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Product review roundup

I’m a bit behind on my product reviews, so I’m going to do some short takes of items I was sent to review, and also some that I couldn’t walk by in the store without trying….

Chef JimCold-Eeze Cold Remedy Quick Melts–Yeah, I know, this isn’t a food item. But they want you to think of it as a food item so that taking medicine won’t taste gross. They are berry flavored and have zinc in them, and if you have ever taken zinc tablets you know that they have this sort of tangy snap in the back of your throat. I took these when I actually did have a cold, and the decongestant aspect worked, and the night time one contains melatonin, which helps you fall asleep naturally. But the selling point here is the taste, and the tablets really do taste decent and not like medicine.

Chef JimMinta Naturally Flavored Mint Soda–This was one of those intriguing ones that made me wonder, “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” I’m not sure why, but it does seem like one of those things that would be popular in France but not here. My wife was afraid of trying it, but I wasn’t. As a result, she wasn’t a fan but I thought it was really good. It wasn’t the best soda I’ve ever tasted, but had a nice minty taste without being overly sweet. And for someone like me that drinks a lot of unsweetened seltzer, that latter part was important. But I’d recommend this stuff if you like mint and you like carbonated beverages.

Chef JimCheetos Mix-Ups Xtra Cheezy Mix–Well, duh. These snack companies that keep changing things up and offering new and interesting flavors have me as a target audience all the freaking time. I can’t walk past it without buying it. This one was particularly interesting, because it’s cheesy and crunchy and has four types of Cheetos–the standard fried ones with cheddar; nacho cheese waffle discs; double cheddar baked puffs; and baked parmesan balls. You really can’t go wrong combining this cheesy goodness, but those awesome waffle discs really put this mix over the top, because the way that they are shaped is conducive to collecting lots of that yummy powdered cheese that sticks to your fingers after eating cheese snacks.

Chef JimCracker Jack’D Power Bites (Vanilla Mocha and Cocoa Java flavors)–Who knew Cracker Jack was getting into new lines of snack foods? Yet here are these little balls of caffeinated goodness, and I tried both the Vanilla Mocha and Cocoa Java flavors. I was slightly afraid but yet had to try these, at the same time. They are crunchy, coated wafer cookies in the shape of balls, and in addition to the the vanilla and chocolate, the coffee flavor comes through loud and clear. And each bag of fifteen or so pieces is supposedly equal to a cup of coffee–hence the title Power Bites. They are supposed to give you an afternoon jolt, and when I tried them, they did! And they are delicious–of course, with sugar as the primary ingredient, I also say “Well, duh.”

Two food items from Bullz-Eye’s Holiday Gift Guide

I was asked to write up a couple of cool products for Bullz-Eye.com’s Holiday Gift Guide, and I thought I should share them here with you. Both are already getting much use here in Mikey’s Kitchen!

NFL Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers

Chef JimWhen we saw an ad for these NFL logo slow cookers, our resident New York Giants fan had to have one. Crock-Pot slow cookers have traditionally been marketed to women, and they have always been a great kitchen staple across America. The concept is awesome—you put meat, vegetables, potatoes, and/or rice, canned tomatoes, broth and whatever else your recipe calls for, let it cook slow for 8-10 hours and you have dinner ready when you want. For Sunday football, these are great for chili, hearty soup, or for keeping hot dogs warm in a slow cooker full of water. And what better way to tailgate than to show off your team logo while you’re doing so? Another great feature of this particular slow cooker is that there are latches on both sides in order to clamp the lid on tight, and also a small hole in the cover to allow steam to escape. So the NFL themed Crock Pot is efficient AND looks great on Sundays.

The Essential James Beard Cookbook

Chef JimWe love to cook, but as hard as it can be sometimes, we try to stay on the healthy side. Of course, like most guys, we do like to make steaks, burgers and wings and some heavier soups, chilis and pastas. Indulgence is something reserved for holidays or for special Sundays. Such is the case with the new James Beard cookbook—a compilation from 12 of Beard’s books. We thumbed through it and noticed that almost every recipe calls for A LOT of butter. Beard was an American chef, but there is no doubt that some of his techniques are classic French. And on that note, the two recipes we tried were Gruyere soup and Beef Bourguignon Saute. Total amount of butter for both recipes—somewhere around two sticks. But the thing is, these recipes were fairly easy—time consuming, but easy. And the best part was that we learned so much, like taking a cooking class from a master. In particular, we learned how to make an amazing sauce for the beef dish. But wait, there’s more—literally. There are 450 recipes, including appetizers, pasta, soups, entrees, sides and desserts. In other words, we have 448 more to try.

Product review: Sheets Energy/Sleep Sheets

Wake, or sleep?

That is the question if you’re looking for a boost in either direction, the folks at Sheets brand have the products for you that are as easy to take as those breath strips that have become so popular the last few years. That’s because they are strips–the kind that dissolve on your tongue within seconds.

