TBR List Declutter, Issue 35


We’ve been living in temporary housing for nearly eight weeks, courtesy of my spouse’s relocation package. When we moved to Massachusetts in 2011, that meant living in an extended-stay hotel for two months. Here it’s a little nicer. We’ve got digs—a furnished two-bedroom apartment—in a luxury apartment complex in a neighborhood in which we wouldn’t be able to afford to live if we had to pay the rent ourselves.

The kitchen is stocked with the basics: dishes, utensils, skillet, a couple of pans, coffee maker, toaster, a set of dull knives. It’s enough to get by, but not enough to do any involved cooking, so we’ve been eating the same five meals since we moved in:

  • Turkey burgers with sautéed green beans
  • Roast chicken drumsticks with roast potato slices, baked sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli
  • Tostadas, which are actually burritos because for some unknown reason the corn tortillas I get here fry up into tooth-breaking disks rather than light, crispy tostada shells, so we wrap the filling in flour tortillas instead. But we still call them tostadas.
  • Breakfast for dinner (pancakes from a mix for the children, steel cut oatmeal with thawed frozen berries for me, sandwiches and leftover pancakes for my spouse)
  • “Chicken casserole” and sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts

Then we start all over again.

We supplement these with lots of fresh bell peppers, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, and ice cream, all of which my children will eat by the heaping bowlful, thank goodness (at least for the veggies), because after eating sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts every week for more than seven weeks, only my spouse can stomach them.

To stock items for this limited menu, we only shop at Trader Joe’s because they have so many ready-prepped options. “Chicken casserole” is one meal that is made entirely with TJ’s-specific ingredients, and I’ll probably tell you about that one in a later post, but for this tangent, I want to tell you about a Daily Special success story: Veggie Rice Salad.

For those poor souls unfamiliar with Trader Joe’s, the stores all have samples available that they call the Daily Special. My children love the Daily Special. Sometimes it’s a hit, and sometimes it’s a miss, but, like playing the slots, it’s the possibility of winning that keeps my children coming back. I never have the Daily Special. I just let the person serving know that my children have carte blanche to eat whatever is on offer while I browse the bagged greens and scrutinize the citrus fruits. So a couple of weeks ago when my children came to me raving about the Daily Special, I was surprised to learn that it was essentially a raw broccoli and cauliflower salad. They had the recipe on little pieces of paper, so I took one and we’ve been making it ever since.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice
  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s broccoli rice
  • 1 jar Trader Joe’s roasted red and yellow peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped (we’re starting to leave this out because it’s a pain to prep and because I read an article that said recent samples of fresh herbs have been shown to contain Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, and/or Salmonella. It’s just a small percentage so the chance of illness is very, very low unless you get one of the bad bunches, and I’m not a gambler)
  • Trader Joe’s Green Goddess dressing (the one from the produce cooler), to taste (the original recipe says to use Trader Joe’s Cilantro Salad Dressing, but that has dairy in it, and my kids like the Green Goddess just as well)

Just toss everything together in a big salad bowl, if you have one, or if, like us, you don’t have a big salad bowl, just put it in whatever container you can find that’s approximately the size of a big salad bowl. We use the largest cooking pot we have (but don’t cook the salad). Then make it every week until you are completely tired of it and move on to some other vegetable dish.

Visual Interest:

IMG_20171126_135637 (1)

El Parque Nacional de Picos de Europa, Spain

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 411-430:

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Hey, Joe, Where You Going With That Hummus in Your Hand?

When we left California in 2008, we didn’t realize we would be leaving behind Trader Joe’s. Our standard Sunday routine in California was farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods. That combination gave us the greatest variety of foods at the lowest cost. In Utah, the farmers market only ran mid-June through mid-October, and there were no Trader Joe’s. Our reliance on Whole Foods increased dramatically, especially during the wintertime, and our grocery expenses increased along with it.

Now here's a dilemma: three bottles of wine and no one to share them with. I must acquire some local friends...

But now we’re back in Trader Joe’s country. I got three well-priced bottles of wine, along with chocolate-covered frozen banana slices (which, it turns out, only I like), mini rice crackers, freeze-dried blueberries and strawberries, and a 4-flavor variety pack of hummus. I still like my hummus best, but until I get my VitaMix tamper back (I accidentally let the movers pack it), I’ll be relying on store-bought. And Joe’s hummus was pretty decent.

We ate our purchases (except for the wine) in the car amid calls from the backseat for more “dip” and more “boo-babies”. We ate our impromptu lunch on the shore of Bartlett Pond while waiting to tour a rental property. An elderly gentleman out for a walk gave us tips about where to hike and where not to hike to avoid ticks, and suggested that if we were planning to fish, we wait a bit because they just put chemicals in the pond to kill off the weeds. He also talked up the local high school, from which his granddaughter just graduated, and gave us directions to some walking trails that involved statements like, “go past the old state hospital on the left, but going this direction it will be on your right,” and then a quick series of first lefts and second rights that we promptly forgot.

“Have a nice walk!” my husband called as the gentleman went on his way.

“Oh, I’m just staying on the road,” he said. “I’ve had enough ticks in my lifetime.”

As he left, I wondered if I should have offered him some hummus.