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.”

Trader Joe’s GREEK CHICKPEAS with parsley and cumin


Absolutely great pantry item. For out of a can, this is really tasty. Trader Joe’s describes this as kind of a “deconstructed hummus” as it has many of the same ingredients in it as hummus does. In fact I served it alongside with hummus and even put some of this on top of the hummus which is a typical serving style, to have some whole chickpeas on top. The flavors in this are really good, they have lemon, parsley, cumin, garlic and black pepper and the seasonings have permeated inside the chickpeas so they are way more tasty than if you just poured on sauce. My only small complaint is they used soybean oil instead of olive oil to cut costs. However this is easily fixed with some of your EVOO. I poured off most of the sauce and added a nice glug of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which did improve it. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice too while you are at it, which will brighten it up so it tastes like you made it yourself. This would be great for say a picnic too. We ate it as a side dish with some Falafel. Good match. Or add a can on top of salad to add some bean protein.

A can is $1.99. PRODUCT OF GREECE.

I would buy this again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/greek-chickpeas-with-cumin-and-parsley-060205

Trader Joe’s SEEDS & WHOLE GRAINS CRISPBREAD Norwegian Crackers


These are really seedy, really crunch savory flats, made for us in Norway using the bakeriets proprietary process. The crispbreads make a wonderful snack on their own or are perfect with cheese and soup.”

INGREDIENTS: Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wholemeal rye flour, oat bran, oatmeal, flaxseed, spelt bran, wheat bran, water, sea salt, oregano, thyme

I would put this on a Trader Joe’s Best Items list.

I love these crispbreads which are super crunchy Scandinavian crispbreads / crackers. These are good for breakfast, for lunch or for an appetizer/dinner. I buy these all the time, I have to have them in the house. They are super healthy crackers, absolutely loaded with seeds and whole grains. When I say these are “crunchy” I am not kidding, they’re stupendously, can’t hear yourself talk, crunchy. They make a good match with your favorite hummus or any dip or spread. They are great for those Scandinavian open faced sandwiches of course. You could load this up with some Lightly Smoked Salmon with a little cream cheese or mayo (see below) and you will be in Heaven (or Valhalla as the case may be). You can break them in half carefully to make a smaller size base if you want.

PRODUCT OF NORWAY. 8 oz package is $2.99. I would buy them again.

https://www.veggirlrd.com/a-very-versatile-cracker-trader-joes-whole-grain-crispbread/

Get your Viking on! You can not get more Norwegian than these.

Trader Joe’s MEXICAN STYLE ROASTED CORN WITH COTIJA CHEESE


” This unique take on corn combines flavors inspired by Elote, a popular street food in Mexico. Our version is lime spiked slathered in a smoky cream sauce and topped with authentic cotija cheese. “

I find this to be really good Trader Joe’s product. Find this In the frozen veg section. When you open the bag you see corn plus some large pellets. This is the sauce, frozen up, a neat trick. The pellets melt up as you heat it coating the corn in a nice sauce. When its ready to serve you sprinkle on a little package of included grated Cotija cheese (kind of Mexico’s parmesan). Everything works together to make a delicious corn dish inspired by “elotes“. It can be a great side dish for tacos, maybe Carnitas.

$3.29 (14 oz bag)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/mexican-style-roasted-corn-059063

“For this at-home version of what’s often called street corn, we’ve opted to take the kernels off the cob. We’ve enrobed the corn in a creamy, smoky sauce that melts off as the corn heats – it seems magical, but it’s really just simple thermodynamics. It’s also spiked with lime juice and studded with cilantro, lending additional authenticity. A packet of Cotija cheese is included in each package of Corn – when the corn is heated through and ready to serve, sprinkle the crumbled cheese on top. It’s the ideal finishing touch to this crunchy, sweet, smoky, spicy dish. Present it as a side dish with a Mexican-inspired meal, or serve it in individual ramekins as an appetizer course.”

