Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

Mediterranean Shrimp and Orzo Salad

4 Apr

Stefano’s school has spring break this week, so I have been able to spend much more time with him than I usually do. My gym time and blogging has been kind of thrown out the window as a result, but he is so worth it. Getting to spend time with him during the week is such a luxury – we can even make dinner together! Last night we put together a meal that was too good not to share and it was so unbelievably easy to make – we cooked, ate, and cleaned up in under an hour! Never mind the fact that both of us are vacuums when it comes to eating and it may take normal people a little bit longer to eat, but it’s still wonderfully quick dinner that feels like it should have taken more time than it did.

Orzo is one of my favorite pastas. It’s widely used around the Mediterranean basin and is the base for the best comfort soup of all-time, an Egyptian recipe called Shurbat Lisan Asfour, or Bird Tongue Soup. It’s named for the shape of the noodles, which look like the tongues of little birds. What is great about orzo is its versatility: you can use it to make a soup more hearty, as a rice subsitute, or as a pasta. Orzo, which actually means barley in Italian and can thus be quite confusing, is called risoni (big rice) in Italy. It goes by kritharáki and manéstra in Greek cooking and is known as arpa şehriye in Turkish kitchens.

Naturally, I like to pair it with Mediterranean flavors and this dish is a perfect blend of light and refreshing ingredients and won’t leave you feeling “heavy” the way many pastas do. This recipe is very forgiving and I encourage you to play around with it: maybe substitute grilled zucchini for cucumber or try sundried tomatoes in lieu of fresh ones. What is brilliant about Mediterranean cooking is the ingredients are simple but the flavor combinations produce a final meal that is multifaceted and complex.

Mediterranean Shrimp and Orzo Salad


Serves 4 (6 if used as a side)



For the pasta:
  • (1) one pound bag of orzo pasta (99 cents at Trader Joe’s!)
  • one pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Persian cucumbers (or two English cucumbers)
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (we start with the big chunk and crumble it ourselves, but you can always buy it pre-crumbled)
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, deveined
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or just use a tablespoon of pre-minced)
  • Parsley or basil for garnish (optional)
For the dressing*:
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain dijon mustard (this has a kick!)
  • 2 tablespoons hummus
  • freshly ground black pepper

*I really played around with the measurements of the sauce so they’re not exact – feel free to fiddle and find a combination of flavors that is most appealing to you.



  1. Cook orzo according to instructions on package (it cooks like pasta) then drain well.
  2. Sautee shrimp in butter and garlic. This is a fast process so be careful not to overcook the shrimp!
  3. Add orzo to large mixing bowl and top with cooked shrimp, diced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese.
  4. In a separate bowl, add lemon juice, EVOO, mustard, hummus, and black pepper and mix until well combined. The texture should be easily pour-able, but not too runny.
  5. Pour dressing over the orzo pasta and mix until the pasta, shrimp, and veggies are coated.
  6. Top with more feta or garnish (parsley or basil would work very well).

Buon appetito!

Mixing It Up

17 Jan

Yesterday at lunch I had the wonderful chance to meet up with my friend Amanda from Rome, who is back in the DMV area to see her family. Long time readers may remember her from when I last saw her over the summer. She is finishing up school in Rome and caught me up on all the latest news from Italy. Massive Romesickness aside, it was great to see her and catch up! I just wish our visits were more frequent than bi-yearly.

We went to Chop’t for lunch, dubbed by Amanda as the “Coldstone of salads”, which is so true. For those of you who have never frequented the restaurant, it is basically a massive salad bar, where you tell the people behind the counter what you want in your salad, they throw it all together, and go at it with a mezzaluna. The result is a very finely chopped salad with all sorts of delicious ingredients inside.

When I make my salads for lunch at work, it almost always goes like this:

  • 1/2 bag of TJ’s baby spinach
  • 1 chopped Roma tomato
  • 1 Persian cucumber
  • A sprinkle of feta cheese
  • Drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those salads just fine. I am a person of routine and rather enjoy eating the same foods ad nauseum. During my last trip to Trader Joe’s, I was walking down the canned foods aisle and decided to mix my salads up by adding some extra goodies to them. Last night’s dinner was one of my “upgraded” salads and it was so delicious.

IMG_1873[1]Along with the usual ingredients, I also added some cannellini beans, chopped dill pickle, and canned artichoke hearts. It’s amazing what a difference it made! These simple additions turned the salad from a usual humdrum meal to one with all sorts of unexpected flavors. The tang of the dill pickle and the texture of the artichoke really amped it up. Let that be a lesson to you (and me) that it doesn’t take drastic change to spice up something ordinary!

