Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

Tuesday Blues Strawberry Crumble

13 Apr

On the trip up to Wine Country we took for Moh’s birthday last weekend, he spotted a girl selling big boxes of bright strawberries on the side of a winding, sun-dappled road. Naturally, we whipped that rented Jeep Wrangler right over so he could yell out the side, “Are those organic??” Being Sonoma County, they were, and we were merrily back on track to Benziger Family Winery with a case of perfectly ripe fruit in plastic-topped tow.

Wine Country: open road and organics galore.

Of course by the time my Tuesday night return to reality hit (the weekend was so idyllic it took an extra day, making the sugar crash that much harder), the half of the strawberries we hadn’t devoured were beginning to look like I felt. Tired. Like they’d seen better days. But, with my new CSA-inspired waste not, want not ethos I just couldn’t bear to let them go.

Strawbs, before the fall.

Let me backtrack a bit. Though I’ve loved food since I was a wee(er) lass – seriously, ask my dad about fighting his four-year-old over the last of the pesto – my first post-college apartment boasted a charming kitchen that was essentially half of my poor roommate’s bedroom. Clearly, my first foray into “adulthood” was not so conducive to culinary exploration. As I moved on up in the world (dubious) and settled into my new apartment, which was conveniently outfitted with walls and doors and located two blustery blocks from Trader Joe’s, I came across a Mark Bittman nugget of a post: “Worry Less, Cook More.” And I embraced it.

More than a year and hundreds of dinners later, I find a nerdy joy in coming home after work to cobble together a simple meal for whomever’s around from whatever’s in the fridge. But I’ve never quite gotten there with baking. Cooking seems more forgiving, more free-form, while baking has always seemed to me like some kind of sugar-coated chemistry painstakingly performed in an apron instead of a lab coat. Tastier results, same intimidating procedure. Nevertheless, I decided to squash my domestic fears of scientific shortcomings alongside a Meyer lemon to make something with those strawberries, damnit,  using what I had on hand.

The results? Not the prettiest creation in the history of baking, and it did lack some of the depth and backbone that a mixed-berry melding would provide, but my Strawberry Crumble was sweet and comforting and I did it all by self. No recipes, no nagging fear of culinary perfection, it was a healthy dose of perspective, encouragement and sugar all in one. I suppose that’s just the way the crumble crumbles.

Who you callin' shortcake?

TUESDAY BLUES STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE

For filling:

  • Strawberries past their prime (I had three little green plastic cartons left)
  • A shot of whiskey (you could have one too, though I showed remarkable weeknight restraint)
  • Juice from a fresh lemon
  • Just a spoonful of sugar
  • Your favorite warm seasonings – I went with pumpkin pie spice and a cinnamon stick
  • A sprinkling of fresh ground pepper

For topping:

The real beauty of the crumble is that you can really use anything – cookies you have, nuts, oats, whatever. Here’s what I grabbed:

  • A stick of butter (cause why not)
  • A handful or two of rolled oats
  • A handful of cashews, or whatever nut you have, pulsed in a food processor or smashed by hand (if you’re more angry than melancholy)
  • A handful or two of flour
  • A handful of brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Slice 2/3 of the strawberries in half, removing any questionable bits, and line the bottom of a smallish baking dish with them. Toss with half the lemon juice.
  3. Puree the remaining strawberries in a blender.

    Strawbs with their heads cut off.

  4. Pour them into a small saucepan with the whiskey, the remaining lemon juice, sugar, seasonings/pepper. Heat on low while you whip up the topping, stirring once in a while so it doesn’t stick, until the boozy smell has evaporated. Keep it classy.
  5. Cut the butter into small squares. Mix your topping ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. It’s fun and then you have an excuse to eat it off your fingers when you’re done. Note: Mine was a little too wet to crisp properly, which I suspected would happen because it started wet – but I kind of like the doughy cookiness of it. I’d use probably more oats and flour to the other ingredients next time around. Go nuts.
  6. Take the filling puree off the heat and mix up with the strawberries. Spread topping mix as evenly as you can over the top.
  7. Bake until juicy edges are bubbling up deliciously and the topping is goldeny goodness, at least 30 minutes, probably more.
  8. Serve with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. Or ya know, another kind, if you’re into settling 🙂
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Look Mom, Snacks for Dinner!

2 Jul
  • Because we’re all lazy at the end of the week.
  • Because I’m too tired and over being trapped in this effing cube to be clever.
  • Because I have a sick, sick obsession with alliteration.

