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.

23 August 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Cranesbill & Babbitty Bumble

“Zizz, Wizz, Wizzz!” Babbitty Bumble is busy with the cranesbill today.