Kirkland Signature Italian Leather Belt, at Costco

Well, the holiday season must be approaching quickly, because all sorts of gifts not seen at any other time of year are now available at Costco! In particular, you’ll find new Kirkland Signature

Kirkland Signature Full-Grain Italian Leather Belt

Kirkland Signature Full-Grain Italian Leather Belt

Belts and Ties. This year I have splurged on an Kirkland Signature Full-Grain Italian Leather Belt, for $19.99 at Costco (where else?). They were a little cheaper last year, if memory serves, $17.99, but if the belt’s good, I don’t mind the few extra dollars. I don’t buy those every month.

It’s not that I’m cheap per se, but I don’t like spending unnecessary money, and I hate even more buying junk. Except for funky belts you’ll wear a few times a year and for Halloween, I’ve owned a grand total of 2 – that’s two – belts in my life. I used them every day, until the leather broke. The last one I had for 15 years or more. Understand that I like buying quality.

I’m wearing the belt right now. There are several things I like about it, right off the bat:

First off, the leather is really thick, and was tanned in Italy. It’s full-grain, Italian leather as opposed to reconstituted or surface leather. To me, that’s the first sign of quality, or shoddiness if the leather’s thin. The stitching is straight, tight and looks durable.

Second, the leather is really shinny, although I’m not sure how long that will last. So far, it looks super hot. I’ve had my previous belt for so long I can’t remember how it looked when new.

Third, the buckle is hand-polished, with a satin gunmetal finish. It looks really good, and I hope it won’t rub off too soon.

The belt looks and feel real nice. The packaging was nice but overall ordinary. Just small enough to be easily wrapped and put under the tree! I bought mine in black, with the darkest buckle I could find, but there are several color options, for both the belt color and the buckle. I just like black. Goes well with everything.

There is only one negative thing to say about the belt, and it’s about the size. I wear pants at size 34, relatively comfortably, and as you can see, I bought the size 36 belt, just in case. It turns out that I am almost at maximum capacity on the belt, however; I only have one more hole to go until the belt is too small! That being said, and as my wife casually remarked, I should be planning on getting thinner, not fatter.

Touché.

The Bottom Line on the Kirkland Signature Full-Grain Italian Leather Belt: it’s a BUY! Remember that the belts won’t be there for long – another month, maybe 6 weeks, and then they’ll be gone for another year. If you need a belt, and you want to buy it at Costco, then now’s the time!

Ortocori Grilled Italian Mushrooms at Costco

I’m at Costco *very* often, as you might have guessed by the recurring theme of this blog, and I’m an absolute sucker for a deal. Especially when it’s a Costco 97 cents deal!

Ortocori Grilled Seasoned Italian Mushrooms in Oil (Costco)

Ortocori Grilled Seasoned Italian Mushrooms in Oil (Costco)

If you don’t know what that is, let me explain: anything at Costco that is priced ending in .97 instead of .49, .79, .99 or anything else is being liquidated. It’s cheap. So I look for prices ending in that denomination quite a bit.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Ortocori Grilled (and seasoned) Italian Mushrooms, in Oil, for … $0.97 per jar! That is a super discount. If memory serves, these mushrooms sold for close to $8 a jar at the height of their popularity. So I did what any normal person would do in such a situation.

I bought 8 jars.

Now the thing is, I had never even tasted these mushrooms before buying them. I saw the price, and decided that even should these mushrooms prove to be disgusting, I’d only be less than $10 down.

The verdict: these mushrooms are delicious, and besides citric acid, which is included as an ingredient for conservation purposes, these grilled mushrooms are free of disgusting chemicals. Here are the ingredients:

  • White mushrooms
  • Sunflower oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Citric Acid
  • Herbs and Spices

These mushrooms are delicious cold, right out of the jar, and can also be lightly sauteed – no need to add oil! – to be served with a warm dish. One note of caution, however, and my only mildly negative comment about these mushrooms: make sure you drain them carefully before ingesting, as they are thoroughly soaked and dripping of oil. If you eat them too quickly, you’ll rapidly get a nasty “oil overload” feeling. Not the best.

Let me tell you, however, that at this price – 97 cents a jar at Costco –  these Ortocori Seasoned Grilled Mushrooms in Oil, made with freshly picked Italian mushrooms, were an absolute steal, and are always a hit when I take them out at dinner parties.

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Back Ribs: Quick Recipe

For some reason, cooking ribs has always been one of my fears. Maybe it’s because I managed, with the help of alcohol, to ruin a fantastic rack of ribs that had been smoking for 6 hours… or perhaps, just perhaps, my expectations have been driven too high by the restaurant industry, particularly Baton Rouge… In any case, a few months back I had purchased a bunch of back ribs at Costco, since they were unusually cheap, $14 a pack instead of the usual $22-25. I froze them using my trusty Foodsaver, which I also bought at Costco.

