Trader Joe’s: What’s Buzzworthy?

The day the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer arrives in my mailbox, it’s like when I was little and the postman delivered the Sears catalog! The flyer is packed with all the great stuff Trader Joe’s is offering for the season.  I go through each page putting a circle around things I am interested in trying.

Mrs. Twist’s Tip:  Trader Joe’s can be overwhelming if you are not a frequent shopper.  The first few times I visited TJ’s when they opened, I always found a Crew Member to help me by asking for their input and recommendations.  Everything in TJs is taste-tasted by employees so they know if it’s good.  I still ask for help when I am looking for new features in the flyers.  It saves me time because they are familiar with where items are in the store.  And, it’s not uncommon for me to drop in and say, “what should I make for dinner?”  I’ve never been disappointed.

New to me:  Mexican-Style Roasted Corn with Cojita Cheese.  OMG!  This tastes like street corn.  It’s smokey and perfectly seasoned.  You cook it in the microwave for about 3 minutes then sprinkle with the enclosed cheese packet.

Chicken Enchiladas Rojo.  I served the corn as a side to this delish dish. You take the enchiladas out of the plastic packaging and bake them in your own pan.  Yes, this is how homemade and delicious the dish looked before I baked it!  Topped with tons of cilantro and cheese. Miss Bee ate 2 1/2 enchiladas. This is big news, folks.

Sunscreen SPF50 Spray which contains aloe, vitamin E and coconut oil.  It has a new technology using BOV pressure — sort of like a turbo charged sunscreen.  And it’s only $5.99 a bottle!

Refresh Citrus Body Wash.  I loved the label and it’s citrus-y smell — formulated with orange, grapefruit, tangerine and lemon.  Only $2.99 a bottle.

Carrot Spirals.  I have been stalking these curls of carotene for some time because they were being sold in some parts of the country and finally made it to my Fort Worth location.  From frozen you can cook them in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt and use them as a substitute for pasta.

Always in my Cart:  Miss Bee loves their Mac & Cheese.  She pops a package in the microwave and within minutes has comfort food at its finest.  They also have a chili-hatch variety that’s just as good.

Almond Croissants.  They are individually packaged.  You take them out the night before you want them to proof (also known as “rise”) and bake in the morning.  Crispy on the outside with gooey almond filling on the inside, sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are a perfect pastry with morning coffee.

A few final suggestions:  The ready-made salads are perfect for Miss Bee’s school lunches.  The chicken salad is first class and makes the best sandwich.  The flowers are always fresh and affordable, and Charles Shaw wines — lovingly referred to as “Two-Buck Chuck” by wine drinkers.

Bon Appetite!

My March Easy Three

Home With a Twist

The last time I did a “My Easy Three” series, I got a lot of great feedback that these tips were easily achievable and you would like to see more ideas.  So, here is simple inspiration for March.

Add a punch of color

First — Make an Entrance!  It’s time for spring cleaning.  But, if cleaning the entire house top to bottom is overwhelming, then start with your front porch. Here’s a post I did in 2012 with a step-by-step list on tasks to accomplish this goal.  If you want more spring cleaning tips, here is a cleaning check list from Joanna Gaines.

Second — Replace watch batteries.  I have some fun, costume jewelry watches and none of them seem to have working batteries.  There is a battery store near me and for about $6 each I can take all my watches in for fresh batteries getting them running again for the year and have some like-new accessories for my spring wardrobe.

Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joes

Third, March is Sloppy Joe month.  Fun fact for conversation at your next cocktail party (because I always try to educate my HWT readers…) Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy Joe began in a Sioux City, Iowa cafe as a “loose meat” sandwich” in 1930, the creation of a cook named Joe.

Here’s an awesome recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  I have made it for my family and it is devoured every time. I substitute mine with ground turkey because Miss Bee doesn’t eat beef.  Most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.  Make this for Friday night dinner and your kids will thank you and think you are so cool because you know who invented the sandwich!

Nothing Little About this Lie — HBO’s Big Little Lies is Fab!

