Pickled Willy’s Gourmet Pickled Seafood #PickledWillys

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Pickled Willy’s is a family/veteran owned and operated specialty seafood processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska. They sell a variety of seafood related items in various forms. Their smoked fish seems popular and they have won awards for it. Their flagship products, pickled seafood, are what is unique about the company. They use an old family recipe with secret seasonings they won’t divulge! Their commitment to quality is commendable. All of their products are 100% sustainable and fished from Alaskan waters. The products are hand packed, low in fat, high in Omega-3’s, all natural, and have no preservatives. Their ingredients are simply as follows: Halibut/Lining Cod/Sockeye Salmon/King Crab, Organic Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Water, Pickling Spice, Onion, Salt (Fish). Bonus:Their products are also gluten free! They are also committed to providing their long-distance customers with the freshest product. They shipped it UPS expedited and it was extremely well packed with bubble wrap, ice packs, and lots of “this end up” stickers (which UPS ignored).

Also, if you car ever in Kodiak, you can visit their shop and sample the various products they sell. Pickled Willy’s products make great souvenirs and gifts. If you happen to do some fishing while you are in Kodiak, Pickled Willy’s will even process and ship your catch back home to you! You choose the preservation method. So cool!

Now, your first question is probably “Does it taste good?”

I assume this is your first question, because it is usually the first question anyone asks before they try something new. Some people might be wary because the combination of pickles and fish is a bit unusual, aside from some tuna salad recipes that contain pickle relish. Also the only pickled fish most people have heard of is the Northern European delicacy pickled herring, which has an unfortunately bad reputation. I want to debunk this unfortunate reputation, because Pickled Willy’s seafood is quite tasty! It is a mild pickling solution, so you don’t notice the vinegar bite you get in many pickle products. The sugar is also not overpowering, which is nice. The pickling spices also compliment the fish, so they don’t cover up the natural flavor of the fish. Best of all the fish tastes fresh. If there is one taste I cannot stand, it is the pungent taste of fish that has been frozen or sitting around for a couple of days. Pickled Willy’s obviously uses fresh caught fish that they pack right away to preserve the natural subtle taste only found in a fresh catch. So overall, the pickled seafood has a mild, subtle taste that can only compliment your meal, not overpower the other ingredients. And don’t forget the health benefits!

Your next question “How on earth do you eat it?”

There are many things you can do with pickled fish. The simplest is to serve it as an appetizer on a cracker, piece of toast, or slice of cucumber. Adding a dollop of sour cream is often recommended (but I can’t say if it is good, because I cannot eat it!). Pickled Will’s packs all of their fish in bite-sized chunks, so they are convenient for appetizers. The seafood is also tasty as a main dish in sandwiches, wraps, and on salads. You can even mix it with other ingredients to make a dip! The Pickled Willy’s website also has a recipe page to give you some ideas. If you want to eat it plain, then some popular pickled fish accompaniments are cold mayonnaise based salads, such as potato or macaroni salad, beets, boiled potatoes, and hard boiled eggs.

Seriously, how great (and unique!) an appetizer would it be to serve the salmon on a slice of cucumber with a dab of sour cream and a sprig of dill on top! This would be a great idea with the holidays just around the corner!! Here is my test batch:

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For more information or to purchase visit pickledwillys.com

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

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Blue Apron Box Review

A growing trend in both food and other products seems to be home delivery boxes. The draw of the weekly food boxes is that you get 3 pre-portioned meals delivered, without having to go to the store or worry what to do with leftover ingredients. This seems great to me, as I hate food waste. I am constantly trying to figure out what I can do with something that is about to go bad! You also don’t have to plan our own meals and you usually end up with more exotic choices than what you would have thought of on your own. The company gives you a bunch of choices (in BA’s case, six choices) and you pick out three. It is basically convenient.

Here are the Blue Apron specific pros and cons:

Pros

  • Everything comes well packaged in a cooler box with large ice packs. In this box they even wedged the meats in between the ice packs to assure they didn’t spoil.
  • All of their packaging is recyclable, so it is environmentally friendly!
  • They only send you the exact measurements of ingredients you need.
  • They include recipe cards with detailed instructions and pictures, so you can follow them easily.
  • The recipes often feature ingredients you don’t regularly use, so you find new things to try!
  • The flavors were actually very good, though I wish they used more seasonings. I felt like every step of every recipe included “season with salt and pepper.” I didn’t.
  • Each meal is portioned to make two or four servings, based on your box size. Side note – The portion sizes are large, so most of the recipes actually made three portions for me.
  • Most portion sizes are 600-800 calories each. This makes it easier for those on a diet. Especially, if you reduce the portion sizes like I did, to make 3 meals.
  • The Blue Apron website posts many of their past recipes, so you can browse them for new meal ideas!

