Trader Joes: Pumpkin Soup

Trader Joes is fantastic in every way, so much so that I’m willing to overlook some of their errors [i.e. cookie butter fiasco ].  They are also very gracious about accepting returns if its something you’ve only partially consumed and really couldn’t handle.

This was only a small bump in the long road of previous goodness; Trader Joes Pumpkin Soup.

Its sold in a small carton (sorry I threw it out before taking a picture), two servings to the carton.  I picked it up a few weeks ago and it had been sitting in my office kitchen, waiting to be consumed as a backup meal.

That day finally came and I was excited for some warmth and spice…the carton definitely said something about ginger and maybe even cinnamon?

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Popped the whole two servings into a glass bowl, microwaved for 2 minutes and thirty seconds and then carefully carried it to my desk.

Its bland.  Really thin.  And I’m pretty sure someone snuck coffee grounds in here.

You know that feeling when you hit the bottom of a bad cup of coffee (or the kuerig hasn’t been cleaned in a while) and there’s that little swirl of coffee grounds?  I’m pretty sure that’s whats hiding in my soup.  TJ will probably claim its those illusive spices, but they’re tiny little crunchy nibs of junk.  I don’t like this one Mister Trader Joes.

Fortunately, their pumpkin season is almost over and we’re approaching Peppermint everything in the store.  I do appreciate how the store commits to a seasonal theme and really runs with it.

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Worthy Weekend

Some weekends are spent with a jam packed itinerary of events; some are lazy.  And some are filled with unplanned adventure, which is usually the best.

After running some quick errands Saturday morning, we were both a little hungry but not starving.  We wanted to grab something at the Honest Weight Food CoOp since we were in that neighborhood, but then just as we were driving there I remembered reading about Chester’s Smokehouse, which is just down the road.

Chester's Smokehouse

Chester’s Smokehouse

We were a bit awestruck at first.  Is that the right word? We sort of stared at everything, unable to formulate a plan at all. Mister and I eventually decided to split a smoked turkey sandwich, with bacon of course, on rye bread.  We also picked up two bags of their own jerkey ($5/bag), a hunk of in house smoked sharp cheddar ($2.50), and a quarter of a pound of bacon (equaled five slices) for Sunday breakfast.

We took the sandwich to Washington Park, and enjoyed a chilly (but dog free) moment of fall sunshine.

Chester's Smokehouse

Chester’s Smokehouse

They do not mess around with wimpy sandwiches.  When we unwrapped this mountainous sandwich, Mister and I were both surprised by how much turkey there was.  This is half of the sandwich, the smaller half I might add, and my tiny hand is stretched to the max trying to hold it all.

While they weren’t stingy with the turkey, it was on the bland side so there wasn’t anything magnificent about it.  It wasn’t bad, but between the turkey and the lettuce, I felt like all the flavor was being sucked out of the rest of the ingredients.  The bacon was crispy, burnt greatness; combined with a little horseradish dressing it was the better part of the sandwich for sure.  If nothing else, I’m intrigued to try out their other offerings.

After this “snack,” we were hungry for an early dinner, and decided to head up to Ala Shanghai.  Since we were there at around early-bird special hour, the place was nearly empty and we were in and out much faster than we anticipated.  Maybe because it was Halloween night and everyone was out doing more interesting things?

Pork Soup Dumplings & Scallion Pancake

Pork Soup Dumplings & Scallion Pancake

Scallion Beef, House Half Duck, Chicken Lo Mein

Scallion Beef, House Half Duck, Chicken Lo Mein

I wasn’t a huge fan of the duck (there was no part that was crispy, and no sauce or seasoning; maybe I just ordered wrong)  The lo mien was pretty standard takeout fare, but the beef was really great.  There were leftovers of course, but that’s usually the best part.

As if we weren’t gluttonous enough that day, we stopped at Bella Napoli on the way home.

Requisite Bella Napoli

Requisite Bella Napoli

Mister got his standard cannoli, we got a piece of peanut butter cheesecake to share, and a black and white (half moon) cookie for Sunday.  How have I never had their cheesecake before? It was so incredibly creamy, I could have easily eaten the whole piece myself.

Sunday morning we shared chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, and the Chester’s bacon.  The bacon was really good, and it cooked much faster than store bought bacon.  Is this a chemical preservative type thing thats missing from their bacon…or is it just a weird thing that happened? [If it matters at all, I normally cook bacon on a tinfoil lined sheet pan in the oven.]

After all of that food and eating, we ventured out to the Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher Park.  This is my favorite time of year to do this trail, its not as crowded, the weather is just cool enough, and the views are amazing.

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Engaging

This past weekend Mister and I celebrated six months of being engaged with a party.

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It was so amazing to be surrounded by all the people we love in one place; his family, my family, our friends and neighbors.

I did most of the decorating myself, and I was super proud of all of the personal touches I was able to include.

Above, are carved tealight candle holders from Birch House Market on Etsy.  The gourds and some heirloom pumpkins were picked out from a farm with my future sister in law.  The felt leaf is actually a decorative place-mat from the Christmas Tree Shop.

