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Epic Bars: Stylish snacking

8 Dec

epicbars

You know what these are. You might deny it, but, come on. You can tell.

Even with the sleek packaging and the cool name promising an “Epic” experience, (though it delivers), you know.

It’s clear even though each parcel is veiled with the requisite hipster labels: “100% natural,” “X g. Protein,” the predictable “Sriracha” and the inevitable, “Gluten Free.”

There’s chicken, because that’s what’s for dinner anymore. And it’s NOT beef. It’s bison, the cow’s sophisticated cousin from the range.

You knew what these REALLY were from the moment you flipped the pretty package over and saw the enticing block of melded meat parts, albeit including cranberries, the tight-fitting plastic wrap clutching the treat within.

These are the next generation of on-the-go meat snacks. But you won’t find them sold at a service station. They rest in woven baskets at gourmet, high-end and unique food stores. They sit waiting for the lucky consumer in bins at the exclusive corner market in Brooklyn, and yes, at our favorite grocery mecca, Trader Joe’s.

Come on. You knew it: Beneath the slick wrapper and trendy words, these are your old friend Slim Jim with an advanced degree in delicious. “Stout James,” you might say.

What the new set of duds and fancy stores really do are take away our Slim Jim guilt. “Look at all these great qualities,” we say, trying to fool ourselves that Epic treats are more energy bar than meaty meat bomb.

We’re wrong, of course. But it’s a nervous, naughty, joyful wrong. When Epic slips out of his pop packaging, this bad boy’s all Jimbo. Healthier, classier, but still. Wink.

And while we’re devouring every speck, we choose to ignore the truth for a giddy glimpse of gas station bliss.

Happy Pickle Day! Pucker up and let the celebration begin!

14 Nov Pickles from Trader Joe's

Whether you’re feeling sour or sweet, this is a dilly of a day for pickle lovers. And Trader Joe’s is no slouch in offering a tasty array of gherkin goodness.

From traditional …

Pickles from Trader Joe's

The salivation starts here.


 

 

 

 

 

… to sublime.

popcorn that tastes like a dill pickle

Pickle Popcorn, making tastebuds happy since 2015

But you can also find ingredients at Trader Joe’s to make your own fabulous pickles – and what better way to celebrate than with a brine binge?! Check out “A Good Thing To Do With Persian Cucumbers from Trader Joe’s” for a mouthwatering pickle recipe, with step-by-step instructions.

And for facts, history and recipes about National Pickle Day, check out this post from International Business Times.

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!

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

Directions:
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!

Happy Summer! Recipe time: “Where Pasta Meets Kale”

21 Jun

Trader Joe’s serves up the ingredients for a healthful, nutritious, filling and yummy meal!

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

It’s Brussels Sprouts time, again!

29 Jan

A bag of shredded Brussels Sprouts = good eating ahead!

What’s that you say? You don’t like Brussels Sprouts?! Well, then, feast your eyes on a raspberry tarte or homemade lemonade. The rest of you, come with me to Brussels Sprout heaven.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s does the shredding. You do the eating.

Start by sauteing some garlic and onion in olive oil.

Sauteed garlic and onion

Add more onion and the bag of B. Sprouts. Include the balsamic vinegar and water as recommended on the bag.

BowlOfBrusselsSprouts

When done, I also squeezed some lemon juice on top. I did not use bacon, but that could be a meat-eater’s happy addition.

I separated the batch into four containers for easy access at meal time.

Here’s the official recipe, but be creative and make it your own:

RecipeBag

 

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