TJ’s TRAIL MIX CRACKERS


Trader Joe’s Trail Mix Crackers with mung beans, seeds, cashews, raisin, and cheese.

OMG. Crispy, crunchy, nutty, cheesy, raisin-y, sweet and salty… Just outstanding and a very original cracker. Each cracker supposedly is fixed up by hand, to place a cashew nut on it. These are seriously delicious. So much so that I promise you they will go fast, they just seemed to evaporate into thin air (ok more like your mouth). Plus you don’t get that many in a bag, so a little expensive, but very wonderful. Oh, and while delicious as-is right out of the bag there is no law that says you can’t top these with something to boot…like maybe a thin slice of CHEDDAR? Some peanut butter perhaps? About $2.50 a bag (4.5 oz).

TJ SAYS https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/065411

TJ’s Mini Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches


Trader Joe’s 12 Mini Mint Ice Cream Mouthfuls – Mint Chip Ice Cream between chocolate cookie wafers

Tiny. Bites. Yummy. Delicious. Minty. Chocolatey. Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Each one is maybe 2 or 3 bites, so they go down easy (too easy! I could eat 6) They’re not too sweet, the mint ice cream matches perfectly together with the chocolate cookie. Let them stay in the freezer till they are nice and firm and as hard as possible. $4 a box. A box will go fast! 1 mini sandwich is 60 calories.

TJ’s Indian Fare (pouch) Yellow TADKA DAL


Trader Joe’s INDIAN FARE YELLOW TADKA DAL is “A savory, creamy and spicy blend of lentils and spices” (PRODUCT OF INDIA)

Trader Joe’s has quite a bit of Indian foods on offer, some in the frozen foods section as well as some non-frozen ones too, such as this line of Indian dishes which comes in pouches. Some of these I’ve tried are really good, especially this one, TADKA DAL.

We ate this TADKA DAL last night and I have to say I found it surprisingly tasty, I’m mean as in “This tastes like it came from an Indian restaurant” level good. This Tadka Dal was very flavorful and nicely spiced with a wee bit of heat going on. I put it in a pan on top of the stove (they suggest heating in hot water). If you serve this dal with a few other things, you have a nice easy dinner… We had this with another dish plus cooked Basmati rice, some Garlic Naan, Mango Chutney and a salad (TJ’s has a new Indian condiment, “Garlic Achar” which I want to try) If you add at least one other dish to the Dal such as TJ’s CHANNA MASALA you can have an easy and quite tasty pretty authentic Indian dinner.

These TJ’s “Indian Fare” products come in sealed plastic pouches, which are are shelf stable and are not a bad deal at about $2 each (10 oz bags) I find these pouches of Indian dishes are great things to have in the pantry for whenever we’re in the mood for Indian food, or come home and don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to order out.

I have not tried all of these Indian Fare pouches but there are a few varieties on offer. This Tadka Dal one is excellent and worth your giving it a try. By the way, in case you want to know what “Tadka” refers to: Tadka translates as “tempering.” It is a method widely used in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and the mixture is added to a dish.

TADKA DAL: ingredients include yellow split peas, butter, oil, tomato, chili pepper, salt, cumin, onion, curry leaves, yest, mustard see, tumeric…. The Sodium level listed is a bit high, so compensate for that with other dishes (such as using less salt to make your rice)

VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN FREE

TJ’s Pain De Campagne (country bread loaf)


Trader Joe’s Pain De Campagne (French Country Bread) – Minimalist packaging huh? But trust me, if you see this bread, grab it. It’s delicious. In a bakery I’m thinking this would sell for about 6 or 7 bucks? Trader Joe’s had it for about $2.80 for just over a 1 lb. piece.

Ingredients include: Water, Unbleached Unbromated Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Rye Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Dark Beer…. We are talking serious bread folks, good bakery bread. Naturally this will greatly benefit from being refreshed with a baking or toasting in the oven for 10 minutes to get it crusty again.

I do find it pretty funny they write on the package: “Contains Wheat. May Also Contain Gluten”.

