Archive for July, 2014

Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #4

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Hello, again.

Summer with Trader Joe’s is back after a brief hiatus and it’s going to be a good one.

It’s Mexican Night (even your kids will love it).

Last week, when I went to buy the ingredients for Mexican Night, I committed the cardinal sin of shopping at Trader Joe’s (and living in Asheville)–I asked for plastic bags.

<Gasp!>

The cashier paused briefly and said, “Well, that’s okay.” But when another smiley Trader Joe’s employee came to help bag, he leaned over and said, “She wants plastic. Don’t shun her.” We all laughed, but as I watched her fumble with the flimsy plastic handles, followed by a tutorial from the cashier on the best way to open them, I became self-conscious with the realization that I could have been her first plastic-bagging customer EVER.

The shame.

Thankfully, the happiest-people-on earth at the happiest-place-on-earth gave me a pass and I went on my way with plastic in hand. {Relief.}

mexican, summer, summer-with-trader-joes, black-beans

Onward and upward.

I love Mexican food. I especially L O V E black beans. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I cook them slow. That’s the best way to give them the creamy texture that tastes like you’ve cooked them in gallons of butter. That’s why they’re great. Creamy and rich, not much fat, lots-o-protein.

Here’s the rundown on the plate above. First, the side dishes. One of THE GREATEST frozen side items at Trader Joe’s is the Chimichurri Rice. I keep a few bags in my freezer at all times. It’s goes with a lot of things, but I like it best with Mexican food.

chimichurri-rice, trader-joe's, mexican

The other side dish on the plate is Trader Joe’s Sweet Corn Tamales. It’s a perfect companion for the chimichurri rice, because the sweetness of the corn mellows the spiciness of the the rice. You can find it in the frozen aisle, as well.

sweet-corn, tamales, trader-joe's, mexican

Finally, the black beans. We usually make soft tacos with them, which reminds me: Trader Joe’s makes the best handmade flour tortillas around.

tortillas, Trader-Joe's

Holy Guacamole, they’re good. I think they’re the sole reason I got addicted to the store in the first place.

Anyway, yes, the recipe for slow-cooked black beans:

1 onion, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 t.- 1t. cumin

4 (15oz.) cans Trader Joe’s Black beans

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, sauteé the onion in 2 T. olive oil on medium heat. Meanwhile, rinse and drain 2 cans of black beans. Leave the other 2 cans of black beans alone; you’ll need the juice later.

When the onion is fragrant and soft, add the garlic. Sauteé for a few more minutes, but don’t let the garlic burn. Burnt garlic turns bitter (she says from experience).

Pour the 2 cans of black beans with their juice into the saucepan, followed by the rinsed beans. Add cumin. Personally, I like cumin A LOT, so I’d add a full teaspoon, but start with a 1/2 t. if you’re not sure. You can always add more later.

Pour water over the beans, enough to create at least a 1-inch layer. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer those babies for about 2 hours. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Check the pot every now and then and add more water as necessary.

When they’re done simmering, move the pot off the burner, and let them cool for a few minutes.

Now, here’s the magic trick if you want a smooth, creamy texture that tastes like you’ve cooked the beans in gallons of butter:

Spoon about half of the slightly cooled,cooked beans into a food processor. Pulse for about 10 seconds.

black-beans, mexican

Add the bean mixture back to the saucepan and stir to incorporate the mixture into the rest of the black beans. Y-U-M.

* * * * * * * * *

We use all sorts of toppings on the black bean soft tacos. Bell peppers, raw onions, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, etc. The fun part, especially for kids, is to arrange all the toppings in small bowls and let each person choose their own personal taco toppings. Always a hit.

Bonus: I think Kristi’s Summer with Trader Joe’s Margarita is the perfect addition to Mexican Night.

We’re excited to see your recipes this week. Don’t forget to link up today starting at 10am.

If you’re new to the link up, find out about our team of bloggers at Summer with Trader Joe’s is Here.

And, as always, here are the rules for the link up:

[inlinkz_linkup id=420810 mode=1]

 

summer with trader joe's

True Confessions

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

True confession: I was kind of dreading this summer. Not even really because of the fiasco that was LAST SUMMER (you can read that happy little story here: Summer’s Revenge).  

It’s just that my kids are getting older now. They have conflicting desires, different friends, and they CAN’T DRIVE. I had visions of spending my entire summer behind the steering wheel, squinting at the sun’s glare through my windshield instead of basking in its glory on a towel next to the pool.

We didn’t sign up for summer camps, either. Not one.  I know. Totally un-American. And maybe even crazy.

