Trader Joe’s SLICED KOREAN RICE CAKES


Here’s another new Korean/Asian item from Trader Joe’s. These are flat oval shaped disks made from sticky rice, so are very chewy and soft. These kind of rice cakes are a typical ingredient in Chinese, Korean and other Asian cuisines. In Chinese cooking they are known as “nian gao”. If you fry them they get a little crispy, which is how I like them best and the way you should use these. The bag has just the rice cakes (no sauce) to make however you like, typically made into a stir fried dish with vegetables and a protein. There is a basic stir fry recipe on the bag for Stir Fried Rice Cakes with Vegetables. which you could expand upon with adding a protein (say chicken, shrimp, pork or baked tofu.) Tip: add garlic which this recipe omits( !) You could come up with a Korean stir fry variation by adding some Kimchi and pork or chicken. The rice cakes are $3.29 a one pound and are in the frozen section. They are a “Product of Korea”. VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE

Here’s another recipe for Chinese Stir Fried Rice Cakes.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/sliced-korean-rice-cakes-074566

Trader Joe’s GINGER DRINK MIX


I make GINGER TEA (just boil ginger in water) and really like that. This tastes pretty much exactly like that. So while cheaper to make it yourself of course, my wife really liked this Ginger Drink Mix both for the convenience and taste, so she’s buying this regularly now. It’s $2.99 (7 packets). Dissolve with 12 oz water hot or cold. Product Of Thailand.

Want to make it yourself for way less ? Here’s my ginger tea “recipe”. Take about 1″ or so of fresh ginger. Slice it up and put in a pot with about 2 cups of water. Boil for 10 minutes or so. Add sugar if desired. Enjoy!

Trader Joe’s SMOKED PAPRIKA


Traeder Joe’s has these cans of SMOKED PAPRIKA, which is Spanish Pimenton. Smoky, mildly sweet and flavorful. This lovely paprika is really nice in so many things and matches well with chicken, fish, shrimp and especially well with pork. I frequently make Pork Tenderloin Filets, cut into thickish slices (tournedos) coated very liberally with a lot of smoked paprika, crushed garlic and salt and pepper, for a super easy dish which takes about 5 minutes. Just sauté the “tournedos” in a good amount of Olive Oil till golden brown but still pretty rare on the inside. Remove and add a little stock, wine or even water to deglaze the pan to make a pan sauce with a few knobs of butter. Easy, fast and delicious. TJ’s SMOKED PAPRIKA is $2.49 a tin.

Trader Joe’s “THAI WHEAT NOODLES”


NEW PRODUCT

I was so happy to see these packages of vacuum packed fresh noodles in Trader Joe’s NEW ITEMS area recently. I think sometime in the past Trader Joe’s sold some kind of fresh Asian noodle (rice noodles?) but none I can recall for a few years. Trader Joe’s “Thai Wheat Noodles” are a pretty typical Asian style noodle. Think Udon maybe? As far as these being “Thai” these are as much Chinese or Japanese as they are Thai. They do say Product of Thailand hence the name. These can be used for any kind of Asian dish. A 21 oz package is $2.99. They’re basically cooked and ready to use and come in 3 individual bags of about 1 portion each, ready to use in a recipe. Each bag has about 7 ounces of noodles. To me frankly that makes a skimpy portion of noodles for one and I wish these had just a bit more in a pack, say 8 ounces each for a more decent portion. I found one bag will make a portion for one for a finished noodle dish factoring in the other ingredients you will use. So I definitely suggest you “beef it up” with stuff: veggies, proteins, etc. For my dish (pictured below) I had a a few pieces of cooked chicken tenderloins in my fridge so I topped it with this chicken plus a lot of scallions and slivered cucumbers. I basically used the recipe they have on the box for “Sesame Scallion Noodles”. TIP: Right out of the package these noodles are really stuck together into an almost impenetrable noodle brick. To get them unstuck and loose I really had to work at them using chopsticks and tongs to get them loosened when I added the liquid sauce ingredients. It was not easy to get them loosened up. So I experimented the next time I made them with hot/boiling water first. You can use very hot or boiled water, rinsing them in a bowl / colander. I used my fingers/chopsticks/tongs to get them as unstuck as possible. Then rinsed them in cold water and drained them. That worked better to prep them before adding them to your dish so suggest you try this.

