RANT: TUSCANO MARINARA SAUCE (discontinued) + Marinara RECIPE


“Trader Giotto’s” Low Fat Tuscan Marinara

RANT

Ode to yet another discontinued Trader Joe’s product, a classic rant about an excellent TJ product, which they discontinued! Some people thought this was the best marinara sauce on the market. Many were bumbed to learn TJ’s Discontinued their favorite tomato sauce! So why am I writing about this now? Well the other day I happened to be clearing out my pantry and found I had a can of this Marinara way in the back. I opened it and tasted it and was pretty shocked to see how good it was. This marinara is, or should we say was, a terrific sauce. For one thing it’s not super smooth, it’s full of chunks of tomatoes like a homemade sauce you had put together. The current glass jars of Marinara sauce that Trader Joe’s replaced this with are smooth. I made a pasta dish using this Marinara and the dish turned out really well. I made a pizza with it a few days later which also turned out great. So yes, it’s a crime TJ’s got rid of this great and very useful sauce. Mind boggling. So just posting this Rant and sorry you won’t be able to find this really great product anymore . At least TJ’s still sells the 28 oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes which will make you a great sauce with little effor. I always have cans of tomatoes in the pantry as well as tomato paste (can and/or tube) So if you are inclined to make your own sauce, which is not hard and I think is worth the little effort it takes. Here’s an EASY HOMEMADE MARINARA RECIPE from NatashasKitchen, link below.

TIP (1) IMO adding a tablespoon of tomato paste at the start will make it even better (2) My mom taught me useful advice: Just double up the recipe when you cook some things because for the same amount of effort you will have another meal. You can also freeze the extra batch.

Pizza from scratch; made using this terrific marinara sauce

TJ’s CHIPOTLE BLACK BEAN DIP


“A zesty dip with hearty black beans and the smokey kick of chipotle peppers”

UPDATE Spring 2022 : ITS BEEN DISCONTINUED!!

(For the archive…..)

Trader Joe’s CHIPOTLE BLACK BEAN DIP is delicious. I think this could even be one of their best products. It’s one of my favorites in any case and I try to always have a jar in the panty… It’s that good. It matches especially well with tortillas, or any of TJ’s excellent chips especially corn. It matches perfectly with TJ’s Organic Corn Chip Dippers. The Chipotle Bean Dip gets a spicy back beat from two kinds of chiles, chipotle and ancho chiles, which give this a slightly spicy heat level plus a tomato-y undercurrent. This dip is terrific as-is on its own but it’s also good as an ingredient. When I make quesadillas or tacos, I sometimes spread a little of this on the tortilla before cooking them or just serve some on top or on the side when I plate them. Naturally this is way healthier dip to put out for people compared to dips which have loads of calories / fat like a sour cream or cheese based dip. You can even mix a jar of this with a half can of the refried black beans which will make a nice side dish or a less spicy but still tasty dip, depending on the ratio. If you find this dip too thick, just mix in a teaspoon or so of lime juice, vinegar or water and thin it out to your liking. A jar of the BLACK BEAN DIP is $1.99 for 12 oz.

You have to try this dip with TJ’s terrific Organic CORN CHIP DIPPERS (or the Elote cousins) as the thick corn chips with this is a super combination. And AVOCADO of course! TIP – Gussy this up with cheese? Sure. Heat this up and top with grated cheese so it melts. Yum!

INGREDIENTS include: Water, black beans, bean flakes, onion, tomato paste, sugar, sea salt, chipotle chile pepper, ancho chiles, garlic, malic and citric acid, vinegar, spices, smoke flavor ….

TJ Brown Rice Medley


Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley – “A delicious blend of long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon seeds”

This is both healthy and a bit different than plain brown rice and honestly just better I think. It’s a tasty mix of parboiled brown rice plus two slightly unusual additions – black barley and daikon seeds. Who knew you can eat daikon seeds? I didn’t, until now. We cooked up this rice blend and it got a seal of approval from myself my wife as making for an interesting nutty tasting side dish. However I found Trader Joe’s instructions need a tiny bit of modification regarding liquid amounts. I would reduce the amount of liquid they suggest on the package. So instead of the 2 1/2 cups they state I say try 2 1/4 cups of water or stock (to 1 cup of rice). For a ration slightly more than 2:1. Also if using just water, you should add a bit a salt. Butter is a good idea. Letting it sit (without peeking!) at the end for 10 minutes is important so all the liquid gets fully absorbed. Fluff up with a fork when done. Hitting this with a little more butter is a good too. Possibly some chopped parsley? Serve with your favorite main. Its $1.99 for a 1 pound bag. Worth trying. PS If you find it a bit too cooked for your tastes or mushy, the next time you make it reduce the cooking to 30 minutes (instead of the 35 mins written on the package). The brown rice in this has been par-boiled. Normally regular brown rice needs about 45 minutes.

