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


These are called SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI with sage and butter (frozen). That sounded interesting to me and decided to check them out. Result? Well they were tasty but frankly a little 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. A bit more sauce than I had expected 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 really tell these gnocchi were “sweet potato” gnocchi 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.

Trader Joe’s KOREAN BEEFLESS BULGOGI (with recipe hack)


“Plant based Bulgogi style strips marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce”

Bulgogi is a popular Korean BBQ dish consisting of grilled marinated beef. It’s delicious. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beef-less Bulgogi is their vegan version, consisting of small pieces of mock meat made from soy protein, wheat gluten and other things. Judging from the internet, this product seems to be a bit of a hit especially with vegetarians of course (which I am not). The mock bulgogi strips have a pleasantly chewy texture that kind of make it resemble beef, with a pleasantly chewy but tender texture. There isn’t really any sauce on these and I promise these will be tastier with some kind of sauce on them. A no-brainer sauce for these would be some Korean Gochujang (red pepper paste, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). This can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips, and give it a little bit of heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after (see below)

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

To best enjoy these strips what I suggest is don’t do the super lazy thing I see on the ‘net, being just microwave these and put it on rice, which is what I see with people exclaiming “this is the bomb”. That is a pretty low bar and I can only imagine these people have never tasted actual Korean cooking? I am a Korean food devotee. Just putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people, so don’t be so lazy, you Millenials… Think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish. Make something with them, a stir fry for instance. Below is one recipe stir fry idea with these.

These will taste best if you get a little more sear or browning on them so don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown up. You can throw a dish together in 10 minutes with just a little effort. First – TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on the package (again, geared towards Millenials?) I do suggest defrosting these before cooking.

I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or you could take it out in the morning for that night’s dinner. Or just leave the bag on the counter for maybe an hour or two? In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted.

EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY RECIPE: Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted strips and let them cook in a single layer until they get a little sear (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them as they sear. When they are seared, toss in some vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (fresh garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Add 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling Gochujang sauce over the top. For a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang with an equal amount water slowly until its a smooth sauce. Serve with rice of course. Also – Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up * vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJ’s frozen Asian veggies mix and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First I am not vegan and I adore real Bulgogi. These are pretty good and slightly resemble beef however they would not fool me as real beef (though frankly my Korean wife didn’t know they weren’t beef unill I told her!) What they got right here, is the texture, which is pretty good, a little chewy and “beefy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty.

A package is $3.49. Note: This is Vegan but it is NOT Gluten Free (contains Wheat Gluten). Gluten is what gives this the nice chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten for Vegetarian Mock meat for a thousand years. That is what “Seitan” is.

Trader Joe’s HASH BROWN POTATOES


Trader Joe’s sells these frozen hash brown shredded potato patties. They are pretty good. I see a lot of people buying them. Maybe because they kind of resemble MacDonald’s potato patties? Basically these consist of three ingredients, potatoes, oil and salt. You can bake them as suggested on the package. A toaster oven will work for that too. It doesnt say this but you can make them on the stove in a pan, which is what I did. I added a tiny bit of oil to a non-stick pan and cooked them on low until the first side was golden brown, then flipped them, about 15-20 minutes in total. I would say you want these as crispy as possible. Now I don’t have an Air Fryer but I’ve seen other people report you can cook these in and Air Fryer and they work well getting nice and crispy without adding more oil.

The patties were pretty tasty, especially with the fried egg I had them with. I gave them a good dusting of black pepper and that improved them too. I can see you using these at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Things they match well with include ketchup, eggs, bacon, sour cream, or of course pretty much anything that would go well with potatoes. There are 10 patties in a package which now goes for $2.29. Trader Joe’s also sells frozen shredded hash brown potatoes in a bag, that is not in patty form just loose, the way you would normally make hash browns. Those would be good for adding things in during cooking such as some chopped onions and peppers, so also useful.

Trader Joe’s Hot Weather, Must Have, Summer Staple Items!


Its HOT all over the U.S. at the moment. Here’s just a couple of suggestions for some Trader Joe’s staples that are good to have on hand for hot weather, that can make easy pantry meals you don’t have to cook, or barely have to, and you can just throw together quickly.

