Healthy Low Fat Snacks

The other day, I was feeling hungry while shopping the aisle of my local grocery store. Yet, I refused to buy any of the snacks simply because of the disappointing claims that they contained less fat. You see, ‘low-fat’ doesn’t Low Fat Healthy Snacksmean the same thing to me as it does most of the world. Believe me, it used to. There was a time when I was a fanatic about all of these low-fat, health ideas. I was convinced that I would jeopardize my heart and life if I didn’t remove the fat from everything I ate. Before, I even delve into how and why that as all changed, let me just simply state the way I feel today:  The truth is, I want all of my food to contain good, saturated and natural fats, even my snacks.  So, when I read that the infamous package of Gardetto’ Snack Mix claimed to be reduced fat, I had no interest in buying it. The reason I was craving a snack in the first place was because my body was hungry for fat, oil and salt. Unfortunately, today’s food industry has removed all of the healthy, natural fats from their products.  For example, coconut oil and lard – these things are considered bad for us and nobody will touch them with a 10-foot pole.   Even the RF, Egg-Vermicelli Spaghetti my mom used to buy as a kid is no longer available because eggs contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is bad, right? Not really. Nobody has ever died from high cholesterol; nor has it made anyone more likely to have a heart attack. With some research of the data with a critical eye rather than one that accepts popular propaganda, we will eventually learn the truth: Low fat diets and lowering one’s cholesterol neither improves one’s health nor lower one’s weight.

The Misnomer of the so-called, Healthy Snack

If you are looking for healthy low fat snacks you are fighting a losing battle. Nothing that is labeled low-fat or less-fat is healthy. Believe me, nobody has ever become healthier by eating less fat … period. The problem is that we’ve been fed the big fat lie in our world that fat is a villain to be avoided like the plague. Fat, particularly animal fat, is what our body craves.  Snacks which claim to be made with ‘50% less fat’ or ‘low-fat’ are the ones we should avoid. Aside from the big-fat lie that fat is bad for our heart, has anyone lost one single pound because they bought foods at the grocery store which were labeled, ‘low-fat’? Unfortunately, the foods that use to be healthy have been loaded up with lots of sugar and starches to compensate for the lack of the flavor. There is overwhelming evidence that sugar and starch are the bigger cause of problems like heart disease, weight-gain and diabetes. Is it any coincidence that these three problems grew proportionately with the decrease of fat and increase of sugar in our diets?  Many people laugh at fried pork-rinds, but in reality, they are practically harmless compared to most snacks. Most fried pork rinds have only two ingredients. Fried-out Pork fat and salt. Neither of these ingredients are as harmful as sugar and trans-fats. In fact,  fried pork rinds will satisfy your hunger. 

Snacks need less sugar and more Natural Fats

We need to send a message to the food companies that it is not less fat we want in our snacks, but less sugar. These so-called, ‘healthy’ low-fat snacks are usually made with added sugars to compensate for the lack of flavor missing from low-fat foods. If snack foods just used lard, coconut oil, real butter, and/or other natural, saturated fats, there would be no problem with finding healthy snacks. Unfortunately, the good guys have been made the villains. The bad guys like sugar and starch are largely ignored or considered a minor obstacle in the mission to replace the sinful fats that kill us all.  

McDonald’s was Healthier in the Olden Days

I remember when McDonald’s stopped using beef fat in their fries to make them ‘healthier’. Instead of lard, they went to trans-fats which are considered deadly and even banned in some places. Now that trans-fats are considered the world’s biggest health villains they are no longer used either. However, the new vegetable oils don’t taste as good and still not considered, ‘healthy’ by many experts. The beef fat fries were so much tastier, more natural and healthier. Haven’t we heard, “You can’t fool mother nature?” And now we’re supposed to believe the so-called health experts who pressured these changes upon food chains like McDonald’s that we’re better off with bad-tasting fats like, canola oil? I am simply amazed at how firmly the false ideas on low-fat and cholesterol have been etched in our minds. Would any snack or food company dare advertise that their products are made from real, natural, saturated fats and contain less sugar? If only we could get back to these real, natural, fatty foods, we’d be a healthier, happier lot of people. I would love to taste those old McDonald’s fries once again!

