Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pasta Prima Ravioli with Grape Tomatos and Artichoke Hearts

While I was taking my nap before going to work on 2nd shift, my lovely wife made me a tasty and quick lunch using a variety of ingredients from Costco, including the Pasta Prima Ravioli, Kirkland Signature Artichoke Hearts and grape tomatoes.

I came up with the idea of using those ingredients together and after searching online, I found this recipe using these ingredients.  My wife approved highly of the idea and eagerly made this fine meal.The only real changes my wife made was that while the original recipe called for Roma tomatoes, she used the grape tomatoes from Costco.  She also sprinkled some of the cheese and herb topping that came with the ravioli on the finished dish instead of the cheese called for in the recipe.

Aside from using an ingredient we had on hand, I think the Roma tomatoes out of season are not very enjoyable.  The grape tomatoes which have a better texture and flavor for this time of year, were an ideal substitution.

We think the dish came out, per my wife's description as "pretty, incredibly well". The artichokes went well with the ravioli and using the tomatoes helped give the dish a bright, fresh flavor.

This is definitely a keeper and I am sure we will make it again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Post: Cinnamon Bark Cookies

Hi there.  I'm Amber from Sprinkled With Flour, and when Mike recently asked me to do a guest post on his blog, I was thrilled.  You see, this is my first time doing a guest post, and it really makes my day when other great blog authors take the time to visit my part of the blogging world.  I love Mike's concept here of creating dishes from the wonderful selection of products from Costco, and Mike was particularly interested in my recipe for Cinnamon Bark Cookies.  The Saigon Cinnamon that he has featured would work wonderfully for these cookies. 

There are some ingredients that go hand in hand with the holiday season, and cinnamon is at the top of that list for me.  Sprinkle it on a dollop of whipped cream that tops a cup of hot chocolate, mix it with sugar crystals that dust a snickerdoodle, or just use the cinnamon sticks as a holiday garnish.  When I came across a recipe for Cinnamon Bark Cookies in my local paper, they looked so festive I just had to make them.  While the ingredients seem simple enough, there is a bit of a learning curve when making these. 

Let's just say my first few attempts to assemble these cookies, resulted in a pathetic mess that you would definitely not want to leave out for Santa.  I quickly disposed of those, too embarrassed to capture my failure on camera, and set about making another batch.  After about the third or fourth batch, I finally got the hang of it, and was able to produce a few that weren't too shabby.  These little cookies are crispy and a little buttery, with a hint of cinnamon.  Yum!
Cinnamon Bark Cookies
(adapted from Springfield News-Leader, December 2010)
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon extract
10 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup heavy cream
brown gel food coloring
2 tsp cinnamon
Heat the oven to 375 F.

Line a baking sheet with a nonstick silicon baking mat. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk together the egg whites and 2 cups of sugar until foamy. Add the flour and salt and mix to incorporate. Add the cinnamon extract, butter and cream, then beat again until completely smooth. In small amounts, add the brown food coloring a drop at a time until desired color is reached, stirring thoroughly between additions. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon.

Scoop a teaspoon of batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a small offset spatula spread the batter thinly and evenly into a rectangle about 2-by-5-inches. Depending on the size of your baking sheet, you should be able to fit 2 to 4 cookies on at a time.

Sprinkle each rectangle lightly with the cinnamon-sugar. Bake the cookies for about 5-8 minutes, or until the surface looks dry. The edges should not be browned.

Working quickly and as soon as the baking sheet comes out of the oven,  use an offset spatula to flip each rectangle over. Tightly roll both long sides of each rectangle toward the center, similar to forming a scroll. Set aside to cool and repeat in batches with remaining dough.
* These cookies must be shaped into the rolled cinnamon stick as soon as they come out of the oven.
* Only cook 2-4 cookies at a time, or the rest will cool too quickly before you can roll them.
* For best results use a silicone baking mat, but if you don't have one use a well greased baking sheet.
* To remove the cookies from the sheet, use an offset spatula.
* Spreading the batter thinly ensures even baking of this cookie. Working with the delicate cookie while still warm and pliable is essential.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12/19: Last Day For The Sale of The Griddler At Costco

Today is the last day to save $15 off the already low price of a Griddler at Costco.

