Trader 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.
Here are my suggestions to try, but there are many more great options that I haven’t tried.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was going through some old things in the attic recently and came across this gem of a cookbook. It’s one of those school cookbooks where all the teachers, staff and I guess anyone else that wanted to see their name in print, could submit their fave recipes.
First up, the kitchen photo on the cover. Since I never saw Carol Brady do any cooking other than to help Alice chop carrots or snap beans, I prefer to call this Alice’s kitchen.
They must be making something fancy because they got all their gear out — double boiler, industrial sack-o-flour, wooden salt and pepper shakers, an electric can opener, a coffee press, lemons, onions, a juicer and I’m not sure what the white thing is.
Is that a spatula hanging from the pot rack? Why can’t it go in the wooden bowl on the counter with the 76 other rubber spatulas? Does anyone find it a tad disturbing that really big knives are suspended from the pot rack. I bet lots of yummy tuna noodle casseroles with potato chips crushed on top were whipped up in this gourmet palace.
Second, at a glance, I noticed that the top three submissions for this saucy little book were:
1. Miss Moore — the gym teacher. Lots of salads.
2. Mr. Sisserson — a math whiz with a sweet tooth.
3. The cafeteria ladies — tons of recipes for 150 people. Hey, how can you go wrong with 150 yeast rolls?
But the real highlight “Fillings make the Sandwich: How to make 26 new fillings.” Gee, the mom that makes these is swell.
Ted, Bobby, Suzy and Sue get in here and try the tasty tongue sandwich I made!
And tomorrow night I want to try the Liver Sausage Salad. I think the girls at my bridge club will go wild over it. That and an asparagus jello salad, will make me a shoe-in for the membership chair.
Miss Bee said if I ever made her a sandwich with ground ham, crushed pineapple, brown sugar and a sprinkle of cloves she’d first hurl, then move to New Mexico to live with her Aunt.
We have a brand new Sur la Table that just opened near my house. I jumped for glee because they have a kitchen in their store dedicated to a cooking school. Every day of the week they offer classes on a variety of topics from mastering basic kitchen skills, to date night cooking, to baking. I love a good, buttery croissant and I thought learning how to make these pillows of heaven might be fun, so my friend Pam signed up with me. We were not disappointed.
Their pastry Chef David Wiley led the class. Mr. Bee and I took a pizza making class from David so I knew it would be fun. David is knowledgeable, engaging and really good at what he does — teach. These classes are hands-on meaning you get to practice what you learn, but don’t have to stick around to clean up the mess.
You work in teams and our partner was Suzanne. Getting to make new friends and bond over a mutual interest is what I enjoy most about taking classes. We started out by learning to make the croissant dough. The number one take away for me is that for a croissant to truly be divine, it must be made with 100% butter. No shortening or margarine will suffice. This key piece of information hit home after we sampled our fresh-baked pastries out of the oven.
David taught us how to make dough and butter blocks, then how to incorporate the butter block into the dough, which I had no idea was part of the process. We learned how to letter fold and book fold the dough, how to mark the dough so you know which step you are in when it’s time to do the whole thing over again. Let’s just say — this process took three hours to make about 36 croissants which means I have a real appreciation for the effort that goes into making croissants.
We learned how to measure out the dough, cut it into the crescent shaped pieces (you know the familiar can of dough), and roll the dough to make the beautiful tails on the ends.
David taught us the proper way to fling flour onto your work surface. Fling it like you mean it!
We prepared classic croissants, Parisian ham and Gruyere cheese croissants, and morning buns (dough rolled with cinnamon sugar).
While the dough was rising, David walked us around the store as our personal shopper to show us the kitchen gadgets and bake ware we used in the class. A 10% discount is offered to every student after the class making it easy to do a little shopping during breaks. And, they were offering $15 off future classes. Pam and I signed up for a few classes in November — including a make-and-take pie class the day before Thanksgiving so our desserts will be ready to bake when we leave the store! One new kitchen tool I added was this tapered rolling pin.
Mr. Bee likes to make pizza dough and this French tapered rolling pin allows you to control the amount of pressure you apply to your dough since the ends are tapered and don’t have handles. We used these rolling pins in class giving me a chance to try it out before I made my purchase.
The other fun thing is they offer you complimentary coffee during the class. I made a fresh cup of Nespresso and threw in a dash of pumpkin spice syrup. I also brought a chilled bottle of sparkling wine for us to sip while we baked. The only thing that was missing was Christmas music.
