Showing posts with label subscription box. Show all posts
Showing posts with label subscription box. Show all posts

24 March 2018

Special Delivery From Taste of Home: Winter 2018

The Winter 2018 Special Delivery From Taste of Home subscription box arrived around the holidays and I was just too busy to deal with it so I did what I always do -- stuffed it in the back of the coat closet until there was time to appreciate it properly!


Excuses, excuses. What's in the box?

Now Designs Planta Bowl Cover (Not shown in photo, because in use) -- Eco-friendly cotton shower cap for your bowls. I scoffed when I first saw this -- my storage bowls all have lids. Why would I need this? And then, the very same day, I made a cookie dough that needed to be chilled for three hours and this cotton cap covered my KitchenAid stand mixer's bowl perfectly and I've been using it ever since. These appear to be sold in sets of two ($15.00 from Now and $14.95 from Amazon), so I'm a little sore I only received one.

Oxo Good Grips Vegetable Brush -- I will confess I've never owned a vegetable brush before. When I've need to scrub a particularly dirty vegetable, I've just broken out the nail brush and gone to town. This brush has very firm bristles and is about the size of a computer mouse. I like that the body is nonslip and that the entire thing is dishwasher safe. I would never have bought it for myself, but now that I have it I will retire the nailbrush to the bathroom where it belongs. Retails for $4.99 on the OXO site and Amazon.

Chef'n Looseleaf Kale & Greens Stripper -- Okay. So. My mom gave me one of these for Christmas and it's excellent at what it does. I know it looks gimmicky as all get out, but it works. I've used it on kale, turnip greens, and basil. Retails for $7.99 on the Chef'n site and $7.95 on Amazon.

Cherchies Pasta e Fagioli Soup Mix -- This seems to be the older version of the soup currently offered on Cherchies' site. This soup requires I rinse and soak the beans first, whereas the new quick-cooking version for sale does not. The ingredients seem pretty standard and I will make this soup because cold weather = soup, but I really wish it had slow cooker instructions.

Lodge Mini Magnetic Trivet -- Dishwasher safe, silicone and rare-earth round magnetic trivet that can protect countertops and tables from pot bottoms heated up to 450°F. This trivet fits all my Le Creuset cookware, including my oval 3⅓ quart Dutch oven, round 7¼ quart Dutch oven, and Signature 10¼" skillet. It works well and I would buy another. Retails for $10 on the Lodge site and $6.51 on Amazon.

DollarDays Inspirational Wall Plaque -- Small (8.625" x 2.75") painted wooden plaque that says "FAMILY, may this home be filled with love and laughter." I have no strong feeling for or against this time. It's just ... ehh. Price per unit, according to DollarDays, is $1.40.

Taste of Home Comfort Food Makeovers -- A collection of lightened-up "family favorite" recipes, including appetizers and sweets as well as main dishes. I haven't made anything from it yet, but I have (as usual) studded the book with sticky notes and I'll probably end up making the "Pineapple Oatmeal" before the month is out. This is a 2015 cookbook currently retailing on Amazon for $12.23 and on the Shop Taste of Home Store for $12.99.

$10 Coupon for the Shop Taste of Home Store -- I ended up purchasing Taste of Home 100 Family Meals and Taste of Home Bake Shop Favorites for $13.83, including shipping. These are cookbooks I've borrowed from my library in the past and felt it was worth having copies of my own. So, yes, the coupon is good value.

Special Delivery from Taste of Home Recipe Cards -- Six cards, all focused on winter comfort foods. So far, I've made the "Warm Tasty Greens With Garlic" (used my Chef'n greens stripper, yo) and the "Pinwheel Steak Pot Pie." I enjoyed making both recipes and The Husband definitely enjoyed eating the pot pie.

While I have been impressed by the quality of the revamped TOH subscription box service and enjoyed finding a new box of surprises on my doorstep every few months, I've decided it's time to call it quits. I have, frankly, too much stuff and don't need more. Cancelling was very easy -- I exchanged a few emails with Reader's Digest Customer Service and that was it. The end.

Read about my experiences with Special Delivery and its precursor, Taste the Seasons.

07 December 2017

Special Delivery From Taste of Home: Fall 2017

The revamped Taste of Home subscription box service -- formerly Taste the Seasons, but now Special Delivery From Taste of Home -- continues to be wonderful and the autumn box was full of so many nice things.


Taste of Home Taste of Home Holidays & Celebrations -- A 2015 publication. Broken into seasons, this cookbook covers all the major secular American holidays as well as more casual events like pool parties and afternoon tea. I'm hosting Christmas this year, so the winter section is currently quite thick with sticky notes. The Beef Tenderloin With Mushroom-Wine Sauce or Roger Bowld's Salt-Encrusted Prime Rib are currently vying for entree.

Oxo Good Grips Dough Mixer With Blades. I already own this pastry blender and it works really well for dough ... and egg salad. I will probably give this new one away as a door prize during the library cookbook swap I'm organizing for April.

Tovolo Precision Pie Cutter. It's a compass for your pie crust! Attach the edge blade you desire -- loose wave, tight wave, scalloped and straight -- plonk the "pivot" end down on the middle of your rolled dough, then rotate the arm around to cut the prettiest circular crust. I have not actually tried this yet -- pie crust is my nemesis -- but it looks pretty easy. Maybe, I'll make a chicken potpie?

Kitchen Envy Small Silicone Baking Mat. A 9"x12" flexible nonstick baking liner. Perfectly fits my quarter sheet pan. My mat came rolled up in a tube, but flattened right out when I unrolled it. It feels nice and sturdy, as if it will last a while, and I like that it is pre-marked for optimal cookie, etc placement.

Fire & Flavor Turkey Perfect Herb Brine Kit. I've never brined a turkey before -- it just seemed like a lot of effort and I've always had a vague feeling I'd managed to do it wrong and ruin dinner -- but the display of Fire & Flavor brine kits are Bed, Bath and Beyond were seriously tempting me last month, so I'm glad this came in the fall box. The kit includes brine mix, brining bag, recipes, and instructions. I just supply the turkey, water, sugar, vinegar, and ice.

