kid-friendly · Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

For the latest installment in my not-frequent-enough series on Meals You Can Make Exclusively Using Trader Joe’s Products, I offer these delicious, grill-ready steak tips and sides. Made using things you can find 100% at Trader Joe’s, this meal comfortably fed our family of three with leftovers, and came together in half an hour on a weeknight after work and camp. It’s also pretty healthy, with just 240 calories per serving of beef, or a total of 10 Weight Watchers points if you eat a really big helping. We cooked this indoors because it was raining out, but these tips are made for the grill. You could also broil them to mimic that fresh-off-the-barbecue sear!

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Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

All from Trader Joe’s:

  • 1 package refrigerated teriyaki steak tips (in the meat case)
  • 1 package frozen grilled asparagus spears
  • 1 packaged refrigerated scalloped potatoes or boxed potatoes au gratin*

*Or, substitute a similar potato side. Looking for different options, or rather make something from scratch? Check out my mashed potatoes, homemade scalloped potatoesroasted potatoes, or classic potato salad.


DIRECTIONS

Prepare potatoes following package directions (or use from-scratch recipes above) while heating up a grill pan/large cast iron skillet/Dutch oven to cook the steak tips. (Or grill ’em outside!) I used my large Le Creuset dish and it worked perfectly by giving all the tips room to brown without crowding on the bottom of the pan.

You can also stick these under the broiler for a few minutes and that would work great, too. You’ll be cooking them for about 7 minutes or to desired level of done-ness.

While the tips are cooking, heat the frozen asparagus either in the oven in a glass dish, or in the microwave in a safe dish, until cooked through, following package directions.

Serve the tips with some pan juices alongside the grilled asparagus and potatoes. Garnish with any additional steak sauce you like; Trader Joe’s island soyaki sauce might be nice here, as would any other sweet condiment that won’t fight the teriyaki marinade. Enjoy!

There’s no need to season these further, as they come already marinated in a sauce that you can just throw right into a hot pot with a little olive oil. This would also go really well with any type of rice side, as well as any other type of vegetable if you don’t like asparagus. I love these frozen asparagus because you can really taste the grilled parts, and they aren’t very mushy, which kind of tricks your taste buds into thinking that you cooked them fresh. Other awesome frozen sides at Trader Joe’s include their Organic Superfood Pilaf (tri-color quinoa with sweet potatoes, kale and carrots),  Fire Roasted Bell Peppers & Onions, and Misto Alla Griglia (marinated grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers). I also keep their boxed frozen rice on hand at all times, because you can just steam-heat a two-serving pouch in the microwave to go with dinner at the last minute, and they have a wide variety ranging from organic jasmine rice to organic brown rice to barley mix.

Looking for other Trader Joe’s meals? Check out:

Roasted Red Pepper & Tortellini Soup (vegetarian!)

Chimichurri Rice with Chicken Sausage

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle with Hummus Pesto

Soy Chorizo Chili (vegetarian!)

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

And, like most people who shop at Trader Joe’s, one of our top meals is their frozen orange chicken sauteed in a pan with TJ’s frozen vegetable fried rice. It’s our #1 takeout substitute for busy weeknight dinners and now even Georgia asks when we can have “OC” again! I make a big batch on a busy evening and she loves to share a plate with Daddy while watching a movie. What other Trader Joe’s foods do YOU love?

Have a great weekend everyone!

SPANX

Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Blueberry Super Smoothie

Inspired by the Blueberry Bliss Smoothie at Mother Juice in the Boston Public Market, I set out this week to create a smoothie recipe that had more complex flavors than the results I’ve gotten with just frozen berries and coconut milk alone. While there’s nothing wrong with tossing frozen fruit and milk into the blender, I always suspected there had to be a way of packing even more nutritional clout into something built on antioxidant-rich blueberries. I also wanted to give this smoothie some heft, to make it a real meal replacement possibility and filling enough to satisfy that afternoon sugar craving. I really love how this turned out, and I think you’ll be surprised at the secret ingredient that gives it that extra edge!

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Blueberry Super Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup juice (I chose cranberry)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 ripe or frozen banana
  • 1 container vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular; about 4 oz.)
  • a small palm full of pistachios
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • a dash of pumpkin pie spice*

DIRECTIONS

In a high speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, add all the ingredients, placing juice on the bottom and spices/seeds on top. Blend until smooth and enjoy cold!

