FOOD

150 150 Angela Lanter

What to Buy (and NOT to Buy) at Trader Joe’s

I took to Instagram Stories a few weeks ago and mentioned I’ve been thinking about doing this post…  And the response was overwhelming.  SO many of you wanted to see my list of best and worst products from Trader Joe’s.  I’m an avid TJ’s shopper, so this post was a fun one for me to put together.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

I snapped an iPhone shot of my shopping cart the other day at Trader Joe’s so you could see what a regular trip looks like for me.  Obviously, I don’t buy all healthy groceries there, I also love my snacks and cookies, lol.

Trader Joe's Shopping Cart Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Alright, let’s go {virtual} grocery shopping together!  I’m taking you through my favorite products department by department to keep this post as organized as possible.

What to Buy at Trader Joe’s:

Floral Department:  TJ’s is my go-to spot for flowers and not just during peony season…  Although, their peonies are the best!  They usually have a dozen roses in assorted colors for $6.99 at my local store and that price can’t be beat anywhere.  The price isn’t even the best reason to buy your flowers there, it’s how long they last.  I find that my roses last minimum 7 days, but sometimes even up to 14 days.  If you’d like to see a blog post about my flower buying tips and hacks for keeping them alive longer, leave a comment below and let me know.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Produce:  TJ’s is my favorite place to buy produce because A) the prices are great and B) the quality is great.  My favorite produce to buy there is: berries, spinach, cooked lentils, cauliflower and broccoli “rice” and bell peppers.  We also love their bagged brussel sprouts and pre-packaged fresh asparagus.

I prefer buying bananas at TJ’s because you can buy them individually.  This works best for us because we only really like to buy 2 or 3 at a time.  I’m looking at two bananas going bad on my counter as I type this, which is what I get for buying a bunch lol.

As for the cauliflower or broccoli “rice,” these have quickly become a favorite rice alternative in our house.  It’s a great low carb option that is super tasty. Per health.com, “Cauliflower has 25 calories per cup vs. 218 for a cup of cooked brown rice. (And, if you’re watching carbs, cauliflower has 5g per cup vs. 46g for a cup of brown rice.)”  That’s a great reason to make the switch over to cauliflower rice!  Here’s how I prepare it:

Warm olive oil in pan over medium heat and add in cauliflower/broccoli rice.  Season with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, garlic powder and a pinch (or two) of crushed red pepper.  Once cooked through, serve immediately.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Produce Pass:  Avocado prices tend to be higher than you’d expect.  Also, I’m not the biggest fan of their pre-made salads.

Bakery:  The only fresh bread I really love is their rosemary focaccia.  I haven’t bought this bread in a long time, but it warms so nicely and the flavor is amazing.

Deli/Refrigerated goods:  This is definitely my favorite store to buy cheese.  These are our favorites: Havarti with dill, organic pepper jack, shredded organic mozzarella cheese, Boursin, crumbled feta, goat cheese, and many more I can’t even think of right now.  I haven’t met a TJ cheese I didn’t love.  I did just see that they carry burrata and I don’t know how in the world I’ve missed that until now?

I swear by Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, but the kind in the refrigerated section near the cheeses, not the jarred.  It’s always fresh and lasts for weeks in your fridge.  It’s the perfect sauce: not too tangy and not too sweet.  We also love their whole wheat pizza dough in the bag.  You’ll find this right next to the refrigerated pizza sauce.  I have a special trick to making this dough…  I use a pizza stone that I heat up in the oven.  I toss the dough, put it on the stone, rub it with olive oil, sprinkle on Italian seasoning and bake for 10 minutes.  I take it out, rub the crust with olive oil again, then add topping and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  You get the perfect pizza every time using this method.

As you may know, the dips are right next to the cheeses in most TJ’s, but I typically pass on this section except for one item: Edamame Hummus.  Love this dip!  When I’m cutting back on soy, obviously I don’t buy it, but otherwise it’s super tasty and a fun twist on traditional hummus dips.

Matt loves their fresh hard-boiled peeled eggs just to have on hand for a quick protein boost.  I usually pick up my milk, eggs and yogurt at TJ’s too, the prices are lower than our local grocery store.

