Archive for ‘market trips’

April 26, 2011

macarons a la trader joe’s

Ever since a Fresh & Easy market opened up right next to my house, I haven’t gone back to Trader Joe’s – not once! I felt bad, but I guess I was just in the Honeymoon stage with Fresh & Easy.

Today, I finally took a trip to Trader Joe’s, and I think I’m “back.” I compared some more prices between Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy, and it seems in GENERAL, Trader Joe’s is usually cheaper than Fresh & Easy. I’ll keep going to Fresh & Easy for items such as Key Limes and cilantro, but will probably be sticking with Trader Joe’s for my regular grocery shopping.

To celebrate my “come back” (yeah, nice excuse!) I purchased a couple goodies on top of my regular old purchases.

Strawberry Ice Cream made with coconut milk and French Macarons!

I REALLY hemmed and hawed over whether I should buy these French Macarons. I never really was a fan of French Macarons, but I think that was because I never had a REALLY GOOD French Macaron. They were usually stale and generally not very well made. I didn’t KNOW that it wasn’t well made though, because I had never had a WELL MADE Macaron.

That all changed on Sunday. My friend bought a box of French Macarons from Miette Bakery and let me have a couple, and my goodness, I was converted. THIS was a well made Macaron, and it just tasted so fresh and perfect.

Macarons have been on my mind since then. So when I saw these Macarons in the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s, I was extremely tempted. In the end, I decided to give them a try.

2 Vanilla Macarons for me, and 1 Chocolate and 1 Vanilla Macaron for Jeff. I didn’t care to try the Chocolate Macaron.

I was really, really impressed with these Macarons. Sure, they’re not exactly Miette or Laduree and I am not a French Macaron connoisseur by any means, but as a product of Trader Joe’s and from the FROZEN aisle, I enjoyed these. A LOT. All the vanilla ones are gone. I guess I’ll have to try a chocolate one tomorrow.

They say to defrost from the freezer for about 30 minutes or so, but I find they’re perfectly good straight out of the freezer. Unless you have a super buff freezer, then you may want to defrost. Defrosted or undefrosted, I loved these and will definitely be getting them again!



Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the other “goodie” – the Strawberry Ice Cream made with Coconut milk. I didn’t taste any coconut very much at all and just wasn’t a fan of the flavor very much. Jeff liked it though, so he can have the rest. =)

(By the way, I bought this OXO ice cream scooper from TJ Maxx (along with Kitchen Aid tongs, which I am now weirdly obsessed with). I think TJ Maxx is my new favorite place to buy Kitchen tools! I do try to look up the reviews of the tools on my Amazon app before buying them though because sometimes the tools sold there have less than stellar reviews (which may be why they’re at TJ Maxx now), but so far I’ve had a really good experience with these products sold for less from TJ Maxx!)

The Macaron helped the ice cream a little though!



In other news, I made my VERY FIRST batch of hummus today! Jeff has found recently that he really likes hummus so I decided to try my hand at making it. I didn’t want to buy tahini though because it tends to be a bit pricey so I decided to try to make it without the tahini.

Simple ingredients, simple recipe!



In place of the tahini, I decided to use sesame oil. If I’m not mistaken, I think tahini is sesame paste, so I thought it wouldn’t be missed too much if I used sesame oil.

And I ALWAYS have sesame oil in my house. Always, always, always. It is hands down my favorite oil.

I have a huge container of sesame oil and just refill this bottle. One day I plan to get a oil dispenser just for sesame oil because I use it so often! And because it does tend to get oily and messy.



Anyway, back to the hummus! Just blend those 5 ingredients (I used a single-serve blender because I don’t have a blender or food processer and it worked great!).

You can add some of the juice from the canned chickpeas if you want it to be a thinner consistency.

And serve with pita chips or your favorite veggie!

Yum. Sesame-y and garlicky – 2 of my favorite flavors! (Those are Garlic Gold Nuggets sprinkled on top.)

I’ll definitely be making my own hummus again and experimenting with different flavors!



Hummus made without Tahini

Makes: 1 medium bowl of hummus



Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup sesame oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1-4 cloves garlic, peeled (depending on how garlicky you want it)



Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processer. If you want a thinner consistency, add in a little juice from the canned chickpeas. Serve with pita chips or veggies.

Nutritional Information for 2 T hummus: 52 calories, 4g fat, 0g saturated fat, 110mg sodium, 3g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 0g sugar, 1g protein

April 15, 2011

a new contender

Like many, Trader Joe’s is the main grocery store I go to. I love it because it’s generally cheap, has unique products, and is super close to where I live (a 5 minute drive).

