TJ’s CALROSE RICE (Japanese rice)


In our house, we eat a lot of rice. For years, I have bemoaned the fact that TJ carried a few kinds of long grain rice (Thai Jasmine, Indian Basmati) which are all terrific, however they didn’t sell short grain rice (aka Japanese rice).

Well now they do. OK Trader Joe’s Calrose White Medium grain rice is yes technically a “medium grain”rice however the reality is this is for all intents very close to an Asian Japonica short grain. This is Sushi rice.

Finally! I can buy Asian rice at Trader Joe’s! Seeing this for the first time after so many year made me happy. It meant I would have fewer treks in future to H-Mart or an Asian supermarket in Chinatown or Flushing and lugging a 20 lb bag of short grain rice back home on the subway.

So what exactly is CalRose rice? (yes you guessed it’s from California).

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/what-is-calrose-rice/

Maybe you have seen Kokuho Rose brand rice . Or Nishiki? Brands of Calrose “sushi rice” grown in California. Nishiki brand is one popular brand in the US among Japanese.

https://amzn.to/3lbISIH

One thing I should point out. I found the directions on the package stating to “simmer for 30 minutes” crazy talk. That’s twice as long as one normally cooks white rice. Are they kidding? This is not brown rice. If you follow TJ’s instructions you will end up with very overcooked mushy rice. Yuk. So I recommend you cooking it this way. Wash rice gently. Drain rice 10 minutes in a colander to get rid of excess water. Put in pan adding 1 1/4 cups of water. Add a little salt. Turn heat to high and cover with a tight fitting lid. Set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check rice. You should see some “holes” with almost no water left. Turn heat to lowest setting. Cook for another 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat. Don’t open lid! Leave covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes rice should be perfect. Fluff rice with fork or chopsticks. Taste test it. If you really think its not done put on low heat for another 5 minutes. You’re welcome. (If you’re Japanese like my wife you will say, no don’t add any salt, but I prefer a adding a bit. Gomen!)

A 2 lb. bag of Trader Joe’s Calrose Medium Grain rice is $2.49. Pretty decent price as rice has gone up in price a lot since a few years ago.

Can you make sushi with this? You certainly can. Or easier – make rice and serve rice with Spicy Tuna (with mayo and Sriracha) and sheets of Nori (TJ seaweed snacks) for some hand rolls. Need a recipe? Here you go!

https://pickledplum.com/spicy-tuna-roll-recipe/

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI


TJ KIMCHI Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (Made in Korea)

Eating fermented foods is good for you and your gut!

I love kimchi and OK, I’m a bit picky about it. I want the good stuff! As someone who has Korean in-laws, and adores Korean cuisine, I have eaten a good deal of all kinds of Kimchi. I can tell really good Kimchi from “Just OK”.

Trader Joe’s has tried their hand at Kimchi before. Over the last few years, I would see Kimchi at TJ’s and eventually it seemed to vanish (?) Either they dropped it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors and changing the packaging. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they had a kimchi sold in a soft plastic bag (see link). Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “it’s OK”.

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-has-kimchi-here-are-6-ways-to-use-it-183085

So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is “it’s OK”. It’s not great but it’s decent. This is better than the one they sold previously in a bag. It’s certainly better than no Kimchi, if you can’t easily find kimchi where you live. I can’t say this latest TJ kimchi is as good as kimchi you would get from a Korean supermarket like H-Mart or even a small Korean owned fruit and veg grocer where the owners sell kimchi themselves. My corner Korean fruit and veg store sells some kimchi which is decent. So on the plus side this Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have the kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient). I don’t find it terribly spicy, but I imagine this is a personal opinion.

If you can’t get Kimchi anywhere else this is one is “not bad”. Its about $4 for a 10 oz. jar. Honestly I’m happy that at least Trader Joe’s sells kimchi period. Maybe they will eventually find a terrific kimchi maker.

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can also make some dishes with it. Kimchi is great as an ingredient, cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Pork & Kimchi)” (recipe: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

Or KIMCHI FRIED RICE.

Finally, think about some DIY Kimchi! It’s not hard to make actually. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) its not terribly hard to make your own kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s and make you feel like a star when you impress people saying “I made it”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a good “easy kimchi” recipe made from regular cabbage (it’s a “summer kimchi”) I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage one I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was amazing. It’s great one day later and will be amazing in two weeks in the fridge as it ferments.

TJ’s PERI-PERI SAUCE


RAVE

Trader Joe’s PERI-PERI SAUCE with fermented and dried chilies

This is as the label says: “A CONDIMENT WITH RICH COMPLEX HEAT”.

