Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trader Joe's Checklist

In my first blog post of 2013, I mentioned that I wanted to start making more trips to Trader Joe's and try as many Trader Joe's products as I can. I've been three times so far and I am going to try and write down everything I remember buying from there. Each time I go, I want to purchase new and different things without repeating for the most part! Of course if I really like something, I may repeat. This first one won't be exact because I may not remember everything from my first two trips which were in May and December of last year.

Dark Chocolate Edamame: If you love edamame beans as much as I do, these are the perfect mix of sweet and salty and they make a great snack.

Dark chocolate covered Blueberries: These are just as tasty as the edamame ones but more just a sweet flavor as opposed to salty/sweet.

Fruit Leathers: I bought some of each flavor. These are unsweetened natural dried fruit bars with no added sugar. They come in a variety of flavors including apricot, boysenberry, raspberry and strawberry. They're like a healthy version of a fruit roll-up. I love them.

Freshly shaved Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese: I bought this cheese to top a meatball sub but was able to use it for so much more including on top of a burger, to make grilled cheese, and sprinkled on top of tomato soup. The mix of 3 cheeses gives a unique flavor for anything you would put just Parmesan on.

Smoked Gouda Sliced Cheese: Smoked Gouda is my favorite cheese but it's rare to find it in sandwich slices. This has been a great addition to my normal turkey sandwiches as well as was great on top of a burger.

Fresh Lean Burgers: I did add a chipotle rub to them but these were still some of the best burgers I've ever had at home.

Multi-grain Crackers: These crackers are sweet and pair well with an earthy cheese as well as laughing cow swiss spreadables. I think they'd taste great with peanut butter as well.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with brown sugar: I knew I was going to love these. It's my third favorite food wrapped around my second favorite food. I wasn't a hundred percent sure about frozen ones but they turned out great.

Salted yellow tortilla chips: These were delicious and just the right amount of saltiness for tortilla chips.

Cooked Natural Applewood bacon: This bacon is delicious and super easy because it's already cooked. Just pop it in the microwave and enjoy.

Frozen artichoke hearts: Haven't eaten yet.

Herb roasted sliced turkey: This turkey was fantastic. It had such delicious herb flavors and paired well with the smoked gouda.

Ready to eat edamame: Haven't eaten yet.

Roasted garlic marinara: This was one of the best marinara sauces I've ever had. I tried it on a meatball sub as well as on pumpkin ganache and it tasted fantastic on both.

Hearts of Palm: Haven't eaten yet.

Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce: Haven't eaten yet.

Hummus Kalamata: I love olives and hummus, put them together and I'm sold.

Mild Red Salsa: This was quite tasty and went well with the salted yellow tortilla chips.

Original Hummus: Trader Joe's has a reputation for making some of the best hummus out there and while they have lots of flavor choices including the kalamata one I mentioned above, their original really shows the true quality of taste in their hummus.

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: I've found multiple lists on Pinterest for things you can do with coconut oil. I look forward to trying them.

Frozen Breakfast Burrito: Haven't eaten yet.

Tofu Firm Organic: Haven't eaten yet.

Lip Balm Virtuoso: This is one of my favorite lip balms I've ever tried. It comes in a 3 pack for a very affordable price. It's spearmint so it tastes great and feels great on your lips.

Candied Ginger: Haven't eaten yet.

Habenero Lime Tortillas: I made some amazing shrimp tacos with these as well as some great turkey wraps.

Mini Edamame Crackers: These were tasty and make a great snack.

Italian Truffle Cheese: This cheese was very earthy. I liked it a lot and it paired well with the multi-grain crackers.

Rye Bread with caraway seeds: I love everything about rye bread. The perfect sandwich was the herb turkey and smoked gouda on this bread. Mmmm!

Beef Rolls Dog Treats: Even Chloe enjoyed the perks of Trader Joe's shopping. Every time I gave Chloe one of these, I had to smell it first. They smelled so good, like beef jerky! Chloe seemed to enjoy them too although she seems to enjoy all dog treats.

