Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Not all of my readers are local so bear with me while I explain how fabulous this place is!
First the Grand Opening info:
Wednesday May 1, 2013
Sprouts Farmers Market
1751 Westwood Blvd (near the intersection of Westwood Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd) in the old Ross building.
7:00 a.m. the festivities start, with drawings and giveaways and one-day deals like $1 bags of organic romaine, $1 bags of vanilla wafers, $1 for a dozen eggs, $1 big artichokes, etc.
Why I LOVE SPROUTS:
-Big, spacious aisles with fresh clean produce and current products (I have never seen expired food on the shelves, they are great about checking that! One of my pet peeves at a certain competitor store!)
-Really unbeatable prices, especially on produce (a few weeks ago they had navel oranges for 28 cents a pound! organic apples for 50 cents a pound...I could go on and on...)
-Double sale Wednesdays (every Wednesday!) when twice as many things are on sale because the current and previous week's sales overlap
-Bulk spices, perfect for when I just need a bit of something or want to try something new. I once spent 22 cents there on a small quantity of a spice. It was great not to waste a whole jar for one recipe.
-Bulk candy (and flour, nuts, beans and other less tempting fare) because sometimes if we were to buy the big bag, we'd *eat* the whole big bag! William gets his cashews & yogurt covered pretzels every week from the bulk bins.
-Friendly, helpful, *empowered* employees! I once mentioned at checkout that I had accidentally been overcharged by a few dollars for organic apples the last time. The cashier apologized and deducted $4 from my bill.
-They have a $3 and under cheese section with smaller quantities of cheeses so you can try something new. Lauren loves to pick out a cheese she has never heard of before when we're at Sprouts.
- They have free sample cups of coffee. Mmmmm!
-They give you 5 cents per bag if you bring your own bags. This last one is something little but since I do bring my own bags, it's nice to get a quarter back every time I shop.
Disclaimer: William and I shop at "Frouts" in Culver City every Wednesday (and the ones in San Diego in my college years when they were named Boney's and Henry's) and we've spent thousands of dollars there over the years. But my disclaimer is that I was also invited to (okay, more like I begged them to come and they said yes!) their blogger event today where I got a tour of the store and received a bag of treats: coconut water, vitamin water, tortilla chips, salsa, vanilla wafers, BBQ chips, and dried apricots. Yum! But to be honest, even if all they had given me was the time of day, I would have still written glowingly and excitedly about their store opening. So excited that I'm going back tomorrow with my friend who has never shopped there!!
Thursday, March 21, 2013
|Page from The Fresh 20 cookbook|
Through MomsLA, I got a chance to try out The Fresh 20 meal planning service and see what I thought. The Fresh 20 is based on the idea that you can plan out your entire week's worth of healthy dinners based around 20 fresh ingredients and some pantry staples. You subscribe for $5 a month, and at the beginning of the week you get a meal plan, shopping list and prep guide.
My hesitations before beginning:
Q: Would they have a vegetarian option?
A: Yes, and also a gluten-free plan or "classic".
Q: Would it be a bunch of prepared "add a can of soup mix to this" and "add this specific frozen dinner product to that" type cooking?
A: No, in fact it was a lot of whole ingredients and fresh herbs, no preservatives, I could control the amounts of salt.
Q: What if all the vegetarian recipes just substituted mushrooms or fake meat products?
A: No fake meat products, some recipes called for making my own out of organic tofu but nothing processed. There was one recipe from one week that called for shitake mushrooms, but that seemed to be easily substituted out
Q: Would it be a lot of really exotic ingredients that would be hard to find that I would use only once and then would get stale in my kitchen? (Like the toasted pumpkin seed oil I just had to have back in 2010 and haven't touched since, probably should toss that!)
A: No, the plan did a good job of using up most of what I bought from the shopping list. The whole point of the plan is to get a list in advance for the whole week and use everything while cooking. I mean, not *everything*, you might end up with a quarter of an onion not chopped or a smidge of leftover pesto (yummy on bread for a snack in my case), but most things.