The kitchen smelled like cinnamon, butter and fresh-baked bread. Here is what we made right out of the oven…
David gave us bags and parchment paper to wrap up our fresh-baked, warm buns to take home. We each left with a dozen and half of croissants. My favorite, of course, were the morning buns. The ham and cheese were decadent, too.
This class made me a bun snob. I am afraid I will never be able to look at the regular croissant the same. I’m going to definitely try making these myself. If you want the recipe for the classic croissant it’s available here along with alot of other great recipes from their classes.
A few years ago, when I went to the State Fair of Texas, the fair volunteer I was chatting with mentioned I might be interested in attending the Big Tex Choice Awards. Admission includes a swag bag of goodies, the opportunity to taste unique (and fried) Fair concessionaires, and be present during the judging to learn who the winners are before the general public. All the proceeds from ticket sales benefit the State Fair Youth Scholarship Fund. Earlier this spring I signed up for the Big Tex Insider email and, as soon as tickets went on sale, I snagged a set of tickets — one for me and one for bestie.
The Big Tex Choice Awards are held in the Tower Building on the Fair grounds before the Fair opens. There were no crowds and parking was free. After we checked in we received a wrist band and swag bag filled with fun prizes — a Big Tex sippy cup, ball cap, calendar, complimentary ticket for admission to the Fair, and a t-shirt. The first half of the program was commentary by the judges sampling each of the entries named as finalists. In the second half you went through a line, cafeteria style, and received a full-sized portion of each of the eight foods in the finals. We sat down at our own table and began taking photos and writing notes.
First — A disclaimer. We didn’t receive the food hot out of the fryer. It’s impossible to have it super hot for this many people at one time. That being said, it was difficult to fairly judge each food that probably depended on temperature. Second, some of the photos are mine, but some I took from the Choice Awards to best describe the food which is where you can find the complete description of the food. I am offering a brief summary of our opinion.
Caribbean Pineapple Korn-A-Copia. If you want healthy food when you visit the Fair, this would be your choice hands-down. We were not offered the full sized version of this on a half pineapple, instead our serving was in a small condiment cup. So, it was kinda hard to get the full monty on this. It had good flavor, but it wasn’t our favorite. However, we gave it the best in appearance award.
Deep Fried Pulled Pork “Funyan” Dings. I’m not quite sure how you stuff a Funyan, yes the childhood favorite snack, but they did. We give them kudos for that. It was sweet, savory and slightly gooey. It was an interesting blend of flavors, maybe a few too many to discern.
Fernie’s Down Home Chicken Pot Pie Pocket with Mac ‘n Cheese Dip. This was like a Hot Pocket only better. The crust was crispy and buttery. The filling tasted like potpie and at times we both tasted veggies that reminded us of the under cooked mixed veggies our mothers used to make us eat. The mac and cheese wasn’t our favorite. However, we did like the cute flag and the tiny spoon. One judge commented it was best eaten with a scoop of mac and cheese on top of the pie pocket.
Injectable Great Balls of BBQ. Think chopped BBQ sandwich with a crunchy coating. It was served on a bed of coleslaw and a tiny injector filled with BBQ sauce. Bestie, unfortunately, got a chunk of fat in her bite, so that ruined it for her. I liked it because it was interesting.
Southern Fried Chicken and Dumplins. This was my least favorite, but bestie wrote a note that she thought the flavor was good and the gravy was perfect. Our portion, just had one dumplin ball over a condiment cup of gravy with one, tiny biscuit ball. So, it was hard to get the full essence of flavors. I thought it tasted more like turkey and dressing, I didn’t get the chicken flavor.
State Fair Cookie Fries. This received the 2016 Most Creative Award from the judges. Indeed it was. We loved the little box they were served in, along side containers of strawberry and chocolate sauce. I think ours were a little over done, because we didn’t get the gooey cookie center, it was mostly crisp and dry. We were strangely attracted to these fries for some reason.
Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Slider on a Stick. What does it say about me that this was my favorite?! Probably because it was basically a cheese burger and a hot dog, sandwiched between Hawaiian rolls, rolled in tempura batter and deep fried. This was the one food served that temperature didn’t affect it’s taste. It was delish. This was also the only sample we finished. It was garnished with a fried pickle and nestled over a basket full of lightly seasoned fries. Two thumbs up on this from both of us!
