While I am primarily a meal prepper, I am one of convenience. I’m always looking for simple, yet flavorful recipes that will appeal to the entire family. Trader Joe’s is known for their convenience items and convenience meals, but I love to switch it up a bit and combine items for an elevated take on convenience. Here are my top five favorite combinations using only three TJ’s ingredients each.
Chicken Caesar Wrap:
Caesar Salad Kit
Grilled Chicken Strips
Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower Stir Fry Bowl:
Stir Fry Vegetables
Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto
Grilled Chicken Strips
Mandarin Chicken Stir Fry Bowl:
Vegetable Fried Rice
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
What are some of your favorite items from Trader Joe’s? I’m always looking for new finds!
Chad and I moved to Kansas City in the absolute deadest of Winter 2011. Not an exaggeration, I think there was a significant amount of snow on the ground for the first six months that we lived in KC. Ah memories of my car getting stuck in the snow and having to walk uphill in heels to get home, of warm clothes being packed in boxes and having to dig through them every morning, of moving into our home as snowflakes fell from the sky. What a joy.
However, a warm spot in an otherwise very cold time was moving to KC right before Kansas City Restaurant Week. From the start of us making KC our home, we have continued to explore the city through our stomachs, and KCRW was the start to our adventure.
We look forward to Restaurant Week every year, and I can honestly say it’s my favorite event in the city. With the uncertainty of our current environment, I was concerned that it may not happen this year, or what it may (or may not) look like if they moved forward. The event, the restaurants, and the agencies that benefit from its execution rely on KCRW as a kickoff to the new year, and without it, they would face an additional blow in an already challenging time. But to our collective delight, KCRW moved forward, and we did some serious celebrating.
This year, Restaurant Week was from January 8th through the 17th. There were over 100 participating restaurants, each offering multicourse menus designed specifically for the week. One goal for KCRW is for the event to be inclusive for our community. The menus range from $15 to $45, and include several restaurants that are typically a much higher price point. This allows KC residents to dine at spots they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Since this year looks very different, and everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to restaurant dining, many of the participating restaurants added carryout and delivery options to meet customers where they feel most comfortable.
And in addition to supporting our local restaurants in a year when they need it more than ever, a portion of each KCRW order goes to local nonprofit agencies, so it continues to give back to the community.
Every year, I use KCRW as an opportunity to try restaurants that I’ve never visited before and have been wanting to try. The goal is always to dine at four different restaurants–two for lunch and two for dinner. These restaurant reservations fill up FAST, so as soon as I see the KCRW announcement, I start grabbing reservations. It never fails that there’s a blizzard, or a cancelled babysitter, or a winter illness that forces us to cancel one or more of our plans, but we always have the best of intentions.
This year, the stars aligned just right, and I was able to visit four new-to-me restaurants for the ultimate KCRW experience. Here’s my recap:
Chad and I kicked off KCRW 2021 with a lunch date at Ya Ya’s. This is not a new restaurant by any stretch, but surprisingly, neither of us have been. Their lunch menu looked fantastic, so it was our first stop. Every meal at Ya Ya’s comes with their complementary housemade baba ganoush and fresh-baked bread, which was such a fun (and welcomed) surprise. My top recommendation for Restaurant Week is to dine with someone else, and ensure that they are down to share. Obviously my husband doesn’t have a choice in the matter (what’s mine is yours…), so we decided to share our menu choices. We started with the Gnocchi and the Greek Salad, which were both fantastic. For our entrees, we selected the Cauliflower Steak and the Bistro Burger. We loved both, but that cauliflower was outstanding. Our server was a doll, and our overall experience was great!
Va Bene just opened in Corinth Square at the beginning of January, but I’ve been stalking its progress on social media for months. I love Italian food, so this has been on my list. When I saw that they were participating in Restaurant Week, this was an instant booking. Chad and I were able to score a babysitter, so we turned our reservation into a date night. Immediately upon entry, I fell in love with the restaurant’s atmosphere and décor. The entire staff was so friendly, and our server was wonderful. The restaurant offers an impressive wine list and a selection of signature cocktails. A run at “Dry January” kept us focused on the food, but we’ll be back for those drinks. We agreed to share some dishes again, since this is the optimal way to experience KCRW. We started with the Viva Caesar and the Mushroom Arancini. Both were fabulous, but I’m still thinking about that arancini. For the entrees, we selected the Linguini Cacio e Pepe and the Italian Roast, and we were so happy with our selections. And for dessert, we shared the housemade Tiramisu, which was one of the best I’ve had anywhere.
