Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve: Product Review

Having a good variety of condiments and spices at your disposal is one of the greatest ingredients to tasty and easy cooking. While I usually prefer to rely on individual spices rather then blends, as it gives me more leeway, one of the exceptions I make is Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve. I use it in a variety of recipes, such as my delicious creamy pan-fried salmon. One of the most defining features of Les Herbes Salees, is that, as their name strongly implies (if you speak French) the blend tastes extremely salty.

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve

Making Herbes Salées is apparently pretty easy; a quick Google search will reveal plenty of recipes, but frankly these are so delicious and inexpensive that I see no point in buying and chopping and dealing with all those different herbs and salt. I buy it, it tastes great, is easy to use just about everywhere and it saves me a bunch of trouble.

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve (Ingredients)

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve (Ingredients)

Les Herbes Salées can be used just about everywhere, but the packaging recommends using it in soups, gravies, with fish and meat dishes such as pies, roast beef, ground meats, stews and meatloaf, as well as with pasta, rice, omelets and mashed potatoes. In fact, anywhere you’d add salt, consider using these. It’s much tastier and just as salty. Maybe more so.

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve (Nutritional Info)

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve (Nutritional Info)

As you can see in the picture above, each 15 gram portion contains 880 mg of sodium, which is not that much when you consider how salty this stuff actually is. Here are the ingredients that4 go in this particular brand of Herbes Salées:

  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Parsley
  • Chervil
  • Savory
  • Leek
  • Chives
  • Spinach

Les Herbes Salees du Bas du Fleuve were born from a need to save herbs over the winter months; there are as many recipes for them as they are people making them. A quick internet search will show that much. If you’re interested in making your own, you can follow this recipe, which is wonderful in its absence of details. Also, you’ll need to read French. If enough people show interest, I’ll post a translated version here.

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light from Costco: Product Review

If you are a regular reader of this blog, or have done any research on Artika lighting products, you have come across my gloving review of the Artika Moonraker I did some months ago. What I said before still holds true, and I still love my Moonraker. However, what usually happens at Costco happened, and when came the time to install a new LED Ceiling Light, Costco was out of them. Fortunately, they had a replacement, the Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light. The price was $39.99, comparable to what I had paid for the Moonraker about a year earlier.

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (front of box)

Visually speaking, there are not many differences between the Moonraker and the newer Cloudraker. The main difference, as near as I can tell, is that the part that screws in the ceiling, where the actual LED lights are, is between 1 and 2 inches smaller in diameter on the Cloudraker. This means that the diffuser flares out from the base slightly, which is quite nice. Have a look at what the Cloudraker looks like installed.

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (installed)

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (installed)

Because of the shape of the diffuser, there is a cool ceiling back-lighting effect taking place when you light it up, and it contributes to making the room even brighter than it otherwise would be with the light on.

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (back of the box)

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (back of the box)

Here are the Cloudraker’s main feature, as assigned and attributed by the back of the box, above.

  • High power, which at 29 watts for an LED fixture, is true
  • Dimmable light – more on that later
  • Immortal Light (that their trademark for their 25,000 hour light)
  • 1800 lumens
  • No maintenance
  • Low energy consumption, thanks to LED lights

One of the lice things about this fixture is that they seem to have gotten the message about their lights humming when installed with certain dimmers – please see the comments in the Moonraker review.  They have printed on the box the recommended dimmers from major manufacturers, which would presumably work best with the Cloudraker, and avoid that annoying humming. Mine is not on a dimmer, so let me know in the comments if these are working out for you, or if you have any success (or not!) with other dimmers.

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (box content)

Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light (box content)

I took this picture to show the contents of the box, but this is really self-explanatory. The fixture comes with the screws to attach it to any standard box, as well as the screw-caps to cover the wires when you connect them. Installation took about 10 minutes, which includes the time that was needed to remove the previous, awful fixture.

Inside the  Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light

Inside the Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light

Here is the inside of the LED light fixture. As you can see, there are – hopefully – no moving parts, and nothing that you should be worried about replacing. I’m hopeful that I’ll manage to get my 25,000 hour’s worth of lighting, but even if it was only half that, it would still be OK.