Fried Jello. This was named by the judges as the 2016 Best Taste Award. If you like Jello, this is for you. We were eager to try this because how in the world can you deep-fry jello? Again, this was strangely appealing and curious. It includes a top secret ingredient and process, making sure that when you bite into the ball of dough, the Jello is intact. It wasn’t runny or melted. There was solid Jello inside.
Bestie was hoping this was her favorite, but it wasn’t. We just couldn’t wrap our heads around dough filled with Jello. But, it worked for the judges which is why they didn’t ask us to do it. Cherry-flavored Jello gets a major sales boost during the fair for this food. Maybe a whole new generation of kids will learn to appreciate this childhood, and Luby’s, staple.
This was a totally fun experience and I will do it again next year. It was very well organized from the parking to the milling around of Big Tex during the meal. See you next month when the Fair which kicks off September 30 through October 23.
I discovered 30 Days of Lists when I was looking through Instagram one day. It’s a semi-annual journaling challenge for people who love to make lists. Through this process the facilitators, Kam and Amy, encourage and challenge followers that you CAN journal something everyday. Wait. Don’t leave! I know there are people reading this who “don’t journal.” You’re probably the very same people who a have a stack of pretty journals on the shelf, empty and unused. I am one of those people. I like to make grocery and to-do lists, but I have never been disciplined enough to write down my thoughts on a consistent basis. I think this process offers a twist in the “dear diary” theory of journaling.
This challenge starts September 1 and everyday, for 30 days, you receive an email prompt with a question to answer. There is a small fee of $10 to participate, but it comes with free printables, tutorials, discounts and access to their on-line community. You take a super secret oath not to spoil the daily question before others around the world have the chance to check their emails.
As I was cleaning and organizing my home office, I came across the perfect, empty journal already on my shelf ready to go for day one — September 1. Visit 30 Days of Lists to check out their site. Maybe you can join me? Plus, you can be my accountability partner that I follow through on the challenge.
If you are local to Fort Worth, check out Cannon Chinese Kitchen. Once a month they host “Bar Bites.” Fun, small plates of yummy food paired with the perfect sip. I usually order the Bob Barker — housemade lemonade infused with cucumber vodka and mint. It is so fresh and the perfect cocktail before dinner.
Set in a lovely 1930’s home at 304 West Cannon Street near Rahr and Sons Brewing Company, they serve traditional Chinese cuisine with a twist. When you walk in you are greeted by this…
Chiang Mai Dragon from FSchumacher. Mr. Bee has no idea what a treasure this wallpaper is. I can only afford a few throw pillows of this coveted pattern, so to see it elegantly displayed is a treat. Okay, back to the food. With each pairing the chef explains the ingredients and how it was prepared. The vendor of each sip also walks us through the nuances of the flavors we will experience.
The first pairing was Peking quail on handmade steam buns accompanied by Collective Brewing Project’s Suspicious Delicious. Indeed it was. I am not much of a beer drinker, but this went down smooth. Notice how they serve each course on a sweet, china plate like Grandmother would serve on Sunday after church? I deconstructed the quail and put pieces on top of each bun with a sprinkling of micro greens.
The second pairing was bruleed spiced winter melon with H. Mynors Zinfandel. This wine was smooth like chocolate.
The third, and final pairing, was braised beef cheek with bone marrow and barley. This time they presented Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt in two ways — neat and in a cocktail. I passed my neat to Mr. Bee and sipped the cocktail which was delish.
I highly recommend Cannon for a fun date night or gathering with friends. The pairings are $25 per person, an affordable way to try new food and experience the flavors of chef prepared Chinese food.
Next month, they are trying something different with a Marco Polo Wine Dinner — “pairing high-quality Italian wines with the fresh and thoughtful food Cannon is known for.” I hope to see you there!
Note: This is just my opinion on a great place for an evening out…I was not compensated for this post.
I just returned from my very first Haven Conference and it was amazing. I am exhausted, like that feeling you had when you were little and came home from summer camp. It’s a high-energy event full of networking, sharing, smiling, meeting new people and packed with lots of good information to help bloggers learn more about how to best represent themselves to their readers.
There were tons of vendors who gave away so much stuff it was unreal. It started with a giant swag bag when we checked into the conference…
Packed full of DIY supplies like a Dremel rotary tool, paint brushes, tape, glue, a fun hot pink bag full of tools, craft supplies, thermos mugs, notepads, pencils, tape measures. This was just the beginning. The Home Depot, Ryobi, DAP, Frog Tape, Cricut, Schlage, and on and on were so generous with their giveaways. I accumulated more than my suitcase could hold and found a 32 inch TV box in the trash and filled it with all my loot and checked it at the airport. It was opened by TSA at some point because when it came around on the luggage carousel I saw the TSA tape used to re-seal the box. I am sure they said, “this is like the 40th box full of all this stuff, where is it coming from!” A Hodge Podge tshirt was a low threat risk, I’m sure.