Peri-peri sauce is one of those Trader Joe’s products that currently seems to be all over the Internet. So naturally I decided I better check it out. First thing to tell you is TJ”s Peri-Peri sauce is HOT! I’m talking spicy with a capital S, as in the spiciest product I have ever tasted from Trader Joe’s. It remided me of the first time I tasted TJ’s original super spicy (and sadly discontinued) Organic SRIRACHA RANCH dressing (sigh!).

I opened up the Peri-peri sauce and just tasted a wee bit on a teaspoon by itself. OMG. My mouth lit up on fire. Though I’m not a chili-head, I enjoy “spicy” and can take most levels of heat, however this Peri-peri was way up there. It took a while for my mouth and taste buds to calm down and I thought, this sauce is way too spicy. But then I found the “secret” to using Peri-peri, is to use it really sparingly. Small even tiny amounts and you will get its flavors. Note, it’s pretty liquid-y so be careful pouring it lest you get way more than you want. I usually first put some on a spoon to gently dole it out in little dots of sauce.

Once I realized about using in sparingly I started to really love this stuff. It’s very flavor and quite complex with a ton of umami going on as well as “spicy”. The bottle which I expected would last me a few months is already 2/3 gone in just a few weeks! So Peri-Peri may even be addictive.

This label says Product of South Africa. Peri-Peri sauce is popular in South Africa, though it’s origins are from elsewhere in Africa, Mozambique or going even back going back to Portugal.

https://www.nandosperiperi.com/what-is-peri-peri

It’s a lovely orange color. The first ingredient listed on the label interestingly enough is LEMON JUICE. So there is a citrus-y background level behind the spiciness which I find works perfectly. Peri-peri recipes traditionally call for tiny birds eye chilies which are super spicy. The label does not specify exactly what chilies are in it but it does say “fermented” as well as dried chilies. As TJ’s BOMBA SAUCE also uses fermented chilies, from which you get a lot more complex flavors than just “hot”. It also lists garlic,salt, dried chilies and xanthan gum (it’s a thickener).

What is this good on? What have I tried it on? Perhaps a better question is what haven’t I tried this on? I’ve tried it on almost everything! For one simple thing I so love this sauce on something so simple as cottage cheese (on toast or a bagel or crackers…) Again I just need a few dots of sauce here and there. It’s simply magnificent with chicken, which is what it was created for (Peri-peri chicken). I will next try it on chicken breasts marinated in the sauce. In fact if you marinate chicken in some Peri-Peri sauce, you will find its just stunning. Use some oil too of course and easy on the peri-peri till you learn its heat level, though cooking will of course mellow this out. I’ve mixed a little of the peri-peri even into some ketchup and that was fantastic with hamburgers. A bit on grilled shrimp or fish? Yes, yes, yes. If you experiment with this (cautiously) and you will no doubt come up with some great combinations of things this sauce is good on. Oh, and you can of course mix it with something, say mayonnaise or greek yogurt in whatever ratio you like and come up with a fantastic sauce in seconds.

Trader Joe’s PERI-PERI sauce comes in a glass bottle of about 7 ounces for $3.29. I think this is really worth checking out. And check out this recipe for grilled Peri-Peri Chicken which you could whip up using this I think.

https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/peri-peri-chicken/

Want to learn about the peri-peri (piri-piri) chili ?

https://hotsaucefever.com/hot-peppers/piri-piri/

TJ’s Roasted Whole Golden Flax Seeds (Omega-3 !)


Trader Joe’s Roasted Golden Flax Seeds (whole seeds) – “Naturally rich in Omega-3, Lignans and Dietary Fiber”

You may know that flax seeds are probably one of the healthiest things you can eat. We’re talking Super Food healthy ! For one thing flax seeds are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and fiber. Heart health: studies have shown just by eating 2 tablespoons of flax seeds a day, they can lower blood pressure 10-20 points. Personally every day I eat 2 spoons of flax seeds, which I grind up and mix with yogurt and/or soy milk in my breakfast cereal. I add some chia seeds to boot! You can also put theses in your smoothies.

Up to now I bought flax seeds (raw) in Bulk at a health food store. Then I saw these Roasted Flax Seeds at Trader Joe’s. After trying them I decided these are better tasting than the other ones. Why? Roasting them definitely improves the flavor of flax seeds making them more nutier tasting and crunchier.

You can either eat them whole or grind them up (coffee grinder or morter and pestle). You can sprinkle flax seeds on your morning cereal, put them into baked goods and sneak them into foods like baked goods as well as add them to your smoothies.

