Category Archives: Trader Joe’s

Phantom Flight Night™ 2017

Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineIt’s that time of the year again–Phantom wine time! Earlier this month we hosted our THIRD annual Phantom Flight Night™, our little wine tasting gathering where we compare notes on several years of releases of Phantom wine. This year, we tasted 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2014 is available now at Trader Joes and other wine shops!) Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I packed most of our Halloween decorations in the dining room since that’s where the party was. I labeled the bottles so we could easily identify the year and poured each person two ounces. This was the biggest Phantom Flight Night™ yet, so I had to borrow some wine glasses from Karen so we’d have enough for everyone. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineKaren brought her grandma’s wine glasses. As you can see, wine glasses (right side) were, uh, a little smaller back then. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine, meat and cheese trayKaren made her fabulous homemade pimento cheese and we served meats and cheeses and minestrone soup. The “other Karen” made Lucky Charms treats which were amazing. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I printed some wine tasting wheels so we had some wine language to work with. I’m terrible at discerning different tastes in wine, so it’s nice to always have a guide and some Trader Joe friends who’ve had some wine tasting training. Even though I’m no sommelier, I still find comparing Phantoms interesting. The blend changes a little bit each year (for instance the 2014 blend is 42% Petite Sirah, 34% Zinfandel, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot) and the finished wine is vastly different. Overall, 2012 came through as a favorite.

Every year I love this party more. Mainly because it’s an intimate group of fellow wine lovers, but also because wine, snacks, friends…simple. It’s the perfect October tradition before the busy-ness of the holidays begins.

P.S. Here are the posts for Phantom Flight Nights™ of years past: 2016, 2015

 

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Phantom Flight Night™ 2016

sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Another fall, another Phantom Flight Night™. I just love this party…this year it was a small group, only four of us, enjoying Bogle’s Phantom wine from 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Unlike last year, this bottle of 2008 was fine and delicious, though I can’t remember which one we liked the most. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Simple decorations this year…sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night We made this one pan Autumn dinner and it was amazing…apples, brussel sprouts, sweet potato…all the best of fall. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night It was a good night.

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Phantom Flight Night™

wine tasting guests, Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingThis week Naoto and I hosted Phantom Flight Night™, a little wine tasting party featuring a Trader Joe’s fall-favorite wine, Bogle Phantom. We have been accidentally collecting (hoarding?) Phantom since 2012 and we had bottles from 2008, 2011, and 2012 (available this year at your friendly local Trader Joe’s) so we thought it would be fun to compare the different years. Because Phantom is a blend, each year the grapes vary, so they end up being slightly different wines*. I love an intimate party, so we invited a handful of fellow wine-drinkers to help us polish off three bottles of Phantom. Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, Paper Source wrapping paperEven though it was a small gathering, I was determined to decorate a tiny bit. I love making paper table runners for parties. I usually use my kraft paper but I wanted something dark for PFN™ so I used black wrapping paper and wrote on it with a chalk marker. Someday, maybe I’ll learn calligraphy and I will be able to make the runner really fancy! Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom WineI added a big candle nested in old wine corks at the end and labeled the wine bottles in the center. Then I went through all of our wine glasses and found a group of three alike for each person. (I didn’t realize how many wine glasses we have around here. I think we need to have more wine parties and use them more often!) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingI labeled each glass with a year marker made from black cardstock cut with a 2-inch circle punch and tied on with twine. (This may have been overkill since we stayed at the table for most of the party.)  Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine About a half hour before our guests came, I poured three ounces of wine from each year into our glasses to give the wine a little bit of time to breathe. I figured three ounces was a decent pour for comparison, and then we could fill our glasses with more as needed, and open a new bottle of 2012 if we really wanted to get crazy. (It was a weeknight so no one got crazy, sadly.) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingWe tasted each wine in order of year and wrote little notes on the paper at our place setting. It was fun talking about the wines even though we were all far from wine experts! Next time, I’ll have copies of tasting notes for everyone–something like this one–to help us express ourselves more, but as it was, we had a fun time laughing about our comments while we tasted. We all loved 2011 the best and we decided that the 2008 was beginning to “turn”. (I guess I won’t be saving our last bottle of ’08 for Phantom Flight Night™ 2016.)simple wine tasting snacks, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WineIn the kitchen, we served cheeses, dried figs, salami, grapes, fruit, nuts, chocolates, and a Trader Joe’s shrimp appetizer–simple bites to complement the wines. wine tasting toast, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WinesI’m already dreaming of Phantom Flight Night™ 2016…in October, with a Poe reading by Naoto. Look for that blog post next year!

