Trader Joe’s ORGANIC RAW PUMPKIN VINEGAR (Fall Item)


FALL SEASONAL ITEM – Trader Joe’s Organic Raw Pumpkin Vinegar, “RAW ORGANIC VINEGAR WITH THE MOTHER, UNPASTEURIZED AND UNFILTERED”

If you are one of those into Trader Joe’s All Things Pumpkin every Fall you may find this interesting enough to check out.

It’s made exactly like they make the Apple Cider Vinegar TJ’s carries, just instead of apples they are using pumpkins. I compared the taste of TJ’s Apple Cider Vinegar and this Pumpkin Vinegar side by side to compare them to each other. Now the Apple Cider Vinegar is something I’m really used to, taste-wise and just find that really really good, a perfect vinegar. ACV tastes just right to me especially as far as acidity and sharpness. This pumpkin vinegar has the slightest taste of pumpkin. It seems to be more mellow than ACV even though technically the acidity in both is the same. Both say “diluted to 5% acidity”. But this pumpkin vinegar seems less sharp to me. So if you want a less sharp vinegar, this may be for you. Me, while I find this “interesting”, it’s just a curiosity item. I’d probably say I prefer my good old reliable ACV. I could see this vinegar as being good for making a milder vinaigrette. Or used to make a shrub (drink with vinegar)?

This is $1.99 for a 8 1/2 oz bottle. I can get a way bigger bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar for just a little more ($2.49). I probably wouldn’t buy this again. Side-note – TJ’s once carried a raspberry vinegar which I actually did like a lot, as it did actually taste of raspberries. I liked that for salad dressings – but sadly it vanished like so many good TJ’s items! (Sigh)

TJ’s says: “Our supplier takes fresh, cold-pressed, organic Pumpkins and ferments them into a cider. Then they add the vinegar “mother” (a culture of good bacteria) and ferment them together to become the seasonal vinegar before you—the very same process that is used to turn apples into our Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. This Organic Raw Vinegar is unpasteurized and unfiltered—giving it a gorgeously cloudy, orange hue—with a subtle pumpkin flavor. Use it to create a unique vinaigrette for your salads or add a tablespoon to give a punch of acidity to chilis, stews, and sauces. Best yet, combine with sparkling water for a homemade pumpkin shrub!”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/organic-raw-pumpkin-vinegar-074212

Trader Joe’s Organic Maple Syrup Vinaigrette (Fall Item)


FALL SEASONAL ITEM

This was a “Meh” for me. Just wasn’t too crazy for this vinaigrette which was one of those “sounded better than it tasted” items for me. Two tasters in our house didn’t go for this dressing and didn’t like it. I found the maple taste off putting and didn’t work at all. As opposed to honey which I like in a salad dressing. Frankly I can easily make a very good Vinaigrette myself in about 3 minutes using with oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard (optional, crushed garlic). Put these in a glass jar and shake shake shake. Frankly we prefer my Homemade Vinaigrette way over any dressing I can buy generally. However what I do think is worth buying at Trader Joe’s is their Asian Sesame Dressing which is excellent. TOASTED SESAME SALAD DRESSING. We just love that one so much. That is worth the same price as this one, $3.49. This one for us at least was a miss and a “meh”.

This was a “Meh” for me. Just wasn’t too crazy for this vinaigrette which was one of those “sounded better than it tasted” items for me. Two tasters in our house didn’t go for this dressing and didn’t like it. I found the maple taste off putting and didn’t work at all. As opposed to honey which I like in a salad dressing. Frankly I can easily make a very good Vinaigrette myself in about 3 minutes using with oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard (optional, crushed garlic). Put these in a glass jar and shake shake shake. Frankly we prefer my Homemade Vinaigrette way over any dressing I can buy generally. However what I do think is worth buying at Trader Joe’s is their Asian Sesame Dressing which is excellent. TOASTED SESAME SALAD DRESSING. We just love that one so much. That is worth the same price as this one, $3.49. This one for us at least was a miss and a “meh”. I won’t buy this again.

EASY BASIC VINAIGRETTE RECIPE

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS


Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS

You might describe me as a dumpling fanatic. I’m fortunate to live in a city with a huge Asian population and can get really excellent dumplings. And I do mean excellent. So having said that, while I can’t honestly say these Trader Joe’s mini wontons are as good as some of the great handmade chicken and basil dumplings I can get at a place like Vanessa’s Dumpling House or Shiu Jiao Fu Zhou dumpling house, these are decent little wontons. So if you can’t go buy a big bag of frozen dumplings from Vanessa’s or another Chinese dumpling maker as I do on occasion, these may be the next best thing as they are convenient to get at TJ’s. In fact I usually see a few people grabbing these when I’m at Trader Joe’s, so I know these are popular. On the web, I know there is some hack with these dumplings cooked in TJ’s Miso Ginger broth, which I tried and is pretty good – but for me that broth needs more miso and way more ginger!

