Mikes Rosée Sauce at Costco: Product Review

It’s pretty sad, but I’ve lost the will to cook complicated meals a few years ago. I still love eating them, but I really can’t be bothered to cook them anymore. I need to get that spark back. In any case, since I still need to eat – and feed my family, might I add – I often resort to stuff that is already prepared. Of course, I’m not crazy, and I don’t want to eat food that is overly refined, or stuffed full of chemicals. Imagine my joy when I discovered Mikes Rosée Sauce, at Costco!

Mikes Rosee Sauce at Costco

Mikes Rosee Sauce at Costco

This is not the cheapest product Costco offers. Mikes Rosée Sauce is offered as a two-jar bundle, costing $7.99 Canadian for the lot. Each jar contains 900 ml of delicious, creamy homestyle cream and tomato sauce. I usually end up using half a jar per meal, feeding three people and with some left-overs for our lunches the next day. One of the three persons half a jar feeds is a small child, so say it’s enough for two adults.

I usually use Mikes Rosée tomato sauce with tortellini, which I purchase frozen from Costco when they are on special. which they were, last week. Coupled with a nice salad and perhaps a good glass of wine, you can have what feels like a fancy-ish meal for only a few dollars.

What this sauce is not, however, is healthy. It contains only wholesome ingredients, nothing weird or grossly artificial, but still, the wholesome ingredients in here are quite calorific, to say the least. Each 125 ml serving, or half-cup, contains an impressive 200 calories, including a whopping 16 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated and count for 51% of the daily recommended value. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get 530 mg of salt (22% of the daily value) and 65 mg of cholesterol. To learn more about sauces, follow this link.

I don’t read that stuff too closely. Just closely enough that I don’t buy this sauce with too much regularity. Mikes Rosée sauce if one of the best creamy tomato sauces you can buy commercially, especially at Costco, but take care you don’t have it too often. You might end up wearing it!

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter Now at Costco

I’m a big fan of the cat litter normally available at Costco, Qualicat. I’ve been using it for years, and it performs admirably. It keeps the nasty ammonia smell away, mostly, and is surprisingly easy to clean thanks to its clumping capabilities. My local Costco sells pallets and pallets of the stuff every week, thanks no doubt in great part to its excellent price, only $7.99 for 22.7 kilograms, or 50 pounds.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed a new brand no earlier than two weeks ago. The Simplicity Yours cat litter brand is now available at Costco, at least in Canada. Visually speaking, the box is exactly the same size and weight, 22.7 kilograms, except it has a slightly more modern design and graphics. As far as the litter goes, it looks exactly the same as the Qualicat, except maybe a tiny bit more finely ground. Not much, but a bit. This may help improve clumping.

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter at Costco

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter at Costco

As you can see on the picture above, Simplicity Plus Cat Litter positions itself as a better-clumping, dust-free cat litter that is designed to handle the waste of several cats at once. Here are some of the details:

  • Made from 100% natural clay, which is unfortunately strip-mined
  • Contains Baking Soda and Odor Check; great idea. I hope there’s a lot.
  • Moisture activated herbal botanical essence, which is in theory a great idea.
  • Immediate extra-strength odor control; we’ll see about that
  • Harder and faster clumping; I’m tempted to believe that one, based on the litter consistency
  • 99% dust-free; compared to what? 1% can still be a lot.
  • Claims to be safe for cats and kittens; good! Isn’t it made for them?

I’m sorry I’m being cynical here, but come on. This is cat litter, made from strip-mined clay with some baking soda and scent added. I’m certain it works well, and I understand they have a product to sell, but I find it increasingly difficult to take packaging claims seriously, let alone at face value. Like the guys making bacon who had the great idea of labeling it ‘Gluten Free!’ to get on the bandwagon. Give me a break. Feel free to follow this link to learn about other types of cat litter.

