Trader Joe’s GARLIC SPREAD / DIP (with Spinach recipe hack)


This has become one of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s! If you love garlic as much as I do, you will adore this “GARLIC SPREAD DIP” . I find this stuff amazing. It’s become yet another must have always in the fridge things for me. I think of it as much as an ingredient as a “spread”. You can add a spoon of this to a dish to give things an immediate flavor boost, kind of as you would fresh garlic. I put this in mashed potatoes, spinach, pasta, hummus…. It’s so versatile. It makes a great spinach dish. I came up with a super quick hack using (frozen) spinach which you can make a yummy dish in 3 minutes just by adding a heaping spoon of this dip. See my recipe hack down below.

Quite a few countries have some type of garlic spread like this. In Lebanese cooking, they have the garlic spread called “Toum” (basically TJ’s spread is Toum). In Greece, they have a spread called “Skordalia” made from garlic, olive oil and potato. In the South of France they have the yummy yellow garlicky mayonnaise called, “Aioli” famously served on toasted baguette alongside Bouillabaisse. Mashed garlic acts as an emulsifier with oil to make a spread. Trader Joe’s version like Lebanese toum is an emulsified paste of garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt, traditionally made in a mortar and pestle. They did not skimp on garlic. TJ’s GARLIC SPREAD is so garlicky it’s not funny. True garlic lovers will want to try this on everything. So what can you use this Garlic Spread on? To start with just try it on thin slices of toasted baguette, which will be match well with a salad or soup like croutons or garlic bread. This stuff is especially good for any pasta dish. Just toss in a spoonful into your finished pasta, especially tomato pasta (PESTO ROSSO? Add some of this to jazz it up! Use this instead of butter for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches. Put a little into your tuna or egg salad. Eggs, try some in an Omelet for some kick. Salmon or other fish, for sure. I’ve found it’s fantastic in mashed potatoes to jazz them up. Almost any vegetable dish will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this vegan garlic spread, so it’s ideal for vegans and vegetarians as well as us non-vegetarians. It was amazing on the CHICKEN SHAWARMA. Greek yogurt plus some of this spread makes and instant super easy tasty sauce. Here’s a recipe I came up with using spinach. This is a great tasting spinach dish in under 2 minutes.

SPINACH WITH GARLIC SPREAD RECIPE – Two ingredients: frozen spinach and garlic spread. Toss the spinach in a pan with a little olive oil (or butter) and cook for a few minutes till done (keep it bright green!) then add in a nice heaping tablespoon of this Garlic Spread and mix. Fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt if needed. DONE. It will look a little bit creamy and taste absolutely delish.

In fact most vegetable dishes will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this VEGAN spread, so it’s ideal for vegans / vegetarians to give a enormous flavor boost to most things. One thing to remember, it does have some calories same as a mayonnaise, its mostly oil. 2 Tbls have about 150 calories. Its $2.99. GREAT ITEM!

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

Trader Joe’s THAI SWEET GINGER SAUCE


Trade Joe’s new product: THAI SWEET GINGER SAUCE. It seems to be flying off the shelves, people seem to love it. I am guessing mostly for all the frozen DUMPLINGS they buy?

I tried it and I can say it’s pretty good (though I do like my homemade dipping sauce). This sauce is quite thick and garlic-y. Ingredients include pickled garlic, coconut sugar, and coriander. Personally I think it needs even more ginger. I added some fresh grated ginger, and I found it very improved. I also found it good with something spicy added (Bomba or Peri-Peri) However even just poured out of the bottle this stuff is good. Serve this with all of your frozen dumplings obviously, either fried or steamed/boiled ones. Its quite good on sautéed tofu. Grilled chicken of course! Grilled shrimp? Perfect for shrimp or any fish for that matter. Even just try this on top of rice or just grilled veggies. It will add flavor.

THAI SWEET GINGER Sauce is $2.49 for a 10 oz bottle.

