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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Three Little Fishies

In case you have no plans for this evening, and actually wanted to sit through a 3 year old Pre School End-of-Year concert, join us to see Sam recite ditties like this:

It's just a taste, you know you want more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Favorite Things from Trader Joe's

I had posted this back in August of 2007 and it is the second highest hit on my blog.  Second only to my often Googled, mostly disappointing "Day in the Life of a Bond Trader" account from long ago.

Time to throw it out there again, some things have disappeared so I removed them, and added a bunch of new stuff.

I'll also preface this by saying this is NOT an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your own comments and tell me what you have found to be delicious from this wonderful grocery store. I'm always happy when it's a Trader Joe's week and I get to go buy food, treats and wine from this wonderful place.

From the Frozen Section

Pasta Arrabiata: penne pasta with a delicious tomato, basil and garlic sauce. Very good surprisingly, a little bit of a kick to it.

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce: easy, tasty, elegant.

Chicken Fajitas: Pretty darn good for frozen fajitas, Scott couldn't tell the difference.

Multi grain or Blueberry Waffles: like Eggos only healthier, yummier and way cheaper.

French Toast: probably our household's favorite breakfast item.  6 to a box, you heat them in the toaster and they taste like homemade.  Multi grain bread and low fat grams make it a nice choice nutritionally, and an easy baby food for little ones still getting their teeth.  Charlotte will pound this.

Trader Joe's Ice Cream: My absolute favorite ice cream.  I believe they are still having Double Rainbow from San Francisco produce it.  Better then Hagaan Daz, I think, and cheaper at $3.69 a quart. Chocolate and vanilla are our house favorites, and the new addition of chocolate caramel in the pint size...

Mini Beef Tacos: over by the appetizers, they are so yummy. I serve them with lettuce, cheese, sour cream and pineapple salsa for dipping. Five of them makes a meal.  The chicken are good as well, not quite as tasty though.

Southwest Chicken Quesadillas: my lunch item of choice after the kids go down for naps.  The chicken can be a little squishy, I end up picking it out and devoring the rest of it.  REALLY good, a little spicy.

Ice Cream Bon Bons: The cookie/cake layer is utter decadence and the dark chocolate drizzled over top is of great quality. The chocolate ice cream ones are my favorite, and are not even that bad for you at 4 grams of fat per bon bon. And no, I don't just sit around all day eating bon bons. I just like to say it: bon bon. Bon bon bon bon.

Mini Pizza Frommaggios: four to a package, nice little snacks that are very saucy and not TOO bad for you.

Haricot Verts: These are the skinny, french version of green beans. In the middle of winter when fresh green beans are looking suspect, a package of these tastes mighty good: steamed for just a few minutes, drizzled in butter, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Already Cooked, Salted Edamame: look for the yellow bag with blue in the label, there's a red one that it isn't cooked yet.  Throw some in a bowl with water, microwave for 1 minute, and you have an easy healthy protein.  Sam eats them by the bowlful.

Key Lime Cheesecake: SO good. Tastes almost homemade, great lime flavor, and a good company dessert if you don't feel like baking.

Asparagus Risotto: Great to have on hand for an easy meal that you want ready in 3 seconds.  My babysitters love this stuff, Scott will eat the entire bag.  The mushroom risotto is also good, but we prefer this one.

Macaroni and Cheese: the best I've ever had, competes even with a restaurant.  Four different (real!) cheeses, the only unfortunate thing is that one tray is two servings.  Wish I'd realized that after eating an entire one my first time.

Pie Crust/Puff Pastry: both are excellent, and use real butter.  I cannot tell the difference between Dufour's and Trader Joe's puff pastry.  Except one costs $13 for two sheets and the other is $4.99

Mini croissants/chocolate croissants: Oh happy day when these hit the shelves for the first time!  Keep the mini croissants on hand for an easy impressive lunch, add a good chicken salad and some sparkling lemonade and your friends will never know what hit them.  Made by the same San Francisco pastry chef as the ones in the Williams-Sonoma catalogue.  You will not believe how much money you save by buying them here.  Enough for an outfit at Old Navy.

Tempura Chicken: on par with P.F. Chang's honey crispy chicken.  A favorite meal in our house, can be served with rice, or on top of an oriental salad with cashews.  Don't look at the serving size on the bag, it'll depress you.  Just enjoy it, once in a while.

