, but this time I got a hot sauce. Apparently this is a new product for them and they say it's got aged cayenne, which is something I've never heard of. I haven't opened it yet because I like to limit the number of open hot sauces in the fridge, but I'll be cracking it open soon. It sounds intriguing, yes? Besides getting a bottle of this hot sauce, there was also a coupon for a free bottle of hot sauce, so this was kind of a two-fer. Sweet!

Why, yes, I do get a free box of goodies from Degusta Box every month.