Let it be known that this blog is dedicated to the proposition that a day at Costco is more than shopping: It’s an event, a lifestyle, a strategic quest for a lunch gratis. Audience comments – and personal tips and advice – are eagerly solicited. This is an interactive site – use it!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lunch at Costco: California Pizza Kitchen and Smirnoff Vodka

We were compelled to high-tail it to Costco on a Thursday afternoon in order to take advantage of the latest round of coupons that were about to expire – with a free lunch in mind, as well, of course. And the Los Feliz Costco did not disappoint.

In fact, it was one of the best non-holiday-period free sample selections we’ve yet to see, not huge on quantity, but very high on quality and portions. Our highest ratings – along with California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken and Raybern Philly Cheesesteak – go to multiple offerings of Green Chopsticks dumplings and potstickers. We’re talking four at a time, from pork to chicken to cheese – and they insisted everyone sample at least one of each (we ended up eating eight apiece). Huge props to the Green Chopsticks folks manning the display, slinging trays loaded with food for the hungry masses. And it did draw a large crowd.

Overall, all the helpings were generous and abundant; we were offered seconds and took them. We left full. We also left with a 1.75 liter bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, a steal at $15.99, as well as a box of delicious Crazy Cuisine Teriyaki Chicken, which we discovered via a free sample.
Here’s the rest of the lunch lineup, a solid A-minus:

Kirkland Albacore Tuna on crackers (we always keep a case at home)

Oatmeal Squares

Naked Protein Drink (chocolate and banana)

Kirkland Shepards Pie

Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

Multigrain Crackers

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs and Costco Pizza

We had a big reaction months ago to a post on Costco hot dogs – the photo alone accounted for thousands of hits – so our recent take-out meal merits a redux, especially for all the harried holiday shoppers who could use a fast and tasty dinner on the go. Plus it’s a great excuse to show off appetite-inducing images.

After a marathon day of shopping, we left Costco with two dogs and two slices for a grand total of $7, drinks included. The large beef franks are the highest quality, and the Costco pizza (we opted for the combo) is legendary. And large. Each slice is practically a quarter of a pizza, easily shareable. We took ours to go, split one slice and kept the other for the next day.

We don’t advocate a steady diet of dogs and pizza, but it makes for a great occasional treat. And you don’t have to be a Costco Member to take advantage. But members do have the option of using the red wall phones inside the warehouse to phone-in orders for whole pizzas, pay at the register, and pick up on their way out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Mac and Cheese and Bailey’s Irish Cream

Apologies for being off the blog for so long. Work concerns trumped all over the past couple of months – from L..A. Auto Show coverage to holiday gift guides and much more (check out some of the great work done by Times Custom Publishing) - but we’re back on break for the holidays, and promise to be much more attentive to our Costco Cartel.

In fact, we made a long-delayed return recently and were pleasantly surprised by the quality and volume of the free samples, from Kruteaz Belgian waffles to Ghirardelli triple chocolate. The star, we agreed, was delicious baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

Of course, we stocked back up on cans of Kirkland albacore tuna, Duncan Donuts Coffee, Nestles Coffee Mate and a pack of six White Apron apple bacon-wrapped sirloin steaks (did we mention the pack cost $12?). And we took home a nice big bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a delicious libation for the holidays, and a nice companion to a bottle of 90-proof peppermint schnapps, a holiday tradition.

We’re returning next week for a full-on feast of holiday samples, as well as the inevitable discount coupons for Bombay Sapphire Gin and Stolichnaya Vodka for holiday entertaining.

We’ll keep you posted, of course, on any and all pending holiday specials to take advantage of.
Meanwhile, the latest sample line-up, a solid B:

 Don Miguel Chicken Empanadas
 Alexia Sweet Potato Fries
 Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Pancakes
 Oro Wheat Flat Bread Sandwich with Kirkland Turkey
 Island West Sorbet
 Evergood Link Sausage
 Full Circle Cheddar Stuffed Chicken
 Coach’s Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
 Wildroot Trail Mix
 Baked Parmesan Cheese
 Del Real Cheese and Pork Tamales
 Potato Pancakes and Sour Cream

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tailgating with Costco: World's Best Sangria

We have to share one of our new favorite libations – authentic Sangria -- which we discovered when we visited the outstanding Italian restaurant, Buca di Beppo in Pasadena, where it’s a house specialty. Like most people, we thought Sangria was simply a popular form of red wine, but it turns out to be mixed with brandy and other juices, fruit and liqueurs. Also, it can be made with white and rose wine. Delicious and perfect for tailgating (sticking to our previous themed post). Cheers!