UPDATE: DISCONTINUED !

RANT

Sriracha Ranch, GONE !?! Say it isn’t so Joe!


RANT

Reported Discontinued during the Summer of Covid-19, Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing. The one and only super versatile stuff, which I just adore, well, make that adored (big sigh!)

This is one of Trader Joe’s best products which I previously reviewed with a RAVE– so I find this particularly shocking! WTF, Trader Joe’s?! Just to make sure it was not just out of stock for a long time, I when to my store’s Captain to ask him to check the status. Unfortunately he confirmed my worst fear – “It’s been  Disco’ed”(discontinued)

Other than start a campaign to bring it back (has this ever worked?) I will be stingy using the little bit left of the bottle in my fridge now. I may experiment with a DIY version. Some TJ’s RANCH DRESSING mixed with Sriracha or Green Dragon sauce. I won’t be as good but maybe better than nothing

If you are as shocked or mad, please leave your opinions about this in COMMENTS. Things like this were the reason I started this site in the first place.

RECIPE for something in the ballpark. Not the same, but not pretty good. I mixed some TJ PERI PERI sauce with some Suzie’s MAYO and it was pretty tasty, in the Sriracha Ranch ballpark.

SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE


(NOTE : MAY 2021 – Sad to report this product was DISCONTINUED  – RAVE turned into RANT!) 

this post left up for archival purposes:

Trader Joe’s SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE

If you are a fan, as am I, of a proper, traditional English orange marmalade then you will probably enjoy this TJ marmalade as much as I did. TJ’s SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE is in fact a proper English marmalade. Yes the label states that it’s a “product of Canada” but let’s ponder that, since Canada was under English rule, clearly one of the decent things the Brits must have passed on to the Canadians was the How of making a proper marmalade. Because this jar of marmalade is delicious.

Made from Seville Oranges (aka Bitter Oranges) which are de rigeur for proper marmalade. Its a thin-cut marmalade, having small bits of chopped peel with a good balance between the Seville orange peel, juice, pectin and sugar, and overall an good balance of the perfect combination of bitter and sweet you want. Let’s call this jam for the adults. Not sure if kids will like it, but if yours do, consider them to have an “elevated palate”. That could get expensive when they grow up.

From the label: Seville Oranges are the backbone of a proper orange marmalade. The bright high-acid juice and the thick rough skin are transformed when cooked, becoming intense, yet balanced: the perfect topper for toast or scones (well put Trader Joe’s) 

AND ENGLISH MUFFINS (see pic)!

I ate this marmalade for breakfast this morning on a perfectly toasted TJ Classic English Muffin, along with a pat of good Irish Kerrygold butter and a nice dollop of this marmalade, along with my morning cappuccino. Very yummy and delicious and perfect together. All was right with the world, well at least till I finished my muffin. If you are a marmalade fan, this does the trick. A big jar, which is over 1 pound goes for $3.49, another Trader Joe’s great value.

 

RANT (formerly a RAVE until discontinued!)

UPDATE (May 2021) SIGN IN STORE SAYS DISCONTINUED !!! CURSE YOU TRADER JOE’S – the fans of this marmalade are ANGRY! Read the Comments!

OPTIONS: I saw found jars of the TJ one on Amazon for outrageous rip-off prices from “enterprising” folks who resell Trader Joe’s products for profit at severe markups: $60 a bottle?!! I don’t think so, folks. 

A more reasonable option might be to try some English made brands (Tiptree or Wilkinson’s – or you can make your own Marmalade with this DIY one from Robertson’s “Ma Made” Seville Marmalade – you just add sugar and water, and maybe the juice of a lemon. One can will make tons of marmalade so put it up in jars…. (2 cans for $20 = $10/ea plus a bag of sugar)

Other offerings on Amazon

https://amzn.to/3AwVYom – “Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade (France)” $4.99 = anyone tried it? Let us know if good.

