Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kirkland (Costco) Marinara Sauce Review

I just wrote a product review of Dave's Gourmet Heirloom Tomato Organic Pasta Sauce, which is wonderful stuff.  On my previous trip to Costco, I was excited to discover Kirkland Marinara Sauce because just about everything Costco makes under the Kirkland name is fantastic in both price and quality.  Unfortunately, this sauce left me feeling flat.

I wouldn't describe it as horrible.  It's a pretty decent marinara sauce.  It just didn't have the deepness and richness of flavor I like in a marinara sauce.  For my spaghetti, I actually prefer the Prego Heart Smart sauce that Costco also sells and is on the shelf right next to the Kirkland Marinara.  It just doesn't live up to the Costco Kirkland reputation, IMO.  Oh well, I guess they can't be perfect.

Volume Control on iPhone headphones not working

I got a set of headphones to review for Amazon.com and they included a volume control on the cord.  While I was checking them out with my iPhone, I found the volume control wouldn't control my iPhone.  Odd behavior for a brand new set of headphones I thought.  When I tried them with my daughter's iPod, they worked fine.  So, I realized I had a problem with my iPhone.  I did a quick Google search and found the problem.

I carry my iPhone in my pocket and have for years. After all that time, a lint ball had formed in the socket where the headphones plug in.  My earphones worked just fine. But, the lint ball was keeping the plug from making contact so that the volume control worked.  The solution was extremely simple.  I used a bobby pin, as you can see in the picture.  But, you could use a toothpick.  Be careful digging around inside your iPhone.  I was a little nervous.  But, I gently removed a major wad of lint.  And, voila!  The volume control on the headphones worked perfectly.

Dave's Gourmeet Red Heirloom Organic Pasta Sauce Review

Our family is pretty picky when it comes to pasta sauces.  I like to make my own.  But, since linguine or spaghetti is one of those things we have on nights when there's no time to make dinner, it's good to have a good pasta sauce in the pantry. We have tried everything from Ragu to gourmet sauces and have found a few that we really like.  They are often quite expensive.  At Costco the other day we saw Dave's Gourmet Red Heirloom Organic Pasta Sauce and had to try it.  At $6.99 for two 25.5 ounce jars it wasn't as expensive as some we had tried and, after having seen the prices for it on-line, we are going to stock up on it while Costco has it in stock.

The sauce has a nice fresh taste and is slightly lighter and sweeter than other tomato sauces that we've really liked. I usually like a lot of tomato paste in my sauce giving it a rich, deep taste.  This sauce isn't like that though. The blend of herbs in it are just right and it has enough garlic without having too much.  I often jazz up the jar sauces we buy adding extra herbs to give them some punch. But, this sauce is balanced just right right out of the jar. The ingredients list lists things you'd put into your own tomato sauce, no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or any unpronounceable ingredients.  So, it's healthy, tasty and (if you get it at Costco) doesn't bust the wallet.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to completely wipe your iPhone


iPhone 2g, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4
Image by reticulating via Flickr
Since Apple comes out with a new iPhone every year or so and since their phones are generally sold with pretty restrictive contracts, there is a market for used iPhones as us geeks who want to stay on the bleeding edge upgrade to the newest shiny device and those who don't want to be locked into exorbitant data plans seek to find an iPhone free of contract.  But, before you sell your iPhone, you want to make sure you wipe it clean so the next guy doesn't get all of your information.  This tip will show you how to reset your iPhone quickly and easily.

I was told the best way to do this was through iTunes and restoring the phone to factory settings. I realized that is not the fastest or the easiest way as I tried to walk my senior uncle through wiping his phone. He somehow ended up spending hours because instead of just doing a restore to factory settings, he somehow managed to have the phone backup update to the latest release of iOS and restore all his data- completely defeating the purose and costing him a lot of time.

It turns out there is a fast and simple way to do this.  Simply turn on your phone, go to Settings-->General-->(scroll all the way down to) Reset-->Erase All Content and Settings  

You'll get a series of warnings that you are about to wipe all of the data from your iPhone and you will need your iPhone PIN to proceed.  It does take a while (it took my phone no where near an hour- nor did it take my uncle's that long).  But, after doing this your phone will be as fresh as the day you took it out of the box.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Del Destino Roasted Piquillo Peppers Review

I had seen roasted piquillo peppers on various cooking shows on the Food Network and always wanted to try them.  One day while wandering the aisled of Costco, these piquillo peppers from Del Destino called out to me and I bought them.

The peppers are incredibly sweet and the roasted flavor gives them a nice touch.  They are so convenient to used since they are already roasted and peeled.  They could be added to a hot dish. BUt, my favorite way to eat them is to slice them and put them in a salad so the taste isn't masked too much by other flavors.  The only problem is the ones at Costco come in a very large jar and my family takes several meals to go through a jar.  We've bought two jars so far and each has gone moldy several weeks after opening them.  The "best by" date is still two years away. But, once the jars are opened and bacteria get in there isn't enough preservative in them to keep it from growing.  Still, even if you have to throw part of the jar away, they are inexpensive enough at Costco to make them worth buying there rather than at a speciality foods store.  I will continue to buy them. But, I'll try to be more cautious about making sure I only use clean utensils when fishing them out of the jar and making sure no one sticks a finger in the jar to grab one.

(note-the peppers at Costco come in a 32 ounce jar- not the can pictured here)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Longhorn Steak House

I was given a $50 gift certificate to Longhorn Steakhouse for my birthday.  I took my wife and two daughters to the Longhorn in West Chester, OH on a Monday evening.  The restaurant was pretty crowded for a Monday night.  But, the wait was very short- around 10 minutes.  I had a glass of house wine and my wife had a draft beer in the bar while we waited.  Total for both drinks was around $12 including tip.