Stock Hill is another restaurant that has been on my list for a few years. But with a higher price point and a special occasion atmosphere, we haven’t had the opportunity to visit. When I saw it on the list for KCRW, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to visit. Chad and I were able to sneak away for a quick lunch date on a very snowy Friday, which wound up being a great day to visit. With its floor to ceiling windows that face the Plaza, it was a beautiful setting to watch the snow as we dined. The dining room is beautiful, and I feel in love with their super swanky cocktail lounge. We started with their signature SH Salad, which was one of the best salads I’ve tasted. For our entrees, we got the V Burger and the Salmon Spätzle Pesto. Their entire entrée selection looked so good, and it was hard to make a decision. In that scenario, we always ask the server to choose. After all, if they love it, you know it’s good. The salmon was the recommendation of our server, and he was spot on! The pesto was delicious, and we’ve been talking about it ever since. We’re excited to get back to hang in their lounge and enjoy a libation.
I cannot even tell you how long The Savoy has been on my list. From the gram-worthy photos, to the award winning chef, to the legendary menu items, this restaurant sounded like a dream. I knew it would be a stretch to get two date nights, but I booked a reservation knowing that I could likely snag a gal pal to join me. And as luck would have it, one of my best girls was available and excited to join me. And better yet, down to share! I was in love with the dining room as soon as I walked in the door. Dark, and moody, and super cool. Our server was so kind, and so patient as we continued to talk instead of look at our menus. When we were finally ready to order, we really went for it. The chef sent out an amuse-bouche, which was a caramel popcorn creation of some sort that only intensified my excitement for our meal. We started with the Anson Mills Bluecorn Hushpuppies and the Brown Butter Ravioli. Both were so wonderful, but I still have dreams about those hushpuppies. For our entrees, we chose the Grilled Yellowtail Rockfish and the Mushroom Tortiglioni. Additionally, with your entrée, you could choose from a list of side dishes, which was a unique take on the KCRW menus that I had not seen in the past. We chose the Thane Palmberg’s Potatoes and the Fried Brussels Sprouts. The ingredients were so fresh and flavorful, and I could not get enough of anything. But most importantly, we did make room for dessert. They had several options, which was literal torture for this sweet-toothed gal. But we landed on the Semi Frozen Yuzu Lemon Bar and the Chocolate PB&J Sorbet Sundae. Look, I will absolutely never lie to you about desserts, so believe me when I tell you, that sundae was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. We capped off our visit by taking some fun pictures before rolling out the door. Our night met every expectation I’ve held for this restaurant, plus a whole lot more.
Although Kansas City Restaurant Week has come to a close, I would recommend signing up for their newsletter and following them on social media to stay up to date on their events and communications throughout the year. And save the date on your calendar for 2022. I know I am!
The majority of 2020 was spent supporting all things local. I have always had a strong passion for small, local businesses, and our family makes an effort to support them as much as possible. It’s actually one of the reasons that I stumbled into the “influencer” role; I was frequently sharing the local business gospel with friends and family, but now I do it on a larger scale. So when the pandemic hit and businesses were forced to close and/or limit their operations, I felt a more intense need to support them as much as and in as many ways as possible. So putting together a list of 10 items that I purchased from Amazon in 2020 was actually quite difficult. The deliveries were not nearly as frequent as in years past, as I focused on finding my purchases locally. However, I did round up my top ten Amazon purchases from last year, and I know you’ll like them too.
Acrylic Mask Chain The accessory we never knew we needed before 2020: The mask chain. Look, if you don’t have one of these yet, I urge you to get on it. For the frequent up/down, on/off that wearing a mask brings, this keeps you hands-free and not currently searching. I bought a few locally, but this one has been my favorite.
Makeup Brush Set I purchased this makeup brush set on a whim when it popped up on my recommendations and was skeptical. Y’all, for such a low price, these are very good quality brushes. I’ve had them for several months, have cleaned them multiple times, and they are still rocking.
Daily Planner Notepad One of my favorite local bloggers posted about these in the Summer, and I thought they looked like something I could easily fit into my daily routine. I started using them immediately, and have used them every day since. They have the perfect breakdown and amount of space to keep me organized.
Eyelash & Brow Enhancer Serum Prior to the stay at home order, I had lash extensions. (You can read all about it here.) But anyone that has had them knows, them babies don’t keep. So without access to maintenance, they all fell out. I was left with some fairly unhealthy lashes, so I needed a solution to grow them out and get them back in fighting shape. I have used lash serums in the past, but they are expensive and don’t always work. The price was right on a sample of this product, so I took the leap. It worked! I have ordered the full size several times since this initial purchase, and my lashes are looking fabulous.
