Trader Joe’s “SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE MIX”


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

There was a little controversy when this product first came out as some saw this as a bit of cultural appropriation. What is JOLLOF RICE anyway? It’s a rice dish eaten widely across parts of West Africa, especially Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. Even in Africa the dish has a little controversy. Is it Nigerian or Ghanaian or Senegalese where it has a different name? It’s considered the national dish of Senegal where it’s known as Thieboudienne / Tchebu D’jen. (The word “Jollof” is an English variation of “Wolof” which is both a language and a people)

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.”

NEWS!! PET OWNERS: Trader Joe’s is DISCONTINUING ALL CANNED CAT & DOG FOOD!


RANT

“Dear Customers: Due to sourcing issues, we are discontinuing all of our canned cat and dog food. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

april 2022

Argh$#^!!!!

Boy, this news really really sucks for all of us cat and dog owners who have been buying canned dog and cat food for years and years at Trader Joe’s. In a few weeks or whenever they run out of existing stock, TJ’s won’t have canned pet food! Therefore you might want to stock up asap while supplies last. I have bought a number of cans of cat food while they last.

The issue?! Trader Joe’s sourcing problem reflects the whole pet food industry now.

https://funkstownvet.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-pet-food-shortage/

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/announcements?category=customer-updates&id=1165614645

So I get there’s a pet food sourcing problem now, but why doesn’t TJ’s not just give up on finding a another source? Anyone want to start a petition? – start a petition on change.org

“To Our Valued Customers:

We understand that maintaining a consistent food routine is of the utmost importance for our pets. Due to inconsistent availability and ongoing sourcing issues, we are in the process of discontinuing and selling through all remaining inventory of the following products:

  • Ocean Fish, Salmon & Rice Dinner Premium Cat Food
  • Turkey & Giblets Dinner Premium Cat Food
  • Grain Free Salmon Recipe Cat Food
  • Grain Free Turkey Recipe Cat Food
  • Grain Free Beef Recipe Dog Food
  • Grain Free Chicken Recipe Dog Food

Given the time and care involved in introducing our furry, four-legged friends to new foods, we hope this notice enables you to prepare for the transition accordingly. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN/ DIY PET FOOD. You can make your own pet food; I make my own wet cat food and have done this for years. It can be as simple as tossing 3-4 chicken legs in a pot with a carrot, a potato and a some whole grains (brown rice). Add enough water so an inch or two covers everything. Simmer covered on low heat for 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bones. Add an egg or two and stir. Let cool a bit. Remove bones. Remove meat and chop up (including fat and cartilege), or use a potato masher. Get it to consistency of what pet food looks like. I let it cool then put in saved used TJ yogurt containers. Freeze and take out as needed. Pets should eat some commercial food too which has some needed nutrients (like taurine). I mix my wet food with some dry cat food too which it seems that Trader Joe’s will still (hopefully) continue to carry. They only mentioned dropping canned food. I still see Bench and Field Cat Food (and Dog Food) on the shelves and they are just a reseller of this product so hopefully it will remain stocked.

UPDATE June 2022 : 2 months later, I still see small pricier cans of the $1.19 cat food left in stock.

Trader Joe’s BUTTERMILK BRINED HALF CHICKEN


Trader Joe’s BUTTERMILK BRINED HALF CHICKEN

Gave this new product addition a try as it sounded a bit interesting. I grilled the chicken in a cast iron pan. Was it really “exceptionally moist and juicy” as advertised? Frankly it was OK however I found the taste and texture really nothing special. My main question was given the premium price ($5/lb) is it worth it – Versus – my just buying bone in chicken at Trader Joe’s (which is around 1/2 the price) then fixing that up myself. Marinating it in buttermilk or yogurt takes minutes to make, though it does need time to marinate). Now TJ’s sells a whole chicken for $1.99 a lb. or about $10-11 for a 5 lb bird which will feed 4 (or you can buy parts for $2-4/lb.)

