TJ’s TUSCANO MARINARA SAUCE (discontinued)


“Trader Giotto’s” Low Fat Tuscan Marinara

RANT

Ode to yet another discontinued Trader Joe’s product, a classic rant about a very good Trader Joe’s product, which got 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! The other day I happened to be clearing out my pantry and found I still had a can of this Marinara way in the back. I opened it and tasted it. Yes, this is, or should we say was, a terrific tomato sauce. For one thing it’s not smooth, it’s full of chunks of tomatoes like a homemade sauce you had put together yourself. Unlike the current jars of Marinara sauce that Trader Joe’s replace this with, which are puréed and smooth. I made a pasta dish using this Marinara Sauce, and the dish turned out great. I made a pizza with it too, which also turned out great. So yes, it’s a crime TJ’s got rid of this great and very useful sauce. So just posting this as a Rant, sorry, as you won’t be able to find this anymore at Trader Joe’s. Mind boggling. This was a great product. A least they still sell large 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. I always have some canned tomatoes in our 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 sauce recipe from Natasha’s kitchen, link below.

TIP (1) IMO adding a tablespoon of tomato paste at the start will make it even better (2) If you double the recipe you will have a batch all made for another meal. You can freeze it.

Pizza from scratch; made using this terrific marinara sauce

Trader Joe’s recipe idea: Smoked Salmon on Potato Pancakes


Hardly a “recipe” just putting out an idea how putting two or three TJ products together is any easy way to come up with something good.

For New Year’s Eve I had the idea for a “Russian inspired” thing: Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes – instead of blinis. The combo turned out just as delicious as I hoped and we really enjoyed these as a super easy special holiday meal – however you can make them any old day!

I took a package of Trader Joe’s Latkes / Potato Pancakes and Smoked Salmon and OK instead of sour cream I actually used Greek yogurt to save a few calories. Of course a Russian would use lots of Sour Cream, calories be damned, plus fresh dill. To put the dish together all I had to do to was cook the frozen Potato Pancakes till crispy in an frying pan, then topped them with a good amount of smoked salmon and topped that with a spoon of Greek yogurt. Better with sour cream sure, up to you. Sprinkle some fresh dill on if possible plus a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Voila, it took about 5 minutes until they were ready to serve as a dinner with salad and roasted beets on the side. Easy as pie to “make” and really yummy, so try this if it sounds good to you. You could make this as an appetizer for a few guests in minutes and make a big splash with almost no work except assembling the ingredients. Now I was hardly the only one shopping thinking about Smoked Salmon early afternoon of New Years Eve. Trade Joe’s whole section with smoked salmon was completely sold out except for a few packs of this Nova Salmon! The Nova was a wee bit saltier than some other versions they sell, but as fine with the creamy sour cream / yogurt as it it all balanced out. The next time I make these I will probably opt for the Everything Salmon.

Trader Joe’s (frozen) Potato Pancakes Latkes are $2.69 for 10 little pancakes. I think the Nova was about $9 for 8 oz package.

Trader Joe’s STONE GROUND GRITS


“There are grits and then there are stone ground grits.”

Up here in the Yankee North of NYC, most of us are probably not as familiar with grits as folks in the South are. I tried these Trader Joe’s Stone Ground Grits and guess what? This damn Yankee loves me some Grits! Maybe its not such a surprise as I have always enjoyed and made Italian Polenta, and let’s face it grits are almost the American version of polenta, right? OK not exactly as grits use a different kind of corn.

Anyway these TJ’s stone ground grits are much better than commercially mass produced grits you see at the supermarket kind which are not stone ground. Stone Ground Grits are milled from the whole kernel of corn including the healthy tasty germ. They have a coarse, varied texture, as you can see in the picture and have more corn flavor than the supermarket kind. Think of these as “gourmet grits”. Grits take about 25-30 minutes to cook, stirring them every 5 minutes or so. You can just follow the recipe on the package and you will get good grits. I like to cook them using more milk (half milk/half water) which makes them even creamier. Shredded cheddar cheese at the end makes them even better if you like them savory (Unexpected Cheddar perhaps!? Oh yeah). I like to use grits as the Base for a dish, such as the base for sautéed GREENS or especially the base for SHRIMP AND GRITS, which is terrific and typically Southern. You can even do it a super simple version of Shrimp and Grits: just grill up some red shrimp with lots of seasoning and serve them on top of cheesy grits with the pan juices. Yum!