Canned Salmon

TJ’s Fresh (cooked) Roasted Salmon Fillet

Greek Chickpeas

Hummus

Pita Bread / Pita Chips

Norwegian Crispread

Eggplant Garlic Spread

Shaped Pasta (tuna pasta salad)

Cans of Tuna

Rye Bread

Baked Tofu

Japanese Sesame Dressing

Coleslaw

Greek Yogurt

Ice Cream (your pick)

Parsley, Lemons, Olive Oil, Red Onion, Celery, Lettuce, Salads

Trader Joe’s TURKEY BOLOGNESE “just sauce”


UPDATE (Sep 2022) REPORTS ARE COMING IN THIS MAY HAVE BE DISCONTINUED (argh!!)

Turkey Bolognese sauce – You can serve this sauce with PAPPARDELLE noodles (best) but it would work with any pasta. or gnocchi. This is “just sauce” as opposed to another frozen version TJ’s has which comes with noodles and sauce. It’s a “Bolognese” style tomato based sauce (ragu) made with ground turkey instead of pork or beef. $3.29 (12 oz). You can have a dinner for two for about five bucks with this sauce and the Pappardelle noodles ($2) or for about four bucks if you just buy regular pasta ($1).

I tried this making this TJ’s “Just Sauce” along with TJ’s PAPPARDELLE noodles (which BTW are really good). Now as I am a pretty good cook on occasion I’ll make a homemade Bolognese sauce. So for comparison, lets be fair and say my own homemade turkey bolognese sauce is better that this. Not that’s out of the way, TJ’s Turkey Bolognese sauce is not bad. It’s OK, if nothing special. Obviously this is convenient and easy which is it’s main selling point. Its a bit bland for me for one thing. So if you get this sauce you can – and should, fix this sauce up a little bit with adding a few things to it: some garlic and Italian herbs and spices, good olive oil and of course some Parmesan or Pecorino, after defrosting. Simmer it for a few minutes with the additions. Oh and be sure to finish cooking the noodles in the sauce for the last minute or two so they can absorb the sauce a bit. This translates into if the package says “cook 7 minutes or till al dente” you pull it one or two minutes before, toss in a pan with maybe a ladle or two of this sauce and cook it on low until the noodles are done till al dente or to your preferred liking. Then top with a little sauce and cheese. As shown below you can see the pappardelle have absorbed some of the sauce.

I would encourage you to try your hand sometime at making this sauce yourself. Here’s an “easy version” I came up with. Really, it’s easy, cheap and will taste way better of course.

RECIPEFAST & EASY TURKEY BOLOGNESE: Brown a pound of ground turkey (optionally you can use ground beef, or mix of 1/2 pound each ground beef and pork, or Impossible burger for that matter). Sauté on high heat in a tablespoon of EVOO. Once the meat is browned well, add 4 cloves of garlic (crushed), 1/2 a chopped onion (optional: a grated carrot) and turn down to medium heat. Add a spoon of wine, balsamico or just water to deglaze the bottom of the pan scraping up any bits. Saute on low covered for about 3 minutes then add a can of ROASTED TOMATOES (with or without chiles). Rinse out the the can 1/2 way full with milk. Add that in. Add a tablespoon of TOMATO PASTE if you have it. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Serve the sauce with a hearty noodle like Pappardelle.

Another one here….

Update (Aug 2022) FYI, someone left a Comment that this product has been discontinued…..?

Trader Joe’s “Hold The Cone” MINI ICE CREAM CONES


Hold The Cone! Mini Ice Cream Cones

These seem to be pretty popular so I checked them out. My take was they are super cute for one thing if you serve them to someone. Taste wise, they’re pretty good. The chocolate coating was good, the ice cream good (but not as good as TJ’s “premium” coffee bean ice cream). The cones had a slightly stale texture especially at the bottom. So while OK, frankly these wouldn’t make me want to give up a scoop of TJ’s excellent “super premium” Coffee Bean Ice Cream instead of these if given a choice. So while really cute to serve to someone, personally I would prefer a scoop of the better ice cream. The MINI CONES come in a package of 8 for $3.79. If I had a choice of picking this product over a quart of ice cream which is almost the same price don’t think I would get these. I’d get the bigger ice cream, better taste and value, over the “cute factor”.

Trader Joe’s MEXICAN STYLE ROASTED CORN WITH COTIJA CHEESE


” This unique take on corn combines flavors inspired by Elote, a popular street food in Mexico. Our version is lime spiked slathered in a smoky cream sauce and topped with authentic cotija cheese. “

I find this to be really good Trader Joe’s product. Find this In the frozen veg section. When you open the bag you see corn plus some large pellets. This is the sauce, frozen up, a neat trick. The pellets melt up as you heat it coating the corn in a nice sauce. When its ready to serve you sprinkle on a little package of included grated Cotija cheese (kind of Mexico’s parmesan). Everything works together to make a delicious corn dish inspired by “elotes“. It can be a great side dish for tacos, maybe Carnitas.