Who’s to blame? In all honesty, how can you fault consumers for doing what they think is best for their family and themselves? I’ve peaked into the grocery carts of some pretty obese people at the grocery store and I see things like, low-fat  cottage cheese, cholesterol-free pasta, fat-free this, that and the other thing. On top of that are breads and loads of other foods rich in starchy carbs – and yes, soda pop..both sugar and sugar-free. It’s like we are trying to fake our bodies into thinking they don’t need what they naturally want? You want real cheese, but you can’t have it? So, load up on the fake cheese? Or load up on the chips and dips with more sugar and less, natural saturated fats. Does that really make sense? The ingredients of the shopping cart of the average, obese person is right in line with the popularly accepted diet in America and most of the world because this is the low-fat fraud we’ve all had shoved down our mouths for 40 years or so. Yet, parents are failing both themselves and their kids on these high-starch, low-fat diets. It’s not their fault. This is what they have been told to do. The fact that it isn’t working must mean they are hopeless, right? It’s really pretty sad.

How to find Healthy Snacks

The key to a healthy snack is one with less sugar and refined carbs and more of the fats that were once considered, natural and not unhealthy. These fats include Coconut Oil, Lard, Butter and Palm Oil. Good luck finding something like this at your typical grocery store. In fact, most of the so-called, health food stores still don’t understand this. Our bodies crave coconut oil, butter, animal fats and salt. The carbohydrates won’t hurt us if we eat them in moderation. If your body craves something crunchy with oil and salt, your best bet is to make it yourself. When it comes to snacking, however, I realize that nothing beats the convenience of something you can pick-up at your grocery aisle that is ready for you to munch at a moment’s notice. Though they are few and far between, there has got to be a few healthy and delicious choices out there for us to choose. Please leave your comments about healthy snacks you’ve been able to buy and enjoy.

 

Canon SX510HS Camera Review

Canon SX510HS CameraRight off the bat, I can make three, important claims about the Canon Powershot SX510 Superzoom Camera: One, I am absolutely certain that the SX510HS does not provide the greatest image and video quality of any digital camera. Two, I am equally certain that the Sx510 does not possess the biggest nor best superzoom capabilities of any digital camera on the market. Three, the Canon Powershot SX510 provides perhaps the biggest punch and bang for the buck of any digital camera for its price range. At around $200.00, the SX510HS allows you to capture stunning, detailed photographs and videos of far-away subjects which cannot be revealed with the naked eye. Below is a brief sample of a German Shepard wanting in the back door of his/her home from around 200 yards away from my deck. You can see the scratches on the door paint and frame around the window as well as the color of the dog collar and the expressions on its face.

Canon Powershot SX510HS Superzoom Demonstration

SX510HS Offers Greatest Bang for the Buck of any Digital Camera

Obviously, the subtitle is only my opinion, but having a 30X, full-motion zoom lens in such a small form factor is what makes the $200 Canon SX510HS Camera an extremely impressive tool. Canon probably has one of the best reputations around for making digital cameras, but not all of their consumer-grade products are adored by true photo enthusiasts and camera review blogs. I usually spend a good deal of time on sites like Dpreview, Steves-Digicams and Digital Camera World while shopping for a new camera. While these are excellent websites for gaining a truthful and comprehensive view of the capabilities and quality of cameras, they don’t always represent the needs and desires of your typical bargain-hunting, digital camera user. I knew this camera would be well worth the $200 I spent on it, simply by browsing the dozens of reviews of other users like myself who appreciate the power of a superzoom lens in a small unit.

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Hamilton Beach 12 Cup Brewstation

Hamilton Beach 12 Cup BrewstationThe Hamilton Beach 12 Cup Brewstation makes a very powerful argument against the every day use of single-cup coffee makers like the Keurig.  Not too long ago, I began to feel that the convenience of the single cup Keurig coffee brewer topped my reasons to ever buy another coffee maker.  I even wrote articles about how coffee is enjoyed one cup at a time, not one pot at a time. Why deal with messy coffee grounds and coffee that sits in a pot and gets old and tastes burnt? On the other hand, single cup coffee makers give you only one cup at a time. Would if you want just a little bit more, but don’t want to waste $.40 to $.87 cents on that second full cup? Perhaps, when you consider the the limitations of single cup coffee makers, they aren’t so convenient, after all. Does life really happen one cup at a time? Would if you want just a little more or a little less and don’t want to pay for the entire cup? And, why does it have to sit in a pot and get old? Why can’t we have the best of both worlds?

