Posts Tagged ‘summer’

5 Best Party Snacks

Monday, August 11th, 2014

party, snack, Trader-Joe's,

Alright, I don’t want to say it, but it’s true. The end of summer is here.

I felt it keenly at Target today, as I squeezed through small spaces crowded by grocery carts and school supply bins and little kids, like ants, carrying twice their weight in looseleaf and glue sticks.

I had a little talk with myself as I wandered the aisles of endless three-ring binders and No. 2 pencils.

It went something like this: “Don’t lose it, Julie.” (repeat 20X)

That’s not my strong suit–remaining calm in a frantic environment. (Which is why I had 4 kids.) So, the next part of my talk went like this:

“Even if you don’t get everything you need, you can come back. By yourself.”

So, that’s what I did. I left without crossing off everything on the list. It was a battle between perfectionism and sanity, and sanity won…for once.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sheesh, all that to say that the end of summer means the end of the Summer with Trader Joe’s series. I’ve enjoyed it and I hope you have, too.

Today we’re talking party snacks and here is my list of the top 5 at Trader Joe’s.

party, snacks, Trader-Joes

1. Cheese: What’s a party without a good cheese plate? My favorites at Trader Joe’s are the Double Cream Gouda (left) and the English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions (right). So, so good.
If I only had one choice, it would be the English Cheddar. Hands down.

2. Crackers: If you’re going to serve good cheese, you have to serve good crackers. Trader Joe’s Classic Original Water Crackers are hard to beat. They’re good AND they’re cheap at just $1.39 a box. Yowza.

I also really like the Brioche Toasts. Think Melba toast, but better and thicker, though still airy, with a touch of sweetness. In the picture above, I served it with the English cheddar, a sliced grape tomato, and a basil leaf.

3.  Chocolate: Everyone has their favorite  Trader Joe’s chocolate candy. I bypass all the chocolate-covered fruits and nuts and go straight for the gold: Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.  They should come with a warning: “So cute and little, you won’t actually believe you’re ingesting any calories or fat.” That’s why you should serve them at a party: to get rid of them as fast as you can.

4. Nuts: Any sort of nut mix is great to have around at a party. It’s easy to grab a handful and people usually crave something salty, especially if  the party includes cocktails. I fill small bowls with Trader Joe’s Sweet Salty and Nutty Trek Mix aka crack. It might just be my absolute favorite on the list. The mix includes natural and honey-roasted peanuts, almonds, cashews, AND chunks of peanut brittle. Divine.

 

trek-mix, trail-mix, trader-Joes, snack, party, nuts

 

5. I bet you thought I forgot. No way. Last, but certainly not least, is Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus. You know how people like their eggs cooked a certain way–sunny side up, over easy, scrambled– I like my hummus creamy and really smooth. I don’t want pasty and certainly not chunky. This hummus has a perfect texture and with a shallow pool of oil and pile of pine nuts on the top, it wins best hummus at Trader Joe’s by far.

hummus, party, snacks, Trader-Joes

 

So, now it’s time to throw a party.

Go celebrate something…like escaping Target without losing it.

It doesn’t have to be big and it can be simple, especially if there’s a Trader Joe’s in your town.

Cheers.

**There’s no link up, but I’d love to know what your favorite Trader Joe’s go-to items are for a party. Share them with me in the comments section!**

Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up #5

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Good morning!

I’m writing from the beach this week. It’s been raining quite a bit, but thankfully, we’ve still managed to catch a few waves and take a few walks.

It’s Indian Night on Summer with Trader Joe’s. This might be blasphemy, but I think Trader Joe’s has even better side dishes for Indian food than Mexican.

My favorites are:

indian, food, trader joe's

Curried Chick Peas

 

spinach, cheese, indian, food

Pureed Spinach and chunks of Panner (Indian farmer’s cheese) in a curry sauce

 

For the main dish, I recently came across a recipe called  Indian-spiced Sweet Potato Wraps from the BBC’s GoodFood:

 

indian food, sweet potato, wraps, BBC

Photo Credit: BBC Good Food

So, if you noticed, not only is it Indian Night, this meal is completely vegetarian! (What do I win?)

As always, to top of any good Indian meal (and because I get cranky without carbohydrates), don’t forget the Naan so you can sop up every last drop of curry sauce.

 

indian, naan, bread

 

Voila. Summer with Trader Joe’s Indian Night DONE. Enjoy.

If you’re new to the Summer with Trader Joe’s series, start with Summer with Trader Joe’s is Here.
As always, here are the rules for the link-up. Post your Indian recipes with at least 2 Trader Joe’s ingredients. We’d love to see them!

[inlinkz_linkup id=420810 mode=1]

summer with trader joe's

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.)

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

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