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Trader Joe’s Panko-Breaded Tilapia

trader Joes, tilapia, panko breaded, frozen, bulldog sauceIt’s been awhile since I’ve talked about Trader Joe’s…

Last month, Naoto brought home a box of frozen fish. I’m not usually a fan of frozen fish, but I agreed to try this because it was Panko-breaded tilapia filets. Panko breadcrumbs are the best breadcrumbs. (Panko could have its own Japan Does It Better post!) And tilapia is my favorite fish because it’s not too fishy and it has a nice texture. I’ve eaten several meals of panko-breaded tilapia since then. I’m a fan.

trader joe's The box comes with four filets, each individually wrapped, making it perfect for work widows like me. I just take one out, pop it on a cookie sheet and bake it for twenty-five minutes, flipping once at twelve minutes. The panko breading is thick and crispy and the fish is moist. We love it topped with our favorite Japanese condiment, Bull-Dog sauce. Bull-Dog sauce is used most often for tonkatsu (panko breaded pork). It is kind of like America’s Heinz 57 sauce but fruitier and tangier…it’s hard to explain, but it’s delicious, especially on fried foods because the tanginess complements the heaviness of the breading. Trader Joe recommends topping the tilapia with their corn salsa, but trust me…nothing is going to beat Bull-Dog sauce! (You can find it in Asian markets.)

We had this for dinner on Sunday night along with couscous and a tasty salad (painstakingly chopped by Naoto-the-slicing & dicing-perfectionist.)

If you’d like to see more Trader Joe’s posts, go here.

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Coffee Talk | Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

IMG_3005Our local Trader Joe’s (the Oak Park location) put their new Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate on the shelves last week and sold out instantly. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, since cold brew is the latest craze in coffee brewing right now. Nonetheless, I was mad at Naoto for not snagging some up sooner. When it arrived again in the store shipment a few days later, Naoto pulled a couple of bottles for me. (One of the many, many perks of being married to a TJs guy.)

Last week, I was hitting the afternoon slump–the time of the day when, if I look at the napping cat for too long, I tend to join her. Instead, I pulled the concentrate out of the fridge with high hopes.

It’s good. Very good.

The bottle recommends one part concentrate to two parts water or milk. I like my iced coffees with cream (hot coffee is to be drunk black, unless it’s Dunkin Donuts!), so this is what I mixed up:

2 oz Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

3.5 oz water

0.5 oz cream

splash of simple syrup

Serve over ice.

Lately I’ve been too lazy (seriously, so lazy) to make simple syrup, so I’ve been substituting with agave syrup. It’s surprisingly good!

I’ve been drinking iced coffees in the mornings and in the afternoons thanks to the conveniently chilled bottle in the fridge. And at $7.99, it’s done wonders for our coffee budget (which includes constant trips to Panera, Dunkin Donuts and Caribou throughout the week!) And it’s made us curious to try making cold brew of our own…one of these days!

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mail art with a trader joe’s bag

We have a LOT of Trader Joe’s bags around here. I know, I know…we SHOULD be taking our many reusable bags to the store, but somehow, we always forget. Or they are in the car and we are walking… We always reuse our bags. Some hold donations ready for Goodwill, some hold recycling, some go back to the store for another round. We still have a lot though. Then one day I was noticing the fun, foodie graphics on the bag and I thought hmmmm….mail art!

All I needed were my tiny scissors and a glue stick, but I added some gold stars, rubber stamping and washi tape (of course!)

Donovan’s letter is ready to go, because I had a fun stamp for it (silverware with silverware). I have a ton of the Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps, and I find that they work on almost any letter.

My mom is a tea drinker, so I thought she might enjoy the tea envelope. I wanted to use the 5 cent teapot stamp on it (you know, to beat the theme to death), so I just used a mishmash of stamps that added up to forty-five cents (although, I bet she enjoyed the Foxglove stamp!)

I haven’t decided who will be the recipient of the “man” envelope yet…but I do know he won’t be going in the mail until this stamp is in my hands. I’m loving that ship!

Not bad for a humble grocery bag.

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In My Mailbox: Treats From Hawaii

Naoto’s host family in Hawaii sent us a care package last week and it was so full of Aloha goodness! I got some new flip flops (or slippahs) for lounging on the lanai, a wallet that I can use for my cash at craft shows, and some very kawaii face masks! Naoto is going to wear the blue one to Trader Joe’s! There was also this sweet little wallet made from Japanese fabric. It will make a nice stamp or business card holder. (One cannot have too many traveling stamp options!) And there were these fun handmade cards and a Japanese bookmark. And…my favorite–this Japanese clutch. Isn’t it so fun? It has a large pocket behind the kiss clasp section and is more than big enough for my phone. I am so excited to leave my home again someday just so I can carry this. Along with those treats, they sent all sorts of Hawaiian snacks. (And some Japanese snacks for Naoto, including baby clam instant miso soup.) I have mixed feelings about mochi, but we are really enjoying this sakura mochi this weekend.

Naoto is so excited to have a little taste of Hawaii at home and as always, I love a good surprise in the mail.

