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Lazy Days Call for Trader Joe’s

I love cooking, let’s get that clear. But there are indeed days that I feel lazy, have other things to check off my to-do list, etc. I try not to eat out during the week – and I think I have finally found the holy grail of quick-fix meals. Thanks Trader Joe’s – ‘preciate ya. Typically when you think ‘microwaveable’ or ‘quick’ the words ‘flavor’ and ‘delicious’ don’t always come to mind. With these  dishes, brought to you by Trader Joe’s, all of those things are possible on one plate.

Let’s get this Trader Joe’s party started….

BBQ Ribs and Garlic Fries

Trader Joe's Ribs

1 package Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Pork Baby Back Ribs (fridge chilled meat section)

1 package Trader Joe’s Garlic Fries (frozen section)

These ribs are only $10.99 for fully-cooked & tender meaty pork ribs. You can either grill them or broil them in your oven for just 10-15 minutes. Making them super quick and hands-off as well. Either way, while you are cooking the ribs also line a baking sheet with foil and the garlic fries. Cook until golden.  Once the fries are done cooking, all that’s left to do is toss with the garlic spread (provided). I also cooked up some portabella mushrooms and drizzled some of the rib’s BBQ sauce over them to finish them off!

Trader Joe's Ribs

 

Kung Pao Chicken and Rice

Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken

1 package of Trader Ming’s Kung Pao Chicken (frozen section)

1 package Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Brown Rice (dry goods)

This 23oz bag comes at a whopping price of $4.99. Can’t beat that. It is best prepared stovetop but can also be prepared in the microwave.  It’s spice level sits at medium, unless you actually consume the chili peppers – that takes it to another level. Serve it with microwaved Trader Joe’s Brown Rice and you have yourself some cheaper, healthier & better tasting Chinese takeout!

Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken

 

Oven-Baked Chicken Sliders and Sweet Potato Frites

Trader Joe's Pollo Asado Chicken Sliders

 

(Yes, I was racing with the sunset on this night by the time we got to eat dinner – but still a perfect meal when you are in a rush!)

1 package Trader Joe’s Pollo Asado Thinly Sliced Chicken Breasts (fridge chilled meat section)

1 package of Trader Joe’s Mini Hamburger Buns (or something similar)

1 package Trader Joe’s Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese (cheese section)

1 jar Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Mustard (dry goods)

1 package Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Frites (frozen section)

Trader Joe's Pollo Asado Chicken Sliders

This chicken has some great flavor. Typically it goes for $7-11. Either throw it on the grill or bake until finished – because they are small breasts they are done in no time. While the chicken is cooking, throw the sweet potato frites in the oven for a quick bake.

To prepare the sliders, cut the chicken breasts into slider-size pieces and add pepper jack cheese to the top. To melt the cheese either add it at the end of the chicken’s cooking process or microwave with the cheese pieces on top. Add to mini hamburger buns and add some hot & sweet mustard. Don’t forget to serve it with those fries and some yummy dipping sauce!

 

Trader Joe’s BBQ Sliders

Trader Joe's BBQ Sliders

1 package of Potato Rolls or Trader Joe’s Mini Hamburger Buns

2 packages of Trader Joe’s BBQ Pulled Pork (prepared meals section)

1/2 package of Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix (fridge veggie section)

1/2 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

Heat up the pulled pork in the microwave. Place the heated pulled pork onto your rolls/buns.

To prepare the slaw, mix the rest of your ingredients into a bowl and season to taste. Place the slaw on top of the pulled pork for the best flavor.

Do you have a quick Trader Joe’s inspired meal that you love? Please share! I am always looking for new ideas that utilize their flavorful, time-saving and cost-effective dinner options.

 

How To: Throw the Perfect Craft Beer Tasting Party

Craft Beer Tasting Party

Craft beer has pretty much taken over the world. No, I am kidding… But, it has really gotten extremely popular. From brewpubs, classic beer menus, to craft beer stores, to… wait for it… Craft Beer Tasting Parties! We frequent a lot of the local breweries with friends and decided it would be a perfect theme for a party with our beer-loving posse.