The 1/2 chicken I got was 1.5 lbs. Clearly from a very small chicken (around 3 lbs) The leg here only had about 3 bites worth of meat on it, though the breast was fairly meaty. It came with the neck too, something that most people might just throw away (me, I gave it to the cats!) So cooked, there was not a ton of meat on this 1/2 chicken. I doubt this 1/2 chicken will “serve two people?” as they suggest. In sum, I didn’t find this a very good value. It would be cost way less to just buy chicken and just marinate it myself. Personally I would more likely marinate it in Greek YOGURT (yogurt makes for very tender chicken). For a better flavor than this bland marinade I would use a lot of spices, for an Indian or Middle Eastern flavor. Tumeric, Cumin, Garlic, Ajika. Now that would be make a way more interesting grilled chicken dish than how this pretty meh chicken turned out. Also, it may not be a fair comparison yet still I could not help thinking for I paid for this 1/2 chicken ($7.50) I could have picked up a whole rotisserie chicken for less (BJs or Costco) and they are very tasty. So personally I probably will not buy this buttermilk brined chicken again. If I wanted “easy and ready to cook” I would rather pick up something right next to this that I know is actually worth it : TJ’s SHAWARMA CHICKEN which sells for a dollar more a pound than this, and as its boneless, has zero waste so more bang for the buck.

Now since writing this review, I have learned a TikTok video recipe about this Trader Joe’s brined half chicken went viral and sparked a lot of interest in this chicken. I watched the video. The cooking techniques she does look sound to me (salting to bring moisture to the surface, wiping off moisture, grilling the skin, and then roasting) however this should produce as good results with any marinated or brined chicken.

TJ says: https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/buttermilk-brined-half-chicken-073854

“Are you a seeking the secret to sensationally moist and juicy Chicken? Search no further, your quest is complete—it’s Buttermilk! This cultured dairy product makes a magnificent marinade, as the acidity in the Buttermilk will tenderize the chicken, allowing it to retain more of its juices when cooking…”

Great copy-writing however the product didn’t live up to this description in my opinion. Of course try it for yourself if you are interested. However I would suggest if you do, season it up quite a bit. It’s pretty bland as-is.

Trader Joe’s caught red-handed SHRINKING SOME ITEMS ! (Shrinkflation / Inflation)


I’ve been hearing a lot about how stores are shrinking some items as opposed to an outright price increase to kind of disguise price increases from us consumers. Look carefully at the sign. The sign says the jar of this (very good!) marinara sauce contains “26 ounces”. Now look at jar. The label says “24 oz“. Clearly a jar has 2 oz less sauce than it used to, and likely this happened fairly recently since they didn’t change the sign. Or maybe even Trader Joe’s employees are not aware of shrinking products!

Shrinking packages and the amounts in them is one way vendors try to hide a price increase – by giving you less even thought they didn’t raise the price hoping you won’t notice. This is referred to as SHRINKFLATION. Someone clearly goofed up at my TJ’s and forgot to change the sign but no doubt they will soon lest you know what really happened to the missing 2 ounces of sauce!

Have your parents ever said, “I remember when you could make the kids three sandwiches from a can of tuna”? Its true. Cans of tuna are famous for shrinking and shrinking and shrinking over the years….

Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Cocoa Marshmallows


RANT

In the New Products section.

My neighbor bought these and when I was visiting her recently she invited me to try one. I asked her, are they good? Just try one, she said, see what you think. So I did and basically spit it out almost instantly. My neighbor said, “Aren’t these a terrible? I love marshmallows. So I bought these thinking they could be good but I find them just horrible and wanted to see what you think.” I concurred with her yes these are horrible, way overly sweet and just a gross combination of flavors. Four of us tasted these and we all said the same thing, disgusting. These are a huge mistake Trader Joe’s, and I’m worried that you took some good product off the shelf to make room for this crappy product. I told my neighbor bring ’em back and get yourself a refund, they’re a waste of money.

Trader Joe’s HATCH VALLEY SALSA


TJ’s HATCH GREEN AND RED CHILE FLAKES are terrific and apparently a hit and a popular Trader Joe’s item. When I saw this “Trader Jose’s Hatch Valley Salsa” with “fire roasted Hatch Chile peppers” I guess I was expecting it to have a special taste but in fact found it to be just OK, nothing special at all. Trader Joe’s has had a GREEN SALSA (Salsa Verde) for some time which is fine in this salsa verde style and but which is cheaper at $1.99. This one is $2.99, a premium price. Both have green chiles and tomatillos. On its own this Hatch Valley Salsa was again just OK when we ate it with TJ’s Corn Dipper chips, it didn’t bring a great deal of flavor plus as it is thin and not great for dipping (on the plus side of that, no thickener agents) I haven’t tried this and the regular Green Salsa together to compare them side by side but still, I probably won’t buy this again as I just don’t think the higher price is worth it against the Salsa Verde. It might however be good for cooking a dish like Green Chile Enchiladas. TJ’s has so many very good salsa’s and related products (like Cowboy Caviar which I love as well as the Chlpotle Black Bean Dip) So I am giving this HATCH SALSA a “Meh” as its $2.99. Medium spice heat level. Ingredients: Hatch Chile Pepper, Tomatillos, Lime Juice Concentrate, Garlic Salt.