$3.29 (14 oz bag)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/mexican-style-roasted-corn-059063

“For this at-home version of what’s often called street corn, we’ve opted to take the kernels off the cob. We’ve enrobed the corn in a creamy, smoky sauce that melts off as the corn heats – it seems magical, but it’s really just simple thermodynamics. It’s also spiked with lime juice and studded with cilantro, lending additional authenticity. A packet of Cotija cheese is included in each package of Corn – when the corn is heated through and ready to serve, sprinkle the crumbled cheese on top. It’s the ideal finishing touch to this crunchy, sweet, smoky, spicy dish. Present it as a side dish with a Mexican-inspired meal, or serve it in individual ramekins as an appetizer course.”

Trader Joe’s CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SALMON FILLET


(Frozen) Trader Joe’s came up with an interesting creation: CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SOCKEYE SALMON. The frozen package contains a boneless filet of (wild) Sockeye Salmon, seasoned and wrapped up in a very thin piece of cedar wood which is pretty cool. This is inspired by the traditional Pacific Northwest Native American way of cooking salmon, nailing a side to a cedar plank and cooking them vertically around a fire. Something like this…

Cooked BBQ Sockeye Salmon

Trader Joe’s version is a pretty good deal for $4.99 and worth trying. I made a piece for dinner and found the cooked salmon to be really tasty.

Cooking: Though the package has instructions for 2 ways, in the oven or on an outdoor grill, I didn’t want to heat up my oven and the kitchen on a pretty hot day. So I decided to just grill it on in my cast iron pan on the stove. I didn’t cook this fish from frozen like it says to do either. I defrosted the fish prior to cooking it (just placed the sealed package under running water for 10 minutes which worked ok). Inside the plastic package the salmon is wrapped in a thin piece of cedar and tied. I grilled it with the cedar side / bottom down for about 4-5 minutes (again it was not frozen, if it was they say takes 25 minutes in the oven). When the bottom was done I flipped it and grilled the top side for about 2-3 minutes. You could put in foil as they suggest, which is the French “en papilotte” method of making a moist environment. Sockeye salmon is different than what you may be used to when you think of salmon, meaning the usual Atlantic salmon, typically farmed. Wild Sockeye salmon has a more dense and meaty texture and has very dark red flesh as it is a wild fish. This sockeye salmon cooked up well and tasted nice with TJ’s not too overpowering bbq seasoning. Plus the cedar flavor was subtle and tasty and the fish had a nice moist texture. One piece makes a decent portion for one. The skin on the bottom stuck to the cedar plank and kept it moist. I just served it with just a sprinkle of lemon. It might be quite nice with a little sauce on the side too (some lemon and Greek yogurt with a touch of Zhoug?). The Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend was a good match for this as a side dish. That is a staple for me.

THE NUTRITION LABELS STATES YOU GET A WHOPPING 32 GRAMS OF PROTEIN !

Worth trying. I would buy this again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/cedar-wrapped-bbq-sockeye-salmon-fillet-064671

TRADER JOE’S SAYS : “Our Cedar Wrapped Sockeye Salmon is rubbed with seasonings including smoked sea salt and chipotle powder to yield a balanced, smoky, mildly spicy, distinctly cedar-y Fillet. And, in addition to imparting flavor, that cedar wrap also ensures a super moist result—no matter whether you bake it or grill it!”

PS – you know those pictures of bears catching salmon jumping upstream? They are probably these Sockeye Salmon.

TJ’s “When Life Gives You Lemons Make ICE CREAM”


Trader Joe’s new ice cream, “When Life Gives You Lemons Make ICE CREAM”, Lemon Ice Cream with a Lemon Swirl and Shortbread Cookie Bits is da bomb. This stuff seems to be flying off the shelves at the moment.

This new Trader Joe’s ice cream flavor is very original, unusual, and delicious. Sweet but a little tart. We used to get lemon ices as kids in the summertime which are really good. But this is lemon ICE CREAM, not ices so it tastes that much more amazing – plus it’s not “just lemon ice cream” it’s a kind of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream invention built on a Lemon Theme with yellow swirls in the ice cream which have even more sweet lemon flavors and then to top it all off, they put in these little pieces of buttery shortbread, so it has a bit of texture to it which make it now even more amazing. Now I would not even say I’m a huge fan of lemon ice cream, however when I first tasted this concoction I did a “wow is this good” double take – ‘cuz it is really really good plus it seems very original and unusual, again in one of those really good but simple Ben & Jerry’s ice cream concoctions. I went back to get it again. I go to the ice cream case and was so dissapointed. SOLD OUT! Not just that, only this flavor was sold out, there are a ton of ice creams on both sides of where this should be. So I am assuming word is out on this ice cream and everyone wants to try it, and for good reason, it’s a really terrific TJ’s product. It’s not cheap at $3.49 for a pint. However a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Hagendaz or the like goes for way more than this. This WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS ice cream invention is a real treat which I think in the summer time it will seem even more heavenly, on a hot day.

