Trader Joe’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS (+ Fish Taco recipe)


Trader Joe’s Fish Nuggets are tasty and these taste like a real battered piece of fish. They are perfect for making fish tacos for one thing. The first ingredient is Alaskan Pollack. Don’t confuse this item (“Fish Nuggets”) with TJ’s “Fish Sticks”which are terrible, way inferior to these at a dollar less. I used these nuggets to make Fish Tacos for dinner the other night. BTW I didn’t bake these as it says on the package. I sauteed them in a cast iron pan till they were crispy on both sides.

We really enjoyed these when we made them into fish tacos. The popular TJ’s Fish Tacos recipe is easy to make. You take a package of these, Corn Tortillas (which I think will taste better than flour ones) and top with crunchy slaw made with the Cole Slaw Mix, some Greek Yogurt, and lime juice. Optional but nice would be some ripe avocado and your favorite hot sauce. I would recommend TJ’s Green Dragon and/or Peri-Peri hot sauce as being a good match with fish tacos.

TJ’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS are now $5.99 for a 1 lb package. The other thing these might be good for is an English style Fish & Chips with some french fries?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/battered-fish-nugget-tacos

“These tantalizing tacos combine the tart, tangy, and savory flavors of fresh Lime juice and crispy Battered Fish Nuggets with a mix of soft, crunchy, and creamy textures, courtesy of our Corn Tortillas, Organic Broccoli Slaw, and Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. Endlessly customizable with your favorite hot sauce, salsa, or crema, one batch of these can feed a family of four and even more, depending on your hunger level.”

FISH TACOS

  • TJ’s Battered Fish Nuggets
  • TJ’s Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 1 Lime
  • TJ’s Organic Broccoli Slaw or Cole Slaw Mix
  • TJ’s Corn Tortillas

Add yogurt and lime juice to the slaw mix; let sit a 1/2 hour to marinate. Cook up the fish till golden brown and put two pieces into a warm corn tortilla and top with slaw and a few drops of salsa or hot sauce.

Trader Joe’s COWBOY CAVIAR (corn & black bean salsa)


“Corn, black bean and pepper salsa. Smoky sweet with just the right amount of kick” – Trader Joe’s

This is a must try, if you never had it. Both my wife and I really, really love this terrific salsa. We both even think it could be a pick for a TJ’s Top Ten.

“Cowboy Caviar” – You gotta love that name. “Cowboy Caviar” is a typical South Western dish made with kernels of corn, beans (black beans and/or black eyed peas) in a tomato base. Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar is a great version, maybe more in a salsa style with corn, black beans, red bell peppers, onions, jalapenos, lime juice and spices, with some kick to it, from chipotle chiles in adobe which give it a bit of heat plus a smoky undertone. TJ’s doesnt have the heat level rating on the jar. Call it a medium heat? This stuff is soooo good as a salsa, as a dip for chips, like the Corn Dippers, on top of tacos, on top of rice, with eggs, mixed into veggies, alongside grilled chicken, or as a little side dish…. you name it, I think it will perk it up. Its a really good pantry item to have on hand. You can put out some of this with chips or crackers and you can have something in a few seconds for unexpected guests. A jar now goes for $2.99 (13 oz)

I would buy it again.

Trader Joe’s SALSA DE CACAHUATE


“A Southern Mexican inspired salsa made with guajillo chiles and peanuts”

“A peanut based salsa with a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness and peppery heat. Versatile. Enhances food from burritos to shrimp.”

(summer 2022) New Product – SALSA DE CACAHUATE. I found this to be just terrific, pretty much a “wow” new Trader Joe’s product.