Trader Joe’s ground fermented BLACK GARLIC


“Use like garlic. Delicious on avocado toast, in butter and sauces, on vegetables and proteins, or any time you want extra depth of flavor”

This is a pretty interesting Trader Joe’s product, a bit of an unusual find. Now a few years ago, they sold something in the produce section labeled “Black Garlic”. It was from Japan. It basically looked like a whole head of garlic you had forgotten about in the pantry that had shriveled up. I tried it. Inside was soft black garlic, very weird. But the cloves of black garlic were absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a pretty amazing and unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This eventually vanished, or was discontinued? I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I notice this small jar in the spices section of “Ground Fermented Black Garlic…Made In South Africa”. The black garlic has been dried and ground up into little tiny black bits that can be sprinkled onto things. It tastes garlicky but different from fresh garlic or garlic powder for one thing this was fermented. It’s full of Umami, adding extra depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I did think it’s a little on the pricey side at $2.99 for a tiny 1 oz jar but I have found it does last a bit. It’s terrific added to sauces and as they mention vegetables. I am trying this on so many things. Avocado anything especially. I am thinking this is a hidden gem that many will look at and bypass and it may vanish in the future. So as we don’t know how long this product will last, if this sounds interesting, grab one to try.

WHAT IS BLACK GARLIC

https://www.thespruceeats.com/black-garlic-4165384

A little search and you find that it’s super healthy to boot! https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-black-garlic#1

https://www.mashed.com/325207/trader-joes-fans-are-so-excited-about-this-new-fermented-black-garlic/

Wholesome Organic Coconut Palm Sugar


FAIR TRADE. CERTIFIED ORGANIC. ALL NATURAL. LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX

“Made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree flower”

I really like this organic coconut palm sugar sold at TJ’s under the original brand “Wholesome”.

For one thing it tastes amazing in my morning coffee, that is my Moka pot, Cafe con Leche (#mokapotlover).

https://www.seriouseats.com/moka-pot-cheap-espresso-alternative

This coconut palm sugar is a brownish fine granulated sugar. It has its own distinctive taste which is quite delicious and a bit different from brown cane sugar. I’ve switched to this coconunt palm sugar especially for coffee, as it just adds a little something, a very nice subtle flavor. Plus using it on my yogurt too, just a little sprinkling is excellent. This is also excellent in any Asian recipe which calls for sugar, which most do.

It’s good stuff! I see people saying how this is “low glycemic” compared I think to cane sugar, but I don’t know much about that honestly. TJ sells this palm sugar for 3.99 a one pound bag (cheaper than the company sells it for directly) LINK BELOW TO “WHOLESOME” WEBSITE WITH MORE INFO

“Wholesome Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is a rich, unrefined brown sugar that makes an ideal substitute for conventional brown and white sugar. Beyond baking, it’s an excellent choice for sweetening your preferred coffee, preparing sauces and perfecting your favorite Asian dishes, all thanks to its rich molasses taste and caramel overtones.

Made with Care
Contrary to its name, this sugar doesn’t actually come from a coconut, nor does it remotely taste like coconut. The brown sugar’s rich caramel flavor is produced by tapping the sweet nectar from the tropical coconut palm tree flower (a process that’s similar to how maple trees are tapped for maple syrup production).  The nutrient-rich juice is dried in a large open kettle drum and condensed into a delicious whole brown sugar. A natural sugar substitute for baking, this organic product will add depths of flavor to all your favorite recipes.”

RECIPES HERE ON WHOLESOME’S SITE

TJ’s PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST BREAD


(*super for French Toast)

(fall seasonal item) I am not one of those people who goes crazy every Fall for Trader Joe’s seasonal “everything goes pumpkin” thing which frankly I find can be a bit much. Seriously… Pumpkin Dog Treats?! Pumpkin Hummus?! Come on now, that sounds like a crime against nature. However, that doesn’t mean Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a few pumpkin related items which are actually quite good and worth checking out. Here’s one of them: the Pumpkin Brioche Twist bread. It’s really good!

