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Favorite things at Trader Joes

I love Trader Joes. The following is a list of my love love loves there: (in no particular order…just as they come to me)
Sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
Banana yogurt
Bacon end and pieces
Baby broccolini
Cranberry walnut gorgonzola dressing
Teeny tiny potatoes
Guacamole kit
Corn and wheat tortillas
Par baked bread
Roasted red pepper tapenade
Soyaki sauce
Yellow curry sauce
Salsa style refried beans
Canned peach and pear halves
Low sugar apricot preserves
Fleur de Sel caramel sauce
Vanilla bean cake mix
Truffle brownie mix
Cinnamon pear cider
Mango black tea
Gnocchi alla sorentina
Frozen gyoza (pork or chicken)
Frozen crushed garlic cubes
Frozen vegetable melange
Tarte de alsace
Caramelized onion and feta pastry bites
Frozen cooked shrimp
Balsamic glazed onions
Sweet potato fries
Cheese and garlic croutons
Social snacker crackers
Petite cocoa batons
Dutch caramel wafer cookies
Mini peanut butter cups
High brow chocolate chip cookies
Ice cream sandwiches
Chocolate croissants
Caramel chocolate swirl ice cream
Well…chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and all other varieties of Joe Joe ice cream
Kettle corn
Salsa verde
Everything bagel chips
Cheese puffs
Kettle style potato chips
Joseph Handler Sweet Red Wine

I’m sure I’m missing things here….but here’s a pretty comprehensive list of the best things at TJ’s.

August: A Month in Review

August was an incredibly busy month in my world.  I’ve been unable to really post here this month because it was trouble right out the gate!

We started the remodel job in our living room.   We tore out an existing wall that held the fireplace, framed the new fireplace, did drywall work, added board and batten treatment, changed the electrical, painted, put up crown moulding, built some cabinetry, and laid some flooring in the bare spots.  We still have to finish the electrical, the trim, the partially built cabinets, touch-up the paint, get the new furniture, and style the room.

On the day DIY construction began, my dad had emergency surgery.  He’s fine now…but it was scary for a few days.  My brother and I became responsible for the special work projects that my dad was doing for our company.  My workload nearly doubled.  Did I mention school was out of session and I have three kids under 4 with one of my crucial babysitters (mom) taking care of my dad?  It was pretty hairy.

Thankfully, VBS started a few days later for two of the kids and I was able to hit the books hard for several mornings in a row and get on top of the work I was afraid I wouldn’t complete.  The kids loved VBS and really learned a lot that week about Jesus’ childhood.  I’m so thankful that there is a church very near our house that offers a program for young children in the summertime.

Once VBS ended, I was looking at 2 weeks of full-time childcare, a very messy construction project, a double workload, and some really hot days.  We made it work, though!  My dad came home from the hospital and is making a very good recovery, the kids adapted to the chaos, the house project has an end in sight, and I’ve adjusted to the increased workload.

I also started the lobby remodel job at one of the residential hotels we manage.  I designed and delegated the work thus far: new ceiling fans (with new electricity), stained the wood work, started painting the ceiling, and met with a furniture builder for the new front desk.  I’m really excited about how it’s going to turn out and I’ve received some really positive feedback from the residents, as well.

My big girl turned 5 this month.  Yes I cried.  She has grown so fast and is not slowing down no matter how many times a hope for a pause button.  We went to an indoor playground with a few friends and had a spaghetti dinner at my brother’s house with our whole family to celebrate.  She asked to have ears pierced, but we decided that it would be better to wait a few more years.  Instead, she picked out a beautiful blue fish that is named “Bluebell”.  It’s really sweet how well she takes care of and marvels at this little fish.  He’s a welcome new member of the family!

The most exciting thing on her birthday was the shout-out, birthday mission, and song request on the Absolutely Mindy Show on Kid’s Place Live (sattelite radio).  They said her name on the radio and told her she must complete the following birthday missions before she turns another year older: 1) get in a fight with a balloon and lose, 2) teach a baby to “fist bump”, 3) mail someone a piece of toast.  Weird.  Funny.  :)  They also played her requested song, “Sweet Pea”.  It was a great day.