Hamilton Beach 12 Cup Brewstation

Is it a  Single Cup Coffee Maker or a Coffee Pot Brewer?

The Hamiton Beach 12-Cup Brewstation is neither a single pot or single-cup coffee maker. It brews coffee into a holding tank that can be dispensed into your cup when, as often, and in the quantities you like. The Hamltion Beach Brewstation keeps the coffee fresher because there is no carafe or coffee pot sitting on a hot plate to burn it and make it taste bitter. I discovered the Brewstation at a condo I stayed at for the weekend in Copper Mountain, Colorado. I became intrigued with the Brewstation’s simplicity and flexibility. I could sip as much coffee as I wanted without being in a hurry and didn’t have to worry about the costs of cracking open another k-cup or two. So, how do you make coffee in this thing?

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Coffee Tastes like Plastic

Coffee Tastes Like PlasticIf your coffee tastes like plastic there are a couple of good reasons for this: One, your coffee maker is made from plastic. Two, you just bought a brand new coffee maker. It is unfortunate that even most expensive coffee makers are made from plastic. Plastic, particularly when it is new, contains chemicals which become significantly more active when hot water is added. There is nothing worse than tasting plastic in your favorite brand of coffee, especially when you just purchased a new brewer which is supposedly designed to extract the most flavorful cup of coffee possible. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around the materials manufacturers use to make their coffee brewers. There is, however, a fool-proof way to permanently get rid of the plastic odor and taste for good.

How to get rid of plastic taste in coffee maker

Getting rid of the plastic taste in your coffee maker is so simple, I wish I had thought of it. The only ingredients you will need are a bottle of 70-90% rubbing alcohol and a few minutes of your time. Don’t be fooled by the claims that vinegar works. I’ve tried it several times and it simply doesn’t do the job. Using vinegar will only make your coffee smell like both plastic and vinegar at the same time. The rubbing alcohol works and chemists have confirmed the scientific reasoning for this. The chemicals contained in plastic are soluble in the alcohol. More importantly, I’ve tried it on a brand new, Hamilton Beach Brew Station and the strong odor and taste of plastic have completely vanished. Here’s how I recommend doing it. Pour half of the bottle of rubbing alcohol in the bottom of your brew dispenser. Fill the dispenser with water, leaving room for the rest of the alcohol. Fill the top up with the remaining rubbing alcohol and brew. I recommend leaving the fully brewed hot water/rubbing alcohol mixture sit in the coffee maker for about 10 – 15 minutes before emptying it. Then, you will need to brew about 2-3 pots of additional water until you’re confident that the alcohol is completely diluted from your brewer.

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Friendly Swede iPad Stylus

The Friendly SwedeThe Friendly Swede has really outdone himself with this 6-piece set of stylish, good-looking iPad / iPhone Stylus Pens. The Friendly Swede iPad Stylus comes in a colorful set of six. Many apps on tablets and smartphones simply work better with a stylus. The other day, I was at my local, OfficeMax store where I noticed they sold iPad Stylus pens for $19.95 each. This seemed rather expensive to me, even though I had never really bought or shopped for a stylus pen before. I decided to see if I could find something cheaper online and boy was I pleasantly surprised when I came across a 6-piece set of stylus pens from, The Friendly Swede. Until you’ve tried these stylish looking stylus pens, you’ll never know whether or not $9 bucks will get you something worthwhile. I decided to give them a try.

The Friendly Swede iPad Stylus

6-Piece Stylus Pens

I ordered this 6-piece style pen set from Amazon for just $8.99. These pens came to me with free shipping since I ordered another item and my total order with Amazon topped $50.00. For $9.00, I figured the pens must be pretty cheap, but as long as they worked I was okay taking a risk. Thanks to a big snow storm in Philadelphia my entire order was delayed by about 6 days, but that’s certainly not the fault of Amazon or the Friendly Swede. When I opened the small package of the 6 stylus pens, I was rather surprised by the professional appearance and packaging. These stylus pens even come with a connector and string that ties the pen into your headphone port to keep it attached to your device, as well as a micro-fiber cleaning cloth which does an excellent job removing smudges from your screen. The most surprising part about the 6-piece stylus set, however, is the quality and workmanship of the pens. These are very attractive pens that are very well made, weighted just right and feel really good in your hands.  They come in a set with 6 different colors: Blue, light blue, green, pink and purple. They look great, but, how well does the stylus work on my iPhone and iPad?