Last Wednesday I got the membership, logged in and saw the past 3 weeks of plans for vegetarian. The first one I looked at did not excite me only because two of the recipes used corn tortillas and I just don't care for the taste of corn tortillas. I wanted to really love the food so I picked another week (March 1). I appreciated not being stuck with just 1 plan, it was nice to have the previous few weeks to also choose from.
Armed with the list, I was off to Sprouts to shop! The Fresh 20 estimated it would cost $58.50 for the ingredients. Because I was also buying yogurts, breakfast foods and other things for the kids, I spent $70 on that trip. I needed to buy a few of the pantry ingredients (grapeseed oil, white wine vinegar, cannelini beans) and there were only two list items Sprouts was out of: fresh thyme and whole wheat hamburger buns.
In case Lauren didn't like the food, I stocked up on some frozen dinners from Trader Joe's for her (pesto tortellini wins every time.) I hadn't read through carefully before starting, and thought "I will just go home and start cooking dinner tonight at 5:00". We like to eat by 6:00. With two kids underfoot, there was no way I could do all of the prep work and get the first meal ready in under and hour! I learned that it would be better to start the week's prep on a Saturday or Sunday. It did *say* "make ahead" pesto, bread crumbs, cut vegetables". So, the first night we all ended up having Lauren's week of frozen meals, and I delayed cooking until Thursday.
Thursday afternoon while William napped, I cut, chopped, squeezed, food processed and prepped my way through the list. Feeling thoroughly prepared, I made the first night's meal, Pesto Tofu Burgers with Sweet Potato Nuggets. Lauren wouldn't try anything, but William really liked the sweet potatoes. (While cutting the sweet potatoes, I was surprised that mine were white inside, I thought they should be orange! In a panic, I called my dad to ask him. He was surprisingly well-informed about sweet potatoes and told me they can come in other colors besides orange and off-white was one hue. My dad knows everything!) The recipe called for cutting them up into bite-sized pieces, tossing with olive oil and coarse salt, and roasting. Easy and tasted like sweet potato fries!
Another lesson learned-the tofu burgers tasted good but were falling apart like scrambled eggs. I realize now that I did not properly press enough water out of the tofu in prep. I shouldn't hurry through that step! They still tasted good, though! Next time, I'll know.
Friday was supposed to be Day 2, but Lauren got strep throat and we spent a lot of the day at the doctor's office and pharmacy, so I could not bring myself to cook. She ate nothing (too sick) and the rest of us had leftovers.
Saturday I made the Lemon Broccoli pilaf and this was surprisingly simple to make and good! And a great way to use up some of the lemons from our tree. I don't usually like rice pilaf, but I love crispy broccoli and chick peas, so yum! The kids wouldn't try it so Ryan & I had lots of leftovers the next day.
Sunday: By then, most of the prep work had been done on the other days so it was a cinch to make the Spaghetti & Pesto Tofu Balls. I liked this meal the best. And it was easy to make "regular" spaghetti for Lauren since she did not like this version of pesto. (She is a pesto snob and to her, pesto is *only* legit if it has pine nuts, garlic, basil, EVO and imported Parm and nothing else!)
Monday I promised Lauren her favorite Spinach Souffle (BTW, the plan assumes you will eat out or have other plans for 2 out of 7 dinners of the week), so I whipped that up from memory, and gave the plan a break. (BTW, the plan assumes you will eat out or have other plans for 2 out of 7 dinners of the week. In my experience, you'll have leftovers to eat if you want.)
On Tuesday my parents were here and we ate out. Last night we had leftovers and tonight I am going to make the Day 4 recipe (Herb Crusted Tofu) BUT I do have to go back to the store since the cauliflower I bought last Wednesday has gone bad by now. The good news is it is in season and on sale. The Fresh 20 creator tries to use seasonally fresh food in the recipes to make it easy and inexpensive to shop.
In conclusion: I really like the idea of the plan and the concept of the list and prep guide made planning ahead easy. Next week, I think I will analyze which of the meals I could even cook entirely ahead, and then if I catch a chunk of time (nap, please William?!) I could cook up a storm and reheat each night. I'd also experiment with doing them out of order and substituting ingredients. For this week I wanted to try exactly as written.