Silicone Mask Brushes I am a sucker for skincare. And this is a relatively new revalation, as my twenties were spent sleeping in my makeup and being genuinely confused when my skin would be dry or a zit would dare to appear. But when I turned 30 and my face started to change, I started taking an interest in products and have develpoed a bit of an obsession. I love a good face mask and typically do one every Sunday, but you are always met with the delima of wassted product all over your hands. No longer! Apply the mask directly to the brush, and it goes on so smoothly, and with easy cleanup too.
Wide Shoulder Strap Your girl loves a good handbag. But I have expensive taste. It’s a thing. Let’s move on. In 2020, with so much uncertainty, I didn’t think it was prudent to drop some dollars on a desigener label. But I found a fun (and inexpensive) solution in this strap. You can add it to a handbag, and it changes the entire look of the bag. It comes in a ton of colors, so you have some really fun options to create a new bag at a low price.
Reusable Facial Pads Cotton Rounds Refer back to number 5 for a recap on my skincare obsession. So here’s something else you should know–I’m kind of frugal. But on really weird things! For example, I think dropping $3 on a bag of cotton pads is so dumb. You’re literally throwing away money. Not to mention the environmental impact. These have been the perfect solution for those concerns. I’ve been using them and washing them for months, and I am so happy with them.
Tank Dress Okay, here’s the deal, I am not a big fan of clothing on Amazon. I know that people find some serious gems. But I don’t like to “hunt,” and I’m rarely pleased with the quality of the prodicts. However, I am a big fan of this style of dress. It hugs and gives in all the right places for my body type. But they’re hard to find, and when I do, they are typically pretty pricey. So when this popped up on my recommendations (creepy), I went for it. And dang, it’s so good! I went with basic black to be safe, but I will be purchasing from their many other colors.
Apple Watch Band Literally no one is surprised that something leopard made the list. I got an Apple Watch for my birthday, and I instantly started searching for ways to spice up the black band. After a coupld of failed attemps with a fabric band (cute, but impractical), I went with this silicone option. The quality is great, and it’s still going strong through a lot of days, a lot of sweat, and a lot of on and off.
Camera Remote Control Intially this may only seem like a blogger/influencer item, but for anyone that has tried to take a family picture on their phone with a toddler, they know. This has such a low price, but the quality is great. It’s easy to set up and sync, and it’s very easy to use.
I would love to know any of your 2020 Amazon purchases! Although my focus will continue to be primarily on supporting local, I’m always looking for fun new items.
I’m not really sure what we all thought was going to happen at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I know what we HOPED would happen. An instant cure for COVID, an elimination of racism, a magic wand to wave away any of the pain from 2020. But alas, here we are, masked up in our loungewear.
Although, call me crazy, but I didn’t entirely hate 2020. Hang with me here. It was messy, and complicated, and sad, and disappointing, and disruptive, and confusing, and pretty much any other negative adjective you want to throw on a page. But man did it change me. And in some really good, and really big ways.
Let’s revisit…I’m Type A, Strengthfinders Achiever, Eneagram Type 3, goal oriented, purpose driven, and a wee bit of a control freak. So in a year where things a constantly changing, you can’t plan for most things, your targets change by the day, and your control is very limited…yea, I struggled. I spent a lot of days crying. My anxiety was at levels that really frightened me. And I learned very quickly that anxiety and depression are very good friends.
On June 1st, Jack returned to daycare after being home with us since March 17th. After dropping him off, I sat in my car and cried. I took this picture, because I thought I looked so ridiculous and knew I would look back on that picture one day and laugh. But in that moment, I was so broken. I was sad and scared. And that was the day I set up an appointment with a therapist.
I’ve gone to therapy off and on since college, but in 2020, I committed to consistency and doing the hard work. And it is work. My illusions of lying on a couch and pouring my heart out aren’t really a thing. My therapist makes me think and gives me homework. It’s work, and sometimes I don’t want to do it, but it helps.
Maybe I didn’t need 2020 to happen to force me to make that appointment. Maybe I didn’t need it to force me to give up my overwhelming need to control. Maybe I didn’t need it to give me vital time with my husband and son that I didn’t get from traveling during 80% of my time. Maybe, but it did.
So here we are in 2021, and on the outside, it looks basically the same. We’re still at home, we’re still wearing masks, we’re still very much in the middle of a pandemic, same, same, same. But it feels different.
On December 17th, my sister-in-law shared a picture of her getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and I cried. Off and on for hours. I cried the happiest tears that I’ve cried in years. That picture symbolized hope, and I look at it every day.
So that’s what 2021 feels like to me–Hope. There’s so much of it, so much possibility, so much optimism.