Cook grits low and slow in a thick bottomed pan and stir them often so the bottom doesn’t burn. They may be even better with another 10-15 mins of cooking (ie 40-45 minutes total). If they get too thick, just add a little more water. TJ’s Stone Ground Grits are $2.29. Grits are GLUTEN FREE of course.

TIP: Double up the recipe when you make some grits; then you have leftovers which you can use to make pan fried grits, kind of the way you might make pan fried polenta, which I just love.

Here’s a few recipes for shrimp and grits:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/lemon-garlic-shrimp-and-grits-recipe-1973610

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/the-best-shrimp-and-grits-7448205

TJ’s SOUTHERN GREENS BLEND


Trader Joe’s “Southern Greens Blend” Greens For Cooking” Cut, cleaned and Ready To Cook.

I think this is a fairly new product at TJ’s or at least I don’t recall seeing it until recently. It’s good. No, make that terrific. This Yankee boy is really digging Southern Greens.

TJ’s Southern Greens contains a blend of greens typical in Southern cooking, Mustard, Turnip, Collards and Spinach, ready to cook with. Kind of similar to TJ’s bags of prepped kale. There are a few recipes on the back of the bag which can give one a few ideas on how to use these greens. They take anywhere from about 15-30 minutes to cook. Of course you don’t need a use a “recipe”. You could just sauté the greens in some olive oil with some chopped garlic, covered on low-med heat with a touch of liquid (stock or water), season to taste and cook them for 10-30 minutes to your desired degree of greens “done-ness”. They start bright green and get darker and softer as they cook down. Taste them along the way and see how you like them best. Frankly I find myself throwing some greens now into whatever I’m cooking. I recently mixed some raw greens into a pot of Jasmine rice as I was cooking it and that worked really well (cook time was about 16 minutes total). I’m throwing some greens into many things I’m cooking to “green up” the dish.

Greens is good, and they are HEALTHY, and good for y’all ! Eat more dark green leafy vegetables easily using these Southern Greens. They are $2.99 a 1 lb bag. One thing, use it up pretty fast; cut leafy greens start to go bad fairly quickly; so use it in about 3 days. TIP: I poke a bunch of holes (tip of sharp knife) in bags of greens to let in a little air so they don’t rot quite as fast. These greens need to be used pretty fast before they go bad (3-4 days?)

These can go great on top of some cheesy TJ STONE GROUND GRITS

Bavarian Bratwurst with Sauerkraut Combo


The combination of TJ’s Uncured Bratwurst with their natural Sauerkraut is pretty much a no-brainer.

Maybe the only question is whether you warm up the sauerkraut with your bratwurst – or just serve it on the side, cool, so its crunchier. You can make an easy and terrific lunch or dinner if you team up these made for each other items with a few more TJ items…. put the Bratwurst on some bread (BRIOCHE?) or TJ’s Brioche Hot Dog Buns. The mustard of your choice (Dijon with mustard seeds or Spicy Brown?).

Here I went with sautéed potatoes cooked up with the Bratwurst and sauerkraut on the side. These all made for a super dinner combo.

RECIPE: Sauteed Pan fried Potatoes – Cut up a few Yukon Golds into cubes and par-boil them 5 minutes or so in salted water. Add the drained potatoes to a nonstick pan with oil and butter and toss in a sliced onion. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally until the potatoes are done and golden brown. Make room in the pan, and add your bratwurst around the 10 minute mark and cook on both sides until browned. You can put shallow slashes to score them before cooking which will open up as they cook. Garnish with chopped parsley or arugula for color. Serve with sauerkraut and mustard. Serving Options: beer and bread (brioche hot dog buns or chewy sourdough)

Trader Joe’s (frozen) ATLANTIC SALMON FILLETS


(Product of Norway, Farm Raised)

Each 1 lb package contains 4 portions of skin-on boneless farmed Atlantic salmon from Norway, each portion frozen separate, perfectly. First things first: DEFROSTING. The best method is always an overnight thaw in the fridge. In a pinch however you could do the quick thaw method written on the package (bagged in cold water 30 minutes) but try to think ahead if you can for the best texture . Obviously if you are not using the 4 pieces just seal it up for your freezer with the built in air lock of the package, squeezing out excess air.