You can of course also use these noodles in any stir fried dish of your own choosing. Some other ideas for toppings would be some grilled pork (Cha Siu?), grilled shrimp, or even just a fried egg on top with some Gojujang. I would say these wheat noodles are basically the same as Japanese “Udon” – so you could use them in Japanese cooking, say you could make “YAKIUDON“. I did a kind of YAKI UDON with these and it worked. The recipe on the box for “SESAME SCALLION NOODLES” worked fairly well when I made it. Another tip: The recipe on the box is for just one package so double or triple the recipe if you are making more than one otherwise you will not have enough sauce. The recipe on the box is a basic recipe that you can modify as you wish. I added a heaping tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter to it, to make it more “Thai”. I also used a little Bomba to spice it up. These noodles are handy and not bad at about a buck a portion, even if they don’t match up to fresh raw noodles you would find at an Asian grocery. One more thing I just thought of, you could say add these to Trader Joe’s GINGER MISO soup and come up with a noodle version of that! I really hope TJ’s keeps these around so check them out so they see they are selling!

I would buy these again.

VEGAN

My finished noodle dish with slivers of cucumber and scallions and topped with some slices of chicken. Very tasty!
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Trader Joe’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS (+ Fish Taco recipe)


Trader Joe’s Fish Nuggets are tasty and these taste like a real battered piece of fish. They are perfect for making fish tacos for one thing. The first ingredient is Alaskan Pollack. Don’t confuse this item (“Fish Nuggets”) with TJ’s “Fish Sticks”which are terrible, way inferior to these at a dollar less. I used these nuggets to make Fish Tacos for dinner the other night. BTW I didn’t bake these as it says on the package. I sauteed them in a cast iron pan till they were crispy on both sides.

We really enjoyed these when we made them into fish tacos. The popular TJ’s Fish Tacos recipe is easy to make. You take a package of these, Corn Tortillas (which I think will taste better than flour ones) and top with crunchy slaw made with the Cole Slaw Mix, some Greek Yogurt, and lime juice. Optional but nice would be some ripe avocado and your favorite hot sauce. I would recommend TJ’s Green Dragon and/or Peri-Peri hot sauce as being a good match with fish tacos.

TJ’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS are now $5.99 for a 1 lb package. The other thing these might be good for is an English style Fish & Chips with some french fries?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/battered-fish-nugget-tacos

“These tantalizing tacos combine the tart, tangy, and savory flavors of fresh Lime juice and crispy Battered Fish Nuggets with a mix of soft, crunchy, and creamy textures, courtesy of our Corn Tortillas, Organic Broccoli Slaw, and Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. Endlessly customizable with your favorite hot sauce, salsa, or crema, one batch of these can feed a family of four and even more, depending on your hunger level.”

FISH TACOS

  • TJ’s Battered Fish Nuggets
  • TJ’s Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 1 Lime
  • TJ’s Organic Broccoli Slaw or Cole Slaw Mix
  • TJ’s Corn Tortillas

Add yogurt and lime juice to the slaw mix; let sit a 1/2 hour to marinate. Cook up the fish till golden brown and put two pieces into a warm corn tortilla and top with slaw and a few drops of salsa or hot sauce.

Trader Joe’s TURKEY BURGERS (frozen)


Ground turkey is something I tend to buy often when I go to Trader Joe’s, maybe like many of you, as I find it so versatile as well as affordable. So besides the fresh stuff in the meat case, I also decided to check out this package of Trader Joe’s frozen turkey burgers. Any advantage of buying this versus buying a package of fresh ground turkey? Normally I would probably just buy fresh ground turkey and form burgers myself. However I can see reasons some might like these frozen turkey burgers instead of fresh. For one thing I imagine some folks (especially singles?) might find this more convenient as if you just wanted one burger you have that ready to go and are not left with extra turkey which you would have to use in a few days or freeze. Or maybe some people don’t like touching meat and forming burgers, or just find this faster and easier to make? Certainly one benefit of these frozen turkey burgers is the frozen burgers are cheaper than fresh ground turkey. These go for $3.49 for a pound (4x 1/4 lb burgers). Whereas one pound of TJ’s fresh ground turkey will cost you at least $3.99 presently. So the frozen ones are good value.

Cooking: Trader Joe’s instructions say to “Cook From Frozen”(as usual for them on frozen stuff). Now I don’t like to cook food from frozen if I don’t have to. So I defrosted these on the counter for about an hour or two, after cutting open the package and putting the pucks on a plate to defrost but in a pinch you can cook from frozen. The cook time will be shorter if defrosted of course.

The cooked turkey burgers were tasty. TIP: Turkey is pretty bland so I really season them before cooking with a real good dusting of the TACO SEASONING spice blend, which really jazzes up turkey burgers. Don’t add salt as there is some salt in the spice mix, and they have some salt already added in the burgers. Also I made them as cheese burgers by putting some grated Unexpected Cheddar on top which works great as it is amazing melted (cover the pan for a minute to help melt the cheese). I put them on toasted Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns and dressed them up with some spicy ketchup (mix some Peri-Peri or Bomba into some of the Organic Ketchup) . Our turkey cheese burgers were yummy with toasted buns, lettuce and tomato and we quite enjoyed them and wouldnt even know it was turkey and not beef.

Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE (Fall Item) with Recipe, Braised Chicken & Vegetables


This “roasting sauce” is a new Fall item for as part of TJ’s annual “pumpkin spectacular”. Now I’m not one who goes crazy every Fall with all their Everything Pumpkin items. While some of the products they come up with are good (like this one!) some sound just bad to me (case point, TJ’s PUMPKIN SPICE HUMMUS, whose very name offends me as did TJ’s infamous “chocolate hummus”). But having said this, I hear Pumpkin Spice Hummus is popular and sells out often, so clearly I’m in the minority! Anyway as far as this new sauce is concerned, I liked it. It was better than what I imagined. This PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING sauce was quite tasty used it to braise chicken and vegetables (a recipe follows below).

This Pumpkin Chipotle sauce uses an imaginative blend of ingredients. Though it has pumpkin puree as the first ingredient it has so many other ingredients, the pumpkin flavor blends in with so many other flavors it makes a complex and tasty combination. This doesn’t have anything like a “pumpkin pie” flavor at all. Rather this sauce’s flavor profile is complex, balanced and delicious. Ingredients are: pumpkin puree, cane sugar, water, apple cider vinegar, apple juice concentrate, onion puree, sea salt, molasses, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, chipotle in adobo puree, chipotle chili powder and spices like nutmeg, ginger and allspice which are subtle here and blend well.

I used this sauce to make a braised chicken dish which turned out delicious. I used boneless chicken thighs and onion, garlic, celery, yellow peppers and mushrooms. This would work very well with bone-in thighs too, roasted as per TJ’s recipe (see link below)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/roasted-pumpkin-chipotle-chicken-thighs

In addition to chicken, I am sure this sauce will work very well with pork. Also just on roasted veggies. Probably it would work well even with tofu too. So it might be fun to experiment with this sauce and see what you can come up with. Here’s my saucy dish in the picture.

Braised Boneless Chicken Thighs (sliced up) in Pumpkin Chipotle sauce with vegetables

Trader Joe’s suggests roasting it with cauliflower or peppers which sounds good and they also mention using it with pasta too…. I have not tried that yet.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/pumpkin-chipotle-roasting-sauce-074648

This is how I made my chicken dish if you are interested.

RECIPEBONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS IN PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE SAUCE : Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dust with a little flour (optional). Brown chicken in 2 tsp olive oil for about 5 minutes per side. till golden. When browned, remove temporarily. Toss in your chopped vegetables to the pan (onions, garlic, celery, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms). Sauté on low-medium heat for about five minutes till translucent. Then add a few tablespoons of liquid (wine, stock or water) to the pan to de-glaze it, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom. Add your chicken back in and cover with Pumpkin Roasting Sauce and braise on gentle simmer (either on top of the stove or in the oven, loosely covered). I used about 3/4 of the jar in my dish but you can adjust amount if you want less or more sauce in the finished dish. Simmer / braise on low heat for about 25 minutes or so. If you use chicken breasts instead of thighs, reduce cooking time to about 12 minutes and if using bone in chicken simmer or roast for about 40 minutes. When done, I took out the chicken, rested it a bit, then sliced it and added it back to my sauce. Leave whole if you prefer of course. Check seasoning for salt and pepper. Optional – add 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce. Serve the chicken, veggies and sauce on top of Jasmine rice (or orzo or potatoes).

TJ’s says: “Use this Sauce to coat some Baby Cauliflower and Organic Mini Sweet Peppers before roasting them in a hot oven. Make it a marinade for chicken or pork to turn into an aromatic, shredded taco filling. Or give it a try on pasta night, combined with a touch of cream and tossed with Organic Cascatelli Pasta.”

PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE is $3.49 a jar (14.5 oz). I would buy this again. If you like it, I would say stock up on a few jars as it may vanish after Thanksgiving as I think its a seasonal item.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FROZEN SPINACH (with garlic spinach recipe hack)


It may seem a little silly for me to review frozen spinach but here goes anyway because it’s actually something I buy all the time from Trader Joe’s (along with frozen peas!) TJ’s frozen spinach is easy, healthy, tasty and super convenient to have in the freezer. Plus it’s one of TJ’s best bargains for just $1.99 for a pound in the organic version and $1.49 for the regular version.

At the risk of heresy there are a few vegetables which I propose are actually better frozen than fresh. Really. One is frozen peas. The other is frozen spinach. While I love fresh raw spinach, the reality is it’s a pain. Spinach is very dirty and sandy. You must it like crazy 3 or 4 times to get rid of all the grit in every nook and cranny. Then you start with what looks like an enormous amount, raw. You can fill the biggest pot you own with it to the brim, and that shrinks up into almost what looks like just enough for one person. It really shrinks up in cooking. All of these are reasons I find frozen spinach easier than fresh spinach.