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Dispatches From Home Part 5

zoom dinner How’s everyone doing? I know some places in the US and beyond are opening up a little bit. I can’t imagine how nervous I’m going to feel when that starts happening here. Right now, we’re still staying home with no end in sight. I’m sure a slow opening is coming sometime in May…probably towards the end of May, but hey, what do I know? zoom dinnerLast week was kind of a week of treats. We haven’t been dining out much because we’re more than content cooking at home and eating our Trader Joe’s food since groceries are aplenty around here. But on Friday, one of our favorite places, Goldyburgers, re-opened for carry-out and a group of friends decided we should all order from Goldy’s and dine on Zoom together. You guys, it was so fun. I miss dining out so much. Not really because of the food, but because we usually bump into people we know and then the night takes us to unexpected places. Happenstance is really missing from life right now. goldyburgers at homeBut a planned dinner together was great, and my homemade Manhattan was delicious and it was good to catch up with everyone. Spilt MilkAnother treat from last week–we ordered cookies, breakfast sandwiches, and pie from Spilt Milk, our favorite local pie place. Their snickerdoodles are the best I’ve ever had and seriously, just to be able to get a couple familiar treats makes you almost forget about this current situation. I don’t think we need to go out for treats every day, but it felt like such a delicacy to have take-out and cookies after being away from them for so long. Kimberly at the office Presley and the computerI had to go into the office for a bit last week too. I don’t mind going into the office. Some things are impossible to do from home, so it’s good to get caught up when I can. When I work from home, it’s usually from bed (or from the living room) and Presley is monitoring my progress. (She’s such a demanding manager!) I am going to miss sleeping in until 9, but I am looking forward to going back to the office someday…april calendarI can’t believe April is two-thirds over. I am so bummed that we won’t get to experience the cherry blossoms again this year. (Last year the cold spring kept them from blooming and we’ve been planning a Chicago hanami ever since!) It’s quite depressing that the weather is finally warming up and our time outside will be limited. I’m trying to make the most of it by planning our garden plot and shopping for plants online, but it’s not the same as visiting the garden shops in person and picking out the perfect plants. I don’t want to end on such a depressing note, so I will say that I’ve been enjoying letter writing and reading again. And I just started season six of 30 Rock and I’m so glad I’m finally watching it! It makes me laugh right before I go to bed and honestly, my dreams have been slightly less weird since I started it. (Have you been having weird dreams, too? Apparently it’s a thing.) 

I hope you are staying safe and healthy! Please let me know how things are going in your state or country! It’s been so fascinating writing so many pen pals and learning about their stay-at-home standards. 

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In My Mailbox: Masks

My pen pal Nic is at it again! If you remember, she sent me these fantastic mail coasters last year and this mail folder before that.

She and her mom have been making masks for their friends and family since they became a requirement in California and a “strong recommendation” everyplace else. She offered to make some for Naoto and me, which is amazing because Trader Joe’s finally allowed the staff to wear masks and we didn’t have time to come up with a good solution for him. On Monday, a package arrived full of these masks! They are the kind that tie for a perfect fit, and they have a little metal piece over the nose bridge so you can customize the fit on your face. They also have a pocket where you can pop in another layer for extra protection. She used fabric that reminded her of us. Above is a Japanese food and Hawaiian-inspired design. Of course Naoto chose to wear that one yesterday. Today he wore this cocktail one. cocktail face maskWe’re trying to save at least one for me to use if I have to leave the apartment for something before we wash the masks. postage stamp maskIt’s a toss up between postage stamps and Elvis! Elvis maskI really don’t leave the apartment much these days. I have to go into the office early next week, so I think I’ll save Elvis for that trip. In the meantime, Naoto will rotate these with his one store-issued mask and we’ll wash them as we go. Have you been making masks? I love seeing so many friends using up their fabric stashes for new masks. It’s been a tiny bright spot in this weird, new reality.

P.S. Nic also sent a book sleeve, which I will share when I do a long-overdue book post!

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Thanksgiving 2019

Thanksgiving seems like a really long time ago…I feel like I’ve already been swept into Christmas without a minute to catch up. I feel like with Thanksgiving being so late this year, the rush to start Christmas mode was really strong. We always get our tree right after Thanksgiving, so that didn’t really change, it just felt more hurried.We had a craft show on Small Business Saturday, so that sucked up some time, but I have to say, this is the first year in eleven years that I didn’t work on Black Friday and it was heaven! My parents stayed for part of Friday and we all went to Ikea together and it was just nice to relax with them and not be “on” at a store. (For many reasons, being “on” at a craft show is so much less exhausting.)

Anyway, Thanksgiving was small and lovely like always. This year, Naoto cooked a turkey breast in the crock pot and he really liked that. He felt less stressed, and we had fewer leftovers, which is great. I know Thanksgiving leftovers are a thing but I personally hate eating the same kind of thing over and over again and we’re really trying to lower our food waste, so fewer leftovers are a good thing around here.