Of course, everything else being equal, the Simplicity Plus Cat Litter offered at Costco has one advantage over Qualicat: it is a whole $0.20 cheaper. Not per pound, mind you. Twenty cents cheaper. Per box. It costs $7.79 instead of the outrageous $7.99 Costco charges for Qualicat. I’ve decided to save 20 pennies and give it a shot, to see if the product measures up to the hype on the box. I’ll update this post in the future with the results. In the meantime, if you’ve tried it before, go ahead and chime in in the comments!

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup at Costco

I’ll be the first to admit it: I love Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom. I think it is their best product, by far. Not only is it a delicious, creamy soup when made according to the instructions, but you can use it to make a really excellent sauce for meats, or dump it, undiluted in a pot of pasta for a truly exceptional eating experience. Basically, make an ordinary dish, and add Cream of Mushroom; it will become awesome. Just like with Sriracha. But I digress.

Campbell's Cream of Mushroom 12-pack

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom 12-pack

I found this gem of a buy at my local Costco, as an unadvertised special. I paid a ridiculously low $5.19, Canadian, no taxes, for 12 cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom. This comes down to 43 cents a can. It may be possible to get it cheaper somewhere else, when it’s on special, but I won’t be looking. I bought two 12-packs, and I’m thinking about buying a few more.

Cream of Mushroom is surprisingly healthy, except for the outrageous salt content, considering that it is a canned soup; here are the ingredients, in decreasing order:

  • Water
  • Mushrooms
  • Canola or Soybean Oil
  • Wheat Flour
  • Cream
  • Corn Starch
  • Salt
  • Modified Milk Ingredients

The following also appear, in smaller quantities: Soy Protein Isolate, Monosodium Glutamate, Tomato Paste, Yeast Extract, Dehydrated Garlic

Except for the MSG, there is nothing too freaky here, and even then, I don’t think MSG is nearly as bad as some would have us believe. Like I said before, it’s really the 35% Sodium per 125 ml (prepared!) that’s the kicker. But it does taste good.

For easy, tasty and quickly prepared meals on a real budget, don’t miss out on this incredible Costco special, only $5.19 for a 12-pack of the real, original Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom. Not some cheap generic knock-off. The real thing.

Kirkland Signature Vanilla Ice Cream Product Review

Who doesn’t *LOVE* vanilla ice cream? Come on! No one? That’s what I thought. Vanilla Ice Cream goes well with everything dessert. You can pour any kind of syrup on it, it’ll be delicious, you can count on it. This is why I was particularly excited to find out that Costco’s Kirkland Signature Vanilla Ice Cream was on liquidation this week, along with all other ice creams, to make room for the winter stuff in the freezers. I bought a modest 4 half-gallons, or 1.65 liters each container, for the low-low price of $3.97 each. If you know your ice cream, you know that this is an exceptional price for an exceptional ice cream.

Kirkland Signature Vanilla Ice Cream

Kirkland Signature Vanilla Ice Cream

What I like about this Kirkland Signature Ice Cream is the ingredients list. Except for some stability agents, the list reads like something you would do yourself. Here goes, in decreasing order of content:

  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • Skim Milk
  • Egg Yolk
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Carob Gum
  • Guar Gum

This ice cream is certified Nut and Peanut-free, for allergies, and is made with 100% Canadian milk. There is a warning next to the ingredients list that specify that it may contain soy, which I suspect is there for legal reasons than for anything else.

This vanilla ice cream is delicious, simply put, and at only $3.97 per 1.65 liters, I could hardly say no. It is smooth and creamy, and will go well with any dessert, especially apple pies!

Inferno by Dan Brown: Book Review

As I was visiting my local Costco (I do that a lot) gathering some much needed necessities for my upcoming trip to the ocean, I chanced upon Dan Brown‘s latest offering, Inferno. For only $10.99, it seemed like just the type of beach book I was looking for, so I bought it.

I honestly did not think I would write a review on this one; Dan Brown is a formulaic writer if there ever was one, and because of that, it is difficult to talk about the book itself without giving away too much of the plot, and of course, its resolution.