Ingredients : fresh tomatillos, green chile, water, onions, fresh jalapenos, salt, spices.

RANT: TUSCANO MARINARA SAUCE (discontinued) + Marinara RECIPE


“Trader Giotto’s” Low Fat Tuscan Marinara

RANT

Ode to yet another discontinued Trader Joe’s product, a classic rant about an excellent TJ product, which they discontinued! Some people thought this was the best marinara sauce on the market. Many were bumbed to learn TJ’s Discontinued their favorite tomato sauce! So why am I writing about this now? Well the other day I happened to be clearing out my pantry and found I had a can of this Marinara way in the back. I opened it and tasted it and was pretty shocked to see how good it was. This marinara is, or should we say was, a terrific sauce. For one thing it’s not super smooth, it’s full of chunks of tomatoes like a homemade sauce you had put together. The current glass jars of Marinara sauce that Trader Joe’s replaced this with are smooth. I made a pasta dish using this Marinara and the dish turned out really well. I made a pizza with it a few days later which also turned out great. So yes, it’s a crime TJ’s got rid of this great and very useful sauce. Mind boggling. So just posting this Rant and sorry you won’t be able to find this really great product anymore . At least TJ’s still sells the 28 oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes which will make you a great sauce with little effor. I always have cans of tomatoes in the pantry as well as tomato paste (can and/or tube) So if you are inclined to make your own sauce, which is not hard and I think is worth the little effort it takes. Here’s an EASY HOMEMADE MARINARA RECIPE from NatashasKitchen, link below.

TIP (1) IMO adding a tablespoon of tomato paste at the start will make it even better (2) My mom taught me useful advice: Just double up the recipe when you cook some things because for the same amount of effort you will have another meal. You can also freeze the extra batch.

Pizza from scratch; made using this terrific marinara sauce

Price Increases at Trader Joe’s (June 2021)


Inflation has been in the news a lot recently and I’m really noticing it “in action” in supermarket prices including, or is it especially, at Trader Joe’s. Certainly you have noticed TJ’s prices on many items creeping up all the time? I am getting small sticker shocks now on a shopping run at TJ’s. Then when you hit Checkout and they all add up, a big sticker shock. All those “small” increases add up. I’m sure you are noticing in your food budget not going as far. I sure am. I’ve noticed price increases at TJ’s on so many products. Here are a few:

Ground turkey, which was $2.99 a pound for some time, was now $3.49. Another kind of ground turkey, which was $3.99 a pound, went up to $4.29. A pack of Pita was $1.29 for many years. Now it’s $1.59. Peanut Butter: $1.99 since I can remember…now $2.29. The always great deal on the Pane Italiano bread for 99 cents? Its now $1.29. Isn’t that about a 30% increase on this one item? The inflation rate supposedly in the US is around 5 per cent. So why a 30 per cent increase on this particular item !?!

TJ Peanut Butter – it was $1.99 forever. Then raised to $2.29. Then raised again to $2.49 (price as of aug 2021)

Organic Carrots – were 99 cents forever. Now $1.49 – a 50 per cent increase?! Wow.

We are seeing raises followed by raises in just a few months. So even what seem like “small increases” of 30-50 cents on many items add up by the time we get to the cash register to quite a few dollars. And we had already had some increases during Covid-19 due to shortages and supply chain issues….. As we know unfortunately it’s quite rare once something goes up in price that it ever goes down in price. What if anything can we consumers do? Do we have to just grin and bear it? Unfortunately I don’t have an answer or any magic solutions. All I know is it’s harder for us consumers at an especially bad time for many people. Are companies like Trader Joe’s taking advantage of inflation being in the news so much, and being opportunistic now about raising prices? Anyway I just thought I would put this out there if anyone wants to Comment about price increases at Trader Joe’s.

At least you can vent here, so feel free to do so in the COMMENTS section (please just keep them PG).

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

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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