Last Thursday, Bestie and I had the chance to see the premiere of HBO’s Big Little Lies before the series aired last night.  Reese Witherspoon’s delightful company Draper James hosted the evening at the Highland Park Village Theatre.  We began the evening with bubbly and shopping at the Dallas Draper James location.

Then headed over to the theatre where a representative from HBO welcomed the group and introduced the series “Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?  What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?  HBO treated guests to popcorn, movie candy and drinks and we viewed the first two episodes of the series.  It was really fun!

Big Little Lies is based on the book written by Liane Moriarty.  It’s full of strong women, smooth wine, sass and sex.  Oh, and it opens with a murder.  The 7-episode series leads us through the days leading up to the murder.  You won’t know who finished their last glass of Merlot until the end.   I won’t give anything away other than to say it is perfectly cast — Reese Witherspoon — I die!  She’s my new best friend.  Let’s just say these women are “Museum School moms gone Cray-Cray”  You know, the schools every town has that while you are waiting in the hall for your child to finish school the moms size each other up…kinda like being in the zoo — the hot head, the sad stay at home mom, the “are you new to Monterey?” mom, the rich mom, and the “serves on every board and fundraiser committee in town who you don’t make eye contact with because you are afraid she will ask you to volunteer” mom.

Alexander Skarsgard

Did I mention there S.E.X. in this?  So, if that’s not for you, it might be that reading the book is a better option.  But, if you love Monterey California, crave a good glass of wine, want a good laugh, want to see (look left ⇐) this specimen of heaven, or love a good “who done it” mystery, then watch it.  Something fun I found on Facebook was this Big Little Lies drinking game (you could substitute it with sparkling Italian soda).

Here’s just a few fun questions…

Cheers!  A mom gazes into the ocean from her patio (take a small sip, this happens alot).

Cheers!  The ladies gather for a coffee date at that gorgeous Pacific Ocean–adjacent cafe. Finish your drink and wish you had a cute waiter on hand to give you a refill.

Fun Fact:  This is the Paluca Trattoria, the actual coffee shop the moms commiserate after kid drop off…

Cheers!  Wait, these first-graders listen to David Bowie, Alabama Shakes, and Leon Bridges? Take a sip when the music begins.  The soundtrack is amazing!

So, there.  It’s Buzzworthy.  FOR SURE!  If you don’t have HBO, find a gal pal, score a good bottle of Pinot, put on your yoga pants and get your Sunday fix.  No lie!

Friday’s Find: A Bakery and a Brownie

Warning:  This is a high calorie blog post today.  You might want to take a spin on your treadmill before reading…

One thing this blog will never be lacking is photos of bakeries.  My bliss is to walk into a bakery, especially one that is aesthetically pleasing.  My go-to spot when I am in Dallas is Bird Bakery. If you are ever in the Highland Park neighborhood, you must stop in for a delight for the eyes.

Bird bakes all the usual suspects – cupcakes, brownies, lemon bars, cookies and mini pies, merchandised beautifully on teared plates, cake pedestals and parchment lined trays.  They also have a delicious sandwich, soup and salad menu.

I usually order their Bird cupcake — a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting in the loveliest shade of robin’s egg blue.

Your cupcakes are packaged up in the cutest egg cartons.  Can you imagine receiving a gift of beautiful cupcakes presented in such a whimsical way?

My second favorite is their Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownie.

You can taste the subtle Mexican vanilla.  Dense and very chocolately. It really is like a cup of cocoa!

I am sharing a brownie recipe today that Mr. Bee’s sister-in-law shared with me years ago.  They are from a bakery in upstate New York.  She once told me that even if the snow was 10-feet tall, she would still put on her snow boots and make her way to the bakery for these brownies.  I make them as a special treat.  They are super rich calling for 6 cups of chocolate chips, so they are not for the faint of heart.  But boy, are they worth it.

Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter a 9×13 pan.

