Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trader Joe's Tuesday: Bollywood!

The star of the week..... BOLLYWOOD!

I've been to India several times, and I'm a vegetarian, so you can probably guess how much I love Indian food. Well, there's a new Lazy Food at Trader Joe's:

chickpeas seasoned with garlie, ginger & aromatic spices
All that needs to be said is that within 3 minutes you can have a meal:
1. Pop a bag of Trader Joe's Frozen Jasmine Rice in the microwave for a couple minutes. My microwave takes 2.22 minutes to make perfect rice.
2. Take rice out of the microwave and put in a microwaveable bowl.
3. Empty the contents of the chickpea bag on top of the rice, and pop it back in the microwave for another minute.
4. If you want to be fancy, while microwaving, chop up some cucumber and mix in with yogurt. If you have mint in the garden or fridge, chop up a few leaves and mix in to the cucumber and yogurt. And you have RAITA!
5. Dollop either the raita or even just a dollop of plain old yogurt or ...nothing at all! Seriously, it doesn't NEED anything else to be added but if you want to have that wonderful Indian symphony of sweet, savory, spicy and cooling all in one bite you can go the extra Lazy Mile.
Yum Yum!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Five and Dime Fridays -- Most Delicious Potatoes in the World!

It's FIVE & DIME FRIDAY and before we get to what we're gonna cook up we have to:

1. Ask a question
2. Tell a story

So, the question is "DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GROUPONS?" They are FANTASTIC! Go to groupon.com and sign up. It's free and they give you an offer every day of things you can save on -- food, spas, events, etc.

I have many excellent Groupon stories but the best one is the $80 worth of food we got for $40 at YAMASHIRO's in the Hollywood Hills, next to the Magic Castle. If you don't live in LA and have been a tourist here you may have heard of Yamashiro's because it's a great spot for tourists, just above Graumann's Chinese, next door to the Magic Castle, with a view of the Capitol Records building, and nestled in a lovely hill setting. The building has a great history, and the kitchen has a fairly new chef...and that's why we bought the Groupon because my wonderful friend and author, Franz Metcalf, said he was great.

The meal was nothing short of brilliant. One of the most spectacular dishes was Smashed Potatoes with Preserved Lemon which was served with my perfectly grilled salmon and white asparagus. I love potatoes and felt like I had tried everything but holy moly these were good. So, I googled recipes and found the link to a great meal by Suzanne Goin of Lucques. We made it and it truly was a wonderful meal.

I recommend following her recipe to a T, but here's anothe Lazy version of the Smashed Potatoes:

FIVE & DIME FRIDAY -- Lemony Potatoes!
  1. Red New Potatoes -- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  2. Preserved Lemon -- 1 lemon
  3. Olive Oil - 1 or 2 tablespoons
  4. Butter - 2 or 3 tablespoons
  5. Salt & Pepper

Steam or boil up the potatoes. Smash them up a little. You can use a masher if you want, but you don't really need it. Just squish 'em up a bit. Chop up the Preserved Lemon and throw it in the potatoes. Then add olive oil, butter and salt & pepper to your taste. You don't need a ton of oil and butter to make this work. This can be a very low fat recipe if you choose to make it that way!

There's nothing to it! Zesty fresh potatoes in no time!

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Staying Hydrated!

"Triple digits" -- it's a horrible phrase here in LA because the proper translation is "I'm meeeeeeeeeeeelting!" When I went to the gym after 5 p.m. last evening it was 101! It was 96 when I came out nearly two hours later! Oy!

I'm going to be taking my fairy goddaughters to Disneyland this evening but it will still be quite hot when we go so Aaron was just saying "Remember to drink a lot of water..." I said "I always drink tons of water" but he's right, it's easy to get distracted and forget to drink. At home it's easy. On my desk at all times -- icy cold water, because that's the way I like it. AND, generally you'll find a slice o' something in it too.

My favorite thing to do is make a big pitcher of water with just a couple/few slices of orange, lemon, watermelon, cucumber and some mint. But, if I don't have all of those things I generally do at least one. I served a friend some ice water with sliced orange the other day and she said "I've never had this before." I was sort of shocked. She's quite a sophisticated well-travelled woman! But, it's true restaurants do lemon at most.

Many people hate drinking water, so in this heat it's particularly important to do whatever you can to make your water enticing. If you have to start with Perrier or San Pellegrino, go for it. Sometimes that's a necessary stepping stone to sipping pure flat water. Or, try one of the Vitamin Water type drinks that are at least moving you toward pure water, which is ideal for your body on so many levels.

Another way to move toward pure water is to add a splash of juice to your glass of water. One of my fav's at Trader Joe's is Blackberry Crush, but they have soooooo many juices. Just a splash can make a difference between finishing or not finishing your glass of water. If you really have a dislike of drinking water, start with more juice and wean yourself off it slowly as you make drinking pure water a habit.

The most excellent news about drinking a lot of water is that it gives you more energy. I've experienced this personally but if you want to read more about it, just google "drinking water gives energy."