From the Food Network magazine:

How to Make Sangria
1. Mix the wine, liqueur and sugar in a pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then add the fruit.
2. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
3. Add the seltzer just before serving.

• 1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine (we prefer Barefoot Merlot)
• ¼ cup brandy
• ¼ cup orange liqueur
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 sliced oranges
• 1 sliced green apple
• 1 ½ cups seltzer

• 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
• ¼ cup light rum
• 3 tablespoons elderflower liqueur
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 sliced nectarines
• 2 sliced plums
• 1 sliced lemon
• 1 ½ cups seltzer

• 1 bottle (750 ml) dry rose wine
• ¼ cup brandy
• 2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 ½ cups raspberries
• 11/2 cups quartered strawberries
• 1 sliced lemon
• 1 ½ cups seltzer

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tailgating with Costco: The Jucy Lucy Burger

Tina went looking for a good, simple recipe for tailgating in honor of the start of football season. She came up with the famous Jucy Lucy Burger, the original recipe from its place of birth, Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis. And all the ingredients can be found, in bulk, at your local Costco warehouse. (By the way, that's the actual spelling of this burger, even though it's incorrect: Jucy, without the i.)

Fire up the grill, indoors or out. We’ll be back with the appropriate libation – a discovery we made ourselves at Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant and subsequently made a few batches ourselves, for barbequing at the park and County Fair tailgating. Both recipes courtesy of Food Network Magazine.

2 ½ pounds 80% lean ground beef (such as chuck)
6 slices American cheese
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion sliced
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
Dill pickle slices, for serving
6 soft hamburger buns split

1. Divide meat into 12 loose balls, and then form them into ¼ inch thick patties. Fold 1 slice cheese into a small square; center it on a patty, leaving a ½ inch border of meat around the cheese. Top with another patty. Crimp the edges of the 2 patties together, sealing the cheese inside. Repeat with the remaining cheese and meat to make 6 cheese-stuffed patties.

2. Warm the vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

3. Add patties to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook 7 to 8 minutes. Flip, then poke the middle of each patty with a toothpick to release steam; cook 7 more minuets for medium well.

4. Put about 3 pickle slices on each bottom bun; top with sautéed onion and a patty, then close with the top bun. Wait a few minutes before biting into the burger-the cheese is hot!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Costco Meets Food Network: Grilled Shrimp Pizza

Apologies for not posting for the past few weeks. I was called into the office on short notice for some intense projects – but will be working at home for a couple of weeks, so we’ll try to make up for lost time.

Meanwhile, Tina has been busy organizing delicious seasonal recipes that go great with tailgating or football parties in front of your flat screen. Here’s one for grilled shrimp pizza, which is one of our favorites. Credit Wolfgang Puck’s Express counter at the Gelson’s Market near Tina’s former workplace. If you haven’t had his spicy shrimp creation, or his barbecue chicken pizza, do yourself a favor.

This one, you can make yourself. Give Wolfgang the day off. We’ll pair it with a six-pack of Sam Adams Octoberfest, a robust but smooth seasonal offering we discovered at the L.A. County Fair. Enjoy.

Grilled Shrimp Pizza From Food Network magazine

Active time: 35 minuets. Serves 4

• ¾ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 red onion, sliced into rounds
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
• ½ teaspoon dried oregano
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
• 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
• ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat a grill to medium-high. Toss shrimp and onion in a bowl with olive oil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.

Stretch the pizza dough into a roughly 8-by10 rectangle. Lightly brush the grill with olive oil. Lay the dough on the grill and cook until the top begins to bubble and the bottom is marked, about 3 minutes.

Remove with tongs and put cooked- side up on a cutting broad. Brush with olive oil.
Grill the shrimp and onion, turning until the onion softens and the shrimp are lightly charred, about 5 minuets.

Top the curst with the shrimp and onion, then slide the pizza back onto the grill. Top with the tomatoes and feta, cover and grill until the dough is cooked through and the cheese is soft, about 5 more minuets.