Meats:  I sometimes pick up organic chicken or lamb chops, but it’s not my sole purpose for my grocery trip.  I’d much rather make my meat purchases from our local butcher.  We’ve had two experiences where we got home and opened our fresh chicken only for it to be spoiled, so I purchase with caution.

Bakery Pass:  I’m not a fan of TJ’s English muffins, sliced breads, bagels or wraps.  They’re all just okay.  Whole Foods has the best English muffins in my opinion.  I’ve not tried all of their fresh baked sweets, but the ones I have tried have not been memorable.

Canned Foods/Rice/Pasta:  I buy all of my canned organic beans, tomatoes and stocks here.  I also purchase my almond milk and a lot of my baking products such as flour here.

I typically pass on the pasta and head straight for the rices.  My favorite rice products to buy are: 10 minute barley, 10 minute farro and Harvest Grains Blend.

Trader Joe's Shopping Cart Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

We have either Harvest Grains Blend, barley or farro at least once a week.  I love substituting barley or farro for rice in dishes such as taco bowls, for added nutritional value to the meal.

Another must buy in this aisle is their olive oil.  Our favorite is the Tunisian Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Snacks (non-frozen):  My favorite food life topic is snacks.  There are so many I love at TJ’s!  Here are the Lanter House favorites:

  • Oven Baked Cheese Bites
  • Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins
  • Partially Popped Popcorn
  • Speculoos Cookies
  • Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Roasted Seaweed Snack
  • Honey Butter Potato Chips
  • Soft baked Snickerdoodles
  • Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (Dare I say… Maybe even better than Reese’s!)
  • Kettle Corn
  • Chocolate Chip Brownie & Oat Bars (Great source of fiber!  Can’t eat while pregnant.)
  • Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Bites
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

Snack Pass:  Cereal.  I’ve yet to try a cereal that I love enough to buy a second time.  I’m also not a huge fan of their tortilla chips.

Frozen Foods:  My favorite thing to stock up on while shopping at TJ’s is their frozen foods.  I love this department because it has such an awesome variety and such unique products that you really won’t find at your local supermarket.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Here’s a list of my frozen food faves:

  • Turkey Meatballs (So easy to warm up and pair amazing with spaghetti squash.)
  • Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip (My blogger friend, Courtney, turned me onto this and I’ve eaten it twice this past week. Best dip, hands down.  Perfect for football season!)
  • Cauliflower Pizza Crust (Such a great los carb and healthy alternative for your pizza cravings!)
  • Organic Silver Dollar Pancakes
  • Tandoori Naan (Best naan ever!  Bakes in 2 minutes, no joke.)
  • Frozen Brown Rice/Quinoa
  • Turkey Burgers
  • Bambino Pizza Formaggio

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Frozen Food Pass:  I have a few in this category…  Mini Cinnamon Sugar Churros (tried to love them, but couldn’t), 5 Cheese Greek Spiral (I’m Greek.  I know a good filo dish and this isn’t one), Fully Cooked Falafel (too dry), Cauliflower and Broccoli Veggie Patties (just not a fan), Spring Rolls and Waffles.  There are other frozen items that I’ve tried through the years that were a total waste for us, but they’re just escaping me right now.  I’ll try to update this post with items on my next trip to the store.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Drinks:  Basically the only water we drink anymore is the TJ’s Alkaline Water + Electrolytes.  We buy this water by the case.  We’re big alkaline water drinkers, so this is the best bang for our buck that we’ve found to date.

Now I want to hear from you!  Did I miss a must-have from Trader Joe’s?  What are your favorite items to buy?  Leave your product suggestions in the comments below.

150 150 Angela Lanter

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup Recipe

 

easy slow cooker healthy crockpot lentil soup angela lanter hello gorgeous

I know, I know…  Lentils aren’t everybody’s favorite.  I turned my nose up to these little legumes for years.  And Matt?  He was a hard pass.  But then we started this healthy eating journey…  Trying to incorporate as many whole foods (grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and animal products) as possible.  You know what that means?  It’s time for this girl to get creative.  So I took to the internet, and more importantly, to Pinterest.

