My Trader Joe’s Shopping list

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she was going to Trader Joe’s for the first time in a long time, and did anyone have items they LOVED she should add to the list?

After commenting using a quick cut and paste of my Trader Joe’s shopping list I keep in Evernote, it hit me:

This may be a fun little post to share with my readers! I love food and cooking but don’t incorporate enough of it on this blog as I would like besides linking to recipes and products I love in the weekly Friday Finds.

So, here we are!

 

What’s So Special About Trader Joe’s?

This niche grocery store is especially known for its low prices on unique food items, quirky culture, cozy size, and special experience. There’s something about shopping there that just feels good.

For me, the unique food items are the biggest reason I shop there and that feature is best displayed in their freezer section. Never have I been one for buying pre-made meals of any kind in a regular grocery store because they’re never that good (or that healthy for that matter).

Trader Joe’s does it differently though.

When I go there, I like to take my time and slowly peruse the freezer section, taking in each item. Being that all of their product branding is completely different than the main-stream brands you are used to seeing in a regular grocery, it can feel a little strange (and perhaps overwhelming) at first looking at a whole new line of products.

 

My Trader Joe’s Shopping List

The list I’m sharing with you today is items that I love. They may not make it into my cart every time I go, but I consider them winning products – many of which I do like to keep in-stock at home.

Besides my repeat list, I also try to buy half-a-dozen new items each time as well. “The Kitchn” website frequently posts fun articles on Trader Joe’s (I link to several of their articles at the end of the post). My shopping list is always inspired by what I read there as well as information gleaned from the fun Trader Joe’s Podcast.

Keep in mind I’ve only been lucky to have a Trader Joe’s nearby (well, 35 minutes away) for the past year. Prior to that, I only got to go a couple of times a year when I was in Indianapolis (90 minutes away) – usually for a state MTA board meeting! Ha!

My list would likely be longer if I had been able to be a more regular customer but this is what I have thus far.

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Healthy Snacks for Long Teaching Days

As teaching hours increase and stress levels spike due to the new online music lesson setting, you may be experiencing the inclination to either stress-eat or have the need for small bits of sustenance to see you through the day.

Here are a few of my favorite healthy snacks and recipes.

 

Dried Fruit

So far, my favorite brands of dried fruit have either been from Made in Nature or Trader Joe’s.

Unfortunately, both of these are often either not available on Amazon or not available for as good of a price as you may find in the store.

Generally, I reach for unsweetened, unsulfured, and organic dried fruit. Sweetened dried fruit is almost always way too sweet and sugary (in my humble opinion).

That being said, when it comes to dried apricots, they can be tricky. Half the time the unsweetened, unsulfured ones can be really hard and dry. These ones from Amazon are pretty good.

 

For the slightly more child-like side of you (or just for a change of pace) try fruit leather (a.k.a. grown-up “fruit roll-ups”)!

Stretch Island Fruit Leather (100% real fruit – no sugar added)


P.S. If you were at N.C.K.P. 2017, I handed these out like candy!


 

 

Homemade Granola Bars and Energy Bites

The Best Soft Granola Bars from Pinch of Yum.


P.S. I just made these two days ago. Don’t they look delish? Want to see more of my food photo fun? Follow me on Instagram @food.fun.with.amy


 

Other favorites include:

Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars from Smitten Kitchen

Oatmeal, Almond Butter Breakfast Cookies from Simply Recipes

Almond, Cherry, & Cacao Nib Breakfast Cookies from The Green Life

The Best Energy Bites from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

No-Bake Energy Bites from King Arthur Flour

 

Chocolate

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning chocolate! I usually go for the little individually wrapped ones such as Dove Dark Chocolate. I also like Lindt 70% Cocoa bars and Dark Chocolate Almonds.

 

 

 

From ARound the World

A couple of years ago, Nicola Canton shared several homemade recipes for super fast and healthy snacks for piano teachers on her website, Colourful Keys. Check those out as well!

 


What are some of your go-to snacks to keep the energy going? Share in the comments!


Did you find this post helpful? Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list where you’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

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Back-To-Teaching

Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead

The first couple of weeks back to teaching are always a little hectic. We’re trying to enjoy the final days of Summer, holding on to every last inch of that time until we have to throw ourselves completely into the new year.

