Tag Archives: Product Reviews

Product Review: Heinz Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup

4 Aug

balsamic vinegar ketchupI do not like ketchup. Ok that’s a lie, it’s just not my favorite. I rarely eat it with fries and when I do it has to be room temperature, not cold. If I’m making my own burger I do not put ketchup on it. I never put it on hot dogs. I mainly use it as an ingredient in recipes like chili and sloppy joes. So, I was a little intrigued when I saw this Heinz Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup when I was shopping one day. The ketchup looked dark and mysterious and I just couldn’t help but throw a bottle into my cart. I even bought burgers so we could grill them up and try out the new condiment.

I am happy to report that the balsamic vinegar ketchup was much more to my liking. It’s a bit more complex and not as tomatoey and bright and boring as regular ketchup. This is a ketchup for grown-ups. As you can see from the picture above, we’ve been plowing through this ketchup. I’ve already bought a second bottle to have on hand.

Bottom line is if you are not a ketchup fan, give this a shot. If you are a ketchup lover, give this a shot. You can’t lose!

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Product Review: Natural Jif Peanut Butter

22 Sep

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While I don’t go out of my way to eat healthy, I do give it a nice go for the most part. Which is why when I saw that the Natural Jif Peanut Butter won America’s Test Kitchen’s peanut butter taste test, I was skeptical, but intrigued. I eat my fair share of peanut butter and was still consuming the regular Jif because I figured a little trans fats wouldn’t kill me and also because I hate the natural kind of peanut butter that you have to stir. It’s too runny and it looks gross and most importantly, doesn’t taste as good. So you can see why I was skeptical when they said that this new natural peanut butter not only tasted better than the regular stuff, it also didn’t require stirring. Alright Peanut Butter, I’m listening. You officially have my attention.

During my next trip to the grocery store, I picked up a jar of the creamy Natural Jif. I would have bought crunchy but for some reason my grocery store didn’t (and still doesn’t) carry the crunchy stuff. When I arrived home, I immediately started my own taste test. I scooped up a spoonful of each peanut butter and tasted them. To my utter shock and amazement, I too liked the Natural stuff better. It had more peanut flavor and was surprisingly much better. I thought “natural” would mean tasteless or bland or somehow inferior, but man was I wrong. Just as important, the texture was just as it should be… nice and thick, not runny or grainy and it looked just like the regular stuff right out of the bottle… no oil slick to be seen.

I have to say this new Natural Jif Peanut Butter is the best I’ve ever tasted and that first jar I purchased was gone in no time flat. Now if I can just get my hands on some of that crunchy kind, I’ll be living in peanut butter heaven. So go on, give it a shot. I promise you’ll love it even if you’re not a tree-hugging hippy!

Product Review: Spam

20 Sep

Up until this weekend I had never tried Spam. I was perfectly content to go through life without sampling the cubed montage of meat. But then Seth and I were at the grocery store and he decided that we needed to be adventurous and give it a shot. I told him he could get it and try it if he wanted, but I couldn’t guarantee compliance from my end.

When we got home from shopping, Seth immediately opened the can, sliced off a piece and ate it. Then he cut off another piece and put it up to my face. After verifying that it wouldn’t make me throw up, I took a tiny bite off the piece he was holding. Not bad… but not great. I thought it tasted a lot like those Vienna Sausages. And if you look closely at the picture above you’ll see that like Vienna Sausages, Spam also has that nasty looking gel on it.

Now to be fair I did try Spam several ways. I tried it plain, on a cracker, and cooked. I did think it tasted best cooked. My honest opinion? I don’t think I’d buy it again, but it wasn’t near as terrible as I thought it would be. I really expected the worst. From now I’ll think of it as square, canned bologna.

Product Review: Freeze Dried Meals

12 Sep

After going a few backpacking trips, I’ve tried a few freeze-dried meals and thought it’d be useful to review some of them. Granted, I haven’t tried a huge variety, but if you need to know of one or two edible meals, this will help you out. If you’re going to be hiking around all day, a general rule of thumb for all of these is that the “2 serving” pouches will feed one hungry hiker. Seth and I both easily ate a pouch each without coming away hungry or overly stuffed. The hot meals also usually take a couple of minutes more than stated on the bag for all the components to get to a normal texture and softness, but no big deal.

Now not only are these great for backpacking and camping, I think they’d also be great for your emergency food storage. Definitely better than opening some slimy MRE or even a can of stew. I know at least Mountain House sells gallon size cans of some of their stuff, so you could buy it in bulk to feed more people. Plus, Mountain House claims their pouches are good for at least 7 years and their larger cans at least 25! Pretty impressive. And I don’t know if this is true for the larger cans (though I assume so), you can pour water directly into the pouch, seal, wait about 10 minutes, and eat right out of the bag. This means no dishes! No getting your hands dirty! All you need is a spoon or fork and you’re ready to go. Even then, I guess you could just shake the bag to mix it up then dump it straight from the bag right into your gaping pie hole. Definitely ok when you’re sitting on a rock out in the wilderness, right?