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water (I use coffee)

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup of butter

4 eggs, beaten

5 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (I am not nutty, so I omit them)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place sugar, water (or coffee), vanilla and butter in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat to melt butter.  When melted, remove from heat and add chips and eggs (be sure to temper the eggs by adding a little of the warm chocolate liquid first to increase the temperature of the eggs before adding the entire pan of chocolate), stirring often until chips melt.

In a large mixing bowl, blend remaining ingredients — flour, baking powder, salt, nuts and the remaining cup of chocolate chips.  Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.

Pour into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting.  To get a clean cut for the brownies, chill first in the refrigerator.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

These are the perfect sweet to take to a potluck, your next girls night out, or when you are delivering a meal to an ailing friend.  Enjoy!

Ga Ga over La La: Swoon-worthy wardrobe in La La Land

Have you seen the movie La La Land?  My sister-in-law treated me and Miss Bee recently and I loved it!  This “modern musical” is really sweet and the music was fun.  I swooned over Emma Stone’s wardrobe — colorful and very “swirl” worthy for the dance scenes.  If you haven’t seen the movie I won’t give anything away, only highlight the clothes “Mia” wore in a few scenes.

Girls Night Out Blue Dress

I loved how each of her girlfriends wore a different “candy” colored dress.

Never mellow yellow when dancing with Ryan Gosling

Her figure is perfect for these dresses.  I loved that everything she wore was age appropriate, vintage inspired and ladylike.

Coral Crush

Who says redheads can’t wear coral?  I loved this cotton halter dress with pockets for a date night.

Cute little pique tennis dress in blue with a yellow cross body purse and ballet flats.  Perfect for a day of sightseeing.

Mia shined brighter than the planetarium stars in her emerald green dress and pendant.

I’ve always wanted to swing from a cable car while kissing my love interest.  If I did, I would wear her a-line cotton skirt, with a sleeveless button down tied at the waist.

And, I would end the night walking down the street in a black, raw silk dress with sling back heels.  Red lipstick would be in my black clutch purse.

Here’s a fun story behind Emma Stone’s wardrobe for the movie (click the link for the entire story, or you can read my summary).   The film’s costume designer, Mary Zophres, has since revealed the inspiration and thinking behind Mia’s retro-inspired outfits.  It was important to Mary that the audience walk out of the movie wishing they could get their hands on the clothes, at places like H&M or a department store like Bloomingdale’s.  In fact, Stone did wear a $5 shirt from the H&M retailer, because the costume designer wanted to ensure her character “dressed in her normal life” too.

The first fitting for this white confection, “Emma started spinning around in this dress. She loved it. I loved it.”

“Going to real stores and mixing it with things that we bought or that we could have conceivably bought but we made instead was how I tried to infuse it with a modern sensibility… bringing in things that were really from Los Angeles in 2016.”

If you watched closely, you might have also noticed Mia’s dresses became gradually more voluminous as the film progressed. As you’ve probably guessed, this was no accident.

“When she was spinning or dancing, you got a more effect of like a period film, but I tried to balance reality,” Zophres says.

“I also didn’t want to overdesign it, and [Stone] actually looks better in things that are simple.”

You could literally watch this movie 20 years from now and have no idea when it was filmed because there is such a timeless, yet vintage feel to it.

And, the soundtrack.  Well, I plan to start cleaning my house with this blasting on the Bose.  My dread of dusting and vacuuming will disappear for sure.  And, if I could do chores in the yellow dress, I’d be set.  Be sure to check out La Land before the Oscars on Sunday, February 26.  Enter the official 2017 Oscars Challenge here for your chance to predict the winners for prizes!

Trader Joe’s Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Trader Joe’s Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Sunday night Miss Bee and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s to do our meal planning for this week.  I saw this chicken in the meat department and thought it sounded good and would be perfect with the bag of fingerling sweet potatoes I picked up in produce.  It’s $4.49 a pound, so this chicken was $12.99.