Carefully transfer the pizza to the cutting board. Sprinkle with the parsley and cut into pieces.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Healthy Choice Fudgesicles and Samsung HDTV

We went back to Costco with a single-minded purpose – buy a nice flat-screen for Tina’s aunt, who recently moved to an assisted-living facility and left her old tube dinosaur behind. And we ended up getting a great deal on a 21.5-inch Samsung LCD HDTV ($169 with $20 off on sale). After all, college football is coming fast, and she's a huge USC Trojan fan with a mad crush on QB Matt Barkley.

The free samples were more of an afterthought this time – it was, after all, a Tuesday afternoon, traditionally not the best day for free tastes. But we were pleasantly surprised. The bounty far surpassed our last visit, and it tided us over until dinner.

The highlight was clearly a nice portion of Healthy Choice fudgesicle preceded by a double serving of barbecue popcorn chips. Overall, we give it a strong C-plus.

Since we didn’t bring our notepad, we didn’t take down specifics, but we did nosh on the following:

 Kirkland canned chicken on white bread
 Belgian waffles and maple syrup
 Mandarin orange chicken
 Gummy bears
 Smoked ham
 Hawaiian teriyaki chicken
 Jamba Juice strawberry smoothie

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Herradura Reposado and Executive Benefits

First the bad news: Our latest trip to Costco resulted in the weakest free-sample showing yet, a factor that most likely had to do with it being a Thursday at the beginning of August, a slow time for everything since so many people are out of town on vacation. The samples mirrored the scant crowd (for Costco, at least) milling about in the warehouse aisles. Disappointing, but entirely understandable.

Now the (very) good news: Tina and her friend, who went in 50-50 on a $100 Costco Executive Membership, received $115 in cash-back money for the year, which of course more than covered their upcoming annual renewal. And they split the $15 bonus.

So that proves what we’ve contended for a long time: Splitting an Executive Membership with family or friends is clearly the way to go. Some people whine that they have to fork out each year for the privilege of enjoying Costco’s bargains, but the cash-back feature can eliminate that and then some. And we left with our usual basket full of great stuff, like Seattle Mountain Coffee, a box of Swiffer pads, Herradura Reposado tequila and a pack of Sea-Pak Shrimp Scampi.

We gave this sample lineup an unprecedented C-minus. But being free, it’s impossible to criticize. And it’s way, way better than anything in recent memory from Whole Foods. Don’t get us started on that sad non-sample situation.

Here’s the latest Costco lineup:

 Kirkland Fruit and Nut Mix
 Mandarin Orange Chicken
 Pasta Prima Mozzarella Spinach Ravioli
 Kirkland Chicken Bake
 Kirkland shredded canned chicken on crackers
 Blue Agave sweetener
 Diet Gatorade
 Finlandia Sliced Cheeses

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aarti Sequeira's Hot Dogs a la Rose

So Tina has gathered all the ingredients for Rachael Ray’s tortilla soup recipe and is planning on making it today. Looking forward to that. We’ll definitely let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile, check out this cool recipe for Hot Dogs a la Rose from Food Network star Aarti Sequeira, star of “Aarti Party,” which showcases Indian fusion food. This looked amazing on the flat screen and promises to be a flavor fest in real life.

Anyway, Tina was looking for a creative way to use some of the Nathan’s Beef Franks we have left from the heavily discounted three-pack we bought on sale at Costco. If you’re looking for something tasty that’s a little out of the ordinary, try this. We certainly will. Pair this with a six-pack of Corona Light, one of our favorite choices.


• 1 tablespoon canola oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly
• 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
• 1 handful shredded carrots, optional
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
• 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
• 1 large tomato, diced
• 2 tablespoons ketchup
• 1 (12 oz.) package hot dogs, sliced about 1/16-inch thick (recommended: Hebrew National or Nathan's)
• 1/4 cup water, if necessary
• Handful cilantro leaves, minced


Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, until shimmering.

Add the onions, garlic, ginger and carrots, if using, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Saute until onions are softened and slightly brown around the edges (takes about 5 minutes).

Add the turmeric, garam masala and paprika, quickly stirring for about 20 seconds to keep the spices from burning.

Stir in the tomatoes and ketchup, and taste for seasoning; add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Add hot dog rounds, stirring to cover them with the tomato mixture. Add 1/4 cup water if the mixture is too dry. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat 15 minutes.

Taste and season accordingly. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. Serve and enjoy.