The months of January and August have always been the months we eat at home almost exclusively. In January it’s quiet and dark, and there’s not a lot of extra activities going on and in August, I don’t have students half the month so I’m home more and have time to cook dinner like normal people.

Things are about to get crazy this week though and will continue that way until the second week of October. I won’t bore you with my details as you have enough going on of your own.

Since many of us are in the same boat as we get things going, I thought I would share half-a-dozen quick and easy recipes that can make your back-to-teaching life easier.

Most of the recipes will also allow you to enjoy end-of-summer produce and will avoid turning on the oven. You’re not going to find a crockpot or soup recipe in this bunch. It’s too early for that – I’m not ready!

 

Six Easy “Back-To-Teaching” recipes

Panzanella Bread Salad (Simply Recipes)

If you’ve never had Panzanella bread salad with your beautiful, lush, red, juicy August tomatoes, you have not experienced life.

Can you see what I mean?

While you’re making the salad, throw pork chops in a cast iron skillet seasons simply with S&P and call that a meal.

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Music Students

Who Couldn’t Use Another Idea?

When it comes to this time of year, I usually whine a little. Not because I don’t love Christmas or giving gifts, but because I have to figure out something different to do for my students once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts to my students. It’s just the process of making my brain think about what to do this year that makes me often procrastinate.

After cutting it a little too close a few years ago, I vowed to stop waiting until the last minute. (Year-ahead purchases have even become normal.) Bye-bye stress!

Crafts are not my strong suit so my kiddos will most likely never get a hand-made craft from me. Since I love to cook, however, homemade goodies have made it into the mix frequently.

The gifts I do each year often have to do with where life is in the moment. Don’t you agree? Some year’s money may be tight so gifts may be bulk-homemade and less costly. On the flip side, if time is more of the commodity, I just purchase an item – even if I end up spending more.

My comfort zone is anywhere between $1 – $5 per student with $3 being my sweet spot. With a full studio, the cost can add up quickly!

 

Candy

Hershey’s Symphony Creamy Milk Chocolate Bar is a really great and easy option. Depending on your budget, there are two sizes:

The XL size is about $1.50 apiece and can be found on Amazon 12 for $18.

The GIANT version is also fun to give and is around $2.50 apiece. (At the time of this post, they were not available in bulk on Amazon but can likely be found in your nearest grocery store.)

 

Ornaments

Decorate your studio Christmas Tree with student Christmas-gift ornaments. Let them choose their ornament off the tree at their last lesson before Christmas Break.

One of my favorites from over the years is these Resin Sheet Music Snowman Ornaments.

At the time of this post, the price on Amazon is $22.99 for a dozen. You can get these at Oriental Trading for $15.99 but may end up paying more depending on shipping.

P.S. Sara’s Music Studio made a fun suggestion to add a ribbon around the neck like a scarf. How cute would that be? 

 

Homemade Hot Cocoa

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix is a perfect gift. What kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?

I decorated mine similar to this image. It’s simple but nice. Be sure and include the directions!

Consider recipes that are made with powdered milk so students only have to add hot water.  Along those same lines, don’t do the layered-type cocoa mix where you have to dump the whole container into a pot to mix.

My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Country, but since it’s a paid recipe service, here are some other versions you could try from Pioneer Woman and AllRecipes. 

 

Japanese Erasers

Will the Japanese Eraser craze ever go away? I would be surprised if it did – they’re just too cute! Students will love these grand piano erasers.

Purchase a mixture of black and red and let students choose. Based on what my students chose, I would suggest purchasing 30% red and 60% black. Or if you want to keep it simple, just go for the black!

 

Puppy Chow

To me, just handing them a small Japanese eraser didn’t seem like quite enough, so the years I did that as my gift, I also made Puppy chow and attached the eraser to the bow.

I don’t even remember what specific recipe I used at that time but it was definitely a white chocolate one.

A couple of my other favorite puppy chow recipes are Cookie Butter Muddy Buddies and Peanut Butter Brownie Puppy Chow

 

 

 


What are you giving your students this year? Share together in the comments!