$2.99 / 15 oz bag

TJ’s Washable PAPER PLACE MATS


Trader Joe’s Washable Paper Placemats

Wait up, what….?!!! Trader Joe’s sells place mats? Yeah you read that right. These place mats recently appeared in the New Products “home goods” area at my TJ. Looking at them they so totally say “IKEA” cool to me. These intrigued me, then reading the label about how they’re made from “Supernatural Paper” (!) that really got me interested. Honestly I’m always intrigued that TJ’s has any home goods type things at all. They seem to especially appear around the holidays (I slightly regret not getting some olive wood bowls and cutting boards I saw last Xmas but they were a bit pricey even for TJ’s, but they looked beautiful and handmade). Anyway since we needed to replace some old place mats and these were just $10 bucks for a set of 4, I just grabbed them in kind of an impulse buy. I picked a darkish color out of the 4-5 colors on offer as I thought this darker grey / green color would hide dirt best. These mats are on the thin side meaning when you pick up a glass that was on them you may see a little ring depression where it was, but it brushed out easily by just swiping it with my fingers. They have what I might call all kind of faux leather texture. Feels a little like thick waxed rubbery paper? I believe there are two pieces sown together. “MADE WITH SUPERNATURAL PAPER (cellulose and latex). Latex = rubber. They say “CAN BE WASHED” (hand wash separately). I think I will avoid that if possible, and just wipe/wash them daily. Wiping them clean with a soapy sponge seems to work fine. I had a little stain from some food and just wiped the mat with a damp rag with a little soap and that took off the stain as I hoped. So the rubbery, waxy covering seems to work. I like them for a change from our textile place mats. My wife complained about the white stitching they have on the edges but that doesn’t bother me at all, I kind of like it. They have a funky feel going on…in a good Ikea way. The more I have used them and lived with them I have grown to like them more and really dig the funky Ikea-ness of these.

If you see them, check them out at least with a feel and see what you think. They are $10 for set of 4 mats ($2.50 each) and come in about 5 or 6 colors. Personally I would lean to the dark / earthy colors for hiding stains.

I found this online. Are they the makers of “Supernatural Paper”?

TJ’s TZATZIKI Greek Dip / Sauce


Trader Joe’s TZATZIKI Creamy Garlic Cucumber Sauce / Dip

Tzatziki is a delicious creamy Greek sauce traditionally made with Greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon, and a ton of garlic. Unless you are lucky enough to have a Greek Yaya (grandma) who makes homemade Tzatziki for you to take home, Trader Joe’s version is perhaps the next best thing. TJ’s version is quite good. I tried it and would buy it again. Tzatziki is a great sauce to have when you make chicken Shawarma or anything grilled, it would be great served even with grilled veggies. It can be served as a dip or can even be used as a salad dressing with some more lemon and olive oil. TJ’s Tzatziki has the first ingredient listed as cucumber, and you can really see this even in the pictures here. This gives it a very little crunchiness. TJ’s version next lists kefir cheese and sour cream (maybe instead of yogurt?) A bit different than if you made it yourself. I does have a bit of dill which I like. I got it for when I was thinking of making Shawarma which I served on top of TJ’s Garlic Naan and it was the perfect sauce for that. Its $3.49 for a 12 oz container.

Want to make Tzatziki yourself? Here’s a link to recipe if you want to try your hand

https://cookieandkate.com/how-to-make-tzatziki/

BTW, this matches well with Indian foods, as it’s a bit similar to Raita

The NY Times had a recipe for Tzatziki Potato Salad which sounds interesting. Here’s the link https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022307-tzatziki-potato-salad

(registration might be needed)

TJ’s AJIKA Georgian Spice Blend


“Spicy, garlicky & deeply aromatic & savory”

RAVE

Trader Joe’s AJIKA GEORGIAN SEASONING BLEND

Wow is this good! Its my new favorite spice!

Another delicious find I recently discovered in my TJ’s NEW PRODUCTS display. Frankly I had never heard of Ajika before seeing this at TJ. Googling it you learn Ajika is actually not a dry spice blend but more of a dip so one can assume this TJ spice seasoning blend is a dry seasoning blend which is based on the typical Georgian-Abkhaz (formerly USSR) condiment. Anyway this TJ seasoning is AMAZING! This is a terrific addition to all of thier “international spice blends” TJ seems very good at figuring out.

TJ’s AJIKA Georgian Seasoning Blend contains ground red chile (not super hot ones) with ground coriander, fenugreek, dried garlic, marigold (marigold?! yes the flower dried and ground up!) and a little salt. Garlicky, (mildly) spicy it is more flavorful spicy than hot spicy. Honestly the combination of all of these spices together is fantastic. Seriously delicious, I couldn’t stop sprinkling it on so many foods. It tastes quite unique to my taste buds. Is it the Fenugreek? The marigold? Which by the way I learn is very typical of Georgian Azkaban cuisine. It’s a combination of all of these things. I had made some sautéed yellow peppers and zucchini cooked in olive oil and put a good amount of this Ajika into it and it was delicious, adding wonderful flavors to the grilled veggies. I also sprinkled Ajika on top of a bagel with tomato and cream cheese and again it added a great taste. I tried in on cottage cheese, which was boring no more, they were perfect together. Its so good you begin to wonder, what is this not good on? I will try this on grilled boneless chicken breasts, it will be an excellent seasoning for chicken or pork or steak or fish.