We find it indispensable for making panini, bacon and other foods.

It also makes a righteous Christmas present for the foodie on your gift list.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ground Beef Stoup with Nature's Earthly Choice Heritage Grain Blend

With the cold weather here in Michigan, soups, stews and stoups are very comforting.  And to comfort myself and my lovely wife, I made a stoup recently using Nature's Earthly Choice Heritage Grain Blend from Costco along with some Costco ground beef. Here is the recipe:

  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • EVOO
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, slightly thawed
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup Nature's Earthly Choice Heritage Grain Blend

Mix the spices and the Grain blend together and set aside.

Cook the onions and garlic in the EVOO until soft and then add the corn and cook for a minute or two.  Then add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the grain blend is fully cooked.(The directions on on the package for how long to cook the grain). Then serve and enjoy.

I know, pretty simple, isn't it? Here is a photo of the finished dish.
I will agree with those that might suggest this has a similar flavor and texture profile to chili, but adding the corn and the grain blend changes the flavors and textures enough that it is a significantly different dish.  On a scale of 1-10, my wife gave it a 9.  I would agree with that and I have to say that is pretty good for something that had only a few minutes of prep time and less than 30 minutes of cook time.

Also, it does have a variety of foods with the grains, beans and ground beef.  Objectively speaking, I think this dish was a solid success on all fronts and I am sure we will make it again over the winter.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Free Costco Cookbook-Smart Cooking The Costco Way

When  we were at Costco after Thanksgiving to buy a new TV, we were given this cookbook as we were leaving the store.

While I have been a reader of their cookbooks in electronic forms (see my links to them), this was the first time I have had an encounter with a printed and bound paper book.

I have to say I am impressed, especially for a freebie. Sure, lots of stores have recipe cards and certainly a lot of food manufacturers do websites and cookbooks.  But this is the first cookbook I have seen from a food retailer.

It is primarily organized by course, with a special section devoted to famous chefs such as Mario Batali, Steven Raichlen, Bruce Aidells and other.

At 236 pages long, there is a wide variety of recipes.  Along with a typical index, there is also a index by manufacturer, which makes sense since they reference so many products by name.

There definitely are some recipes in here we are interested in trying or using as a basis for our own recipe.  I haven't seen this cookbook at Costco since the weekend after Thanksgiving, but if they hand them out again, I recommend getting one. It has a lot of appealing and practical recipes in it and I am sure most of the readers of this blog would find something useful in it.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Coupons Started 12/02

Once again, here is a link to the information, courtesy of my wonderful friends at Addicted To Costco.

They have a link to a PDF file in their entry.

The coupons last until 12/19.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another Great Use For Saigon Cinnamon-Chili

Sorry about the delay in postings, I got a bit sick this week and unfortunately, that suppressed my appetite.  But finally, I am feeling better and it is time for a seasonal favorite: chili.

I know, I know, I don't make an authentic chili because I use beans and ground beef.  But chili with with ground beef and beans is certainly a classic dish and very easy for to prepare in a crockpot.  And it turns out great in a slow cooker, because the flavors have so much time to meld.

For the most part, this was a fairly typical batch by many people's standards: ground beef, tomatoes, onions, beans, some chili powder, ground cumin.  But my wife loves the idea of cocoa and cinnamon, so I added some of that.  The wonderful Saigon cinnamon from Costco adds another type of warmth to the dish and certainly broadens the flavor profile.

My wife commented to me how good the chili was and you know, she was right.  This was also easy to make since there is very little prep time involved.  It is also a reasonably priced meal.  Now that winter is here in Soutwest Michigan, a nice  bowl of chili with a slightly exotic but wonderful flavor is just the right thing to warm both your body and soul.