So far, I’m very satisfied with my Artika Cloudraker LED Ceiling Light, which I purchased, as always, from Costco. Here what I got from it:

  • Affordable: Less than $40 at Costco
  • Easy to install: Less than 10 minutes
  • Pleasant warm glow
  • Long lasting and reliable – so far
  • Easy on the electric bill

Let me know in the comments what you think about this Cloudraker, and how it compares for you, to Moonraker. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions you ma have, I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my knowledge!

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts: Product Review

A few years ago, I bought a large chest freezer with my Costco and American Express cash back checks, and since then I’ve been able to take better advantage of all the deals that are offered at Costco. My family is not vegan, and we buy a lot of meat, but we try to buy smart, always getting what’s on special, ideally something easy to freeze so we can buy in bulk. For some reason I’d always resisted buying the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts; maybe I was afraid to buy something that came in a box, or was such a good deal. I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded, and that this chicken may just be the best deal at Costco!

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts

First off, let’s talk price; the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts (also skinless and boneless) costs $24.99 for a 3-kilogram box. That’s about $8.3 per kilogram, compared to about $14 when fresh, also at Costco. This translates into a saving of about 40-45%, which is huge. The bag contains three kilos, which in the case of the box I bought, meant 15 chicken breasts, or $1.66 each. It also means that on average, each chicken breast weighed 200 grams, which is quite a healthy portion.

It’s also worth noting that these Harvest Creek chicken breasts come with no skin or bones, meaning that you get all meat for the price. If your breast weighs 200 grams, you’ve got 200 grams of meat and proteins, which is nice. No waste.

When it comes to taste, your results will vary depending on the method you use to cook them, and how they are seasoned. Personally I put them in the oven, following the instructions, sprinkled liberally with Herbes de Provence, which give them a nice perfume without overly salting them. I also put a little bit of salt and pepper. When you look at the ingredients, you’ll notice that it’s not just chicken:

  • Chicken
  • Water
  • Salt

This suggests that the chicken breasts are injected with brine prior to freezing; while I would not normally be a fan of such a practice, the price is reasonnable enough that I can live with a bit of water and salt.

Moreover, the result is that the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts are quite moist and tender, not dry as breast meat usually ends up being. I’m very happy with my purchase, and will certainly restock as soon as I’m done with this box. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Costco has these items on special, but the regular price will have to do!

Molinaro’s Hand Stretched Pepperoni Pizza: Product Review

Despite what you might think reading this, I usually try to stay away from outrageously processed foods. I’m no health nut, that’s for sure, but when a food item has more in common with cardboard than with it’s supposed to be, I guess that’s where I draw the line. This is why I was so pleasantly surprised by my latest Costco purchase,  Molinaro’s Hand Stretched Crust Pepperoni Pizza. It was on special, so I bought a box, thinking they would make quick lunches, and I was right. Not only quick, but delicious!

Molinaro's Hand Stretched Crust Pizza

Molinaro’s Hand Stretched Crust Pizza

I usually buy the Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizzas, but those were on special, so I decided to give them a shot. I bought them at Costco yesterday; the regular price is $14.49, with a $3 instant rebate. This brings down the price to $11.49, or $2.87 per pizza.

The thing is that each pizza weighs 460 grams, which is really not that much if you are planning on sharing. The Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza are a bit more expensive, but each weighs about 800 grams. My wife, my 4-year old son and me can eat one and be reasonably satisfied. My wife and I shared a Molinaro’s, and we both wished we’d baked another one, we were still hungry. Thankfully, we’b bought awesome Kettle Chips at Costco, so we didn’t go hungry!

Of course, I’m not a big fan of just putting a frozen pizza in the oven: it needs to be customized, first. Here’s what mine looks like going in the oven!

Molinaro's Customized Pepperoni Pizza

Molinaro’s Customized Pepperoni Pizza

In this instance, I added some anchovies and some pickled roasted red peppers, which will be the object of an upcoming review.

In terms of nutrition, don’t expect too much. Each 115 grams, or quarter of a pizza, contains 300 calories, 15 grams of fat (including 5 grams of saturated fat), 30 milligrams of cholesterol and a massive 30% of your daily sodium. The ingredients list is massive and overwhelming, but there is nothing really weird or unpronounceable, so at least there’s that. These Molinaro’s pizzas are made in Canada (in Ontario, actually) from domestic and imported ingredients.