Yesterday it was out of stock. It’s popular and people are really buying up this stuff!

Is this replacing the red bottle of SWEET CHILI SAUCE? I am afraid thats gone now. I like both sauces and the chili sauce has been a must have item for me for ever. Sigh. I will have to go back to getting CHILI SAUCE in Chinatown. Its a staple condiment in Asian cuisine.

Trader Joe’s “SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE MIX”


Trader Joe’s “SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE MIX” with dried tomatoes, onion and garlic

There was actually a little controversy across the internet when this product first came out, as some viewed this as a bit of cultural appropriation on Trader Joe’s part. What is JOLLOF RICE ? It’s a very famous African dish eaten widely across parts of West Africa, especially Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia. Even in Africa the dish has a little controversy. Whose version is the best? Is it Nigerian or Ghanaian – or Senegalese where it has a different name (Tchebu Jen) ? The dish is considered the national dish of Senegal where it’s Thieboudienne or Tchebu D’jen. (The word “Jollof” is an English variation of the word “Wolof” which means both a language and a people/tribe)

In my lifetime, I’ve eaten many many plates of authentic Senegalese Tchebu D’jen in many African restaurants back in the day when there were a dozen African restaurants on 116th Street in Harlem when the street used to be known as Petit Dakar . I love this dish and variations of it. Taste a real version of this dish if you ever have the chance. An authentic “JOLLOF RICE” (aka Party Rice, aka Tchebu Djen) from Nigeria, Ghana, or Senegal is an amazing dish. It’s complicated to make with a number of ingredients, another reason that Trader Joe’s coming out with this “instant” version caused a wee bit of controversy on the internet. The mix was developed by a Nigerian family here I believe.

Here’s my take. Out of the package, this is a far, far cry from an authentic African Joloff Rice. I fixed it up when I made it. It has some potential if you fix it up to make something better, not close to what your Nigerian granny would make but something semi-OK and better than just making this package as is.

Here’s my suggestions on how to fix this up: In a large pot, put a tablespoon olive oil and butter (you probably don’t have Palm Oil which is best) Stir in a huge tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds and add a chopped up tomato, 1/2 a chopped onion, 4 cloves of garlic minced. Cook 2 minutes, then add your cooking liquid (water, but chicken or veggie broth would be better). 3 cups as the package says is a lot. I reduced to about 2 3/4 cups as the veggies have water. Add a few carrots and a 1/4 cabbage. Boil for 5 minutes. THEN add the package of this “JOLOFF RICE” mix. Add some Smoked Paprika and as much as you like of some spicy mix of PERI-PERI, BOMBA, or ZHOUG . Once it boils lower to a simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Let it sit 5 minutes covered to absorb all liquids. When you are ready, serve rice with vegetables on the side/top, and serve some of those spicy sauces on the side for people to adjust to their tastes.

Tchebu Jen is made with smoky dried stockfish in the broth and served with fresh fish. I ate it with some fish on top (smoked sardines and salmon) Other ideas are serving this with grilled chicken or maybe grilled SHAWARMA chicken.

TJ’s SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE mix is $2.69 for an 8 oz package.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/spicy-jollof-seasoned-rice-mix-070883

“Originating in West Africa as far back as the 14th century, Jollof rice is more than just an esteemed and storied dish, it’s a cultural force of its own. It’s served as the inspiration for countless recipes across the African diaspora, including jambalaya and gumbo. It’s even sparked a friendly (if not, at times, heated) rivalry between a handful of nations regarding who makes the best version. If you’ve ever had the chance to try it, you know exactly why it’s remained such a vital part of African cuisine for over 700 years.”

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.

