Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

Our Thanksgiving 2013

vintage style thanksgiving tableIt’s not too late to share our Thanksgiving, right?

Naoto and I hosted my parents for Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday afternoon. As usual, we had a grand time with them, cooking, eating, drinking and cleaning up the massive kitchen mess. And as it has been for the past seven years, Naoto did all of the cooking (except the cranberries!) and I did all of the cleaning and decorating. Nourishing Notes apronIn honor of his Thanksgiving duties, I gave Naoto this apron that I bought from Nourishing Notes during Show of Hands. He rocked the apron with his pajamas all day long. (It was a very relaxed holiday.) vintage thanksgiving tableEver since I made the vintage ephemera Thanksgiving invitations, I had visions of incorporating some more ephemera into the table centerpiece. And, since I was using old paper, it only made sense to get vintage colors and vintage dishes into the mix. The wonderful thing was, other than the flowers, I had everything I needed right in my china cabinet and buffet. (It pays to be a dish hoarder sometimes.)vintage thanksgiving tableTaylor Smith Taylor Brocatelle Vintage DishesI was excited to use my vintage Taylor Smith Taylor dishes. My mom and I found a whole set at a thrift store for $10 a few years ago and I bought them with the intent of using them for Thanksgiving. They were perfect for the table this year. (And thanks, Mom, for hand washing them after dinner!) Naoto carving the turkeyNaoto’s turkey was perfect, the stuffing was amazing (in spite of a close call with an almost-forgotten egg) and, along with the cranberries, we enjoyed fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted cauliflower, Hawaiian rolls and a tasty caramel apple cheesecake that my mom made. There is a reason I look forward to this meal every year. (But man, am I ever ready for pizza after the long weekend of leftovers!)thanksgiving dinnerThe chef was glad to have another successful year under his apron belt. chef naotoToday I am (finally) putting away Thanksgiving for another year, and hopefully dipping into the Christmas decorations. We are hosting two small parties the next two weekends, so time to break out the Christmas spirit. It’s one of those years when retailers make you feel like you’re running behind…cheers to enjoying the season!

If you’d like to relive Thanksgiving 2012, 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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Cocktail Perfected: Brandy Alexander


Naoto has been spoiling me by filling our liquor cabinet with bottles of booze that have been on my wishlist for a long time. Last weekend it was Chartreuse, this weekend it was dark creme de cacao (among others which shall be shared soon). I’ve been talking about making a Brandy Alexander for a long time and this weekend I finally did.

Do you ever enjoy after-dinner drinks? When I was little, I remember my grandma ordering a Grasshopper after a family dinner at the Duck Inn. It was so green and pretty that I couldn’t wait to grow up and try one. When I was in my twenties, I ordered one at a restaurant and the bartender had to look it up in a book before he could make it…I had no idea it was so old-school! In spite of being a grasshopper-making novice, he managed to make a deliciously minty-rich cocktail.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to Michaels to pick out more frames for the rest of the artwork floating around here, I invited the neighbor ladies over to try a Brandy Alexander with me.

Brandy Alexander

1 1/2oz brandy

1oz dark creme de cacao

1oz half-and-half

1/4t nutmeg

In a shaker filled with ice, add brandy, creme de cacao and half-and-half. Shake until chilled and pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with nutmeg. Enjoy with your neighbors on a chilly winter night.


The Brandy Alexander was a hit, but we could only drink one–it’s rich and dessert-like…so Naoto opened up a bottle of wine and made up this fancy snack for us to enjoy. (Sorry for the weird angle of the cell phone picture!) The green cheese is a pesto gouda from Trader Joe’s–perfect for St. Patrick’s Day and so tasty!

This week, I am going to finish off the spare room and hopefully get the rest of the frames off of the floor. It’s supposed to snow six more inches tomorrow, so I have a good excuse to stay home and tackle my March to-do list. Maybe I’ll have some progress to share soon!

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A Thankful Update


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!


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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Whew…the surgery is done. It was a success (as far as we know at this point in time) and the patient is doing well (although he is getting a little stir crazy, just as I predicted…I will be doling out chores this afternoon). The Week of Indulgence seems like a lifetime ago…

Our neighbor-friend Brett came down with some pureed potato and leek soup for Naoto. (They are pictured above…and yes, Naoto is wearing his Trader Joe’s sweatshirt–complete with name tag.) Between the soup, broth, jello, yogurt, pudding, Italian ice and water, Naoto has been eating like a soft foods king. And best of all–he can have coffee! When the nurse told us this, we both had a little celebration dance in the hospital room.


He’s starting out slowly, with a tiny cup, but it made him ridiculously happy…it is the little things that make life great, isn’t it?

We got a few inches of snow last night, so I think this afternoon we will make time for a walk…it will feel good for both of us to keep the cabin fever at bay and breathe in some snowy air (and maybe stop for a coffee on the way home!)

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and good wishes! Naoto & I are very appreciative!

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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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Thanksgiving Preparations Roll On…


I’m still working on cleaning up the spare room and wiping down well, everything in our home…construction dust does not stay in the construction area…lesson learned.

I also looked over our recipes and made my shopping list and did *almost* all of the grocery shopping. I say “almost” because I can never get it done in one shot, no matter how hard I try or how many lists I make. Upon returning home from the store, I realized we haven’t come up with a solution for cranberry sauce…canned or homemade? I admit that I really love the canned jelly stuff…it might be the noise it makes as it exits the can, it might be it’s jiggly can form, it might be that it’s a familiar friend at the table every year…I enjoy having it around. But I’m also intrigued with making my own…and it’s something that can be made the day before, so I feel like taking a stab at it. What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s a disaster, we can always open the expired can from the back of my cupboard! (just kidding…)

While I’m cleaning, I’m also contemplating what the table will look like. The table is my favorite part, but I never give it the time it deserves…mainly because I leave it for the last minute! I’m thinking candles, kraft paper, my new favorite gold paint, and feathers will be involved…but that’s all I’ve got. Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with some accomplishments…



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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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