Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Birthday Cakes

I am trying to figure out something slightly more culinarily tragic than finding a Trader Joe's item that is actually equally as good as an item that takes me hours to make from scratch. The only reason why I love making the cake from scratch is that it is so profoundly delicious that it's better than anything I've ordered in a restaurant --- and leagues beyond anything bought in a store.

But, I have to admit that the Chocolate Ganache Cake at Trader Joe's is super-scrumptious. You can taste the butter -- in the good way, not the bad way -- in both the cake and the frosting. And, it is so moist.

So, if you just found out it's someone's birthday and you want to deliver a wonderful little cake, pick one up.

Little Secret: I took it out of its box, put it on a beautiful plate, put strawberries all around it, a few on top, with a couple sprigs of lavender from the garden and EVERYONE thought it WAS homemade! That took less than three minutes, as opposed to a couple of hours!

Now, that's Lazy! We love our Trader Joe's, eh?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trader Joe's Tuesday Goes Tomato Crazy on Friday!

I have been craving something every day since Monday when we made the most amazing dinner, which Aaron, the beau, says is one of his favorite pasta dishes ever!

It's a variation on Checca Sauce, the famous Italian tomato based sauce that has tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil and mozzarella cheese. It's a much simpler version that truly celebrates that tomatoes that are either in your garden or at Trader Joe's!

Trader Joe's has wonderful boxes of heirloom tomatoes right now. They are not only stunning to the palate, they are just gorgeous to use in this recipe because they are every shade of red, from deep purple to yellow-green-red.

Here are the ingredients:

Pasta (I used the Lemon Pepper Pappardelle but plain egg noodles would be possibly even more fabulous)
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper (I used course salt and roughly grated pepper)
Optional: Just a little....if you do add it...grated Reggiano Parmigiano and/or a few roasted pine nuts.

The bottom line is that this dish is a celebration of tomatoes. The pasta is just there to hold the tomatoes, the Basil is just there to powerfully accent it, the olive oil cloaks it in loveliness, and the salt and pepper just give it the little kick in the pants the tomatoes love to reach their full glory.

  1. Boil a package of pasta while you...
  2. Chop several tomatoes up in small bite-sized chunks.
  3. Chop the basil coursely.
  4. When the pasta is done, toss it with the tomatoes, basil, a few long drizzles of olive oil, salt and pepper (and just a tiny bit of grated parmesan and/or pine nuts if you really need to do it!)....and you are done.

Seriously, for summer tomatoes, I think this is the ultimate celebration -- even more so than gazpacho or caprese salad because peppers and cheese pull your attention from the true glory of the tomatoes. Honestly, I say don't add the options of parmesan or pine nuts if you really want to taste all the nuances in the tomatoes, but you aren't a heretic if you do add them. Just try a few bites at least without the additions -- just get a noodle, some tomato and a little basil on a fork and roll it around in your mouth and really let the tomato flavor explode...

Buon appetito!!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Happened to Trader Joe's Tuesday?!

I was on the road last week so blogging came to a screeching halt, and last night I was all wonky because I was dealing with my dad again. He's had a series of strokes over the last few months. He had to go to the hospital yet again last night because he very likely had another small stroke yesterday.

My dad lives in Alaska so it's just all that much more stressful dealing with things. For instance, last night I had to get on the phone with him and convince him that he needed to go to the hospital, that my uncle (who is committed to being there as his primary caretaker until he dies), and the two lovely gentlemen -- aka medics -- who were there helping him were correct when they suggested he needed to get to the hospital. My dad listened to my pleas patiently, and I could feel the three sets of eyes staring at the phone while he listened, as they hoped my words would calm him and allow them to transport him. After I plead, my dad said "Well, I'll take it under advisement" in his inimitable way, with a little twist of wit.

The good news is it worked. The bad news is that this last several months has been a series of incidents and conversations like this, and I have to say in large part I haven't been profoundly lazy about this process. The death process isn't only a death process for the person dying, of course, and I'm not pulling my weight here. I get way too stressed when I see my uncle's number or my dad's home line calling my phone. It's affecting many levels of my life as all big life challenges do.

My only secret weapon is my boyfriend, who consistently offers three major Lazy Man ingredients to my life: 1) he listens and offers comforting, grounding advice, 2) he makes me laugh and see the humor in the situation (and always points out that my dad's spirit and humor) and 3) he distracts me when there is nothing more to be done, said or considered.

The luckiest of Lazy Women I'm realizing are the ones who have a good Lazy Man behind them. I never had one until now, but I was lucky enough to have always been surrounded by a huge lot of lovely Lazy Women who took up the slack and supported me exquisitely. I am just particularly grateful to have a good Lazy Man in my life right now during this difficult time.

Trader Joe's Tuesday will return next Tuesday! Wooo hooo!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia Inspire the Lazy Woman!

What a delicious movie! Even if you only go to see Meryl Streep execute the most charming portrayal of Julia Child, you will be seriously pleased you did.

My only recommendation is that you stock your refrigerator before you leave for the movie. My boyfriend and I were starving when we left the theatre and had planned to go out to eat afterwards, but we just had to cook something! So, we stopped at the market. At home we knew we had the most beautiful tiny purple artichokes and some beautiful multi-colored pasta. So we stocked up on all the fixins' to create a colorful feast.

Here's what we did....

Baby Purple Artichokes -- cut them in half, add olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic, and some garlic salt. We marinated them for just about 1/2 hour and then threw them on the grill til they looked almost burned. Then we threw them in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 to get them nice and soft. NOTE: the way you eat these is you just eat pull the meat off with your teeth, just like if you were just eating the "meat" off of one leaf of an artichoke.

Tri-Colori Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce -- Sautee four or five cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil until they are starting to brown. Add a few anchovies for a couple minutes to further flavor the oil. Then add a large can of chopped tomatoes, a couple tablespoons of capers, a couple pinches of red pepper flakes. Sautee while you get the pasta cooked up.

Yellow & Red Beet and Fennel Salad -- Boil up the beets (some yellow and some red) until they are tender when pierced by a fork. Once cooked, put them in a colander and run cold water over them. After a couple of minutes they'll be cool enough to work with. The skin will come off very easily. Then slice them up. Slice up the fennel bulb (you don't use the green fern-like leaves for this) in thin little strips. Toss it all up in your favorite vinaigrette recipe. We made a quick mustard vinaigrette. Throw on some toasted pine nuts.

It was the most delicious array of flavors, but the colors...reds, yellows, purples, greens...were slightly inebriating. First the movie, then the frolicking shopping coming up with a menu, then the colors in front of me...but it was the finale to a yummy day!

"Bon Appetit" as Julia always said!