Some of the other grocery stores I like going to but don’t go to that often include,

Whole Foods: Of course I always have a blast walking around Whole Foods, but it’s a 15 minute drive away instead of a 5 minute drive which makes a big difference in terms of convenience. But maybe this is a good thing because they’re $$$.

Costco: I only buy a few things from here mainly because I don’t have a huge # of people to feed so most of their products are too much for me. Plus, they’re a 15 minute drive away instead of a 5 minute drive so I just don’t find myself going here too often.

Safeway: I usually go here for things I can’t find at Trader Joe’s, such as dried milk. Or when I’m having a random hankering for Haagen-Dazs at midnight (because they’re open 24 hours)

Asian Supermarkets: I love Asian supermarkets because often they can be cheaper, and they sell things I can’t get at other supermarkets. For example, king oyster mushrooms, a certain sweet potato, and zucchini squash that is not as skinny as the ones they sell at other supermarkets.



But watch out, because there’s a new grocery store in town and I think I’m in love!

Up here in Northern California, Fresh & Easy Markets are just starting to pop up here and there. I was incredibly happy to find out that one was opening up really close to my house, even closer than Trader Joe’s! I’ve been to Fresh & Easy once in LA, but it was in a rush so, not really.

Anyway, I think the biggest thing is that there is another option for me to buy my groceries. Some of their products are cheaper than Trader Joe’s and some of Trader Joe’s are cheaper than Fresh & Easy’s. I guess that’s what it means to be a competitor! :) Fresh & Easy does seem to sell more things in general than Trader Joe’s though.

Here’s what I bought on my first trip there! (I’ll be comparing prices with Trader Joe’s in parenthesis)

I’m still on a quest to find the best soymilk, so I immediately picked up their vanilla soymilk (Trader Joe’s is a little bit cheaper). It was good, but still not quite what I’m looking for. And of course, butter (Fresh & Easy’s is a little bit cheaper).



2 for $3! (Fresh & Easy is a little bit cheaper, but then the bag is a little bit smaller too)



I got suuper excited when I saw this. This whole bunch of cilantro for 98 cents! Trader Joe’s cilantro bunch is tiiiny and I think it’s also a few bucks. Trader Joe’s is organic, but I’m okay with my cilantro not being organic. I’m obsessed with cilantro. I can have a salad made entirely out of cilantro, and I would if it weren’t so expensive!

When I was in Southern California one time, I went to a Subway where they had CILANTRO as an option for a topping. They also had Tapatio sauce. BEST. SUBWAY. SANDWICH. EVER. I’m topping all my sandwiches with this cilantro. Heck, I’m topping everything with this cilantro!



KEY LIMES! for 98 cents too! Awesome. I bought 2 of these bad bunches. :)



Because we love it.



Because we love it. AND Fresh & Easy’s Blue Moon 6-pack is the cheapest I’ve found (not including sales) – $6.99! Even Trader Joe’s sells it for $7.99.



I’ve been to Fresh & Easy a grand total of 3 times in 2 days. Fine, one time was to get oranges for the Blue Moons and the other time was an equally important trip (you’ll see on my next post), but in Jeff’s words, “you’ve betrayed Trader Joe’s.”

Don’t worry Trader Joe’s, I’ll be back!

What’s your #1 grocery store?

April 14, 2011

you say salmon, i say salmon

I’ll be honest, I say salmon incorrectly. I pronounce the “l” and for that, Jeff is ashamed of me. Ah well, now I say it just to annoy him!

Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe’s.

-organic baby spinach

-organic baby carrots

-frozen brown rice (ugh why does this have to be so convenient?!)

-chicken sausage

-2 buck chuck

-and salmon, the reason for the Trader Joe’s trip!



Everything for $22.67 –



This particular grocery trip happened after I asked Jeff if he felt like having salmon for dinner. And after he said oh yes please!

We LOVE fresh salmon. I like to prepare fresh salmon in the simplest way possible – just seared for a few minutes on each side on a fry pan. The absolute worst thing to me is 100% fully cooked salmon – it just tastes so dry and blah. I like it to be slightly undercooked in the middle. And no salt or pepper is needed because the salmon is just so delicious on it’s own!

I have a question though. Is farm-raised salmon really not good for you? I think I’ve heard from places here and there that Wild Alaskan salmon is a much healthier choice. I’ve never tried Wild Alaskan salmon, but I kind of sort of have a huge feeling that it is not as delicious as farm-raised salmon. I’d love your input if you have any idea!