 

But a friend asked me today what I’ve enjoyed most about my summer. I thought about it for a minute (since we haven’t been to the beach yet) and replied: Just being with my kids. What’s even cooler is that is was TRUE.  I didn’t say it because I thought I was supposed to feel that way and I didn’t say it  so she’d think I’m a better mom than I am (there’s plenty of evidence to prove otherwise). I really meant it.

Another true confession: I’m reading Anne Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.

Erg. That was even harder to admit.

I’ve always prided myself on staying away from ridiculously popular books. For instance, The Purpose Driven Life–never read it. And proud of it. (I may have some soul searching to do.)

The world is divided into two camps: those who love Anne Voskamp’s writing style and those who loathe it. I happen to be in the former category.  I became acquainted with her writing first through her blog. I really enjoyed the few articles I read there, though the persistent piano melody in the background  feels slightly manipulative, like at any moment I’m expected to weep like I’m at a funeral.

Piano music aside, she’s one insightful lady, so I decided to take the plunge and read the book. This week, I’ve been reading little bits of it, in the calm of the morning before the kids wake up. I was particularly struck by the words in her chapter First Flight:

“Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.”

 

I promise there’s a connection between Confession #1 and Confession #2.

Truthfully, there hasn’t been much spectacular about our summer. (Well, except for that trip to Las Vegas for kids aka Great Wolf Lodge. That WAS spectacular, especially because we were with extended family.) But I’ve enjoyed it, anyway, because of  its simplicity. I’ve been thankful just to see their faces each morning without having to rush them out the door. I’ve been thankful to see them jump together into the deep end of the pool. I’ve been thankful and honestly surprised at how well they’ve gotten along, even through the long hours of summer.

So, my falsely inflated self says thanks for these simple things, and the world returns right, because my ego deflates for just a little while, and for a small second I acknowledge His good gifts. You can bet I’ll return to that falsely inflated self, and not relish the goodness of God, and for that time, His grace is bigger.

For right now, I’m thankful to Anne for the reminder to see beauty in the ordinary and then to thank God for it.

And guess what? I haven’t been behind the steering wheel (that much). I might even have a little tan.

 

(Gotta run. The three olders are beginning to fray at the edges. It’s not all roses. Still hoping to say thanks.)

Details…

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

If you’re on the blog today you’re probably looking for the  Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up.

We’re taking a break this week because, well,  life happens–sickness, adolescent drama, caring for family, and probably staying at the pool a little too long….

 

Check back next Tuesday for Summer with Trader Joe’s. I can’t wait to see what this talented group of girls creates for Mexican night. And, don’t forget to link up your recipes, too!

 

Summer with Trader Joe's

Friday Favorites: Rainy Day edition

Friday, July 18th, 2014

friday-favorites, friday, favorites, rainy-day

It’s raining buckets in the mountains today or as Duane says, “It’s pouring the rain.” My question is: why the definite article? It seems perfectly appropriate to simply say, “It’s pouring rain.” Isn’t there another phrase that goes something like, “A happy marriage=the woman is always right.” I like that. ; )

So, it’s pouring rain.

That means we’re stuck inside all day. I don’t mind. Summer rain in Asheville also means that it’s 68° outside in the middle of July. Yes….

It’s been a while since I’ve taken on Friday Favorites, so it seems perfectly appropriate to bring it back on a rainy Friday, while the kids watch a movie.
The Rainy Day edition will include (obviously) my favorite things to do/eat/read/etc. whilst stuck inside. Enjoy!
books, reads

So, Frederick Buechner’s book, Telling Secrets is a soul-haunting memoir. It’s a book about telling the story of his life (duh, that’s why it’s a memoir), even though he was encouraged to keep his story a secret as a child. It’s a call for all of us to acknowledge our stories (with others) in light of the GREAT STORY,  not to keep them to ourselves.

“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.”

I told you it was soul-haunting.

Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine is a much lighter read, but no less thought-provoking. The subtitle is A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. She reflects on the transforming effects of sharing meals around the table with the people in your life. I read a chapter a night before I go to bed; they’re short.

music, playlist

Even though it’s summer, Anne Street’s Autumn Days playlist on Spotify is perfect for a rainy day.  (Check out her cinemagraphs, too.) Most of the songs are slow and plodding and even a little bit gritty. You’ll want to sit in a dimly lit room and journal with a glass of wine (only in my dreams).

A few standouts on the list: Dustin Tebbutt, The Paper Kites, and Daughter.