Top image courtesy of meggoesnomnom.com. Left image courtesy of Food Network, and bottom image comes from hulahangout.com.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rachael Ray’s Santa Fe-Tastic Tortilla Soup

Summertime is soup time. Just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a healthy bowl of delicious broth, vegetables and tender chicken breast meat, all perfectly seasoned. Tina’s Recipe of the Week is a light Southwestern dish – by all accounts perfect for cool and arid weather alike – that Food Network star Rachael Ray calls her Why the Chicken Crossed the Road Santa Fe-tastic Tortilla Soup. It’s an easy dish that takes about 25 minutes and serves four.

Tina recommends using Kirkland chicken tenders (but of course). Pair it with a Blue Moon Belgium White Ale and slice of orange for maximum effect.

We’ll be enjoying some time off over the next few weeks, so we’ll most likely be posting more frequently for our adoring public – and making more Costco trips, for sure. Check back often!


• Vegetable or corn oil, for drizzling, plus 2 tablespoons - 2 turns of the pot in a slow stream
• 3 ears corn on the cob or 2 ears fresh-frozen cobs, defrosted
• 1 red bell pepper, split and seeded
• 1 pound chicken breast tenders
• 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1/3 palm full
• 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/3 palm full
• Salt and pepper
• 1 small to medium zucchini, small dice
• 1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 to 2 chipotle in adobo peppers (medium to hot heat level), chopped -- available in small cans in Mexican and Spanish food section of market
• 1 can stewed tomatoes, 28 ounces
• 1 can tomato sauce, 8 ounces
• 3 cups chicken stock, available in re-sealable paper containers on soup aisle
• 4 cups blue corn tortilla chips, broken up into large pieces
• 1 cup shredded cheddar or pepper Jack cheese
• 1/2 cup sour cream

Optional garnishes

• 1/4 red raw onion, chopped
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley leaves
• 1 ripe avocado, diced and dressed with the juice of 1/2 lemon


Heat a grill pan to high and a soup pot to medium high. Drizzle oil on corn and place on grill. Add red pepper to grill with corn. Char vegetables 10 minutes total, turning occasionally. Remove to cool, 5 minutes. Remove charred skin from the pepper.

While vegetables are cooking, dice the chicken. Add 2 tablespoons oil to hot soup pot, then add chicken to pot. Season with poultry seasoning, cumin, salt and pepper.

Lightly brown chicken on each side. Add zucchini, onions and garlic and chipotle peppers.
Cook vegetables with chicken 5 to 7 minutes to soften. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and stock.
Bring soup to a bubble, reduce heat to medium low.

Scrape corn off cob and add to soup. Chop grilled red pepper and stir into soup. Add chips to soup in handfuls and fold in.

Serve soup immediately with scatters of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Top with any or all of the suggested garnishes.

Top photo courtesy of Food Network. Left photo courtesy of FHM Magazine, and the bottom image comes from Blue Moon Belgium White Ale.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rachael Ray's Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Today we celebrate Carmageddon – the most ridiculously overhyped L.A. hysteria since the nonexistent 1984 Olympics Terminal Gridlock From Hell – with Tina’s incredible Recipe of the Week, courtesy of celebrity chef and Food Network superstar Rachael Ray. Tina, by the way, recommends using Costco Kirkland chicken breasts for this. They're exceptionally large and meaty and grill very nicely.

This light Pacific Rim masterpiece is very SoCal; enjoy with a chilled Samuel Adams Summer Ale or three, and at least a half hour of breathless local TV news coverage of relatively empty fast lanes.


• 2 cups, 4 handfuls, fresh shiitake mushrooms
• 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 lbs. thin-cut chicken breast or chicken tenders
• 2 tablespoons light colored oil, such as vegetable oil or peanut oil
• Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 inch ginger root, finely chopped or grated (optional)
• 1 orange, zested
• 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
• 1 small tin, 6 to 8 ounces, sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
• 3 scallions, chopped
• 3 tablespoons hoisin, Chinese barbecue sauce, available on Asian foods aisle of market
• 1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, head quartered
• Wedges of navel orange -- platter garnish


Remove tough stems from mushrooms and brush with damp towel to clean, Slice mushrooms. Chop chicken into small pieces.

Preheat a large skillet or wok to high.

Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear meat by stir frying a minute or 2.

Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two.

Add salt and pepper to season, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more.

Grate zest into pan, add bell pepper bits, chopped water chestnuts and scallions. Cook another minute, continuing to stir fry mixture.