Well, we have packed the backpack and prepared all the school supplies for next Tuesday’s first day of Kindergarten and my sweet boy has already attended his first week of preschool.  I’m ready to get into a stable routine….something more predictable.  My friend and I have started a dinner swap and that has already been a huge help in planning for the week, time management, and money-saving.  We are hoping to add a few more people to our group (wouldn’t it be great to only have to cook once per week?!).  I’m looking forward to cooler weather, a finished living room, quiet time in the mornings to finish my work, one-on-one time with baby girl while other two are at school, and fun afternoons with them when they get home.

In the end, August gave me an ulcer (literally).  But I’m confident that September will bring calm and routine (and antacids).  Bring on the apples and homework, I’m ready!

Pantry/Freezer Meal….a lesson in creative staple cooking

Last week I was in a cooking rut.  My CSA delivery was not due for another day and the Costco coupons did not start until Friday…so I was trying to hold off on grocery shopping until then.  It was 5 o’clock and I needed to figure out something that was quick-cooking and not pasta or chicken.  Here’s where I got creative:

Hamburger Steaks with Sherry-Onion Gravy, MashedPotatoes, and Raisin-Nut Green Beans

Ingredients (in other words, things we keep on hand in our house):

  • frozen hamburger patties (note: Costco now carries lean, organic frozen patties…perfect for the P90X-er in your life)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper (feel free to use Montreal Steak seasoning, or any other combo)
  • 1 large onion, sliced into 1/4 in rings
  • 1-2 T flour
  • 1/4 c sherry (or any other dry booze you have lying around)
  • 1-1 1/2 c beef broth/chicken broth/water (I had chicken, but beef would’ve been best)
  • frozen mashed potatoes (or homemade/boxed….however you like it, I always pick up a few packs at Costco when I’m there)
  • green Beans (fresh or frozen taste best)
  • 2 T raisins
  • 2 T sliced almonds
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a “dash” of Mrs. Dash (or other all-purpose seasoning)
Method:
  1. On a sheet pan, lay out your hamburger patties and douse them with the Worcestershire sauce and dry seasonings.  Let that soak into the meat a little before cooking.  Once the puddles of sauce have mostly absorbed, cook the meat in a skillet over medium heat about 5-6 minutes per side (cooked through, nicely browned…almost caramelized).  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. To the same pan, add the onions and let them brown and get soft.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions to absorb any oil, making a medium brown-colored roux.  Turn the heat up to med-hi/hi and quickly de-glaze the pan with the sherry, loosening up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Once the heavy alcohol smell  has cooked off, whisk in the broth and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally, allowing the gravy to thicken.
  3. Meanwhile, heat up the mashed potatoes, adding a little milk if they seem dry.
  4. Once the potatoes are hot and the gravy is thickened, add the meat back to the gravy to re-warm.
  5. For the green beans: steam/boil/microwave the beans until they are bright green and not too soft.  Toss with the raisins, almonds, olive oil, and seasoning.
And there you have it…..creative cooking on the fly.  This meal takes about 20 minutes start-to-finish.

Board and batten (in progress)

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Breaded Zucchini

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The hubs loved this one!

Breaded Zucchini (not fried)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 zucchini (depending on size), sliced into 1/4 inch-thick rounds
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan (about a palmful)
  • 1/4 c breadcrumbs (about a palmful)
  • 2-3 T olive oil or melted butter
  • a few good shakes of all-purpose seasoning/spice blend (e.g. Mrs. Dash, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, etc.)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Toss all ingredients together, so that the zucchini rounds are sufficiently coated.  Spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20-30 mins, or until toasty and delicious!

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

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Here’s a picture (thanks iPhone) of the dinner we had tonight that inspired the kids to sing my praises.

It is straight from PW’s site….it’s her recipe, almost verbatim (alas, I had no egg noodles or enough beef).

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. ground beef
  • 1 15 oz can plain tomato sauce
  • 8 oz. short-cut pasta (1/2 package)
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 1/2 c cottage cheese
  • 1/4 green onions, sliced
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Bring pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta, drain and reserve.
  3. Brown meat, drain the fat, add tomato sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, fresh pepper and simmer.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, cottage cheese, green onions, and 1/4 tsp pepper (more if you like).  Fold in the pasta until combined.
  5. In a baking dish, add half the noodle mixture, spread out half the meat, and sprinkle half the cheese.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until bubbly.

Hushpuppies

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Donut holes vs Hushpuppies? Hushpuppies 100%. 12 for $1.39? Even better (though I can’t eat all of them). There’s lunch: 6 Hushpuppies and iced tea. Don’t judge!

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