TJ’s RAINBOW PEPPER grinder


This may seem ho-hum because we are so used to seeing it by now but come on, let’s admit these spices sold in built in grinders are one of the greatest product innovations in history. I’m serious. Since all spices taste best freshly ground, it’s a huge plus that you can buy not just peppercorns but a number of spices and spice blends in these plastic grinders that TJ sells. I particularly am fond of TJ’s RAINBOW PEPPER. It’s especially nice since its a blend of 3 peppercorns from Brazil, India and Malaysia. Peppercorns have gone up and I think this used to sell for $1.99 and now $2.29. Its the same price as a tin TJ sells with (pre)ground pepper so of course this is better.

TJ’s RED CHILI SCALLOPED CRACKERS


Trader Joe’s RED CHILE SCALLOPED CRACKERS

These are one of my favorite crackers TJ sells. Don’t be scared off trying these if you don’t get along with spicy, they have just a bare hint of spiciness. In fact these are delicious all around crackers. The are equally delicious on their own or with soup and especially are great and compliment anything you put on them: cheese, smoked fish, ham, salumi, any kind of dip, guac… They make an excellent base for hors d’oeuvres and would be great to add to a cheese or charcuterie board. A package is $1.99. Here’s what TJ has to say about them:

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/063277

Asiago Cheese with Rosemary & Olive Oil


“Rosemary and Olive Oil intensify the rich nutty Asiago flavor”. Yes, it does! TJ’s Asiago with Rosemary is an excellent, super tasty cheese. I was really impressed when I tasted it. Compared to the regular Asiago that Trader Joe’s carries, which frankly is just OK, this is way more flavorful. In this version the added flavor, especially that of rosemary which the cheese is liberally coated with, really benefits and expands the cheese’s flavor. It’s excellent just on its own, sliced thinly. Great on crackers. Great with wine. Obviously this cheese will be a great match with almost any Italian dish. I grated this and tossed a generous amount over sautéed gnocchi and it was absolutely delicious. If you try this with almost any pasta dish you will like it. This is great as a second or third cheese on a Pizza. I did one with it and people scarfed it up! Rosemary Asiago would be great on a cheese plate or charcuterie plate, especially with grapes or other fruits, and some nice crackers. Wine too, naturally! TJ sells this cheese for $9/lb a decent price for a premium cheese like this. Try this, you will love it.

RAVE

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

Trader Joe’s SHAKSHUKA STARTER (bring your eggs)


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Ever hear of SHAKSHUKA ? It’s become kind of cool and trendy here. Shakshuka is a popular dish in the Middle East and North Africa, consisting of peppers and onions in a spicy tomato sauce in which eggs are poached in the sauce. Eaten with fresh pita / bread, it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner! It’s delicious and one currently see’s it in trendy restaurants around the US.

In this version found in TJ’s frozen section they have come up with a “Shakshuka starter” kit meaning this is the base sauce to which you add at an egg or two to finish it, and possibly some other things optionally. I took the package, ran some hot water on the bottom to loosen it up and then slid the contents into a pan (personally I like to cook with fire, I’m not big on microwave). I used my trusty, small black cast iron pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover the pan and cook for about 6-7 minutes till nice and bubbly. When ready, make indentations with the back of a spoon, and carefully slide the eggs into the depressions. If you are talented, you can crack your eggs directly in. If not crack them into a little cup first, then pour them in. Whatever you do try not to break the yolks. The runny yolks will be important to the final dish. Put a cover back on the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Ideally we want the yolks runny. Well at least I do. I also added some cubes of Feta Cheese sprinkled around the top before covering the pan, which adds some great flavor.

Take off your cover and tuck in. You can bring the pan to the table and eat it right out of the pan – typical for shakshuka – or carefully spoon it with the whole egg onto a plate. Drizzle on some very good virgin olive oil, maybe add some chopped parsley, and break the yolks so they run all over. Mop up the eggs and sauce with a spoon and lots of bread like Pita bread (or Naan). This amount is only 9 oz, so say one portion. So you should probably make one for each person. YUMMY!