Cons

  • It is costly. Normal price is $60 per box, which is $10 per serving. I can eat at quite a few restaurants for that much per meal. Also, most of my home cooked meals cost much less per serving, even including the food waste.
  • You still have to cook the meal yourself. You pay take-out prices for food you still have to prepare.
  • Most recipes take at least 45 minutes to make, even if you are a trained chef and quick prepper like me. These who cannot chop quickly will need more time for that.
  • Most recipes use A LOT of dishes. The recipes start out by having you cut up everything and place them in individual bowls, so they are at the ready when cooking. With my skills, I can avoid much of that, because I can judge from the recipe what I can do while something is cooking. However, I found it exasperating to wash so many dishes EVERY night, because I didn’t have leftovers and had to cook again.
  • Unreliable ingredients. The company replaced a couple of ingredients with similar ones, leaving a card stating the change was due to availability of the ingredient. This is understandable, but you don’t always get the intended taste when swapping out ingredients. Also, two of my ingredients were spoiled by the time they got to me (a piece of fresh ginger and an eggplant). When you are missing an ingredient, the box no longer becomes convenient. You either need to forget it and worry about the recipe being off, or replace it which means running to the store you were trying to avoid!  The eggplant was the most inconvenient, as it was a major ingredient. Luckily I keep fresh ginger in my freezer (yes you can freeze it!), so I was able to replace it with little trouble.
  • Mediocre customer service. I personally had some trouble contacting their customer service. They charged me for a second box the day after I received the first (Saturday). I immediately went into my account and skipped the next box, since I didn’t want to commit to it, when I hadn’t tried the first yet. I also filled out the contact us form, asking that they refund me, since I did not want it. On Monday, I tried calling them during the stated customer service hours to check on it and no one answered, so I left a message. Tuesday I called again, again no answer and no call back. Wednesday, I sent an email directly to customer service, no reply. Thursday, I got a notification that they had shipped me a box! I replied to that email explaining the situation and left another phone message, no reply. Then I took to social media and tweeted to them. Finally I got a response! In the end they cancelled my account and refunded me the money for the box I didn’t order, so I cannot be too upset. But still, by Thursday I was panicking!
  • Lack of options for people with allergies. I found it difficult to find 3 out of the 6 recipes that were adaptable to my allergies, mostly the wheat. Almost all of their recipes contain wheat ingredients. The ratatouille and salmon both came with baguettes. I used my own bread as replacement. The chicken came with ponzu sauce, that contains regular soy sauce. I had to make my own (tamari, brown sugar, rice vinegar, lime juice, and mirin). I was able to replace the ingredients fairly easily, but I also don’t like throwing out ingredients that I paid for.

Here a the meals I received in my box:

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Ratatouille with Polenta

Unfortunately, one of the eggplant’s for this one was rotten, so It didn’t have as much in it. I also would have liked it to have more seasoning. It only required salt and pepper, with fresh oregano as a garnish. I would have liked some garlic or Italian herbs in the dish as well. I ended up adding some balsalmic vinegar to my bowl for taste (even though it isn’t traditional). I did like the freshness though. The polenta was also good, even though I had to swap the Parmesan cheese out with nutritional yeast.

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Seared Salmon and Panzanella

This was actually a fairly simple recipe. It was not bad, but I doubt I would make it again. I had to replace the garlic bread with my own bread. Also rubbing garlic directly on the bread after it toasted made it very pungent. I would do that before toasting to mellow out the bite of raw garlic.

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Stir-Fried Ginger-Basil Chicken with Coconut rice

I actually really liked this recipe! I love the coconut rice, but I have never seen coconut milk powder in my life. Fortunately I have successfully made it before with coconut milk instead and would do that next time.

My overall opinion is that it is not right for me. I feel like it was too much money and too much work for me. It will not work for those of us with allergies, especially since they really don’t label allergens as well as other companies do. However, I think this would be great for people without dietary restrictions, that want to learn how to cook some interesting recipes. I also think it is great for people that don’t want to take the time to do meal planning. This is really more of a convenience or novelty product. Even if you don’t get the box, I encourage you to take a look at their recipe page. You may find some interesting recipes to try or adapt.

At The Table Together 5 Minute Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix Review

Happy Monday everyone! Over the weekend I decided to try out a pizza dough mix that I found at Homegoods (one of my favorite places to find cheap GF items). It is made by a company called A Tavola.

Pizza Mix

I was very excited to find this because not only is it GF, but it is vegan as well! I love pizza but it has been very difficult for me to find a dough mix or recipe that is both gluten and dairy free. It also states in several places on the package that it is easy to make, quick, and foolproof.

I started out following the instructions on the package, but soon hit a snag. The package states that you should form the dough into balls on a flat baking sheet, flatten them in the middle, and let them rise. My dough came out WAY too runny to be able to shape it like regular pizza dough. Not foolproof!

I went to the company’s website and discovered that their online tutorial is different from the package’s instructions. The website said to place the dough in pie/cake pans to shape the crust. I separated the dough into two greased 8″ cake pans and used a knife to spread it into the shape I desired.

After letting them rise, I baked them plain for 10 minutes. Then I added the toppings and baked it for 10 more minutes. Here is the result:

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They actually puffed up a lot more than I expected, but did not turn as brown or crispy as I hoped. Because of this, the pizza was not easy to pick up.

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Here is a side view. Hopefully, you can see that the crumb structure was actually pretty nice. It also tasted good as well.

If you would like to try this yourself, I would suggest either using less liquid or adding more of your own GF flour blend to make it easier to work with and easier to pick up when baked.