Add hoisin Chinese barbecue sauce and toss to coat the mixture evenly.

Transfer the hot chopped barbecued chicken to serving platter and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side.

Add wedged oranges to platter to garnish. To eat, pile spoonfuls into lettuce leaves, wrapping lettuce around fillings and squeeze a juicy orange wedge all over it.

Top photos courtesy of Rachael Ray and Food Network. Lower image courtesy of Samuel Adams Beer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cooking With Costco: Chicken Salad with Watermelon and Peaches

Tina's recipe of the week comes from the latest issue of Costco Connection -- a summer classic that offers a sweet and simple twist on the classic chicken salad. We're taking our's to the beach along with a couple bottles of Elena Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. Got the second bottle for 5 cents at BevMo!, voted L.A. Times Readers Choice Award for Best Liquor Store. No surprise there.

3 cups chopped cooked chicken (We used Costco’s rotisserie chicken)
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh dill
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
2 peaches seeded and chopped
2 cups chopped and seeded watermelon
Greens or mini-baguettes

Mix together chicken, yogurt, mayonnaise, dill and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, gently mix in chopped peaches and watermelon. Serve over greens or inside spilt mini-baguettes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Photo courtesy of Costco Connection

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Sauza Hornitos & Hoffy Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs

Welcome to the Fourth of July edition, inspired by our Costco visit last Thursday, mainly to pick up our Vizio High Definition Sound Bar – a tremendous value at $89.99, 10 bucks less than MSRP, and super easy to install. We went next door to pick up “Rocky Horror” on Blu-Ray at Best Buy (we had a 10% off coupon), a perfect movie to test our new home-theater set-up – and the Vizio blew us away. Great surround-sound performance in a small package. We’ve seen “Rocky Horror” countless times and it was like seeing (and hearing) it for the first time.

Enough about that. We picked up more Stolichnaya at Costco, along with a big bottle of Pom and, following a delicious free bbq sandwich sample of Kirkland Roast Beef and KC Masterpiece sauce, a four-pack of the canned roast beef ($10.99). A 1.75-liter bottle of Sauza Hornitos tequila was only $32 with a $8-off coupon (very tempting, but we’ll pick that up next time).

We also scored a bottle of Focus Factor vitamins, a result of an earlier free sample. And although we didn’t buy the aforementioned Hoffy Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs, it did inspire us to get a three-pack of Nathan’s All-Beef Franks (six dollars and change, on sale, which is stupid cheap) and we grilled them wrapped in Butterball turkey bacon the next day at our favorite park, coupled with Kirkland turkey burgers and washed down, of course, with Stoli lemonade. What a delicious way to salute the birth of our country three days early. We beat the crowds and practically had the park to ourselves.

Anyhow, the Costco sample lineup was a tribute to the Fourth, and packed with gluten-free stuff, two clear themes for this day. Here’s the lineup below. Happy Independence Day to all!

 Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing with salad
 Mama Bella Garlic Toast
 Mandarin Orange Chicken
 Dino Buddies Chicken Nuggets
 Boca Burger (vegan) with A1 Steak Sauce
 Santa Barbara mango peach salsa and chips
 Don Miguel chicken empanada
 Roast beef with A1 Steak Sauce
 Kirkland turkey burger
 Grilled Kirkland American cheese on Rudi’s gluten-free bread
 Kirkland Diet Green Tea

Images courtesy of Square H Brands and Sauza Tequila

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bobby Flay’s Ultimate Grilled Chicken Wings

Yet another genius summer grilling recipe, something different to go with the usual steaks and burgers. A big fan of Food Network star Chef Bobby Flay – and his creative blend of accessible, popular food with gourmet twists – Tina found this an especially interesting and delicious take on the ubiquitous buffalo wing, dressed up with spicy chipotle hot sauce and blue cheese-yogurt dipping sauce. Oh hell ya.

Just about all the ingredients can be found at Costco. Enjoy with a cold Stella Artois or two and plenty of summer breeze.


• 46 chicken wings
• Vegetable oil
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• Chipotle Hot Sauce, recipe follows
• Blue Cheese-Yogurt Dip, recipe follows


Heat grill to high. Toss wings in a few tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill in single layers and grill until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Chipotle Hot Sauce:

• 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
• 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chipotle pepper puree (depending on how spicy you like it)
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder

Whisk together the vinegar, Dijon mustard, chipotle puree, honey and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Melt butter in a large skillet or a large pot on the grates of the grill. Add the hot sauce mixture and bring to a boil.