My ipsy package also came in the mail!

IMG_1870[1]Can’t get enough of their bright pink packaging.

Does anybody love packages in the mail as much as I do?

IMG_1871[1]This month’s bag included:

  • Josie Maran’s argan oil (retailed for $14 at Sephora – more than the cost of one entire Ipsy bag!)
  • Big Sexy Hair hairspray ($6 on Ulta)
  • Nailtini Straight Up Color in Bloody Mary ($13 on Nailtini)
  • SoHo crease brush ($8.99 on Soho Beauty)
  • Pacifica Blood Orange body butter ($7 on Pacifica Perfume)

If I had purchased all of these products individually, the package (that also comes with a cute little bag) would have been almost $50! How ridiculous is that? I love this because it means I get to try out different products without spending huge amounts of money. If I find a product I like, then I’m free to buy more it on my own.

One product I had never heard of was argan oil, so I looked into it before I put it on my body (the package says it can be used on your cuticles, your face, your hair, or your body – talk about versatile!).



Sephora had this to say:

“This 100% Pure Argan Oil is a legendary oil that’s rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, and grown organically in Morocco. With its multitasking benefits, Argan Oil can be used for many areas including hydrating and nourishing skin, as a daily moisturizer, skin treatment, treating spilt ends, and softening cuticles. It’s gentle enough to use on all skin types and is believed to help with skin conditions including acne. Argan Oil easily absorbs into skin to give you a youthful, dewy glow, and has astonishing healing, conditioning, and antiaging properties to keep your skin and hair nourished and revitalized and to keep you looking beautiful from head to toe.”

You learn something new every day!

I am totally a nude-colors girl when it comes to my nail polish, so I was pretty surprised to open the Nailtini box and find a bright red color.

IMG_1872[1]I am envious of my friend Allison, who received a nude color in her bag. I tend to stick with neutral colors just because they match everything, but this might force me to switch things up and wear some bright colors or maybe I will re-gift it to somebody.

On the books today is a lunch workout! I have really been digging this Cardio and Tone class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not only do I get a huge wave of energy post-workout to power me through the afternoon, it leaves the evening open for anything that may come up. Today’s is my roommate’s 25th birthday, so we’re going out to dinner to celebrate! It’s nice to have that flexibility during the week, especially since early morning workouts don’t really seem to be on the horizon for me.

Wishing you a fabulous last couple of days leading into the weekend!





A Sore Return

9 Jan

Whew! Either the two weeks out of the gym completely took it out of me or maybe I’m still recovery from being sick, but the Cardio and Tone class I went to during lunch yesterday has left me s-o-r-e. Like, waddling around, bracing myself to sit on the toilet sore. Definitely didn’t see that one coming, but it was a fantastic workout. The instructor was upbeat, knowledgeable, and offered varying levels of difficulty for each of the exercises so it was good for all fitness levels. The class was set up like high intensity interval training (HIIT), except there wasn’t much rest time from what I could gather. It was basically a bunch of supersets (one exercise immediately followed by another), taking a rest break when you absolutely needed to. Wowza!

The nice thing about going to the gym during lunch is that I get to go home straight after. There was a package waiting on my doorstep when I arrived home. How I love getting mail!

IMG_1813[1]My dad had wanted to buy a winter coat for me for my birthday, but waited until I was home in December so I could try them on myself and see what fit best.

IMG_1817[1]It’s so warm and cozy and purple! I love it. It looks pink in this picture, but I assure you that it’s purple. Also, don’t mind the fact that I’m wearing PJ pants underneath the jacket – I may or may not have changed right into them as soon I got home from work. Major plus on the coat?

IMG_1823[1]Thumb holes! I love them.

After modeling my coat for myself, I went downstairs to rummage for some food because if I’m not at the gym, I’m eating (duh). On our recent Costco trip, I bought two pounds of cherry tomatoes and a box of individually packaged Sabra hummus to bring to work in lunches, so I decided to break them out and see how they were.

IMG_1825[1]Sabra is not really my favorite hummus, but the individual packs are a perfect serving and will pair well with some sliced cucumbers (my fave) and the tomatoes.

Then I parked myself on the couch and watched the rest of season 1 of Downton Abbey. Whoops. I had big plans to clean my room and do laundry and all that fun stuff, but it was thrown by the wayside in favor of the drama of the Crawley family. I won’t give anything away for those who haven’t seen it but the episode with the Turkish attaché just knocked me on my butt. Touché, Julian Fellowes, touché.