Gustus Vitae Rosemary Lemon Sea Salt Gourmet Salt. This flavor was developed exclusively for Taste of Home which is a little frustrating. On the one hand, it's cool I have a unique product unavailable to anyone else. On the other, I will not be able to acquire more of it. And it is yummy stuff. Currently, my favorite use is to sprinkle it over hot popcorn, but it's really good on salmon, too. The tin is magnetic so it can stick to your fridge or whathaveyou, but I find the lid leaks a little and so prefer to store it flat in my spice drawer.

My Spice Sage Cinnamon Stick Chunks. My Spice Sage products make a regular appearance in Taste of Home boxes and I'm always pleased to see them as they're always good quality. This cinnamon sticks are broken into one-inch chunks which makes them easier to fit into mulling spice balls or herb bags. So far, I've used some of mine to make "Slow Cooker Spiced Apple & Pear Butter."

Again, I continue to be impressed by this revamped subscription box service and look forward to seeing what the Winter Special Delivery From Taste of Home box has in store for me. Read about my experiences with Special Delivery and its precursor, Taste the Seasons.

28 August 2017

Special Delivery From Taste of Home: Summer 2017

So. My quarterly subscription box from Taste of Home has arrived and it's been rebranded. No more "Taste the Seasons" -- now it's "Special Delivery From Taste of Home." And, beloveds, it is sooo much better. So. Much.

The white and red box I saw sitting on my front steps when I pulled in the driveway after work was so visually distinct that I immediately knew it could not be anything as humdrum as an Amazon delivery or medical supply order. It was even nicely shrink-wrapped so the box itself had stayed fresh and clean during shipping. I admit my heart did a pleasant little skip of anticipation when I picked up the box and felt how heavy it was. Unwrapping it and opening it felt like opening a really nice present to myself.


Which is exactly the experience I want when I open a subscription box. I want to feel excitement, happiness, and anticipation -- not the vague miasma of suspicion and disappointment that's carried me through recent Taste the Seasons boxes. And the stuff that was attractively arrange inside this summer box ... wow.

Looking over the contents of the summer Special Delivery box, it felt like Taste of Home had made a sincere effort to collect interesting and unique quality, seasonal items. This box feels curated. I could not be more pleased or excited. So glad I did not cancel my subscription, after all.

Anyway, what's in the box? So. Many. Things.

Taste of Home Backyard Barbecues: 405 Dishes for Sizzling Celebrations -- A 2014 publication. It is, like every other Taste of Home cookbook I own, now larded with sticky notes. I have made precisely two recipes from this cookbook -- "Cilantro Couscous Salad" and "Grilled Veggie Quesadillas" -- but they were both easy and delish.

50% off Simple & Delicious Binder Cookbook offer -- Simple & Delicious magazine is my favorite TOH pub and this is a really good deal on a 2016 publication, but I do not need to be buying more cookbooks. No.

Three Three Pigs Tavolo Pan Scrapers -- Have used one of these several times now to scrape clean my enameled cast iron French oven after burning a little food to the bottom (don't read and cook, kids). Took off most of the cooked-on bits and was fairly comfortable to hold. They do seem a bit thin so I was glad to get a set of three as I don't know how long they'll each last.

Tavolo Strawberry Huller -- Have you seen the food hack that involves hulling strawberries with a straw? The Tavolo strawberry huller is much, much better. It doesn't bend or break like a plastic straw, is more comfortable to hold, and the cut-out makes it much easier to clean. It reminds me of a very smaller, more attractive, version of my favorite OXO apple corer and works just as well. The huller is one of those things I would never have thought to buy for myself, but am glad to have.

Chef'n Twist'n Sprout -- I admit I haven't tried this product yet as summer simply isn't the time for Brussels sprouts. However, we're definitely headed toward roasting weather and I expect to start finding sprouts at the farmers market soon. As far as I can tell, I jab a sprout onto the little simply press Brussels sprouts onto the jabby-sticky-out-part and give it a twist to remove the sprout's stem and core. I presume it will also remove any loose leaves, too. Not sure how much my wrists will love it ...

Skoy Scrub 2 pack -- I was a little leery of this, as I'm a bit snobby about my scouring pads (I'm a Dobie girl), but the one I've used has worked surprisingly well and seems indestructible. I've used it to get baked on gunk off casseroles and dried cheese off serrated knives with no damage to the scouring pad at all. I just throw it in the dishwasher once a week (top rack) and it stays new-looking and fresh smelling.

My Spice Sage Garlic Pepper Rub -- My Spice Sage products make a regular appearance in Taste of Home boxes and I'm always pleased to see them as they're always good quality. This rub is a blend of garlic, black Pepper, salt, red bell pepper, and parsley. It's very peppery and garlicky, which I enjoy. So far, I've rubbed it into pork tenderloin and split bone-in chicken breasts with equally tasty results.

Amora Coffee Elegante Blend -- Smells fabulous, but we're not coffee drinkers (I enjoy the scent, but the taste ... nopenopenope) so I'll be passing this along to someone who can appreciate it. Or ... maybe I'll save it for winter baking!

Nawrap Handkerchief -- I was very "What the twee hell is this?" when I saw the sea life-themed handkerchief, but then I realized how handy it would be to have in my lunch box as either a placemat or napkin. It's also quite cute as a decorative liner for a muffin basket or whathaveyou. It's very sturdy and handles washing well (it's a cotton-rayon blend, so line dry). Again, nothing I would ever have bought myself, but definitely enjoy having.

Johnny's Selected Seeds Genovese Basil -- Much too late to start basil seeds for this year's garden! Hopefully, they will keep until next spring. (I haven't had a problem keeping extra seeds from one year to the next, but one never knows).

Envelope of recipe cards -- Six tempting recipe cards. I'd argue the Brussels sprouts recipe is not summery, but at least it's in there to give you an idea what to do with all the sprouts you cored using the Twist'n Sprout! To be fair, I am going to make that recipe ... just not now. Of the remaining cards, I have made the "Herbed Lemon Pork Chops" and the "Minty Watermelon-Cucumber Salad." The Spice Sage rub worked well in the pork chop recipe (I also used fresh garden herbs, instead of dried) and they were very tender and flavorful. The salad was extremely refreshing, although I had to halve the recipe as it was just me eating it.