Whisk in the ancho chile powder and season with salt, to taste. Add the wings and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with Blue Cheese-Yogurt Dip,

Blue Cheese-Yogurt Dip:

• 1 pint thick Greek yogurt
• 3/4 cup crumbled domestic blue cheese
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
• 3 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Center photo courtesy of Grillgrrrl.com. Right photo from Stella Artois.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Here’s a quick-hit recipe that’s great for snacking with chips or as an appetizer. It’s easy – only 10 minutes prep time and 30 minutes cooking – and makes about 4 cups. Great for taking along on picnics as a side dish - and far better than any store-bought dip. Enjoy in a shady spot in the great outdoors or in front of your flat-screen. Courtesy of the Food Network’s Paula Deen. Cheers.

• 2 (13 3/4 oz.) cans artichoke hearts
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 1 cup grated pepper jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Heat the spinach in a microwave on high for 5 minutes and squeeze dry. Drain the artichoke hearts and coarsely chop in a food processor.

Combine all the ingredients except the jack cheese in a large bowl. Stir well.

Scrape into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the jack cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a chafing dish. You can keep it warm over a low flame if you'd like. Serve with bagel chips, or whatever you prefer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dining Out at Costco: Morton's Steak and Stolichnaya

Friday before Fathers Day seemed like a good time to hit up the local Costco, and the sample lineup, as well as the coupon specials, did not disappoint. Catering to Dads everywhere, the alcohol coupon hand-outs included $10 off 18-year-old Chivas Regal and $4 off a 1.75-liter bottle of Stolichnaya, which we took advantage of – it brought the price down to only $17.49. How could we resist?

But the star of the show was the $12.99 six pack of White Apron 7 oz. apple-wood bacon-wrapped sirloin steaks – a perfect compliment to the $6.99 jumbo lobster tails we got the night before at Ralphs. Tina correctly guessed that the steaks might be in stock on this particular Friday in anticipation of Dad’s Day barbeques. We also went home with a pack of Jamba Juice mixes -- 10 eight-oz. smooties in individual packets, less than $7 with coupon.

Regarding our previous post on Apple iPods, we confirmed that Costco no longer carries them. Some of the outlets, and Costco.com, are selling off inventory, but the Los Feliz warehouse has run out. Anyway, we’re going back soon to use leftover gift money to pick up the Vizio surround-sound bar ($89.99), $10 less than regular retail and a great add-on to the 46-inch Sony Bravia LED HDTV we scored at Best Buy last September (and the amazing Sony Blu-Ray player we bought on sale at Costco for only $119).

Moving on to the free samples, the highlight was Morton’s tri-tip, juicy and tender. The most popular offering was clearly the French bread pizza, followed by a deep-dish version. Total feeding frenzy and mayhem around the generous free sample lady, who insisted on giving me two samples since my first bite was much smaller than the others, the sad last piece on the tray after the swarm of ravenous Costco shoppers finished feasting.

The fresh second sample of the deep dish pepperoni was large and delicious. Tina also got two samples. Which brings to mind another Costco Commandment: Two samples at the same station are always permitted when two types of samples are being offered.

Here’s the rest of the lineup, rated a strong overall B in our book:

 Chocolate peanuts
 Pink salmon
 Edammis hummus and pita bread
 Ling Lang potstickers
 Santa Barbara Bay spread, seafood and spinach, on crackers
 Waffles
 Starbucks Mocha Frappacino Ice Cream Bars
 Mozzarella spinach ravioli
 Jamba Juice strawberry smoothies
 Varieties of Special Roadshow artisan breads (we bought a loaf of the black pepper and bleu cheese)

Photo courtesy of Morton's Steakhouse.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tropical Chicken and Avocado Salad

Another great warm weather recipe from Costco Connection, light and citrusy, a perfect pairing with dry white wine or maybe ice cold Korbel Brut champagne. Again, you can thank Tina for sharing this. She typed it up while I was working.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for a Costco update. We’re going on a free sample safari this afternoon. Gotta love getting a day off on Friday!