My one suggestion to The Fresh 20 is that it would be so helpful to include weights for those of us who cook with a scale. "Three medium carrots chopped", I did not have. I had a bag of baby carrots. So I had to put a bunch of baby carrots together to estimate how many might equal one medium sized carrot, weigh that and multiply by three, add that much more to the scale and then chop. It worked but was a lot of extra steps. Same with "1/4 of a medium sized onion". If they included approx. weight for that measurement it would make it easier if I just had an entire chopped onion from the day before and could measure out.
Overall, I think The Fresh 20 plan is a great idea, and it costs very little money to subscribe, so I recommend my friends to give it a try! It gave me some great new ideas, got me out of the pasta/pizza/quesedillas rut, and I got to experiment with new flavors. For the roasted sweet potatoes idea alone, it would have been worth the cost. =)
I also wanted to let you know that they are coming out with a cookbook on April 23 and you can pre-order it here. They are running a great contest where you can win a stocked pantry, and that is here.
Friday, February 01, 2013
Thursday, December 06, 2012
He's trying harder to talk so there's less cave-man grunting and more sweet little phrases he comes up with like this one upon being caught in his first rainstorm- "Yay! Falling water!". He calls Lauren "Tee-ta" now instead of "Lo". He says "Yites!" for Christmas lights, just like Lauren did. ("Yay! I love yites!" He is obsessed with "twash" and has to close the lid of every open trash can he sees. He received a big Bruder trash truck for his birthday, which came with 2 miniature trash cans, and he plays with it every day. Also 4 more trucks.
He likes to say "I WOULD" when he means "would like to". "I would eat! I would that!" "I would cut! I would touch! I would walk! I would eat cake! I LOVE cake! CAKEY!"
At his well-visit, he weighed 36 pounds and was 38 1/2 inches tall (also I never blogged this but at 18 months, he was 36 inches and 34 pounds), which means if he stays on his height-curve, adult-William will be 6' 5"! He eats about 3 times as often as I do, and his favorite treat these days is "shaboos!" (strawberries) or else "dooce" (juice).
He loves to make stacks of blocks and to play with his cars and to take baths with "buboos" and "shahmpoo!" He wants to explore the neighborhood, and has named one of the local squirrels Julia. Her husband or son or arch-enemy, another squirrel who runs around and chases her, is called Paul.
Back to my changing feelings about being home with William, it's gotten easier in the past 8 weeks since I wrote that post, partly because I seem to sense the fleetingness of it, knowing he'll be in nursery school in July so I will have less than a year left at home with what will likely be my last baby. He's also so loving and sweet to me, and such a charmer.
A funny story about that-we were at Home Depot and he had run off nearby, when a woman wearing the same colored jeans was shopping nearby. He ran over and hugged her ankles, thinking it was me. When she looked down and he saw that it was a stranger, there was a moment of shock on his face. Instead of crying or looking embarrassed, he took a beat, then played it off as intentional and beamed a giant, flirtatious grin at her, like "how YOU doin'?"
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
He's not talking much-he has his words, but mostly those that describe all of the above interests: "ball, truck, bus, BIG BIG ball, bird, bug, mud, dirt, fleurs, plants, rocks, red, blocks, car, I go, I fall down, whee, wow, all done, puzzle, hot, water, dog, strawberry, and shoes." And the favorite catch-all: "Eh". Cave-man talk.
I guess what I'm realizing is we're both getting ready for him to spend time at preschool. I might not be ready to pay that bill every month, but I'm ready to have a little space, otherwise, I get so exhausted here trying to keep him happy and then put him down for his nap, that when he is finally asleep and I have time to do my work (new job assignment at the office, by the way, so even more that I should be keeping track of), all I want to do is rest and not take apart the code on some web page I might get interrupted from halfway through. (So I do it in the wee hours of the night instead, and the next morning I regret staying up so late.) I head to the fridge and eat the "grown up" things I can't consume in front of him because he'd want some and would point and "eh, eh!" at me and do his caveman growl/whine because I wasn't sharing any chocolate, coffee, spicy foods which he would insist on trying and would then look horrified, spit them out and indignantly accuse me- "hot!"