One of my favorite songs right now (not on the playlist) is I am a Ghost. A-mazing.

peach, blueberry, gallette
Photo by cynthiagroseclose.com

Rainy days make me want to bake. I’m going to make THIS gallette today. I’ve never made a gallette. I’m pretty sure it’s pie with a fancy French title to make us Americans feel more sophisticated.  Either way, it’s going to be G O O D.

* * * * * * * * *

 We are currently enjoying a summer movie marathon. The kids are watching Megamind. Have you ever seen it? Not sure it makes the favorite list, but the first 30 minutes is sheer comedic genius.

Happy Friday.

What are your favorite things to do on a rainy day? 

Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #3

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Summer with Trader Joe’s Week 3 is here.

I’m pretty excited. It’s cocktail week.

There’s something particularly summer-y about an early evening cocktail, especially a gin cocktail.  I often like to sip one  at my patio table with the umbrella up, citronella torches blazing, a good book in one hand, and the [gin] cocktail in the other.

My go-to gin for summer cocktails is, unequivocally, Hendrick’s Gin. It’s crisp and clean with a light aftertaste of rose and cucumbers.  Oh my.  (Buyers Beware: once you try it, you’ll never go back to any other gin.)

In fact, Trader Joe’s and Hendrick’s Gin are pretty similar.  The Hendrick’s Gin website introduces the gin this way: “Meet the delightfully curious Hendrick’s Gin. Life is simply too glorious not to experience its peculiar flavour.”

I think the same could be said for Trader Joe’s, don’t you? Slightly peculiar, delightful, curious.  Yep. Twins.

Ok, now for the reason we’re here.

hendrick's, gin, cocktail

 

3 slices cucumber, muddled

6 mint leaves, muddled

4-5  Trader Joe’s frozen pineapple tidbits, softened and muddled

2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin

1/2 oz. simple syrup

4 0z. Trader Joe’s Sparkling Lime Spring Water

Thaw  pineapple tidbits for a couple of minutes while you prep your other ingredients. Muddle cucumber, mint, and pineapple in the bottom of a cocktail shaker with a wooden spoon. Add 3-4 ice cubes. Pour the gin and simple syrup into the cocktail shaker. Put the top on and shake it up. Top it off with the sparkling lime spring water.

Pour in a glass over ice. Serve with a cucumber garnish on the rim and a few extra pineapple tidbits thrown into the glass. Now, savor summer.

 

Hendrick's gin, summer, cocktail, Trader Joe's

hendrick's, gin, cocktail

 

Here are the rules for the link up!

Find out who our team of bloggers are HERE.

 

[inlinkz_linkup id=420810 mode=1]

 

Summer with Trader Joe's

Phoebe Flock Quilt Giveaway

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

There’s a lot happening on the blog this week. First, the Summer with Trader Joe’s series kicked off its second week with salads on Tuesday. Today, I’m participating with 5 other bloggers in a really great giveaway for a really great quilt.

PhoebeFlockGiveaway2

Faith and Composition Revisionary Life And Babies Don't Keep Pencilled Daydream Phoebe Flock On Neutral Ground

I can’t sew worth a lick. Well, I can sew a pillowcase with guidance. Oh, and a string of paper circles.

So, I’m always amazed by people who can sew really beautiful and creative things AND have kids at the same time.

Introducing Joanna of  Phoebe Flock. She made this really great quilt we’re giving away AND  she has kids.

quilt, etsy

*I told you it was G R E A T.*

 

 

Here’s  a link to her Etsy Shop where she sells a variety of creative goods; I especially like the cloth napkins.

When you go to her shop, enter the code SUMMERFUN10 and you’ll receive 10% off your purchase.

 

cloth napkin, etsy

*I think this one’s my favorite.*

 

Susanna at {Re}visionary Life recently interviewed Joanna about her creative process and inspiration.  Here’s what she had to say.

Why did you start Phoebe Flock and where does the name come from?

i started it because i love creating things. and i was running out of space in my house and people to give things to.

phoebeflock was actually first my blog name, then my business name. i love birds. and i also love the name phoebe. if our first born had been a girl, he would have been “phoebe.” one of the reasons i started my blog was because i really value community and blogs are just that: community. i thought of a group of birds. a flock. a community.

so, there you go. phoebeflock.

What got you started with sewing?

i had an idea for what i wanted the nursery bedding to look like when i was pregnant with my son, samuel. i had pictures in my head and no idea how to make them a reality. my mom came to visit and she helped. she gave me tools. she listened and instructed. we sewed and sewed and soon i had finished pieces in my hands. my ideas had become tangible and i was hooked. i had more pictures and concepts rolling around in my head and i wanted to hold them in my hands too. so i dug in.