These are mini wontons are small, basically one bite each. They’re good either boiled or pan fried. If boiled I like them in a strong chicken broth (preferably homemade) or possibly TJ’s Ginger Miso Broth (I would add miso if you have that) as well as cooked up as pan fried wontons. These will taste much better with a good dumping sauce. For me, that is mandatory. Also the cilantro flavor in the dumplings is weak so I recommend adding a good handful of chopped cilantro just before serving – if you like that, of course. Many people hate the flavor but I love it.

These Mini Wontons are $3.49 for a package (12 oz). I would buy these again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/chicken-cilantro-mini-wontons-099085

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA Kit (Brown Sugar Tapioca Pearls Drink)


If you are not familiar with BOBA TEA (aka bubble tea) it’s a popular (very TRENDY) drink that has very large pearls of Tapioca that sink to the bottom. The tapioca pearls have a very chewy texture that most people really enjoy. The pearls are so large that to suck them up it comes with a special ultra wide straw. These drinks are sold by specialty tea shops like “GONG CHA” that serve up a premium (and a bit pricey) Boba Tea Drink.

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA kit is a (poor) approximation of what you might get from a specialty Boba Tea shop. I have had Boba Tea from quite a few different Tea shops and in short, Trader Joe’s Boba Tea Kit won’t put any of them out of business. The drink you get in a real Boba Tea shop is way better than this, however if you’ve never had it before this may give you an idea of what “boba tea” is. As my wife commented “this is a Trader Joe’s version”. She meant it as a knock as in “cheap knockoff of the real thing”. A specialty shop boba tea drink usually costs about $5-6 bucks each. This kit sells for $5.50 for 4 drinks. So yes a cheap knock off. Granted, its a high profit item (sugar, tea, tapioca)

Anyway if you can’t have it at one of these shops and just want to try boba tea in that case then his might be a good starting point. For one thing the tapioca pearls in Trader Joe’s are much smaller than the ones that the shops make which are huge and so chewy. This kit has 4 pouches of a concentrate with the pearls. You mix this package up with milk or tea (or combo of the two) plus a handful of ice to dilute its sweetness, and you need to add enough of these things in, otherwise it will be way too sweet. I put the defrosted pouch into a glass jar with a lid so I could really shake it up with the added ice and liquid. The kit even has 4 big straws. Not bad, but again really no comparison to a Boba Tea shop drink. I probably wouldn’t buy it again.

Trader Joe’s GOCHUJANG (Korean Red Pepper Paste)


“Spicy, savory, fermented red pepper paste with a slightly sweet fiery profile”

If you are at all interested in Korean or Asian cuisine there are two things at Trader Joe’s, besides KIMCHI of couse, you should have in your fridge: TOASTED SESAME OIL and GOCHUJANG. Both are essential for Korean / Asian cuisines and add great flavor to many dishes. For example both will really improve TJ’s BEEFLESS BULGOGI.

Before TJ’s started carrying Gochujang I would have to got to a Korean market like H-Mart to get this, so I was glad when Trader Joe’s came out with this. TJ’s version is $1.99 for a 200 gram container, a small “entry level” box so you can get to know it easily and fairly cheaply. In contrast, Korean markets sell this in 1 lb,2, and even 4 pound containers, it’s such an essential ingredient. TJ’s Gochujang is not super spicy and it’s sweet which balances the heat as well, so you don’t have to fear this if you don’t like super spicy. It’s just mildly spicy. Aaron of Aaron and Claire suggests just mixing some water into Gochujang to make an easy sauce (bonus, add sesame oil) This sauce will be good on many things, for instance drizzled over some Fried Eggs, and especially those on top of some KIMCHI FRIED RICE.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/gochujang-paste-073246

Trader Joe’s says:

“With origins dating to at least the 1600s, and possibly earlier, gochujang isn’t so much an ingredient as it is an institution of Korean cuisine unto itself. Traditionally made from a mix of fermented soybeans, rice, barley, salt, and, of course, spicy red peppers, gochujang has a thick consistency and a delightfully complex flavor that’s a rare mix of savory, sweet, and spicy, all at once. In the case of Trader Joe’s Gochujang, we reached out to a supplier in South Korea who uses traditional fermentation techniques to achieve this uniquely delicious flavor profile, resulting in a highly versatile pepper paste that works just as well as a condiment as it does a soup base, a marinade, a dipping sauce, and so much more.

