TJ’s TZATZIKI Greek Dip


Trader Joe’s TZATZIKI Creamy Garlic Cucumber Sauce / Dip

Tzatziki is a delicious creamy Greek dip / 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/

Trader Joe’s AJIKA Georgian Seasoning Spice Blend


“Spicy, garlic, deeply aromatic and savory”

RAVE

Here’s another delicious, quite fascinating find I recently discovered in my TJ’s New Products section. Frankly I had never heard of Ajika before seeing this. Googling it you learn its kind of a dip/sauce so one can assume this TJ spice seasoning blend is based on a typical Georgian-Abkhaz (formerly USSR) condiment. TJ’s version is a dried seasoning blend based on I am guessing the traditional dip which has liquid. Anyway this version they figured out is simply AMAZING. Seriously delicious stuff! This is a terrific addition to all of thier “international spice blends” TJ seems very good at figuring out. This AJIKA Georgian Seasoning Blend contains ground red chiles (not super hot ones) mixed 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. 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 into the mix. It added so much flavor to it; quite delicious. I also sprinkled Ajika on top of bagel with tomato and it really 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 most of our American palates. Try this Ajika blend sprinkled on some eggs. Try also on : Fish, shrimp, turkey, chicken, steak, hamburger, or grilled tofu for that matter. I think it would be good with all of them. Grilled vegetables for sure. It was made for tomatoes. Mix it with greek yogurt for a lovely easy sauce I think. The internet apparently is going crazy for this. I am loving it and was pretty Wowed upon first tasting this stuff. On a 1-10 level of heat I would put this at maybe 4, at least for me. Very tolerable, especially mixed in to foods. If you see this I would grab it, as 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, and if you come up with some interesting ideas and/or uses for it, or some recipes, please post a Comment. Oh and the word “Ajika” may come from the Abkhaz word for salt.

$1.99 a jar.

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.

One thing I didn’t like was some white thread-like areas, some of which when you ate them were tough and inedible. Like sinew.,,, if tuna have sinew? You can see the white areas in the package. So 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.

I served it by putting the smoked Ahi 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.

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

TJ’s GINGER HAND CREAM


RAVE

Trader Joe’s Ginger Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream ($4.99)

The package caught my eye. Catchy design. “Ginger? Hand cream?” That’s an interesting combination. I bought some for for my wife, a big hand cream user, to try. I asked her opinion of it….

“Fantastic product”

I put some on and sure enough, it smells great with a really nice clean ginger smell from “ginger root extract” (ZINGIBER OFFICINALE). It’s got a few recognizable ingredients (to me) the first two being shea butter and coconut oil. Personally what got my attention originally is the clean simply graphic design which is brave as they went with a text wraparound on the box with only half of “Ginger” hanging off the top of the box in a long narrow San Serif type. Notice how your brain just completes the word?

I’m going with my wife’s 2 word review, a “fantastic product” (and she’s tough so that’s a double RAVE) a reasonable price, smells great, and works great to moisturize your skin. What’s not to like? At a big name beauty shop this would cost double the price. Another good health and beauty product from Trader Joe’s. Worth trying.

gingerhandcream2

Trader Joe’s CUBAN SPICE SEASONING BLEND


or to be more accurate as TJ’s calls it, Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend”

This CUBAN STYLE SPICE BLEND seasoning is a new TJ’s spice blend. It’s really good. This spice blend gives a nice Sabor Latino to almost anything.

TJ says it is inspired by the classic Cuban (Dominican / Puerto Rican) “mojo” which is a Caribbean sauce mixture that includes garlic, citrus (bitter orange or lime juice) oregano, and sometimes other things like cilantro and chiles. Mojo sauce is used both as a marinade and a sauce on the side for roasted chicken and pork. I used to eat “pollo a la brasa” like this (at El Malecon up near the GW bridge. Their rotisserie chicken is famous and amazing.) The little container of green sauce is their Mojo…. lots of cilantro, garlic and jalapeño)

If you’re interested in making MOJO SAUCE yourself sometime here’s one recipe I found online: MOJO (Saveur)

Back to this spice blend: I tried this on many different foods. It’s yummy. Interesting that they’ve managed to get the citrus acidity into a powder. Dried lime and lime oil? Aha! Thats how.

This is good and useful to jazz up many things. Try it as a rub on your poultry, meat or fish, or grilled tofu for that matter. Or grilled veggies. BEANS! Fo’ shure. I added it to black beans and it was outstanding making the beans from bland to yummy, adding much flavor. Try a little bit on/in your eggs. Put some in your next rice dish. I cooked rice with about a teaspoon thrown into the water and it was great. Sprinkle it on top of an avocado or avocado toast (yum!) or tacos, tostadas, quesadillas!

It was terrific for making grilled chicken breasts BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS – How To Cook Them Nice and Juicy!

Was equally great seasoning for sautéed (and poached) ARGENTINA RED SHRIMP! argentinian red shrimp

I sometimes add more real lemon or lime juice too with this, for even more citrus-y flavor! You will like this blend. Cuban Style Seasoning can jazz up lots of things that you will discover it works well with.

Its worth checking out for $1.99 for a jar.

PS – Ooo, this spice was excellent with SHRIMP (marinate 20 mins) Or any fish for that matter….

Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend is essentially a blend of garlic, lime oil, lime juice, onion powder, salt, and red pepper—plus bay leaves, coriander, cumin, cilantro, black pepper, oregano, cilantro, basil, lemon oil, marjoram, and parsley to round it out. It’s all the essential flavors you’d find in common Cuban cuisine, packaged in one little jar…

RAVE

Trader Joe’s NEW ZEALAND BUTTER


Another excellent premium butter

Trader Joe’s now carries three premium imported butters. They have a French butter, an Irish butter and just recently I saw this one, from New Zealand no less. Now New Zealand is pretty famous for its food products. I happen to love the New Zealand extra sharp cheddar cheese that TJ carries, it’s really terrific, and it’s even a Trader Joe’s team favorite. So I thrilled to see a Kiwi butter. When I first opened the package I was struck at the deep yellow color this had (it may be hard for the actual color come through in a picture). Trader Joe’s says on the package that “it’s made for us on the South Island of New Zealand from from grass fed cows”. Something like this I imagine?

Cattle graze in front of New Zealand, North Island, Mount Taranaki Credit: Getty

Boy thats some nice scenery so maybe those cows are really content lovely grass fed milk. When I tasted this butter I was impressed. It’s very gently salted so not salty. It has a lovely sweet flavor and aroma. The color is beautiful, very yellow. It was delicious when I spread some on some warm bread. Wonderful when I put it on pancakes the next morning. Wonderful when I made an omelet with it. Its great on everything, of course! This is a truly excellent premium butter, and I was as impress with this butter, frankly as much as I any of the 3 imported butters TJ carries which are all excellent in their own rights. I have tried tasting one then another, but they are all of such high quality I can’t put one over another. They are each amazing in their own rights and each one makes you think “now this is what butter should taste like”. If you were impressed by the French Cultured butter or the Kerrygold Irish butter TJ sells, you will no doubt be also impressed by the New Zealand butter. Really really good! Of course imported butter costs more than TJ’s regular butter, about double? This NZ one is a wee bit cheaper than the French and Irish butters. The NZ butter costs $3.29 for an 8 oz package. If I can save a little bit on an imported butter, thats great so this New Zealand butter will probably be on my shopping list from now on.

I never used to buy imported butter – way too expensive. However thanks to Trader Joe’s prices I now buy two kinds for our fridge. Regular (pretty good) everyday butter for a lot of butter uses PLUS one of the imported “Superb” butters for that premium butter taste where it counts (like my morning toasted bagel).

RAVE

Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

Trader Joe’s Harissa Chicken Thighs


By now you’ve probably heard of TJ’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs which are very good and a big hit. I gave them a big thumbs up, and from what I can gather checking the internet, everyone seems to agree that they’re great. TJ later came out with other marinated chicken thigh flavors. They have three versions now, they added a “HARISSA” version and a “LEMON & HERB” one. I decided to give the HARISSA flavored chicken thighs a try. These are a bit trickier for me. Unlike the SHAWARMA version which I buy pretty regularly now, I don’t think I would buy the HARISSA version again, though I did make a great Chicken and Rice dish using them. Some bloggers seem to like the Harissa version while many others don’t. Not a clear cut winner, so you may have to try and decide for yourself if you are interested. As for me, these Harissa things are nowhere near as good as the Shawarma ones. 

Now after some careful label checking, I think I figured out one major “problem” with these after I looked closely at the two packages. Here’s one big difference between the Shawarma and Harissa versions: the liquid content.

The label on the Harissa Flavored Chicken Thighs says “Contains up to 28% Solution….”

The Shwarma Chicken Thighs however say “Contains up to 7% Solution…”

A-ha, right? The “Harissa flavored” version has a much “wetter” marinade that the Shawarma version and this wetter marinade (i.e., more water) means they would absorb more liquid as weight into the meat sitting in this package. To me 1/4+ of the weight of a package of chicken being marinade seems massive. So one thing I found with these compared to the Shawarma thighs is it was harder to get a good sear going quickly when I threw them into a hot cast iron pan, as with the Shawarma thighs. Which frankly makes sense considering a much higher liquid content, and that fact is not in the Plus Column. Another bugging point to me was, why would tomato paste be the first ingredient in a “Harissa” marinade? Tomato paste is present in harissa, but its a minor player, the primary ingredient being fresh or dried red chiles.

These also didn’t have anywhere near as a distinctive flavor as the Shwarma version. So all in all, these are “just OK” for me. Personally I wouldn’t buy them again (unless I was making an Arroz con Pollo, for which these worked well). Frankly my suggestion is, if you really want to make some “Harissa Chicken” — just buy some boneless chicken at TJ, buy a jar of TJ’s Harissa ($2.70) and marinate it with lots of harissa smeared all over the thighs (or breast) for a 1/2 hour or so. I bet it would be delicious and work way better than these. Boneless skinless organic thighs I think are 2.99 a pound. These Harissa chicken flavored thighs sell for $4.99 a pound. 

PS – If I remember correctly when I looked at the label, the “LEMON & HERB” marinated thighs have an even higher “contains up to XXX % solution” content (50% or more?) You are paying chicken prices for lemon juice!

So these are not terrible but not great. RATED AS “MEH” – UNLESS DOING AN ARROZ CON POLLO which did turn out great with rich tomato-y rice (and if you want a basic recipe idea leave a Comment)

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