What or who inspires you the most?

definitely stuff that God has made. i love seeing the color combinations He has put into place. dark grey tree bark with aqua lichen and an orange mushroom. the way a tree bends in the wind– toward the setting sun. the 5 blues on a bluebird. all of that. and the list is never exhausted– you’ve never seen it all. He made such cool stuff.

the need is also inspirational. my daughter wants a sleeping bag for her doll. hmm…. how can i use half ideas i already have in order to make something useful for her? without the need i’m sometimes stumped.

a need or a picture. one of those things has to be present in order for me to be inspired.

Tell us about your favorite project ever.

so difficult to choose! i think i’d have to pick the first quilt i made. i made it for samuel, including scrap fabric from so many places– jason’s shirts, and auntie’s shirt here and there, some left over things from his crib bedding. it is not a well made quilt at all, but it has a whole pile of love in it. and i remember how satisfying it was to see all of the tiny squares become bigger and bigger pieces. we all somehow end up under that quilt when we’re sick. it’s a good quilt- already falling apart, but good.

What would you say is the purpose of creativity in our lives, your life?

God is the Creator. He created it all. everything around, and in, us. when we create something, we are echoing His creative work. not only are we using gifts and materials He has given, but we are reminding ourselves, and the world that, yes, we are made in the image of God. He created- and, on a much lesser scale, i create.

the day-to-day purposes of the creative process is fleshed out in so many different ways in each of our lives– mine included. putting my creativity to work brings me joy and satisfaction.

i love creating. i think it’s one of His best ideas.

 

quilt, etsy, giveaway

 

 

Don’t you want this quilt?

I really love its modern, geometric design. Plus, it looks like the perfect snuggle-up-on-a-rainy- day-and-read-a-good-book blanket.

Enter the giveaway by following the Rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #2

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Welcome to Week 2 of the Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up.

Trader Joe's, summer

Last week was Sandwich Week.  This week, bring on the salads.

 

salad, kids

I love salad; my kids, not so much. I have hope that one day their palates will mature enough to enjoy heaping portions of kale and romaine, but for now, I wait.

 

In the meantime, I have a fun way to to do salad with them that they actually like. Originally, I got the idea from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Chopped Salad.

For a kid-twist on the theme, I put out all of the salad fixin’s in small bowls and let their little hands choose what they want in their  salad.

 salad, kids

Then, we place two pieces of romaine on top of each other on the cutting board. Next, we take turns piling each child’s hand-picked ingredients, one by one, on top of the lettuce. Finally, we pour their dressing of choice on top and start chopping. (Because, apparently, chopping up vegetables into smithereens makes them taste better.)

 

salad, kids

Once the salad is chopped up into little bits, it looks like this:

 

kids, salad

 

And voila, each child has their own personal salad (that they’ll actually eat).

 

kids, salad

Stephen’s plate at dinner

 

 

Ingredient Suggestions:

TJ’s Chick Peas

TJ’s Black Beans

Red Onion

Tomatoes

Cucumbers

Sugar Snap Peas

Olives

 

We can’t wait to see your Summer with Trader Joe’s salad recipes.  Link up with our team of bloggers below!

 

Moi: www.onneutralground.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Ashley: www.sweetpea-lifestyle.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Kristi: www.andbabiesdontkeep.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Susanna: www.revisionarylife.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB

 

[inlinkz_linkup id=420810 mode=1]

summer with trader joe's

Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #1

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Good morning!

I am excited to launch the first week of the Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up. **The link up goes live at 10am.**

As you’ll recall, Week #1 is the sandwich link up.  I’m looking forward to checking out your sandwich recipes as well as the ones from our team of bloggers.

Here’s our Summer with Trader Joe’s team:

Moi: www.onneutralground.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Ashley: www.sweetpea-lifestyle.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Lizanne: www.theblawgyall.com/ Instagram /Twitter / FB
Kristi: www.andbabiesdontkeep.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Susanna: www.revisionarylife.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB

So, let’s get down to business (it’s business time…any Flight Of the Conchords fans out there?).

The rules for the link up are at the bottom of this post, if you need a refresher. You’ll also be able to link up your recipe there and grab the Summer with Trader Joe’s button to put in your post.

Without further adieu, I present the Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #1 Sandwich: The Zelda.

 

TheZelda TJs

 

sandwich, trader joe'ssandwich, Trader Joe's

All you need to do now is add the other piece of bread and chow down!

 

sandwich, Trader Joe's

 

 

Here are the rules for the link up!

 

[inlinkz_linkup id=420810 mode=1]

summer with trader joe's

 

We look forward to sharing our recipes and seeing yours!

onNeutralGround