Trader Joe’s GRAINLESS GRANOLA


This is a recently added Trader Joe’s product, GRAINLESS GRANOLA – Meaning no oats, just nuts and some other stuff like coconut. Wow. This is AMAZING! When you cut open the bag, a huge waft of coconut smell hits you right in the nose. You look inside and see clumps and clusters of Almonds, Coconut, Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds which are in a “salty, sweet” combination that is quite irresistible. I started just popping a few clusters into my mouth and they are delicious just like this, as a snack. I could eat a whole bag if I didn’t stop myself. I can easily see Moms filling little baggies with this for yummy healthy Snackables. When I put some in to a bowl with some milk and yogurt and some cut up banana it was even more delicious. Now I love granola, the regular kinds with oats, so for me there is no reason to be “grain-less” other than this is super tasty. I even put this on top of my regular granola as a topping. My suggestion is add some dried fruits, like cranberries or raisins too which makes it even better. As oats are fairly cheap and nuts are expensive, naturally this granola minus the oats costs a bit more than the other regular granolas TJ sells, but its still a good deal and its so good you probably won’t care too much. TJ’s has got this right and has a major hit here I think. Grainless Granola is $4 for a 10 oz bag. Try this, you will no doubt love it as much as I did. And yes it’s of course Vegan and Gluten Free.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s ITALIAN BOMBA HOT SAUCE


bomba1

Since it was released Trader Joe’s Italian “Bomba” Hot Pepper Sauce has blown up as one of the best new products that Trader Joe’s has come out with. Once again in this case it’s not unjustified hype…. all the hype about TJ’s “BOMBA” is completely justified! This stuff is just incredible. I could say “its the bomb” but I won’t!

BOMBA is made primarily from crushed Calabrian chiles which in this product are also fermented. You probably know that fermenting foods adds complex elements to flavor, expanding them more. They become deeper and more complex, and in this Bomba sauce the fermentation of Calabrian chiles adds that magical “fifth” taste.. yup you got it. UMAMI. Now of course this Bomba hot sauce is spicy but it is really not knock your head off spicy. It’s spicy and full of flavor at the same time. I just put a small spoonful in my mouth and while I got “yes this is kind of spicy”, it didn’t want to make me want to drink a glass of milk or anything. I got something beyond “spicy”, there is a kind of funkiness (oh, thats the fermentation and umami) even a tiny bit of sweetness. Depending on the amount you use, you can adjust the level of spiciness. If you add even just a little bit to dishes, I am talking a quarter of a teaspoon or a few drops, it will add a level a flavor that may surprise you. How to use Bomba sauce? Of course this is going to be great added to tomato sauces, say on pasta or pizza or what have you. But what about other pasta dishes? A little bit in your Carbonara? Yeah baby. A spoonful mixed into your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? Yes. And all those Gnocchi you love?! Regular, cauliflower, kale, or what have you… OMG folks, this stuff and some very nice olive oil will make your gnocchi soar.

But Bomba is for more than for “just Italian”. I put some on my scrambled eggs and it was divine. A drop of it onto of my buttered toasted baguette. A small spoon mixed into my avocado toast or guacamole. Add some to your next marinade. Dips and sauces? Perfect. You can mix this up with some Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise for that matter) for an instant wonderful sauce, to top some cooked Chicken Breasts, Shrimp, or Tofu as well. Or try that mix as a dip for some chips. Drizzle some with olive oil and garlic on your roasted veggies. Add a spoon of this to your soup or most any sauce to give it some jazz. I love it on cottage cheese (seriously). On my sardines on toast. Add garlic to Bomba, and of course these two go into the stratosphere. The list is endless and I promise you, you will discover uses on your own exploring that you will come up with (and if they’re good, please share some with us in the COMMENTS below).

TJ’s Bomba is truly a premium gourmet offering. Amazingly Trader Joe’s sells this for $3 a jar, which is frankly incredible. Oh and it’s really Italian, says “Product Of Italy” on the label. I have found it sold out on occasion missing on the shelves as its a big hit at TJ. So if you like it, next time grab an extra one to keep in the pantry like I do (but leave some for the next guy!) Ingredients are: Chilies, Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Basil, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid. I generally add some very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil down the road to “seal the top” off and help keep it fresher for longer as well. Honestly even if you are not really the “hot sauce” type I suggest you get a jar of this to try. Calabrian chili’s are not super hot; they are in the “medium” spice level. People can pop them in their mouths easily. Personally I can’t live without having a jar of Bomba in the fridge now and if you try this, you may feel exactly the same.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s New Zealand Butter