COOKING : I tried the quick brine technique of giving the defrosted salmon fillets a 30 minute soak in brine and I liked the results (see link below for full info at The Kitchn)

https://www.thekitchn.com/best-salmon-cooking-method-skills-showdown-23004976

After drying off the salmon, I gave it seasoning on both sides with a nice sprinkle of AJIKA which will give great color as well as flavor (in my case, as they were brined, no more salt was added). I cooked the fillets using the pan fry method in a cast iron pan (or use a non stick pan) with a mix of oil and butter for about 5 minutes on the skin side till the skin looked crispy. Flipped them, then cooked about 2 minutes on the other side which will need less time than the skin side. Personally I hate dried out salmon, or any fish, so recommend one does not overcook it. Cook it just till it’s no longer translucent and flakes easily. You can always put it back for 30 seconds more if it needs it.

If you want some sauce on it I think TJ’s tzaziki sauce would be very good with it, or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon, or whatever your favorite sauce is. Even simple butter and lemon will be great. Fresh dill is wonderful with salmon if you have it.

I plated the salmon up with lemon butter, and served it with a side of TJ’s Harvest Grain Blend (shown) which is really good BTW. The salmon was tasty, if a bit mild of course as this is farmed. Wild salmon, which I adore, is usually about double the price of this. Trader Joe’s sells this for $8.99 for a 1 lb package (a bit little over $2 a portion). For the price I think this salmon is very tasty and a good value. I find Trader Joe’s version, superior to Costco’s version. So giving this a thumb’s up for value and quality. INGREDIENTS: Atlantic Salmon (no added salt) Protein = 23 grams! EAT FISH

TJ’s Italian Style Meatballs


Trader Griotto’s (frozen) Flame Broiled Italian Style Fully Cooked Meatballs

First, let us be completely honest. Are these Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs anywhere as good as my own homemade meatballs (which in all modesty are pretty damn good?) No, of course not. However, making meatballs is kind of a lot of work. So I wanted to try these Trader Joe’s “Meatballs Italian Style” to see if they are any good. We did enjoy eating them with my own tomato sauce for a pretty easy dinner. So these might be worth giving them a try to see what you think. The dish I made with these beef meatballs turned out tasty. Now I made an easy quick sauce, a huge tablespoon of tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, onion, can of diced tomatoes, grated pecorino cheese and basil – a recipe is below). Of course you can just use a bottle of sauce too, lazy bones, thats fine too. I put the meatballs in the sauce and simmered them for 30 minutes to get them flavored from the sauce. They turned out pretty well, my biggest complaint being they had a slightly rubbery texture. Honestly I don’t know if they always do or it was my fault defrost them (or not). I would usually thaw something like this in the fridge overnight as I usually recommend, but this was last minute dinner idea and I thought maybe I could just put the frozen meatballs into the sauce and slowly defrost them on low in the sauce (which the package does kind of say). Is that why they were slightly rubbery? Next time I’ll defrost them slowly and see. Anyway I served the meatballs and sauce and some of that fantastic Country Loaf bread I had found at TJ and we did kind of a “meatball sub” with them which was was actually really tasty. A few night’s later, I made Ziti with the leftover meatballs & sauce which was also very tasty. So my take is these are worth giving a try, either with your own sauce or your favorite TJ sauce. I do suggest doing a proper defrost (put in fridge night before) which I promised myself I will do next time. Also I will brown the thawed meatballs up more in olive oil before adding them to the sauce. Browning meat gives lots of flavor. I recommend one simmer them in sauce for at least a 1/2 hour to absorb flavors. These ITALIAN MEATBALLS were about $4.50 for a 1 lb bag when I got them. FYI – TJ sells other versions of meatballs, one made with Turkey and one Meatless version, all of which you will find in the frozen section.