1 fully ripe Haas Avocado
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups of mixed salad green
2 grilled and sliced Kirkland boneless chicken breasts
4 slices fresh pineapple
1 large tomato, cut into thin wedges
½ cup of thinly sliced red onion

Cut avocado in half lengthwise around pit, twist to separate halves. With spoon, scoop out the flesh and slice.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Divide greens among 4 plates. Top with avocado, chicken, pineapple, tomato and onion.

Drizzle with half the dressing.

Serve salads with remaining dressing on the side. Serves 4, or if you wish this is a perfect dish for 2 as a main dish salad.

Photo courtesy of Lumdimsum.com.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Costco: Taking a Bite of Apple iPod

There were reports late last year that Costco was going to stop carrying Apple iPods, but on our last visit we saw a huge selection of iPod Nanos starting at around $149 and the more advanced
64GB Touch 4th Generation iPods, currently offered on Costco.com for a very reasonable $349.99. We’re planning a trip later this week and will try to get the scoop on the iPod situation. More details to follow.

Image courtesy of Apple.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Dream: Grand Parisian Salad with Grilled Beef Sirloin

Here's another genius summer grilling/picnic recipe Tina found in Costco Connection -- steak and salad, perfect for the great outdoors. Tina added her own touch to it: grilled onions and peppers, which are always extra delicious cooked over hot coals with mesquite wood chips.

Can't wait to try it out, paired with a couple of watermelon mojitos at our favorite woodsy park.

¼ cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch salt and pepper
1 pound beef sirloin steak
1 16-oz. bag Ready Pac Grand Parisian Salad
1 medium green bell pepper sliced
½ medium red onion sliced.

Combine shallots, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepperin a bowl or zipper-lock bag. Add sirloin and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Grill sirloin to desired doneness.

Place salad ingredients in a bowl and toss.

Cut sirloin into thin slices and serve over salad

Optional: grill or cook pepper and onion and serve with salad.

Tip: Ready Pac Grand Parisian Salad can also be served with your favorite grilled fish or poultry.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guy Fieri's Bloody Mary Flank Steak

Here’s a recipe from the June issue of Costco Connection that caught Tina’s eye – and we’re going to try it out soon. It’s an original creation from Food Network star Guy Fieri – who’s featured on the cover of the magazine, dedicated this month, appropriately enough, to grilling recipes from famous chefs.

The delicious flank steak takes quite a bit of prep (well worth it), but requires only about 20 minutes cooking time. Enjoy.

1 cup vegetable juice (recommended: V-8)
1/2 cup vodka
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
¼ cup olive oil
1 pound flank steak
Small celery stalks and leaves and grilled tomatoes, for garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the ingredients except for the flank steak and. garnish. Pour half of the marinade in a 1 gallon zip-lock bag.

Add the flank steak. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.

Pour the remaining marinade into a saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until it is reduced by half, Season to taste.

Preheat the grill to high or heat a skillet over high heat. Remove the flank steak from the marinade and wipe the excess liquid off with paper towels.(Discard the meat’s marinade) Grill or pan sear both sides, then lower heat to medium and cook to medium rare (135 degrees), 8 to 10 minutes..

Let the steak rest, covered with foil, for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut on the bias across the grain and serve with the reduced marinade. If desired garnish with celery and tomatoes.

Photos courtesy of Costco Connection and the Food Network

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Perfect Summer Cocktail

It’s a beautiful Memorial Day here in SoCal, a great start to the summer grilling-and-barbecue season. Tina found this cocktail recipe in the June issue of the Costco Connection magazine that’s a perfect – and original – compliment to any sort of outdoor feast. Or indoor, for that matter.

We’ll post a delicious flank steak recipe from Food Network star Guy Fieri when we get a chance. In the meantime, kick back and suck down a watermelon mojito – and have a great Memorial Day.

30 large fresh mint leaves, coarsely torn by hand
3 or 4 thick slices of fresh watermelon
12 oz. light rum
½ cup simple syrup (simply one cup sugar and one cup water boiled until the sugar dissolves)
6 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
Mint sprigs and watermelon slices for garnish

Use a mortar and pestle to mash the mint leaves, and after removing seeds, but the watermelon into a food processor and puree.

Put the mashed mint into a large pitcher with 2 cups of pureed watermelon, the rum, syrup and lime juice and stir to combine.

Place ice in 6 glasses and pour the concoction over the ice, garnish and serve ice cold. Makes 6 drinks.

Sidenote: If you want an extra kick – and this was not part of the original recipe – add a shot or three of Bacardi 151 to the pitcher. Or add a shot of 151 or dark Myers's Rum atop the glass as a delicious, and potent, floater.