Another excellent premium butter

Trader Joe’s now carries three premium imported butters. They have a French butter, an Irish butter and just recently I saw this one, from New Zealand no less. Now New Zealand is pretty famous for its food products. I happen to love the New Zealand extra sharp cheddar cheese that TJ carries, it’s really terrific. So I wanted to try this butter. When I first opened the package I was struck at the deep yellow color this had (it may be hard for the actual color come through in a picture). Trader Joe’s says on the package that “it’s made for us on the South Island of New Zealand from from grass fed cows”. Something like this I imagine?

Cattle graze in front of New Zealand, North Island, Mount Taranaki Credit: Getty

Boy that looks pretty nice, so maybe those cows are really content. When I tasted this butter I was impressed. It’s very gently salted and has a lovely sweet flavor and aroma. The color is beautiful. It was delicious when I spread some on some warm bread. Wonderful when I put it on pancakes the next morning. Wonderful later when I made an omelet. This is a truly excellent premium butter. I liked this butter, frankly as much as I liked all 3 premium imported butter TJ carries which are all excellent in their own rights. I have tried tasting one then another and I can’t put one higher, they are each amazing in their own rights, and make you think “now this is what butter should taste like”. If you were impressed by the French Cultured butter or the Kerrygold Irish butter TJ sells, you will no doubt be also impressed by this New Zealand butter.

Of course imported butter costs more than TJ’s regular butter, about double. This Kiwi one is a wee bit cheaper than the French and Irish ones. The NZ butter costs $3.29 for an 8 oz package. I never used to buy imported butter but thanks to Trader Joe’s prices I now buy two kinds for our fridge. Regular (good) butter for most uses, plus a pack of one of the imported “great” butters to have for when you want something extra special. If I can save a little bit on an imported butter, thats great so this New Zealand butter will probably be on my shopping list from now on.

RAVE

Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN POT STICKER DUMPLINGS


Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers – Perfect for now (its currently Chinese Lunar New Year) or ANYTIME!

Chinese dumplings are one of my very favorite things to eat. Seriously. Over my lifetime I would not be surprised if I’ve eaten a thousand of them, in one small hole in the wall place or another, mostly in Manhattan’s Chinatown or Flushing’s. Flushing especially has become a destination for dumplings with terrific places that specialize in dumplings of all kinds. I’ve even learned how to make dumplings myself, from scratch, including at times even making the wrappers! (I usually buy them in an Asian market). However that’s too much for most people. Which is where these babies come in. When you just get a craving for Pot Stickers, you can buy these frozen Chicken Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section. They’re good!

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can measure up against my favorites of my dumpling joint but I do buy these dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer for whenever I am in the mood for gyoza and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time right now during Covid!)

These TJ bagged dumpling are not at all bad for what they are, they are super convenient, and frankly at $3 a bag (about 21 dumplings) they are a right bargain. TJ sells both a Pork & Veg version and this Chicken & Veg version which I am reviewing here. As the pork one is not “porky” enough for me (I can make a decent pork and cabbage dumpling) personally I give a slight edge to the chicken ones surprisingly, as of course pork dumplings are way more typical. Now for me the insides of either of TJ’s bagged dumplings are too finely ground. In any handmade dumpling you would be able to see the chopped up vegetables which you can’t in either these pork or chicken frozen dumplings. These are a tiny bit on the bland side but one can easily add some a great deal of Asian flavors with a good dipping sauce. My first choice is to make these in a pan as Gyoza or Pot Stickers. Pot Stickers means first frying the bottoms, then steaming them, giving one the best of both worlds texture-wise in a single bite, with the wrapper both a bit crispy/chewy plus soft. The skins on these TJ dumplings are neither too thick nor too thin but acceptable in proportion to the filling. If I make them myself they would have thicker skins, be bigger and more packed with filling. But these do fine in a pinch. I have never tried cooking these in a microwave though the package states you can make them that way. Nor have I tried making boiled dumplings with these, as also suggested on the bag. If you did boil them in a strong flavorful chicken broth they might be very good that way, especially with some spinach, kale or other leafy vegetables, i.e., a “chicken soup with wontons and greens” type soup (hmm, i just gave myself an idea to try out!)