Healthy they are not, but they are quickly made, so that’s that!

You put the pizza in the oven from a frozen state, straight on the grill of the oven – not on a baking sheet. This ensures that the crust is nice and crunchy, rather than too soft. The pizza cooks, from frozen, for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees, which is long enough for the cheese to get bubbly and for the extra stuff I put on the pizza to become quite cooked and delicious.

For my money, I think the Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza are a better deal, but since they were on special, I quite enjoyed the Molinaro’s Hand Stretched Crust Pepperoni Pizza. I might even buy another box before the special is out!

Rodelle Classic Herbes de Provence: Product Review

I’ve been really impressed with the Rodelle products I had the opportunity to buy at Costco, especially the Gourmet Baking Cocoa, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I was therefore really happy when I saw that my Costco also stocked the Rodelle Classic Herbes de Provence, which is a Gourmet Herb Blend. I really enjoy cooking French food and eating it, so I figured this would be a great addition to my pantry.

Rodelle Classic Herbes de Provence

Rodelle Classic Herbes de Provence

First off, let’s talk about price. This is Costco we’re talking about, so it’s all about the best deal, the best price and the best value. The Rodelle Classic Herbes de Provence comes in a 108 gram container, which is about 3.8 ounces, and costs $7.89 at my local Costco. This comes down to about 2 dollars per ounce, which is not expensive for a gourmet herb blend.

This Rodelle product is Made in the USA, and contains the following ingredients:

  • Thyme
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Savory
  • Lavender

I know that some Herbes de Provence blend don’t include Lavender, but I find that it brings a hint of freshness that is quite incomparable, so I like it just like that.

So what can those herbs be used for? Are they used only in traditional French cuisine? Absolutely not! While that’s where they find their roots, les Herbes de Provence have transcended their origins and can be used just about anywhere. Check out this Huffington Post article for some inspiration!

In short, they are great for grilling or roasting meat – particularly awesome with a roast leg of lamb, or shoulder – but are equally at home with seafood and fish, or simply on roasted potatoes. You can even make a really good dip using nothing but Herbes de Provence, sour cream and mayonnaise!

When you’re next at Coscto, make sure you pick up Rodelle’s Classic Herbes de Provence. It’s an easy and affordable way to add hint of la Cote d’Azur to your cooking!

Gurken Prinz Pickled Beetroot Salad: Product Review

I admit I’m a sucker for beets; I know that they are absolutely cheap to buy in their raw form, and pickling or marinating them is not difficult. That being said, I always buy some pickled beets from the store. They are just so delicious. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Gurken Prinz Pickled Beetroot Salad at my local Costco; I already buy this company’s pickles gherkin pickles, and they are to die for, so I jumped on the occasion to try something new from the same company.

Gurken Prinz Pickled Beetroot Salad

Gurken Prinz Pickled Beetroot Salad

This jar contains 1.5 liters of pickled beets, or 50.7 ounces, and costs just $4.99. This comes down to 33 cents per 100 ml, which is a great price for anything these days, and for a delicious pickled beet salad, well!

Now, on to the salad itself. Unlike other pickled beets you may have bought before, which are usually diced or cubed, Gurken Prinz offers its pickled beets sliced thin. There are some small cubes in there, but they are definitely the exception. Despite the slices being quite thin, they still manage to retain their consistency, making them yield to the teeth just right.

They are obviously quite acidic, but not overpoweringly so, and not too salty. In fact, they are exceptionally delicious with a light sprinkling of Natural Flower Sea Salt (which you can also get at Costco).

Here are the ingredients for this pickled sweet and spicy beetroot salad:

  • Red beets
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Caraway
  • Horseradish

End of list. I doesn’t really get more natural than this. Of course, since there are no preservation agents, you have to make sure to refrigerate the container after opening it, and to eat it all within three weeks. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Each serving 100-gram serving contains only 10 grams of sugar, and 15% of your daily salt, which is really not that bad, unless you severely overindulge. Don’t look for vitamins, proteins or anything else in there. Pickled beets are the perfect side, but they’re not really nutritious.

In closing, one of the things I really like about the Gurken Prinz Pickled Beetroot Salad is that it comes from Austria. I’m not talking about the recipe, but the whole thing. Pickles, jar, label and all. It comes from the province of Burgenland, which is the smallest and least populated Austria province, on the border with Hungary. I don’t buy many products from Austria, which has a long and glorious history, so it’s fun to get something as simple as pickles from there.

