Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

One thing Tyson and I love about visiting Colorado is the food. Specifically, the Mexican kind! Good Mexican food is hard to find here in NYC, so we always make sure we get our fill when we go back west.

We love making regular enchiladas. They are easy, affordable and very filling. This recipe came from a Facebook group I’m a member of and is a fun twist on traditional enchiladas. I had to make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but that is what’s so great about it…you can customize it to your own food preferences. I would definitely make it again!


We made a half size (8×8) version of this last weekend with a bottle of Trader Joe’s Enchilada Sauce because we already had it in our cupboard, but for Super Bowl Sunday I decided to make the homemade enchilada sauce that was recommended in the original recipe. It was delicious, and probably better for us, but I have to admit I like the flavor of TJ’s sauce better.


I don’t like beans and I never have. As an adult I’ve given them a try a couple times, but I just can’t get over the texture. So I substituted the black beans with spinach and red peppers.

I sautéed fresh garlic in some olive oil for a few minutes and then added frozen sweet corn and frozen spinach. I sautéed them for a few more minutes before adding fresh red peppers and I seasoned generously with salt and pepper.

We made the same crock pot shredded chicken that we use in the regular enchiladas we make. We didn’t have the green onions the recipe called for, but the shredded chicken we make has yellow onions in it, so I figured that would do just fine.

The great thing about this dish is that we were able to prepare the chicken and veggie filling earlier in the day, store them in the fridge and then just put the casserole together right before we wanted to bake it. It was ready just in time for half time!

I had made a huge batch of guacamole as a pre-game snack, so instead of topping the whole casserole with diced avocado, I just added a dollop of guacamole to each serving. It was perfect!


Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

This is definitely a weekend meal if you have to make the chicken, but it can also be a quick mid-week option if you have the chicken already made. Plus you can play with the ratios of the filling however it fits your needs, using less chicken and more spinach if you prefer more veggies. This chicken is also great for quesadillas, nachos, or pasta dishes, so stock up!

Crockpot Shredded Chicken

1 lb. chicken breasts
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
1-2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

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Place all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours or until chicken is tender. Use two forks to shred the chicken and strain excess liquid. Use in the enchilada recipe below, or in another favorite recipe!


Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

1/2 lb. shredded chicken
10 oz. frozen or fresh spinach
8 oz. cream cheese
8 medium sized wheat tortillas
1 bottle TJ’s red enchilada sauce
6-8 oz. shredded cheese (Mexican blend and/or pepper jack)

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Thaw frozen spinach or slightly sautée fresh spinach in a medium skillet. Add cream cheese and heat on low until melted. Stir in shredded chicken.


Pour a couple tablespoons of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish.


Warm tortillas slightly in the microwave and then roll equal parts of the mixture into each tortilla and place seam down into the glass baking dish.


Pour the shredded cheese and remaining enchilada sauce over top.


Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes at 325 degrees.


We usually have these enchiladas with brown rice, but I needed something a little quicker, so we had it with TJ’s frozen Quinoa Duo with Vegetable Melange.


I actually liked it better than the brown rice because the sweet potato in the quinoa complimented the spiciness of the enchilada sauce really nicely. And the extra veggies are always a plus!!

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Cinnamon Apple Crescent Rolls

This is such a fun and easy treat to make with young kids! All you need is croissant dough, apples, butter, cinnamon and sugar. Toddlers will just love being able to spread the cinnamon sugar butter and roll the crescent rolls all by themselves. These are great for breakfast on the go or a quick snack.

Cinnamon Apple Crescent Rolls


Mix 1-2 tablespoons of softened butter, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl. Peel and cut 1 large apple into slices. Cut Crescent Roll triangles in half and spread some of the cinnamon and sugar butter onto each triangle. Place an apple slice at the wide end of each triangle and loosely roll. Bake according to the Crescent Roll package directions.

Enjoy warm!


Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Our Three Favorite Snacks with Three Ingredients or Less

1. Fruit Bars

FullSizeRender-15I don’t eat these very often, but Qwynn LOVES them. At 99-cents a bar, they are pricier than many fruit cereal bars, but it’s worth the extra money knowing that Qwynn is getting just the fruit she needs and nothing else. They have four different kinds (Apple+Coconut, Apple+Strawberry, Apple+Banana, and Apple+Mango), and each has only those two ingredients. Qwynn is not a fan of the coconut at all and the strawberry isn’t her favorite either. She enjoys the banana ones, but I usually don’t buy them because actual bananas are one of the easiest fruits ever, so I’d rather she eat them fresh. FullSizeRender-20That means Mango is my go-to choice, which is perfect because Qwynn won’t eat fresh mango. It is absolutely wonderful to have a quick, easy and healthy option on-the-go that is made of JUST fruit. And of course the most important part is that it is toddler approved.