PAN FRYING YOUR DUMPLINGS: I make these mostly as Pot Stickers/Gyoza using a well-seasoned black cast iron pan. If you don’t have one of those, just use a good non-stick pan. Swirl a tablespoon or so of a neutral vegetable oil in the pan with medium high heat. Put your frozen dumplings in bottoms down, being careful to be sure they don’t touch, or they will stick together. You will hear them start to sizzle. Let them cook without touching them till they are nice golden brown on the bottom, maybe 4-5 minutes, You can check one every once in a while. You don’t want to burn them but you do want very browned bottoms. When they are there, you now toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! Stand back of course. Reduce the heat a bit. If you have a clear glass cover thats ideal so you can see whats going on inside but if you don’t, any cover that fits tightly will be fine. We want to let them steam until the water is just about all gone which may take about 6-8 minutes. Check when you think they are done. When they are almost ready if you put a tiny bit more oil when the water is all gone and let them keep cooking they can get a quite crispy bottom which is lovely, but this step is tricky, and optional. Anyway this is the reason these dumpling are called “pot stickers” as they do tend to stick to the pan and not want to leave it! If they are a bit stuck use a thin spatula to gently help release them, being careful not to tear the skins.

You should to eat your Gyoza right away while they are nice and hot, so timing is critical. What we do, is we get everything else ready, then take just 2 or 3 dumplings at a time on our plates, cover the pan with the heat off to keep them warm, and come back and fill up again with a few more when we finished the first batch. This way you always eat nice hot dumplings. In the first picture you can see I served them with edamame and peas which were a great match with these dumplings to add in more veggies. You can serve them with a little rice too and any kind of veggie or salad. We can usually eat about 6 each easily as the Main, along with other stuff though they can be just an appetizer of say 3 or 4 each. I strongly suggest eating lots of green veggies with these. Edamame go great. If you can get Bok Choy or Choi Sum, that would certainly go well. And toss lots of chopped scallions all over these when you serve them.

Many countries have some variation of pot sticker dumplings. In Korea, “Mandoo“. In Japan they are called “Gyoza“. In China, Jiao-zi or Guo-tie.

锅贴 
Goutié

https://www.tasteatlas.com/guotie/recipe

You eat dumplings with a diping sauce. One classic sauce might be Chinese Black Vinegar* with lots of fresh julienned ginger. Or soy sauce plus vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic. TJ sells a “GYOZA DIPPING SAUCE” which is fine if making your own sauce is too much trouble. If you like fresh cilantro it’s wonderful with these chicken dumplings. Something spicy to add a kick if thats up your alley. Green Dragon hot sauce for example is great with these! TJ’s Sweet Chili sauce is also lovely!

While I can’t say these TJ frozen dumplings compete with the best Chinese homemade dumpling places, these are quite decent and make up a great deal with the convenience of being able to have them anytime you get a craving.! These bagged ones are such a bargain for 3 bucks for a 1 lb bag. TJ has a number of other “fancier” dumplings in the frozen section in boxes which cost a bit more but frankly I keep coming back to these. I recently tried TJ’s Pork and Ginger Soup dumplings and frankly was not impressed. Not surprising as making Xiao Long Bao is a pinnacle of the art of dumpling making. I’ve eaten them at some top dumpling restaurants like Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing, Queens (fantastic).

  • Chinkiang Black Vinegar can be found at most Chinese or Asian groceries, usually 5-6 dollars? If you can’t find it and don’t mind paying through the nose, Amazon sells it.

If you live in NYC and want great pot stickers and boiled dumplings I highly recommend VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE which I first enjoyed 20 years ago in her first tiny hole in the wall joint on Eldridge Street where no more than 4 people could fit. Word grew about her amazing dumplings which were a buck. Vanessa’s business grew and she became a very successful immigrant entrepreneur who kept expanding and improving and now has multiple beautiful places. If you eat her pot stickers or any of her many kinds of dumplings you will learn what great dumplings are truly like.

Finally, if you really are interested in learning more and maybe trying your hand at them you will find lots of great info here

https://carlsbadcravings.com/potstickers/

and if you are REALLY inspired, make these yourselves!

Trader Joe’s Liquid Dish Soap


I liked this Liquid Dish Soap that TJ sells under their own brand.

This is the LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT version. They also sell a Citrus scent version. It’s clear, meaning no dyes. Is Dawn blue naturally? I think not.