Fleur de Sel de Guérande Natural Flower Sea Salt: Product Review

One of the reasons that I love shopping at Costco, besides my 2% Executive Membership cash back, is that exposes me to all sorts of products I would not necessarily have bought before, and not only that, does so at a price that I can afford to try new things. Take the Fleur de Sel de Guérande, for example. This is truly a gourmet, high-end product that sells for many times the price in grocery stores and specialized stores, but  that I can buy for a very affordable price at Costco.

Fleur de Sel de Guérande Natural Flower Sea Salt

Fleur de Sel de Guérande Natural Flower Sea Salt

This 125 gram (4.4 oz) container of Fleur de Sel de Guérande, straight from France, was priced at $5.69 at Costco. That’s in Canadian dollars, too. You can get similar items on Amazon for about twice the price, if you were so inclined. In grocery stores, the price rises steeply. These people have overhead to carry.

The real question, however, is this one: why on God’s green earth should you get this salt? You can buy iodized seal salt for a quarter of the price, at Costco or elsewhere. Salt is salt, right? No need to be difficult, right? It makes food salty.

That’s where you’d be wrong. If salt is salt, then help yourself to a 20-kilogram bag of rock salt for the driveway for three bucks, and put that in your food. Salt’s salt, right? Ha ha. Not quite.

Fleur de Sel, or Natural Flower Sea Salt, is collected by hand in Bretagne, France, following methods going back a thousand years. It is not cleaned, bleached, or crushed in any way and retains an indescribable texture and flavor.

Just to be clear, this is not the kind of salt that you add to a recipe when they ask for a ‘pinch of salt’. It’s not something you put in the water when you’re cooking pasta, unless you’ve got no sense and money to burn. Regular plain table salt is just fine for those purposes. Fleur de Sel is destined to greater things. Leave it on the table for your guests to sprinkle directly on their food, where they can appreciate fully the texture and taste.

Getting a salt of this quality, at this price, is a really cool thing. It is nothing like the Greek Kalas sea salt you can get at Costco and elsewhere. Fleur de Sel de Guérande is something you should have in your pantry or spice rack to give your guests a real taste of something special.

Kirkland Signature Clear Trash Bags: Product Review

Another beautiful, colorful fall, another millions leaves on my yard, another interminable chore of gathering up said leaves. One of the joys of being a homeowner. Every year, my wife and I – disclaimer: mostly my wife – start the task of raking up the leaves with less than full enthusiasm. We gather them in monster piles, which are fun for the kids. After they’ve had their fun, we shove the leaves in bags and leave them on the side of the road for the Fall Fairy to collect as an offering to ensure her bounty. Either that or the city collects ’em. Whichever is first, I guess.

For that task, I am happy to use Kirkland Signature Clear Trash Bags. They are available at Costco, in one size only, in a box of 60 bags, that cost $12.99. This translates to a per-bag cost of 21.65 cents, or between four and five bags to the dollar. Considering that I need about 20 bags per year to complete the operation, this is a pretty good deal.

Kirkland Signature Clear Trash Bags

Kirkland Signature Clear Trash Bags

Now, on to the bags themselves. They measure 31 inches by 45.5 inches, which is a standard size for garbage bags. They are completely transparent, letting the city (or the Fall Fairy) know that you are not sneaking in some household garbage along with your leaves. Naughty boy.

In terms of resistance, drum liners they are not, but will hold up to leaves and the occasional twigs. Bigger branches will poke through the bag, but it is resilient enough not to tear further if a whole has been poked in it.

The Kirkland Signature Clear Trash Bags feature the ‘Smart Tie Closure’ system, which means that the bags are really easy to tie shut. I don’t understand why every garbage bag doesn’t offer this functionality. It’s not much, but it makes a massive difference in regards to how much you can pack the bag before having to close it, saving me time and money.

Since this is a Kirkland Signature product, you can only get it at Costco, but I honestly don’t understand why you would shop anywhere else for that kind of products. Just buying this kind of stuff – all the essentials, really – at Costco more than pays for your membership.