Finally make it yourself DIY?? Here’s a recipe

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/seville_orange_marmalade/

Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing


UPDATE: AUG 2020 – Discontinued during Covid-19!

BALLPARK: PERI PERI & Suzie’s MAYO mixed up in whatever “hot” ratio you can take or like is a workaround I am trying. It’s not exactly the same but pretty tasty!

This is one of those “only at Trader Joe’s” products, or at least I’ve never seen another type of product like this one.

I’ll start by saying one could say I am a little bit of a “Sriracha freak”. I mean I love the stuff, and in general I love “the Spicy” but in no way would I deem myself to be one of those chile-head types who go for sauces with “Death Head” logos on the label.  No thanks.

Me, I want a balance of heat AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food products on the planet. Its a product who’s fan’s are legion. I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on SALAD. So guess what? Sriracha Salad Dressing is actually a terrific idea! And Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrifically marvelous unique product.

Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down since I first tasted it, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than actual Sriracha or most hot sauces for that matter. I used to mix it with some yogurt or mayo to tone it down a wee bit, but that is no longer the case. I’m talking about when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? I have a feeling people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with much less of a heat level. Anyway I just bought a bottle and it doesn’t seem nearly as spicy as it used to be, though it is still spicy, and still very good! Not only is  this ranch dressing good on salad or greens of course but it has many, many more uses on all kinds of foods. You can put a little on the side as a sauce for most anything, for instance grilled chicken, or shrimp, or fish, or grilled tofu, or what have you.

In fact you can use this as an ingredient to cook with it. For instance, try brushing this stuff on chicken which you would bake, broil, or grill. Its awesome on hamburgers, mixed with some ketchup for some homemade spicy “special sauce”. Try a little on some asian style noodles… with some chunky organic peanut butter on top? In fact try this on just about anything you think might be better with some spice to it. You will come up with some interesting tests.

So congratulations on a fantastic product, Trader Joe’s. Some chile-heads might be disappointed that you toned down the heat a bit for mere mortals. (But folks, you can mix some Sriracha sauce with this, if you want it spicier still, or add some cayenne pepper and it will be like it used to be). It sells for $2.99 (16 oz. bottle) which is not bad since most TJ salad dressings are 8 oz bottles?

So try this, its one of those love it or hate it type TJ products! Do I love it? Yes, yes, yes! I’m giving this product a:

RAVE

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By the way, the story of HUY FONG FOODS SRIRACHA and it’s founder Vietnamese refugee David Tran, is one of the best American immigrant success stories there is!

ADDITIONAL LINKS

http://nextshark.com/sriracha-hot-sauce-david-tran-vietnamese/

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/14-things-you-didnt-know-about-sriracha-including-its-proper-pronunciation

https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-22/story-how-one-hot-sauce-huy-fong-sriracha-got-so-hot

 

Nuts & Heartbreak At Trader Joe’s


nuts1

A tale about Trader Joe’s Roasted ALMONDS IN THE SHELL.

nut·crack·er

pronunciation:ˈnətˌkrakər/

NOUN  1) a device for cracking nuts.

—-

Oh! This is so just typical… I find a new product at Trader Joe’s that looks interesting , says to myself ‘Self, you have to try this!’, buy it, open it up and instantly think, “OMG this is so great! I love it! I will buy this from now on, every time I go to TJ’s”!!!! And so it happened with this product :

Trader Joe’s Roasted ALMONDS IN THE SHELL.

I’ve bought natural almonds in the shell before, back in the day, when you sat down, Old School with a bowl and a nut cracker. In the old days, my folks and I would sit down together with a bowl of nuts and our family nutcracker and crack each one open to enjoy as we chatted or watch a tv show together. Its a bit of work cracking open nuts over and over but that was the way you ate nuts back then in the 70’s. You didn’t pay peons in some foreign land to not just grow them for you, but to also sit there and open them for you too, you lazy Gringos. We opened them ourselves with a nutcracker.2009673-man-cracking-walnut-with-metal-nutcracker-in-hand-isolated-on-white-background

And nowadays? Everyone’s gotten so lazy, its hard to even imagine a family with a nut cracker spending time opening your own nut you are about to eat. But yes thats why there is such a thing as a “nutcracker”.

