Friday Faves: Trader Joes (Christmas edition)

Over here at CSK, we really love Trader Joe’s. From the prices to the variety of items, it just doesn’t get any better. During the holidays it can be hard to find the time to figure out decorations, make cookies, etc. so we thought we’d share some of our favorite Trader Joe’s shortcuts.

  1. Pie crust
    • Making your own pie crust is (though worthwhile) very time-consuming and most pre-made pic crusts taste like all the preservatives they have in them. But let us sing the song of the Trader Joe’s premade pie crust. They’re flaky; they’re subtly sweet; they’re crumbly. It’s the perfect “buttery flaky crust.” (Anyone? Anyone?).
    • Tip: make sure you roll it out yourself to make it a little thinner. These pie crusts can be pretty overwhelming to a galette or a two-crust pie if you don’t thin them.
  2. Macarons
    • As we said, who has time to make fancy desserts for all the Christmas parties? Not us. But thankfully ol’ faithful TJ’s has so many great premade desserts. These are one of Essie’s all-time favorites.
  3. Veggies & Greens Salad Mix
    1. We love all of their salad mixes, tbh, but this one takes the cake. The crunchy veggies with the sweetness of the dried pear and the saltiness of the pistachios is a combination worth fighting for. And don’t get us started on the honey-ginger dressing. We also like to add a little sharp cheddar crumbled on top for an extra boost of protein.
  4. 3-Cream Brie
    • Good cheese can be SO expensive. We used to groan when we saw photos of beautiful charcuterie boards, because we knew it’d be around $50 to make even the smallest one. Not so, thanks to TJ! You can get this creamy, sexy brie for so cheap. Grab a baguette and some dry Italian salami and it’s the prettiest little appetizer you’ve ever seen.
  5. Eucalyptus
    • Balsam is great. We love evergreens, really we do, but sometimes you just want something a little different for your Christmas wreath or centerpiece. TJ’s has beautiful eucalyptus for cheap and when combined with a sprig of red berries it looks delicately festive.
  6. Chocolate Mousse Cake
    • Really this should read: CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE. CHOCOLATE. MOUSSE. Want us to say it one more time? No? Ah, ok. We can chill. But really, we don’t think this one needs any explanation.

There you have it: our top six favorite shortcuts for this month. What are your favorites?

Happy cooking!

-Essie + Hannah

 

 

 

Kinderpunsch on St. Nikolaus Day

Happy St. Nikolaus Day!

St. Nikolaus and I had a rocky start to our friendship. In southern German and Austrian homes, St. Nikolaus comes for a visit, bringing gifts in exchange for songs and kisses.

My first encounter with him at our door was when I was two. My poor father, who was in fact the man underneath the St. Nikolaus costume, still tells the story about how “pure terror” filled little Essie’s eyes when he came in the door. Even with his fake white beard removed, this is still the best picture my mom was able to snap:

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In case you’re worried I always rewarded my parents’ efforts to create special traditions and memories for their children with fear and ingratitude, I offer these pictures that later years were more successful and smile-filled:

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However, since I don’t live with my parents anymore and I have yet to convince Dave, my husband, to dress up as an Armenian Bishop, our St. Nikolaus Day celebration will be more low key. It’ll include some popcorn, Kinderpunsch, and cozy Advent candles.

Kinderpunsch is a hot beverage served in steaming mugs at German and Austrian Christmas markets. This non-alcoholic alternative to Glühwein is a mixture of cider, juice and tea.

Three years ago, Dave and I spent Christmas overseas with my Austrian relatives and visited as many of the markets as possible. We made a point to buy a Punsch at each one and kept the mugs as souvenir. Every Advent I love unpacking our little mug collection and making this Kinderpunsch recipe as a cozy tradition.


december-5

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 1 cup apple cider
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 bag hibiscus tea
    • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • Instructions:
    1. Heat juice, cider, water and cinnamon to a simmer.
    2. Add tea bags for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Remove tea bags.
    4. Add honey.
    5. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes. You can just keep it on the stove quietly simmering while it fills your home with amazing smells.
    6. To serve, fill into cozy Christmas mugs and sip with loved ones, preferably with a lit candle or two or ten.
  • Serves: 2 (I highly recommend tripling or quadrupling this in a huge vat and enjoying it every evening this week)

Prost!

Essie