Oh. My. Goodness.  Do yourself a favor and visit TJ’s this week and get this Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary chicken.  Here’s why:

  1. It’s super easy to cook.  You open the package, place the chicken in a pan and bake for about 75 minutes.  That’s it.
  2. It will make your house smell like you have been cooking in the kitchen all day.  Literally, your family will walk in and love you.
  3. It’s delicious.  I have a problem with rotisserie chickens, and the like, because they are so darn saltly.  The ingredients in this chicken are simple:

    Whole Split Chicken with Bone and Skin, Mojo Brine (Water, Orange Juice, Brown Sugar, Salt, Lime Juice), Marinade (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, Buffered Vinegar, Rosemary, Parsley, Rosemary Extract), Lemon Slices.

    I placed diced sweet potatoes in the pan with the chicken and roasted them all together.  The juices from the chicken were yummy and coated the potatoes perfectly.  I served it with a side of TJ’s fresh green beans.

    If you are wondering what “Spatchcocked” means — it’s just a term used to describe the technique in which the meat has been prepared for roasting or grilling.

    So, you’ve learned something new and you’ll eat a tasty meal this week.  Enjoy!

Wednesday’s Weave: Three Easy Pieces for your Thanksgiving Table

Sharing three fun things I have purchased for my Thanksgiving table…

The Container Store Chalkboard Table Runner Wrapping Paper.  $23.99 for a 25 foot roll.  This is not only wrapping paper, how cute will that be under the tree, but can also be used to cover your dining table.  Imagine all the ways you can use it — traditionally with the guest’s name, or with a twist as in this photo from Pinterest they sketched the silverware. Guests can write what they’re thankful for or you can write the menu. How about for the kid’s table!

tablerunner-wrap

These adorable pumpkin appetizer plates are from Crate & Barrel and are only $4.95 each.  Can you imagine how yummy a slice of pumpkin pie would look on these plates?

pumpkin-appetizer-plate

And lastly, pretty silverware from the Pioneer Woman.  I have always wanted a set of Bakelite or ivory handled silverware.  The pearlized handle adds a vintage look to your table setting.  And, it comes in red, linen, mushroom and soft turquoise.  A 12-piece placesetting is only $19.76.

pioneer-woman-silverware

Visit my Pinterest page for other “Sit Here, Please” ideas!

Tuesday’s Treasure: The Magnolia Journal

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Pjs, hot coffee and a great magazine = perfect Saturday morning

The premier issue of the Magnolia Journal arrived in my mailbox on Friday.  This is another labor of love from Chip and JoAnna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame.  I restrained myself to save it for Saturday morning coffee on the patio.  My friend Susan suggested I share my review.   I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I will just share a few things I really liked about the magazine.

cottage-livingFirst, about 10 years ago or longer, there was a publication from the editors of Southern Living magazine called Cottage Living.  I loved that magazine because the articles were relatable with ideas I could duplicate pretty easily on my own.  Sadly, that magazine is no longer in circulation.  The Magnolia Journal reminds me a lot of what I miss in a magazine — beautiful photography and articles that are relevant to my style of entertaining and hospitality.  Something I can read cover to cover and not skip through.

Second, I love the paper it’s printed on – a thicker, non-slick paper similar to Real Simple magazine.  For me, it makes it more like a collectible, something you’d keep on the coffee table.

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If you’ve ever visited the Magnolia Market in Waco, you’ve noticed the special Gaines touches everywhere — from the people that greet you when you come into the store, to the landscape, to the signage and the vintage trolley car that will take you to your car.  They did not disappoint with the thank you note and “Bless your Garden” embedded seed card lovingly tucked into the binding as you turn the first page of the magazine.

This issue is dedicated to the upcoming holiday season with lots of wonderful recipes, gift guides, lovely stories of family gatherings, and tips and ideas for curating memorable moments.

I ordered my copy on-line through Magnolia Market and I’m glad I did because I have not found it locally.  Yearly subscriptions are available on-line as well — $20 for 4 issues (once per quarter), or $30 for a 2-year subscription.  However, the premier issue is not included.  A subscription would make a perfect Christmas gift.

