While we were in Austin we decided to make a trip to the Costco location that they opened in Cedar Park last year. I love the big open feeling of the new Costco locations. Plus, I just like to look at all of the stuff that I don’t always see in my UK Costco. We went during the week, in the evening, so there wasn’t a big crowd and that gave us plenty of time to just wander around and take it all in. Aside from sightseeing, we did pick up a few things to try out, of course, and we took the opportunity to pick up our yearly copy of TurboTax. Plus, after we were done shopping at Costco, we were able to stop at In ‘N Out for a delicious Double Double and a chocolate shake. It was a perfect evening! LOL
Oh yeah, sorry about the somewhat lousy photos but it turns out that poor hotel room lighting and photos taken with an iPad in a semi-hurry do not combine to make lovely, quality photos.
Labriola Pretzel Slider Buns – We have been to Germany a number of times and on each of those trips we always talk about how much we love these rolls that they have that look like pretzels but are actually soft bready goodness. But I’ve never found anyplace to buy them, unfortunately, nor have I found a recipe that really works well to make them at home. So we were really surprised to find a bag of pretzel rolls on our recent visit to Costco in Austin. I’m not sure how long they’ve had these in the US but I wish we had them in the UK. They don’t call them rolls on the package, they instead refer to them as a slider bun. The texture of the bread makes it perfect for sandwiches, because it is really soft but has a very smooth and even texture inside. I ate these just plain because I didn’t have any other option in a hotel room, honestly. But these would be great for any type of sandwich from lunchmeat to tuna and I think they could even make a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I will say that the texture of the brown crust (what gives it that characteristic pretzel look) on the outside wasn’t quite up to par with what we’ve had in Germany or bakeries where they are made fresh. I blame the plastic bag for that though. It does suggest that you can heat them in the oven for a bit and I’m thinking that would probably get the correct/ideal texture back. The taste was good though and that is what counts. Dave thought they should be a bit more salty but I thought they were a pretty good substitute for the German pretzel bread we love so much. 16 rolls for $5.99. Item #: 42881.
Curiously Crunchy Popcorn Halfpops – Dave spotted these and decided that he had to try them as he was so intrigued by the “half popped” thing. We picked up a package of the Butter and Sea Salt variety and were wondering what we would find inside. It turns out it really is a bunch of half popped kernels. But don’t be concerned about your teeth and dental work, because they’re not as hard as unpopped or partially popped kernels when you make your own popcorn. They have a nutty flavour with a hint of butter and salt and a nice bit of crunch. However, they weren’t quite as good as Dave was hoping they would be though. The crunch is good but they don’t taste quite right to him and he’s not a fan of the weird greasy residue that they leave behind on your hands. They don’t quite taste like popcorn either, which is kind of strange, but much more nutty; it’s not bad just not popcorn. The halfpops are air popped and have a small list of ingredients: popcorn, canola oil, butter, and sea salt. So there’s nothing bad going on in those ingredients and since they are air popped they are a bit healthier than other popcorn products you might buy. But I am pretty sure we wouldn’t buy these again. Dave says: “the more I eat them, the less I like them.” I’m also not a fan of the way they’ve done their resealable bag. The resealable part is part of the way down the front of the bag and does not fully run from side to side, so it is difficult to pour the halfpops out, so I’m not a fan of that at all. They’re not horrible but they’re not really good either and certainly not something we need to get again. They did have some other flavours at Costco, so maybe we should have tried one of those. 18 ounces for $4.97. Item #: 860886.
Utz Pub Mix -I love this stuff! We picked this up at the new(ish) Cedar Park Costco location when we were in Austin last week. And no, I didn’t eat this giant thing while we were there, but I did bring it back in my luggage. I can’t get this here in the UK, sadly, so I had to resort to bringing it home with me instead. It’s great for a snack or something to serve at a party that will have a bit more zing than plain old potato chips. Utz calls it a ‘savory blend of crunchy snacks.’ It’s made up of pretzels, honey mustard and cheddar cheese twists, worcestershire rye chips, honey roasted sesame chips, oriental rice crackers, and nacho bagel chips. This is an enormous container, so it is a really great thing to buy if you’re having people over. We used to serve this up when we had poker night at our house or people were over to watch football and it was always quite popular. I’m not sure if any of it is going to still be around by the time the Super Bowl rolls around in a week, but if so I’ll have some then too. But really, there’s something about this that I just find completely addictive. I have a hard time having just a handful of it. I don’t know what it is, perhaps it is just the perfect mix of crunchy and salty for me. I have to keep it up on a high shelf and try to ration myself or I think I could eat this whole thing in no time at all. So, if you’re looking for the perfect snack to accompany the Super Bowl, you might want to pick this up. 44 ounce for $6.99. Item #: 506639.
TurboTax 2014, Personal & Small Business -We have been using TurboTax for years and years now. We tried something else one year but quickly realized the error of our ways. The other reason we like using TurboTax is because we also use Quicken, both by Intuit, and the two work nicely together and that cuts down on some of the time we have to spend entering numbers from one place to the other. It’s so easy to use TurboTax because it asks questions in normal, everyday language instead of IRS speak, so it is very understandable. I think the interview type format also helps you out by coming up with deductions and other things that you might miss or not even think of on your own. Of course, if you really like looking at all those forms and line 12B and 23C things, you can go directly to the forms too. Also, as you are going through the process it keeps a running tally of how much you owe or how much your refund is; so you always see it. Which could be a good thing but sometimes makes you just want to cry. The other good thing is that they help you accurately value any charitable donations you might have made (obviously, the non-money donations) so that instead of you thinking that the old jeans were worth $2, they’ll tell you that indeed they are worth $20 (or something similar). And maybe the greatest thing is that it checks for errors and your likelihood of being audited before it lets you file. So, the audit risk meter lets you see things that may flag you for an audit and make sure that the information is accurate and correct. Plus, you get to do your e-filing of your returns for free (up to 5 returns), which used to cost around $10, I think. The software will work for either Windows or a Mac. The Personal and Small Business edition, includes some extras for self-employment tax filing for consultants, contractors, self-employed, single owner LLCs and sole proprietors. Obviously, this isn’t the version that the average person would need though. They have four different versions of TurboTax this year, up from three in previous years, though one is the Federal Free version for filing your simple 1040EZ/1040A. You need to be careful that you pick the right version for you because you don’t want to really need the investments and rental property part and have only purchased the Deluxe version. On the back of the package you can find a breakdown of what is offered in each version to help you make the right choice. Right now you can get $10 – $15.00 off of your TurboTax software through your local Costco warehouse or through Costco.com, so it is the perfect time to pick up your copy for the year. The quicker you get your taxes done, the sooner you’ll get your refund! $64.99 ($79.99 – $15.00 coupon). Item #: 918074.