This week has been long and stressful and I am so glad to see the end of it. Phew! It’s also been kind of weird because it seems like the weather took a look at the calendar and immediately switched to Fall mode because it is September. If you are in the US don’t forget that a new coupon book started on Thursday. Also, for those in the US or Canada, Monday is Labor Day and all Costco locations in both countries will be closed.
Blue Avocado (re)zip 7 Piece Kit – If you are like me you use a ton of Ziploc bags (or your plastic zip top bag of choice) and also throw them out quite a lot too. I use Ziplocs in the kitchen, obviously, but also in the rest of my house for handy organization. And of course, we use them every time we fly and want to take deodorant and toothpaste. But a company in Austin, Blue Avocado, has come up with some great zip top bags, and best of all they are reusable. And even better, they now sell a seven bag set at a selection of US Costco locations. These have all kinds of great properties, and a lot of environmental benefits too. The bags are made from FDA-grade PEVA film, and free from BPA, PVC, and lead, so they are safe for foods. If you’re like me you are probably like what is PEVA film. I could give you a technical answer, that it is poly(ethylene-vinyl acetate) and then go into some science-y stuff but I think it will suffice to say that the bags are made from a vinyl material that is super soft and supple and not completely see-through. The top is a leakproof double-seal so you are safe with even messy or juicy items too, though you’re braver than me if you try them for something like soup. But certainly your luggage is safe if you want to take these on your next trip for your liquids (though they do have a special travel quart bag for just this purpose too). They are safe for the freezer too. Unfortunately, you can’t pop these into the microwave though. These are easier than you might think to hand wash. I haven’t tried them with the container-killer tomato sauce though to see how they stand up to something so acidic and known for staining anything but glass. Here’s what they suggest for cleaning them, and you’ll agree it’s pretty easy: “fill halfway with warm water and add a small amount of dish soap. Gently swirl bag to make sure all internal surfaces are cleaned, using a bottle brush on the corners if necessary. Rinse thoroughly. Drape over dishrack prongs and prop open to dry.” Simple. The nice people at Blue Avocado sent me the 7 piece set to try out and I’ve been really pleased with them so far. The set at Costco consists of a single large gallon bag, 2 lunch or quart size, 2 snack (look to be about 1/2 the size of the quart bag) size, and 2, 1 cup bags and costs $19.99. These are really environmentally friendly too because they can dramatically cut down your usage of the regular plastic bags. If you use just one of these bags a couple of times per week, in a year you’ve saved the landfills from more than 100 plastic bags. Also, Blue Avocado has partnered with UNIFI’s Repreve recycled polyester brand of fibers to turn more than 3 million plastic bottles into products like these (re)zips. You can find out more about their environmental impact on their website. I think these bags are great and these are ideal for those that take their lunch to work or school. I particularly like how easy they are to seal completely. Sometimes Ziplocs seem really resistant to completely sealing but these seal perfectly every time. I read a few reviews saying that these are hard for small kids to open, I didn’t have a small kid around to test with, but my hands haven’t been at their best recently and even when they have been quite painful and not moving too well, I thought these bags were very easy to seal and open. If you’re interested in these, see if your Costco location is lucky enough to have these now, and if not, you can always buy them directly through the Blue Avocado website or Amazon. As always, even though I received this kit for free, the opinions are my own. 7 bag kit for $19.99.
Brothers Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches – I heard about these a few weeks ago from the Brothers but didn’t have a chance to try them until this week. These are not the normal Eskimo Pie type of ice cream sandwich because it is made with two chocolate chip cookies and has a vein of fudge running through the ice cream. They are sinfully delicious! These are from the same people that make the Brothers Natural Choice Organic Fruit Ice Lollies that I liked so much when I tried them earlier this year. But unlike those, the ice cream sandwiches are not made with organic ingredients. But they are delicious. The cookies are really like actual chocolate chip cookies that someone made to be a cookie, not some little chocolate chip cookie pressboard that is all flat and obviously made to sandwich ice cream. They don’t skimp on the ice cream either because they use a really decent amount for these, certainly a thicker layer than any other ice cream sandwich I’ve tried. These wouldn’t be anywhere near as yummy if they didn’t include the fudge in the vanilla ice cream too. There’s just something about that little extra bit of flavour that pulls it all together I think. As you might assume, these are individually wrapped. The cookie starts to thaw out quicker than the ice cream, especially where your hot little hand it holding it. Dave thinks the cookies get a bit soggy, but I didn’t think that was the problem, they’re just thawing. But as with any ice cream sandwich, you’re not going to be able to lag about and eat it slowly or you’ll end up with a bit of a mess on you hands, literally. The only other niggle I have is not with the actual product at all but the presentation of the nutritional data. The table that displays the calories and nutritional values are based on a 100 gram size, but the ice cream sandwich serving size information is all in millilitres or ounces. These are two different types of measurement – one is for density/weight and one is for volume. That’s not really the same thing at all. I don’t know why they mess around with this because clearly a serving size is a single ice cream sandwich. It is unlikely you will only eat a portion of it and keep the rest for later; if you do you are a better disciplined person than I. So, I’m disappointed that they didn’t acknowledge that and provide usable nutrition information, especially calories. I weighed mine and came up with an average of 117 grams, including the little plastic that they are wrapped in, which I doubt is more than a gram of that weight. So it isn’t too much more than the 100 grams that they are using for their nutritional values, but it is more and an unnecessary hassle. But the actual ice cream sandwiches are outstandingly delicious. 12, 148ml sandwiches for £8.49. Item #: 0186107.