2. Dark Chocolate Honey Mints

FullSizeRender-16I never used to eat peppermint patties, but when I worked at REstyleSOURCE in AZ they consistantly had a stocked pantry full of pretty much every snack at Costco. Included was always a huge container of peppermint patties. It became my favorite treat while working and was the perfect afternoon pick me up. However, I recently looked up the ingredients in them and am kind of disappointed I ate so many while I was pregnant—a lot of not so great stuff in them. Luckily, I have found an amazing substitute at TJ’s and they have only 3 ingredients in them. These Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are my guilty pleasure and I can never have just one. FullSizeRender-18The chocolate outside is pretty bitter since it isn’t sweetened with anything, but I love that initial bitter taste followed by the sweet flavor from the minty filling that follows. They are absolutely delicious and so refreshing.

3. Organic Corn Chip Dippers

FullSizeRender-14I am so obsessed with these corn chips! We buy two packages every shopping trip we make. They have the same ingredients that Fritos corn chips have, but the TJ’s version is organic and GMO-free. Plus, the chips are really big, so they are great for scooping delicious guacamole (something they suggest on the packaging), and are just as yummy with hummus or salsa. On more occasions than I should probably admit, Tyson and I will eat almost an entire bag of these with a whole container of their pre-made guacamole for a late dinner when we don’t have the energy to cook and just want to veg out in front of the TV after Qwynn goes to bed. FullSizeRender-19Since I rarely eat other chips, crackers or similar snacks, I don’t feel guilty about digging into these a couple times a week. They are a great choice when you are craving something salty and crunchy.

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Baked Quinoa and Brown Rice Pasta With Shredded Zucchini

“If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Do you remember this question when you were younger? I do! And my answer was ALWAYS pasta. Angel hair spaghetti to be exact. Smothered in butter and tons of Parmesan cheese. Mmmmm!

I was a picky eater when I was a kid and despised pasta sauce in all forms. My tastes have sophisticated some since then and I do enjoy a good tomato sauce now. I’m not sure spaghetti covered in butter and cheese would be my first choice anymore thanks to a beautiful place called Chipotle, but I will still inhale a good plate (or bowl) of pasta if you put it in front of me.

Both white and whole wheat pasta have come under scrutiny with all the talk about gluten and GMOs. Again, my belief is “most things in moderation.” If you are looking for an alternative to wheat products, I am absolutely in love with Trader Joe’s Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice Pasta! They offer it in a fusilli and spaghetti and the consistency is pretty comparable to the yummy white flour pasta we all love.

This is my organic, vegetarian version of my younger sister’s simple Baked Ziti and Ground Sausage Recipe. I’ve been trying to eat more vegetables and less meat, and am always trying to sneak veggies into Qwynn. Shredded zucchini is perfect for this! Also, the great thing is that you can put this all together the night before (like we Tyson did last night), and you have dinner for the next night that you just have to pop into the oven. SO EASY!


Baked Quinoa and Brown Rice Pasta With Shredded Zucchini



-Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice Fusilli Pasta


-Organic Zucchini Squash, Shredded


-Organic Tomato Basil Marinara


-Organic Shredded Mozzarella Cheese



Cook pasta according to directions on the package, making sure to leave it more on the al dente side since it’ll cook more in the oven. While pasta is cooking, shred zucchini into a bowl. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water, then return to the pot. Add marinara sauce and shredded zucchini to the pasta and mix well.

Spread half the pasta in a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish, then add a layer of the mozzarella cheese (using about 4 oz), then a layer of the remaining pasta and then top with the rest of the cheese. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and slightly browned (about 20-30 minutes).


*Trader Joe’s does not pay me to write this.

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Crab Stuffed Flounder Over Harvest Grains and Sautéed Spinach and Bell Peppers.

This isn’t the post I was planning on writing today. I was going to do the one I never got around to posting last Tuesday because I was passed out on the recliner with a horrible cold. However, this past Saturday I had the itch to really cook and I wanted to use up some items in our fridge and pantry that were borderline expired. Inspired by one of my favorite shows Chopped, I came up with a dish that was pretty delicious. I was so proud of it, I just couldn’t wait another week to share it!

Anyone who knows me well, knows how horrible I am at using food that is even a little bit past its expiration date. I am super picky about my produce and recently realized it comes from a weekend job I had in high school. My mom’s friend who had cancer would have me come over to help her prepare her produce. I had to make sure everything was cleaned really well and that there were no brown spots on anything. I am trying really hard to get over this because I end up wasting so much food.