Our Gochujang’s beautifully balanced elements of sweet and heat make it an excellent choice for flavoring proteins of all kinds, from barbecued beef to pan-seared porkloin, crispy fried chicken wings to hearty tofu stew. It can spice up burgers when used as a spread, can be enjoyed with french fries either on its own or mixed with mayo, and adds a whole new dimension of flavor when added to noodle soups. And for a fun, fiery appetizer, it’s great for making kimchi-inspired quick pickles with salted smashed cucumbers.”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/gochujang-glazed-carrots

Aaron and Claire have some great How to Use Gochujang 101. I”ve learned so much about how to whip up Korean dishes from watching his videos.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced PUMPKIN SEEDS (Fall Item)


There are some Fall items that are misses and some that are hits. This is a HIT for me. These are really good. I love them and everybody I offered them too liked them. The added spices and coating is not cloying, it’s just enough but not too much so you still taste pumpkin seeds, and they are really crunchy and tasty (they have butter). $2.99 for 8 oz.

The Pumpkin Greek Yogurt however was a big Miss for me; Didn’t like that taste at all. I would not buy that again.

Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE (Fall Item) with Recipe, Braised Chicken & Vegetables


This “roasting sauce” is a new Fall item for as part of TJ’s annual “pumpkin spectacular”. Now I’m not one who goes crazy every Fall with all their Everything Pumpkin items. While some of the products they come up with are good (like this one!) some sound just bad to me (case point, TJ’s PUMPKIN SPICE HUMMUS, whose very name offends me as did TJ’s infamous “chocolate hummus”). But having said this, I hear Pumpkin Spice Hummus is popular and sells out often, so clearly I’m in the minority! Anyway as far as this new sauce is concerned, I liked it. It was better than what I imagined. This PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING sauce was quite tasty used it to braise chicken and vegetables (a recipe follows below).

This Pumpkin Chipotle sauce uses an imaginative blend of ingredients. Though it has pumpkin puree as the first ingredient it has so many other ingredients, the pumpkin flavor blends in with so many other flavors it makes a complex and tasty combination. This doesn’t have anything like a “pumpkin pie” flavor at all. Rather this sauce’s flavor profile is complex, balanced and delicious. Ingredients are: pumpkin puree, cane sugar, water, apple cider vinegar, apple juice concentrate, onion puree, sea salt, molasses, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, chipotle in adobo puree, chipotle chili powder and spices like nutmeg, ginger and allspice which are subtle here and blend well.

I used this sauce to make a braised chicken dish which turned out delicious. I used boneless chicken thighs and onion, garlic, celery, yellow peppers and mushrooms. This would work very well with bone-in thighs too, roasted as per TJ’s recipe (see link below)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/roasted-pumpkin-chipotle-chicken-thighs

In addition to chicken, I am sure this sauce will work very well with pork. Also just on roasted veggies. Probably it would work well even with tofu too. So it might be fun to experiment with this sauce and see what you can come up with. Here’s my saucy dish in the picture.

Braised Boneless Chicken Thighs (sliced up) in Pumpkin Chipotle sauce with vegetables

Trader Joe’s suggests roasting it with cauliflower or peppers which sounds good and they also mention using it with pasta too…. I have not tried that yet.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/pumpkin-chipotle-roasting-sauce-074648

This is how I made my chicken dish if you are interested.

RECIPEBONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS IN PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE SAUCE : Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dust with a little flour (optional). Brown chicken in 2 tsp olive oil for about 5 minutes per side. till golden. When browned, remove temporarily. Toss in your chopped vegetables to the pan (onions, garlic, celery, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms). Sauté on low-medium heat for about five minutes till translucent. Then add a few tablespoons of liquid (wine, stock or water) to the pan to de-glaze it, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom. Add your chicken back in and cover with Pumpkin Roasting Sauce and braise on gentle simmer (either on top of the stove or in the oven, loosely covered). I used about 3/4 of the jar in my dish but you can adjust amount if you want less or more sauce in the finished dish. Simmer / braise on low heat for about 25 minutes or so. If you use chicken breasts instead of thighs, reduce cooking time to about 12 minutes and if using bone in chicken simmer or roast for about 40 minutes. When done, I took out the chicken, rested it a bit, then sliced it and added it back to my sauce. Leave whole if you prefer of course. Check seasoning for salt and pepper. Optional – add 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce. Serve the chicken, veggies and sauce on top of Jasmine rice (or orzo or potatoes).