For all these reasons, I present Five or Fewer Friday, a new column featuring complete meals made with no more ingredients than you can count on one hand. If you’re a six-fingered freak, you’re a lucky bastard today. Don’t let it go to your head. Or that circus sideshow of a finger. And if you’ve lost a digit somewhere along the way, like in Mr. Feely’s fifth grade woodworking class (yes that was his name and it was as creepy as it sounds) I’m sorry, but you’re SOL. I run a tight ship. I do it in a fabulous sailor costume, though, so there’s that.

I’m going with Top Chef rules, so salt, pepper and pantry seasonings are freebies, as is olive oil. This is both because Tom Colicchio is my vice, and Kevin, the red bearded pork Santa, is my future husband – seriously, he’s better than bacon. I do think it’s only fair that any animal product count as one, including butter. And I’m also going to count packaged condiments, as long as they’re made from whole foods, as one ingredient, although several may go into them. myblogmyrulesdealwithit!

Buttermilk Pretzel Chicken & Greens

I thought the Amurrican flag bowl was a nice 4th of July touch. My thumb in the top right was another.

INGREDIENTS

Buttermilk. Probably the lowfat cultured kind. Luckily for those of us who have already bought dresses we must squeeze into for events later this summer, buttermilk is naturally low in fat and high in protein. It’s even better for you than bourbon and viagra, apparently – just ask these guys.

Chicken. A note about my meat policy: if I’m springing to buy meat, I spring the extra $3 to buy meat that isn’t fed on its own family members. So yes, this chicken was organic, free-range. (Partially because I also secretly want to marry this man. Seriously, watch it. I dig his specs. Now those are happy cows, huh JG?)

Pretzels. This all came about because I spend approximately 25% of the workday thinking about whether it would be reasonable to eat more pretzels. Absolutely, if I can MAKE THEM INTO A MEAL, I justified. I used TJ’s honey wheat because that’s what I had, which makes the whole recipe sweeter than salty. Also because TJ’s apparently doesn’t have plain everyday pretzels. So use whatever kind. GET CRAZY.

Lettuce. I have no thoughts on lettuce. (Lies. I have inane thoughts on everything.) Cilantro does not belong in mixed greens. Other than that, anything goes.

Garlic Mustard Aioli. So yes, this is where I’m using the “one jar one ingredient” rule. However, you actually could use just mustard, or even the buttermilk, some yogurt, or some mayo (preferably Duke’s, obv) with some dill. But this ish is tasty. I mean seriously, aioli just a word for fancy mayonnaise, and one of the few things possibly better than mayo is flavored mayo.

MAKE ME, MAKE ME!

  1. Build me up, buttermilk baby. Pour a few cups of buttermilk into a big bowl or dish. Trim whatever looks narsty from your chicken (freeze those pieces to make stock) and put the good stuff in the bowl. Grab yourself a cold brewski (which would also be great with the finished dish) and let the chicken soak up buttermilk-y goodness for 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Crunchtime. Fill a small ziploc with pretzels and smash them up (use the aioli jar for bonus kitchen scout points). Add salt, pepper and seasoning of choice – I like Italian, personally, with a few dashes of cayenne for kick. Pour over a plate.
  3. You must dip it. Once your chicken is good’n’milky, roll each piece in the pretzel coating. Put the dipped pieces on a lined baking tray (ESHEA KITCHEN LIFESAVER NOTE: Use parchment or tinfoil, not wax paper)
  4. Bake. About 30 minutes at 375.
  5. Dress Yoself. Toss a giant salad with your dressing of choice – to keep within 5, use the aioli cut with a little water, or some buttermilk whipped with dill and a little olive oil. When the chicken is done, serve alongside the greens with a dollop of the aoli for dipping. If you’ve got one, squeeze lemon over the top of the chicken.

Pretzel Buttermilk Chicken & Greens

THOUGHTS: This would also be really good with a half cup or so of shredded charp cheese, like a cheddar or what I think would be perfect is a dry vella jack, mixed into the pretzel coating. If you want to make a real meat and potatoes classic meal, this would be great with red mashed potatoes, and you could even use the buttermilk, like these from EatingWell. The honey pretzels make a really nice soft, rather than cruchy, coating for a meal you can eat with just one fork – no knife required. Uncoincidentally, this meal is pretty ideal for those of us without a dishwasher. Or a houseboy.

Yet. Currently accepting applications.

If I had one, I would have had him pack me this delicious leftovers sammy for lunch today instead of making it myself. Sometimes I don’t even know how I manage.

Yes, I did go out on the balcony to take this bberry photo for the lighting. Yes, I did get weird looks from the Yahoo dudes who work across the street. No, they don't have lives either.

Meals with Friends: Cause your job’s a joke, you’re broke…?

29 Jun

Monday evening. Far, far south of here, at 16th and Guerrero to be exact, I have to imagine that the Chinese man with whom I share a weekly struggle  to communicate through a fairly significant language barrier and the far more maddening craptastic hunk of plastic that calls itself my Blackberry, is bewildered.