When I looked into the fridge this weekend and saw an unopened bag of spinach that had a “use by” date for the day before, I hesitated a little. Most of it looked fresh with no brown or wilting so I ignored the expiration date, overcame my OCD and decided to use it. We also had an orange and a yellow bell pepper that we bought the week before and both still looked in good shape. And I found an almost full bag of the harvest grain blend that expires next month so I wanted to use some of that too. The stuffed flounders had been in our freezer for months because I would always forget to put them in the fridge the night before so that they could thaw. Luckily, they thawed pretty quickly in some cold water. I wanted to use fresh onion and garlic, but unfortunately the ones we had were goners. Regardless, we still ended up with a pretty amazing dinner!

Crab Stuffed Flounder over Harvest Grains and Sautéed Spinach and Bell PeppersFullSizeRender_2


-Pacific flounder with crab meat stuffing

-Organic orange and yellow bell peppers

-Organic fresh spinach

-Harvest grains blend

-Garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

-Organic coconut oil



First, I cut the bell peppers into really thin strips. I browned the garlic powder slightly in a frying pan with a couple tablespoons of coconut oil. Then I added the peppers and other seasonings and sautéed them for about 10-15 minutes. I added the fresh spinach and continued cooking until it was just wilting. I cooked the fish and the harvest grains blend according to their package directions, and I seasoned the harvest grains with just salt and pepper.

*Trader Joe’s does not pay me to write this.

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Knotted Challah Grilled Cheese with Avocado and Vegetable Bird’s Nests

In my later high school and early college years, I was overly restrictive about what I ate, especially when it came to the amount of fat in my food. I wouldn’t eat any food with more than a couple grams of fat and anything that said fat-free was a winner. This meant that too often I would turn to foods considered empty calories like salty crackers and sugary cereals. The problem was, I was always hungry and always thinking of the fatty delicious foods that I wouldn’t allow myself to have. And then I would feel guilty anytime I caved.

I eventually realized that if I stopped stressing out about it so much, I actually craved healthier foods most of the time because I allowed myself to indulge every now and then. I learned when it comes to food (like most things in life), it’s all about balance.

So this week’s meal might not be the healthiest if low-fat is what you are looking for, but avocado is good fat, right? Plus, the veggie bird’s nests are a quick frozen side with a short ingredient list of mostly vegetables. I try not to eat a ton of bread and if I do I’ll usually go for wheat or multigrain, but sometimes I just can’t resist a good challah bread.

This is comfort food at its finest! Grilled cheese with a twist knot.


Knotted Challah Grilled Cheese with Avocado and Vegetable Bird’s Nests


Cut the Challah roll in half and toast the flat side of each half in a buttered skillet until golden brown.

Place the rolls on a baking sheet toasted side up and put a slice of Muenster cheese on each half. Heat in oven until cheese is melted.

Cover one side with sliced avocado and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


If you like onion rings, you will love these Vegetable Bird Nests! They are lightly battered  and the soy dipping sauce goes perfectly with them. I bake them in the oven, following the package directions.

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Eggplant and Quinoa

I would LOVE to be able to make delicious, organic and healthy meals from scratch every night of the week for my family; but let’s be real. After working all day and having an average commute of an hour and fifteen minutes one way, that’s NEVER going to happen. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

I do enjoy cooking, but there are so many other things I like to do more. I don’t want to spend all weekend in the kitchen prepping for the week ahead, especially with the nicer weather finally getting here. And during the week, sometimes we don’t get home until 7:30pm or later. That means a very limited amount of time to get dinner on the table.

Trader Joe’s is a God send on these days!

Every Tuesday (I hope!), I will share the easy and mostly healthy meals, snacks and desserts that save us during the week and let us play more on the weekend.

Not everything is organic. Not everything is fresh. Not everything has a short ingredient list. But everything we prepare from Trader Joe’s is free of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors. And I try for the other things as much as possible.

This week I present to you:

Eggplant Cutlets with Quinoa, Veggies & Mediterranean Feta Cheese

This is one of my go to meals when Tyson is working late at Rangers games. It is a pretty healthy frozen option that only takes about fifteen minutes to prepare, costs less than $8 and is the perfect size meal for our small family.

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The Eggplant Cutlets have more ingredients in them than I prefer, but (1) it is a vegetable, and (2) my picky toddler eats them. Mom 1, Qwynn 100. Woohoo!

Qwynn has yet to try the quinoa medley, but I really, really enjoy it! It is so quick to prepare in the microwave and the ingredient list is GREAT! Lots of veggies!

All this dish is missing is cheese. I love cheese! I mean, who doesn’t? So I add feta to the quinoa after it is heated. The Mediterranean Feta Cheese is really yummy and goes perfectly with the flavors in the quinoa!

FullSizeRender_2I bake the eggplant on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and heat the quinoa in the microwave in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel.

When it’s time to serve, I like to layer the quinoa and eggplant in a bowl.

Absolutely DELISH!




*Trader Joe’s does not pay me to write this.

Valerie Anne