Anyway, our dinner last night (and tonight!) was 1/2 of one salmon fillet each, brown rice, and sauteed spinach with garlic.

That pile of spinach is 1/2 the bag of the spinach. It’s my most favorite way to eat spinach! After the salmon is seared in the pan, there is the perfect amount of the fish’s oil left in the pan. Then to the pan, I add a bunch (6 cloves, but that might be a little excessive) of minced garlic, and then the whole bag of spinach. then I season with a little salt and pepper. So simple and so good!

For a while, I really wanted to love having spinach in my smoothies so that I could get more spinach in my diet. And to be honest, it’s not that bad, BUT I really prefer my smoothies to be purely fruit based, like this. And THEN when I made this sauteed spinach, any desire to have spinach smoothies flew out the window. It’s so easy and delicious to get spinach into my diet this way and I don’t have to sacrifice my smoothies for it! In fact, I need to save my spinach so I could eat it like this more often!

Plus, supposedly you get more of spinach’s nutrients when the spinach is cooked!

This is one of Jeff and my favorite meals. Usually, we douse all our meals with crazy loads of spicy sriracha sauce, but this is one meal we don’t put on any. The flavors are so simple and delicious, we just want to taste that!



For dessert, we had this:

An equally perfect ending.

April 6, 2011

to the market

On Monday, Jeff and I took a little trip to get some groceries. One of my favorite things to do!

In all aspects of my grocery shopping, I like to use an app on my iPhone called Springpad. It’s a free “notes” app that syncs your phone to the computer. In other words, you can access your notes from your phone or your computer. This app and the Evernote app are the only apps I’ve found to do that! I just like Springpad’s “look” more. =)

I don’t only use the  app for my groceries, but also to keep a list of my recipes (never know when you’re going to need to cook something!), my “to-do” list, and other random useful information I’d like to have on hand whenever I want!

Here’s a snapshot of the app:

After I take a grocery trip, I update my notebook titled “Groceries” (the blue one!).

 

So on Monday, here are the things we bought:

Organic zucchini, organic baby carrots, portabella mushrooms, and broccoli florets



Fresh mozzarella, unsalted butter, Smoked Andouille chicken sausage

 


Gummy Tummies and organic popcorn kernels (cheaper than Walmart!)

 


The total came out to $26.01 –

 

So when I get back from grocery shopping, I open up the app and put in a checklist of all the things I bought, like this:

 

And when we’ve used up and eaten all of something, I check it off. Here’s an example of a grocery trip from back in early March:

So when we finished the pita chips, I checked it off. And so on with the garlic, camembert, and kale.

And when it’s checked off because it’s all gone, that’s when I add it to my “shopping list” notebook (the orange one) if I want to buy it again at my next grocery trip. So I’m always just adding to the list little by little throughout the week in anticipation for my next grocery trip.

Here’s a snapshot of my shopping list before Monday’s trip:

I checked off the items that I bought at that trip. I don’t always follow the list to a T. For example, I didn’t buy spinach because it just seemed we had enough veggies for the time being. I don’t mind being flexible when I get to the store! (Obviously because the Gummy Tummies for sure weren’t on the shopping list…)

 

And here’s a snapshot of all the grocery trips I’ve made (I started in February):

 

I like to do this for a few reasons.

1. I absolutely hate hate hate throwing away food because they’ve rotted and become unedible because I neglected them! So having a list of all the things I have in the kitchen helps me know what I’ve used up and what I should be using up. So typically I’ll look in the oldest list (in my case February 7) and see if anything in there is unchecked and try to use that up!

2. It helps me to plan meals. Yes, I could just go and walk over to the fridge and see what I could make with what I have, but sometimes when I have down time at work I think about what I should make for dinner and having the list on hand helps a lot!

3. Sometimes when I ask Jeff what he wants to eat and he responds with, “I don’t know, what do we have?” I whip out the list and bark out each item to him. Usually, he still doesn’t know what he wants, but I like to think it helps with the process.

4. I don’t know…I find it fun?

 

Most times, my grocery trips are based around when I need more butter.

I know it may all seem meticulous but this method really helps me to buy only what I need (OK…I guess we didn’t really need the Gummy Tummies!) and not waste it! It’s super fun to check things off too. =)

Or maybe I’m just weird. Do you have any method to your madness? Or I mean madness to your method?