Our last Craft Beer Tasting Party went off without a hitch, so much so that I thought I would share! From the food to the decorations (Pinterest – duh!) everything was hop-tastic.

Let’s get started…

Printables (click the pink links for more info)

Beer Tasting Score Cards

While tasting, each of the attendees scored the beers and kept notes in-case it was one they wanted to purchase in the future. At the end we chose a winner! The best part about the score cards was that it kept everyone on the same page as well as made everyone put some thought into the act of tasting.

Beer Tasting Score Cards

 

Banner, Labels, Cupcake Toppers & Table Art

Can you say Pinterest party? These decorations took the event to the next level for sure. I have never been a big party decorator but these printables made for a cost effective and simple solution.

The beer style signs were perfect. I taped them to black construction paper to add some color as some of them were brown, orange, yellow, etc.

Craft Beer Party Printables

The table top signs were simple 5×7 images printed on glossy paper that I stuck in some frames I already had around the house – then for the couple of extra frames I needed I got from A.C Moore (my local craft store).

Craft Beer Tasting Printables

The Hoppy Day sign was one of my favorite parts. It actually originally was a Happy 30th Birthday sign (as bought from Etsy) – but I was able to easily manipulate the letters to fit my theme! I bought twine and clothes pins from A.C. Moore and that was a wrap!

Craft Beer Tasting Party Printables

The cupcake toppers took a bit of time – but were definitely worth it. I would recommend just having a couple of desserts for those sweet toothed folks that can’t hold back! 🙂

Craft Beer Tasting Party Printables

In addition to utilizing this table art in an A.C. Moore white frame, I found some additional inspiration on Pinterest – isn’t the wheat filled growler cute? I had two scattered throughout the kitchen and dining room.

Craft Beer Tasting Printables

 

Food

Trader Joe’s BBQ Sliders

1 package of Potato Rolls

2 packages of Trader Joe’s BBQ Pulled Pork

1/2 package of Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix

1/2 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

Craft Beer Tasting Party Food

Trader Joe’s Cheese and Meats Platter

Trader Joe’s Italian or Spanish Deli Meat Combo Pack

Trader Joe’s Sliced Cheese Pack

Herb Goat Cheese

Blue Cheese Wedge

Craft Beer Tasting Party Food

Trader Joe’s Snacks

Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Herbs and Spices

Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Pretzel Sticks

Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Mustard

Craft Beer Tasting Party Food

The Craft Beer Posse

Craft Beer Tasting Party

 

Craft Beer Tasting Party

 

Let me put it this way, we had SUCH a good time that we are having another one… this weekend! If you or your friends are into the whole ‘craft beer phenomena’ I would recommend hosting one of your own!

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

 

I think everyone can pretty much agree that fish tacos are fabulous. Surprisingly, there are a lot of restaurants out there that do. fish. tacos. wrong. I think we can all attest to that! We had some friends in town this weekend so we decided to try out some new spots in Virginia Beach, one of them being Gringo’s (known for being the ‘best fish taco place at the beach’). It certainly hit the spot and inspired me to try out beer battering some fish for myself. My favorite part about this recipe is that they don’t taste fried. They are so light and airy, which compliments the light flaky white cod really well.

I must say, this was a winner. And it was too easy! I don’t know why I haven’t tried it before – I guess it is just one of those cooking ‘things’ you hear about, eat and talk about but never really try for yourself.

Side note: If you are from the area or are visiting in the near future I recommend trying A) Gringo’s for the fish tacos B) Back Bay Brewing Company for their decor and C) Young Veterans Brewing Company for their beer. All will be frequent stops when we visit the other side of the bridge.