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*Did that last ingredient surprise you?? That’s one of the things that made the Mother Juice smoothie so good! You couldn’t put your finger on it, but it tasted SO GOOD. If you want to really amp up the spice factor, add in some cinnamon! And if you want even more protein, make the yogurt Greek (I like Trader Joe’s vanilla bean) and add a tablespoon of almond butter, too.

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You can also swap out the nuts if you don’t like pistachios — I think almonds would be good. And if you don’t use frozen berries or banana, then throw in a couple ice cubes. I make this at night and put it into to-go containers so I can grab them the next morning. With chia seeds, letting them sit in the smoothie overnight lets them plump up and give your drink a wonderful, thick texture! They also add lots of fiber, too.

Read more about chia seeds and find my recipe for chia pudding right here.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

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Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Banana Date Smoothie

Does anyone else love dates? Like a lot? I sure do! They’re considered a super food for a reason, and are easy to work into your repertoire.

So delicious and full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they are a great source of energy and have been a satisfying component to many Mediterranean diets for centuries. Eaten in moderation, which is always a good idea with dried fruits, dates can boost digestion and keep you fuller longer, and lend a special flavor to any appetizer spread, smoothie, or even dessert. In fact, I did just that on Christmas Day with Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it turned out so well that I made a batch to share with my co-workers a week later. I’ll be sharing it with you in just a few days! Sticky Toffee Pudding uses blended dates as the basis for a delicious, dense little cake topped with butterscotch sauce, and it would be simply perfect for Easter Sunday, too.

You know what? If you make that Sticky Toffee Pudding, you’ll have just enough dates left over to toss in this smoothie. How perfect! If you are interested in learning how to make a healthy smoothie using dates, bananas, nut milk and oats, read on.

BANANA DATE SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen bananas (or add a couple ice cubes if using fresh bananas)
  • a handful of dates, about 10 (I buy them by the box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

Directions

In a blender, add the almond milk then the dates. Blend at medium speed until the dates are mostly broken down.

Add the bananas and blend again. Then, add the oats and let them sit for a minute to soak and soften. You can probably skip this step if you have a high-end blender such as a Vitamix or BlendTec.

Puree the entire mixture on medium-high until smooth. Makes two servings.

Enjoy!

So we had a huge snow storm last week (and it’s freezing this week…spring, WTF are you hiding from??) which meant I was trapped at home for two days with no school and barely-plowed roads. I love getting in extra time with my G, but we definitely ran out of things to do after a little while. Often when that happens, we start cooking or baking together. She loves making smoothies, and this is one I’ve been wanting to try for a long time because it is so filling and fiber-rich that it really qualifies as a meal replacement. It’s delicious and good for you, and boy was I glad I’d made it a few days later when I had some early mornings and evening meetings that otherwise would have forced me toward the drive-thru for sustenance. The only thing I’d change next time is to make sure I have two smaller frozen bananas, because the ones we got at Costco last time around were so gigantic that the flavor *almost* took over the dates in my smoothie. If you find that you can only get larger bananas too, then I’d just use one or one-and-a-half.

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I thought you’d all appreciate a glamorous behind-the-scenes shot of my life testing recipes and staging food photos while home with a mischievous toddler and elderly cat. Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

The Snow Day Project: Freezing a Batch of Pumpkin Pancakes!


Whenever we get our first big snow day, Georgia and I always use it as an opportunity to make a whole mess of pancakes for the winter. We cook ’em, label ’em, and freeze ’em, so the next time we wake up snowed in all we have to do is put on the coffee and toss a couple of these in the toaster. A hot breakfast is easy as that, perfect for lazy days in pajamas like today!


Grabbing a couple straight from the freezer and letting them thaw during the day is a good lunchbox strategy, too. G has loved pancakes since, well, it was among the only things she let me eat for 20 weeks of morning sickness, and now that she’s in preschool they are portable and filling for winter school days.


We love to use pancake mix from Trader Joe’s — specifically the Pumpkin flavor. To make 6-8 pancakes, you need 1 Cup of Pancake Mix, 2 TBSP (or 1/4 stick) of melted butter, 3/4 Cup of Milk, and 1 Egg, lightly beaten. I’ll often do roughly double this. To make the whole box, follow those specific directions on the back of the packaging. Preheat a non-stick pan over medium (or a griddle to 350F). Place the dry mix into a large bowl, then in a separate bowl combine the egg, milk and melted butter and stir into the dry ingredient bowl until lumps disappear. You can always add more milk if the mix gets too thick while you’re cooking. Add a pat of butter to the pan. I use a soup ladle to drop about a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan once the butter is sizzling; flip the pancake once the edges start to look cooked and you see bubbles on top. You’ll only need to brown it lightly on the other side. Another good tip is to gradually turn the heat down a bit between each pancake so the butter doesn’t burn when it hits the pan each time. Allow the pancakes to cool on a plate, then begin assembling them for the freezer (or eat some right away, of course!)