USA Pork Loin Steaks – The pork loin, is not as the name might make you think, the same as a pork tenderloin. The pork loin is a big cut from the back of the pig and they often cut it into roasts, as well as chops or steaks. You can have your chops or steaks either with the bone in or boneless. We chose to go with the boneless steaks, though some people say that leaving the bone in makes them juicier. These were thick cut pork steaks, I’d say about 1.5 inches in thickness. That extra thick cut means that you’re going to end up with a juicier pork chop if you cook it right. We took them out of the fridge about 40 minutes before we wanted to cook them so that they would come to room temperature and cook more evenly all the way through. Dave seared them until they had a people golden brown colour and then lowered the temperature until they cooked to the proper temperature. After cooking, you need to let them rest and do a bit of carry over cooking for about 10 minutes or so. Dave cooked them beautifully and they were golden brown on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. Pork is beautifully versatile and will lend itself to pairing with pretty much anything – from sweet to savoury. I think pork is great when paired with fruit – apples, figs, cherries, cranberries, and mango are amongst my favourite items to pair with pork. You can use the fruit to make a sauce, chutney, or salsa to go over your pork. Or you can get really daring and stuff your pork. With the thickness of these pork loin steaks, they are perfect for stuffing. You just need to cut a little pocket in the side of the steak and stuff in something like goat cheese and figs. We used to make a sauce/salsa for pork with cranberries and jalapeños when we were in the US where we could easily buy both of those things. It was a perfect combination with the tartness and the spicy kick…yum! We’ve only had two of these pork loin steaks and I made a salsa out of mango that worked really well with the pork. I think next time I might try the bone-in version to see if there really is a big difference to taste or texture, though I think it is more important to cook them right. 6 steaks for £10.15. Item #: 0004142.
Wolf Berner Sausages – I won’t deny that I like a good German sausage, and I like bacon, so these sound good but then they’ve also got cheese. These sausages are from the same company, Wolf, that makes the outstanding Thuringer brats at Costco too. I don’t know how you could resist them because they are a Frankfurter type sausage with Emmental cheese inside and wrapped in bacon. What is not to love there? They cook up beautifully! The bacon, which is from the belly not like streaky bacon we are used to in the US, gets nicely golden brown with a good bit of crunch to it when you cook it too and wraps the sausage in a lovely meaty blanket. The first time we made them we weren’t sure how they would turn out in the oven, but they did really well. We don’t have a an outdoor grill so we have to make due with our oven, but the sausages didn’t care they still turned out perfectly. Though I’m positive these would be a definite winner on a real grill. There’s just no way around it, the sausages are delicious! I’m sure you could serve them on buns, like a hot dog, but we skipped that in favour of just serving them with a bit of sauerkraut and some type of potatoes – mashed, croquettes, rosti – and of course a bit of strong mustard too. If I were really enterprising I’d whip up some spätzle to go with them, but I took the easy way out with potatoes. Clearly, these are sausages with cheese and bacon, so these are not an item for those watching their waistlines, nor their cholesterol either I suppose. Of course, it isn’t like you’d have these every day either, so as a special treat they are fabulous. It is believed that the Berner sausages originated in Southern Germany or Austria, depending on what I read. But no matter where they are from, they are delicious and something I will definitely get again. 2, 6 sausage, 500 gram packages; 1000 total grams for £4.59 (US: $8.63). Item #: 0168578.