This morning I woke up to my cell phone ringing. As it was 9 AM on a Sunday morning, I figured it was surely my mother.
But it wasn't. It was a 415 area code number I didn't recognize.
"Is this Gabi?" asked the caller.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"This is Mike from Trader Joe's at 9th and Bryant. You won our bag raffle! Congratulations!"
"Who? What raffle?"
"You brought your own grocery bag to our store on and you were given a raffle ticket, which you wrote your name and phone number on, and when we drew a ticket, it was yours! You won a $25 gift to Trader Joe's and you should come to our store and pick it up!"
"Oh! Cool! Thank you!"
$25 to Trader Joe's! What a fantastic surprise! I had been planning on shopping today anyway so this was perfect. I called my friend Andrew and we made plans to pick up groceries together later that day and then cook dinner.
At Trader Joe's, I picked up my gift card from the customer service counter and then Andrew and I shopped separately, planning to meet up in the checkout line. We decided not to plan our dinner, but rather to pick a menu based on a blend of our respective grocery choices after we shopped individually. He took off with a cart and I strolled up and down the aisles with a shopping basket. As I shopped, it occurred to me that I was actually saving much more than $25; by stocking my kitchen with healthy, fresh food, I was significantly increasing the probability that I would cook at home this week and thus avoid eating out. As I picked up coffee beans (Extra Dark French Roast, $4.49 for 12 oz.), I thought about both the money I'd save and the trees I'd spare by avoiding trips to coffee shops. I filled my basket with baby spinach ($1.99 for 12 oz.), tortillas ($2.29 for 6), firm tofu ($1.19 for 14 oz.), salmon fillets ($4.49 for 16 oz.) Greek yogurt (2.29 for 16 oz) and much more, and imagined the delicious and healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners I'd be eating this week. I also picked up a bottle of Charles Shaw Valdiguie ($1.99 for a bottle!) and Bartlett pears ($2.49 for 4) to make poached pears for dessert that night.
When we looked at our combined groceries, we determined that we'd make penne with gorgonzola, shrimp and broccoli, broiled brussels sprouts with crushed almonds and poached pears for dessert. We headed to Andrew's apartment, started some laundry, and got cooking.
Penne with Light but Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce, Shrimp and Broccoli
2 T crushed garlic (or 4 cloves, minced)
2 T olive oil
3 T grated Parmesan
2 oz crumbled Gorgonzola
8 oz penne pasta
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
6 oz frozen cooked shrimp, deveined and tails removed
1/2 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta according to directions in salted water. Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic (we used crushed jarred garlic from TJ's). Allow the garlic to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, then stir in the half-and-half, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, and salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. The sauce should have a creamy consistency but not be too thick. Thin out with a little half-and-half if necessary. Add shrimp and broccoli and allow to cook over low heat for another 2-3 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Serve hot.
Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Crushed Almonds
16 Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and sliced in half
2 T crushed garlic (or 3 cloves, minced)
1 T olive oil
2 T roasted almonds, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to broil, placing the oven rack 6" from the heat source (if you have a top broiler). Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, use your hands to toss the brussels sprouts halves to thoroughly coat with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay the sprouts sliced-side-up on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 6-8 minutes, checking frequently. Once cooked, toss in a bowl with the crushed almonds. Very good hot or cold.
Red Wine-Poached Pears
1 bottle inexpensive but drinkable red wine
4 Bartlett or Bosc pears
1 cinnamon stick
1 T honey
2 T sugar
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 T orange marmalade
Peel pears and set aside. In a large pot, combine wine, honey, cinnamon stick and cloves. Add pears and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to distribute all flavors. Once pears are cooked to the point that they could be easily pierced by a fork, remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave wine mixture in pot, turn up heat, bringing the wine to a boil, and whisk in the sugar and marmalade until both are dissolved. Allow mixture to cook until mixture reduces to a syrupy consistency. Stir in Greek yogurt, and serve over the pears in small bowls.
Trader Joe's is an amazing company for so many reasons, but I especially love how they make being enviromentally responsible such a priority. Their bag raffle is just one example of how they are spreading the message that Green=Good. I also want to give a little plug for the bags I use when I go grocery shopping--and the reason I got to enter the Trader Joe's raffle in the first place. They're called Envirosax and they can be rolled up, thanks to a handy snap, and take up less room than my wallet. I always try to carry at least one with me.