Again, I am really impressed by the summer box and look forward to seeing what Special Delivery From Taste of Home will bring me in autumn. Read about my experiences with Special Delivery's precursor, Taste the Seasons.

24 July 2017

Taste of Home: Taste The Seasons Goodie Box: Spring 2017

The spring Taste of Home Taste The Seasons subscription box arrived way long time ago now and I was so decidedly underwhelmed by it that I just packed it away until such a time came that I felt I could actually talk about it with some kind of enthusiasm. Which has not really happened, but the summer box arrived last week and, wow, I am a terrible blogger.

The spring Taste The Seasons box is just ... eh. Honestly, it feels like a collection of unrelated odds and ends -- as if someone was cleaning out the TOH junk drawer, dumped it in a box, and mailed it to me. I can see the TOH folks tried to tie the items together in the text of the insert -- "this honey is just what you need for the Asian Glazed Chicken Thighs" and "try it in place of Montreal Seasoning on the BBQ Chicken bites" -- but it's not enough. (Although, both recipes are easy and delish).

I'd probably be less annoyed if I hadn't completed, over the past year, multiple TOH surveys about the Taste the Seasons subscription box service. I feel I've been very clear about what I liked or didn't like and what I'd like to see more or less of. And then this arrives and I feel very nopenopeNOPE about the whole thing. I can only presume my feels are very different from those of everyone else who answered the surveys.


So. Some of the items are quite nice. I've already studded TOH's Simple, Easy, Fast Kitchen cookbook with sticky notes. Spice Sage seasoning blends are always a treat. And I'm not going to sneer at a wee jar of Dickinson's delicious golden honey.

But. More. Muffin huggin' metal cookie cutters. Just no, Taste of Home. You can't make me bake rolled cookies. Even if they would be shaped like a adorable bunnies and spring tulips.


As for the Brainstream beep-egg classic floating egg timer -- a plastic musical egg that sings when your eggs are done boiling -- it's kind-of a cute idea. It's very existence feels like a gentle German joke and I like that it sings different tunes for different boil levels but then I own a singing Japanese water boiler and rice cooker so, of course, I would find a singing egg timer cute. However, I am completely turned off by the thought of boiling a plastic-encapsulated battery.


Meh to the flimsy Taste the Season daily list magnetic pad. I've been using it as a regular shopping list/note pad and ignored all the hours printed on it because I already have an app, wall calendar, and daily planner book for organizing my life.

Also meh to the Tovolo silicone anchor breakfast shaper. I like the idea of breakfast shapers -- even own a set of Star Wars pancake molds. But. An anchor? For spring? Why not the bee and hive or ladybug and flower sandwich shapers? They are similarly priced and look much more seasonal.


Also a great big NOPE to the 11-piece measuring set. After having received OXO products in the three previous boxes, these molded plastic cups and spoons are a comedown. Also, I already own multiple (nicer) measuring sets, thus I have no need for these. (I've taken the measuring set and breakfast shaper to work where we'll find some use for them during crafternoons).

Overall, this box left me with mixed feelings. It wasn't seasonal enough and some of the items did not appeal to me at all. However, other items were exactly what I would have wished for. I don't know ... this box is best summed up with a shrug.

Read about my other (more pleasing) experiences with Taste the Seasons.

02 March 2017

Taste of Home: Taste The Seasons Goodie Box: Winter 2017

The winter Taste of Home Taste The Seasons subscription box it arrived just before Christmas, but I didn't have time to deal with it so it went into the hall closet and there it stayed until ... mid-February, when I realized I'd better get a crack on before spring arrived!



Here's what I found in the winter box:
  1. Access code for three months of free online cooking classes at Salted
  2. Taste of Home Kitchen Companion special edition magazine (Fall 2016)
  3. Taste of Home Soups cookbook (2015)
  4. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  5. Taste of Home Dot-to-Dot
  6. My Spice Sage Adobo seasoning
  7. OXO ladle
  8. OXO slotted spoon
  9. 2 metal seasonal cookie cutters
Overall, I am very pleased with the contents of the winter box. Aside from the ubiquitous metal cookie cutters, everything in this box is very appealing and interesting. I've needed a proper ladle for yonks (a gravy spoon is not an effective substitute), but have been too lazy/cheap to shop for one. The slotted spoon is also, unsurprisingly, a nice improvement over the silicone one I picked up for a dollar at Big Lots. Booth spoons have a nice heft and are quite sturdy, the "good grips" handle is actually a good size for my wee, girlish hands, and the bowls of the spoons are large enough to scoop up a proper portion. I was a little worried the holes in the slotted spoon would be too big for foods like peas and corn, but that has not been the case. (However, I do think the tiny "spring" peas will slip right through the holes and, obviously, you can't use the slotted spoon with orzo or rice).

The Taste of Home Kitchen Companion magazine and Soups cookbook are delightful. So many delicious and surprising recipes in each! Yes, there can be a preponderance of dairy, but we're talking about cold weather comfort food, after all. I was really taken with the recipe for "Rainbow Hash" -- coconut oil, sweet and purple potatoes, carrots, kale/spinach, and garlic -- and have made it twice now (once with kale and a purple potato and once with spinach and two sweet potatoes). The color is beautiful (even without the purple potato) and the hash is just bursting with flavor. Pair it with soft poached or runny fried eggs for a healthy, filling breakfast.


Interestingly, the Soups cookbook is not just soups, but includes many recipes for sandwiches and breads to pair with the soups. I love soup and eat it year-round so I expect this cookbook will see a lot of use. So far, I have made the "Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup" (paired with easy yeasty "Herb Focaccia Rolls" from Taste of Home Kitchen Companion) and the "Southwestern Bean Chowder" (so filling and nutritious).

Making the "Herb Focaccia Rolls" allowed me to use some of the yeast that came with the Autumn box! I generally avoid yeast breads and rolls, because yeast fills me with dread, but these rolls were dead easy to make and I am now inclined to try other yeasty recipes.