Marinated Mahi Mahi fillets: they marinate themselves in lime, garlic and red pepper flakes as they defrost in your fridge, really good grilled or sauteed in a hot fry pan.

Tator Tots: I have issues with these.  That is all I will say about that.

In the Pantry Section
Pineapple Salsa: If I had to pick ONE thing to take with me from T.J.'s, it would be this. Sweet, not really that spicy. Excellent with El Milagro chips as an easy appetizer or very good to use as a marinade for chicken breasts. Marinate breasts in a ziplock bag with a jar of this overnight, then bake or grill and top with provolone or swiss cheese. I have literally four jars of it at the moment.  The red and verde salsa's are also really good.

Corn and Chili Tomato-less Salsa: a nice kick without being too spicy, great addition to simple cheese quesadillas or tacos.

General Tsao's Sauce: a sweet steak sauce that you want to drink with a straw. Delicious over a rib eye steak that they were sampling one day.

Almond Dark Chocolate Lace Cookies: Pretty self explanatory.

Lemonade and Iced Tea Drink: Over in the juice section, it's basically a pre-mixed Arnold Palmer.

Dixie Peach Juice: Awesome on its own over ice, or mix it with seltzer or ginger ale for an easy, non-alcoholic aperitif.  Or with champagne for a bellini!

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper Chips: So good. Spicy and savory and addictive.  Ditto for the Hawaiian BBQ ones.

Pizza Sauce: My favorite store-bought sauce. Great to have on hand to dip deep dish crusts in, Lean Pockets, or bread sticks.

Honey Sesame Cashews: Mmmmm.

Pecan Pralines and Caramelized Nut Trio: People, I am not doing you any favors by recommending these two items.  They are my Achilles heel.  I am staring at the boxes right now, trying not to tear into them.  The nut trio is the perfect blend of salty-sweet, using almonds, cashews and walnuts.

Dark Chocolate Covered Pistachio Nuts: These went awfully fast when I brought them to a picnic downtown Chicago. There's a thin toffee layer between the chocolate and the nut.

Valrhona Chocolate Bars: my favorite chocolate bar for baking.  3.5 ounces, $1 less here then elsewhere.

Organic Lollipops: my "emergency" treat in the diaper bag.  The pink ones taste exactly like watermelon jolly ranchers, only made with real fruit juice and no artificial colors, yada yada yada.  You can score yourself a free one by telling the cashier where "the purple monkey" is.  They hide him in a different spot every day.  Great attention grabbing task for a squirrely toddler!

Organic Chicken Broth: awesome as a base for soups, or, even better, a base for your own homemade stock!  I'll use four of these and three quarts of water when I make stock.

Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup: I keep one of these in the pantry for an easy dinner.  I'll throw in half a jar of the pineapple salsa, a couple handfuls of frozen corn and top it with crunched up tortilla chips, bread baguette on the side.  Dinner is served.

Organic Joe's O's Pasta: Basically spaghetti o's, only organic and made with sea salt and actual cheddar cheese.  Another good baby/kid food.

Daelmans Delicious Caramel Bites: basically a mini stoop waffle, and they are made in Holland so they are legit.  Truly, truly delicious, usually located above the ice cream.

Villa Italia Blood Orange Soda: this elegant glass bottle is a great addition to a baby meal, or company coming over dinner.  Not too sweet, super yummy, made in Italy.

Organic Ketchup: sweet, tangy, no high fructose corn syrup, awesome with the tator tots.  Yes, I do have a tot problem.

In the Refrigerated Section
Matt's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Expensive at $3.99 for a dozen cookies in dough form, but unbelievably good. You take them home and keep them refrigerated or frozen and then just bake them when you're ready for them. I always have this in the freezer for a quick company dessert with vanilla ice cream. Underbake them though, I think 11 minutes is perfect.

Trader Joe's Yogurt: Pretty darn good, very close to the Stoneyfield Farm brand in taste and texture and much cheaper. The chocolate underground flavor is my favorite.

Trader Joe's Yogurt Sticks: For sure made by Stoneyfield Farm, exactly the same ones you spend $4+ at Whole Foods.  Only these are $2.69.  We freeze them and eat them like popsicles.

Trader Joe's Orange Juice: I can't tell the difference between this and Tropicana, except for the $2 price difference.