Recipe was reprinted in Costco Connection as it appeared in Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? (Clarkson Potter, 2010). Photo is from Barefootcontessa.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bringing Home the Jamba

The only downside to an in-office copy editing gig is that I have to miss the occasional Costco venture. The upside, of course, is money. Anyway, Tina went twice with a friend following their art classes, to pick up a few things (including the largest $4.99 Costco rotisserie chicken I’ve ever seen, more like a small turkey) and nosh on some Costco pizza for lunch.

Heading up the sample highlights, which were fairly plentiful for midweek, were a pair of promising new items you might want to check out: Jamba Juice Make Your Own Smoothie and Tyson Roast Beef Dip Sandwich Kit. Both got thumbs-up from both girls, Tina took home the Jamba, and plans to get the Tyson when she isn’t planning several time-consuming post-Costco errands on the way home.

They also had the Hormel Private Reserve Chili (we have an 8-pack) and some delicious tortellini. I’m jealous.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ninety Nine Reasons

Haven’t been able to post for the past week – I’ve been Downtown L.A. filling in full-time for an editor out on medical leave – but we’re compelled to add a word or two about our latest discovery: A massive and sparkling 99 Cents Only supermarket on the edge or Highland Park and Eagle Rock. Best store we’ve seen in that chain, with lots of quality fresh produce (the artichokes put the much-pricier alternatives at Whole Foods to shame), and the book selection is vast and varied.

I actually picked up a pristine hardback copy of “Last Lion,” the best-selling recent biography of Ted Kennedy (list price: $28). For those of the right-leaning persuasion, there were three books on President Reagan, including a compendium of his personal notebooks. There were large-format paperback Bibles and a biography of retired New York Giant superstar Tiki Barber. Oh, and they have a bridal registry, layaway plans and gift cards -- along with a cool sense of irony.

Anyway, it’s as large and clean as any major supermarket, with a large frozen food section and lots of household staples. And, of course, nothing ever costs more than 99 cents. We also left with ginger root, paper towels, Taco Bell taco kit, and a nice artist’s paint palette that Tina needed for her watercolor creations. If you have a store in your area, do check it out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dining Out at Costco

We went to Costco last Friday afternoon and the sample spread was outstanding – more on that later – but we were also reminded of one of the most lucrative savings opportunities Costco offers, namely the wide varieties of discount gift cards, which work equally well as gifts for yourself, especially the restaurant cards. They cover major chains, including California Pizza Kitchen and McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants. a pair of $50 cards for only $79.99. Obviously a great deal – 20% savings. They also have similar offers for spas and travel.

Can’t overlook deals on movie tickets -- $15.99 for a pair at AMC Theaters – and premium field and loge seats for the L.A. Dodgers -- $32.99 per ticket, a savings of $35 each.

Anyway, the samples were out in force, heavy on the poultry: Two forms of chicken sandwich – grilled and Kirkland canned – along with some excellent turkey spinach lasagna and two types of spicy chicken sausage, accompanied by tomato-basil chicken burger.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Further proof that these complimentary lunches alone more than make up the annual membership fee, especially when you split it with family or a friend, as we do. We left with full bellies.

Here’s the rest of the lineup:

 Noh Hawaii grilled pork

 Chipins popcorn chips

 Greek yogurt

 Peanut butter filled pretzels

 Café mocha

 Whole grain rice with delicious Yoshida’s marinade (we picked some up)

 El Monterey taquitos and quacamole

 Tropical pineapple salsa and chips

 Boca vegan burger

 Hillshire Farms chicken lunch meat and American cheese

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Taking Apps on the Road with iPhone and iPad

With summer coming up fast, I should point out Travel on the Grid, a helpful article on travel apps in the May issue of Costco Connection – programs that can help you find your way on vacation and even recommend restaurants, attractions, etc., and guide you right to them. They go far beyond the capabilities of regular old GPS, and even help you out with medical emergencies. One of the more unique applications is Google Goggles, which lets you take a picture of a landmark and then tells you all about it. It's part of the Google Mobile App package.

Of course, Costco is a discount source of several types of smartphones and cellphone plans. This guide directs you where to download what you need on an iPhone, iPad, Android or other phones or tablets. Happy driving.

Photo of iPhone 5 courtesy of Apple