P.S. Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Bogle or Trader Joe’s, even though it kind of sounds that way. Extra special thanks to James for coining the name Phantom Flight Night™!

*Phantom 2008 is made from 51% Zinfandel, 47% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mourvedre and 2011 is made from 46% Petite Sirah, 40% Zinfandel, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Mourvedre. I couldn’t find the grapes used in 2012, but I’ll update the post if I find that information!

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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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A Thankful Update

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One week post-surgery and Naoto is feeling ready to go back to work. He had a follow-up appointment with his surgeon today and he gave Naoto the go-ahead to return to his office job and to Trader Joe’s (which makes me nervous because “light duty” means nothing to Naoto!) While he’s been home, Naoto has been showered with love on Facebook and Twitter, through phone calls and texts, in the mailbox and in soups from our neighbor friends and my book club friend, Peggy. We are truly so thankful to have so many kind friends and coworkers (seriously, Naoto works with the nicest people!).

Naoto has really embraced this liquid diet like a champ–getting excited about microwaving another bowl of pureed soup and spooning into a new flavor of Jello (my specialty) cannot be as easy as he makes it look! Next week, if all goes well, his diet expands like crazy–we can even add fish, pasta, rice and (meatless) casseroles! What a huge difference that will make!

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In other news, it snowed again yesterday…this picture is from my walk home from work last night. It’s the kind of wet, heavy snow that leaves everything a mess. There are deep puddles at every street corner, which have pushed the “waterproof” standards of my cheap snow boots! It’s still snowing tonight, so I’m lucky I can stay home tomorrow and Friday to FOCUS on finishing the guest room…yes…I’m still working on the guest room. Actually, I stopped working on the guest room because I felt it was a lost cause, but now I’m ready to be DONE with the guest room, so I am going to work until it’s done. I’ve already donated ten bags of things (both from the guest room and our clothes closets) and there is plenty more that needs to go. It will be nice to begin March with a nice clean guest room so I can focus on other things around here…like framing more things…and making more Jello.

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’tis the season (of dryness)

Winter is almost upon us. I am the first person to pull out her winter coat in the fall and the last one to put it away in the spring. (And my winter coat is one of those big, puffy longs ones…so I look pretty ridiculous walking around in it as early as September.) I hate being cold. And I hate being dry. Dry skin creeps me out and dry air in the house makes me crazy. I feel terrible when I try to pet Presley and I shock her! For the next six months, I will be fighting a (losing) battle against chills and dryness.

This summer I started using Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter. It is thick and rich and creamy and it smells like summer. I am determined to stay protected from dry, crackly skin while pretending to be on a beach in Hawaii. I used to think body butters were oily, but this one isn’t. (Or maybe my skin is just getting older more absorbent??) It’s perfect for daily use all over and it makes my nails and cuticles happy, too!

I have been using Burt’s Bees lip balm since college…it’s like an addiction around here. If I misplace it, I start feeling like my lips are drying up and I start hyperventilating…ridiculous. I sometimes wonder if it really works since I have to keep applying it all of the time…

Do you have a winter beauty routine? Any products you love and can’t live without?