While on the phone with Stef last night, we were discussing our plans for this weekend. Our anniversary is on Friday so we are hoping to do something a little more romantic than our usual Trader Joe’s grocery date. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my Friday night than walking in a giant room full of food with my boyfriend. I’m kidding, I think.

Anyway, the weather is supposed to be really nice this weekend, get a load of this:

IMG_1827[1]Highs in the sixties over the weekend??? Tell me this is actually the middle of winter. With warm temps on the horizon, we are hoping to find something fun to do outside over the weekend.

This morning’s breakfast was a lox and cream cheese wrap using some smoked salmon from Trader Joe’s.


It was also featured in my omelette yesterday and I’m having a salmon fillet for lunch – overkill? I also had a bowl of honey Greek yogurt (the best flavor) mixed with some frozen wild blueberries that I briefly thawed in the microwave. The smokiness of the salmon really made the wrap and the juice from the blueberries turned my yogurt a beautiful shade of purple. Simple and so delicious.

Body Pump is on the books for tonight, though my muscles are fatigued and I don’t know how effective my workout will be tonight. It’s pretty amazing what two weeks of being sedentary will do to you after months of regular activity.

Food For Thought: Do you go through periods where you eat the same thing repeatedly? What are some of your favorite food regulars?






Hungry For Change

4 Jan

Rats, guys. The cold I was hoping to avoid yesterday finally got to me. Throughout the course of the work day yesterday, I became snifflier (that’s a technical term) and more congested. I knew by the end of the day that a workout was just not going to make it onto the books. I am a bit bummed that I didn’t make it to the gym since I didn’t do anything active during my Seattle vacation, but my body was just not up for it. I also figured I would have mercy on the rest of the people I have to take classes with. Nobody wants a sniffling mess in their class spreading germs!

I really didn’t know what to do when I got home since it was a good hour and a half earlier than usual, but I immediately changed into my pajamas. I decided to call it an early dinner and made myself a bowl of seafood marinara pasta. It came together really quickly because I had a package of frozen seafood from Trader Joe’s just waiting for me. I am not going to lie, I love that fact that I have been able to make lunches and dinners without getting to the grocery store this week. I am definitely ready for some fresh produce, though.

IMG_1796[1]Pasta and tea? A unique combination, but all warmth definitely made my body happy.

After tidying up around the house, it was still only 8 o’clock. I wanted to get to bed early and get lots of rest, but I was not trying to wake up at four because I couldn’t sleep any longer. I decided to check Netflix to see if they had a film that was recommended to me by my friend, Lucy.

IMG_1797[1]Sure enough, there it was on instant queue. Hungry For Change is a second documentary from the directors of the film, Food Matters. This film talk about the food industry and begins by discussing what goes on behind the scenes of biotech labs and how processed foods become the way they are. It then transitions into the topic of processed foods and the effects they have on your body and mind. Some major points I took away from the film:

  • Our brains still treat food the way they did when we were hunter-gatherers and are thus biologically inclined to prefer fatty, high-calorie foods – particularly carbohydrates, in order to prepare ourselves in cases of famine.
  • In modern society, the availability of said foods has increased exponentially and cases of famine are non-existent in Western society.
  • As a result, obesity and diet-related complications are on the rise
  • Your body knows how to take care of itself, but you have to fuel it properly.
  • Processed foods=bad, whole foods=good.
  • Sugar is the enemy.

I found the film to be thought-provoking, if a little scathing towards processed foods and sugar. While I don’t have a scientific background, it seems a bit harsh to compare feeding your kids sugar and injecting them with heroin (one of the statements made by a doctor in the film). One critique I had was of the incredible amount of correlation=causation. While some of the people being interviewed were scientists or health practitioners, a number of them were people with anecdotal experiences, which doesn’t strike me as hugely credible. One of my pet peeves is when people make radical scientific claims and don’t cite the study for us to research ourselves and this film did a lot of that.

While I agreed with much of what they had to say (we as a society consumer sugar and process foods in dangerous excess), the biases in the film were obvious, as with most documentaries, and it was difficult to consider the film an objective analysis of the way we approach food in modern society, particularly the United States.

The video above is for the official trailer, which gives you a general idea of what the film is about. Though I have my own critiques about the film, I highly recommend people watch it because it brings up a lot of cultural ideologies that we must change in order to progress towards healthier lifestyles. Here are a couple more reviews of the film by some other bloggers:

I, for one, am going to start paying more attention to what kinds of foods I am eating, because I know that I tend to gravitate towards carbohydrates. My goal is to reach a balanced diet, including carbohydrates and proteins and fats. I am thinking of starting a food diary so I can see how much processed food I am eating and just because it’ll be fun to see if any patterns emerge (if I get cravings for certain foods at different times of the day or month, etc.).