This is bit of an unusual and atypical (regional) salsa (for us at least in the US) which originates from Southern Mexico. It’s a peanut-based salsa. Cacahuate is “peanut” in Spanish, based on the Nahuatl word (you pronounce it : kaka-wa-te). I found this new salsa to be really, really good. It’s unusual compared to more typical tomato based salsa’s at Trader Joe’s due to fact it’s peanut based and creamy. The salsa has a huge depth of flavor. It’s definitely got a kick (med. hot spicy!) and its thick and creamy. Be sure to stir it. This salsa was really tasty on some tortilla chips. It was also delicious with some spinach and cheese quesadillas I made. But it is not “just for Mexican food”. This can be great with lots of things. This can be a great sauce or ingredient for many kinds of foods as Trader Joe’s suggests. For one thing, great with chicken. It is fabulous on chicken, say grilled chicken breasts or thighs. Pork too, it was delicious on some TJ’s CARNITAS cooked into “slices of pork loin”. I also like the idea of trying it with shrimp as TJ’s suggests. It would even be great with TOFU. I will experiment with this, and you should too. It’s excellent! Definitely worth trying. Trader Joe’s indicates this is a summer / seasonal item so if this sounds interesting I would not wait too long to grab a jar to try out (or two). $2.99 for a 12 oz jar.

“If you’ve ever sampled the cuisine of southern Mexico, you’ve likely come across a version of salsa de cacahuate, a savory, often spicy, peanut-based sauce that’s used on a remarkably wide range of dishes, from street tacos to roast chicken to grilled shrimp, and more. Etymologically derived from a Nahuatl word for peanut, salsa de cacahuate has a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness, and peppery heat that makes it an uncommonly versatile condiment—just the kind of sauce that cries out to be put on everything.

In tribute to this southern Mexican staple, we’re proudly offering Trader Joe’s Salsa de Cacahuate for the summer. And just like the namesake sauce that inspired it, this rich and flavorful jarred Salsa is almost endlessly versatile. Aside from enjoying as a dip with your favorite tortilla chip, you can use it to enhance everything from burritos to burgers to breakfast fare. It adds an extraordinary depth of flavor when served over salmon, steak, or stuffed peppers, and brings out the best of a sizzling plate of fajitas. For a true treat, try spooning it generously over a plate of sliced pork loin.”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/salsa-de-cacahuate-073992

HACK: Turn Trader Joe’s CARNITAS into CHAR SIU (Chinese Roasted BBQ Pork)


Here’s a hack I came up with to turn Trader Joe’s Pork Carnitas into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Looking at a half used package of TJ’s Carnitas I had in the fridge, I had an thought. Could I turn it into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Roast Pork) ? I mean both are roasted pork. Why couldn’t I just add the Chinese flavorings to come up with some Char Siu? So I tried it out and guess what? This hack worked great! The Carnitas now tasted very close to delicious Char Siu aka Chinese BBQ Roast Pork. My wife and I thought the hack came out delicious. Here’s how I did it.

I made a Chinese sauce, grilled up a few thick slices of the carnitas, cooked it in the sauce to absorb the flavors, then spooned on more. To get that BBQ effect, I put the pan under the broiler until it had caramelized and the sauce became a thick glaze. The pork was tender, moist and full of flavor. We were amazed at how good this turned out and how much it tasted like Chinese BBQ Pork aka Char Siu.

I will be doing this now whenever I am in the mood for some easy Char Siu ! (BTW the Carnitas / Char Siu make a great topping for Ramen!) We ate the BBQ pork along side a Chinese noodle dish I made. It could be even good just on top of a bowl of rice too and with a few veggies, or any way you would use traditional Chinese Roast Pork.

Try this hack out yourself and see how easy and tasty it is!

SAUCE TO MAKE CARNITAS CHAR SIU

1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 inch ginger, grated

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons palm sugar / light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

pinch of ground cinnamon (or 5 spice powder if you have some)

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl. In a cast iron or oven safe pan, grill up your Carnitas pork slices under the broiler on low, for maybe 3 minutes, watching carefully until the pork is lightly browned. Flip and brush on some Char Siu Sauce and place back under the broiler on low for maybe 1 minute checking it carefully to make sure it does not burn. Take out and turn off the broiler. Spoon any left over sauce over the pork to coat. Put the hot pan back in the oven and let it sit for 1-2 minutes for the sauce to glaze up and reduce more in the residual oven heat (again keeping an eye on it to make sure it is deeply browned but do not let it get burned) Spooning the sauce over every 30 seconds or so.