So, when you are at Trader Joe's, stock up on little tasty tidbits you can add to your water to make yourself drink, drink, drink, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and ENERGIZE!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Five & Dime Fridays --

My first entrepreneurial pursuit when I was about 7 years old was Pizza Delivery! I don't remember the exact ingredients I used, but the one main ingredient was English Muffins! I'm pretty sure it was just english muffins, tomato sauce and cheese ...maybe some chopped black olives. I remember thinking they were delicious -- although, by the time I got them to the "customer" they must have been stone cold! The most important thing is that I sold out, and at 25 cents each that was a LOT OF MONEY! LOL!

Lazy Popeye Spinach & Chicken Pizza

  1. Sourdough English Muffin or Pre-Made Pizza Crust
  2. Pre-Made Tomato Sauce
  3. Mozzarella and/or other cheeses you love that melt well
  4. Fresh Spinach (tossed with a little olive oil, salt & pepper)
  5. Pre-Cooked Roased or Barbecued Chicken

Preheat the oven to 450. Brush the english muffin or crust with a little olive oil. Just layer on all the other ingredients -- in order of appearance in the above list -- and put it in the oven. If you are using pre-made pizza crust, follow instructions on the package. If you are doing the English Muffin version, pop it in at 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes. NOTE: When I did this when I was a kid I did them in a Toaster Oven -- much faster and less energy waste!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Pasta with Tomato & Basil

OK, Aaron and I are now seriously obsessed with making the best Pasta with Tomato & Basil in the history of mankind. We saw a "Best Thing I Ever Ate" episode featuring top chefs sharing their favorite sauces. Ted Allen, previously of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and currently pretty much always on The Food Network, said his favorite sauces is the Spaghetti with Tomato & Basil at Scarpetta in NYC. People pay $24 at the restaurant for a simple lovely portion of what looks like the most amazing spaghetti you've ever eaten.

So, we googled the recipe. You can too, and you'll see several versions, including the one I'm including with this blog entry, where you can see video and stills to guide you through the process.

On the way to our very serious cooking session to try to mimic Scott Conant, I stopped at Roma Market, an Italian market that is so authentic and amazing that I wrote an article about it for Pasadena Magazine. I found the most amazing, ripe, huge, deep red Roma tomatoes I've ever seen. They always have fully ripe produce, so you can only buy for the day you want to eat/cook. Neither Aaron nor I had Romas left on our vines and none of the Farmer's Markets oddly had any either.

Then, also at Roma, instead of Spaghetti, I got a very expensive bag of pasta flown in from Italy (in fact no English on the package) of something that looked like Bucatini (very thick spaghetti). This was a mistake, we've decided.

We made the recipe -- it is fairly labor intensive, but really fun because you are infusing oil with basil, garlic and pepper flakes while you work on making the fresh romas into tomato sauce. I've always used canned tomatoes for my sauces.

It really was great, but it wasn't spectacular. I loved it more than Aaron. He blamed the noodles. I want to try another version of the Scarpetta recipe I found online (the one from Good Morning America) and see how that tastes. I think it loooks like the right amount of tomatoes (20, as opposed to 8 in the recipe we used). I'll report back after I make that one.

BUT, the next day I made another pasta sauce with the leftover tomato juices and canned tomatoes, and it was spectacular! ....which brings me to...... TRADER JOE'S TUESDAY!

There is a LAZY version of the Scarpetta recipe, for which you can buy all of the ingredients at Trader Joe's!

Use the recipe I posted and follow it. You can actually buy every single ingredient at Trader Joe's but if you want to make it super lazy (i.e., not do the fresh tomato part which is the labor intensive part), just substitute two large cans of tomatoes for the 8 fresh ones and seed them as well as you can (with washed hands), strain, etc.

If you want to do the non-Lazy version with fresh tomatoes, just make sure you find the ripest of Romanos in the lot.

TIP: To make the serving of pasta look super cool on the plate, take a can and take off both ends with a can opener. Stand it on plate, and then take tongs and grab pasta and drop into the "mold" you have made. Once you've put a full serving in there, remove the "mold"/can, and voila, it pretty much keeps its shape.

This make a Lovely Summer Supper! How can you go wrong with Tomatoes and Basil????

Buon Appetito!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Five & Dime Friday -- Summery Lemony Delight

We are having an unseasonably cool August here in Los Angeles. Apparently, though, it's going to start heating up this weekend....so I'm thinking of cooling things we can cook up as we move into the heat.

I don't eat meat or chicken but I always like to put lots of recipes here for chicken lovers because I know how much people like chicken. Obviously, you can substitute chicken for any other meat product...even chicken sausage or whatever you can sautee up in a few minutes.

Lazy Lemony Chicken Pasta
  1. Lemon Pepper Pasta from Trader Joe's
  2. Pre-Cooked Roasted Chicken
  3. Sliced Mushrooms
  4. Lemon
  5. Butter

While the pasta is cooking, sautee mushrooms in butter and fresh lemon juice. Throw in some salt, pepper or favorite herbs if you wish. At the very end of the sautee process, throw in the the chicken pieces (or whatever meat you choose). Then toss with hot pasta!