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I loved having lots of pictures of us around,  but my favorite decoration was this clothesline timeline.  I used the app Printic to print some of my photos to look like Polaroids.  Then Mister and I hunkered down and wrote the dates and places where the pictures were taken; this was actually a really fun night for us.  We got to relieve some of our roadtrips, and the day we got engaged.  Then I picked up string and clothes pins from the dollar store, and voila!

The tulle pom poms are from Oriental Trading Company to hide where the string was tied to the banister.  It was an easy craft that made the decoration felt more personalized, I was really happy with how it turned out.

We had some signs, tons of photographs, flowers, and more than one fire going.  My sister brought fireworks and there was plenty of champagne.  We still have a wedding to look forward to, but for now I’m feeling pretty happy.

Easy as Pie

I’ve made two apple pies in the span of one week.

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Above was made with a hannaford brand refrigerate pie crust, some old mac’s and a handful of cortlands.

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The second was made with apples my sister picked, and an Immaculate brand refrigerated pie crust.

The first pie, the apples were diced.  The second, sliced.

I think I like either a dice or a very thin slice for apple pies.  I’m not a huge fan of the still crunchy, under cooked large apple slices that get caught in the pie when the slice isn’t super thin.

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But I certainly appreciate the benefit of that egg wash.  Look at the beautiful golden flaky goodness going on there.  Egg wash, cinnamon and sugar.

I love that apples are so easy and so versatile.  Chop some for oatmeal, eat one plain as a snack, cover some with flour, sugar, extra butter, and cinnamon and call it a crisp.

Does anyone have a go to pie recipe, or do you just wing it like me? I usually just cut apples, throw them in a bowl with brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour and mix with my hands.  I’ve made pie crust from scratch but I’ve found its not really that worth the effort.

New Twist

Tried something new, that I might have made up.  But it was pretty great if I do say so myself.

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Slightly marinated chicken was grilled, cut into chunks, then tossed into some wing sauce and topped with bleu cheese crumbles.  It was like a mouthful of juicy wing goodness without saggy skin, or grease, or having to leave my kitchen.  I would totally eat this again.

This was the result of that feeling when you’ve been eating kind of gross junk food for a few days, and you can’t bear the idea of craving healthy food ever again but you also know how awful you’re staring to feel.  So its kind of healthy, tastes like junk food.  Win win.

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This weekend we worked on getting some finishing touches for Mister and I’s engagement party next weekend. (cider was for immediate consumption)  I can’t wait to show off how everything comes together! I’ve probably gone way overboard, but isn’t that the fun of a party?

International Chili Day

Nope, I have no idea if it is.  I feel like everything has a day now.  Like October 15th is International Wash Your Hands Day.

I feel like the second it starts to turn from summer to fall, everyone whips out their chili recipes.  Maybe its the cold air, maybe its the football games; but Instagram and Facebook are loaded with pictures of chili pots and saucy bowls.

Of course I made some.

I really liked the bean-less chili I made last time. Chili is great to make when you really don’t feel like doing all that much.  Brown meat, put stuff in a pot.  Leave it alone for a while.  Eat.

This batch was ground beef (I did organic), sweet potato, butternut squash, fire roasted canned tomatoes, chicken stock.

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Reheated at work it was pretty great.  But I’m kind of thinking, does this count as chili?

I knew a family that just cooked ground beef with chili powder and tomato puree; ate it over rice and called it chili.  When I was there, this baffled me.  But now that I’ve gotten pretty hooked on this version, I’m wondering what qualifies something as chili.  Does it have to have beef? What about chicken chili, or veggie chili?  What does it have to have to be considered “chili”?

I don’t really care all that much, more a point of curiosity.  Mine was pretty good, and I’ve got about 4 quarts of it in the fridge, which was the result of about 10 minutes of work.

New Classic

The changing leaves, the crisp mornings. Fall makes me want to cook; the urge hit hard and hasn’t waned in two weeks.

It seemed like a good time to make a batch of chili, to be eaten throughout the week. But I wasn’t really craving the typical tomato base, so I looked around at a few different recipes and figured it out from there.

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I started with lean ground turkey, browning it and then draining the fat. The turkey was set on reserve in a dish while I sautéed diced onion with minced garlic.

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The turkey went back in the pot. With canned white beans, canned pumpkin, and a small can of diced chilis.

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About two cups of chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and a few other spontaneously chosen spices all went into the pot.

Ideally this would be made in a crockpot for convenience I’m sure, but I have the day off and the lid to my crockpot is a little damaged.

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I’m going to let it simmer for a bit longer, but I’ve already tasted a few spoonfuls. It’s great texturally, creamy and filling. But I’m tempted to add some carrots for crunch, or maybe corn for a bit of contrast. The flavor profile is perfection, spicy and sweet without the acidity or burn of tomatoes. It doesn’t have a strong pumpkin flavor, if any at all.

Suggestions or similar recipes?