I do wish I'd opened this box a little sooner as many of the "Most Requested" recipe cards were suitable for winter holiday entertaining. In particular, I would love to have served the "Ensenada Shrimp Cocktail" and "Marinated Olive & Cheese Ring" at our Cards Against Humanity party. Oh well, we're just about due for another night of Secret Hitler ...

Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and free access online cooking classes (which are always awesome). You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at over $80 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.

08 December 2016

Cooking with Spiced Pantry: Sweden

October's Spiced Pantry box was all about the flavors of Sweden! Rather like with Morocco, I could smell the contents before I even opened the box and it got me craving gingerbread something terrible. Is gingerbread even Swedish? Pepparkakor is definitely gingerbreadish.

I have to admit that the little I know about Swedish cuisine comes from the Pleasant Company's Kirsten Larson American Girl Doll books (and Kirsten definitely ate some kind of ginger biscuit) and marathoning Crimes of Passion, based on works by the Swedish crime novelist Maria Lang (not much about food, there).


So what is this Spiced Pantry, anyway? Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them. Recipes usually serve 4-6 people so, if you are small household like mine, either expect leftovers or be prepared to halve the recipes.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, most of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

Ingredients in October's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Ground cardamom
  2. Caraway Seeds
  3. Juniper Berries
  4. Stockholm Spice Blend

Recipes in October's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Braised Creamy Cabbage With Caraway
  2. Cardamom Buns
  3. Salmon with Mustard & Juniper
  4. Swedish Meatballs
  5. Swedish Potatoes Au Gratin


"Swedish Meatballs" were AWESOME. One of the best, if not the best, recipe I've made from a Spiced Pantry box. The Husband really enjoyed them, too, and there was a bit of a squabble over the leftovers. My mother and aunts always made Swedish meatballs at Christmas and I thought theirs were good, but this recipe put them to shame. The tender meatballs are packed with delicious flavor and smothered in the most heavenly creamy sauce that manages to taste rich without being heavy.


The "Swedish Potatoes Au Gratin" were also very pleasing and, while so creamy and cheesy, not heavy. A nice take on the French Gratin dauphinois with a touch of Scandinavian spice. Definitely something you want seconds of. The gratin was a little runny when it first came out of the oven, but I gave it fifteen minutes on the kitchen side and it set up nice.

My potatoes were getting a bit gnarly, so I peeled them, but I might leave them unpeeled next time for a little more texture and color. Also, maybe, add thinly sliced leeks and garlic, because more alliums is almost always better!

Looking forward to November's box, featuring the flavors of Vietnam. I know nothing about Vietnamese food that isn't phở or bánh mì, so this should be exciting!

Read about my other Spiced Pantry experiences.

10 November 2016

Cooking with Spiced Pantry: Morocco

September's Spiced Pantry box was all about the flavors of Morocco. I know very little about the food of Morocco, but had images of aromatic spice bazaars, mounds of Mediterranean fruit, and beautifully glazed earthenware tagines in my head when I fetched the box in from the mailbox. I could smell its spicy contents long before I even opened it (must have drive the postie mad) and then, when I did, I felt almost drunk on the heady perfume created by the spices.


So what is this Spiced Pantry? Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them. Recipes usually serve 4-6 people so, if you are small household like mine, either expect leftovers or be prepared to halve the recipes.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, most of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

Ingredients in September's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Chermoula Spice Blend
  2. Dried Moroccan Pink Rose Petals
  3. La Kama Spice Blend
  4. Ras El Hanout

Recipes in September's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Carrot & Chickpea Tagine
  2. Chicken Tfaya with Couscous
  3. Moroccan Lentil Salad
  4. Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
  5. White Fish Chermoula


The recipe card for the "Moroccan Pumpkin Soup" indicated I could use vegetable broth and coconut milk, if I wanted to make this vegan, so that's what I did. The soup was very easy to make and quite tasty. While it's very aromatic, it doesn't taste particularly strongly of spice -- the spice is there to support and enhance the pumpkin, which it does well. That said, when I make it again (I have 5 more cans of post-Thanksgiving clearance pumpkin in the pantry), I will add more spice and a smidge more heat.


The "Carrot & Chickpea Tagine" was fabulous -- both sweet and savory, with a hint of heat, and very easy to put together. Really, a recipe worth repeating. I forgot the fresh herb garnish, but didn't miss it. As the recipe card suggested, I used vegetable broth (to keep it vegetarian) and currants (because currants are awesome).

Looking forward to cooking up October's box next as December (I am sadly behind, yes) seems the perfect time to experiment with the flavors of Sweden. Juniper, cardamom, caraway... mmm. Might want to dust of that bottle of aquavit!

Read about my other Spiced Pantry experiences.

03 November 2016

Taste of Home: Taste the Seasons Goodie Box: Fall 2016

The Taste of Home Taste the Seasons fall goodie box arrived early last month, but, what with one thing and another, I didn't get to it until recently. What can I say? These days I am sloooow and disorganized blogger. Anyway, despite the Christmas displays everywhere, it's still autumn for another six weeks.

Oops! Forgot to put the cookbook back in the box before I snapped the pic.

Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and access to TOH's online Cooking School (the classes are always awesome). You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at $75 to $90 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Here's what I found in the fall box:
  1. Access code for free online access to 2 Cooking School courses
  2. Discounted subscription offer to Taste of Home magazine (77% off)
  3. Taste of Home's Cookies, Bars, & More cookbook
  4. My Spice Sage Cinnamon Flavored Sugar
  5. OXO Cookie Scoop
  6. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  7. Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast packets & brochure w/ coupon
  8. Metal dough scraper
  9. Maple leaf & candy corn-shaped metal cookie cutters

While I really wasn't thrilled by the metal cookie cutters as I just don't do that kind of cookie, I was pleased with everything else in the box and thought it was, overall, decent value (even if not quite the value TOH suggests). Alas, cookie cutters were in the summer box, too, so I expect to see them again in winter and spring ...

Maybe the universe (or, at least, TOH) is trying to tell me something? Is it time to embrace rolled cookies?