No sweet and sour meatless chicken? No basil meatless chicken? Not even cold sesame NOODLE?!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (all three of you), it’s true. I’ve put my foot down. If on the hands-down worst day of the week I’m going to go so far as to brave poring myself into a sports bra and spandex only to spot the only two people on the planet who make me want to rip out my own hair and feed it to them (another story for another day), then I can absolutely find the strength to dig deep within the depths of my willpower, my freezer and Jenn’s pantry to make a nutritious, delicious meal on which I spend not one additional dollar. Certainly not the customary $27, including two Diet Cokes, plus tip, my roommate and I fork over weekly to Big Lantern.

<Mini-Review Tangent: Big Lantern is by far my favorite Chinese take-out in the city. The sesame cold noodles, though deceptively simple enough to trick you into thinking you can take a trip to Richmond for supplies and make them yourself (oops), are delicious. Just enough tang, with sweet shreds of carrot and crunchy wisps of bitter lettuce nestled into the thick, floury noodles. Spinach dumplings are crunchy without being greasy. The basil meatless chicken is the best entree I’ve had, with spicy red pepper dotting a dense but never syrupy garlic sauce, big green broccoli chunks and crisp green pepper slices. Of course, it comes with enough to stuff your face with half while watching Friends reruns in your bathrobe, then finish the rest for breakfast. I mean, eww, who eats cold Chinese food for breakfast?! Lunch, I meant lunch. I’m lying. It’s absolutely breakfast. Deal with it.>

Anyhoo, the new and improved healthy, affordable options comes about with a little help from my real-live friends, of course. The contents of the fridge she has to clear out by Wednesday in tow, The Lovely Ms. Rosen, Future Esq., arrives, and after a glass of wine – details to follow Wednesday – we set to cooking the most simple, cheapest feast of nutritional value to happily feed six I’ve yet found.

Thanks to the one, the only, Telanor Kousman for your unwavering inspiration. Keep it raw, my friend. Keep it raw.

schexy schweat in schports bra

The Monday Medley

  • 2 avocados (or however many you have)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon (or lime)
  • a few garlic cloves
  • about 1 cup (cooked; about 5 oz. uncooked) of brown rice per person – we used 1 whole package of Trader Joe’s organic brown frozen rice ($3.49), but you could use any kind
  • lotsa spinach (however much you got), chopped
  • some red onion (we used probably 1/6 of a giant weird one. so giant you have to wonder. but no matter. i already ate it.)
  • can of beans (we used giant white beans in tomato sauce from TJ’s. In the past, the Kousman used drained black beans. I’m sure whatever you paid 89 cents for currently collecting dust in your cabinet will do just fine.)
  • optional: cheese, whatever type you’ve got (we used cheddar and gouda. feta would be great.)
  • Salt and pepper, obv. Do I really have to specify this? I think from now on we’ll dispense this step. Thanks.
  1. Make gaucamole. Cut each avocado in half, slice it still in the shell across both ways, and use a spoon to scoop the good stuff into a bowl. Dice a quarter of the tomato and throw that in. Chop up a garlic clove very finely and toss that in too. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze it on top, salt and pepper that ish (avocado loves salt) then mash everything together with a fork and your spoon. Very fun. Eat some with your fingers (I won’t tell) and then stick it in the fridge.
  2. Cook ya rice. Ya know, follow the package. Although I’ll admit – I find brown rice very tough to make well. I’m going to invest in a rice cooker one of those days. In the meantime, I’d highly recommend dumping your frozen TJ’s brown rice into a saucepan (a term I find confusing – it’s the spaghetti pot, yes?) with a sliver or butter or two or some olive oil if you want, putting your burner on medium-low, covering, and stirring every so often. It will probably take about 15 minutes.
  3. Chop yer fixins. Dice up the remaining tomato. Chop up your spinach. Dice a bit of onion and a couple cloves of garlic.
  4. Milk a cow. Just kidding. But if you want to, grate some cheese.
  5. Shake it like a polaroid picture. Top off your wine glass. Dance it out a li’l. When the rice is ready, toss in your tomato, spinach, garlic and onion. Empty out that can of beans. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the top. Salt and pepper to taste (a tricky topic: more on this to come).
  6. Serve yourself. Make those bastards line up in your kitchen and let them add their own gauc and cheese. Offer them red wine and Bud Light. They’ll love you forever.

NOTES: This could easily be served with a simple salad or tomato soup for an indisputably complete meal. Because we were also playing kitchen clean-out, we served with TJ’s frozen chicken dumplings for those partaking in animal. On the other hand, this meal can easily, and with complete satisfaction, be completely vegan – a rarity for yours truly.