If it’s watermelon time, it must be summer

2 Jun Glass2

It’s not the heat and it’s not the pool opening. It’s not the strappy dresses and sandals or the birds chirping too early and the fire-pitless porch parties lasting past midnight.

What tells me it’s summertime is the large, cardboard box full of big green orbs that greets me when I enter Trader Joe’s.

I received that happy welcome last weekend. There was even a woman handing out watermelon samples at a makeshift tasting station. She advised that the sweetest watermelons were ones with yellow on them. Taking her word for it, I grabbed (if you can “grab” a bowling ball without finger holes) a fine looking specimen and weighted down my cart immediately.

At the official tasting station, they were sampling Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Good stuff! I’d bought a container the week before, but hadn’t opened it yet. As Persian Cucumbers are one of my shopping-list staples, I looked in my cart and thought, “Cukes, watermelon…why not make my own juice?!”

Hydratedly inspired, I searched for a recipe and found a three-ingredient drink I thought I could master. The third ingredient was lime juice – and I found that it makes ALL the difference!

(Although there are several sites with similar recipes, mine came from AllRecipes.com. Thanks, AllRecipes!)

How To Make Watermelon Cucumber Cooler:

I used:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 the fruit from a watermelon
  • 2 limes

Trim the ends off your cukes and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Cut the watermelon into chunks.

Combine the cuke and watermelon chunks and liquify in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the juice from the limes. It’s OK if a little lime fruit drops in, too!

It makes a pitcher-full of juice. Enjoy!

This is what it looked like:

Glass2 ingredients

Notes: The cukes were unpeeled. The watermelon had very few seeds, so I just let the few involved get mixed in the batch.

I had planned to make a fizzy drink by adding carbonated water to half a cup of juice, but I got caught up in the deliciousness, and the batch was finished before I remembered I wanted to do that! Next time.

When is pasta not pasta? When it’s mushroom.

2 Mar

For me, cooking is usually an arts-and-crafts project or a science experiment. I imagine that certain flavors will go together well and then test the theory.

Other times, I challenge myself by trying to recreate an amazing dish I’ve had at a restaurant. Like I did this week.

Recently, I went with friends to John Bentley’s in Redwood City, Calif. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and I thought it was going to be hard to decide what to order, until I got to the end of the menu and found: “Trumpet Mushroom “Pappardelle” with tomato, garlic, basil,Kalamatas, edamame and Pecorino Romano.”

Mushroom Pappardelle

A carbless delicious beauty from John Bentley’s

The waiter said the chef created Pappardelle from mushrooms. The dish had a red sauce, and it was like a pasta dish without the pasta. I was so intrigued I had to order it. And WOW! It was SO delicious!

A week later, I decided to try to recreate the dish with a few embellishments.

For my mushroom pasta, I did not use edamame or fresh basil, although there was basil in the pasta sauce. I used shiitake mushrooms, garlic, Kalamata olives, spinach, onion, tofu and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan on top. I went with the short cut of using Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Maranara sauce.

I started by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil.

Step one, saute onions and garlic in olive oil.

Onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil.

Then I added the mushrooms, olives, tofu and spinach.

A garden in a skillet

Ingredients. Not pictured: sauce, cheese.

After the vegetables were softened, about 10-15 minutes, I poured in some marinara sauce, sprinkled shredded Parmesan on top and. SOOO good!! (To make it vegan, don’t add the cheese at the end.)

As you can tell with the difference in ingredients and stage presence, it wasn’t exactly the meal I had at John Bentley’s, but it was close enough and very satisfying!

Give it a try!  Add your own twists, and please share your recipe thoughts in the comments.

Bon appetite!

Chicken Poppers: The Mexican Falafal

9 Dec

I’m not a falafel fan. But when I approached the Redondo Beach Trader Joe’s today, I was hungry.

What I saw was a paper cup with a falafel-looking bite accompanied by guacamole. I was hungry, and I love guacamole.

Tasty taste of Chicken Popper and guac

As I said, I WAS hungry, so that factor could have clouded my falafel-averse tastebuds, but the Chicken Popper bite I had was good enough to tempt me to buy a whole box. Plus the Avocado’s Number Guacamole, which was mighty tasty, too.