Mont Brule Electric Fondue Set at Costco: Product Review

When my parents got married in the early 1970s, receiving fondue sets as wedding gifts was the thing, so you can see that I inherited quite a few of them when my parents downsized and decided to get rid of junk they hadn’t used in 30-plus years. As you can imagine, I never used them, either. They are gross things made out of copper that is incredibly stained by non-use, and require the use of burning stuff to keep hot.

Fortunately, Costco was there for me when I needed it, providing me with a nice fondue set that has none of the hassle of the previous ones, and all the convenience of modern life, such as working with electricity. I bought the Mont Brulé 9-piece Electric Fondue Set at Costco for $49.99, and I’ve already used it more than the sets I’ve owned for decades, because it’s actually fun and requires very little prep and/or maintenance.

Mont Brulé Electric Fondue Set

Mont Brulé Electric Fondue Set

I bought this electric fondue set for $49.99 at Costco. It wasn’t on special, but I’d wanted it for a long time, so there you have it.

So far, I’ve only used it with cheese – one of my favorites – but I’ve no doubt that it works equally well with chocolate and broth.

What I really like about it is that it heats up in no time; it’s extremely quick. The drawback of this is that you really have to be careful when you put cheese in there, because the cheese will cook on the bottom rather than melt if you’re in a hurry, which is a *huge* pain to clean up. The electric connection is magnetic, and easily disconnected, which can help prevent accidents. The heating element is removable, so you can easily stick the pot in the dishwasher. It says it’s dishwasher-safe, but I’ve not tried it yet. Elbow grease works great, and I was afraid I would simply cake on the burnt cheese.

For $49.99, you get the pot, the heating element and the electrical cord, as well as 6 little fondue forks and the ring you put on the top, which acts as a splash guard and somewhere to rest your forks as your stuff is cooking in the broth. The Mont Brulé 9-piece Electric Fondue Set is a great purchase, and a great way to receive your guests. I find that cooking at the table, such as with Raclette, is really convivial and fun. Have lots of wine on hand. That also helps! Don’t drink and drive.

 

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa at Costco: Product Review

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not the baker in our house. This honor belongs to my wife, so she is much more familiar with baking ingredients than I am. That being said, I have gathered her thoughts about this product, and I can confidently write a product review! I’m talking, of course, of the excellent Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa, which is available in many places, but which we buy at Costco, because it is dirt cheap there, and it helps us maximize our membership and our Executive 2% Cash Back.

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa

First, let’s talk about price. This 700 gram container of Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa, when purchased at Costco, costs $8.99. This may not seem significant, but you can buy the exact same thing on Amazon for anywhere from $25 to $35. If you need baking cocoa for cakes, hot chocolate, brownies or anything else where cocoa is needed, then just buying this twice a year can cover the costs of your Costco membership!

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa Nutrition Facts

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa Nutrition Facts

My wife uses this cocoa in just about anything, but what she uses it most of all is when making hot chocolate. Using cocoa and sugar, as opposed to a prepared mix, really allows you to control the taste. You can get it as sweet or as bitter as you like it. She likes it bitter, I love it sweet, so we can both get our wish quickly and easily, and for a fraction of the price or prepared hot chocolate.

The baking cocoa is also incredible in brownies and chocolate cakes, which are my wife’s specialty. She doesn’t make them too often, because we would just eat cake until we explode, or eat a whole tray of brownies in one sitting.

Now that I’m saying it like that, and reading over what I wrote, it’s a wonder we’re not both severely overweight.

My dad, who is well into his 70’s and a lifelong fan of decadent chocolate cake, declared a few years ago that my wife made the best chocolate cake he’d ever eaten. It might not sound like a big deal, because you don’t know him, but it is.

When it comes to nutrition, just have a look at the nutrition facts above. I’m not going to bother going through it with a fine-tooth comb, because there is no point.

This is cocoa, not a chocolate bar.

Similarly, the list of ingredients can be summed up in one word: Cocoa. There you have it.

The Rodelle Gourmet Baking Chocolate is not only delicious, it’s also a great deal, if you buy it at Costco. As a bonus, I’m happy to include a picture of the official Rodelle Fudge Brownies recipe, as printed on the side of the cocoa container. Enjoy!

Rodelle Official Fudge Brownies Recipe

Rodelle Official Fudge Brownies Recipe