OPTIONS: you can sauté up some more red peppers and garlic in olive oil if you like and add them in. As noted, cheese such as FETA is very nice addition too. Something spicy like HARISSA, BOMBA, OR GREEN DRAGON sauce to give it some kick is a must IMO. This is not spicy as is. It’s only $1.99. Worth a try.

Here’s a NY Times piece on Shakshuka by Melissa Clark with her recipe (may need registration to read)

Rutland Red Leicester Cheese


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rutlandredcheese

If you are a cheese lover – I certainly am – you will probably really like this, Rutland Red Leicester. I found it a very interesting cheese and terrific new find. This is a special cheese, I mea a kind of quality hand-made artisanal cheese that one might find in a high end gourmet cheese shop… yet you can buy it at TJ’s (well while they still carry it, don’t tarry, just in case their supply doesn’t last). When my eye caught it in TJ’s cheese section, I first thought it was a French cheese which looks the same and is a favorite of mine called “Mimolette“.

This reddish orange cheese is however from England and is in vein of a true English cheddar. Red Leicester has a wonderful nutty flavor and crumbly texture. Red Leicester is a traditional hard English cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, and is produced in the county of Leicestershire which is up in England’s Midlands. Leicester City is well known for two things these days, Richard III‘s bones and its football team winning the English Premier League a few years back as a 500-1 underdog!

Supposedly the history of Red Leicester cheese dates back to the 17th century when farmers decided that the color of the cheese should denote its richness and to set it apart from cheddar, they decided to give it a reddish color using annatto, a natural vegetable dye.The wheels of cheese are coated in butter to make it richer then wrapped in cloth (i.e., a “cloth-bound”cheese ). Rutland Red Leicester is dense and has that “aged cheese” look and taste with a crumbly flaky texture and has an edible orange rind. I like it sliced very thinly. It’s excellent served on a cracker or toast or with fruit such as apples or grapes. It would probably pair wonderfully with wine, a white or a light red. I also found it melts very well and is delicious melted or cooked (grilled cheese with this, yes!)

If you put this on a cheese plate for guests it would surely get attention and questions. I’m sure the terrific English striker of Leicester FC Jamie Vardy would love this cheese. Well I do. TJ’s sells Rutland Red Leicester for $10 a pound -in a cheese shop this would be a $20/lb cheese, so once again, a TJ bargain.

“As the cheese ages, the butter keeps it moist, and the cloth seals in the butter, resulting in a super crumbly texture that simply melts in your mouth.”

Here’s a link to Trader Joe’s post on it. If you are interested, get this while you still can, it may not be there forever, unfortunately.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/rutland-red-leicester-cheese

Trader Joe’s ITALIAN BOMBA HOT SAUCE


bomba1

Since it was released Trader Joe’s Italian “Bomba” Hot Pepper Sauce has blown up as one of the best new products that Trader Joe’s has come out with. Once again in this case it’s not unjustified hype…. all the hype about TJ’s “BOMBA” is completely justified! This stuff is just incredible. I could say “its the bomb” but I won’t!

BOMBA is made primarily from crushed Calabrian chiles which in this product are also fermented. You probably know that fermenting foods adds complex elements to flavor, expanding them more. They become deeper and more complex, and in this Bomba sauce the fermentation of Calabrian chiles adds that magical “fifth” taste.. yup you got it. UMAMI. Now of course this Bomba hot sauce is spicy but it is really not knock your head off spicy. It’s spicy and full of flavor at the same time. I just put a small spoonful in my mouth and while I got “yes this is kind of spicy”, it didn’t want to make me want to drink a glass of milk or anything. I got something beyond “spicy”, there is a kind of funkiness (oh, thats the fermentation and umami) even a tiny bit of sweetness. Depending on the amount you use, you can adjust the level of spiciness. If you add even just a little bit to dishes, I am talking a quarter of a teaspoon or a few drops, it will add a level a flavor that may surprise you. How to use Bomba sauce? Of course this is going to be great added to tomato sauces, say on pasta or pizza or what have you. But what about other pasta dishes? A little bit in your Carbonara? Yeah baby. A spoonful mixed into your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? Yes. And all those Gnocchi you love?! Regular, cauliflower, kale, or what have you… OMG folks, this stuff and some very nice olive oil will make your gnocchi soar.