Trader Joe’s “Tteok Bok Ki” KOREAN SPICY RICE CAKES


“This dish, a mainstay of Korean street food, begins with cylinders of tender, chewy rice cakes (think mochi or gnocchi) cooked in a spicy-umami, savory and sweet sauce….”

(update summer 2022: its been MIA for awhile (NYC)

I confess when I saw these for the first time in the frozen Asian food section at Trader Joe’s recently I got pretty excited. Because Tteok Bok Ki is a Korean dish that I am pretty crazy about and have eaten plenty of. In case you’re not familiar with it already, Korean “Tteok Bok Ki” (pronounced Tok Boke Kee) is a hugely popular typically Korean dish, comprised of consisting of soft, super chewy rice cakes in a tube shape that are cooked in an addictive spicy, sweet red sauce of Gochugang (Korean red pepper paste), brown sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds plus other seasonings and it has lots of Umami. So of course I had to try Trader Joe’s version, which says “Product of Korea” on the package. Having now tried it while I can’t say of course that it’s the best I ever had still it’s fairly good and tasty enough to recommend you give it a try. We had it for dinner and really enjoyed it, especially as I fixed it up a bit with a few ingredients (see below). Inside the package are two bags, one containing white rice cakes and bag of sauce which the instructions tell you to thin with a cup of water. I made them in the “Traditional Preparation” style written on the package. I don’t see the point of making the “crispy” style as they will be covered with sauce and not crispy after that.

TIPS: I found that the recommended 1 cup of water they state seems like too much. The sauce came out a little thin and this sauce should be pretty thick, to really coat the rice cakes. So the next time I make these I’ll reduce the water to 3/4 or even 1/2 cup for a thicker sauce. You can always add a few tablespoons of water if too thick. Also be sure to stir quite a bit as it cooks, as this also thickens the sauce from starch released by the rice cakes.

Another TIP: To make it more authentic I added a some things and suggest you should too. At the very least add a few hard boiled eggs which is the way it’s typically served in Korea. Add the eggs into the sauce so they cook for about 5 minutes in the sauce to get a bit imbued with it (cut them in half when you serve). Also, in Korea the dish might have thin “fish cakes” in it. If you have an H-Mart near you, you can get these type of thin fish cakes or other add-ins. As I didn’t have any, I improvised with something I had in the fridge which was some TJ “Baked Tofu”. That kind of worked for texture and another element plus additional protein. I sliced the tofu thinly in the style of those aforementioned fish cakes. I also threw in a bit of fresh cilantro (Pak Chi) and that worked well too for flavor and color. I gave them a little drizzle of Sesame Oil just before serving. Chopped scallions are very typical as well so add some. If you happen to have a box of Gochugang in the fridge, adding in a tablespoon or two during cooking couldn’t hurt for maximum authentic Korean flavors.

The final dish turned out quite tasty and made a nice dinner for two of us along with some good Kimchi – or just make a salad. It was not very spicy. If you add a few things (even just a few hard boiled eggs and chopped scallions) it turns this basic package from a side dish into a lunch or dinner. The TJ package goes for only $3.79 (1 lb). If you get Tteok Bok Ki in a Korean restaurant it could easily cost triple that price, though of course the one you get at a restaurant is likely be better. However if you fix this up a wee bit this can turn out pretty decent. So given how convenient this frozen TJ version is, I will surely buy this again (update: we have already) It’s a real treat of Korean textures and flavors. In future I may get those fish cakes at H-Mart which are optional but will really make this into a more authentic Tteok Bok Ki. I love that Trader Joe’s is carrying more and more Korean foods. Now if Trader Joe’s could only improve their source of the mediocre meh KIMCHI they carry (sigh, its better than nothing). H-Mart has great Kimchi. Just sayin’!

AS-IS the package is GLUTEN FREE and VEGAN.

Optional TJ list for shopping: eggs, cilantro, scallions, toasted sesame oil, baked tofu…

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/tteok-bok-ki-071551

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