The cookbook, Cookies, Bars, & More is full of delicious-sounding cookie recipes and I've already liberally dotted the "Classics With a Twist" and "In the Pan" chapters with sticky notes. The OXO cookie scoop was very welcome, because while I own two other scoops, they are not that size (1½ Tbsp). Now I can take that item off my Amazon wish list and replace it with, say, America's Test Kitchen's Food Processor Perfection: 75 Amazing Ways to Use the Most Powerful Tool in Your Kitchen (IS THAT AN UNSUBTLE ENOUGH HINT VIS-A-VIS CHRISTMAS GIFT SHOPPING???).


Of the recipe cards, I have made the "Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars" and "Red Apple Butter Bars" with pleasing results -- my coworkers seemed quite taken by the apple bars, anyway, and there was nothing left by afternoon break. I actually made the pecan bars with hazelnuts so The Husband would eat them as I thought they were, in every other way, the perfect cookie for him. He must have liked them, because they're disappearing at a rapid pace. They were intensely chocolaty and reminded me a bit of my Mom's Toll House cookie bars ... but better. The apple bars were more like dense bars of apple crisp than cookie. Tasty, yes, but messy.


As for the yeast ... I've never done much baking with yeast as I am intimidated by it. I have made the basic loaf from Jeff Hertzberg's The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day several times with perfectly edible results, but have yet to get "fancy." However, one of the fall box recipes cards is for "Southwest Pretzels" and pretzel aren't that fancy. Surely, I can make pretzels! One of these days ...

While I do continue to think Taste of Home has somewhat over-valued the contents of the box, I'm still glad I subscribed for the year (at a discounted rate) and am looking forward to the winter box. Just, hopefully, no more cookie cutters! Maybe, a nice seasonal tea towel? Or more free magazines, like the summer box?

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.

26 September 2016

Cooking With Spiced Pantry: México


Celebrating the cuisine of México with July's Spiced Pantry box! Yes, I know it's September. I'm still a little behind from the summer's busyness.

Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them. Recipes usually serve 4-6 people so, if you are small household like mine, either expect leftovers or be prepared to halve the recipes.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, several of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

Ingredients in July's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Al Pastor Spice Blend
  2. Ancho Chile Powder
  3. Dried Guajillo Chile
  4. Masa Harina

Recipes in July's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Al Pastor Tacos (Tacos Al Pastor)
  2. Elote (Grilled Corn)
  3. Enchiladas Rojas
  4. Tortillas
  5. (Bonus Recipe) Mexican Hot Chocolate

Enchiladas Rojas

These enchiladas were quite a lot of fun to make! I did cheat and use the meat of a rotisserie chicken, rather than poach a pound of boneless breasts, and doubt anyone could have told the difference. The recipe came with a black bean option and, next time, I think I'd use a combination of beans and chicken for extra flavor and texture.

I'd never cooked with dried peppers before and the whole experience was very interesting. Happily, the recipe's instructions were clear and, by following them as written, I ended up with a sauce I was quite proud of. While the sauce tasted quite spicy licked from a spoon, the overall dish was only mildly spicy -- by which I mean we could feel a gentle bloom of heat at the back of our throats and a very slight tingling on the lips.

Read about my other Spiced Pantry experiences.

12 September 2016

Taste of Home: Taste the Seasons Goodie Box: Summer 2016

I swear it is not my intention to fill this blog with subscription box reviews! That said, I want to talk about the Taste of Home Taste the Seasons: Summer Goodie Box I received in July.


Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and access to TOH's online Cooking School. You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at $75 to $90 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Here's what I found in the Summer box:
  1. Access code for free online access to 2 Cooking School courses
  2. American flag cupcake/cake picks
  3. Betty Crocker-branded silicone basting brush
  4. Great Flavors' Steak, Chop, & Broil seasoning blend
  5. June/July issue of Country Woman
  6. June/July issue of Simple & Delicious
  7. OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer
  8. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  9. Taste of Home Frosty Treats & More cookbook (2015)
  10. True Citrus sampler pack (7 sticks; 1 of each flavor) & coupons
  11. Watermelon slice & flip-flop cookie cutters

While I'm kind-of "meh" about the cookie cutters and flag picks -- I'm a drop cookie kind of gal and the flag picks just look cheap -- I was pleased with everything else in the box and thought it was, overall, good value (even if not quite the value TOH suggests). The cookbook, recipe cards, and magazines are full of delicious-sounding recipes and I've quite dog-eared my issue of Simple & Delicious.


Of the recipe cards, I have made the "Sweet Tea Barbecued Chicken" and the "Steak 'n' Potato Kabobs." Both recipes worked out well and the kabob recipe gave me an opportunity to try the Steak, Chop, & Broil seasoning blend -- a gluten-free blend of coarse salt, black pepper, dill seed, garlic, onion, red bell peppers, herbs and spices appropriate for steaks, burgers, pork, lamb and chicken -- and the silicone basting brush. (Yes, I already own a silicone brush, but it sees so much use that an extra was welcome).


Of everything in the box, however, the OXO 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer is my particular favorite. While it looks a bit like a prop from a low-budget science fiction show, it's surprisingly effective and I've murdered so many avocados since acquiring it. Definitely not something I would ever have bought myself (it's a definite clutter-up-your-drawers-unitasker), but I'm pleased to have it.

While I do think Taste of Home has over-valued the physical contents of the box -- my calculations brought it in at around $70 (not including the regular cost of Cooking School courses) -- it's still worth more than I paid and is full of things that pleased me. Overall, I enjoyed the Summer Taste the Seasons Goodie Box and look forward to seeing what the autumn brings!

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.

29 August 2016

Cooking With Spiced Pantry: Greece


While I thought that June's Spiced Pantry box was the first box I received in my subscription, I was very wrong. Apparently, I received a box in May which, in the hustle and freak out leading up to my surgery, was some how tidied away into the front closet. Stumbled across it while looking for something else entirely and was both astonished and chagrined. Happily, properly stored spices keep pretty well and I had no problem making a few of May's recipes!

Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them. Recipes usually serve 4-6 people so, if you are small household like mine, you can either expect leftovers or, you know, halve the recipes.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, several of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

Ingredients in May's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Athens Spice Blend
  2. Greek oregano
  3. Mahlab (Mahlepi): a powder ground from sour cherry pits
  4. Peponaki: a small orzo-like pasta made from soft wheat

Recipes in May's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Chicken Souvlaki (incl. recipe for tzatziki)
  2. Greek Braided Cookies
  3. Greek Salad
  4. Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers

The peppers -- stuffed with al dente peponaki, onion, zucchini, tomato, feta, oregano and the Athens spice blend -- were pretty tasty and a nice change from the traditional meat-stuffed peppers I grew up with. They made for a filling vegetarian meal when paired with a light side salad and some toasted pita bread. (Or you could treat them like a side dish and pair them with kofta, which I also did). I'd definitely make these peppers again, although I'd use orzo since I'm too lazy to hunt down more peponaki.

Greek Salad

This salad -- chunks of farm-fresh crisp cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, and mild onion with salty feta and tangy kalamata -- was pretty darn delicious. So easy to make and so pleasing to the eye, as well. Made a wonderful supper paired with grilled steak and corn on the cob! Definitely a salad to make as often as possible during tomato season.

Chicken Souvlaki with tzatziki

I cheated with this recipe and threaded the skewers with marinated chicken tenders, rather than deal with cubing chicken breasts. Otherwise, followed the recipe to a T and it turned out marvelously. Tender, juicy chicken with tart, chunky tzatziki ... couldn't ask for better. Definitely a repeater. (It's safe to say every recipe I tried in May's Spiced Pantry box is a repeater!)

Can't wait to get cooking with July's box! ¡La Cocina Mexicana!

Read about my other Spiced Pantry experiences.

14 August 2016

Cooking With Spiced Pantry: Jamaica


Back in May, Crate Joy threw a flash sale with up to 50% off many subscriptions. I'd had my eye on the Spiced Pantry box since February (when I was looking for ramen subscription boxes for The Husband) but the price was a little high for me at the time. But half off six months of delicious spices? Of course, I signed myself up.

Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, several of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

One of the reasons I subscribed to Spiced Pantry was the opportunity to try new spices and ingredients without committing myself to store-size quantities. Each box comes with enough of each ingredient to make each recipe provided at least once, with extra for repeats, do-overs, or experimentation.

Ingredients in June's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Dried Hibiscus Petals
  2. Dried Pigeon Peas
  3. Jamaican Jerk Spice Blend
  4. Scotch Bonnet Chile Flakes

Recipes in June's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Hibiscus Iced Tea (Agua de Jamaica)
  2. Jamaican Jerk Chicken
  3. Jamaican Patties
  4. Jamaican Rice and Pigeon Peas

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

The jerk chicken smelled simply heavenly and came off the grill perfectly cooked -- moist, tender and full of flavor. It was a little hot for The Husband so I might dial back the scotch bonnet pepper flakes next time (oh, yes, this is worth repeating). I might also use just legs (thigh with drumstick attached) instead of a mix of pieces as it's easy to grill all one cut.

Had intended to serve my jerk chicken with the rice and peas, but found I couldn't manage both dishes at the same time. Instead, I served my chicken with medium-grain white rice mixed with a liberal amount of cilantro and lime. Also the usual cucumber and tomato salad, because that's our go-to side.

Hibiscus Tea

Slightly tart and very refreshing, the hibiscus tea hits just the right balance between floral and spicy with just a little gentle heat from the ginger and cinnamon. I had only one empty pitcher on hand when I made this tea so I put the hibiscus flowers & ginger in a spice bag to avoid needing to strain or decant the tea after brewing (the cinnamon stick was big enough to be easily fished out on its own).

Jamaican Meat Patties

As you can see, my patties are more angular than rounded as I am not very skilled at rolling out dough circles. Despite their homeliness, the patties were surprisingly good for a first attempt. The filling need more flavor (and some sauce, maybe, as it was rather dry), but the pastry was wow.

The recipes provided by Spiced Pantry were clear and easy to follow, the amount of ingredients provided was just right, and the quality seemed high. All this resulted in dishes that were quite delicious and worth making again. Overall, I had a lot of fun creating June's dishes and look forward to exploring the tastes of México with July's box!

Read about my other Spiced Pantry experiences.

31 July 2016

More Japanese Sweets From Okashi Connection

July marks two years subscribed to Okashi Connection's monthly Japanese box o' deliciousness and a few things have changed since we signed on, so I thought I should talk about it again.

First off, everything that's changed has changed for the better -- the boxes, now boldly colored and clearly branded, look very professional. The snacks seem bigger and better (not that they were ever paltry or unpalatable before) and, instead of logging into the Okashi Connection website for descriptions of items, a handy printed guide is included in each box. Okashi Connection has also added smaller and larger boxes to accommodate different size appetites/households. While these aren't substantial changes, they make the whole experience just that much nicer.


Despite the boxes coming directly from Japan -- eventually via the frequently ungentle hands of the United States Postal Service -- we've never had much of a problem with breakage. Chips, crackers, and other crispy snacks seem to survive their trip surprisingly well. It is the sweets that run into trouble. But, even then, not as much as I'd expect -- in the two years we've been subscribed, we've had only three or four sweets arrive melted and misshapen. Usually, the damage isn't so great we won't gamely try to eat the candy. However, in the case of this month's box, the watermelon gummies were just too tragic-looking to eat.


But everything else -- even the aerated chocolate panda -- is in good kip and looks delicious! Indeed, in some ways the steadily increasing "goodness" of the snacks is becoming a problem. In the beginning, the boxes were easy to split down "his" and "her" lines with The Husband, picky pants that he is, eschewing many snacks. More often now a box contains items we both want to eat and ... sometimes there is shouting and covert snacking (certain parties deny covert snacking, but I don't know what else could have happened to May's Pie No Mi Raspberry Cream Cheese pastries).

17 October 2015

O-Sushi-ya-San Gumi DIY Candies

These Meiji Nigi Nigi Osushiyasan Gumi candies from the April 2015 Okashi Connection subscription box are probably where I should have started my gummi DIY adventure as they're pre-molded in the shape of either vinegared sushi rice balls or sliced seafood -- meguro (tuna), akagai (clam), ikura (salmon roe), ebi (shrimp), ika (squid), tako (octopus), and tamago (egg) -- and require absolutely zero amounts of water droppers or magic powders. All I had to do was stick the gummi pieces together. And eat them, of course.