But Bomba is for more than for “just Italian”. I put some on my scrambled eggs and it was divine. A drop of it onto of my buttered toasted baguette. A small spoon mixed into my avocado toast or guacamole. Add some to your next marinade. Dips and sauces? Perfect. You can mix this up with some Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise for that matter) for an instant wonderful sauce, to top some cooked Chicken Breasts, Shrimp, or Tofu as well. Or try that mix as a dip for some chips. Drizzle some with olive oil and garlic on your roasted veggies. Add a spoon of this to your soup or most any sauce to give it some jazz. I love it on cottage cheese (seriously). On my sardines on toast. Add garlic to Bomba, and of course these two go into the stratosphere. The list is endless and I promise you, you will discover uses on your own exploring that you will come up with (and if they’re good, please share some with us in the COMMENTS below).

TJ’s Bomba is truly a premium gourmet offering. Amazingly Trader Joe’s sells this for $3 a jar, which is frankly incredible. Oh and it’s really Italian, says “Product Of Italy” on the label. I have found it sold out on occasion missing on the shelves as its a big hit at TJ. So if you like it, next time grab an extra one to keep in the pantry like I do (but leave some for the next guy!) Ingredients are: Chilies, Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Basil, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid. I generally add some very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil down the road to “seal the top” off and help keep it fresher for longer as well. Honestly even if you are not really the “hot sauce” type I suggest you get a jar of this to try. Calabrian chili’s are not super hot; they are in the “medium” spice level. People can pop them in their mouths easily. Personally I can’t live without having a jar of Bomba in the fridge now and if you try this, you may feel exactly the same.

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

Trader Joe’s Liquid Dish Soap


I liked this Liquid Dish Soap that TJ sells under their own brand.

This is the LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT version. They also sell a Citrus scent version. It’s clear, meaning no dyes. Is Dawn blue naturally? I think not.

I imagine this stuff is probably comparable to one of those crazy expensive dish soaps you see in Whole Foods that I will never let my wife buy (“Seven dollars for dish soap?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t worry I’ll pick some up at the dollar store next time I go. “) And yes I do frequently buy the huge bottles of dish washing liquid at the dollar store. 40 ounces for a buck. Now I do recognize they are more “watery” and I have to put more on the sponge more often but its just going down the drain anyway, quite literally.

Anyway to make my honey happy, I “splurged” and got a bottle of TJ’s Dish Soap It’s $2.99. You can tell instantly this is thicker than my $1 soap. Turn it upside down and see how fast it takes a bubble to rise. I tried it out washing up and this does a good job, it made a lot of foam that lasted. It smells quite nice (lavender and tea tree oil).  I can tell I don’t have to use as much soap as often as I do with my Dollar Store stuff. I’m sure its really some famous brand sold under TJ’s label at half the price the name brand usually costs, as is typical with some Trader Joe’s products. A big thing on the internet is guessing who really makes a product TJ sells (for example Annie’s Mac and Cheese vs. TJ Mac and Cheese) Anyway for $2.99 I will probably now buy this soap from now on. OK perhaps in addition to having one of the big bottles of the cheap stuff under the sink just in case we run out. Old habits die hard.

LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT – made from plant derived cleaners Biodegradable. Hypoallergenic. Cuts Through Grease.

A 25 oz bottle is $2.99

Argentinian Red Shrimp (frozen)


(from the package) Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté…”.