A papaya: Fresh fruit is always tasty. I even made a fancy drink out of the hollowed out papaya.

Honey Whole Wheat: Another tasty bread choice for sandwiches.

Friday, February 15, 2013

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Summary

So due to limited funds for supplies and missing 4 days for a trip, I was unable to complete my original plan for 14 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes. Instead, I had to limit it to 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes. This got me 3 Valentine's Day posts and 3 Mardis Gras posts so I still found it successful.

Day 1: Valentine's Day Heart Hurricane Vase
Day 2: Mardis Gras Hibiscus Hurricane
Day 3: Valentine's Day Heart Wreath
Day 4: Mardis Gras Red Beans and Rice with New Orleans-Style Shrimp
Day 5: Valentine's Day Chocolate Indulgence Martini
Day 6: Mardis Gras Kings Cake Pops

Next up will be something St. Patrick's Day themed. Last year I did 7 Days of Shamrocks. Stay tuned...

Friday, February 8, 2013

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 6

For day six of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I attempted doing a fun twist on the famous Mardi Gras dessert by making Kings Cake Pops. I have a cake pop maker but this is actually the first time I've used it. The first batch I messed up by not spraying it with cooking spray first and I also made my "cake balls" too big so they stuck and burned a little and lost their shape, total mess! Luckily I had more dough and did things right the second time around.

Supplies Needed:
Cake pop maker
Cake pop sticks

Ingredients Needed:
Cooking spray
1 can/tube of cinnamon bun dough (I got the kind with cream cheese icing)
Yellow/Gold, Green and Purple sprinkles

Step 1: Cut up the cinnamon buns in triangles and then roll them into balls. This part is a little messy so be prepared! Make sure the balls are the right size to fit nicely into the cake pop machine. 

Step 2: Heat up the machine and spray with cooking spray. Put the balls in and cook for about 3 minutes. 

Step 3: Take the balls out to cool. Once they are cool, put them on a stick and dip them in the icing that comes with the cinnamon buns. I put the icing in the microwave for 15 seconds, felt a little long, I'd recommend 10 seconds. Next dip them in the colored sprinkles, I did different colors for each pop but you could also do all three on one pop. 

The end result turned out well for these but they were very messy to make. I think next time I want cinnamon buns, I'll probably just make them the normal way. I am excited to experiment more with cake pops though now that I've actually broken in my machine. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 5

For day five of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I decided to try and make this Chocolate Indulgence Martini from Mine didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped but it still tasted good. First of all, this drink is supposed to ooze decadence and part of the way it does that is with it's visual chocolate garnishes. I wanted to use my red martini glass for Valentine's day but the colored glass hides the chocolate drizzle on the inside of the glass as well as the cookie crumb rim. Also, I used skim milk with chocolate syrup which isn't as sweet and rich as store bought chocolate milk which the recipe calls for. One more small thing, I didn't have any vanilla vodka so I flavored some regular vodka with vanilla extract. If you follow the real recipe a little better than I did and use a clear martini glass, I think you'll be very pleased! This is the perfect dessert drink for a romantic Valentine's Day Dinner or a fun girls night.

Chocolate cookie crumbs (I used crushed up mini Oreos)
Chocolate syrup for drizzling
2 oz store bought chocolate milk
1 oz vanilla vodka
1 oz cream de cocoa (I only had the clear kind, the recipe didn't specify which kind to use)

Step 1: Crush up the cookies, place chocolate syrup on a small plate and sprinkle the cookies on top. Then dip the rim of a glass in the mixture. Also drizzle some chocolate syrup on the inside of the martini glass. Stick glass in freezer while mixing up the cocktail. 

Step 2: Mix milk, vodka and cream de cocoa in a cocktail shaker over ice and pour into chilled martini glass.

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 4

For day four of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I combined two "Cajun" themed recipes, red beans and rice and "Grilled New Orleans-Style Shrimp" to make my own concoction. The only thing missing was the cornbread! 

