My first destination when I enter Trader Joes is the little spot in the back corner that offers free samples of various items from the store. I recently tried a polenta casserole that was made with their prepared logs of polenta, salsa verde, shredded three cheese mix, and pork carnitas. I purchased all the items I would need except for the polenta. I knew I had a box at home and prefer making it myself. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the salsa verde was. The casserole was great, and now I have a new way to prepare polenta, jazzing it up a bit with the salsa verde. It’s low budget, filling, and there are plenty of leftovers for two.

I also had a bunch of hot chiles that my significant other’s mom gave to me. I can’t recall what type they were, but she had cooked them up, not expecting them to be so hot and she wanted to share them with us. They sat in the refrigerator in their own juices for a couple of days before I decided that I would make a crustless quiche. I’ve never made a crustless quiche before, but I know that I like frittata and made that, so I searched for a recipe and made modifications. I eyeballed the amount of milk that I added until it looked about the right consistency. I had some leftover bell peppers and the remaining shredded three cheese mix; I added onion, sautéed all the peppers and onion together, let it cool while I tossed the cheese with some flour, mixed everything together. Then, into a greased pie pan. 30 to 35 minutes later, the crustless quiche had set. The aroma of peppers and cheese was wonderful, it tasted great, and had good heat from the chiles.

At Trader Joes, I also sampled Red Leicester cheese with chili and red bell pepper. I tossed a chunk into the basket, even though I already had several other hunks of cheese in the refrigerator. On Sunday, I fixed a plate of pita crackers with the various cheeses that we had on hand, including this new Red Leicester, and a small slice of truffle mousse pate that we got at BevMo. I brought M. a beer, a water for me, and we enjoyed or plate of treats in our backyard on our weathered table that we found for a bargain at an estate sale over the weekend.

I had a hankering to prepare navy bean soup on Sunday, but the day got away from me. I ended up making it on Monday instead. I love soups in general, and navy bean has always been high up on my list. The first and only place I had it was a small cafe that I haven’t gone to in ages and don’t go to any longer. The memory of going in on a day that navy bean was their featured soup was always a dilemma and a highlight. I would have to decide between my other favorite choices or the soup that they only made once a week.

This is the second time I’ve made navy bean soup. I follow the recipe on the back of the navy bean package with modifications to suit my taste. It’s not a soup that I will make often because I’m sure the sodium content in those scrumptious ham hocks would tilt the sodium meter into regions I shouldn’t be in. I reheated a bowl of leftover soup yesterday and my taste buds were savoring the creaminess of the navy bean and potato together with the rich flavor of the ham hocks and the hint of thyme throughout that brought an earthy, green goodness to the soup.

Bread was in order for this soup. I was going to fall back on Jiffy corn muffins, but (a) I hadn’t actually bought any and (b), I wanted to make something from scratch. I didn’t have a whole lot of time. I thought about making baking power biscuits. No, too bland. Then I saw a recipe for cheese and beer bread. Perfect. I had all of the ingredients, except I didn’t have regular cheddar cheese, so instead I used the rest of the Red Leicester. I did a Google search about the cheese so I could see if it was actually good to cook with, and I learned from Wikipedia that this is a British cheese, similar to cheddar with a crumblier texture, which is true. It’s a cow’s milk cheese, originally from Leicestershire, England. I’m glad that this cheddar beer bread recipe made me seek out and learn just a little bit more about this new cheese–new to me, anyway.

The bread looked great. I thought it tasted good too, but it could have used a little something extra. M. agreed. The second day, though, when I took a slice to have at work with my lunch, I thought it tasted great. It gave me the sense that it was made with yeast from a package. I will definitely be making this bread again. I followed the recipe in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. Simple, straightforward and low fat!

Next time I want to try the Cheddar Spoon Bread recipe.

I don’t do most of my shopping at Trader Joes; though, I do go there for certain items and they have a great selection of interesting cheeses at reasonable prices, and other interesting things, of course. I think I’ll make a habit of going to Trader Joes at least once a week. It provides inspiration and tasty snacks to satisfy me until dinner time.

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