Also, if you don’t follow me on Twitter or didn’t catch the articles I posted yesterday, the New York Times posted some interesting health related articles that some of you may like to read:


In semi-related news, I just learned that I was chosen to be a Girls Gone Sporty ambassador! I was notified the other day by Laura Williams, the co-owner of the group and I am so excited to be part of their community! My ambassador information should be up on their website soon (I’ll let you know when it is) but you can bet that you’ll be hearing more about them on this blog in the future.

Whew, that was lengthy! I just had so much to say today before my weekend break. This weekend will probably consist of lots of rest time, though I would like to get my sweat on at least once. Sunday afternoon is all football: Seattle Seahawks play the Washington Redskins in the playoffs and my loyalties are not even remotely divided – Seahawks all the way, baby!

Wishing you all a wonderful and restful first weekend of 2013!

Food For Thought: Have you seen Hungry For Change or any other food documentaries? Did they change the way you thought about food/nutrition?




19 Dec

Good morning! This morning’s alarm came a little too soon because I was up late, reading Gretchen Powell’s debut novel! I’ve been reading her blog for a little while now and as soon as the book was available, I downloaded it to my Kindle.

IMG_1642[1]I’ll post a review of it later, but I thought it was a nice, easy read. It’s meant to be the first book in a dystopian series  and the ending definitely asks for a sequel.

I realize that I’ve been neglecting to post my eats the last few days. Sometimes I just forget to take pictures of my food and it’s gone before I even realize it – whoops! Since I’m leaving for Seattle on Saturday morning, I only did a very small grocery shop over the weekend so I don’t have food going to waste. Lately, I’ve been a big fan of fried egg sandwiches for breakfast and have been eating them virtually every day. They’re quick and easy and taste delicious!


Lunches have been mostly salad-based (packaged greens were BOGO at Giant) and I’ve taken to eating those delicious red grapes every chance I get! In this particular sandwich thin, I spread some garlic hummus from Trader Joe’s, but I’m also a big fan of using a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese when I feel like switching things up.

IMG_1641[1]Like I said yesterday, I was feeling a quick workout that would get me in and out of the gym last night. I started with a 20 minute interval workout on the elliptical before completing this circuit workout. It’s almost Christmas so I feel like Washington should feel winter-y, but it’s not! The weather has been unseasonably warm. In that vein, I decided to call this workout the Not So Winter Wonderland.

Not So Winter WonderlandI was good and sweaty by the end of the workout, especially with the Burpees – those never fail to get my heart rate skyrocketing. As I was stretching, I noticed that the body fat analyzer was out, so I decided to see where I was. When I first measured my body fat in July, I was at 21.7% and I set a goal to go sub-20% so I could fit into the ‘athlete’ category on the body fat chart. Five months later?

IMG_1644[1]Goal reached! I am pretty thrilled with myself, especially because I didn’t really make a concerted effort to eliminate body fat – I have mostly been focusing on increasing my strength and endurance. It’s nice to see all my effort pay off in a tangible way after all these months! This has made me more sure than ever that the best way to take care of your body is to eat right and get your body moving.

On the walk home from the gym, I was greeted with a row of houses all decked out in Christmas lights.


I imagined how pretty they would look if the streets were covered in snow and all you could see were the lights twinkling. Come on, winter wonderland!

Because I’m trying to clear out the fridge, I decided to make dinner using some big portobello mushrooms that have been in my fridge for a little while. Originally I was going to make portobello burgers, but when I looked at how big they were, I thought it might be interesting to stuff them, instead! What I ended up doing was putting them on a cookie sheet and putting them in the oven for five minutes on ‘broil’. Then I took them out and cracked an egg in each one and put them back in until the eggs were cooked through, about five more minutes. While they were still hot, I topped them with a little bit of marinara sauce and some shredded mozzarella – pizza mushrooms!

IMG_1646[1]A peanut butter sandwich thin also made an appearance which was a perfect hit of sweetness after the mushrooms. Next time, I think I’ll try stuffing them with some sort of grain like couscous or bulgher. I’ve been avoiding quinoa for the past few months because I suspect that it upsets my stomach. I’ll probably give it a go again so just so I can confirm it.

Now it’s another new day and I’m one day closer to vacation! I’m already fantasizing about all the Seattle restaurants I’m going to frequent as soon as I arrive, but that is a post for another day.

Happy Wednesday!







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