Enjoy!

Here’s a more traditional recipe making it from scratch. I made the ingredients simpler in that you can find them all at Trader Joe’s – which doesn’t sell Oyster Sauce, for example (I wish). So if you have that and other Chinese ingredients in your larder, of course add them. The CHAR SIU recipe below in Woks of Life will give you ideas.

CedarLane “Authentic Mexican Style” PULLED PORK TAMALES


“Cedarlane Authentic Mexican Style Pulled Pork Tamales”

I was in the mood for tamales, and I saw these at Trader Joe’s (Refrigerated). My review – as is frequently in the case chez Trader Joe’s with some “ethnic products” – is that these tamales are neither very good nor very bad, they’re “just OK”. These tamales are sold under their own brand (CedarLane) “Authentic, Mexican Style Pulled Pork Tamales.” Authentic, Mexican? That’s really stretching it for honest advertising. My bar for “authentic Mexican” is pretty high. In NYC we have a farily large Mexican population. Not as large as California of course but we are lucky in that one can get very decent Mexican food in New York City. So I have eaten homemade tamales made by women selling them out of a cooler, and most were all terrific. I’ve also gotten tamales from street trucks, ditto. Not to mention in Mexico. So I know a good tamale when I see it and these Cedarlane tamales are not those. These are Blancos factory versions of tamales and get a “Meh”! Edible but nothing to write about. I found them barely seasoned, though they list three kinds of chiles I couldn’t really taste them. These are dumbed down tamales. The filling inside here is a mush of meat and sauce, no chunks of pulled pork as I was expecting. The masa layer is a bit too thin for my tastes. Tamales are all about the corn and the Masa layer as much as the filling. Finally of course these CederLane tamales are made with canola oil – not lard which is “authentic”. OK I know the word lard doesn’t sound appetizing to you but lard is authentic Mexican and it makes for good masa. So while we didn’t hate these, and we ate them and kind of enjoyed them with adding some good salsa, we just didnt find them at all authentic Mexican. So I might not buy these again. I may search out other Trader Joe’s frozen tamales I’ve seen there and check if those are any better.

These are $6.99 (1.75 per tamale)

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 PINEAPPLE SALSA


Trader Joe’s PINEAPPLE SALSA

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this but I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much I did like it when I tasted it and how good this salsa really was. I think the name put me off. Actually it’s quite good and I think if most people try this, they will like it too. Even though pineapple is in the name and is listed as the second ingredient on the list of ingredients, it doesn’t stand out and taste “pineapple-y” or overly sweet; it is completely blended into the other flavors. It does have a hint of sweetness but it tastes like salsa, not pineapples. I have a feeling this is salsa that even people who don’t like salsa will like! You know the “I don’t like salsa; its too spicy for me” type. As you can see from the “heat scale” on the label this is a fairly mild salsa with only a small amount of spiciness. Now as pork and pineapple are a famous match (eg, tacos al pastor) I would try TJ’s Pineapple Salsa on top of some Carnitas tacos. It would be great also on nachos, rice, shrimp, salmon, eggs, or anything you can think of. You could brush this on at the end of grilling / broiling chicken and it would great. A 12 oz jar is $1.99, so at under two dollars this is one of the cheaper salsas on offer at Trader Joe’s. I would gladly buy this again. Ingredients: Tomato, Pineapple, Onion, Green Pepper, Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Salt, Garlic, Jalapeno, Cilantro, Red Pepper