I imagine this stuff is probably comparable to one of those crazy expensive dish soaps you see in Whole Foods that I will never let my wife buy (“Seven dollars for dish soap?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t worry I’ll pick some up at the dollar store next time I go. “) And yes I do frequently buy the huge bottles of dish washing liquid at the dollar store. 40 ounces for a buck. Now I do recognize they are more “watery” and I have to put more on the sponge more often but its just going down the drain anyway, quite literally.

Anyway to make my honey happy, I “splurged” and got a bottle of TJ’s Dish Soap It’s $2.99. You can tell instantly this is thicker than my $1 soap. Turn it upside down and see how fast it takes a bubble to rise. I tried it out washing up and this does a good job, it made a lot of foam that lasted. It smells quite nice (lavender and tea tree oil).  I can tell I don’t have to use as much soap as often as I do with my Dollar Store stuff. I’m sure its really some famous brand sold under TJ’s label at half the price the name brand usually costs, as is typical with some Trader Joe’s products. A big thing on the internet is guessing who really makes a product TJ sells (for example Annie’s Mac and Cheese vs. TJ Mac and Cheese) Anyway for $2.99 I will probably now buy this soap from now on. OK perhaps in addition to having one of the big bottles of the cheap stuff under the sink just in case we run out. Old habits die hard.

LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT – made from plant derived cleaners Biodegradable. Hypoallergenic. Cuts Through Grease.

A 25 oz bottle is $2.99

Trader Joe’s Harissa Chicken Thighs


By now you’ve probably heard of TJ’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs which are very good and a big hit. I gave them a big thumbs up, and from what I can gather checking the internet, everyone seems to agree that they’re great. TJ later came out with other marinated chicken thigh flavors. They have three versions now, they added a “HARISSA” version and a “LEMON & HERB” one. I decided to give the HARISSA flavored chicken thighs a try. These are a bit trickier for me. Unlike the SHAWARMA version which I buy pretty regularly now, I don’t think I would buy the HARISSA version again, though I did make a great Chicken and Rice dish using them. Some bloggers seem to like the Harissa version while many others don’t. Not a clear cut winner, so you may have to try and decide for yourself if you are interested. As for me, these Harissa things are nowhere near as good as the Shawarma ones. 

Now after some careful label checking, I think I figured out one major “problem” with these after I looked closely at the two packages. Here’s one big difference between the Shawarma and Harissa versions: the liquid content.

The label on the Harissa Flavored Chicken Thighs says “Contains up to 28% Solution….”

The Shwarma Chicken Thighs however say “Contains up to 7% Solution…”

A-ha, right? The “Harissa flavored” version has a much “wetter” marinade that the Shawarma version and this wetter marinade (i.e., more water) means they would absorb more liquid as weight into the meat sitting in this package. To me 1/4+ of the weight of a package of chicken being marinade seems massive. So one thing I found with these compared to the Shawarma thighs is it was harder to get a good sear going quickly when I threw them into a hot cast iron pan, as with the Shawarma thighs. Which frankly makes sense considering a much higher liquid content, and that fact is not in the Plus Column. Another bugging point to me was, why would tomato paste be the first ingredient in a “Harissa” marinade? Tomato paste is present in harissa, but its a minor player, the primary ingredient being fresh or dried red chiles.

These also didn’t have anywhere near as a distinctive flavor as the Shwarma version. So all in all, these are “just OK” for me. Personally I wouldn’t buy them again (unless I was making an Arroz con Pollo, for which these worked well). Frankly my suggestion is, if you really want to make some “Harissa Chicken” — just buy some boneless chicken at TJ, buy a jar of TJ’s Harissa ($2.70) and marinate it with lots of harissa smeared all over the thighs (or breast) for a 1/2 hour or so. I bet it would be delicious and work way better than these. Boneless skinless organic thighs I think are 2.99 a pound. These Harissa chicken flavored thighs sell for $4.99 a pound. 

PS – If I remember correctly when I looked at the label, the “LEMON & HERB” marinated thighs have an even higher “contains up to XXX % solution” content (50% or more?) You are paying chicken prices for lemon juice!

So these are not terrible but not great. RATED AS “MEH” – UNLESS DOING AN ARROZ CON POLLO which did turn out great with rich tomato-y rice (and if you want a basic recipe idea leave a Comment)

TJ’s TANDOORI NAAN (frozen)


I really enjoy these Naan breads that TJ carries in the frozen section. These Naan are tasty, cheap and super convenient, just needing some warming up, and they say “Made In India” and “hand stretched” – sounds authentic! A package has 4 Naan for $2 (50 cents each!) TJ sells two versions, this plain Tandoori Naan and they also have a Garlic Naan version, which is quite flavorful. You might try both versions as both are really good. TJ also sells some non-frozen Naan in the Bread section. These cost a little more and I think are a bit thicker.