So I see these babies in a bag, “Almonds In The Shell” and notice upon close examination in the bag that they appear to have somehow been “pre-cracked” (?!!) I mean they look like pistachio nuts with a little slit waiting for your thumbnail to just pry apart. Very interesting ! So I says to myself, boy those guys at Trader Joe’s have figured out that we still want the enjoyment of sitting down with some nuts and opening them but with a little help. Make it easier than the old nutcracker. And sure enough, when I try them, they are easy to open! They are just like pistachios, you just pry them apart with your fingernails. No nut cracker needed! The shells are somehow thin. Much thinner than any unshelled almond I’ve ever see before. How did they manage that?!

Its like someone at Trader Joe’s found the Holy Grail of Nuts.

And TASTE? Oh man, they are FABULOUS. My taste buds seem to think they’re better than the shelled almonds. As if they’re holding a little extra flavor inside the shell with the almond that’s there waiting to escape as soon as you pry them open. You can smell it. They are just so…. almond-y! Like a Super Almond. They are really SO VERY GOOD!

I am in love.

They become my new favorite Trader Joe item. I buy a package every time I go to Trader Joe’s.  I find a pound can just last a few days- if that. We go through the bag like butter. I have to hide them from myself (and my wife) otherwise they can go in a night watching some movie on Netflix, cracking open almond after almond. But it seems better than just putting a hand down and putting two or three in your mouth. There’s work involved. OK, very little work but still you have to open them. You’re burning up a few calories doing it right?

There’s are  shelves full of them. I even see them featured in the NEW PRODUCTS section. On display. In a huge, huge pile.

A few weeks pass, and my wife goes to get them and comes back empty handed. She say’s there weren’t any. I go in a week or two and see its not there. Worse, the shelf where I was picking them up from in the Nuts section, doesn’t even have the Sign for them up!

Oh No! NO NO NO! You GODAMM TRADER JOES Muthafuggas!!

We all know this scenario. This sinking feeling. That oh so Trader Joe’s feeling you get at the pit of your stomach when you realize, “Oh no! Maybe this is not just Out Of Stock! Maybe this is (gulp!) A DISCONTINUED ITEM !2009673-man-cracking-walnut-with-metal-nutcracker-in-hand-isolated-on-white-background.jpg!!

If you are a TJ regular, you KNOW this feeling. Its a bad feeling. Almost like learning a best friend has died. Almost like turning on your computer and you push the power button but it won’t start up and you realize oh my computers broken. Almost like coming out of a store and going to the place your bike was locked up, and not finding it there and realizing, some motherf-er stole it (for me, a bike, for you, might be your car)

And so it was. I went to the Manager’s counter and asked about my beloved Almonds In The Shell. Where they out of stock? Any idea when you might be getting more in? The Manager (Captain?) consults her computer screen and tells me the bad news. “I’m afraid they weren’t selling well. They were discontinued”

Gasp! Discontinued?!!! Not selling well?! I was buying them constantly. If I only knew, I would have bought a case.

I left the store, heart broken.

It wasn’t the first time.

Even worse, I knew, it won’t be the last either.

My unspoken rule for Trader Joe’s is “never fall in love”.

Its just too risky.

RANT

(published In Memoriam – Dry Roasted Salted Almonds In The Shell – 2013-2013)

“Out out brief candle!”

nuts2

TJ’s “South African Smoke” Seasoning Spice Blend


Spices – Not something that may first come to mind when you think “Trader Joe’s” stuff but actually they have shelves and shelves of spices. They are well priced, if you compare them to a regular supermarket, and always seem fresh to me.

I seem to especially like some of their spice “seasoning blends’  that are pre-mixed blends of whole spices. Many of TJ’s spices are sold right in their own cleverly-made grinders, which by the way are very practical, and easy to use (occasionally even easy to re-use, as they have screw tops, you can put your own stuff in them).

As you may know grinding spices just prior to using, are the best way to get a spice’s optimal flavor. I tried and loved this Spice Blend called South African Smoke Seasoning Blend

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The ingredients listed simply are: smoked paprika (in large flake), sea salt, garlic, basil. Even though this may not sound so complex trust me when you grind this seasoning onto almost any food, you get a heavenly smoky aroma.

ON THE LABEL: “SOUTH AFRICAN SMOKE adds that wonderful Umami flavor, which can be elusive and difficult to achieve. You will be amazed and delighted at the way a grind or two will awaken any food. 

So, so TRUE! I couldn’t even begin to list all the foods this is good on because it is so tasty, it might make even a slice of wet cardboard taste good! But if you try it on almost any food (meat, chicken, tofu, veggies, rice, potatoes, pasta…. you name it)… then you will agree with that this stuff is the bomb.