I now buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s all the time. Once I tried them I found they were excellent for taste and value. These are nice, very good sized shrimp (aka Large) 20/25 count, wild caught, not farmed, uncooked “Argentinian Red Shrimp”* that have been cleaned and flash frozen separately, so easy to take just some and freeze the rest. Super convenient.

Patagonian Red Shrimp are said to be “the sweetest shrimp in the world”. Well maybe a marketer came up with that, but they are nice and sweet!

(If you are interested in learning more here’s detailed info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”)

If I’m not using the whole bag of shrimp at once I just take out as many as I need and put the rest back closed with a twisty and double bagged in another ziplock freezer bag.

One can cook these Patagonian Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use any other shrimp, after defrosting them of course. So first things first, best ways to defrost them. First I would suggest leaving them to slowly thaw in the fridge overnight or longer in a covered bowl.

If you have less time, some options: Leave them in a colander over a bowl (save any liquid – shrimp stock).

OR: Put them in a ziplock bag, submerge the bag in a bowl, and run a light stream of cold water till defrosted. Weight bag down with a plate. They will be defrosted in about 15 minutes. Save any juice they give up which you can use as “shrimp stock”. I also have simply put them in a bowl and covered them with an inch of cold water, stirring them every 5 minutes or so, which worked as well.

Cooking: If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer your (defrosted) shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once). Whatever cooking method you use, be sure not to overcook them. They say Patagonian Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. They do cook quite quickly, in maybe 1-2 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and look firmed up they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end. Not over cooking them will keep them tender, juicy and plump the way you want them. If you overcook shrimp they become tougher/chewier. You can blot them with a paper towel, sprinkle them with a little seasoned flour, or panko, and sauté them in oil and butter. One little trick I saw on MilkStreet recently was to grill shrimp on one side only, take them out of the pan then finish them in the dish for one minute. This is a Great idea!

These shrimp are of course great grilled or sautéed in garlic and butter, and used in a pasta dish for example, or any shrimp dish. They are equally great gently poached (TIP: marinate 15 min in lots of TJ’s CUBAN SPICE BLEND, super yummy) Or any spices of your choosing.

TJ’s Wild Red Shrimp cost $10 for a 1 lb. bag (20/25 count). If you find these Patagonia Red Shrimp frozen or fresh they are usually double that price elsewhere. (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price not long after I posted this; they are now $11 – Feb 2021).

Trader Joe’s Wild Raw Red Argentinian Shrimp are tasty and practical.

You’ll probably love these too. More ideas for dishes using shrimp below.

I made a nice Thai Shrimp Curry with veggies and Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last 2 minutes (no-recipe recipes follows below).

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Here’s a tasty Thai style curry I made with the shrimp and lots of veggies with TJ’s Thai Red Curry Sauce. Or use the Yellow or Green thai simmer sauce. I added the shrimp at the very last few minutes and served it with Jasmine Rice. Yum!

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRYSauté some onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (optional add ins: mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …sauté everything for 5 more minutes, throw in 1/4-1/2 cup liquid (water or broth*) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of TJ Thai Red Curry sauce, simmer about 10 more minutes till all veggies are tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Rest 3 minutes. Add some chopped scallions. Serve the curry with jasmine rice on the side.

Another dish: Ramen – I used these shrimp in a bowl of ramen (“Roy Choi style” instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but works, see video below). For this dish which was a dinner, I made a veggie stock instead of using the packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute or two. You can see they look juicy from not overcooking.

TIP: That little flavor packet included with instant ramen is loaded with Sodium (like 50% of daily recommended level)? Too much Sodium is bad for your blood pressure. Better to use your own stock or low sodium stock and maybe just add a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it tastes too flat, add something to flavor it up without adding much sodium (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a few drops of Nam Pla (fish sauce).

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: How about Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, (cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill) You can pretend it’s a lobster roll; Well its the next best thing.

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice with shrimp is fantastic.

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