These Naan can be used for so many things. Of course these flatbreads go great with any of TJ’s pretty numerous Indian food items, but of course the Naan can be used anywhere a flatbread type bread would be good… with saucy foods, soups, etc. Bake these with cheese on top, or some ham or prosciutto, and you have a terrific easy creation. Really your imaginations are your only limit on what you can do with these.

To heat them, I sometimes throw these in the oven, or a toaster oven and sometimes just throw them in a pan. Hit them with some olive oil or butter or ghee and they become even more tasty. I do some butter and fresh crushed garlic sometimes and find these fabulous. Or buy the Garlic Naan versions if you don’t want to smash your own fresh garlic. The Garlic Naan ones have a little more flavors and some green stuff (cilantro or scallions).

I mentioned in an earlier post that you can put together some pizzas using Naan for your pizza base, in minutes! Try with these, or if you want a bit thicker base the Naan TJ carries in the fresh breads section.

So with your next TJ Indian feast, grab some Naan while you’re at it. A package of TJ’s Tadka Dal ($2) and some Naan and you have a dinner in 3 minutes for a few bucks that is as good takeout. I even made my own Tadka Dal and ate it with this Naan and since I had extra even gave some to my upstairs neighbor who thanked me profusely said they devoured it in minutes and said it was as good as an Indian restaurant.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s GREEK YOGURT


This is one of those Trader Joe’s products that I basically like to have in my fridge at all times. Why? It’s so useful. I use it all the time, for one thing to make all kinds of tasty sauces in a few seconds.

Greek yogurt is very thick, as it is strained yogurt. Its similar to our Sour Cream, or to crema in Mexican cooking, or to creme fraiche in French cooking. You could substitute this for pretty much anything or anywhere Sour Cream would be used. One thing I generally do with the greek yogurt is make a nice rich sauce by mixing it with something.

It can be as simple as mixing some greek yogurt with a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Boom you have a lovely Greek yogurt lemon sauce. This is a terrific salad dressing. Its great with grilled chicken or shrimp. Add something else to it and you get even more mileage. Add Green Dragon Sauce. Or add some Yemeni Zhough. Or Sriracha, as the milkiness of the yogurt tames all of these sauces and makes them creamy and smooth. Especially great, is fresh garlic. Chopped parsley, or arugula and you have a green dressing…. your only limits to find things to use this with will be your imagination.

For dessert or with fruits, you can mix the yogurt with a pinch of sugar or maple syrup for a lovely sweet, creamy addition.

Of course I can put this on my breakfast cereal, but it is richer than regular yogurt, so I keep the amount small.

Some more ideas

  • as a breakfast or dessert bowl with banana and blueberries
  • as a topping for chili instead of sour cream
  • as a topping for soups instead of cream
  • as a spread on crackers or bread (try mixing with some ingredients…)
  • as an addition to a pasta sauce for extra creaminess

A 16 oz. tub is $2.50. A container lasts in my fridge for about a month, depending on how much I use it. So great stuff, try it.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s Manager Stops Anti-Maskers from entering Oregon store


I saw this news on REDDIT and am just reposting it here as after watching this I find it incredible to believe this would even need to be done by a Trader Joe’s manager. I guess that’s because I live in New York City, where Covid-19 basically landed first and where in March and April it decimated a large number of New Yorkers . We’ve lost 26,000 lives.

Trader Joe’s manager stops anti-maskers from entering store in a video viewed 7 million times

https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-oregon-anti-maskers-protesters-trader-joes-mask-mandate-1562420

This lady’s group in Oregon thinks they don’t need to wear a mask to go shopping at Trader Joe’s?!

Trader Joe’s says 1,250 workers tested COVID-19-positive, 2 died, nationwide since March


Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article247018277.html#storylink=cpy

2 Trader Joe’s employee have DIED due to Covid-19. They simply went to work in order to make a living, and unfortunately got Covid-19 at their workplace. We, the public need to keep them and all essential workers as safe as possible. Be respectful, and wear your damn mask when you go shopping. Be respectful of any worker who doesn’t have the luxury of “working from home”. Employees at TJ’s must meet hundreds of people a day. Respect businesses policies and their SIGN that says you must wear a mask to enter.

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