Trader Joe’s CHEDDAR CHEESE WITH SCOTCH BONNET PEPPERS


Trader Joe’s CHEDDAR CHEESE WITH SCOTCH BONNET PEPPERS AND SWEET RED PEPPERS

The name may lead you to think this cheese is going to be really spicy. It’s not, it’s mildly spicy with sweet red peppers mixed with some scotch bonnet peppers which balance out to “Sweet With Heat” as the label says. I found this cheese to be really tasty. I would buy it again. $8.99/lb

Trader Joe’s DARK CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS


“Mini Pretzels” with a thick coating of good dark chocolate. Sweet and a little salty. A match made in heaven folks. Love Them! A 12 oz bag is about $3.29. I would buy them again. There is also a milk chocolate version too (no thanks i’ll stick with the dark)

Trader Joe’s CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SALMON FILLET


Trader Joe’s came up with a pretty interesting creation : CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SOCKEYE SALMON. The frozen package contains a boneless filet of (wild) Sockeye Salmon nicely 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…

https://www.goodsalmonrecipes.com/cooking-salmon-cedar-planks/
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 say for cooking it 2 ways, in the oven or outdoor grill I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen on a hot day. I decided to just grill it on the stove in my cast iron pan. 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 seasoned and wrapped in a thin piece of cedar tied up. I grilled it cedar side down for about 4-5 minutes (again it was not frozen, they say 25 minutes in the oven from frozen). Flipped it and grilled the other 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 may be different than what you are used to when you think of (Atlantic) salmon. Sockeye salmon has a more dense and meaty texture and has very dark red flesh as a wild salmon. 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.

Trader Joe’s COLUMBIA SUPREMO COFFEE


RAVE

Columbian coffee is historically one of the most famous producers in the world.

Trader Joe’s carries so many coffees. If you want one of the best all-around coffee’s that Trader Joe’s carries, I would say this is the one to buy. Trader Joe’s COLUMBIA SUPREMO coffee just hits all the right notes of everything most people love, plus is one of the most reasonable coffee buys there to boot. This coffee is very well balanced, robust with a mild acidity and just the most lovely aroma when you grind it up. Not too mention those two colorful, beautiful TOUCANS on the label on the can! TJ’s Columbian Supremo comes as whole beans in a medium roast, and is perfectly roasted for almost all types of brewing methods: filter pour over, moka pot, drip, french press, V60, espresso makers. The huge 28 oz (which used to be 32!) container may seem a bit pricey at $14.99 however when you price it out, this coffee comes out to around $8 a pound which is quite reasonable for a quality coffee like this. Since the can is so huge what I do to keep the beans as fresh as possible, is pour the beans into a few zip lock bags, get as much air out as possible and freeze them. Then I take them out of the freezer as I need them. Of course, grinding the beans just before brewing is ideal for maximum flavor and aroma and I recommend that if possible. Trader Joe’s 100% Arabica COLUMBIA SUPREMO Medium Roast Whole Bean Coffee, $14.99 for 28 oz.

Trader Joe’s BLUEBERRY FIELDS CHEESE


TERRIFIC NEW TRADER JOE’S ITEM!

BLUEBERRY FIELDS is an outstanding new cheese from Trader Joe’s. When I first tasted this, I was impressed. First off while BLUEBERRY FIELDS may have a cute name, this is a “serious” cheese. Don’t assume this is a fruity cheese like say the goat cheese logs coated with blueberries or cranberries (and don’t get me wrong I do like those fruit coated goat cheeses on occasion). TJs BLUEBERRY FIELDS cheese is nothing like those cheese with fruit. Here there is only the barest hint of a blueberry taste.

The BLUEBERRY FIELDS is a delicious cow’s milk, RAW MILK semi-hard cheese (you don’t see to many “raw milk” cheeses here in the US). It has only a barest subtle hints of “blueberry” from the edible rind which has been washed with a blueberry essence. I’d say a millimeter of the rind has been imbued with the blueberry coating which is not sweet and matches perfectly with the flavor profile of the cheese. Don’t cut off the rind, its very much part of the cheese (just in case you are one of those people who always cuts off rinds from cheese, like my wife)! Tasting notes: Tastes like a high end farm cheese. It’s excellent with a subtle nuttiness with a complex “European” taste to it, though I believe it’s produced right here in the good old USA. My wife said I don’t even taste blueberries. It’s that subtle. This would be scarfed up on a cheese board. Delicious on a cracker, or with apples, grapes or other fruits. I would buy it again gladly. This is well worth trying especially if you are a cheese freak like yours truly. An 8 oz piece sells for $4.99.