Inferno by Dan Brown, Book Review

Inferno by Dan Brown, Book Review

The characters in this book are clearly defined, although and as you can imagine if you’ve read any of his books before, there is more to them than it seems at first glance. The exposition of the main characters, excluding of course Robert Langdon, who needs no introduction, seems somewhat forced. A definite shortcut was taken there, you’ll know it when you see it. That being said, it’s done properly and it’s not annoying to read.

There is just enough meat on the secondary characters to keep them interesting, but not too much that it becomes involved and overbearing. Dan Brown knows his formula quite well. Nothing wrong with that.

The plot of the book is pure Dan Brown; this time, everything revolves around Dante Alighieri, medieval Florentine poet and statesman, and author of the renowned Divine Comedy. I really wish I could more in detail about the plot, as its denouement, so to speak, is not what you would expect. Of course, that is also the whole idea behind most of Dan Brown’s books, so maybe it is not unexpected. In any case, the plot is definitely worth a read.

What I most like about Brown’s latest books, including the Da Vinci Code, is the obvious care that is taken in describing works of arts, literature and architecture. Most of this book takes place in Italy, in Florence and Venice specifically, and you can tell that Brown really cares about what he’s describing. Florence was never on my Top 10 travel destinations, but you can bet that it now is!

Overall, I’m very satisfied with my reading of Dan Brown’s Inferno, and I hope my short book review reflects it. It provided me with all the fun and entertainment I wanted on my vacation, and at 560 pages, was neither too short nor too long.

Coppertone Kids 60 SPF Continuous Spray at Costco: Product Review

We’ll be taking our first real vacation as a family shortly – I’m writing this in early August – and as we have a young child, it is imperative that he wear high-quality and high-SPF sunscreen while he’s out in the sun, which hopefully we’ll have lots of. This is why I purchase today, at Costco of course, a pack of 3 spray bottles of Coppertone Kids 60 SPF Clear Sunscreen.

Obviously, this is not my first purchase of this product, otherwise I could I review it? Our whole family use it. I figure if it’s good enough for my child’s tender skin, it’s certainly good enough for me. Let me tell you something, from extensive experience: when I wear this thing, I have a real hard time even getting a tan, so a sunburn is completely out of the question.

Coppertone Kids 60 SPF Clear Sunscreen

Coppertone Kids 60 SPF Clear Sunscreen (at Costco) 3x222ml

Our current supply is almost out, and I wanted to make sure that our local Costco still had them before we left. Needless to say, it was quite a deal. Sunscreen is usually pretty expensive, so consider the following:

  • 3 Bottles of 60 SPF Sunscreen, each 222 ml
  • Cost for 3 bottles: $19.99
  • Cost per bottle: $6.66
  • Cost per ml: $0.03

You *have* to realize that this is an awesome deal! The same bottle at Walmart costs almost $9, or $0.05 per ml. I know it doesn’t look like much, because we are talking tiny pennies here, but it’s still 40% (or more!) pricier at Walmart, and they’re usually good for these kind of things.

We use the Coppertone Kids SPF 60 Continuous Spray for the whole family, because frankly, despite the great price, this is A LOT of sunscreen, and I can’t be bothered to buy another big batch of the ones for my wife and I.

When it comes to the format and delivery, I must say that I am very happy; one of my biggest problems with traditional sunscreen is, I surmise, the same as everyone else that ever got a sunburn: you don’t want to put the damn thing on because it is greasy and disgusting. With the continuous spray action and the non-greasy factor, there is really no excuse for getting sunburned. It is also hypoallergenic and waterproof, for those looking for a frolic in the water.

With my purchase of Coppertone Kids SPF 60 Continuous Spray from Costco, for only $19.99 I might add (again, but whatever, I’m super happy at the deal I got) I guess I’m good for the summer as far as sunscreen goes. At least I hope so!

Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend Product Review

I love eating meat and carbohydrates, which is not ideal for my waist. Of course, my wife is always recommending that I include more vegetables in our meals, particularly for our son, but when I’m the one cooking, and it happens often, vegetables are always somehow left behind. I greatly dislike the hassle of cleaning and cutting and cooking. Always makes a mess, takes forever. I also dislike the frozen vegetables you get at the grocery store. They are overpriced and undersized, and I feel like I’m being had. This is why I am so happy that I discovered Kirkland Signature’s Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend, available exclusively at Costco. Finally, frozen vegetables that look even better than they would have if I’d prepared them myself!

Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend

Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend, $9.99 for 2.5 kilos at Costco

I’m a *huge* fan of the convenience of frozen vegetables, and generally speaking, studies have shown that frozen vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh ones, even more so when compared to imported, out-of-season vegetables. (source)

Compared to other frozen vegetables I’ve bought in the past, Kirkland Signature’s Stir-Fry Blend is quite impressive. The pieces are large and varied, unlike others that are all broccoli stems and peas. Here you’ll find plenty of baby corn, shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts, as well as the more traditional broccoli, carrots and peas. Here are the ingredients, in descending order of volume and quantity:

  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Carrots
  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Baby Corn
  • Yellow Onions
Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend (in bowl)

Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend (in bowl)

The nutrional value is of 40 calories per cup, with plenty of vitamin A and C, no fat,and very limited amounts of sodium and carbohydrates, all natural, as there is no sugar or salt added.

It is worthwhile to note that while onions are possibly the cheapest ingredients in the list, they appear last. That’s too bad, because I love onions, so when I stir-fry these vegetables, I always add an extra onion before starting to cook the frozen ones.

I always love to cook my vegetables until they are still a little crunchy, rather than soft and shapeless. I find that a quick stir-fry in the work, with some vegetable or olive oil and (eventually) a dash of soy sauce works perfectly. You’ll have, of course, to define and refine your own method!

Overall Value

The quality and taste of these frozen vegetables is exceptional, but what about the dollar value? Well, each 2.5 kilos (about 5 pounds) bag costs $9.99 Canadian at my local Costco. Each serving, according to the label, is 85 grams, or 1 cup, so that boils down to about 30 servings per bag, each costing approximately 33 cents. Let’s say 35 cents.

Taking into consideration that the vegetables will shrink slightly when cooked, I usually cook them about 5 servings at a time, which gives me enough vegetables for my wife and myself, our son (who doesn’t eat much vegetables yet) and another serving for lunch the next day. Math tells us that cooking about 5 cups costs $1.75.

  • Product Name: Kirkland Signature Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend
  • Available at: Costco (exclusively)
  • Size of Bag: 2.5 kilos
  • Cost of Bag: $9.99 (Canadian)
  • Servings per Bag: 29.41
  • Cost per Serving: $0.34
  • Cost per Meal (for me): $1.75

Being able to feed my family delicious, high quality and nutritious vegetables for $0.35 per serving, taking into consideration that there is *zero* prep time, is incredible. I highly recommend Kirkland Signature’s Frozen Vegetables Stir-Fry Blend to anyone who trying to introduce more vegetables into their diet, but finds fresh vegetables a little hard (or annoying) to work with!

Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners Product Review

If you’ve ever been to Costco, and you probably have, you’re heard all about their awesome Hot Dog and Drink combo, which has been the same price, $1.50 for as long as anyone can remember. Over 20 years, for sure. Through its Kirkland Signature brand, Costco has made available its delicious wieners to its legions of fans. Without further ado (not *adieu*), here is my overall product review of the incredible Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners, the same that is sold in Costco Food Courts all over the civilized world.

Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wiener Taste and Texture

When it comes to taste, that wiener simply cannot be beat. It offers all the great taste you would expect from an upscale hot dog sausage, with the assurance of an all-beef content, which is great news for Jews and Muslims, who can safely gorge on this wiener with the rest of us! The sausage is not overly salty, although it boasts a 1230 mg salt content per sausage, which comes out to 51% of your daily requirement. Needless to say, that’s *huge*.

Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners Product Review

Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners (pack of 14) for $11.99

As for texture, the Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners really come into their own when they are boiled, rather than grilled or (shudder!) microwaved. When cooked to perfection, they offer just the right amount of give under the tooth for the ultimate hot dog experience. Boiling the sausages also has the added benefit of leeching some salt out of them, which these salt-packs can definitely use.

Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wiener Ingredients

In decreasing order, you’ll find the following:

  • Beef
  • Water
  • Dextrose
  • Salt
  • Spices

The following ingredients, also in decreasing order, round up the content of these sausages: Sodium Lactate, Garlic, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Erythorbate, Oleoresin of Paprika, Sodium Nitrite, Liquid Smoke.

With so much sodium this and that, on top of the salt, no wonder these hot dogs make you feel like you have sausages for fingers after eating them!

The Kirkland Signature All-Beef Wieners also pack quite the punch when it comes to calories, with 350 calories per wiener. They also deliver quite the saturated fat wallop, with 12 grams per portions (66% of the daily recommended amount).

On the plus side, they contain no meat by-products or high-fructose corn syrup, which is the bane of our times, and for those who care about such things, are gluten-free. It does, however, contain dextrose, which is a starch-based carbohydrate and counts as a type of sugar.

The Verdict:

I love these wieners. They are all-beef, but still aren’t really good for you, perhaps maybe comparatively so. Even then, they come out being quite inexpensive, only $11.99 for a pack of 14, which comes down to a hair under 86 cents apiece. I enjoy cooking these wieners when I want to have friends over for a fun day around the pool and barbecue. Kirkland Signature’s All Beef Wiener, available exclusively at your local Costco, are a step up from your usual cheap hot dog sausages and will leave your guests asking for more! Considering their fat and salt content, it’ll be up to you to see if you’ll oblige them!

Retro Gaming Review: Icewind Dale

I’m not going to give you a full-fledged review of Icewind Dale. The odds are that if you are reading this, you are already quite familiar with the game itself. I will, however, extol on its virtues as virtually free entertainment, which works quite well with the general topic of this blog!

I’ve bought Icewind Dale twice. The first time, back in 2000 or so, I picked it up from a store, in a box, for only $7.99, which at the time was a super-duper deal. Of course, I only realized when I got home that the darn thing was in French.

It turned out not to be a problem, besides breaking the First Rule of All Things Computers: English Only! I’m quite fluent in French, and played the game through with no problems.

The pictures I have included are of the old box I bought all those years ago. I’m careful with my things, so it still looks good.

The second time I bought it was a few weeks ago, on GOG.com. I bought the Dungeons and Dragons Masterset, which included 10 classic D&D games for only $21 and change. That’s *literally* hundreds, if not thousands of hours of entertainment for just over twenty bucks. That is unbeatable.

Original Icewind Dale Box

Original Icewind Dale Box

So I’ve been playing Icewind Dale over the last few weeks, and I’m reminded of something I discovered when I played it the first time: I’d always thought that Icewind Dale would be Baldur’s Gate runtish little brother, a wannabe that just looks good but doesn’t deliver.

That impression was all wrong, as I’m pleased to rediscover. It’s more like Baldur’s Gate cousin; related, of course, but very different.

Visually speaking, the game can look dated from a certain perspective, but it’s really not that bad. It has a lot more to offer than just looks! While it doesn’t even come close to the sprawling splendor of Baldur’s Gate II, it has a lot going for it.

Original Icewind Dale CD Case

Original Icewind Dale CD Case: Games in those days used to come on round pieces of shinny plastic called Compact Discs.

The Story-line: The story in Icewind Dale is not as developed as in other games using the Infinity Engine, however it is still very enjoyable. It is certainly more linear than the others, and you’re often going back to the same town – Kuldahar – to sell your loot, talk to people and get new quests.

The Graphics and Soundscape: The graphics are hand-drawn backgrounds on which the characters move around, in what’s called an Isometric view. It works really well and looks absolutely wonderful. The combination of beautiful backgrounds with the excellent music and sound effects really let you immerse yourself in the Dungeons of the Spine of the World, as if you were right there. I only miss the ability to occasionally zoom in to check out details (such as you would in Neverwinter Nights). Old habits die hard, but that’s a ‘me’ problem, nothing wrong with the game.