One last spoiler:  Inspirational quotes are sprinkled throughout, something I adore.  So, I will leave you with this final note which I think sums up the message of all that Chip and JoAnna have worked hard to gift us with…

“Let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in bed and board; but let truth and love and honor and courtesy flow in all the deeds.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday’s Weave: My October Trader Joe’s Picks

trader-joes-fearless-flyerTrader Joes, how do you do it? Your prices can’t be beat and you keep coming up with fun products.  October at Trader Joe’s for me is like Christmas Day for a 1st grader!  Especially when their Fearless Flyer comes out featuring all their fall fare.

Insider Tip:  Something a lot of Trader Joe’s employees don’t know, but I do…you can look through the Fearless Flyer on-line, make your selections, and send your shopping list straight to your phone. This makes it easy to pop in for what you need already in a list form if you left your flyer at home.

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Here are my suggestions to try, but there are many more great options that I haven’t tried.

trader-joes-october-picks

Pumpkin Spice Caramel Popcorn — small little bag allegedly for two people.  It’s crack folks. Tasty and yummy.  Pick up several because you will not share it.

Pumpkin Ravioli — would be perfect along side a pork tenderloin or cold atop a salad with grilled chicken.

Pumpkin Bread Mix — $2.99 a box.  I usually buy 6 boxes at a time and bake a loaf every Sunday night.  Miss Bee likes to have it for breakfast. The TJ’s employee suggested I make muffins using the Pumpkin Spice cream cheese — fill muffin cup 1/2 way, add a spoon full of cream cheese and top it off with more batter.

Pumpkin Tortilla Chips — a slight hint of cinnamon these are good and perfect with taco soup.

Spiced Cider — Has everything you need in the bottle and makes your house smell like fall.

Haunted House Kit — Cute gift.  Miss Bee loves to make houses at Christmas so I thought this would be a fun project for her.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee — I purchased the box of pods that will fit a Keurig. Rich, spicy and perfect.  Add a shot of Kahlua and your solid gold.  These would make a nice hostess gift with a loaf of pumpkin bread.

A few things I want to try…

things-i-want-to-try-at-tjs
Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix, Pumpkin Vinaigrette and Ghost and Bat Potato Chips

So, there you go.  A perfect way to spend your Wednesday.  I dare you to ask your Trader Joe’s employee at checkout if they can guess your theme of your purchases!  Go Pumpkin. Or go home.

Tuesday’s Topic: Must Have Kitchen Tools

Sharing today three go-to gadgets for the kitchen, with one being the oldey, but goody, for the baker.

First, this herb stripper.  Sounds like the name of a male exotic dancer, but rest assured you will love the naughty way it removes all the leaves from herbs without you having to remove one. tiny. leaf. at. a. time. It’s $7.95 from Williams-Sonoma.

herb-stripper

Next, while we are on the topic of herbs, I love this set of herb saver pods from Sur La Table.  They are like terrariums for herbs.  You fill the bottom of the pod and place your herbs, root tip down into the water, close the door and your herbs stay fresh and hydrated.  Did you know asparagus should be stored upright in water in the fridge till you are ready to prepare it?  Well, you can store it in the pod.  Mint from the garden for your iced tea, now handy on the counter.

herb-saver-pods

This will be a great tool with the holidays coming up to keep your herbs for Thanksgiving meals fresh. $29.95 for a set of three pods.

Last, my old/new sifter.  Our little neighbor down the street had an estate sale and we picked out her sifter as a “little piece of Peggy.”  Now, when I bake I will think of her.

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I did a little search on the patent number…made in 1943 in Minneapolis by the Foley Sifter Company.  Now, that’s vintage folks.  This sifter is 73!  I hope I can live up to all the cooking Peggy did.

Sifters are perfect for aerating ingredients like flour before incorporating them into your wet ingredients.  But, you can also achieve similar results with a whisk. Joy the Baker has a great post about this on her blog. Powdered sugar, definitely needs to be sifted if you want a lump-free frosting.

So, there you are.  Three essential kitchen gadgets and you learned how to aerate flour.  My work is done here.