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the season of Turkey leftovers…

We cook a fifteen pound bird for Thanksgiving dinner, and since we were only feeding five people, we had some a lot of leftovers. On Saturday night, we made Mexican turkey soup, a modified Ina Garten–better known as the Barefoot Contessa–recipe. It was the perfect recipe for our leftovers because we got to use up the rest of the turkey and the leftover celery and carrots from the dressing.

Mexican Turkey Soup-

original recipe here, or it can be found in Barefoot Contessa At Home.

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

2.5 quarts chicken stock (or turkey stock if you made some)

28oz whole tomatoes, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

leftover turkey (Ina’s recipe calls for 2 whole chicken breasts, we used about 4 cups of turkey)

salt & pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, cook your carrots and celery in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. (Please don’t burn the garlic.) Then add the stock, the can of tomatoes, cumin, coriander, cilantro and leftover turkey. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

We garnished our soup with store-bought tortilla chips and fresh avocado and finished everything off with a squeeze of lime. The lime makes the soup.

You can also top the soup with shredded cheddar or sour cream.

Either way, don’t forget about the lime.

 

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This was my Thanksgiving…

Another Thanksgiving is behind us…it’s all a little sad for both Naoto and me–we love hosting a party, even a small one of my parents and our friend, Santron. Even though the guest list was small, the food was plentiful! We had all of the classics: the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing (we make this one every year–it’s Naoto’s signature dish!), green bean casserole (I caved for the classic, although we used the Trader Joe’s stuff and it was much lighter than the Campbells version!), fresh veggies (courtesy of Santron), Hawaiian rolls (courtesy of my mom) and Kathy’s grandma’s cranberry sauce…I made it on Wednesday and I am a cranberry sauce convert…the cognac makes it delectable!

For dessert, my mom made a Twinkie cake, in honor of the “late, great” snack.

The table was half planned, and half happy accident. On Wednesday night I cut a long sheet of kraft paper and made a table runner. I used my fancy gold paint to draw feathers and polka dots. My mom brought up some pheasant feathers (from my dad’s “feather collection”) that I used with my glittery votives to fill out the center of the table. I forgot to buy flowers so my mom mentioned my jade plant (purchased this summer at Trader Joes) as an option. It’s in a copper pot, so it was kind of perfect. (Well, probably not perfect for Sandra Lee, Queen of the Tablescape, but perfect for us.) I finished off the table with a tiny turkey, a gift from my parents earlier this fall.

For the place cards, I used acorns from this Paper Source garland kit (not available again until next fall). I was in a neutral & metallic mood apparently…

 

The meal ended with a table viewing of Psy and MC Hammer singing at this year’s American Music Awards…clearly it will be a meal I never forget.

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Hallow-wine

Halloween is almost here, and other than making some spooky mail art and decorating my desk, we aren’t really celebrating. I always have intentions of renting scary movies or going out to a bar in costume, but that hasn’t happened in years. I do have a good habit of reading something spooky, mostly thanks to the fact that my book group has a tradition of reading macabre novels and short stories during our October meetings.

But just because we aren’t hosting a party doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some spine-chilling wine with dinner next week. The bottle above–Darkhorse Cabernet Sauvignon–is my absolute favorite. (I’ve mentioned it before in this post.) They were sampling it at Trader Joe’s one afternoon and I immediately bought three bottles. Then, it was out of stock and I was devastated…so much so, that when it came back, Naoto bought a case for me. (You can’t help but love someone who buys you a case of wine.) And, it’s only $6.99 a bottle–a great price for big, juicy deliciousness.

The other bottle of “Halloween wine” in our cabinet is Bogle’s Phantom. The eerie label would be perfect for Halloween night, right? Phantom is a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. It’s definitely more complicated than the Darkhorse and more expensive at $16.99 a bottle.

My plan is to enjoy both of these wines next week while finally cooking up something tasty in our new pot….and maybe even reading a ghoulish Poe story to Naoto along the way…because if I’m being honest, he will be doing most of the work in the kitchen.

What are your plans for Halloween?

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