Now let’s get to cooking…

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

1 cup of Flour

1 cup of Dark Beer (I used Fat Tire)

1 teaspoon of Salt

1 pound of Cod 

1-2 cups of vegetable oil (depending on how large your pan is – needs to be about a half inch high)

Pour your vegetable oil in a pan and heat to medium. Mix the flour, beer and salt in a bowl until it becomes a thick milky consistency to make the batter for the cod. Next, cut your cod into long thick strips.

To begin the cooking process, dip each piece of cod into the batter and place into the heated vegetable oil one-by-one until they are a light brown color and flip. Once they are done, remove and lay on a paper towel to dry.

Now it’s time to assemble your tacos! For mine, I chose to place my cod pieces on a flour tortilla, top with salsa, cilantro, and sriracha slaw. DELISH.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

 

 

Has Easter Come and Gone Already?

Thank goodness! Warm weather at last. Apparently the saying goes… ‘Warm weather waits until Easter has come and gone’ and for us that means practically May this year. With Easter also comes familiar faces’, smiling kids, chocolate treats and delicious recipes to try! I wanted to share the two successes from this year’s Sunday feast…

Green Bean Casserole with Almond Topping

Green Bean Casserole

2 lb. fresh Green Beans, trimmed, cut crosswise in half

½ pkg. PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 cup or so of Milk (you fill the above can full of Milk)

½ cup sliced Almonds

¼ cup Panko Bread Crumbs

4 tbsp. butter, melted

1 tbsp. crushed garlic (or 2 cloves)

1 package of sliced Mushrooms

1 cup of FRENCH’s French Fried Onions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil a pot of water big enough for the 2 lbs. of green beans, after trimming and cutting them crosswise in half. Boil them until they are soft and mostly cooked. While the beans are cooking, use 2 tbsp. of butter in a sauté pan with the garlic and mushrooms, until they are fully cooked (browned and softened). Add the mushrooms, drained and cooked beans, softened cream cheese, cream of mushroom soup, can of milk and ½ of the French fried onions to a baking dish. Mix the ingredients around so that it becomes a casserole mixture in the baking dish.

Before adding to the oven, in a small bowl add your almonds, panko and the rest of your melted butter to make your topping. Add to the top of your casserole mixture being sure to cover all areas. Bake for 30 minutes.

When finished, add the rest of the French fried onions around the sides of the casserole, and serve – only to loved ones 🙂

Green Bean Casserole

Broccoli Salad

I was tasked with bringing a salad – but I really wanted to do something different. This salad is typically paired with ranch or a mayonnaise based sauce, however, I chose to use Oikos Greek Yogurt and ranch seasoning to dial down the calories but pack in the flavor. Enjoy!

Broccoli Salad

½ cup of Green Pepper

½ cup of Red Pepper

½ cup of Red Onion

1 whole glass container of Hormel Real Bacon Bits (or crumbled bacon)

2 heads of Broccoli

1 cup of Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 cup of half sliced Cherry Tomatoes

½ cup of chopped Green Olives

1 head of Cauliflower

2 cups of Oikos Greek Yogurt

1 package of Ranch Dressing Seasoning

Well – this one is super complicated. Chop all veggies. Add all ingredients into a bowl… and stir. Oh! And… ENJOY! 🙂

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad

 

Easter Ideas for the Kiddies

I thought this was genius! All of the little ones spent their time decorating the cake while the adults got to either A) watch or B) kick back and relax. And the best part? We got to eat it at the end!

Things you need:

-White Cake Mix

-White Icing

-Green Coconut Flakes

-Pink Coconut Flakes

-Small Chocolate Kisses

-Jelly Beans

-Twizzlers

Easter Decorating for Kids

Easter Decorating for Kids

I hope everyone’s Easter was wonderful! Mine sure was. We celebrated at my boyfriend’s parents but my dad, his girlfriend and my little sister were able to come join us. She is 12 going on 25 – so it is great to be able to check in on her from time to time. They grow up so fast!

easter1

The ‘big kids’ had an Easter Egg Hunt too! We found the golden and silver eggs.