Just before I get to the recipe, I’ll just point out the fact that I had bought these ribs in February, and I’m now eating them at the end of October. The vaccuum-pack afforded by the Foodsaver really made a difference, as they were as fresh as the day I bought them. Maybe better.

In any case, I decided to follow the advice of one of my colleagues, who really knows his ribs. The method is incredibly simple, maybe a little time-consuming, but you can’t get something for nothing.

My Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Back Ribs Recipe

The ingredients list is super simple:

  • Back Ribs – as much as can fit, single layered, on baking sheets in your oven
  • One big Jar of commercial BBQ sauce (I used Garland Jack’s, bought on rebate at Costco)
  • End of list
Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Back Ribs Recipe

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Back Ribs Recipe

The cooking process is simple. Preheat the oven to 225 F. Lay out the ribs, ugly side up, on cooking sheets. Don’t crowd them too much.

Baste them with BBQ sauce. Stick them in the oven for 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes.

After two hours, flip the racks over, baste them and repeat the process for another 2 hours, again basting them every 30 minutes.

That’s it!

After gently cooking for over 4 hours, your ribs will be delicious and almost fall-off-the-bone done.

The picture above is of one half of one of the four racks I had. We easily fed 5 adults with appetites, and two curious kids, with plenty left over for lunches and whatnot.

Contrary to many other rib recipes, this one does not require you to marinate or boil the ribs ahead of time, although in retrospect maybe I would boil them next time, just a bit to take away some fat. This recipe is done in a single step, albeit a long one, but the result was more than satisfactory!

Bon appetit and let me know what you think if you try it!

Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup: Product Review

For those who don’t know this, let me be clear: having Maple Syrup in the fridge is absolutely crucial to Canadian families, and particularly French Canadian ones. Once derided as a lower-quality product – le sucre du pays – compared to cane and beet sugar, which are traditional refined sugar sources, maple syrup has a distinctive aroma and delicious taste that is, well, indescribable. Costco deciding to include Maple Syrup in its Kirkland Signature brand gives us the opportunity to purchase high quality maple syrup at an affordable price.

If anyone is looking into how seriously we take our maple syrup, check this list of terms directly associated with maple sugar and syrup. It’s in French, but you’ll get the idea.

Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup

Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup

Costco’s Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup is quite exceptional, and just as good or better than any syrup commercially available. The price is right, too.

This maple syrup is sold, in-store only, for $12.99 (Canadian dollars) for 1 liter of golden ambrosia.

To be fair, I haven’t bought any other maple syrup in a long time, as this one is just toooo goooood. That being said, competitors seem to be priced about 30 to 40% more expensive.

I used to put maple syrup on everything, from pancakes and crepes to cereals, omelets and everything in between. My dear defunct mother used to cook up a maple syrup mousse that was incredibly simple to make, so sweet it made your teeth hurt, and yet so light and delicious my eyes are tearing up just thinking about it. I’m not joking.

That recipe was always zealously guarded, but my mother passed it on to my sister, of course, and in an act of incredible generosity, to my wife. Whenever we have it, my sister and I still fight over any extras, and will try to steal from each other’s plate, winner keeps all. She fights dirty, but I’m sneakier.

Alright, here ends the drive down memory lane. In an effort to reach middle age, I’ve slowed down my maple syrup consumption, but when I need to have some, and it still happens a few times a week, I crack open my jug of Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup.

It’s just the best.

Kirkland Signature Iced Tea Mix: Product Review

I love the end of the summer at Costco. It is always a good time of the year to save big on all sorts of products I would not normally buy, but at the price they’re selling them at, I can hardly say no. One such product I purchased was the excellent Kirkland Signature Iced Tea Mix.

Kirkland Signature Iced Tea Mix

Kirkland Signature Iced Tea Mix

I don’t remember exactly, but I am almost certain that this is a product that normally sells for about $10. I bought it when there were only a few tins left, for a mere $2.97.

Of course, that was in early September, and much too late in the season to fully enjoy such a product, but no matter. This stuff keeps, and it will still be there next summer, when I can completely enjoy the fruits of my savings!

Here are the Kirkland Signature Iced Tea Mix ingredients, in decreasing order of importance:

  • Sugar (that’s not a surprise)
  • Citric acid
  • Instant tea
  • Natural Lemon and Lime flavors
  • Guar Gum (more information right here)
  • Calcium Phosphate Tribasic
  • Silicon dioxide

Well, I don’t want to be a bummer, but this is a powered iced tea mix. Even though it’s really good, and from Costco’s Kirkland Signature, you’re gonna get some chemically-sounding ingredients. I’m afraid there’s no avoiding it.

On the plus side, this Costco Iced Tea Mix is really delicious, and I found that you don’t have to put much more of mix than the recommended amount to get a proper taste. This iced tea is quite sweet, of course, thanks to the sugar, but with its citric acid and natural lemon and lime flavors, seemingly very thirst-quenching as well. The tea taste doesn’t taste too artificial, but not too real, either. You know what I mean. It’s just right. You don’t want it to taste like a sweet, cold cup of tea. Gross.