I didn’t want to go hardcore Whole 30 since Matt spends the majority of his time on set.  He’s on set 90% of his time, so I can’t prepare every single meal for him.  Plus, following a strict diet when you’re at the mercy of other people feeding you (catering or restaurants) can be difficult and frustrating.  That’s why I decided not to actually “diet” per say, but start eating cleaner.  But let’s be real…  Eating clean is pretty much a diet.

I started out with a delicious barley pilaf recipe (posted in this Facebook post) and my hubby LOVED it…  Naturally, I decided to try something new the very next day and created this yummy lentil soup.  I didn’t find one particular recipe online that I loved so I decided to take it upon myself to experiment in the kitchen.  This turned out seriously better than I anticipated.  It’s “healthy” meets “comfort food” and what’s not to love about that?  This is a great fall meal and I’ll definitely be making it again soon.


Ingredients

  • 1 Bag of dry lentils (rinsed)
  • 3 Medium carrots (I used approx. 10 baby carrots) diced
  • 2 Sweet potatoes
  • 2 Bay leaves (dry)
  • 2 Celery stalks (sliced)
  • 8 Cups of low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 Medium onion (or 1 Tbsp. onion powder)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (1/4 -1/2 tsp. depending on how much you prefer)
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • 2 Tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 Cup tomato paste
  • Shredded parmesan cheese (optional topping)

Instructions

Rinse lentils under cold water.  Add all ingredients to crockpot except sweet potatoes.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Add diced sweet potatoes last 2 or 3 hours of cooking.  Check halfway through and see if additional broth or water needs added as lentils absorb so much fluid.  Top with additional salt and pepper to taste and shredded cheese before serving.

 

150 150 Angela Lanter

Loaded Baked Potato Soup Recipe

the best potato soup loaded baked potato soup recipe angela lanter hello gorgeous

I love to cook.  Creating a delicious meal that my husband enjoys is one of my favorite things to do.  There’s something about Fall that makes me enjoy cooking even more.  I think the cooler temps and gloomy days have everything to do with it.  I love walking through the door and a yummy smell greeting you at the door that just makes your mouth water.  Crockpot meals, soups and casseroles are my go to recipes for fall.  As we speak, I actually have pot roast in my crock pot slow cooking to perfection.  If you haven’t tried this pot roast, be sure to put it on your menu soon.  It’s so, SO good!  Matt actually requested it for dinner tonight.

We’re big time fans of leftovers here at the Lanter house.  I always plan larger meals to allow for plenty of leftovers.  I feel like certain dishes are just better on day two, after they have a chance for the flavor to really set in.  This potato soup is definitely one of those dishes.  Day one soup is good, don’t get me wrong.  But day two?  Holy smokes, it’s GOOD!

My mom made potato soup when I was growing up and her dad used to make it for her.  It’s definitely one of those meals that can only be described as comfort food.  This thick, rich soup is so good with homemade biscuits on a chilly evening in front of the fire.

I searched Pinterest for the perfect recipe the other day, but didn’t allow myself enough time to make this soup in the crockpot.  I personally think it would be better in the crockpot because it will slow cook all that flavor in.  I was in a hurry and made it on the stovetop.  I loosely followed this recipe, but added ingredients and changed things here and there to get it just the way I wanted it.  I landed on this particular recipe because most every other recipe I read required the potatoes to be cooked before making the soup. Ain’t nobody got time for that.  I was in a hurry, so this one was the way to go for me!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup Recipe


Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large uncooked russet potatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • bacon grease (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 bacon pieces, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 package cream cheese

Instructions

  1.  In soup pan, warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add in onion powder and garlic powder, stir until mixed in with oil.
  2. Add in flour and combine with oil mixture, careful not to scorch.
  3. Mix in milk and chicken broth.  Stir constantly and allow to bring to low boil (turn up heat if needed, careful not to scorch milk).
  4. Meanwhile, cook bacon and set aside.
  5. Add in diced potatoes, thyme, 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease (optional), cream cheese, salt and pepper.
  6. Cook over medium flame for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.
  7. Stir in cheddar cheese after soup is cooked through.  Serve with crumbled bacon and additional shredded cheese on top.

*If cooking in crock pot, I would suggest adding all ingredients in (less crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese) on low for 6-8 hours.  Add cheddar in during last 1-2 hours of slow cooking.

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