It is absolutely freezing here today as December blows into town. And there are just a 24 shopping days left until Christmas. Do you have everything already? I’m determined to get my Christmas cards actually mailed out this year. I’m very bad about this, last year I ended up just sending email instead and somehow that just is not the same. Don’t forget that the current coupon books in the US and UK run through December 16. And there are always great deals, and gift ideas, to be found on the Costco online stores too.
Great Food Sweet Potato Pakora – I have to admit that these are way, way better than I thought they were going to be when Dave picked them up. But after we tried them, I realised that they were really delicious! And if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be happy to hear that these are suitable for you too. They’re also gluten free, as well as free from preservatives, artificial flavours, and GM ingredients. And if that isn’t enough, they are baked instead of fried and therefore have 40% less fat. The little fritters or balls are made from sweet potato and chickpeas along with a variety of traditional ingredients like red peppers, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, and dried chili. These are a great addition to dinner, especially if you want to have a meat-free meal and have something with a lot of flavour. We tried them with some couscous which was pretty good, but I think you could serve them on a salad too. Of course, they’re also just good by themselves or with a little bit of chili sauce or harissa to dip them in for a bit of a kick, so they wold be great for an appetizer if you were having a party. I also like them with tzatziki sauce (which I know isn’t the right thing at all but the flavours work really well together). They say that you can eat them cold, but we didn’t try that. Frankly, that just doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. I can’t imagine them cold but the thought kind of grosses me out a bit for some reason, maybe because I just think cold potatoes sound not great (though I do like potato salad, so go figure). They are easy to heat up since they are already baked though, so why wouldn’t you take a couple of minutes to heat them a bit. You can either pop them into the microwave for a couple of minutes or you can put them into the oven for about 10 minutes. We find that the microwave works best because it seems to heat them without drying them out, plus it is super quick. The other good thing is that you can freeze them. I didn’t try it this time, however, with the 700 gram package it is quite a bit of pakora in there. Next time I think I would freeze at least half of the package but we ended up keeping half of them in the fridge and I had them for lunch during the week. They made a terrifically easy and filling lunch, by the way. 700 grams for £3.99 (US: $6.39). Item #: 0142406.
Costco Bakery Cupcakes – I feel almost like I am taunting those of you in the US since they have gotten rid of the cupcakes from the bakery lineup there (or have they brought them back yet?) But for those of us in the UK, we can still get the cupcakes here. They do have a smaller package of them, with just six of them in a plastic container. The cupcakes themselves seem a bit smaller in diameter and height than the US version. However, they still have the delicious taste and moistness that we all depend on from cakes coming out of the Costco Bakery. The ones that we got were frosted like jack-o-lanterns since we bought them right before Halloween (yes, I’m a bit late writing about these but by now they probably have Christmas based seasonal cupcakes). They were so cute, I couldn’t resist. The cake part was chocolate but I think they also had vanilla cake too. I almost forgot how much I love the Costco bakery cakes and cupcakes until I tasted one of these. Man, they are delicious and totally outstrip anything I’m buying at a regular grocery store and even some (if not all) of the upscale cupcake bakeries. So, I find myself wondering again why Costco in the US would get rid of the cupcakes. Perhaps they should think about scaling them back size-wise or packaging them in a smaller package like they do here. I’m guessing it is a bakery efficiency thing because it’s obviously going to take longer to frost a bunch of cupcakes versus a single large sheet cake. But since customers love them so much, I’m not sure increasing the efficiency of the bakery by getting rid of them altogether is the right answer. I love that you can get a package of just 6 cupcakes here though. They used to be in packages of 9 but I think the smaller size is even better. Of course, that’s because there are only two of us. The other thing I really like is the new packaging. I love the easily opened and resealed plastic container, it is so much better than the box with plastic wrap scenario that they used to employ. The new packaging is also made with little areas for each cupcake to be snuggled in and isolated from the others, so there’s no more sliding around and bashing into each other and rubbing off the frosting. And if you buy them, but can’t eat them all before you think they’ll go stale, they do freeze perfectly. I do this quite often and they thaw out really nicely. 6 cupcakes for £3.99 (US: $6.39). Item #: 0004728.
Warburton’s Toastie White Bread – I was hoping that Costco would have the Toastie bread because I like toast and it seems like it should be perfect for that job. I like it and it does toast well,though it isn’t spectacularly different from other bread that is not thin sliced. What I did notice though is that it is too tall for my toaster. I don’t think I have a pygmy toaster or anything, it is just a standard size, but the bread is just too big to fit down in the toaster slot fully. This size discrepancy means that about one inch at the top of the slice of bread doesn’t get toasted. I either just deal with it not being toasted or flip it around and toast it for a little bit so that the whole slice is toasted. It’s not an ideal situation and probably means I won’t be buying it again. It’s not as thick as I had anticipated either, so that was a little disappointing to me. The packaging is not something you can see through, so until you open it up you really can’t tell how thick it is. However, the waxy paper of the packaging seems to keep the bread from going stale or growing things for much longer than the traditional plastic bread bags. The taste is good and it is nicely crisp after toasting but still soft in the center, so all of that is great. But the complicated double toasting routine is not something I like. I guess I’ll just have to go back to regular sized bread with a thicker slice now. 2, 800 gram loaves for £1.99 (US: $3.19). Item #: 0005010.
Chiostro di Saronno Pandoro – For those of you that are not fans of panettone because of the fruit and stuff in it, you might like the pandoro more. It has the same type of yeast bread base with the light texture but it is just that, without the added bits found in the panettone. The cake is a traditional Christmastime item, particularly in Verona. It is baked in the shape of a star with 8 points and really tall (again, like panettone) but with this lovely light texture and sweet taste. The sweetness of the cake is really nice because it isn’t super sweet but just perfect (for me anyway). The pandoro is traditionally served with vanilla scented icing sugar sprinkled on top, apparently this is supposed to be reminiscent of the snow covered Italian alps at Christmastime. I don’t know about that, but it is really tasty. The big tin at Costco contains a 1 kilogram pandoro from Chiostro di Saronno and is absolutely delicious. They also include a very generous packet of the vanilla scented sugar for you to sprinkle on it when you serve it. On the tag, they also suggest that you could cut the pandoro horizontally and layer it with mascarpone or even whipped cream. We haven’t tried that but it sounds like it could be really good. I did mean to try it with the mascarpone but just haven’t done so yet. This is the first time I’ve had pandoro because I normally just make a direct line for the panettone because I absolutely love it. However, I really found the pandoro to be delicious and a perfect little end to a meal or as an accompaniment to a cup of hot tea or hot cocoa. And if you’re thinking that you really need to try the pandoro now, I have to say, you’re not going to beat the prices at Costco. You get the 1 kilogram pandoro in the nice tin (which works great to keep it from going stale if you don’t eat it all at once) for £5.89. But at every other place I found it, you’re going to pay at least £10.00 without the tin and up to £15.00 at John Lewis where they have it in a different tin. That is quite a difference in price. you could get both the pandoro and panettone at Costco and still be better off than buying just one of those at John Lewis. 1 kg for £5.89 (US: $9.43). Item #: 0092591.