Once I got the gummies out of their mold! They were surprisingly sticky, clinging to their mold (and then my fingers) for all they were worth. In addition to being sticky, the seafood gummies are quite soft and I half expected I'd destroy them as I unmolded them. However, they're supremely elastic and quickly returned to their original forms. The rice pieces were attached to each other via little gummi umbilicals and had to be cut apart. I mean, I could probably have just yanked them apart, but cutting seemed more civilized.


For what seems like a cheap, gimmicky candy, the seafood pieces are very cleanly molded with good detail. I especially enjoyed the adorable wee-ness of the peach-flavored ebi (shrimp) and tako (octopus) pieces. The rice pieces seem more roughly formed with untrimmed excess edging most of them.

What do these gummi candies taste like? Well, there's a preponderance of banana flavor as that's what all the "rice" gummies are flavored as, but the banana does play pretty well with the peach and lemon "seafood" gummies. Unfortunately, I don't really know how to rate the banana, because it's not a flavor I've encountered before in gummi form. It's mild? With a note of vanilla? The peach flavor is quite good, however, and tastes rather like a real peach, but the lemon is weirdly chemical and makes me think of a lemon-scented cleanser.

Eating these reminds me of how much I do enjoy gummi candy and makes me want to go visit the pick 'n' mix!

27 September 2015

Kracie Ocean Creatures Gummy DIY

Waaaay back in March (!) our monthly Okashi Connection Japanese confectionery box included a Kracie "Umi no Gumi Zukan DIY" aka "Sea Creature Gumi Picture Dictionary" gummi candy construction kit. I'd never made anything like it before, but thought it might be fun to do ... later ... when I had time. Of course, I forgot all about it and it ended up at the bottom of the Big Green Bag of Leftover Okashi Stuff that lives in the hall closet.


Why I decided to throw caution to the wind, knuckle down and craft me some fine ass sea animal gummies today of all days I do not know. I went to the Internet, watched a bunch of instructional YouTube videos and then sallied forth into the world of gummi. Of all the YouTube videos I watched, I found AwesomeDisneyToys's particularly helpful and am sharing it below:


One thing AwesomeDisneyToys does not mention in his video, but I learned the hard way, is to pick up the mold after you've dripped the magic activator solution allover your sea creatures and look up through the bottom to see if the solution has sunk all the way through. If you see dry pockets of powder, add a bit more activator solution. Otherwise, you'll end up with a crab who, like mine, looks like it has a shell condition.

That said, you still need to be careful about not using too much activator solution because, if you use too much it will take forever for the gummies to set. This is a photo of my gummies, removed from their mold 20 minutes after I added the activator solution, and you can clearly see they are still rather wet.


But what do they taste like? A slightly gritty jelly version of marble soda. Definitely something eight-year-old me would tolerate better than thirty-eight-year-old me. I think I'll treat future gummi DIY strictly as a craft -- not a culinary -- project.

19 October 2014

Snack Time With Love With Food

My first Love With Food box arrived Friday! While the box is full of tasty snackage, I don't think I'll sign up for another box as the contents are not unique or exceptional. I expected snacks I couldn't easily find locally and, instead, got three things I already buy! Justin's nut butters are all available at Whole Foods, Calbee's Snapea Crisps seem to be everywhere, and Famous Brands' Falafel Chips were a totally delicious discovery the last time I shopped at Garden of Light in Avon.


(To be fair, nothing's going to compare to our monthly Okashi Box for rarity or diversity).

23 July 2014

More Beanz!

My bush green beans are quite ... prolific ... this year and I'm having a little trouble keeping up! Usually, by the middle of July, the plants have fallen prey to some hungry critter or been crispified by drought and bean production is over. This summer ... well, I'm pretty sure my cats have zeroed out my neighborhood's rabbit population and, thanks to cooler than normal temps and some decent rain, my bean and chard bed is a dense jungle! I'm not bothered that the chard is getting monstrous (it will be good whenever I harvest it) but leave beans too long and they go all woody and "untasty."

Over the weekend, I made a bean and tuna salad using one of Plated's recipes but subbed with my own green beans instead of their haricot vert as those were brownish and unappetizing looking. Anyway, the salad was dead easy to throw together -- just blanched beans, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, parsley, dill, shallot, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, sea salt, and black pepper -- and I'll definitely make it again with more garden beans and cherry tomatoes (if, by happy coincidence the beans are still bearing when the tomatoes ripen).


The bean salad was meant to be served with oil-poached tuna, but I chose to poach my tuna in low-sodium fat-free chicken broth because the Plated recipe called for poaching the tuna in 1½ cup extra virgin olive oil and my parsimonious brain was like "Dude! That's $7 worth of oil! Duuuude! And you only keep two tablespoons! The rest gets thrown away?! WTF?" Anyway, the salad was fine served with broth-poached tuna as I ended up flaking the tuna and tossing everything together to make two meals for work.


I also made an easy minestrone with green beans, garden basil, canned tomatoes, and a farmers market zucchini I had kind-of forgotten about in the back of the crisper. It came out pretty well for something that was just "Well, I'll saute some onion and garlic and carrots and celery and then add some chopped green beans and broth and herbs and zucchini and tomatoes and salt and pepper and just keep fiddling until it tastes right."

03 July 2014

Japanese Sweets from Okashi Connection

We've dabbled with various subscription boxes over the past year and so it should probably be no surprise that The Husband recently signed up for the monthly box from Okashi Connection. For twenty-two dollars a month (that includes shipping) we get an assortment of Japanese candies, including seasonal and limited run products, shipped straight from Japan. It took about two weeks for our box to travel from Japan to Connecticut and I must have driven The Husband crazy, pestering him with "Did you get the mail today? Did we get our box?" every day until it arrived.


If I'd done a video of the unboxing, you would have seen us both taking things from the box while saying stunningly witty things like "Ohhh, what's this? This looks interesting. It's all in Japanese, though. I guess it's some kind of candy. Well, it has to be." And that's why there's no video. Also, we're lazy.