Chef JimWe reviewed the Energy Sheets a while back, and they recently sent us some samples of a new flavor–Mint Boost. These strips have no sugar, no calories and are loaded with B-vitamins, and they really taste good, similar to a fresh breath strip (which I need badly now because I’m on the South Beach diet!). There is a bit of caffeine as well (50 mg), which is about the amount of maybe a third of a cup of coffee. That might explain why I felt a jolt for a few minutes that did not last beyond that. So while the Sheets may give you some extra vitamins, I’d suggest grabbing a cup of coffee instead if you need that afternoon boost or need to stay awake while driving on the freeway at night.

Chef JimBut the Sleep Sheets are a completely different story. I have an affinity for so-called “relaxation” drinks such as Serenity and Marley’s Mellow Mood. They all have a mixture of herbs and natural supplements such as melatonin and/or valerian root that promote relaxation and sleep. But the problem with these beverages is that, well, you have to pee a couple hours later, right as you’re in the midst of a kickass night’s sleep. Sleep Sheets won’t make you pee, and it has those same key ingredients such as melatonin, theanine and chamomile. And they have a nice minty flavor too. The best part….they work. Take this an hour or so before you plan to crash, and you will relax and fall asleep easily. I can’t recommend this product any more than I am right now!

Check out www.sheetsbrand.com for more information.

Product review–gadget edition

I figured I should talk about some of the gadgets I have been sent for grilling season before it’s no longer grilling season, so here are a few…..

Chef JimQuirky, the folks that bring us “inventions” at the retail level, sent two items recently. The first is called “Stem,” and is simply a spray nozzle with little perforation ridges that make it easy to slide it right into a citrus fruit such as a lemon, lime or orange. This thing is amazing! I stuck one in a lemon and had instant lemon spritz, perfect for a natural blast of juice for a salad or in a beverage or on grilled chicken or fish. I haven’t tried it with limes or oranges yet, but wow. This one is a keeper. I haven’t tried it on a slab of bacon yet, but maybe that’s for another day.

Chef JimQuirky also sent me “Sliders,” which are skewers–but not just any skewers. They are dual prongs so that your meat and veggies stay on there easily. They also have a function where you can push the items off the kebab once you are done grilling. That’s always a pain as you have to use a fork and try not to burn or stick yourself. But here’s the problem….the part where you push, which also has a handle, is suppose to be heat-resistant plastic. But mine started to melt from my grill’s heat. Oops. But still a cool product idea!

Chef JimFinally, we were sent this awesome 10-in-1 gadget from The Grill Daddy, their Heat Shield Series. This thing comes with interchangeable fork, spatula and tongs. It also has a heat shield and swivel action that protects your hand from the grill’s heat the whole time you are using it. They also have a basting brush, which they did not send, but I got the idea of how it all works. But here is my favorite part–there is a built-in meat thermometer at the tip of the handle. So while you are using the Grill Daddy Heat Shield you can whip out the thermometer and make sure your chicken won’t give you any diseases. Because that would suck. But the gadget does not suck!

Product review: Planters Nuts for March Madness

I’ve never seen such hype around March Madness bracket-wise. There are brackets for everything now, but many of them are food-related. What are the top cereals, the top snack foods, the top fast food. Well, here are some snacks that were sent to us to review during March Madness–Planters Five Alarm Chili Dry Roasted Peanuts, and Dry Roasted Pistachios. As the press release said, before mentioning that these are indeed a healthy and tasty snack option, “What’s a party without Mr. Peanut?”

Chef JimDry Roasted Pistachios–these nuts are roasted in the shell with sea salt added. I was expecting these to be without shells as many pistachios now are, but that’s okay. I think part of the charm of pistachios is opening the shells. It takes longer and makes you eat slower. And they were nice and easy to crack open which is always a plus. Oh, and the taste? Delicious, and a good source of fiber and protein to boot! By the way, remember when pistachios had that pinkish-red dye? You ate them and your hands looked like they were smeared with lipstick. Just thought I would throw that in to reminisce.

Chef JimFive Alarm Chili Dry Roasted Peanuts–One of the biggest complaints I have about spicy snack foods is that they are often not spicy enough. Not so with these dry roasted peanuts. They are spicy in a deceptive kind of way–you pop them in your mouth, and enjoy the peppery/spicy taste of the dry rub. Then a boot comes up from behind and kicks you square in the butt. And one of the best parts? They are dry roasted, so you don’t get oily hands afterward. The peanuts also now come in a plastic jar, and there is a little “green” sticker on it that says “84% less packaging.” Hey, more spice, less carbon footprint. But yeah, these are might tasty too.

So the Final Four starts this weekend, which means more time to enjoy March Madness party food like Planter’s nuts.

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