Icewind Dale Paper Map

Icewind Dale Paper Map, translated in French. Unlike other game maps (such as the Ultima maps) this one just looks good but is useless for gameplay.

In terms of gameplay, Icewind Dale is relatively fast paced and there is plenty of combat. There is not too much backtracking over areas you’ve already cleared, although it happens once in a while, especially if you want to get absolutely all the Quest experience. There’s plenty of story to keep things moving, and tons of back-story to be found in various books everywhere, for those who want to bother. I do.

Icewind Dale Paper Manual

Icewind Dale Paper Manual

As you can see in the image above, my box actually included a paper manual. It’s incredible how games used to include all that stuff and then one day it was gone. I miss it. I still open my old games once in a while to browse through them and readt the manuals. This particular manual goes through the actual gameplay, and includes a description of every single spell in the game. It’s actually quite useful. Of course, I never use it, as it would make it dog-eared. But I could.

Anyways, on the topic of cheap entertainment, this takes the crown, or at least it does until I start Baldur’s Gate II over again. Let’s say $3, or 300 pennies, for 50 hours of gaming. It’s going to be more like 100 hours or more, but whatever. In a most-expensive scenario, that comes out to 6 pennies an hour to play. The electricity for my comparatively grossly-overpowered desktop is probably more than that.

I’m happy to recommend Icewind Dale, and indeed any game using the Infinity Engine. They’re all GREAT, and some are exceptional. Pick them up on GOG for cheap during a sale!

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson: Book Review

I’ve been a fan of Brandon Sanderson ever since I picked up Mistborn a few years ago. I was interested by the author, since he’d been picked to complete the Wheel of Time series after the unfortunate demise of its author, Robert Jordan.

The original Mistborn trilogy was absolutely fascinating. It took place in a more or less traditional fantasy setting, but what really set it apart is the magic system, in which you consume and burn metal to have access to various powers.

In Sanderson’s own words, The Alloy of Law was written as an exercise to refute most classic fantasy settings, in which things are static and never change, year after year and eon after eon. David Eddings, anyone?

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson: Book Review

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson: Book Review

In any case, The Alloy of Law takes place in what would be about the mid-19th century, with a definite Old West tinge and a general Steampunk feel. Magic still exists, although it is much more diluted in the general population; people have access to a single Allomantic power, as opposed to the God-like Mistborn of the previous series.

The story follows Lord Waxillium Landrian, better known as Wax, the scion and heir of an old but impoverished noble family. He abandons his life as a lawman in the Roughs – and this is where it sounds very Old West – to take up the mantle of Lord Landrian at the passing of his uncle.

He is accompanied in his adventures by his friend and sidekick Wayne, a sticky-fingered dueler and former criminal.

Both are powerful Allomancers in their own rights, although with very different powers.

Without giving away too much, the plot revolves around a gang of thieves performing heists in the City of Elendel, and kidnapping young women for a intentionally vague but certainly nefarious purpose.

Brandon Sanderson is without peer at describing awesome battle and action scenes, and the book certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Moreover, the story and characters are both well-developed and satisfying.

If there was anything even remotely negative I would have to bring up, it is the fact that the book is quite short, weighing in at only 332 pages. Certainly shorter than anything else I’ve read by the same author, and much, much shorter than the epic novels I usually enjoy. I did leave me with a sense that the story was only starting.

On that note, it is clear by the end of the book that Mr. Sanderson has left the door wide open for sequels or additional novels, featuring the same characters. I look forward to reading them!

On the topic of cheap entertainment, I have borrowed this book, and even though I’ll now have to give it back, it doesn’t get much cheaper than that. If I’d had to purchase the book to read it, I would certainly have waited for the paperback, as the length of the book did not warrant a full hardcover price, even discounted.