Tuesday Things

1. My ‘Explore Austin’ project has been getting some love. While friends were in town a couple weeks ago, we hit some of the bars and restaurants I’ve been dying to try over the past few years. I don’t want to go into too much detail since the post tomorrow covers all the good stuff, but my new favorite thing to do is visit breweries. Definitely need to add a few to the list, like Adelbert’s, 512, and Circle Brewing. And after Cely’s review of the Austin Brew Bus, let’s go ahead and put that on the list too. For March, obviously – my wallet is zipped tight this month.

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2. In my opinion, iceberg lettuce is the worst lettuce ever. My go-to greens are either romaine or a spinach-arugula mix. Iceberg only appears in the house when there’s a BBQ and I need some cheap toppings for burgers. After having people over for the Super Bowl, I had a giant chunk of the ‘berg leftover and no idea what to do with it except throw it away. Then the light bulb came on: wedge salads. I’ll rant and rave about iceberg being a sad excuse for ‘greens’ but put a wedge salad in front of me and I’ll eat my words. And that salad. If you’re good at drawing conclusions, I bet you can guess what was for dinner last night.

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3. Speaking of Super Bowl Sunday, Jeanette came by and brought Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate PB Cups with her. She very quickly became everyone’s favorite person. Brad wanted to know why we never have them in the house. I wasted no time letting him know it was because he can’t be trusted around anything dessert-related. Then I felt bad [even though my statement was true – he agreed!] and headed to TJ’s yesterday to pick up some PB cups for him.

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And the Cocoa Swirl Cookie Butter. And managed to grab one of the last two containers of Coconut Body Butter, which they are alwayyyys out of. Also, a few other unpictured purchases were the Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper soup, aged gorgonzola, and a bag of blood oranges. Typical TJ’s story: go in for one thing, walk out with 12. TJ’s & Target are basically the same.

4. Our adorable little puppy has been more of a little menace than usual lately. After our Houston trip [where she was crated for most of the weekend] she went on a destructive tear throughout the house, leaving a softball-sized hole in our comforter and an even bigger hole in another quilt that we ended up tossing. She’s a nightmare while unsupervised during the 2 hour period between when Brad leaves for work and I get up, so we started crating her again until she can be trusted. She sleeps in bed with us every night from 10pm – 4am and never budges. So when I woke up at 2am early this morning and didn’t see her curled up at my feet, I knew we were in trouble.

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RIP pillow, you will be missed.

5. This is probably counterproductive, but at the end of January I ordered a bunch of new kitchen toys to help make cooking more fun throughout the month of February. I replaced quite a few of my spoons/spatulas with Tovolo utensils – and I am in LOVE. They’re much easier to clean than the normal plastic ones and they’re super pretty too (<— important) I also bought these soup bowls, giant coffee mugs [100% against Brad’s will “we already have enough mugs!”], and a pizza wheel. Joseph Joseph has the coolest stuff: this spatula is ginormous & perfect for flippin’ pancakes and this scoop colander is great to use instead of your giant colander when cooking a smaller portion of shells or elbows. I own both of them but purchased awhile back. Big ol’ stamp of approval from this girl. OH! And a new knife block because half of our knives are missing and/or need serious sharpening. 10 years and many a dishwasher cycle put some serious wear on them.

Chicago Cutlery Knife Block

So yes, I spent money to save money. They’re INVESTMENTS. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Where the Magical Cookie Butter Lives

Trader Joe's Rollingwood

I’ve been listening to everyone rave about Trader Joe’s over the past few years but never quite understood the hype until one opened in Austin in September. I went on opening day like an idiot and walked out with a reusable TJ’s grocery bag (Austin banned plastic bags earlier this year) full of Syrah-soaked cheese, Chili-Lime Chicken Burgers, and the wildly sought after Speculoos Cookie Butter. That stuff is equal parts delicious and dangerous. If you’re confident in your willpower, purchasing cookie butter should be no problem. But if you’re not? Plan on sneaking a spoonful (or 12) every time you’re within 5 feet of it.

Trader Joes Rollingwood

I made another trip last week and here’s what I picked up:

Basil only $1.99 – and it’s a plant! Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup perfect with grilled cheese;
Fresh Ciabatta Bread; Charles Shaw “Two-Buck Chuck” Cabernet; Cranberry Apple Butter

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Frozen Fire-Roasted Veggies; Chile-Lime Chicken Burgers buy these – SO GOOD! I like them with pepper jack cheese + avocado (or guac); Chicken Fried Rice; Chicken & Vegetable Dumplings; Prosciutto Perline Pasta toss with arugula + cherry tomatoes, drizzle with good quality EVOO + pesto

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Burrata ohmygod BURRATA. Make your caprese salads with this and you’ll never go back to regular mozzarella; Havarti Cheese with Dill pretty underwhelming, in my opinion;
Chocolate Cheddar Cheese WEIRD. Definitely wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. After you get over the fact there’s chocolate in your cheese, it’s pretty damn good.

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Build Your Own 6-Pack I mean, it’s hard to go wrong here. You can pick up a variety of regulars or be adventurous with some new brews. I opted for a mix of the two.

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A few other unpictured favorites are the pumpkin waffles, fresh garlic & herb pizza dough, red pepper jelly (awesome on biscuits or coconut shrimp), and spinach tortellini. Much to my wallet’s dismay, I haven’t been disappointed with a single Trader Joe’s item yet.

Do you have a Trader Joe’s near you? What are your favorite items?

Thursday Things

1. I’ve been doing that whole “run in the morning” thing. That “run before your brain knows what’s happening” thing. Let me tell you, knowing I can go home after work and do absolutely nothing except sit on the couch is pretty awesome. What is NOT awesome is the alarm that goes off at 3:45am to run. Do you know how dark it is out then? It’s basically still nighttime. We grab a headlamp, leash up the dogs, and leave the house by 4am for a 3-4 mile run. It’s awesome and terrible all at the same time.

2. I’m currently a slave to a budget. Well, I’ve always been spreadsheet-obsessed and had my budget planned out for the next 3 months. But since there are several trips on the horizon (Dallas, Florida ((yes Paula, we need to discuss this one)), New Jersey, Houston), we’ve been basically hibernating on the weekends. My color-coded Google Doc has every single penny allocated to a specific savings account and there isn’t much wiggle room. Christmas is cancelled this year, I’ll send you a high-five!

I did manage to find a trip to NJ for just over $300, which is a STEAL. I haven’t been home to the northeast for the holidays since 2010 … mostly due to the fact that it included 37 inches of snow and a 4-day-turned-2-week-trip.

No snow this time people, please and thank you.

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3. Austin is FINALLY getting a Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joes Rollingwood

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I feel like we should have been one of the first cities to have one, but I guess being the home of the flagship Whole Paycheck may have had something to do with that. Anyway, it opens tomorrow and is 10 minutes from my work, so I imagine I’ll be stocking up on Cookie Butter and Two-Buck Chuck on my lunch break.

I already asked this on Twitter earlier, but what do I NEED to buy from TJ’s? It’s part of the “grocery” budget, so this is an expense I can justify. You know, kind of.

BONUS: In case you don’t follow me on Instagram (wait… why don’t you?!), here’s today’s #throwbackthursday post:

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Arlington, TX {circa 2010-ish}

Playoffs, here we come! Thank god there’s something to take my mind off this poor excuse for a Patriots team this season…

GRONK! WHERE ARE YOU?!

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Ah, there you are. Come back to the Pats soon. They need you desperately.