The vegetarian version of this that I do for myself is with black olives or zucchini.

Light, lovely summery fare for you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Lazy Day Late

My favorite time at Trader Joe's is right before closing. That's when I went tonight. It's so peaceful and feels almost like you're cheating when you go at that hour. Wait, it's so easy to get to things! Can it be true? It's not a Trader Joe's dream is it? No, it's just before closing, and all the "Crew" are excited to fulfill your every need so they can peacefully close the doors on time and get to the real work they need to do before they can leave.

I whipped around getting everything I need and one of the things I was almost out of was Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. An old boyfriend confessed to one day reaching back into the TJ bag behind his car seat, reaching in a box for a cookie and munching all the way home on one after another of the Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. I understand why. They smell mighty good. They even sound mighty good when being passionately munched by Lucy and Tulle.

But, as much as I love peanut butter, and as clear as it is that each ingredient in the list is edible, I have my peanut butter fixes in different forms.

The latest use of my Trader Joe's Peanut Butter fixes was in the form of Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. I only bought two bananas because I thought they would definitely mash into a cup's worth o' banana. Not so. I was about 1/4 cup short. So, we filled the cup to the brim with peanut butter. What an awesome, subtle addition to these cookies.

The recipe link is attached to this blog entry. Check it out if you like a very rich almost muffin-like cookie with a subtle taste of banana (and peanut butter if you do as we did!). They aren't a typical chocolate chip cookie at all, but boy are they delicious.

Frankly I wanted to slather on more peanut butter because even though I didn't want to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, once I had the subtle hint of peanut butter and the cakiness of the cookie, it begged a spot o' peanut butter. I didn't indulge because the cookies were enough. But, peanut butter really is delicious isn't it.

My Trader Joe's favorite -- salted, creamy peanut butter.

Now, don't get me started on almond butter....

Friday, August 06, 2010

Five & Dime Friday -- Mediterranean Pita Fest

It's warm and sunny over most of the U.S. today, so here is a cool sandwich --- with super-cooling-cucumber --- that's super easy to make for lunch or dinner:

Vegetarian Mediterranean Sandwich
1. Pita Bread
2. Feta Cheese
3. Cucumber
4. Tomato
5. Olives -- Kalamata or regular ol' black olives

Non-Vegetarian Mediterranean Sandwich
1. Pita Bread
2. Roasted Chicken (or any of the pre-cooked chickens you can Find at Trader Joe's and elsewhere!)
3. Feta Cheese
4. Cucumber
5. Tomato


I lightly toast my pita bread and thinly slice all the incredients so very bite has a bit of all the flavors in it. Pile all the ingredients in as you see fit --- or if you prefer, throw them all in a bowl and mix like a salad and then stuff the pita. Drizzle with a little olive oil and vinegar, throw a dash of salt and pepper and enjoy!

OPTIONAL ITEMS for both sandwiches: SPINACH, LETTUCE or other GREENS. If you have MINT in your garden (if you don't, by the way, it grows like a weed), it's a wonderful addition to salads and sandwiches with feta. I like PEPPEROCCINI too sometimes!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Lazy Gardener

Since I straddle two households, spending a lot of time at Aaron's, we did full out herb garden at his house, and he planted tons of tomatoes in the ground. At my house, I planted 6 plants in pots in the front where I would literally see their progress several times a day, and stay on top of watering. Where I normally plant tomato plants is in the backyard in the ground. But, boy can I neglect watering back there. So, the lazy answer for me is tomatoes in pots.

My plants are providing at least a tomato a day. And, oh my god how delicious. There is nothing like freshly plucked tomato on ANYTHING for a fresh delicious summer addition to any meal. And, that is one helluva lazy plant to cultivate -- whether in the ground or in a pot, you really can't go wrong, and they will just keep giving you tomatoes! The garden gift that keeps on giving!

So, run out and get a tomato plant if you don't have one...even if it's just one plant on your front porch. You'll feel so proud to serve your home grown delights.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Trader Joe's Tuesday -- Best Crunchy Sweet Thing of All Time

I'm posting Tuesday a wee bit early because I'm traveling tomorrow...and today's Trader Joe's gem is something I very proudly turned my boyfriend on to, not unlike a crack dealer really.

If you are looking for something to fulfill the crunch-sweet-plus-a-tiny-bit-o-salt thing, this is the ticket:

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee

Usually toffee is wedded to almonds or pecans. But, Trader Joe's in their inimitable genius made a happy marriage with pistachios!

And, it's DARK chocolate, which kicks it up a notch too.

What to do with it? Well, of course, munch it just as it is from the container. But, might I tell you that chopped up and put on vanilla ice cream... DREEEEEEAMY!

I'm going to make tiramisu later this week and I'm going to smash up a bunch of these babies and sprinkle them all over the top so it'll be dark brown chocolate, light brown toffee plus the green pistachios...then with a little lavender and a flower in the middle it'll be gorgeous! Will try to remember to post the photo.

Buon Appetito and Good Crunching to All!