Though we do have lots of little moments of giggling happy, sweet times. And bits of comedy. He tries on other people's shoes and clomps around pretending to be Daddy or Mommy or Lo. When he wants to leave the house, he can't say "let's go", so instead he charges into my closet, tugs on the sleeve of one of my pink shirts-always a Brooks Brothers dress shirt-pulls it down and drags it over to me, pulls me by the hand and gives me that look that means "let's go for a walk". .
There are tantrum moments. when he badly wants to go outside and charge out into the street to chase a truck, and I stop him from himself by bolting the front door with the deadlock where he can't reach it (he can rip the childproof door knob cover off), and he rages at the injustice of not being allowed FREEDOM to just run around by himself. And I feel bad for our neighbors who have to hear this. If I were that single, childless neighbor getting to sleep in on my day off, I'd be hating me and my screaming kid right about now. Today when this happened, I let him have his little tantrum (shutting the windows) and then after a few minutes when it died down, I distracted him by doing a puzzle with him 3 times in a row. Each time we finished, we clapped and shouted "YAY!", high-fived, and then he did the sign language for "more".
But wow, that half hour on the rug took every fiber of my being, to sit and focus on the puzzle with him and talk about it and not reach for my laptop or call someone on the phone or read a magazine. Because WOW, being present with little kids can be BORING. And I know, there are people reading this who are OFFENDED that I admitted that, people who desperately want children, who feel THEY would NEVER be bored with the wonderful magical mystery of every second with their precious child that they love so much.
But the reality? After I've read "My Truck is Stuck" for the two thousandth time, and had the same argument about why it is not a good idea to wear a long-sleeved sweatshirt on a 95 degree day, even if this sweatshirt does have "ya, ball. wed." on it, my mind does wander on to other things that I love so much...
Monday, October 01, 2012
Well, my conference lodging and meals were sponsored this year, and the sponsors don't have a web presence and aren't even listed in the phone book, and don't need any publicity from me at all. My aunt & uncle, who are some of the nicest people on earth, were my innkeepers.
Uncle Fred picked us up in Newark on Monday, and drove us back to his house (after stopping at the Bear Mountain zoo, where William made friends with a swan.). He and Aunt Marguerite spent the week in a friendly "favorite relative" competition with my parents. The pinnacle of this was a photo they emailed showing William eating not just one ice cream cone, but two at once!
They chauffeured, cooked, cleaned and did our laundry and watched William while I was at the conference. On Thursday night, they drove in with me for the Expo Hall portion, and took William to Aunt Andrea's apartment around the corner, then drove me home. On Friday and Saturday, Uncle Fred woke up at 5:00 a.m. each day to get ready and drive me to the train station.
He and Aunt Marguerite took great care of their grand-nephew, to the point that William burst into tears when they left the room, even while I was there. They kept him entertained by endlessly reading "My Truck Is Stuck", and took him on William-tailored adventures, including seeing planes at the local airport, throwing stones in the river, visiting several playgrounds, attending a birthday party complete with a clown, and seeing lots of trucks up close. And one visit to a police car whose driver gallantly turned on the flashing lights for William.
This year I didn't do much partying after the sessions, I could have, I'm sure my aunt & uncle would have come to get me at the train station at whatever hour I wanted, but I didn't really feel like it. I felt like going back home, to their house. And I am so happy that William had this week to love them even more and to feel at home with them, too!
I can never thank you enough, Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Fred! I would name a building after you, but that's been done before. ;) So here's a blog post dedicated just to you. Thank you a million times for this and the countless other nice things you've always done for me, my whole life! Love and miss you lots!
Friday, August 03, 2012
It is really great to be here, but not for the reasons you'd expect. More on that later, but for now, this photo for Desiree, to show one of the less desirable aspects of NYC in August. I'm on the train coming back to my aunt & uncle's house as I post this.
If you just met me at BlogHer, feel free to comment here and say hi. I will write more when it's not by painstakingly pecking on my phone!