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Wireless Weather Station

Wireless Weather StationThis Wireless Weather Station replaced the broken atomic clock that was in my bathroom for several years. Named, Touch Weather, by Oregon Scientific, this particular wireless weather station was appealing to me for a couple of reasons: The picture on the box indicated a very bright, easy-to-read display and a small, attractive design. I really only wanted another atomic clock for getting ready for work in the mornings, but decided having a temperature gauge in the bathroom would be an equally good idea.  Let me give you my opinion the features and functions of this particular unit.

Touch Weather

Wireless Weather Station by Oregon Scientific

As the graphic on the box indicated, Touch Weather is a rather small, attractive unit with clear, easy-to-read, retro-like, LCD display.  The unit is named, Touch because you can switch between In-Door and Outdoor temps simply by touching the screen.  The first touch of the screen will illuminate the display. Touching it again will toggle you through the outdoor sensors, 1-3, then bring you to an indoor weather screen. Both indoor and outdoor weather includes both temperature and humidity displays. There is also, of course, a self-setting, atomic clock and date which can be viewed by touching the digital read-out. Other features of Touch Weather include a minimum/maximum temperature record of indoor/outdoor temperatures and an alarm.  Okay, so these features sound pretty good, but how well does the Touch Atomic clock actually work as a wireless weather station?

Touch Weather Clock Likes and Dislikes

Likes

The unit is attractive, small and takes up little room in the bathroom. The temperature readings have been very accurate thus far by comparison to my other wireless weather station in my den as well as the Weatherbug app. on my iPhone which uses a weather station just a couple of miles away. Having both indoor and outdoor humidity on such a small device is useful to me and it is easy to change between displays. The max/min temp/humidity is a good idea if actually worked. This brings me to my dislikes of the Touch wireless weather clock.

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Garland Jacks Barbecue Sauce

Garland Jacks Barbecue Sauce

While the best barbecue sauce may be strictly a matter of opinion, you can’t go wrong with Garland Jacks Secret Six. I realize that everyone has their own opinions when it comes to how barbecue should be prepared, so don’t

Best Barbecue Sauce is Garland Jacks

expect us all to agree on the best barbecue sauce. In the south, they practically go to war over who makes the best barbecue ribs. If you tell someone from Kansas City that they make good barbecue in the south, you are likely to get skewered in their smoke pit. Let’s face it, people get very heated when it comes to their opinions about best barbecue.

Rating the Best Barbecue Sauce

In my opinion, the best barbecue sauce is one that doesn’t overshadow the quality of the meat. The sauce should be thick, a little sweet and smoky, but not too rich, hot, tangy or spicy. If you like your barebecue sauce super, spicy-hot, then add some Habanero, jalapenos, Tabasco or Sriracha. Not everyone likes spicy barbecue sauce. Unless you’re cooking for just yourself, why not leave some room for tweaking it and heating it up for those who do? My wife brought home a bottle of Garland Jacks Secret Six barbecue sauce and here is what I thought about it:

Garland Jacks Secret Six Original Barbecue Sauce Taste Review

How do you find the best barbecue sauce in the world? You have to try them all! The first thing that stands out about Garland Jacks is that it has a very thick texture. The second thing I noticed about this barbecue sauce is its smoky aroma. The sauce smells smoky from the start and pours on very thick. This means that Garland Jacks is a great sauce to use for marinating ribs or barbecue beef at the very last minute when it doesn’t have time to thicken from the heat of the fire.  I really liked the taste of Garland Jacks Original recipe. In fact, I’d pass up a bottle of ketchup every time for this stuff. It’s great on french fries, hamburgers, barbecue ribs, pork, beef or anything else you can get your hands on.

