AZ Local: AJ’s Thanksgiving Dinner PreOrder: How It Works

A few year ago, I tried the AJ’s Fine Food’s holiday dinner pre-order meal plan and it worked well, tasted great and happily fed all.  hday dinnerAnd no one guessed that I had a little help from AJ’s Fine Foods.  If you are considering cooking Turkey Day dinner, but need a little help, check out this idea that I blogged about a few years back.

AJ’s Fine Foods offers Thanksgiving catering that you actually prep and serve yourself to your guests. Curious about the price, the plates and the pies? Read on to see my review….

For $159.99 you get a complete Turkey Day meal that feeds 6 to 8 people.

Here is what the dinner includes:

*16 to 18 lb roasted turkey (precooked weight)

*3 lbs. herbed dressing

*4 lbs. mashed potatoes

*3 lbs. candied yams with marshmallows

*2 lbs. green beans almandine

*2 quarts gravy

*1 pint cranberry relish

*1 dozen dinner rolls

*cute holiday butter shaped like a turkey

*your choice between an apple or pumpkin pie

You can also order a boneless turkey breast dinner that includes all the sides listed above.

Orders must be placed by November 17th, and for an additional cost, you can add appetizer plates and desserts, too.  Other meat options (at an additional cost) include Prime Rib, Filet Mignon Roast, Pork Crown Roast, Organic Turkeys and more.  Other pies offered (at an additional cost) include blackberry, peach, rhubarb and many other flavors.

Why I liked this!

*With the extensive grocery list you would need to purchase if you made everything from scratch, the price for this catered meal is reasonable.  And if time versus money is your issue, the time savings here absolutely rocks!

*Order can be picked up the day before or Thanksgiving morning.  Do give yourself time to reheat all of the dishes.

*Some prep is still required, as it doesn’t come hot and ready to go.  I actually liked this because it still felt like I was making a grand Thanksgiving dinner since I had to start early in the day heating the turkey in the oven and preparing the different side dishes one by one.  Since AJ’s did most of the work for me, it was much easier than making a complete homemade meal and it tasted just as good.

*The taste was amazing.  Last year I had both family and neighborhood friends join us and no one could believe that it was catered from AJ’s.  Everyone commented that it tasted like I had cooked for days.  Thank you AJ’s!

*There was plenty left over for snacking on later.  And that is a Turkey Day tradition, I think!

If you are interested in learning more about AJ’s Thanksgiving catering, click here or call the different Valley locations or simply go in and order, like I did.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours!




Quick & Easy Foods To Bring To A Holiday Dinner

Manic:  You have been invited to a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner but you don’t have a lot of time to prepare something elaborate.  Or perhaps you have a long road trip planned to get to your family’s Christmas celebration.  In both cases, you want to bring something festive and fun, but you don’t have a lot of time to make something elaborate.

Managed:  Found some easy ideas, some prepared and some store bought to take to that holiday gathering that folks will love and appreciate…and you don’t have to work hard.  Check out these ideas…

Salad in Seconds

*Easy 5 Second Salad – I call this the easy 5 Second Salad because you can grab the ingredients at the store and toss right before you bring the salad to the dinner.  Simply buy your favorite salad greens mix and buy a 1/2 pound (or 1 pound for large salad) of the deli Greek salad mix that includes the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, etc. and add to the salad greens.  Then toss and top with a little olive oil and white balsamic vinaigrette to enhance the Greek salad dressing.  salad fastAdd a dash of salt and pepper and you’ve got a tossed salad that you made in seconds.

Fun & Festive Appetizer

*Cheese & Meat Turkey Tray – Found this super simple and visual idea on Pinterest.  Simply use cheese, crackers and meat to create a turkey.  turkey meat cheese platterStart with the outside layer of feathers made with crackers.  I recommend the Flipsides pretzel crackers.  Make two layers of these.  Then make the next inside layer next to the crackers using squares of yellow cheese of your desired cheese flavor.  Next the inside layer is made with salami, then a layer of Colby jack cheese squares and another layer of the salami.  Make the center inside piece look like the turkey using a piece of Colby jack cheese cut into the shape of the front of a turkey body.  Put a round piece of yellow cheese on top to make the head with two peppercorns for the eyes.  Use an empty pistachio nut shell to make the beak.  Use a folded piece of salami for the part of the beak that hangs down.  Use two toothpicks for the legs.

Grazing Goods

*Trader Joe’s A Joyful Mix Trek Mix ($4.99) — This is perfect to present as a hostess gift with a bottle of wine or to put out as a grazing snack.  mixThis holiday packaged nut mix contains Greek & Yogurt flavored chips and colorful chocolate buttons mixed in with almonds, pistachios and dried cranberries.

Sweet Tooth Offerings

*Give Thanks Cookies – Make a platter of turkey and pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and place two big cookies in the center of the platter.  Decorate the first cookie to say, “Give Thanks” and the second cookie say “Have Cookies”.  Place both cookies next to each other in the center.  turkey day cookiesFun and visual.  If you don’t have time to make sugar cookies buy a batch at AJ’s Fine Foods.  That is what I did and the lady at the dessert case wrote on the cookies for me right then and there.  The giant iced sugar cookies at AJs that are shaped like pumpkins, turkeys and leaves cost $2.79 each at the dessert case.

*Pilgrim Hats – Another simple treat to make are pilgrim hat cookies.  pilgram hatsSimply take a fudge striped cookie (Keebler makes these) and turn it face down.  Then dip a miniature chocolate peanut butter cup into white (or yellow) frosting and place it over the center of the cookie so that it covers the hole.  This makes the hatband and crown.  Last place an orange Tic Tac on the crown to make the buckle.  Super easy and tasty Turkey Day treat.

*Miniature Dessert Tray – Trader Joe’s frozen section has some terrific miniature dessert options that include Trader Joe’s Mini Pie Medley ($4.49 for 6 little pies) with mini strawberry, blueberry and peach pies and Trader Joe’s A Dozen Sweet Bites ($6.99 for 12 mini cakes) with chocolate & coffee opera cakes, raspberry Macaroon Aux Framboises cakes and caramel and chocolate mini cakes.  mini dessertsPlace these minis on a platter for a crowd pleasing dessert or a post dinner snack later in the evening with coffee.

*After Dinner Coffee/Hot Cocoa Idea with Trader Joe’s Iced Pumpkin Scone Cookies ($3.49 for 8 oz box) — Put these delightful little scone cookies out with after dinner coffee for a nice post meal treat. And for the kids put out CC Drink Original Hot Chocolate with Premium Belgian Dark Chocolate Sticks ($3.99 at Trader Joe’s) out to dip into warm milk to create instant and satisfying hot chocolate.  basket cocoaAdd a bowl of mini marshmallows to the dessert display.

Seasonal Spirit Beverages For The Grownups

*Trader Joe’s Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles ($8.99) paired with Borrellie Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine ($14.99 at Trader Joe’s) — This is a fun idea to give as a hostess gift or to put out with dessert and wine.  nuts wineThe Borrellie Wine label has a picture of a reindeer on it, making it festive and the chocolate truffles are filled with Cabernet Sauvignon inside.  Perfect!

*Oversized Champagne and Wine Bottles – Trader Joe’s has oversized bottles in champagne ($12.99 for a 1.5 L bottle of Incanto Prosecco) and red wine and white wine.  I purchased the big pretty blue bottle of Incanto Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio blend for $12.99 for a 1.5 L bottle.

*Josephs Brau Winter Brew Beer ($5.99 for a 6 pack at Trader Joe’s) — I thought this beer looks festive making it the perfect addition to the holiday spirits offerings.

For Christmas:

*Ugly Sweater Sugar Cookies – I found this fun cookie kit at Sprouts Farmers Market and I love this tasty and funny idea.  hats & cookiesThe Ugly Sweater Cookie Kit includes pre-made vanilla sweater cookies, candies for decorating, premade icing tubes and sprinkles.  I love this unique sugar cookie idea!

*Red & Green Yogurt covered pretzels – These are so yummy and look so festive.  Plus I love the sweet and salty combination.  Got these in the bulk section at Sprouts Farmers Market. Yum!

*Christmas Crunch & Munch Station – Make a Christmas Crunch & Munch station, that is sure to be a hit, by combining the Sprouts bulk yogurt covered pretzels that I mentioned earlier in one bowl and fill the bowl next to it with Trader Joe’s Candied Pecans ($3.99 for a 5 oz bag) and then display Trader Joe’s Sesame Honey Almonds ($6.99 for a 16 oz bag) since those look snow covered and lastly fill in with a bowl of Trader Joe’s Iced Gingerbread Mini Cookies ($2.99 for a 16 oz box).  This is perfect for those who want to graze in between meals and the sweet and salty combo is a definite crowd pleaser!

What quick and easy and fun and festive holiday food ideas do you have to bring to the celebration?  Share in the comments section and Happy Holidays!







Dad’s Day Gift Ideas!

Father’s Day is this Sunday so if you need some gift ideas, check out my recent morning show segment on KTVK’s “Your Life A to Z” show.  This aired last week so there are some excellent last minute ideas, but also a few that it may be too late to order, but most of these will work now and are affordable and unique, so take a look!

Terrific Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas & Grad Gifts, Too

Not only is this week teacher appreciation week, but the school year is coming to a quick close, so here are some sweet ideas for gifts for that special teacher that you and your child want to appreciate.  There are also a couple of grad gift ideas as well.  And to get the awesome mug for a teacher that says, “I Teach What’s Your Superpower” click this link to order.  I love that!

Great Grad Gift Ideas

The graduation season has arrived so I found some cool and unique gifts for the graduate on your list and I’ve got stuff for all ages, so take a look….

Easy Meal Ideas for Dinner

Manic:  This time of year is crazy busy with all of the activities that come with the end of the school year, so finding time to cook a good homemade meal is not easy!

Managed:  Implementing several ideas that have worked for me in the past when I needed to feed my busy family fast, but I wanted good food, too.  My ideas include cranking up the crock pot, always keeping a handy cookbook in my car and visiting AJ’s Fine Foods buffet on their custom cooking nights.  For more on all of these time-saving options, read below.

First, let’s talk about this very cool cookbook that I first told you about two weeks ago….

1.  Buy the Trader Joe’s cookbook and keep it in your car, so you can stop by Trader Joe’s on your way home when you need a fast dinner idea.  The cook book is called Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook:  Dinner’s Done! by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati.  Every recipe is pictured and all ingredients are sold at Trader Joe’s stores.

The line also includes several other versions of Trader Joe’s cookbooks, including lower calorie meals, a smaller book called The Companion and others.  I chose this one because I’m always looking for dinner ideas for my family.  Copies of the book can also be purchased at the Cooking with Trader Joe’s website.  I tested one of the recipes two weeks ago and it turned out really good!

2.  Check out AJ’s Fine Foods dinner nights.  At the location in my neighborhood, they have Tacos on Tuesdays that are custom built to order, Asian Night on Wednesdays with your customized stir fry order made right in front of you and Pasta Thursdays (my favorite).  You choose the pasta, proteins, sauce and veggies and the chef cooks it fresh and ready for you to take home.  And here is a tip — one portion is big enough for two people, so buy one to take home and share.

3.  Fire up the crock pot in the morning.  I ran this recipe last year and I thought this was a good time to run it again for all of you busy parents out there who are looking for an easy and tasty recipe during your jam-packed week!  Here is my family’s favorite crock pot recipe…Pulled Pork Sliders….

What You Need:

McCormick Slow Cookers BBQ Pulled Pork packet (this is the secret ingredient!)


Brown Sugar

Apple Cider Vinegar

3 lbs. Pork Shoulder (recipe calls for boneless, but bone-in comes out more tender every time)

Slider buns

What You Do:

1.  Place pulled pork in your crock pot.

2.  Simply follow directions on the back of the McCormick packet which tells you the measured amounts of brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and ketchup to mix with the packet contents.  Mix well.
After all ingredients are mixed, this is what the sauce looks like.
3.  Pour sauce over pork, cover and cook in crock pot on low for 8 hours.  You can also set your slow cooker on high for four hours, but I think cooking the meat on low comes out much better.  8 hours later, shred pork and serve on slider buns.  I like to top mine with cole slaw and add a zesty dill pickle.   And I added my last second salad recipe ( for good health.  Yum!
Enjoy!  What is your favorite crock pot recipe?  Share in the comments section section.  Happy crock potting!

My Favorite Quick Dinner Idea

     Manic:  Want to cook dinner, but don’t have the time (or the desire) to make it from scratch.

Managed:  Grab my favorite prepared, but not cooked, chicken dish from AJ’s Fine Foods.  As soon as I get home, I pop it in my oven for a quick and delicious dinner.  My family loves this dinner that I call my delicious dinner cheat eat.  I call it a cheat eat because it looks and tastes like I made it from scratch, but I did not!  Read on to see what it is!

Chicken is paired with potatoes and salad for a full and fab meal fast 🙂

AJ’s Parmesan chicken is decadent and good.  I simply purchase a few chicken breasts from the meat department on my way home.  Once in my kitchen, all I have to do is cook the chicken for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and I have a dinner that looks and tastes homemade…and that is not fast food! 

The downside?  The price.

One Parmesan chicken breast at AJ’s costs about $5, but you can save money by buying half of what you need.  The chicken breasts are quite large, so I’ve found that one piece feeds two of us in my family.  So if I’m feeding my family of four, I’ll buy the two largest ones and that is plenty.  They also reheat nicely the next day.

So if you are looking for a delicious chicken dinner to make for your family, but you are short on time or don’t feel like cooking from scratch, the AJ’s Parm chicken is my go-to delicious dinner cheat eat.  What’s yours?  Share here in the comments section.