TJ’s says: “Use this Sauce to coat some Baby Cauliflower and Organic Mini Sweet Peppers before roasting them in a hot oven. Make it a marinade for chicken or pork to turn into an aromatic, shredded taco filling. Or give it a try on pasta night, combined with a touch of cream and tossed with Organic Cascatelli Pasta.”

PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE is $3.49 a jar (14.5 oz). I would buy this again. If you like it, I would say stock up on a few jars as it may vanish after Thanksgiving as I think its a seasonal item.

Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN SPICE HUMMUS (Fall Item)


This is not really a review, because I never tried this. Personally I would never, ever buy something named “Pumpkin Spice Hummus” as I consider even the name a crime against nature. In Arabic the word “hummus” means “chick peas”. Hummus has garlic, lemon and tahini – and yes spices (like Salt, Pepper, Cumin or Allepo Pepper) Certainly not Chocolate and not these “flavors of pumpkin and warm Fall spices, vanilla and a touch of maple syrup“. If you want pumpkin pie filling, buy that. Don’t dishonor “Hummus” by making it into pumpkin pie filling with some chickpeas thrown in. So I can’t believe they make and sell this stuff, while at the same time deciding to pull many great Trader Joe’s products (too many to list) which are discontinued to make room for new products – like the Pumpkin Spice Hummus.

There. Having ranted enough about this and getting it off my chest, guess what? I saw the case today in TJ’s where this is sold and ….It was all sold out! It’s popular. People do dig this stuff – and I am clearly in the minority as a “hummus purist”. Give me the Roasted Garlic Hummus anyday; that’s the humus I will stick with.

Why Americans Go Crazy For Pumpkin Flavored Stuff is an interesting and fun read!

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/11/19/165508669/why-americans-go-crazy-for-pumpkin-and-pumpkin-flavored-stuff

RANT

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FROZEN SPINACH (and 2 ingredient hack)


It may seem a little silly to me to write a review of spinach but here goes anyway because it’s something I buy all the time from Trader Joe’s. Its healthy, tasty and super convenient to have on hand in the freezer. and a bargain at $1.99 for a 1 lb bag organic version. At the risk of heresy there are a few vegetables which I propose are actually better frozen than fresh. One is green peas. Two is spinach. While I love fresh raw spinach, the reality is it’s a pain. Spinach is really sandy. You have to seriously wash it about 3 or 4 times to get rid of all the grit. Then you start with what looks like an enormous amount, raw. You can fill the biggest pot you own with it to the brim, and that shrinks up into almost nothing! All of these are reasons I find frozen spinach way easier than using fresh spinach I’m going to cook anyway.

RECIPEa two ingredient Trader Joe’s hack I came up with for spinach with TJ’s Garlic Spread – which are so good together and takes minutes!

SPINACH IN GARLIC – Rinse frozen spinachfor about a 30-60 seconds in a colander and squeeze out water. (optional)

Toss spinach in a pot with a teaspoon of olive oil or butter (or 50/50 mix). Cook on medium till it’s just cooked but still bright green (don’t overcook it) adding a heaping tablespoon or two of TJ’s Garlic Spread and mix it all together. Give it a grind of fresh black pepper, taste it and if it needs it, add a pinch of salt (as the Garlic Spread has some salt). Optionally give it a squeeze of fresh lemon. This creamy combo is absolutely delish. You can even mix in noodles to this for an instant dish.

Spinach omelet – make the above and toss the spinach in the middle. Yum!

Spinach rice: Cook Basmati rice. Cook some spinach. Mix the two together when done with some Greek yogurt. Season to taste.

TJ’s organic spinach is $1.99. The regular spinach is even less only ($1.49). Either is a bargain and is a great thing to always have in your freezer. So eat your Spinach! It’s healthy – it’s what made Popeye so strong.

Trader Joe’s SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI w. butter & sage


These are called SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI with sage and butter (frozen section). That sounded interesting to me so I decided to check them out. Results? Well they were tasty but frankly different than what we were expecting from the name. First off there turned out to be quite a bit of sauce in relation to the gnocchi than expected (kind of swimming in it) and the flavor of the sauce while nice, dominated over any subtle sweet potato flavor to the point that three of us tasting them all had the same comment : we couldn’t tell these gnocchi were “sweet potato” as opposed to regular gnocchi, other than these were slightly orange in color. The first 3 ingredients are listed as: sweet potato, wheat flour, potato. So there is regular potato. We didn’t think they were bad but they didn’t stand out as “Sweet Potato Gnocchi”. All 3 of us trying them for the first time said while kind of tasty it was probably something we would not buy again. Rather I could make the regular gnocchi I like at TJ’s and get them a bit crispy on the outside and then add some butter, sage and cheese. These were about $3.39. So giving them a “meh” as both plus and minus opinions on them.

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