I met so many bloggers I have followed and admired for years. It was like a celebrity sighting everywhere. People like Jennifer from Dimples and Tangles, Diane at In My Own Style, Rhoda at Southern Hospitality, and Amy Howard from Amy Howard at Home. I had the opportunity take her painting class and hear her inspiring message of believing in yourself and restoring cast-away furniture. It is amazing to hear that 28 million pieces of furniture are thrown into the trash every year! She has a passion for teaching people how to restore and put new life into something discarded, to inspire people that they, too, can learn a skill and be proud of what they created. I have used Amy Howard at Home paint on several of my own pieces you can read about here.
The speakers and workshops were informative and topical. These were led by successful bloggers willing to share their tips and tricks of the trade with new bloggers like me. Social media has totally transformed the blogging world and changes all the time so this information was very helpful. The closing speakers were Sherry and John from Young House Love. They shared an inspiring message to remain true to yourself, be more than your blog, to be creative and take chances, define your purpose and remember why you started blogging.
We also had the chance to break into smaller groups facilitated by an experienced blogger. I had the blessing of being partnered with Liz Marie at Liz Marie blog. She was kind, genuine and loved hearing our stories on how we started our blogs. Her husband, Jose, is her partner in her blog and it was fun to get to meet him. It made me realize that next year I might like to take Mr. Bee so he can learn more about the blogging industry.
The food and vendor displays were so clever. A display by Schage for their locks with donuts!
This was the display at the Haven Conference check-in. Made entirely of wood by That’s My Letter. Hooks to place your business card for the state you represent.
In addition to informational workshops, there were chances to do crafting. I am so glad I did this. At the first part of the conference I told myself I am here to learn about social media and email campaigns I can always do crafts another time. But by Saturday, I was so tired my brain needed some down time. It was so fun to sit with people and paint, and build a succulent vase while listening to music and sipping iced tea. I literally visited the Deco Art table every day to sit and paint. The reps from the table were so nice.
And the displays…Home Decorators Collection had their furniture everywhere and it was beautiful. I fell in love with this chair! If I had a way to shove it in that box I checked on the plane, I would have.
Look at this clever display from 3M. I am thinking of all kinds of ways you could do this for parties — a wedding shower for notes to the bride and groom. Or new parents and you send the notes a few months later as encouragement. Or how about a college send-off party? Paint the mail boxes in school colors — wouldn’t that be fun!
And then there were all the fun touches with the food and beverage service. Look at these cute little plastic drink cartons with labels and straws..
And the cute menu board for our salad bar at lunch sponsored by 3M
And the last thing I made sure to do was take a few hostess gifts for the people I met along the way as a memento from Texas. Some were bloggers I made a point to introduce myself to, others were just sweet people I met sitting next to in a class. I wrapped up pralines in a polka dot envelope with my business card and kept a few tucked into my bag everyday to hand out. My mother taught me you never go unprepared to say thank you.
It was the best conference I have been to in a long while. I really appreciated all the efforts the organizers went to in planning it. I can’t wait for Haven 2017.
Hold the phone for a few days until I return from a fun conference in Atlanta.
The Haven Conference is for all who are passionate about blogging, DIY projects and creating beauty in the home. I am looking forward to meeting the bloggers who inspire me, making new friends and learning more about the blogging industry. I promise to take lots of photos and share my experience. Until then, sit tight (and you can always check me on Instagram).
Monkeys seem to be popular this summer, along with the ever-friendly pineapple. This cutie sweater is from Talbot’s and on sale right now. It’s super soft and adds a touch of whimsy to your white cropped jeans and sandals.
Next monkey sighting — Williams-Sonoma. I spied this tin of cookies the last time I was in the store for a cooking class (you can read about here).
They are Fortnum and Mason Biscuits with Pistachio and Clotted Cream. Kinda pricey at $34.95 a tin, but I might be willing to pay it for the retro turquoise and gold monkey tin.
Last, what would a monkey story be without sharing a fab recipe for Mrs. Creel’s Monkey Bread!
This is from my church friend, Mrs. Creel. She shared the recipe with me a few years ago just in time for the holidays and I made them for Christmas morning breakfast. You can get the recipe here or follow along below…