Bagged Pizza Dough: Over by the refrigerated pre-made pizzas, this dough is fantastic. A little sticky to work with, but indistinguishable from homemade dough, in my opinion. Favorite toppings: mozzarella, Trader Joe's pizza sauce and basil; olive oil, red onion, pears, and feta; mozzarella, sauce and pineapple. The garlic and herb dough is also tasty.

Pear Champagne Vinaigrette Salad dressing: One of our favorite store-bought dressings. Great with romaine, pears (obviously), blue cheese, red onion, and dried cherries.

Bruschetta: Another thing on my "must have" list for entertaining. Be careful not to grab the fresh salsa when in search of the bruschetta, they look very similar. One of my favorite ways to serve this is to make a bruschetta station: homemade Parmesan garlic toasts, a dish of the bruschetta, a pile of basil leaves and a pile of shaved or grated Parmesan. That way, the bread doesn't get soggy from sitting under the tomatoes and everyone can make their own.

McAdam's Cheddar Cheese: A wonderfully cheap and smooth white cheddar.

White Stilton with apricots: sweet, can be served with crackers as an easy dessert.

Bagged green beans or haricot verts: so good, easy because you can microwave them in the bag, and already trimmed!

In the Wine Section
Bear's Lair Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot: All of these are easy to drink with a nice finish, $5 and delicious. The Chardonnay is great with crackers and the McAdam's Cheddar.

Laurent Reverdy Sancerre: I hadn't explored Sancerre's very much before trying this wine.  People, this is a GREAT white wine.  Nice with seafood, not sweet but really drinkable and complex all at the same time.  Try a bottle, I bet you won't regret it.

Honey Moon Viognier: Smooth, on the sweeter side, good really cold.  Gulpable.  Not sure that's a good thing.

Dr. Beckermann's Auslese: In a blue bottle, this sweet Riesling is another refreshing summer wine, $5 for a bottle.

And that folks, is my current list. What did I miss?  I'd love to hear what your favorite things are, we are always looking for quick and easy weeknight meals at our house!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sam Turns 4

Thinking of my little guy right now, asleep in his cozy bed, exhausted from a long day of cartoon watching/hot donut eating/French Market wandering/Lucky Strikes bowling/Yorktown train riding/Treehouse playing/Chipotle eating/and Magna Tile building.

It was pretty much the perfect day, top presents included a new plastic baseball bat and ball, a cheap gumball machine and a $6 Toy Story 3 wallet that he can keep his money in.  Please tell me it will always stay this simple.

He is obsessed with gum right now, a newly acquired treat.  I figured his very own pack of gum would be the best thing I could add to his birthday breakfast tray.  I was right.

Sleep well my oldest child.  And may you always carry with you your four year old zest for life, your enthusiasm for all things involving balls (sports balls, ahem), and your snappy sense of fashion.  I had no idea how much my life would change for the better the day you arrived, four years ago.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pictures in the Park

I've been sitting on these for almost a month and had forgotten about them.  The kids and I headed to Adam's Park one morning in order to try and recreate Sam's picture amongst the crocus's from three years ago.

Here's what I ended up with:

Easter Pics

Well, it only took me three weeks to get these up.  Taking any pictures of us as a family was an absolute first this year, usually we are out the door at the crack of dawn to get to Moody.  This year was different.

Slower, quieter.  Scott skated through in cloud of fluffy pain meds.  I enjoyed dressing the kids up despite having nowhere to go but to see family at both grandparent's houses, eating copious amounts of carb based foods.

This was the first time Charlotte has worn a dress in five months.  The way I figure, it just trips her up when she crawls, so why bother?  It rode up her hips the entire day anyways.

The only decent one of the two of them.  Out of 47.  That bow has seen better days.

And the only halfway decent one of Dad and kids.  Scott is giggling quietly to himself at the absurdity of it all.  And whimpering as Sam leans back on his newly surgery-ed hand.

All in all, it was a great day.  We watched church online from the comfort of our computer room, in our jammies, lattes in hand.  No rushing or stress.  No hassle trying to find parking Downtown.  It was sad to miss out on the fellowship and the amazing worship, but I enjoyed the calmness of it all.  Our time with both sides of the family was precious, LOVED seeing Sam and Charlotte with all their cousins' on Scott's side.  The annual egg hunt is hysterical.  15 kids, 10 eggs each, that's a lot of eggs.

Charlotte had Puffs in hers, I think she was a little disillusioned.

Anyways, I hope your May is off to a good start, err, halfway over!