Trader Joe’s TRADITIONAL CARNITAS Mexican Style Oven Roasted Pork


Trader Joe’s sells packages of “CARNITAS” (Mexican style oven roasted pork). Frankly in the package it may not look look very appealing but trust me, this is not just good, TJ’s Carnitas are delicious. Tender, slow roasted, melt in your mouth, delicious porky goodness. Carnitas (“little meats) are a traditional Mexican preparation & cooking method with the pork typically cooked in enormous copper pots by special masters, slowly stirring it for hour with long handle wooden paddles. Cooking carnitas is an art. You can’t even really make carnitas at home. When done the pork is so tender and juicy it is almost falling apart. Typically the cooked carnitas meat is chopped up for tacos or other dishes. “Trader José’s” version of carnitas can be used to make excellent tacos. Now even though it’s fully cooked, it will be far tastier if you brown it and I strongly recommend you do. Its worth the little extra effort and your tacos will be far tastier. Please do not microwave it – despite the fact they say you can on the package. Just toss it in a pan. I cut up the big piece of meat into a few pieces and cooked it on low-med heat for about 10-20 minutes turning the pieces every 5 minutes or all the side were golden brown and delicious. Some interior fat in the meat will melt doing this too. The carnitas may start to fall apart as you turn it, that’s fine. When its all done, take out the meat, rest it a minute or two and then either chop it up into bite size piece or what I like to do: shred it up using two forks. You can use the carnitas as a filling for tacos or quesadillas with your desired accompaniments. Personally I like traditional Corn Tortillas but use any tortilla you like. Now besides using this for tacos, this tasty roasted pork can be used for other things too of course. So for example this pork is great used for Chinese cooking. I make fried rice using this pork chopped into bite size pieces instead of Cha Siu and it’s super yummy. How about Ramen? Sure. Cut into slices, grill them a bit and use these as the Ramen topping like the traditional slices of Cha Siu. Italian? Chop up the meat for a super easy tasty meat sauce, which you add to tomato or marinara sauce – voila, an instant “Ragu” or meat sauce for pasta or gnocchi. You can even just serve this delicious pork on its own with some lime or salsa or as a topping for a salad. Or make a Cuban Sandwich with this, ham and some Swiss! Trust me, you will find this TJ Carnitas useful to use for many things. The 12 oz. package of TRADITIONAL CARNITAS goes for $6. I would buy this again

BTW – TJ’s PINEAPPLE SALSA goes very well with this pork carnitas for tacos etc.

Trader Joe’s GROUND TURKEY (with recipe: Turkey Bean Chili )


Ground turkey is something I buy fairly frequently at Trader Joe’s as I find it a versatile ingredient. It’s a convenient protein to have on hand in the fridge, or freezer. Obviously also it has less fat and calories than ground beef, plus is much less expensive, all of which is why ground turkey is a big go-to ingredient for many people. Taste-wise however ground turkey is on the bland side and needs some jazzing up to be tasty. I have found it benefits from two things. One, deep browning. Getting it really browned improves its flavor (due to the Maillard effect). Number two: using lots of seasoning. One excellent match for ground turkey is TJ’s taco seasoning, the 79 cents “miracle” packet. Other good Trader Joe’s seasoning blends that match well with it are: TJ’s Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Blend seasoning, TJ’s Ajika Georgian Seasoning, ground cumin, black pepper and of course lots of garlic, ground or especially fresh chopped garlic. So my “secret” for ground turkey is I season it really, really generously, coating it completely, as the TJ ground turkey is pretty “wet” which make it’s hard to brown. I’ve found a good amount of dry seasoning coating on the outside gives it a drier surface that makes it brown more easily. So if you put a good deal of seasoning on the outside to provide a dry surface for pan grilling (add as little salt or no salt since the seasonings may have salt, check the package) it helps. I also try to minimally compress the ground meat even if making into a burger. I don’t compress the meat much either, as minimally as possible. I sprinkle the dry seasonings generously all over and gently lay it into a VERY hot cast iron pan with good tablespoon or two of olive oil or an oil and butter mix. I don’t touch or move it at all until the bottom side has turned quite brown which can take a good 6-8 minutes. If making turkey for tacos, I just lay it from the package (seasoned) into the pan and try to not break it up until it is done and very browned. This yields large chunks which I like. If you want to mix it with other ingredients like chopped veggies, then you can even add an egg and some binder (panko, breadcrumbs, etc) and then form that into patties.