RECIPE HACK – a two ingredient Trader Joe’s recipe hack I came up with for spinach with TJ’s Garlic Spread – which are so good together and takes minutes! SPINACH IN GARLIC – Put the spinach in a pot with a teaspoon of olive oil or butter (or 50/50 mix). Cook on medium till it’s just cooked but still bright green (don’t overcook it) then add a heaping tablespoon or two of TJ’s Garlic Spread and mix it together. Give it a grind of fresh black pepper, taste it and if it needs it, add a pinch of salt (as the Garlic Spread has some salt). Optionally give it a squeeze of fresh lemon. This garlicy creamy spinach combo is absolutely delish. You can even mix in noodles to this for an instant dish.

Spinach omelet – make the above and toss the spinach in the middle. Yum!

Spinach rice: Cook Basmati rice. Cook some spinach. Mix the two together when done with some Greek yogurt. Season to taste.

TJ’s organic spinach is $1.99. The regular spinach is even less only ($1.49). Either is a bargain and is a great thing to always have in your freezer. So eat your Spinach! It’s healthy – it’s what made Popeye so strong.

Trader Joe’s KOREAN BEEFLESS BULGOGI (with recipe hack)


“Plant based Bulgogi style strips marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce”

Bulgogi is a popular Korean BBQ dish consisting of grilled marinated beef. It’s delicious. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beef-less Bulgogi is their vegan version, consisting of small pieces of mock meat made from soy protein, wheat gluten and other things. Judging from the internet, this product seems to be a bit of a hit especially with vegetarians of course (which I am not). The mock bulgogi strips have a pleasantly chewy texture that kind of make it resemble beef with a pleasantly chewy but tender texture. There isn’t really any sauce on these and I promise these will be tastier with some kind of sauce on them. A no-brainer sauce for these would be some Korean Gochujang (red pepper paste, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). You can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips with it and give it a little bit of sweet heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after cooking which is what I did (see below)

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

To best enjoy these, what I strongly suggest is don’t do this lazy thing I see on the ‘net about these TJ Beefless Bulgogi strips where people say all they do is microwave this package and put them on top of a bowl of rice. People exclaim “this is the bomb”. Wow, that is a such a low bar. Makes we wonder if these folks ever tasted real Korean cooking where a dishes flavors can explode all over your taste buds? Anway, to me just nuking the package and putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people! I suggest you think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish with. Make a stir fry for instance using these strips which will take you ten minutes of work, most of which is cutting up veggies. Below is one recipe stir fry idea for these vegan strips. First off, these will taste better if you get a nice sear on them, so suggest don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown them up a bit. You can throw a dish together in about 10 minutes with just a little effort. Defrosting needed?! Yes. TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on their packages (again, geared towards making everything “easy”?) Anyway I do suggest defrosting these before cooking. They defrost fairly quickly. I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or you could take it out in the morning for that night’s dinner. Or just leave the bag on the counter for maybe an hour or two? In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted. See below for a Stir Fry recipe featuring the “Bulgogi Strips”….

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First off I should state I’m and omnivore, not Vegan. I adore real Bulgogi especially in a smoky Korean BBQ restaurant using old school charcoal. These Beefless Strips don’t compare but THEY ARE pretty good and do slightly resemble beef though they won’t fool an omnivore that they’re beef. However frankly my Korean wife ate my Stir Fry dish and until I told here this was Vegan and not real beef she she didn’t know at first. What they got right here, is the chewy texture, which is good, it’s a little “beefy and chewy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty, where they are an ingredient and not just the star of the show. A package was $3.49. (Yikes. they went up since I wrote this; now 4.29?) If real beef, at least 10 or 12 bucks I would guess.

Note: While this is Vegan it is NOT Gluten Free as it contains Wheat Gluten. In fact Gluten is what gives this the nice, chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten to make Vegetarian Mock Meat for a thousand years. This is what “Seitan” is.

RECIPE – EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY : Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a wok or pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted bulgogi strips in a single layer and let them brown and get seared (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them around until they are seared. When they are, add vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the dish in the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (fresh garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Add 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling Gochujang sauce over the top. For a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang with an equal amount water slowly until its a smooth sauce. Serve with rice of course. Also – Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up * vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJ’s frozen Asian veggies mix and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

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 too will love thier “GARLIC SPREAD DIP” . It’s great and has become yet one more TJ’s must have item I have to always have in the fridge now. 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, almost like 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 recipe hack using just 2 things: frozen) spinach and this stuff. See my “recipe”below.

Quite a few countries have some type of garlic spread like this. In Lebanese cooking, they have the garlic spread called “Toum” (and 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 slices 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. If you want squeeze on a few more sprinkles of fresh lemon.

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 calories. It’s mostly oil, like mayonnaise. 2 Tbls have about 150 calories. Its $2.99. GREAT ITEM! I would buy this again

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