By the time you read this, this delicious, sun-drenched product has certainly disappeared from the shelves of your Costco, unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a place when you can get this stuff year-round. Make sure to get it next summer, or at least at the end of next summer, to take advantage of the Costco liquidation specials!

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Food

My wife and I have had our little cat, Tailchaser, for about 3 and a half years. He’s a black cat with a white belly – a tuxedo! – and we love him very much. What we don’t love is the price of cat food, which before we discovered the Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Food,  was superbly expensive, in the order of about $35 to $45 dollars a month. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually a lot of money, when you add it up.

Our cat, thankfully, isn’t really picky, so we decided to give a shot to the Costco-brand cat food. Everything else Kirkland Signature supplies seems of good quality, so why not?

Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food

Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food

It didn’t even take a day for the cat to adapt to the new food; we went ‘cold turkey’ with the food change, which I know isn’t ideal, but we were out of the other one. It doesn’t seem to have affected him, except for the fact that he’s crazy for the new food, purrs like crazy when we feed him!

Having a healthy, happy cat that loves his food is one, very important part of the equation, but it’s not the only one. Oh no.

The Costco Maintenance Cat Food, Chicken and Rice Formula, is dirt cheap compared to what is sold in pet stores. A massive, 20-pound (9.07 kilograms) bag costs only $16.99 Canadian dollars, and we can feed the cat for almost two months on that bag. Even if our cat ate like a pig and went through the whole thing in a month, which he can’t, it would still be a savings of over 50% from before.

You just can’t argue with that. When it comes to the ingredients, without being an expert, I don’t see anything that would be completely inappropriate, such as “Animal Protein Byproduct” or something of that ilk.

Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food Ingredients

Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food Ingredients

So far, so good. We’re on our second bag since we started feeding him the Kirkland-brand Cat Food, and our cat has managed to maintain his weight. He gained a little bit, but mostly (I think) because he doesn’t go outside as much as during the summer. Of course this has direct consequences on his litter box and litter consumption, but what can you do.

To learn more about what should and should not be in your pet’s food, click here. From what I could tell, the Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food (Chicken and Rice, Super Premium) seems to fare quite well, and even includes some Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which are not required by law.

Tonton Kobe BBQ Sauce, Once at Costco

This is going to be a short, sad review. In the next few days, I will be saying a long-feared goodbye to my favorite BBQ sauce, the Tonton Kobe BBQ Sauce. I bought this on liquidation at Costco a few years ago, because I thought it would be nice, and I liked the bottle. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but whatever.

Tonton Kobe BBQ Sauce

Tonton Kobe BBQ Sauce

New the thing is, as far as a BBQ sauce is concerned, the Tonton Kobe BBQ Sauce is pretty lame. It is a little too bitter, or strange, anyways, and too thin to be effectively basted on anything.

I know what you’re thinking. This review’s going to be pretty short, isn’t it? I mean, that was probably the reason I bought two of these huge bottles for $2.97 each, right?

Probably, indeed. But what this sauce lacks as a BBQ sauce, it more than makes up as a marinating agent. I’ve used it to marinate countless meats, and it goes great with all of them, particularly pork chops before you stick them on the BBQ.

Just yesterday I cut up a piece of pork fillet in slices, marinated them with garlic powder – a lot of it – and a little Kobe BBQ Sauce, put them on the BBQ for just long enough, and voila, gourmet taste at a value price!

This sauce is also absolutely delicious when used to stir-fry vegetables. I use the Kirkland Brand Stir-Fry vegetable mix, which is both affordable and healthy. It gives the vegetables a great flavor and aftertaste, without fouling up your pan like soy sauce does, for some reason.

But now, today, I find myself staring at the last milliliters of sauce at the bottom of my last bottle. I don’t have any illusions about this product coming back to Costco anytime soon. Just in case, I’ve taken a picture of the ingredients, and may try to replicate the sauce in the future. If I do, I’ll let you know.

Or I’ll just go to the Tonton website and order a bottle. Unfortunately, they want $5.25 for a small, 9.5 oz bottle, so I think I’ll pass. Too bad, though. I’ll miss my Tonton Yakiniku Kobe BBQ sauce!

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!

UPDATE – November 10th, 2014

This litter *sucks*. The whole basement smells like the worst kind of litter, never mind the “odor control formula” and the clumping is just a terrible, terrible joke. My cat’s number one business clumps fall apart at the first sign of scooping, requiring me to change more litter than I should, and number two business doesn’t really require clumping, now does it?

I would be better off with a box of sand.

I will go through this box – quickly, I might add – and go back to Qualicat cat litter, which has found its place anew at my local Costco. Goodbye, Simplicity Plus Cat Litter! You’re a horrible product and I’ll be thrilled to see the last of you!

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.