We’ve been having a really hectic week for some reason. I think part of it is that we are getting ready for a trip back to the US next week and trying to fit in a bunch of stuff before we leave. This will be our first trip back to the US since the beginning of 2012, amazingly. It seems like forever since we have been there. And it has been almost two years, so that is quite a long time I guess. I’m looking forward to a visit to at least one Costco while we are there, just to sightsee a bit. I might try to check out a new one in New Jersey but I’m not sure that Dave’s mom will think that a trip to Costco is great holiday fun. She’s clearly so wrong though! But if we don’t get to one there, we should be able to visit one in New York, I hope.
Circulon Bakeware Set – I’ve had a mishmash of cookie sheets since we moved because I only brought a tiny one with me that is really only big enough for small things and definitely not good for things like french fries/chips or things like that because it is just too small. And then I bought a really cheap flimsy one at some point probably before our stuff actually arrived and it can’t handle the weight of more than a single slice of bread without flopping around and threatening to dump stuff on the floor. So, not a great selection of baking sheets in my kitchen. And I have a single cooling rack that is enormously long and is more of a pain than help most of the time. Luckily though, with this one set I have rectified these two problems. The baking sheets are so great and sturdy; I love them. Plus, they are the perfect size for my oven at 10 x 15 inches / 25.4 x 38.1 cm. My oven here is a fair bit smaller than a US oven or an oven you’d probably find in non-city areas of the UK, so size is always a concern in pans. The two sheet pans have the cool Circulon Total Food Release System, which is basically this funky texture on the surface of the pan that has ridges radiating out from the center, like a pebble dropped in a pool. This means that everything releases quite well and bakes more evenly too. I’ve tried the pans out with chips and roasted vegetables and I was quite impressed with how it handled both, especially the chips. The chips/fries turned out to be crispier than on my usual pan and didn’t stick even though I didn’t spray the pan or rub it with oil. Which brings up an interesting thing that you aren’t supposed to do with these pans, and that is use non-stick cooking sprays. I don’t know what it will do but they warn against using them on the pans, so I won’t. And really, I don’t feel the need to because stuff doesn’t stick to them with the cool ridges. And the cleanup is a breeze too because of this super non-stickness, which is good because these pans aren’t for the dishwasher. Which kind of makes me sad but they work so well and clean so easily that I think I will get over that. I can’t wait to try making some cookies with these because I bet they will turn out really great with nicely done bottoms and will come right off the pan too. The rack is just as nice as the pans. It is super sturdy with six little feet instead of the usual four so it won’t sag in the middle no matter if you use it to hold a roast or turkey instead of just cookies. The rack also has some nonstick surface to keep your cooling items from sticking to it. Plus, it fits right inside the pans for easier storage but this is also great if you use the rack while you cook for things like bacon or a baked chicken. I think this is an excellent set, especially for the price. If you’re planning a lot of holiday baking, you might consider getting a set to make it that much easier. 2 cookie sheets and 1 cooling rack for £10.99 (US: $17.81). Item #: 0703477.
Kirkland Signature Macaroni and Cheese (UK Version) – You have to know that I so so wanted to love this macaroni and cheese. Not just because it is Costco’s own version, but because I love cheese and really love good mac and cheese. Unfortunately, this was just super bland and oily. Which made me very sad. It looked quite promising with the shredded cheese on top and the creamy cheesy pasta below, but somehow just missed the mark flavour-wise. I think they would have been better off using a mix of cheeses, including a sharper cheddar. They use a cheese sauce which contains cream with “mature cheddar” and that is the only variety of cheese that they have on the ingredient list. The only spices they use are white pepper and salt, but they certainly could have used a bit more of the salt to give it a bit of a flavour enhancement. I will admit that the mac and cheese was helped out when we added our own salt and a few grinds of black pepper. But really, I would have thought it would have been so much better. And I really don’t understand what made it seem so oily, though I guess that could be down to the type of cheddar that they used in making the cheese sauce. I think this is definitely a recipe that Costco should revisit and try to perfect a bit more. My suggestions would be to use some cheeses that pack a little more of a flavour punch, something like either (or both) mozzarella and parmesan would have been a good improvement. Or, they could have used a couple of different cheddars with one being super sharp. And perhaps cut down on the cream in the sauce because that could be really diluting the cheese flavour, though it did have a nice texture. But of course, a great texture without any taste is not that much different than eating paste and certainly not a good thing at all. I guess for the time being I will stick to making my own macaroni and cheese. 1.592 kg for £5.87; £3.69 per kg (US: $9.52; $5.98 per kg). Item #: 0004812.