Why you should eat SARDINES (Protein, Omega 3 & Calcium…)


You should probably add sardines to your diet if you don’t eat them already. Before you click away just hear me out. Don’t be squeamish about these little fishies. Sardines are good, and they’re good for you. In fact did you know Sardines are one of the healthiest fish you can eat? Not only are they are loaded with protein they are a terrific source of calcium (the ones with skin and bones but don’t worry these tiny bones are so soft you don’t even notice them). Women especially need extra calcium. And Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids giving one 2 grams of omega-3s per 3 ounce serving – which is one of the highest levels of omega-3s in any food per amount They also have the lowest levels of mercury of any fish. Sardines are WILD caught only, never farme and the sardine is a plentiful and sustainable fish. And they are cheap. But not only are these little guys healthy for you. I think sardines are DELICIOUS. Europeans love them and eat lots of sardines. Not so much here in the U.S, but you should if you don’t already.

Trader Joe’s sells about three varieties of canned sardines. I especially love TJ’s SMOKED SARDINES IN OLIVE OIL (purple can) which is just $1.69 (!). A can gives you a whopping 21 grams of protein. Plus Calcium and Omega’3. I probably eat a can for lunch at least once a week.

SERVING SUGGESTION: Drain and mash them up with a fork adding juice of a quarter lemon or lime and a teaspoon of mayonnaise, with a grind of fresh black pepper. Add a touch of hot sauce if you like. Spread this paste on fresh toasted bread or your favorite cracker. So yummy.

Trader Joe’s has 3 varieties of sardines. If you can’t bear to see the ones with skin, the skinless boneless ones in olive oil (grey can) are a good starting point but I do recommend the tasty smoked ones (purple can) which I love best. The “smoked Trader Joe’s sardines” are very tasty.

You can even saute cubed potatoes in the left over oil in the can.

Country of origin: Portugal (purple can), Canada (blue), Morocco (grey)

Get some more ideas here: https://wildplanetfoods.com/recipes-category/sardines/

TJ’s ARGENTINIAN RED SHRIMP with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Seasoning


(defrosted)

This is the wild same Argentinian Red Shrimp TJ’s has but packaged up with seasoned butter for a ready-to-cook meal. Convenient, yes, but naturally you pay extra for said convenience. We made this and the finished dish with the sauce was very tasty, but honestly nothing I could not have done with maybe 5 minutes of little effort. This pack is $8 for a 9 oz portion which cooked, makes for two meager portions for 2 as a dinner. To make this into a full meal (for two) I served the shrimp with a few sides plus a salad and a little French bread. Follow the instructions on the package which are to thaw overnight in the fridge. After defrosting I used a thin knife to get it out of the package (actually a bit tricky) and tossed the whole mess into a hot nonstick pan with a little (extra) butter. These Red Shrimp cook fast – they will be done in about 1 1/2 minutes – so be careful not to overcook them if you want the shrimp to stay plump and juicy.

Frankly if you want to get more bang for your buck it’s easy to just buy a pound of shrimp and make a similar sauce. Buy the bag of frozen WILD RED ARGENTINIAN SHRIMP ($10.99) and just add some butter and seasonings. This package is convenient but not great value and its so easy to make shrimp and add a few things. Personally I probably won’t buy this again, I’ll just do it myself. Your call.

Need a recipe for a sauce? Here you go:

GINGER/GARLIC BUTTER SAUCE: Grate or finely chop 1/2″ of fresh ginger and 2-3 cloves of garlic (optional: a little grated fresh lemon peel too); Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a hot non-stick pan; Toss the garlic and ginger into. Sauté 30 seconds, then toss in your (defrosted) shrimp and cook tossing them for about 60-90 seconds just until the shrimp turn opaque (max, 2 minutes lest they will shrink up). As soon as they are opaque and pink. add the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Optional: if you like spice, add a small spoon of BOMBA or your favorite something spicy to taste. Add a pinch salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley or scallions. Serve with rice and/or crusty bread to mop up the tasty sauce.

Cooked (I garnished with scallions)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/honey-aleppo-shrimp

(NB: TJ’s recipe says cook the shrimp for 5-10; just ignore that unless you want really overcooked shrimp! Cook no more than 2 minutes)