Trader Joe's has guacamole's number

I hesitated, though, because the calorie count and fat content were on the high side. The tasting bar-ista suggested they were meant as appetizers, which made me think of the uber delectable Kale and Spinach bites. You can bet that once inside your house, the balls of delight will mysteriously disappear between the time you take them out of the oven to when the plate arrives in front of your guests.


Instead of saying, “180 calories per 3-piece serving. Box contains 4 servings,” the box should read, “720 calories per serving. Box contains 1 serving.” Psychologically, if you can restrain yourself, you’ll feel like, “I have many fewer calories than I could have!”

The falafel issue
Both the taste and texture of the Chicken Popper were reminiscent of its Middle Eastern cousin. But the crunch in the CP comes from crushed tortilla chips, and the protein element traded chicken for chick peas.

If you don’t like falafel, you may really like Chicken Poppers. If you love falafel, you’ll probably love them.

Suggestion: Perhaps the next time you have falafel, whip up some guacamole to go with it – or just buy a batch from Trader Joe’s.

Lemons+Ravioli: A match made in Trader Joe’s heaven

5 Nov

It was another tasting bar moment. One paper-cup-sized bite and I knew what was for dinner.

The TJ’s staffer added some prosciutto and dressing to her sample. I tried something different. (My recipe’s below.)

Ricotta and lemon filled ravioli = tasty wonder

Lemony, cheesy, ravioli-y


My recipe for delicious ravioli from Trader Joe's

This is how my mixture looks in a square bowl.

JA’s TJ’s Lemon Ravioli Recipe:

Bag of Girasole Ricotta & Lemon Zest Ravioli
Bundle of fresh asparagus
3-4 Tbl fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of salt
Juice from half a lemon
To make it meaty, add half of TJ’s flat of “Just Chicken”

Combine. Serve. Enjoy!

DIY Bloody Mary – when you need it now (recipe)

14 Jul

Sometimes the hankering for a Bloody Mary possesses you when you’re not prepared. Sometimes you just have to make do.

The inspiration hit at the beginning of the 2014 World Cup Finals. A friend tweeted a photo of a refreshing glass of Bloody Mary that looked very tasty. I remembered that I had an unopened bottle of TJ’s Bloody Mary Mixer gathering dust in the pantry. I dug it out and discovered that the expiration date was months past. Since it contained clam juice, I thought it was best not to take a chance with it.

when you're not in the mood to DIY

TJ’s recipe for a tasty Bloody Mary

I took a look at the ingredients on the bottle – a key reason I buy and love TJ’s Mary mix. Not a lot of ingredients with chemical names. It’s mainly tomato puree (tomato paste + water or tomato sauce). I decided to try and make my own!

Sadly, I didn’t have a few ingredients I really like in a Bloody Mary. I also tweaked the idea in a few ways, including substituting Gin (my preferred Bloody Mary Mix mixer) for beer, a twist on the refreshing Michelada.

Makeshift Bloody Mary Mix

Main ingredients

A makeshift Michelada

Beer Mary

Here’s what I came up with – and it worked VERY well. Tasty, relatively low cal and a minimum of preservatives:

Mix in a bowl:
1 can tomato sauce (includes onion and garlic powder)
1 can water

Per glass ingredients (Suggested amounts, but per taste):
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon green Tabasco sauce
A jigger of vodka or gin, or beer as directed below

1. Fill glass with ice
2. Add per glass ingredients
3. Fill glass 2/3 full with tomato sauce/water
4a. Add vodka or gin, or
4b. Fill remainder with pilsner of choice, like a can of Oranjeboom from TJ’s
5. Garnish with olives and/or celery and lime wedge
6. Enjoy!

Cuckoo for Coconut

12 Jul

Three of the many coconut options at Trader Joe’s:

A bouquet of coconut CoconutGreenTea coconutmilk

What’s your favorite coconut concoction?

How to Make a Killer Sangria: A Trader Joe’s Shopper Shares Her Secret

10 Jul

Michelle Walton knows good sangria. She spent $100 mixing a batch from a South American recipe. But with a bottle of Maria Ole Sangria from TJ’s, Michelle now impresses her friends for a fraction of the cost. Take 30 seconds to listen to how she does it. She makes it seem so easy! Thanks for sharing, Michelle!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 282 other followers

%d bloggers like this: