Found! Yummy Spicy Quick & Easy Lentil Side Dish

Manic:  Finding a zesty side dish that isn’t the same ol’ thing like potatoes or broccoli again that my family will eat…and like!  This could also easily be a main dish as well.

Managed:  Stopped at the tasting sample section at my local Trader Joe’s and found a surprising combination that is simple to make and tasty, too.  Plus my picky family liked it!  Lentils anyone?  This combination of lentils with Trader Joe’s Chimichurri Rice with Vegetables is terrific! lentil side dish

Simply follow the instructions on the package of the Chimichurri Rice which is to saute it with a little olive oil and water until cooked.

Note to self: next time take the picture before ripping it open!

Note to self: next time take the picture before ripping it open!

While the Chimichurri rice is cooking, make the Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils which are simply added to boiling water and cooked for 5 minutes.  lentilThen strain the lentils and add to the rice mix.  Super easy and super delish!  It can also be topped with a little cilantro, which I think would be tasty.  I didn’t have any on hand so I am going to try that next time.

Lentils contain fiber and iron and the Chimichurri rice has veggies that include peas, onion, shallots and garlic.  Plus yummy ginger and cilantro are also included along with the basmati rice…I don’t eat a lot of rice, so this part of the dish was a treat, but this side dish was mostly healthy in my opinion.

I love that the store has a tasting section…and it worked because I bought these two frozen foods!  Then I came home and cooked it for my 18-year-old son and for myself.  We both gave it a thumbs up!


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!







Pet Products & More That Are Green For Earth Day & Everyday

As I continue to recognize Earth Day this week, here are some ideas that reduce our pets’ carbon pawprints with a few products that are green and good.  Plus I found a company that will recycle those super popular Keurig K cups that so many of use for our morning coffee and many other green ideas that will help us take care of our earth, so take a look….

Quick Pasta Recipe That Tastes Like You Worked Hours On It!

Manic:  Looking at this year’s very tight budget with the lower paycheck due to the government’s payroll tax increase and realizing that our first-born will need a car next year and starts college in just three years!  Time to tighten the purse strings!

Managed:  Contributing to our new budget demands by cooking a lot more and eating out a lot less, so I’m thrilled to share one of my favorite pasta recipes with you that is scrumptious and is super easy, thanks to Trader Joe’s.  Take a look at this delicious recipe for Trader Joe’s Egg Pappardelle Pasta with Quick Bolognese Meat Sauce, compliments of the Trader Joe’s Egg Pappardelle recipe that is found on the back of the pasta package…

What You Need:

8 oz. Trader Joe’s Egg Pappardelle Pasta

2 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s Olive Oil

1/2 lb. Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Angus Ground Beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 Tablespoons garlic, minced

1/2 cup red wine… I used Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir and it was yummy to also sip on while I cooked! 

2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Marinana Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup Trader Giotto’s Imported Grated Parmesan Cheese

What You Do:

1.  Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat.

2.  Add beef and saute until lightly browned and crumbly. 

3.  Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are transparent. 

 4.  Drain fat and return mixture to pan.  Add wine and Marinara sauce.  Stir and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5.  Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

6.  Drain pasta well and add to sauce.  Heat pasta and sauce together on low heat, about 1 to 2  minutes.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and enjoy!  My family loves this recipe every single time.  This serves 2 to 4 people and it is always plenty for my family of 4.

I served this dish with Trader Joe’s Rosemary Demi Batard bread and the loaf was the perfect compliment to the pasta and to the Vino! 


I placed the finished dish out on the table family style for us all to serve from (like Buca di Beppo does it) and we enjoyed a hearty and scrumptious meal that was super easy for me to make! Try it!

No compensation or free products were provided by Trader Joe’s.  I discovered this package recipe on my own while shopping in my local Trader Joe’s store and the opinions are 100% my own. 

My Yummy Quick Salad with Help from Trader Joe’s

Manic:  Trying to get a ton done before the kids start summer vacation, so I’m working hard at home and only have time for a quick homemade lunch.

Managed:  Trying the taste test area that Trader Joe’s always offers last week and leaving with several ingredients that helped me turn an ordinary salad into one comparable to a nice restaurant’s salad dish!  This was so easy and so yummy, that you’ve got to try it…

My Simple Salad Made Great!

What You Need:

*Lettuce – I used green leaf that I get fresh from Sunizona Family Farms on Fridays through their FarmBox

*Cucumber cut into slices

*Grape Tomatoes cut in half

*Onion sliced in thin strips

*Trader Joe’s Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

*Trader Joe’s Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

*Trader Joe’s Ciliegine Whole Milk Fresh Mozzarella in Lightly Salted Water

*Dash of sea salt

*Dash of pepper

What You Do:

1.  Assemble salad using the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and onion.

2.  Add mozzarella cheese balls….as many as you would like.

3.  Drizzle the balasmic vinegar across the top of salad and then drizzle the olive oil across the salad.

4.  Sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper on top and toss.

This salad is soo good and here is why….

The combination of the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar mixed in with the yummy mozzarella cheese balls is the perfect mixture of toppings to satisfy your taste buds with a healthy salad to boot!

Trader Joe's had samples of this balsamic vinegar the day I shopped there. I highly recommend trying the daily samples they offer. I have assembled many good meals from the sample ideas that they share!

The Trader Joe's Olive Oil comes with the restaurant style top, too....I don't know why, but I think it tastes better when it drizzles out of the bottle so smoothly. Yum!

And the mozzarella cheese balls that come fresh in the lightly salted water from Trader Joe's make this salad taste like one from a good restaurant! Love it!

What is your favorite salad that you throw together quickly?  Share here in the comments section and eat well!