The coriander and fenugreek are stand out flavorings that are not typical for our (American) palates. Try this Ajika blend sprinkled on eggs or in an omelet. Try also on : Fish, shrimp, turkey, chicken, steak, hamburger, or grilled tofu for that matter. A turkey burger with this is so much more flavorful and tasty. I think it would be good with SO many things. Grilled vegetables and EVOO plus this are great. This was made for tomatoes which the original has. Mix some of this up with greek yogurt for a lovely easy sauce. Go nuts with this. I know I am. The internet apparently is going crazy for this. I was Wowed upon first tasting this. Yes its so good as people are saying. On a 1-10 level of heat I would put this at maybe 4, So barely spicy, very tolerable, especially mixed with foods.

If you see Ajika grab a jar to try. It may be seasonal or TJ simply testing the waters for interest. If you try this you may love it as much as I am loving it (along with the whole internet) and if you come up with some interesting ideas and/or uses for it, or some recipes, please post it in the Comments section. Oh BTW the word “Ajika” may come from the Abkhaz word for salt.

Aha Wikipedia states: “A dry form of ajika exists that is sometimes called svanuri marili in Georgian”

$1.99 a jar. Wow.

https://www.mashed.com/384027/trader-joes-fans-are-psyched-for-its-new-ajika-georgian-seasoning/

TJ’s CRISPY COOKIES with Belgian chocolate


Trader Joe’s CRISPY COOKIES filled with Belgian chocolate

RAVE

There are my new favorite cookies. They are just delicious, and frankly very addictive. I can tell you the whole box went quite fast chez nous ! Well, they are small and there are only 18 in a box. Though TJ’s CRISPY COOKIES cookies don’t have butter listed in the ingredients they taste very good and are delicious due to the fact they are so loaded with a thick layer of nice Belgian chocolate in the middle. The outside cookie complements the chocolate well and as you can see, the chocolate layer is as thick as the cookie. These cost $2.49 a box. I may have to buy 2 boxes at a time in future.

And hide one for myself!

TJ’s Smoked Ahi Tuna


Trader Joe’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna

I am crazy for most any smoked fish. Some nice smoked salmon on a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese is my idea of Heaven, or at least a heavenly Sunday breakfast. I also love Ahi Tuna, so when I saw this new product, Smoked Ahi Tuna it immediately said to me, “give this a try”.

TJ’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna is very, very lightly smoked. As in barely smoked. Unlike most smoked salmon, where you open up the package and really get a smoked fish aroma this is so light that its a mere hint. So to be honest, while I found TJ’s smoked ahi tuna to be kind of tasty it’s not anything like smoked salmon or most any smoked fish I’ve had. Maybe people who don’t love smoked fish might like this as it’s not strong, its light. It has a light pink color and looks rather pretty. There are some white thread-like areas (more on this later*). It was cut a bit unevenly so it was a little thick in some places and thin in others. I found the thinner cut tuna tasted better than thicker areas. Cutting smoked fish by hand is an art.

What I didn’t like at all about this product were white thread-like areas, some of which when you ate them were tough and inedible. Like sinew.,,, do tuna have sinew? I guess they do! You can see the white thread like areas in the package. I carefully cut the densest of the white areas away before serving, which was a pain. These tough white areas seem like a lack of quality of the tuna and its preparation. These *white thread sinews are tough and inedible. Not good!

Anyway I served it by putting the smoked Ahi Tuna on top of halves of TJ’s Red Chile scalloped crackers (LOVE THESE!) spread with softened cream cheese mixed with a pinch of greek yogurt and lemon, and topped it all off with fresh dill. This actually did make a nice combination and a nice appetizer for us. Still our guests and I couldn’t help thinking it would have been better made with smoked salmon. So would I buy this again? Frankly I doubt it as it was not terribly special, was not great quality and I think the smoked salmon TJ sells is better for the same price. However if are not big on smoked fish and/or want to try something different for all I know you just might like this as it’s barely smoked fish. A package is $6.

I would not buy this again myself.

RANT

TJ MEYER LEMON COOKIE THINS


Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins

Very, very thin cookies with a wonderful lemon flavor. I’ve eaten them with coffee, tea, and milk. They go perfectly with anything. They are so thin, they go down fast and easy, and I found myself reaching for “just one more”. The package says “9 cookies is one serving” (no problem!) These cookies would look elegant for guests coming for tea or coffee. Whenever we have guests again, that is. About $3. Worth trying.

RAVE

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