 

Easter2

It was great to see my Daddio. He had a long day of driving just to have dinner with us!

Easter3JPG

These are my boys. This is perfection right here!

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup (Sopa De Pollo)

We recently stopped by a local Mexican restaurant and I decided to branch out a bit from my usual shrimp tacos or taco salad. Boy am I glad I did! I ordered their ‘Sopa De Pollo’ and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of flavor from this relatively healthy Mexican style chicken and rice soup. I had to figure out how to recreate it at home…

Sopa De Pollo - Mexican Chicken Soup

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup (Sopa De Pollo)

1 Rotisserie Chicken (pick chicken from the rotisserie and shred)

1 quart of Chicken Broth

2 Jalepenos, chopped

1 Yellow Onion, chopped

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 2-3 Limes, 1 extra lime (slices for serving)

1 Hass Avocado, chopped

1 large Tomato, chopped

Salt and Pepper

3 stalks of Celery, chopped

1 ½ packs of Chicken flavored Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice

In a pot, add shredded chicken, broth, rice, and celery. Let the ingredients come to a boil then sit on low for 20-30 minutes. While the soup is cooking, mix the ingredients for the ‘pico de gallo’. Add the jalepenos, yellow onion, cilantro, lime juice, tomato, and salt and pepper into a small bowl and mix.

Also, have your chopped avocado in a seperate small bowl prepared for when the soup is done.

After the soup is done cooking, spoon into a bowl and top with pico de gallo and some chunks of avocado and serve! It is absolutely delicious… Words can’t describe.

Sopa De Pollo - Mexican Chicken Soup

 

Sopa De Pollo - Mexican Chicken Soup

Baked Artichoke Chicken

Mustard Chicken1

Snow days are perfect for filling the house with great smelling food. Better yet, they are the perfect days to try out new recipes or dust off your old ones. This is a quick prep meal… Simply throw it in the oven, set it for an hour and head out into that wintery wonderland to play with your loved ones! I know I did.

Bentley January 2014 Snow 002

Now let’s get started…

Baked Artichoke Chicken

2 lbs. Chicken Thighs, w/ skin

1 cup Artichoke Hearts, halved (canned is fine)

1 medium Onion, cut into pieces same size as the artichokes

1 carton white Mushrooms (halved or quartered)

2 tablespoons Brown Mustard (I used Spicy Brown Mustard)

2-3 cloves Garlic, minced (I used canned already minced)

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 cup White Wine

1/4 teaspoon dried Basil

1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme

1 Bay Leaf

Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Next, place artichokes, onions and mushrooms (all cut to the same size) on the bottom of a big pan or casserole dish. Place the chicken thighs on top of the veggies. Mix the mustard and the rest of the ingredients listed to create your sauce.

Mustard Chicken2

 

Pour it over the chicken being sure to cover each piece. Season with salt & pepper.

Mustard Chicken3

Bake for about 1 hour. During the cooking process, baste the pieces once or twice. In other words, utilize the juices/sauce from the pan to re-coat the chicken. A good indication that the chicken is finished is a nice brown crust on the skin – nothing like it! 🙂

Mustard Chicken6

Gluten-Free/Paleo Avocado Fries

Avocado Fries 3

I am personally not Gluten-Free or on the Paleo diet but I thought I would provide this version of the recipe for all of those who are 🙂

Avocado Fries

3 Avocados

Coconut Oil for frying 

1 bag of Almond Meal/Flour

3 Eggs, beaten

1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Salt to taste

Avocado Fries2

Set up two separate bowls. One with almond/coconut mixture/salt to taste – don’t be shy (I don’t give amounts because you just need enough mixture to cover all of the avocado slices) and one with your 3 beaten eggs.