Longhorn is running a special called Steakhouse Dinner for Two.  The deal is two salads, two entrees (with one side item each) and a choice of a dessert or an appetizer to split.  Total price is $29.99.  This is a pretty good deal considering the entrees you can choose from are $13-15 each.  So, it's like getting the dessert or appetizer free.  My daughters split that.  I joined Longhorn's email club and got a coupon for a free Wild West Shrimp as an appetizer.  The shrimp was small salad sized shrimp battered and fried with cherry peppers and a ranch dipping sauce.  My younger daughter, who does not like shrimp, loved the appetizer.  The preparation reminded me of calamari I had at McCormick and Schmick's.  The shrimp itself being such small shrimp didn't have a lot of flavor- probably why my youngest liked it.  But, the batter was light and tasty.  With the peppers and the dipping sauce was very good.  The portion was huge. It was enough for at least two people.  As an appetizer, it was plenty for the four of us.  

The girls ordered the Parmesan Crusted Chicken and the Grilled Chicken with Stuffed Portabella Mushroom.  One ordered asparagus as her side dish and the other the mixed vegetables.  Our family doesn't use a lot of salt or butter on our food.  So, we quite often find restaurant food salty. My older daughter complained that her Grilled Chicken with Stuffed Portabella Mushroom was overly salty.  I tasted it and it was slightly on the salty side.  Not too bad.  My younger daughter complained that her Parmesan Crusted Chicken was salty. That was out of character for her because she loves salt and cheese.  I tasted that and it was off-the-charts salty.  They must use a pretty salty parmesan cheese or they season the chicken with salt before adding the cheese.  She also didn't care for the butter on the mixed vegetables although they were done nicely.

I wanted to get a filet, which was not an option on the Steakhouse Dinner for Two.  So, I got the filet with Cedar Plank Grilled Shrimp.  My wife got the grilled salmon over rice pilaf.  We each got the asparagus, which was a $1.49 upcharge over the included side items.  The salmon was $15.79 for the 7 ounce portion and my filet and shrimp combo was $22.99. Again, not bad prices considering they came with the choice of Caesar or Mixed Green Salad and a side dish.  I didn't bring my scale with me but my 7 ounce Flo's Filet looked a couple of ounces shy of 7 ounces to me.  I ordered it medium rare.  The first one they brought me looked overdone when they sat it down.  When I cut into it I knew it was way past medium rare- at least what I call medium rare- which is just warm all the way through.  I sent it back.  The waitress explained to me that when they cut through the center of it in the kitchen it was medium rare in the middle. But, they brought another one to me in just a few minutes and the second one was cooked perfectly.  They also brought me an additional order of asparagus with the second steak.  I had never had cedar plank shrimp before.  It took me a couple of shrimp to decide whether I liked it or not.  The shrimp had a garlic and butter crust over the top.  The shrimp really picked up a lot of flavor from the cedar plank, much more than salmon, which I've had prepared that way, does.  I did enjoy it a lot and will be making that at home.  My wife's salmon was very nice.  It was the right temperature.  She also enjoyed her rice pilaf.

The girls chose the Chocolate Stampede for their dessert. The Chocolate Stampede is two slabs of chocolate cake with various types of chocolate (ice cream) layered over it.  It's served with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.  I don't know what they were thinking when they created this dessert. But, it's massive.  It's more than enough for one or two people.  We split it between the four of us and ended up leaving some on the table after we were thoroughly satisfied.  It was quite possibly the second largest dessert I've ever had.  The largest being a dessert in a Chicago steak house.

The service was excellent.  Our waitress was very attentive and our food came out quickly.  Even with my filet having to be redone, we were out of there in very good time.  The total bill came to just around $85 with the free dessert deducted.  That's not including the $12 (including tip) we spent at the bar.  
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fiber One 90 Calorie Bars- Review

While walking through Costco, I saw a new flavor of Fiber One bars, one of my favorite pre-breakfast snacks (before working out).  These are peanut butter and chocolate. So, of course, I tried one.  They are delicious.  And the bonus? They're only 90 calories. So, I bought a box (well two) and brought them home.

The first time I got one out of the box, I thought... "Hmmm...  these don't seem as big as I remember."  But, I let it go. The next time I got one I thought the same thing and decided to check it out.  Lo and behold, the secret to reducing the calories from 140 calories per bar for the regular Fiber One Bars to the 90 calories in the low-cal bar was to reduce the weight from 1.4 ounces to 0.85 ounces. Not exactly rocket science.

The bars are delicious. But, they're a little skimpy for my purposes. So, once these are gone, I think I'll go back to the normal ones.  But, if you're one of those people who suffers from "gastrointestinal distress" after eating a whole Fiber One bar with 9 grams of fiber, you (and your family) might appreciate the fact that these only contain 5 grams of fiber.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Chuck Taylors & Vibram Five Fingers

Kayla  talked me into getting a couple of pairs of Chuck Taylors recently.  What were the coolest shoes to have about 30 years ago are back in vogue now- in all kinds of designer colors and fabrics. When I was doing P90X I was looking for a pair of shoes to save my knees and ran across the concept of "barefoot shoes" like the Vibram Five Fingers.  The idea is to use a minimal amount of support because our feet and leg muscles get lazy from all that support and by working out without the support we build strength.  I ended up going a different way for shoes then.  But, when I got my first pair of Converses (well the first pair in about 30 years), I got that barefoot feeling from them because they have zero support.  LOL.

I got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for Christmas from Ty.  But, because of my genetic deformity of having very long toes and second toes that are longer than my big toes, I cannot wear them.  I did wear them around in the house for a while and they felt pretty much like my Chuck's at over twice the price.  Chuck Taylor's, decades ahead of their time.

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