Applewood Smoked Sliced Cheddar – Dave is working from home now, so that means we need to have something for him to eat for lunch that is quick and fuss free. And obviously, sandwiches fit that bill quite well. So, we decided to get some ham and cheese because we’re boring like that. But we jazzed it up by getting this applewood smoked cheddar and it was really nice and smoky tasting too. The smoked flavour gives another flavour dimension to what could be a run of the mill ham and cheese sandwich. Even though the ham was also smoked, the combination wasn’t overwhelming and we didn’t feel like we were standing in a smoker eating our lunch at all. Since this was cheddar, we knew it would be great for melting too. If we had known what the mac and cheese was like, we would have added a couple of slices to that to pep it up; it would have been a huge improvement. But no, we figured that this cheese would be the perfect addition to our grilled cheese sandwiches. And we were totally right. We used a combo of this smoked cheddar and Jarlsberg for super yummy and melty grilled cheese sandwiches. The grilled cheese paired with some vegetable soup (a future review post) made a delicious dinner on one of our recent super cold evenings. Yum! This would also be good in an omelette, I’ll bet. The smoked flavour is just great and pairs with things really nicely. Oh, I bet this would be perfect melted over a chicken breast too for a little something special for a mundane baked chicken breast. Yeah, I could probably come up with one hundred uses for this, or just about any cheese, but I shall stop now so that I don’t get carried away in my love of cheese. This cheese comes in nice slices that are the perfect thickness for sandwiches, plus the package is resealable so that you don’t have to worry about it drying out in the fridge. 500 grams for £3.49 (US: $5.66). Item #: 0155911.
Bearfields Carved Applewood Smoked Ham – As I mentioned, we got this ham too. We both liked it because it was like slices of an actual ham and not just your average lunch meat. The thick slices are perfect for sandwiches because you get a lot ham taste with just a single slice. Well, I use one slice, but Dave still likes a big thick sandwich with two slices. Luckily, while the ham is sliced reasonably thickly, it isn’t so thick that you can’t fold it in half for your sandwich, if you want to double up. The taste was really delicious too because it had that lightly smoky flavour that just enhanced the smoky flavour of the cheese. Ham can be kind of bland, so it is nice to have the smoked stuff because it does enhance the flavour quite a bit. While we chose to just use this in sandwiches, you could use this in other ways. If you want to cut the slices into smaller pieces you could easily add it to things like omelettes or soup for a bit of ham flavour. I didn’t think of trying that this time (until just now) but I will definitely do it next time we get some of this ham. This would also be nice to add to a grilled cheese for a bit of a heartier sandwich. Having ham like that, that seems like it has actually come from an actual pig, makes me think of the great leftovers from Sunday lunch at my grandma’s. This isn’t too surprising since this ham is carved from a whole pork leg, just like grandma would have made. It would have just been the perfect reenactment if I had gotten busy and made my own bread. So, now I have two things that I have to do next time we get some of this! And it was definitely good enough that we will get it again. It isn’t the cheapest, nor the most expensive, ham option that Costco has but it is certainly a good choice. It might seem a little pricey at first glance but this is a lot of ham and can make a bunch of sandwiches, even if you use two slices per sandwich. It definitely is cheaper than buying lunchmeat from a supermarket, and of course it is tastes better too. 1.78 kg for £12.44; £6.99 per kg (US: $20.17; $11.33 per kg). Item #: 0003751.