For those of you who have never been to Trader Joes, I am sorry, your life is incomplete. Trader Joes is magical and wonderful and has amazing ingredients and pre-made foods that are exotic, delicious and ohh so cheap. An entire dinner for four people, (5 dishes) cost just under $40.00 and I bought everything I needed except olive oil, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper at Trader Joes.
So let’s say you have been to Trader Joes, you love it as much as I do and you live in Manhattan, well you unfortunately have only two options: Head to Brooklyn to the beautiful one on Court Street and lug all those bags back on the subway or go to Union Square. The Union Square Trader Joes is MADNESS. The aisles are so tiny and the line usually wraps around the store, making it impossible to get to the meat and cheese fridge (see the photo). If you notice, in one of the photos, there is a guy standing with a sign on a stick that says “12 Items or Fewer.” When you want to get in line, you have to find that guy somewhere in the store and stand behind him. For me this is all very exciting, but my boyfriend groans every time we go to Trader Joes, but then he happily waits in line while I run around the store like a madwoman, at least the line stops by the sample station which is consistently up and running. This TJs is nothing like the west coast, but New Yorkers, always skeptical of west coast imports (Hello Pinkberry) seem to be catching the fever because every time I have been, it’s completely mobbed.
So anyways….my dinner.
This is a meal that combines so many of my favorite ingredients: Brussels sprouts, cannellini beans, mascarpone and lemon. Actually this entire meal is based upon the simple mixture of lemon and olive oil. This all started because I wanted to make dinner for my cousins Anne and Dave who have a beautiful three month-old baby. They would just get to sit and relax while I made dinner in their apartment, thus not having to leave the baby.
So, as you can see I went to Trader Joes and for your reference here is a complete shopping list *annotated* of everything I bought, seriously this is all you need, so don’t hesitate to print this out and use it…I also put the prices so all of you Whole Foods junkies can realize how badly you are getting price gouged. xoxo Ohh First I should tell you what you are making.
Baguette Garlic Bred
Cannellini Bean Salad
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Lemon Oregano Chicken
Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream
Complete Shopping List, 5 Dish Dinner for 4 – transcribed from my Tj’s receipt
$2.17 1 package chicken drumsticks (six total)
$11.03 2 packages chicken breasts (4 huge pieces total, tenders also work)
$2.98 2 cans diced tomatoes (I really only needed one)*** Organic
$1.78 2 cans Cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
$5.38 2 pounds strawberries *** Organic
$1.99 1 pint heavy cream (I only used half)
$2.99 1 container Mascarpone cheese (Go TJS!! This is usually $8.00)
$1.59 4 Lemons
$4.98 2 Bags Brussels Sprouts (sorry don’t remember the weight) but get ALOT, they go so fast
$1.69 2 cloves garlic (I only used 1)
$1.99 1 french baguette
Total: $38.57!!! ( I bought myself a little treat of Apple Mango Juice, so the bill was actually $41.06) shh
PS…a few items I didn’t buy, but assumed the kitchen would have them: Olive Oil, butter, garlic powder and S+P. I also cheated and brought fresh Oregano from my garden, but that shouldn’t cost more than $2.00 at a store.
See, it’s amazing. Five dishes, less than forty dollars. So I lugged my giant bag of groceries on the R train from Union Square to Downtown Brooklyn, arrived at 6:30, dinner was on the table by eight. A few things went less than perfectly, but it was such a joy to cook in Anne and Dave’s kitchen and they seemed to love the food. Okay, you’ve suffered through this giant post, now come the recipes! Instead of separating the dishes, I’m going to tell you how I did everything in order because so many of the ingredients overlap and revolve around the central theme of lemon, olive oil and garlic. So, this is a recipe story, not a list of instructions.
I arrive in the kitchen and preheat the oven to 400. To make the Brussels sprouts, cut part of the stem off and chop the sprout in half. You should have enough to cover an entire cookie sheet. If you don’t have a cookie sheet, a roasting pan works, I’ve even covered a muffin tin in aluminum foil when there was no sheet to be found. You want to bathe the sprouts in about 1/2 cup olive oil, you can’t use too much 🙂 and turn most of them so the inside is facing up. Drizzle again with olive oil and sprinkle them with kosher salt if you have it or regular salt if you don’t all over them. I looovee saltyness, so I put a ton, but two teaspoons of kosher salt seems like a reasonable amount. Put the sprouts in the oven at 400 for about 25 minutes, or until you start to see burnt sides (that’s the best part). If the sprouts are too dry when they come out, that means you didn’t use enough olive oil, so just drizzle some more on and move it around. So, while the Brussels Sprouts are baking, quickly throw together the Cannellini bean salad. Open up two cans of Canellini beans and 1 can of chopped tomatoes, make sure to rinse them thoroughly so all the can juices wash away. Add them together in a bowl and try to spoon out any liquid that remains. Now dress the salad with 1/4 cup olive oil and two hearty squeezes of lemon. Add a pinch of the coarsest salt you can find and add some fresh oregano. Put it in the fridge so it stays cold until everything else is ready. Now, chicken time. If the breasts are thick, pound them between two sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet or a frying pan. In a large oven-safe skillet, heat some olive oil. Season the breasts and legs with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook the chicken evenly, so each side is crispy, though it shouldn’t be cooked all the way. In the meantime, make the sauce with the juice of three lemons, 6 cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup olive oil, add a few sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, depending on which one you like better or which is available. For cost purposes, feel free to use one or the other for the whole meal. Pour the lemon sauce all over the chicken with a few lemon slices and fresh herbs, then stick it in you 400 degree oven for fifteen or twenty minutes. This way, all the lemon juice roasts nicely into the chicken. Now the chicken is in the oven, you took the Brussels Sprouts out after the timer went off and the salad is in the oven. All we have left to do is the garlic bread and strawberries and cream. Cut the baguette into three or four pieces, then slice each of those in half as if you were making sub sandwiches. Spread butter on each piece and sprinkle fresh pressed garlic and a little garlic powder. Put those in the oven for no more than 10 minutes, make sure not to burn them. For the strawberries and cream, cut the stem off each strawberry, and slice the larger ones in halves or fourths. In a bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the mascarpone, adding a little of each slowly and according to your tastes, if you want to add a little sweetness, drop in a pinch of sugar. Stick that in the fridge until you are ready to spoon a little into individual bowls an serve alongside the fresh strawberries. Then take the chicken and the garlic break out. Your meal is done, your guests are hungry and it’s time to eat!