Trader Joe’s LIGHTLY SMOKED SALMON (in a tin)


THIS IS A TERRIFIC NEW ITEM – “Boneless, skinless salmon that has been gently smoked with Applewood”

(One portion contains a whopping 21 grams of protein!)

RAVE

Trader Joe’s recently came out with this item they call “Lightly Smoked Salmon“. You will find it with the cans of tuna, sardines, and at least two other types of canned salmon they sell. I was a bit intrigued when I first saw it plus a bit confused by the name. Huh? Smoked salmon? In a can!? Having tried it, all I can say is it’s terrific and I think Trader Joe’s has a major hit with this, however the name is a bit off for me. Tasting it I didn’t think “lightly smoked salmon” at all and this is nothing like “smoked salmon”. What I thought was simply, “this must be the best canned salmon I’ve ever tasted”. GOURMET STUFF! In fact it made me think of those deluxe gourmet tins of fish like high end canned tuna from Spain (Ortiz for example) which can sell for $15.

TJ’s Lightly Smoked Salmon basically is “salmon poached in extra virgin olive oil” (You know, like lobster poached in butter?) When you open the can you find a very appetizing hunk of salmon without skin or bones (zero waste) swimming in orangish olive oil (the color came from the salmon). This salmon is so moist and flaky with a delicious flavor and texture from being cooked in decent quality extra virgin olive oil. As far as the Applewood smoke flavor, well I would say that is so “light” as to be just at most an under-note? Frankly I barely taste that. First and foremost I taste really tasty salmon. It was so tasty frankly I couldn’t stop trying it. I kept saying, “let me just try one more little bite” and shortly noticed the can was nearly empty. It’s that good people. That golden yellow Extra Virgin Olive Oil it’s packed in? I want to tell you, do not get rid of this golden juice, the way one gets rid of the oil in tuna packed in olive oil. Here the juices and EVOO make for a delicious yummy sauce. Its decent Extra Virgin Olive Oil imbued with salmon flavor as it was the poaching liquid. I just spooned it over the fish with a squeeze of lemon and voila, a delicious sauce for this perfect salmon.

You can use this salmon exactly like a piece of poached salmon. You could just open up the can and put the salmon on a plate or on top of a salad or greens, or to top a protein bowl, or into an avocado or what have you – and have a lovely, delicious (and healthy) dinner or lunch with almost no effort. This salmon is wonderful as-is right out of the can. Try it on a toasted bagel, on toast, or on crackers. Or on CRISPBREAD for a Scandinavian open faced sandwich (very good match).

Mix a bit of mayo and lemon juice into the salmon and have great salmon salad in a minute. This salmon is perfect, especially for summer and/or whenever you don’t feel like cooking. The other night I didn’t feel like cooking anything but I found I had a nice ripe avocado I needed to use. I mixed a can of this salmon with a little mayo, lemon juice and some Peri-Peri sauce …. voila! I ate this lovely avocado stuffed with salmon salad for dinner, which took me less than 5 minutes.

One serving contains 190 calories plus you get a whopping 21 grams of protein. Product of Chile. The 5 oz can has about 3.5 oz of drained salmon and sells for $3.69. This is a great pantry item. I would gladly buy it again.

RECIPE IDEA – Japanese Salmon Rice Bowl: Put warm fresh rice in a bowl. Top with this salmon flaked up. Sprinkle on a nice amount of Furikake seaweed blend and chopped scallion. Optional: a sprinkle of Soy Sauce with a sprinkle of Toasted Sesame Oil. Mix gently. YUM.

One might even get extra cans of this salmon and put it away for a year or two to improve with age like wine*….

*Spain and Portugal have places which specialize serving tinned fish and seafood, aged for a year or two or three… Believe it or not the canned fish actually improves as it ages just like wine. Here’s a video of the late great Tony Bourdain visiting one of these bodegas in Spain, eating from cans of seafood and loving every bite…. EL ESPINALER

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