Trader Joe’s Taste Testing- Fall Holiday Sides!

Ever walk down the aisles at the store and wonder… “Wouldn’t it be easier and taste just as good to use the pre-cooked side dishes from my favorite grocery store?”

Don’t. Make your own. Unless, you don’t mind settling for sides that are less than okay.

Case in point:

IMG_9134Cauliflower Au Gratin with Gruyere Sauce and Parmesan Breadcrumbs

IMG_9135Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans

IMG_9155Trader Joe’s Ready to Use Turkey Gravy


Again, don’t. Just… no. In very little time, you to peel, cube, and roast a couple of sweet potatoes, drizzle with your own maple syrup or sprinkle on brown sugar, and this will taste WORLDS better, the texture will be FAR superior, and you will spend maybe a third of the price. As for the cauliflower– well, it didn’t taste bad (neither did it taste good), but the vegetable was buried under about three times as much crumb topping as needed. Oddly enough, both packages of sides seemed under cooked, even though I followed the directions for time and temperature.

The gravy. Ummm… what to say. Not much turkey flavor, not horrible, but I wouldn’t buy it again or use it again. Ever. This product simply does not taste good. I’d rather mix up the McCormick’s envelope from the seasoning section of the supermarket. I would drink up a pot full of gravy from a straw, and I will not touch the Trader Joe’s gravy with a ten foot pole.

I love my Trader Joe’s stores, and rarely find something I dislike, or dislike this much. I’m glad I gave these a try, it was worth the price to try something new, and gratifying to know that a simple home made recipe is so much better. Save yourself the scratch. Make simple sides from scratch.

Got a Little Time to Cook? Simple Recipe Suggestions: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Thyme and Maple Syrup

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Got a Little More Time to Cook: Still Somewhat Simple Suggestion:

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy


Easier (and lighter) Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

I love seeing the short recipe videos that friends share on Facebook and other sites. You know, the 15 second or one minute clips showing how to put together quick side dishes or appetizers?

I saw this two minute video tonight and wondered if it would be better than my simple baked sweet potato that I serve with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar…

Click photo to link to the original video “Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter”

Here’s what I did:

Oven at 400… (Six o’clock already… dinner’s gonna be late tonight!
…Sweet Potatoes, cleaned and poked with knife, in for 50-60 minutes…
…2 Tbsp. Butter, pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. brown sugar…
When tender, cut potatoes in half, scoop potato from skins, mush up potato with ingredients in bowl, and put back into the potato skins. Top with small marshmallows and bake for 10 more minutes until marshmallows get toasty.
10 minutes later, Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes!


The Husband approved, The Boy is a stinker- he doesn’t like toasted marshmallows, and I thought they were too sweet. I’ll stick to a ridiculously simple baked, pat of butter, sprinkle of brown sugar version. BUT- if you like a nice, sweet, holiday-style Sweet Potato, these definitely fit the bill! Simple, quick, and quite good. If you like sweet. Is it just me? I think that sweet potatoes are rich and sweet enough, that they don’t need very much butter or sugar to make them delicious.

By the way, if you look at the recipe video that caught my attention originally, you see that it calls for cream cheese. I think that would be really nice in this dish, and will give it another try with that extra ingredient. Also- my potatoes were kind of small, which made scooping out and stuffing them a little tricky. I’d use a bigger sweet potato next time.