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Summit for MTNA Leadership

A Class Act

A couple of weekends ago, I made quite a loop-de-loo around Indiana and Ohio. It started out with a 2-hour drive up to Bowling Green Ohio to present with Joy Morin to her local MTA chapter. It was our first time out (and our first session together!), Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. We will be presenting the same session for Indiana and Kentucky MTA conferences this Fall. For details visit my speaking page.

After enjoying lunch with several Ohio teachers and one of Joy’s adult students who came to the session, I made the 3-hour trek down I-75 to Cincinnati where I attended my first Summit for MTNA Leadership.

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Retreat at Piano Manor

Food, Photos, and Recipes

Several weeks ago, I was lucky to get to participate in playing hostess to a wonderful group of piano teachers during Joy Morin’s Piano Teacher Retreat, “Retreat at Piano Manor, where I got to play the role of foodie/caterer!

I thought it would be fun to share the weekend with you from my perspective including meals and recipes I used (links to those available online).

 

Keepin’ it Healthy

Knowing that we had a gluten-free guest, I decided it was easier to keep that in mind for the whole shebang. Needless to say, I think we ate pretty healthy! Now THAT’S the kind of grocery cart I could aspire to every week. Color and real food.


(Two) Breakfasts Included

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Raspberry Orange Almond Muffins with Sprouted  Wheat Flour

Maple Candied Bacon

Honey Vanilla Yogurt

Fresh fruit

Scrambled eggs

Unfortunately, I missed getting photos of my breakfast tables!


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Sound Recipes 

Barefoot Contessa at Home

In the “Sound Recipes” series, I will review a cookbook from my collection and share the top, most “sound” recipes from the book that have become staples in my kitchen. You can expect to see a post in this series between 1-3 times a year.

Do you have a cookbook that’s like “home” to you – one that you go to over and over again? It may be the one you had the longest, the one your grandmother passed on, or the one with the most tried and true recipes.

For me, that book is Ina Garten’s 2006 cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.

After my husband and I married in 2002, I quickly learned that I needed to up-my-game from the recipes of my childhood. I wanted to learn to how to use more herbs as opposed to butter and sour cream for flavor and cook fresh vegetables rather than sprucing up canned.

With the help of the (new at the time) Americas Test Kitchen on Saturday morning PBS and Ina Garten in her Barefoot Contessa series on Food Network, I slowly began to experience food differently.

This was one of the first cookbooks I purchased and used outside of the church cookbooks from both of our childhoods and the Better Homes and Gardens one I got as a wedding present.

I swear everything Ina makes turns out perfect. Her recipes are truly “sound.”

Let me share with you why you would love this cookbook and some of my favorite recipes to tempt you. Continue reading

5-Days of Giveaways | 03: Milk Street Magazine

 

It’s day three of the one-year anniversary celebration of Piano Pantry!

Thank you to everyone who entered yesterday’s (day 2) giveaway. The winner of Day 2: John Feierabend’s “Move It!” DVD was Christie Ventura who has been notified via email). Congratulations!

I’m only giving away items that I currently use and love. We have two more days to go. Monday and Tuesday of next week, (March 13, 14) will be high price prizes!

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Game Day Roundup for your Studio and Kitchen

Soon, many Americans will be gathering for one of the biggest annual sporting events – Super Bowl Sunday.

In honor of the upcoming festivities, I’ll be sharing some football-themed lessons resources, a few of my favorite game-day eats, and a couple of personal memories of years past.

First, the memories.

 

Football, “Footy,” and I

As a non-sports fan, Super Bowl Sunday for me is a day where I get to have fun making all kinds of fun food and spend time with people I love. I’m that person: the commercial-watching, appetizer-eating, half-time show critic. The only time I’m ever interested in the game itself is when the Indianapolis Colts are playing.

If you’re like me when it comes to the Super Bowl, you may check out the podcast An Egghead’s Guide to the Super Bowl by Freakonomics.

My biggest Super Bowl memory was Super Bowl XLI (2007) between the Colts and the Chicago Bears. At the time, we were living in Melbourne, Australia. We kept a blog of our adventures back then called Aussie Chaps. Here’s what I said at the time:

Did you think we’d actually miss seeing the Colts play in the Super Bowl just because we live 12,000 miles away? Of course not! We ordered the sports channel for a month just so we could catch the game!

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