Red Beans & Rice Ingredients:

2 cups red beans or pinto beans canned or dried cooked (I used dry small red beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups cooked rice to package instructions ( I used whole grain brown rice)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Cook the rice and beans separately, according to the package. If you have time I recommend cooking the beans in advance, either a day before or have them slow cook all day.

Step 2: Saute cooked beans in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.

Step 3: Add cooked rice in a bowl with the beans toss with all seasonings, add olive oil, blend together.

The shrimp recipe I had was for 1 1/2 lb of large shrimp. I had about two dozen medium size shrimp so I had to edit the recipe a little so edit measurements based on how many shrimp you have.

Grilled New Orleans-Style Shrimp Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb large shrimp (21 to 25 per lb) (I used 2 dozen small shrimp)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I didn't measure the olive oil)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (I used about 2 cloves)
3/4 teaspoon salt (I think I stuck with this same amount since you use it divided)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter (I used 3 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons chili powder (I used 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons black pepper (I didn't measure this)
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I used 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I think I stuck with 1 tablespoon)

Step 1: Toss shrimp with oil, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and marinate at cool room temperature 15 minutes.

Step 2: While shrimp marinate, prepare grill for cooking. I live in an apartment so I only have a George Foreman.

Step 3: Heat butter, chili powder, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, until butter is melted, then remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Step 4: Thread 4 or 5 shrimp onto skewers and grill, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over once, until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes total. Push shrimp off skewers into a bowl, then pour butter mixture over them and toss to combine well. (I didn't use skewers on the foreman, just tossed the shrimp on and closed it, cooking them for about 3 minutes)

I dished up two bowls of rice and beans and then divided up the shrimp evenly between the two bowls. Finally I poured the remaining butter mixture over the bowls. The shrimp definitely had a fantastic flavor and was the best part about this meal. The rice and beans were good but didn't have a powerful taste. I have plenty of rice and beans left but no more shrimp so I'll have to think of something else to add to them. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 2

For day two of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I made a Hibiscus Hurricane.  I took a classic New Orleans Hurricane recipe and replaced the passion fruit syrup with hibiscus syrup. 

2 oz light rum
2 oz hibiscus syrup
1 oz lime juice
1 cup lemon-lime soda (or 8 oz bottle)
1 oz 151 rum (I only had 100 spiced rum so I used that)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker except the 151 rum. Shake and pour into a hurricane glass. Float the 151 on top. Garnish with a cherry (mine floated to the bottom for the picture but it's in there.) If you have edible hibiscus flowers, it would be fun to garnish with one of those as well. 

Note: Shaking a carbonated beverage in a cocktail shaker can prove dangerous, the recipe I was basing this drink off of included the soda in the cocktail shaker but if I make this again I would shake the other things, then add the soda after pouring it into the glass then use a cocktail stirrer.

A quote about this drink: "This is the Classic N'awlins Hurricane. Drink through a straw from the bottom first. It starts out calm, but it gets stormy towards the end!" 

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 3

For day three of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I decided to make a Valentine's Day themed wreath. I have a ton of these heart foam stickers and am trying to find fun ways to use them. For this wreath, I just started sticking hearts in random spots and worked until I had it covered. 

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes: Day 1

For day one of my 6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes, I decided to try a new Valentine's Day Heart Hurricane Vase. Last year I did one with candy hearts, this year I used glitter heart cutouts. I think it turned out well and looks great with some of my other V-Day decor. 

6 Days of Hearts and Hurricanes

Last year I was able to do two separate challenges for Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras. This year though, Mardi Gras falls on February 12 so I'm going to combine the two. Every other day I will do Valentine's themed things and Mardi Gras themed things. I had originally thought to call it "Hearts and Beads" but then decided to change it to "Hearts and Hurricanes." I really like the way the alliteration sounds and hurricanes are a popular Mardi Gras drink and of course hearts are the symbol of Valentine's Day. Stay tuned...