To freeze, wrap each pancake with a layer of parchment paper in between, packaging about four into a quart-sized zip-top freezer bag. Make sure you label them with the contents and the date so you can find them easily in the fridge! I do in batches of three or four so I don’t have to thaw more than I need at one time. These can go straight into the toaster just like store-bought frozen pancakes or waffles.




That’s it! I sure am glad I did this when we get walloped by back to back storms like now. I’m supposed to fly out to D.C. in the morning…we’ll see if I get delayed or not. Poor Mark is driving to New York at 6 a.m., so please wish us both safe travels. Today we rested up, shoveled out, and made a snow man! If you’ve ever wondered what I look like with no makeup and a sinus infection, this is it.


I so value these days with my girl and think about them when I’m traveling for work or just stuck late at my desk or a meeting. You won’t hear me say anything bad about snow when it means I get quality play time like this! Stay safe and warm, everyone.

kid-friendly · Recipes

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

Years ago, I saw this on one of those online Trader Joe’s recipe forums where folks share the meals they make using only TJs ingredients. It took me until now to try it, with a few tweaks to suit our tastes, and it’s a definite keeper for weeknight cooking. It involves minimal cleanup and barely any prep, especially if you buy those grocery packages of chopped fresh butternut squash instead of rasslin’ with a whole one yourself. I chose to use poultry seasoning here because it’s quick to grab in the produce section pre-packaged and we like the taste of it; you could swap it for something you like better. It WILL make your house smell like Thanksgiving morning!

I’ll also point out that you can swap another kind of squash, too. This recipe isn’t fussy. We really like caramelized red onions, but again, any type will do.

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, cubed (or buy pre-cut; it’s much easier)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 package chicken sausage, halved (I used TJ’s apple maple flavor)
  • 1 packet poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, rosemary)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves (peeled and left whole)
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep the squash, sausage, garlic and onion.

On a sheet pan lined with foil, lay out the squash, onions and sausage links and drizzle with olive oil, shaking to coat. Nestle the garlic cloves and whole branches of herbs around the edges for flavoring. Season the entire tray with salt and pepper to taste, then place in the oven.

Cook between 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until everything looks browned and the squash are cooked through. Times may vary depending on your oven.

Discard the sage, rosemary and thyme — it’s ok if a few pieces stay on the food — and keep the garlic and the onion if you like them. They should be softened and mellowed out in taste, and thus OK to eat. Taste for seasoning and add more if you feel it’s needed. Serve warm!

I love this because it only uses one tray, so cleanup is fast.

I actually had a whole butternut squash hanging around, so I used half of it here and then roasted the other half, cubed, in a smaller baking sheet on the rack below this in the oven and ate it later in the week with a rotisserie chicken I bought on the way home from work. Done that way, you get two easy after-work dinners out of it!

Georgia loved eating the tender roasted squash and the sweet sausage, too. Trader Joe’s has so many varieties of chicken sausage and you could use any of them here. You could also use spicier sausage instead of sweet, but it will make the dish that much greasier and a tad less healthy. The whole point, though, is that it’s customizable, cheap, and doubles well if you have a larger family. If you try it, let me know what you think!

 

Recipes

Creamy Boursin Shells & Peas

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. We sure did (even though it was in the 90s and our old house barely has any AC!) Georgia and I kept cool with squirt guns, blowing bubbles in the shade, and taking our first boat ride on my dad’s paddle boat in New Hampshire.

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Thanks to Cup of Jo for this great, no-effort pasta recipe that’s perfect for hot/lazy nights when you just don’t have the wherewithal to cook something complicated. All you need is three ingredients: a package of Boursin cheese (the kind you might grab for a party appetizer), a box of medium shells, and fresh or frozen peas. Add a little lemon zest to enhance the complexity of the flavor, and grind as much fresh pepper on top as you like to really make it sing. Comes together super fast, tastes light yet is very filling, and easily feeds babies and toddlers, too. Enjoy!
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I chose to use a bag of frozen organic peas from Trader Joes because that’s what I had on hand. But I would imagine that fresh peas would taste amazing! To thaw this out, I ran the bag under hot water for a few minutes, broke up the frozen chunks in the package with the bottom of a drinking glass, and then added to the dish pretty cold so they could finish cooking in the pan.