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Gevalia K-Cups

Gevalia K CupsGevalia K-Cups are now available in just about every store. Being that I have never been a huge fan of Gevalia coffee in general, I hesitantly picked up a box of 18 at my local Target store for $11.99. I have liked some of the Gevalia Tassimo products which are advertised as being similar to Starbucks (Which they are), so I thought I’d give them a try.

Gevalia K-Cups Columbia Taste Test

Gevalia Columbia K-Cups are advertised as a medium roast coffee. Normally, I prefer dark roasts which are just a tad lighter than French or Italian roast coffees. The darker roast coffees seem less acidic to me and don’t give me the jitters quite as bad as lighter roast coffees. Perhaps, some of the caffeine is roasted out of them. Still, I often get tired of dark roast k-cups because they all taste roughly the same. The Kirkland Brand Pacific Roast is my favorite but only because it is a bargain in a box of 100 for just $37.99. Thirty eight cents a cup for a reasonable quality coffee is about as good as it gets for the Keurig. At $11.99 for a box of 18, the Kirkland is practically double that in cost. But for some variety, I thought I’d try something new and lighter tasting, so I went for the Columbia. The Gevalia Columbia roast is indeed lighter, but is very fresh and plenty strong enough using the normal-size cup setting on my Keurig. It is bold, but yet light at the same time and doesn’t have the sour after-taste of some of the cheaper, commercial Columbia coffees. Gevalia coffees have always been fresh and good quality, but they’ve always seemed weak to me until I discovered some of their larger, Tassimo brands. The Gevalia K-Cups are no exception (at least in the Columbia flavor). It is good, bold coffee that is just a tad lighter and richer than most of the dark roasts like Newman’s, etc.. Give Gevalia K-Cups a try if you like a lighter, rich cup of coffee.

Flor De Cana Extra Dry Rum




Flor De Cana Extra Dry RumThe hot days of our extended summer in Arvada, Colorado caused me to try Flor De Cana Extra Dry Rum for the first time. I’m normally not much of a rum drinker, but the thought of mint, lime and rum in Mojitos sounds great during the warmer months of summer. A few weeks ago, I skimped at a bar and paid $1.00 less for the Mojito made with the cheaper Cruzan Rum over the pricier Flor De Cana Extra Dry 4 Year. That turned out to be a good decision. Here’s a dirty, little secret about expensive alcohol that the bar business doesn’t want you to know.

Don’t Waste Good Extra Dry Rum in Sugary Mixed Drinks

Mixed and sugary drinks like Mojitos don’t need an expensive rum to be enjoyed. In fact, you would be throwing your money away if you did. I decided the typical Mojito recipe with simple syrup is way too sugary for me. I prefer the drinks that are less sweet and dry so I can appreciate the actual spirits. Spearmint or peppermint leaves are sweet enough on their own and it is much healthier to forego all that unneeded sugar. Here is a way to make a fantastic, healthy Mojito using all natural ingredients.

Mojito Recipe Using Flor De Cana Extra Dry Rum

When using all natural ingredients, the quality of the spirit  brand becomes makes a noticeable difference in the character, smoothness and flavor of the drink.  Here is how I make a Mojito with three and only three ingredients: Lime, Mint Leaves and Flor De Cana Extra Dry Rum. Cut into a lime and squeeze a couple of slices into your stainless steel shaker along with a few mint leaves. Add about 2 jiggers of Flor De Cana Extra Dry Rum and add a cup of crushed ice. Shake like crazy and pour into a martini glass. Add a sprig of fresh mint and slice of lime for garnish.  You will enjoy the heck out of sipping these on a hot summer day. And unlike, other, overly sweet mixed drinks, the brand of rum does indeed make a huge difference.  Now, onto my review.

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Best Triple Sec

Best Triple SecThe best triple sec is one that doesn’t cost a fortune and won’t ruin a good margarita. So, where can you get a great bottle of triple sec that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? Triple sec is basically an orange liqueur which is often a popular compliment to margaritas.   Unfortunately, many of the cheap brands of triple sec I’ve tried do more damage to margaritas than good. Gran Marnier  and Contreau are costlier liqueurs. I’ve never cared for the flavor of Gran Marnier in Margaritas. I think it makes them taste soapy which coincidentally is the same problem with cheaper brands of triple sec. Contreau is a great liqueur which compliments almost any mixed drink, but who can afford it? Surely, there must be a good compromise when it comes to finding a better Triple Sec, right?