Happily, each box comes with a key -- just go to the "members only" sections of the Okashi Connection site and enter each month's password to find out what you've got.

Tohato Mixed Berry Caramel Corn
I love popcorn, but it's not something I should eat. This caramel corn is much more like cheese curls in appearance and texture and should prove no problem to my GI tract. I may end up testing this theory by eating the whole bag, as the puffs are hard to put down -- they smell like raspberry sherbet and candyfloss and taste ... well, they taste even better than the raspberry KitKat and I thought the KitKat was pretty darn tasty.

Kirby Mix & Match Gum
Bubble gum balls. Chew different flavors together to create combinations like "fruit salad" and "oh, by cake, that was a terrible idea."

Matcha (Green Tea) Cream Collon
Crisp biscuit straws filled with matcha-flavored creme. A very adult biscuit. Barely sweet. Almost like eating a savory Piroutte wafer cookie.

Choco Lotta Pie no Mi
Bite-sized flaky pastry hexagons filled with chocolate cream that reminded me a little bit of Nutella. The picture on the box indicates these bites are supposed to be pretty thick and flaky, but mine seem to have been bashed around quit a lot and most of their layers had flaked off.

Coris Fue Ramune Whistle Candy
They look like Life Savers mints, but taste a little like those Ramune ("marble") sodas you can get at some sushi places. They came with a small toy -- like Cracker Jack or Kinder Surprise -- and are pretty okay. Innocuous.

Nestle KitKat Otona no Amasa Raspberry
The internetz tells me these are "adult sweetness" ie less sweet than regular KitKats. Tasted exactly like freeze-dried raspberries (which no bad thing). Ours was horribly misshapen from having melted in transit, but still tasted yum, so a pretty okay experience overall.

Matcha (Green Tea) Flavor Fujiya Country Ma'am Cookies
Holy crap, these are delicious. The outside is crisp and a little crumbly while the inside is soft and dense like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Buttery and chocolaty with a gentle, but lingering green tea note. Dainty enough you don't feel greedy for eating two.

Ume (Sour Plum) Bubble Gum
Sweet-tart and very juicy gum balls. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn't last. First it's "Hello! PLUM!," then it's "meh. gum."

Camembert and Mozzarella Premium Umaibo
Tube of puffed corn flavored with cheese. A lot like eating an enormous gourmet cheese curl. Grown-up junk food.

Puffed Rice (Pongashi?) Ninjin
Plastic carrot filled with popped rice. There really isn't much to say about this. They're crunchy and slightly sweet. I want to put them in a bowl with milk and eat them for breakfast. The carrot bag is cute.

Cider Gumi
Very soft bottle-shaped gummies covered in granulated sugar. Tastes a little like blue fruit punch. Good, but confusing as it tastes nothing like cider.

Over all, I think The Husband did good. There's lots of different flavors and textures here and I've definitely found a few new favorites. I'm more impressed more by the dessert-y or snack-type things than I am by the candies, but I'm not usually big on candy, anyway.

05 June 2014

Plated: Cheesy Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

When I selected Plated's "Cheesy Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes," I was pretty sure I was taking a big risk at it simply isn't the kind of thing The Husband would ever consider eating. Indeed, when it came down to it, I completely chickened out on serving it to him and kept all the tomatoes to myself. He was happy in his ignorance and I was in heaven. Who knew mixing quinoa with goat cheese could make it so darn delicious?!

Ingredients straight out of the box
Unwrapped ingredients
Obviously, this dish would be better in a few months when tomatoes are in season, but roasting makes most vegetables taste better and these pale, refrigerated tomatoes were no exception. They turned out juicy and flavorful and I was quite pleased to not have to share them.

I did not think the instructions for preparing the quinoa were very good -- not enough time or liquid -- so I chose to make them The Kitchn way and with low-sodium fat-free chicken broth instead of water. Other than that, the instructions were fine and I didn't have any trouble preparing this "plate."

The salad dressing was surprisingly tasty. Creamy balsamic is never something I'd ever considered and the color was a little off-putting, put the flavor was good and I'd definitely make it again. The recipe made a little more than I needed and I'll probably use the extra on that head of butter lettuce I forgot to serve with the seared salmon.

Every bite was delicious!
I had two tomatoes for lunch the day I made them and then took the others to work over the following days, packing the tomatoes separately from the (undressed) salad so they could be reheated in the toaster oven. They reheated well and made an elegant meal there in the staff room amongst the snack machines and work safety posters.

So that's my first Plated box done with and I can't wait for my next!

03 June 2014

Plated: Cheddar Burgers w/ Baked Onion Rings

Plated's "Cheddar Burgers with Baked Onion Rings" seemed like the perfect way to welcome summer. Yes, I know summer's nearly a month away but it hit a toasty 86°F on Monday and that's summer as far as I'm concerned.

Juicy, perfectly seasoned cheddar burger ... yum!
I really enjoyed this burger. The cheddar (provenance unknown) was a good choice -- not too sharp, but strong enough it held its own and wasn't subsumed by the juicy, perfectly-seasoned burger. The tarragon sauce was nice interpretation of the standard orange burger sauce and I only wish I'd saved a little to drizzle on my onion rings. Seriously, I have eaten restaurant burgers that weren't as good as this one.

That said, I must admit The Husband wasn't so taken with this burger -- tasty, yes, but too juicy! And the cheese was very overwhelming! Who is this stranger I married?

Misleadingly beautiful crunchy onion rings *cries*
We both agreed the onion rings, while quite crispy, were extremely disappointing. I thought I'd been quite generous in my use of salt and pepper, but they were clearly under-seasoned. And I couldn't taste the sweet paprika at all!

Would I make this again? Burgers, yes, as soon as possible. Onion rings, no, never. My recipe card is a little gooped up from when I made the tarragon dressing, but copies can be downloaded from the Plated website. Unsurprisingly, I have started a Plated folder on my desktop for storing future recipes ... because, even though The Husband is clearly enjoying the Plated experience significantly less than I am, I plan on more Plated meals.

Baked onion rings ingredients
Tarragon dressing ingredients
Cheddar burger ingredients