Now I’m absolutely in love with TJ’s FRENCH BRIOCHE. So when I just saw this new seasonal variation, PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST, I had to get one of these to try. Not only does it look really good, it is in fact excellent. It isn’t heavy in the pumpkin spices department, there is just a subtle hint of spice going on and if I didn’t see pumpkin listed in the ingredients I may have not even known there was any pumpkin in it. So personally for this very reason, that they have done the pumpkin thing as subtle, I find this quite good.

This brioche is terrific toasted, either spread with butter or cream cheese and possibly some jam. I haven’t tried it yet to make French Toast but I am sure that this would make fantastic French Toast*, so I would give that a try that for sure. You might try this broche toasted up gently and spread with grass fed butter, a sprinkle of brown or coconut sugar and a light dusting of TJ’s Pumpkin Spice (or cinnamon) it you want something yummy around Halloween time. If you are into the whole TJ pumpkin season thing I think their Pumpkin Butter (pumpkin spread?) would be good on this.

The PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST is $3.99 (same as regular sliced Brioche)

* UPDATE – I finally made French Toast with this pumpkin brioche twist today. It was SO GOOD. Wow, this bread is super as French Toast! A Must Try.

French Toast with this is AMAZING

Toasted with butter and jam

TJ’s CALROSE RICE (Asian/Japanese rice)


In our house, we eat a lot of rice. For years, I have bemoaned the fact that TJ carried a number of varieties of long grain rice – Thai Jasmine, Indian Basmati – which are all terrific, but TJ’s didn’t carry any short (“Asian”) grain rice. Well finally they do! OK technically Trader Joe’s Calrose rice is a “medium grain” however the reality is this is Asian rice. Seeing this Calrose rice for the first time made me so happy as it meant I no longer have to trek for rice at H-Mart or other Asian supermarkets, lugging a 20 lb bag of short grain rice back on the subway!

So what is CalRose rice exactly? (you guessed it, it’s from California). See the link below for complete info.

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

Maybe you have seen Kokuho Rose rice, or Nishiki? Both are brands of Calrose rice grown in California for the US Asian market. Nishiki is a popular rice among Japanese people in the US.

One thing I need to point out however are the directions on the package need some adjustment. I think TJ’s directions saying “simmer for 30 minutes” to be crazy long. 30 minutes!?! That’s about twice as long as one normally cooks white rice. If you follow the instructions written on the package I think you will end up with overcooked, mushy rice.

I recommend cooking it this way (stove top). Wash 1 cup rice gently in one or two changes of water. Drain the rice 15-20 minutes in a colander. Put in pan with 1 1/4 cups of water (ie, a little over 1-1 ratio) brought to a boil. Add a little salt*. Cook on med. high heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check rice quickly. You should see most if not all of the water gone. Turn heat to lowest setting and leave covered for another 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat and don’t open the lid! Leave covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes rice should be perfectly cooked. Taste it. If you really think its not done put on low heat for another 4 minutes with a teaspoon of water added. (*If you’re Japanese like my wife you will say don’t add any salt, but I prefer a little bit.)

Of course short grain rice is naturally stickier than long grain rice, for one thing making it easier to eat it with chopsticks.

Oh and by the way TJ Calrose rice is not only for Asian dishes but excellent for other dishes, like Spanish rice dishes calling for medium grain rice, such as paella. You might even try doing a risotto with this TJ rice.

Trader Joe’s Calrose Medium Grain rice sells for $2.49 (2 lb bag ie, 1.25/lb) A typical price these days as rice has gone up in price a lot since a few years ago.

Can you make sushi with this? Yes you can. Or easier than real sushe – serve this rice with Spicy Tuna (with mayo and Sriracha) and sheets of Nori (TJ’s roasted seaweed snacks) and slivers of cucumber for an easy sushi style hand roll. Need a recipe for Spicy Tuna? Here you go!

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

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI


Trader Joe’s KIMCHI (Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage) Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (“Made in Korea”)

“MEH”

We know eating fermented food is good for you, right? So we should eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and of course kimchi on a daily basis for their probiotic benefits.

Personally I love kimchi. And I confess I’m a bit picky about it. I want the good stuff, meaning kimchi that someone who is Korean would say “that’s good!”. As someone who has Korean in-laws, and happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food, I have had the chance to eat a good deal of excellent varieties of Kimchi. I have been taught to taste really good Kimchi from just “OK” kimchi.

Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a very specific preparation and Korean taste, and let’s face it, the best would probably be made by your Korean “Omma” (mom) if you had one. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk, plus it’s a tricky food to distribute as it keeps fermenting. It can build up pressure as it sits on the shelves. I once bought a bottle of a really expensive brand at Whole Foods called Mother In Laws Kimchi that practically exploded like a shook up Coke when we opened it up, and made a real mess all over our kitchen!

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand with Kimchi a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would notice a Kimchi at TJ’s… then it would seem to vanish for a while..? Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors, and changing the packaging, or all of the above. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they carried kimchi in a soft plastic bag (see link) and also in a glass jar.

Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “not great but OK”. So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is still “it’s just OK”. It’s decent but not very good kimchi. I think this one is better than the ones they sold previously? It’s better than no Kimchi if you can’t find kimchi elsewhere where you live. I can’t say this latest version of TJ’s kimchi is equal to most that you would find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (see how many kinds H-MART has??!) So on the plus side this latest Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have that tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products which many Korean kimchi has for umami (oyster, squid…). So this is a vegetarian kimchi. It does say its “Made In Korea”. Though it says “spicy” I don’t find it terribly spicy though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though. By the time we get it, to me it’s already what I would call a bit on the “older kimchi” side. I like my kimchi on the “fresher” side (1-2 weeks) This TJ one tastes like kimchi that’s been around maybe 3-4 weeks? As kimchi ages it gets more fermented, and the taste gets more sour and the kimchi gets softer. In our household we describe kimchi like this as “a little old”. Let’s face it, this was shipped all the way from Korea and then had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US (don’t get me started on the carbon footprint this must have). When my own homemade kimchi* or any kimchi we buy gets this about this fermented what we do is usually start using it in cooking rather than serving it raw. However some people actually prefer kimchi that is a bit older or even “aged”. In Korea you can even get specially aged kimchi, 1 or even 2 years old (!) and that stuff is quite pricey.

I’m glad TJ is at least trying with selling Kimchi and Korean foods in general (though their pre-marinated package of bulgogi beef I tried once was terrible, as tough as shoe leather).

So to sum up if you can’t get a better Kimchi anywhere else this TJ kimchi is “not bad”. It’s about $4.50 for a 10 oz. jar. At least Trader Joe’s carries kimchi, and maybe eventually they will find a terrific Korean kimchi vendor even one in the US. Until then we can at least make do with this. And definitely try cooking something with Kimchi. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is very yummy, especially with a fried egg on top. Cooking kimchi mellows it out and adds great flavors to whatever you are making. Especially if you’ve had the kimchi for a while and its getting too funky for you as-is.

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

Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers. Great combo with a little rice.

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can use it for cooking in some dishes. This Kimchi may even work better cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Stir Fried Pork with Kimchi)”

(recipe here: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

You could make a Kimchi Jigae (stew) with pork, tofu, and kimchi.

Tip: you can use TJ’s pork tenderloin

And especially KIMCHI FRIED RICE. This would be excellent use for this kimchi.

https://food52.com/recipes/80922-what-to-do-with-old-sour-kimchi-kimchi-fried-rice

DIY HOMEMADE KIMCHI

Think about making your own DIY Kimchi! No really. An easy kimchi version that not terribly to hard to make. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) you can make your own cabbage kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s kimchi not too mention you will feel like a star when you impress people casually tossing out “You like it? I made this kimchi myself”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a great “easy kimchi” recipe using regular cabbage (it’s a kind of “summer kimchi”). I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage kimchi I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was the most amazing kimchi she had in the U.S. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more, tasting pretty amazing in a week or two as it ferments in the fridge. Seriously, if you want good kimchi, you will be surprised that you can make really good stuff on you own! Thanks Aaron & Claire for a super recipe.

You can find Sesame Oil at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find Korean GOCHUJANG (red chili paste) easily where you live, you can at least find it on AMAZON : https://amzn.to/3lf7IYg

It’s a must have ingredient to do any Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

https://amzn.to/2UYxh5p

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/

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