Mountain House Beef Stroganoff

This is my favorite freeze-dried meal so far. Pretty hard to screw up stroganoff I say. No weird textures with this one… the ground beef, noodles, mushrooms, and sauce all taste great, especially after a hard day of hiking. I’d add a little pepper if you’ve got it, but this is great as-is.

Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef

This is my second favorite freeze-dried meal. The first time we went out backpacking, Seth chose to bring this. I was a little skeptical, but it ended up beating out my lasagna. It has a good amount of spiciness… not too hot or bland. The beans do take a little extra soaking time, but it’s worth it. Only bad thing about this one is with the beans you’ll have even more gassiness than is typical with these freeze-dried meals (unpleasant but true…), so be fair warned.

Mountain House Lasagna with Meat and Sauce

Of the three dinners I’ve tried, this was my least favorite. Still not bad, mind you. It actually tasted really good and would have higher markings, but the cheesy sauce was a bit odd. Mainly it forms a sticky coating on your eating utensil that has to be scraped off your teeth or vigorously washed off. You won’t be able to lick the spoon clean with this one, but it tastes good enough that you probably won’t care.

Mountain House Granola with Blueberries

What’s great about this breakfast is you can use cold water and eat it immediately. There were a ton of blueberries in this and it tasted like a regular bowl of granola cereal. I haven’t tried eating this warm yet, but I’m sure it would be just as good, if not better. My only caveat is that the milk looks sort of separated… not super appetizing, but not horrible by any means. However, if you like granola, read on… I found a new brand of granola I like even better….

Natural High Raspberry Granola with Milk

I normally get the Mountain House Granola with Blueberries, but ended up getting this instead when my local REI was out. And I’m so glad I did! I used 1/2 and 1/2 hot and cold water to make this and I liked it a lot more than the Mountain House granola. The milk was nicely sweetened and looked like regular milk. The raspberries were really delicious as well… just a great ratio and blend of ingredients. Seth ate his cold and really liked it as well. This will be my go-to backpacking breakfast from now on. Yum!

Mountain House Wraps Breakfast Skillet 

As a disclaimer, Seth was the only one to try this. This is intended to be a mixture used to fill a tortilla, but he’d just eaten it plain. “Eat” is loosely used actually. When I asked him what was in it (when trying to select the right product) he said, “The eggs were so awful I barely noticed what else was in there.” He ended up taking a couple bites and throwing the rest away it was so gross, and Seth isn’t one to be super picky about what he eats. So there you have it. Our first (and hopefully, last) complete failure.

Ben & Jerry’s “Late Night Snack” Review

23 Apr

I love me some ice cream. Especially a good high-quality full-fat super delicious ice cream like Ben & Jerry’s. Because of this love I don’t buy ice cream a whole lot because it’s too tempting to eat it all the time. However, I’m also a sucker for new flavors. So when I saw “Late Night Snack,” a flavor newly created for Jimmy Fallon, I knew I must try it. Get this. It’s “vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl and fudge covered potato chip clusters.” Hells yes! A salty/sweet combination is one of my favorites!

So, did this new flavor live up to its name? Well, yes and no. It was really good, don’t get me wrong. I typically favor the vanilla/caramel base over chocolate, so they get points there. And the potato chip thing was a great idea. The problem is, the fudge covers up most of the potato chip flavor. I wish the clusters had either been larger, or less heavily coated in fudge. And I wanted more of them in there. All that being said, I would say this is up at the top of my list as far as Ben & Jerry’s flavors go. It just didn’t beat out Chubby Hubby… my personal favorite.

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: Over $100

9 Dec

Have you got a lot of cash or just want to get your special someone something that’ll rock their world? I guarantee any of these gifts will invoke a squee of delight followed by a smothering of kisses. Even if your cook is a man.

KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer

Price: ($320)

This may be the most desired item of any cook. Hell, I HAVE one and I still want one! KitchenAid mixers are so durable and will perform any task you put in front of them whether it be mixing stiff cookie dough, kneading bread dough, or whipping egg whites. The other great thing about these mixers is that they have tons of attachments available such as food slicers/shredders, juicers, meat grinders, and even an icecream maker! The thing that always draws me in is all the colors that are available. You’ll want to keep the color of your cook’s kitchen in mind, but try and get one of these babies in one of the fun colors. I can’t decide which one I like best… orange, blue, red… beautiful! Also, there are several models of KitchenAid mixers available and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The base price for their Classic 4 1/2 qt. model is $180.

 

KitchenAid 12-Cup Food Processor

Price: $170

I honestly didn’t know how much I’d actually use a food processor. Imagine my surprise when it became my most favorite appliance. I like this thing even more than my KitchenAid mixer. I use it for everything! Making dips, shredding cheese, slicing potatoes and carrots, crushing graham crackers,  making pie crust… and the list keeps going. I don’t know what I did without this thing. The great thing about this particular model is it comes with a mini bowl and blade which is great when you only need to process a small amount and/or the main bowl is dirty! Did I mention I love this thing?