Ground turkey recipes are all over the internet and found easily. Here’s mine for a fast turkey bean chili.

EASY TURKEY BEAN CHILI: Season turkey as described above, Cook in a hot pan in a nice slug of oilve oil (better still a mix of oil & butter). Cook until turkey is very browned on one side; then flip and add a chopped medium onion and ground cumin to taste. Sauté together until the onion is a lightly browned and fragrant. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic. Break up the turkey keeping a few large chunks for texture. Add a large tablespoon of Tomato paste, mix in and cook on low-medium heat for a minute. Add a can of drained red kidney (or black beans) then a can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles. Rinse out the can with some water to get everything and add all that liquid. Simmer everything on low for about 20-30 minutes to let the flavors blend. Taste and adjust seasoning/salt if needed. Serve with rice with grated cheddar cheese on top. (Variation -Turkey Bean Chili Soup; this can easily become a soup instead of a stew, just add more liquid (chicken or beef broth or another can of tomatoes) and simmer together till done. )

The TJ ground turkey goes for about $4 a lb. The regular turkey is better overall. The more expensive all white meat ground turkey breast kind can turn out too dry unless you are super careful cooking it, and mix it with other ingredients to keep it moist. If you don’t use ground turkey within 2 days of purchase, put the package in the freezer, and do an overnight defrost in the fridge the day before you want to use it. Yes I know it has a 2 week “use by” date on the package but all ground meats are best used as fresh as possible, within a day or two. TJ’s dates are way too generous for me.

UPDATE: (April 2022, I noticed ground turkey has prices crept up about 50 cents due to rampant inflation)

Trader Joe’s GUAJILLO SALSA


Trader Joe’s GUAJILLO SALSA – “A spicy and flavorful salsa with smokey undertones”

This description on the label is right on the money.

I really liked this new GUAJILLO SALSA offering Trader Joe’s came up with, it’s truly an excellent jarred salsa. In fact this may be among TJ’s best salsas of the many they offer. Trying it for the first time I found it was full of complex flavors, spicy, a bit smokey, a bit acidic… just really interesting and delicious. It will spike up all your taste buds. TJ’s usually puts some kind of heat level indicator graph on the salsa’s, however this jar doesn’t have one. So just a heads up this is not “mild”, it’s got a nice little kick to it, I would say medium spicy, however not blow your head off spicy. So imagine a chile graph of “medium”.

Ingredients in this salsa include: tomatoes in juice, tomato paste, guajillo chile pepper purée, vinegar, salt, crushed red pepper, dried garlic, and both guajillo chile powder and chipotle chile powder. All those nice chiles give this a big authentic flavor. Stir before using or shake well, as this has no thickeners added so it’s a bit loose and chunky in a typical Mexican salsa style (unlike some American made salsa brands that are artificially thickened with starch so they stick on a chip and do not drip easily). Even not being thickend, just dip a chip in a little bit of this and I promise you will get it’s flavor.

Use this anywhere you would use your favorite salsa or hot sauce, and be creative. I drizzled some over some simply grilled chicken. This guajillo salsa added a bunch of terrific flavors that went great with the chicken to jazz it up nicely. Drizzle it over Mexican rice, refried beans, tacos, eggs, you name it. Ground turkey tacos? Boring no more. I also just chopped up some fresh ripe tomatoes and mixed in a few tablespoons of this salsa to them to come up with a “salsa fresca” variation which was very tasty. I really like this salsa and if you are a fan of salsa you will likely too. Its way more interesting than the rather plain Jane TJ Hatch Valley Salsa (however I bet if you mixed the two they might be good blended for some red and green salsa flavors). In sum, TJ’s GUAJILLO SALSA is delicious and well worth trying. A 12 oz jar was $2.69. Would I buy it again? Yes. This is something I now like to have in the fridge at all times.

SHAKE OR STIR BEFORE USING. REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING.

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