Cut the avocados in half and then slice them vertically into 4 inch by 1 inch wedges. Set them aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan, be sure to add enough so that it is 3 to 4 inches deep.

Drop each avocado piece in first your egg mixture and next in your almond/coconut mixture. Place them in the hot oil and fry them for only about 15-30 seconds per side (keep a keen eye on them – they tend to brown very quickly depending on how hot your pan is).

Remove the avocado fries from your pan with tongs and set them on a plate preferably lined with paper towels, to absorb the excess oil. Enjoy and serve with your favorite dipping sauce!!

Avocado Fries

Avocado Fries

Avocado Fries 3

If you have not had the joy of trying these yet, you are in for a serious treat. A friend and I ordered them as an appetizer and salivated over how delicious they were. I knew I needed to recreate them at home. They were super simple and I knew you all would appreciate the fact that there is a delicious gluten free/paleo version to them as well! Please refer to that post for the recipe. They are best served with ranch, spicy mayo or spicy/sweet ketchup (also known as chili sauce). Have at it!

Avocado Fries

3 Avocados

Coconut Oil for frying (Vegetable oil will do just fine)

1 can of Seasoned Panko Bread Crumbs

3 Eggs, beaten

3 cups of Flour

Salt to taste

Avocado Fries2

Set up three separate bowls. One with flour, one with your seasoned Panko Bread Crumbs and salt to taste (don’t be shy), and lastly, one with your 3 beaten eggs.

Cut the avocados in half and then slice them vertically into 4 inch by 1 inch wedges. Set them aside.

Heat the coconut oil (or vegetable oil) in a frying pan, be sure to add enough so that it is 3 to 4 inches deep.

Drop each avocado piece in first your flour mixture, second your egg mixture, and lastly your Panko mixture. Place them in the hot oil and fry them for only about 15-30 seconds per side (keep a keen eye on them – they tend to brown very quickly depending on how hot your pan is).

Remove the avocado fries from your pan with tongs and set them on a plate preferably lined with paper towels, to absorb the excess oil. Enjoy and serve with your favorite dipping sauce!!

Avocado Fries

Enchilada Pasta

enchiladapasta3

I make enchiladas just about every couple of weeks but this just changed up the game a bit. Well really, it means that I will probably be making them once a week (changing it up between the typical tortilla version and this new pasta version). It is to die for! I recommend adding in whatever extras you like. This recipe calls for corn, black beans, and avocado… But if you like jalapenos, pinto beans, etc… mix it up! This is the mexican version of comfort food.

Enchilada Pasta

16 ounces extra wide egg noodles (1 bag)

1 1/4 cups enchilada sauce

1 cup canned corn kernels, drained

1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of Kraft Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or Greek Yogurt Sour Cream)

1 can Diced Green Chiles

1 pound Ground Beef

4 ounces cream cheese

½ a packet of Taco Seasoning *Tip: Save the other half for your next Mexican dish! Or use it all for extra flavor

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 Avocados

1 bunch fresh Cilantro

EnchiladaPasta

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil your baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

In a large bowl, combine enchilada sauce, corn, beans, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, Greek yogurt and green chiles; set aside.

Side Note: Funny story. So the first time I made this I somehow missed out on cue to add enchilada sauce (even though I had purchased it). Exit stage left Mary, I know. However, I wanted to mention it here because if you have someone in your family, someone you are cooking for, or whatever the case may be, that doesn’t like enchilada sauce… this recipe turned out amazingly without it. Just trust me. All of the other flavors from the diced green chiles, cilantro, avocado, etc are enough to get you in the fiesta mood.

Now that I have sufficiently embarrassed myself. Let’s move on J Add ground beef to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and taco seasoning until cream cheese has melted. Stir in pasta and enchilada mixture until well combined; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add pasta to prepared baking dish and top with avocado and remaining cheeses. Place into oven and bake until cheeses have melted, about 5-10 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro. The more the merrier.

enchiladapasta2