 

Anolon Titanium 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set

Price: $260

I have had this particular set of pans for about 5 years now and it’s still going strong. I use every piece in the set on a regular basis. My favorite piece is probably the sauté pan. It works great for one-dish meals and it’s huge! The great thing about these pans is they’re oven safe so you can use one pan for the whole cooking process. I’ve used only wood and plastic utensils while cooking with these and the nonstick coating is still going strong.

 

Le Creuset 7 1/2 Qt. Dutch Oven

Price: $260

Oh man, nothing…NOTHING makes my heart sing like this Le Creuset pot. Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I’ve got my cast iron skillets but have yet to add one of these babies to my collection. And at $260 I’m sure you can guess why. But, if you’ve got the extra dough, I can guarantee you this would definitely be a winning gift. Like the KitchenAid mixers these pots come in a myriad of colors and sizes. They are incredibly sturdy and anyone who has had the pleasure of cooking with cast iron knows how well they hold their heat. This thing will last forever and is definitely worth the investment.

 

Shun Santoku 7″ Knife

Price: $130

I’ve had this knife for 5 years now and I still love it. It is so sharp and cuts through potatoes like butter. The D-shaped handle is comfortable to hold and the thin blade makes chopping and dicing so easy. Plus, look at this thing… isn’t it so incredibly beautiful? I love to just look at it! In fact, get an extra one to frame and hang on the wall. It’s art!  If you have more money than you know what to do with, go ahead and splurge on their 23-piece Megablock Knife Set with Bamboo Block  for $2,000. Just don’t put these in the dishwasher or I’ll beat you myself.

 

Well, that’s it folks. If you’ve still got money left after all that, you’ll just have to go buy a Lamborghini or something. Let me know if you decide to get any of these items for your cook and how they like them (I mean the cheap stuff too!). Good luck!

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: $100 or less

8 Dec

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups (Set of 8 ) 

Price: $55

I know. $55 for a set of measuring cups sounds crazy, but hear me out. This set of measuring cups is the only one I could find with all of the criteria I would like in a set of measuring cups. First, it has to be stainless steel with the measurements stamped into the metal. I have a plastic set of measuring cups with the measurements printed on them and they are almost unreadable now.  Also, I’m not sure why this is, but 90% of the measuring cup sets out there are only 4 pieces: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, & 1/4 cup. HELLO? What about the 2/3 cup and 3/4 cup sizes?! Why is it so hard to find a set with these measurements included? I use mine all the time! And if your cook is anything like me, they only have one of each of these measurement sizes and  they’re always dirty! Ok so last criteria is, there has to be a smooth transition from the cup to the handle… no little notches where extra flour and such can gather. Believe me, I looked high and low and this is the only set I found that had everything I wanted. If you can find another cheaper one, be my guest.

 

Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” 2-Volume Boxed Set: Deluxe Edition

Price: $65

I saw this set at Barnes and Noble the other day and immediately began to covet. The Mastering the Art of French Cooking books are a staple in any cook’s  collection and this particular set is definitely a beautiful option. If your chef doesn’t have these books and you’re a little short on funds, there are less fancy versions available including this hardcover set for $56 and these paperback versions (Volume 1 $20 and Volume 2 $20) for a total of $40.

 

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Price: $58

These Oxo bowls are not only beautiful, but also very functional. They have a rubber coating on the outside that keeps the bowls from sliding around, a common problem with regular stainless bowls. These clean up easily and are extremely durable, plus the 3 different sizes allow them to be used for every kitchen need. Don’t have the cash for these bowls? Don’t worry! Oxo also makes a very nice 3 piece set of plastic bowls for just $25.

 

Personalized Cake Pan Set from ‘The Cake Pan Lady’

Price: $64

 

I originally saw these pans on The Pioneer Woman’s website. I immediately loved them. The great thing about these pans is how high quality they are. It’s very rare to find a cake pan with a matching metal lid these days. Plus, there are so many cute designs to choose from and they’re personalized! You can choose the color you want (black, blue, green, red, and natural aluminum), how you want the name printed, and what picture you would like. And it’s easily identifiable at a potluck! You can get both a 9×13″ cake pan and 9×9″ brownie pan for a total of $64, or get them separately for $33 (cake pan) and $31 (brownie pan). So cute! 

 

Magnetic Spice Tins

Price: $75 for 25 tins

Ok so you can buy these tins individually for $3. However, if your cook is anything like me, they have about a billion spice jars. I have 28 at the moment and I could buy 15 more without batting an eyelash. I keep my spice jars on the side of the fridge next to the stove, but you could also mount them to a sheet of metal on the wall. They look so beautiful and make spices much more organized and easy to find. Plus, they make some cute spice jar labels to go with them!

Still have a bunch of cash burning a hole in your pocket? Don’t worry, we’ve got a motherload of fabulous gifts over $100 coming up next!

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