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Creamy Boursin Shells & Peas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. box of shells, medium or small
  • 1 bag of frozen peas (or fresh peas, if you can get them)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 package Garlic & Herb Boursin Cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: fresh basil and a bit of butter

DIRECTIONS

Put a pot of water on to boil. Add the shells and cook until al dente, as they’ll continue cooking in the pan with the sauce.

In a non-stick sauce pan, melt the boursin over medium-high until it turns liquidy. Zest one lemon into the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add the peas and cook for a couple minutes to blend flavors.

Drain the shells, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the cooking water to the sauce, stir until combined, then add the shells. Cook for a few more minutes and add seasonings as well as a bit of butter if the flavor or creaminess isn’t where you want it. Top with freshly-torn basil and serve warm.
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I added torn fresh basil on top for a bit of extra flourish and fresh flavor. You can include or omit as your tastes dictate. Buon Appetito! 

Baby & Toddler · Recipes

Hearty Weeknight Marinara

I call this “weeknight” marinara because it takes two minutes to throw together and you can simmer for as long or as little as you want to get a deeper flavor. I put the sauce in a pan with unthawed meatballs while Georgia is playing (or having her evening bath) with dad, then cook it on low while I put her to bed, and by the time I get downstairs from “nigh-nights” it’s ready. All that’s left to do is boil water for the pasta and dinner is served.

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With just four ingredients, you can keep this simple or customize with veggies, meat, vegan protein, whatever.

All you need is a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes, the pasta of your choice, frozen (or pre-home-made) meatballs, and a TBSP of this seasoning by Wildtree, a certified organic food company started by a mom seeking faster, healthy options for kids with food allergies.

Wildtree’s goal is to mimic the convenience of packaged foods, without the allergens, additives and processed ingredients that can be so problematic for many families, including anyone with diabetes, heart conditions, or who has to watch their sodium or sugar intake. All the products are free of preservatives, dyes, additives, GMOs and MSG, and come from a peanut-free facility. They are designed to help working parents get fast, healthy meals on the table even if medical issues make mainstream grocery shopping difficult.

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We already have a super simple “weekend” marinara that really needs a full hour to cook on low before it tastes just right, but sometimes you want a home-cooked meal on a school night. This hits the spot. Mark had three servings.

Hearty Weeknight Marinara

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package of turkey meatballs (I used Trader Joe’s), frozen, or 1 batch homemade
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (pictured is linguine)
  • 1 TBSP Wildtree Hearty Spaghetti Sauce Blend

DIRECTIONS

Place the sauce and meatballs, not thawed, in a medium saucepan over low and add the spice blend. Stir. Cover and cook over low, simmering, for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil; add pasta, cook until at dente, and drain. Serve pasta with the sauce meatballs spooned on top. If you’re making meatballs homemade, feel free to pan-saute them or microwave them to heat up and serve in or alongside the sauce. Dig in and slurp it up!

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In other news, just this week Georgia (finally) drank her milk from a sippy cup. We’ve tried many, many times, and so has daycare, only to have her scream and throw things and yell for her “baba” (baby bottle). All it took was Mark, on his first weeknight off in months, demonstrating how much HE enjoyed drinking milk from a sippy (poor guy) then asking me for “more” using baby sign language. It worked. The things we do!!

It also got rather hot and muggy here this week, which allowed us to discover that Georgia has inherited mom’s humidity-induced waves and frizz. Lucky lady!

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I love this kid.

Interested in Wildtree? Here’s what I recommend: the Kids Cheez, a natural version of the powdered stuff that makes Kraft Easy Mac so tempting; the Taco Seasoning Blend, which in my experience tastes just as good with vegetarian meat crumbles as with real ground beef; and their Coconut Oil, which is a tremendous value for the size, and is a healthy way to replace butter in baking, pan frying and roasting. I’ve also sampled several of their dips, spreads and marinades, and recommend those, too. I tried Wildtree the first time because a friend sells their products, but I’m a loyal customer now! Please note, this is not a sponsored post, I just really love their products and wanted to share a simple recipe that’s now in our weekly rotation thanks to Wildtree. Check ’em out!