Don’t Ruin a Good Marg with a Cheap Triple Sec

I’ve experimented with inexpensive brands of triple sec such as Hiram’s, Finest Call and DeKuyper, but none of them help make a better margarita. In fact they make it worse. I kept wondering why I couldn’t get a good marg even with a good quality, 100% blue agave tequila.  I don’t actually believe in using expensive brands of liquor like tequila for mixed drinks, but there are several good ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg that make infinitely better tasting margaritas. For that reason, I was determined to find the best triple sec at an affordable price.

Stirrings Triple Sec – All Natural

When it comes to getting the most-bang-for-the-buck, Stirrings is the best triple sec I’ve ever tried. Actually what makes Stirrings better is that it has less – less of what makes those cheaper triple sec brands so unappealing. As it’s label implies, Stirrings is all-natural. There is none of that soapy taste that I’ve noticed with cheaper brands. Stirrings is a 100% natural triple sec made from sun-ripened oranges. The moment I opened the bottle,  I could tell Stirrings was far superior to the cheaper brands.

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El Charro Tequila

El Charro TequilaEl Charro Tequila is an extremely affordable Reposado made from 100% agave nectar. I don’t know about you, but when I find a 750 ML bottle of 100% Agava tequila for under $15.00, I buy it right off the shelf with no questions asked. The El Charro Reposado was only $13.98 at my local, Westminster Total Beverage Liquor store, which is a fabulous place, by the way, for discovering affordable brands of tequila. There were a couple of other choices I considered before I spotted the El Charro tequila which was labeled, 100% PURO DE AGAVE.  One of them happened to be my wife’s previous favorite tequila, Epsolon. Epsolon Reposado tequila normally sells for around $20.00, but it was only $17.98 at Westminster Beverage and the shelf was adorned with a very impressive rating of 92 points. I agree with my wife that Epsolon is a decent Tequila for the price, but I’m not sure I agree with the expert rating. Perhaps, it is good marketing and public relations to get these ratings from the so-called tequila snobs.

The shelf holding the El Charro Tequila came with no such rating label, but at $14.00, there is very little risk in trying it. Many times before, I’ve bought inexpensive, 100% Pure Agave tequila and have been very impressed with it. Tres Alegres Blanco and Rancho Alegre (both Silver and Reposado) are a couple of great bargain-priced tequilas that come to mind. These tequilas became a couple of my staple brands for making margaritas. Only two problems: The liquor store stopped carrying the Tres Alegres and I’ve been able to find it elsewhere at an equally low price. And, the Rancho Allegre gave me a headache for some odd reason.  So far, no signs of a headache from El Charro, but is it any good?

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Costco KitchenAid Grill

Costco KitchenAid GrillThe 2013 Model 304 Costco KitchenAid Grill is a great looking outdoor appliance, but how well does the cooking and overall performance of this expensive beast measure up to it’s attractive appearance?  Since we had a larger deck built this April, I figured it was time to splurge on a bigger and better grill to take advantage of the extra room.  I looked at the heavy, durable Weber Grills for $600 at Home Depot and Lowes, but was disappointed that they only had 3 + 1 burners. For $700, the Costco Kitchenaid Grill has a total of 5 burners, including the side unit and looks and feels every bit as rugged, durable and sturdy as the Webers. The Kitchenaid is an attractive grill made with heavy-gauged, brushed, stainless steel.

Costco KitchenAid Grill

Assembly

At 130 lbs, this was by far the biggest and heaviest grill I’ve ever owned and it was no small task loading into our Home Depot rental truck and taking it home. The grill is well packaged inside a crate. Fortunately, the wheels made it possible to move it even while it was still inside the box. It took as long getting the grill unpackaged as it did assembling it. The Costco Kitchenaid, for the most part, is pre-assembled. You only need to add a few knobs and a couple of hoses and attach your propane tank and you’re ready to grill. The downside of a preassembled appliance is that you really will need a truck or van to take it home. Costco does not offer delivery. With the grill assembled, I was anxious to fire it up and test all of the burners.

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