I set the table kind of the same way as I have been, with vintage plates and books and a few little thrifted things. I didn’t even make place cards this year! I enjoy setting the table and making place cards but also, I enjoy doing other things, so I’m trying to put less pressure on myself to do all the things when it’s not always necessary. Sometimes work and craft show prep takes over. It was my mom’s first visit to Ikea and I think she enjoyed it, even though she didn’t find any curtains for her living room. I was a little bit worried about going out on Black Friday, but Ikea was pretty tame…a good day for trying out all the chairs and couches! Now, onto Christmas…

We are hosting a little party tonight after Forest Park’s Holiday Walk so after work, I have to finish cleaning for that…as busy as it feels today, I’m glad we are hosting something because it forced me not to drag out the decorating. (I never really finished decorating for Halloween because there was no deadline. I didn’t want that to happen with Christmas.) It’s just a low-key affair with some local friends and Trader Joe’s snacks and maybe a fancy punch…I can’t wait.

Have a good weekend!

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Snow Mail, No Mail

The weather has been insane in Chicago lately. After a very snowy weekend, we had sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday with wind chills of 45 below. It was colder here than it was in Alaska. It was so cold, the entire area was pretty much shut down. No school, no work for many people, no Metra trains, even no Trader Joe’s and no mail service since Tuesday! (Update: mail arrived Saturday night!) It was almost as cold on Thursday and it snowed some more Thursday night, but now this weekend it’s warm and rainy. Now every thing is a mess of slush and dirty snow. (Dirty snow is my least favorite part of winter.)

I took some inspiration from the weather and used some of my wintry Japanese stationery to kick off the Month of Letters. The snowflakes are an old Midori set I bought a few years ago and the polar bears are from Maruzen. And the washi tape is old mt and I was kicking myself because I have other snow washi, but I packed it away with the Christmas stuff…

I sat under a blanket right next to my space heater while I wrote the letters…a cup of hot tea and a warm kitty nearby. It was a cozy to kick off the month.

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Write On Party

Photo on 4-23-17 at 4.26 PM, Write On GuestsLast Sunday I had a few people over for a letter writing party. I ordered the Party Pack, which was kind of a party-in-a-box with pens, confetti, and Write On packs for everyone, along with other goodies like a printable invitation, a letter writing themed playlist, and a Write On calendar and tote. air mail envelope garland, Write On party set-up 4, National letter writing monthI hung some vintage air mail envelopes and a Japanese air mail kakejiku (hanging scroll) from the ceiling and I strung up a few more air mail envelopes to make a garland. Write On party set-up 1, National letter writing month Write On party set-up 1, National letter writing monthI covered the table in kraft paper and sprinkled the confetti along with some mail things from my collection. Each person got a Write On kit and a little brochure about letter writing. Write On party set-up 3, National letter writing monthOn the stereo, I had all of my mail themed rubber stamps and washi tapes along with some extra air mail envelopes, postcards, and my new Mr. Zip book. (He deserves his own blog post!) Write On Party, envelope pies, letter writing treatsFor snacks, I made a pot of tea and put out some Trader Joe’s truffles, some Japanese Happy Turn crackers, and I made these little envelope pies. I found the idea here–they were so easy and even though mine looked rather imperfect, they were a really fun addition to the simple menu. write On party guests, National letter writing month write On party guests, National letter writing monthIt was a relaxing afternoon of chatting and letter writing. We all really wrote letters! (I finished two!!) My only regret is that we didn’t have Naoto take a picture of us writing in action, but we got a fun group shot using Photo Booth (at the top.) I think I’ve said this before, but I love letter socials. Obviously letter writing is a good solitary activity, but sometimes it’s interesting to get together and share our hobby in person.

I’m a little sad Write On is over, but the letter writing shall continue! I managed (thanks to a solid push to the finish line last night) to finish 31 postcards and letters and I’ve replied to everyone from my pile of overdue mail…whew! I need to give myself a pep talk to keep that momentum going in May!

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Ringing in 2016 

Golden Steer, Forest Park, new years eve We spent yet another New Year’s Eve at the Golden Steer with our friends. It’s become a tradition that I start looking forward to as soon as I turn the calendar to December. Naoto and I talk about the French Onion soup and the steaks we will order all month. New year's Eve preparationsAfter dinner, everyone came back to our apartment for drinks, snacks, and dessert. It’s always nice to ring in the new year in the comforts of home and with the laughter of friends. I made a simple cover for our island with the leftover wrapping paper from Phantom Flight Night™. I taped on some glittery dots that I punched out of gold glitter paper from my stash. It was simple and sparkly. Trader Joe's float, Rose Bowl Parade 2016New Year’s Day was lazy! We watched part of the Rose Bowl Parade–I only watch for the Trader Joe’s float, pictured above. It’s always fantastic. toshikoshi soba, New Years 2016For supper we ate (our version of) toshikoshi soba. In Japan, toshikoshi soba is eaten as the last part of the meal on New Year’s Eve, but since we had dinner plans already*, we decided to eat it on New Year’s Day. We topped our noodles with roasted chicken, scallions, and cabbage, but this recipe has more traditional ideas. And I picked up some special New Year chopsticks last time we were in Japan so it was fun to actually find them in time to use them for New Year’s dinner!

How did you spend your New Year’s Eve?

 

*I think next year we should serve the noodles as a close-to midnight snack!

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