A jar costs about $2.29. I even added some coriander and fennel seeds into the jar, which I thought made it even better. So you could experiment a little too with these jars of spices, added some of your own spices too.

Here’s what “Trader Joe’s themselves had to say about this on their site:

Our travels take us to some of the world’s most interesting regions, where we have the opportunity to taste foods we may never have encountered on our home turf. (Full disclosure: this is the royal we, as it refers to our buyers and not, alas, to certain writers of food-related information.) Among our recent “discoveries” is Trader Joe’s South African Smoke seasoning blend, one of the more unique items we’ve come across.

South African Smoke begins with African-grown paprika that is slow-smoked for 48 hours over a sustainable African hardwood called Acacia Saligna, commonly used as barbecue coals. This process enriches the paprika with a smoky, roasted flavor that evokes the South African braai, or barbecue. The smoked paprika is blended with sea salt, garlic and basil and packaged in a grinder, giving you fresh-ground flavor in every twist. Use it as a rub for meats or veggies prior to cooking, or keep it on the table in place of everyday salt & pepper. You’ll find this spice blend only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s, where we’re selling each 1.76 ounce grinder for $2.29.

My only complaint about this stuff is it goes too fast in my house!

THIS PRODUCT GETS A RAVE!

 

UPDATE SUMMER 2014 –

GOD NO!! M.I.A ON THE SHELF. DISCONTINUED !?!

IF GONE, MAJOR RANT!

 

ANOTHER UPDATE : SUMMER 2015 …ITS BACK ON THE SHELF AT MY TJ’S !!! GRAB IT WHILE YOU CAN ?! ONE READER REPORTS ITS SEASONAL FOR SUMMER ONLY (grilling)

SO STOCK UP WHEN IF YOU SEE IT AND BUY 2 or 3 JARS!

TJ’s Multigrain and Flaxseed Water Crackers


These looked worth a try, and they were! Is this is a “healthy” cracker? “Whole Grain Flour (Wheat, Quinoa, Spelt, Millet, Kamut), Enriched Wheat Flour, Sunflower Oil, Whole Flaxseed, Salt, Sugar”. That looks pretty /healthy natural to me as just about every healthy grain on the planet is in this cracker. So you don’t have to feel too bad eating these. The label states 4 crackers are 60 calories. Also not too shabby right?

Taste? Very good. They do NOT taste like cardboard, as some “healthy” products tend to. These taste great: Natural and fairly neutral as a “water cracker” should. Like “Carr’s”, which are the standard, but a bit more flavorful, no doubt due to the whole grains. They are a fine base for anything: cheese, dips, meats, etc, and yes I’ve eaten some on their own and I think they are better than Carr’s this way, which are way too bland for me. These are crisp and delicate but sturdy enough to support anything you top them with. These sell for a very good price too – well at the moment, TJ”s is now raising prices on a weekly basis! They are a great deal for $1.29!

A RAVE

REPORTED DISCONTINUED FEB 2021….

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Soap


Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil “Pure Vegable Soap” looks like and according to the ingredients is almost exactly the same formula as their wonderful Oatmeal and Honey soap. Ingredients on the label are identical except instead listing oatmeal flakes and honey as ingredients, this lists Tea Tree Oil in the ingredients. The fragrance of this soap is a bit less pronounced than the Oatmeal Honey one, which smells so good I think I could almost eat it.  This is more subtle. While I do frankly prefer the Oatmeal version, this too is very good, and I like it very much as well. If you Google it, you see it has very good reviews on some sites for many types of skin problems. Tea Tree Oil is supposed to possess certain medicinal properties, such as being an anti-fungal & antiseptic agent.

All I know is my face does feel incredibly clean and grease free after washing with this. In the shower, its also feels kind of “cooling” to the skin, and feels a tiny bit like Dr. Bronners* (my favorite soap in hot weather is Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap) But this may be my close second. Like Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap, this soap is definitely good for cooling off in hot summer-time weather. It sells for a little bit more than TJ’s Oatmeal soap (1.99 for 2 big bars of this vs. $1.70 for the Oatmeal / Honey soap). However compared to fancy, pricey skin soaps, this stuff is an ABSOLUTE STEAL at $1/bar. Try and see what you think.

 

UPDATE: THIS SEEMS TO BE NO LONGER AVAILABLE 

*DISCONTINUED*  

SEE COMMENTS BELOW.

RANT

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