FAST EASY TOMATO SAUCE and MEATBALLS: Take 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and sauté that in a few tablespoons of olive oil for 30-60 seconds. Add a good amount of sliced garlic and a little diced onion and cook 5 minutes on low stirring occasionally till onions are translucent. Add a can (or two) of Diced Tomato, rinsing out the can with a little water (or wine) to get it all. Simmer on low 45 minutes, with the thawed and browned meatballs. Add Italian Seasoning to taste. Optionally add capers, and some Bomba. When serving, add grated Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago or Grana and if you have some fresh basil, lovely. Serve with either pasta, gnocchi, or warm fresh Italian bread for a meatball hero.

Despite all these options they list I think the best one would be the thaw in fridge (1/2 day?)

TJ’s Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce


“A creamy, cheesy pasta sauce made wth Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper”

Trader Joe’s Cacio e Pepe pasta sauce has been getting a lot of buzz since they released it, so I had to give it a try. You know what? It is pretty good. The fettucine cacio e pepe dish I made with this sauce turned out quite tasty. Cacio e pepe means “cheese and pepper” and making a dish with this could not be easier. Boil some pasta, open this jar and combine. The sauce right out of the jar is very thick. A few spoons of it go a long way, meaning obviously you would not say use a whole jar to make 2 or even 4 portions of pasta. The Nutrition label suggests a jar makes 7 servings so use that as a guide. My suggestion is basically use a nice huge heaping 2 tablespoons of sauce per portion of pasta, which you will thin a bit with some of the pasta cooking water to get a consistency you like to coat the pasta, but not drown it. TIP: I suggest making this with one of TJ’s excellent Artisan Pasta varieties (spaghetti, fettuccine, radiatore…) Of course shaped pastas, like ziti, are wonderful as well with this type of creamy sauce. You could even do a pan fried Gnocchi. They made the sauce “bulletproof” with the addition of a little starch (cornstarch) which prevents separation. They are saving a bit on some of the ingredients for example listing sunflower oil not olive oil. Don’t worry you will fix it up so when you plate it.

Cook your pasta, a minute under al dente, drain it, saving a 3/4 cup pasta water. Finish the pasta in a pan with a little saved pasta water, a nice grind of black pepper, adding in the sauce and mixing it all up with tongs to incorporate pasta and sauce adding a few tablespoons of pasta water as needed till you get your desired consistency. Plate it up and dress it with additional cheese and pepper.

I added a nice hit of fresh Pecorino on top, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of your best olive oil (optional). I topped it with a wee bit of chopped arugula for color and taste. Yes, I know a Roman would loudly protest any addition to the 2 basic ingredients. If you wanted to use a little grated Parmigiano or Grana, they will be delicious additions (but again don’t tell your Roman friend). So be sure to buy or have a piece of Pecorino as well as peppercorns in your larder. These few additios will help make this jarred sauce taste homemade.

It says on the jar, that once opened, use it within 3 days. I didn’t want to have it again so soon so I figured I would just put the jar in the freezer. The following week I did an overnight defrost in the fridge and that worked fine. Naturally you can do other things with this sauce besides using it on pasta. You could use some on vegetables (brussels sprouts, potatoes?) or even mix some into scrambled eggs….

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/070650

So while this sauce is handy I am all for making a real Cacio e Pepe from scratch once in a while. Cacio E Pepe is only those two ingredients and that’s where the magic happens getting it to emulsify (and not become gloppy). You may have to make it a few times to get the hang of it but once you do, you will really get a great deal of pleasure from making it yourself no doubt. I liked this guy’s take on making it (tip don’t use very hot water to mix with the grated cheese to make the emulsion though and don’t let the cheese boil, just get it warmed up so it doesn’t break) TIP: A few teaspoons of a corn starch slurry makes this foolproof BTW. In fact the Trader Joe Cacio e Pepe sauce has corn starch to make it foolproof.

A 14.5 oz jar of TJ’s Cacio e Pepe sauce costs $3.50.

If you get into Cacio E Pepe and want to try to make the sauce yourself yourself, watch these two pro’s, absorb some of their ideas and I bet you will end up with a terrific authentic Cacio e Pepe.

EASY RECIPE – How To Make Mexican Street Corn (Elote)


If you’ve been in a Trader Joe’s you’ve probably seen the word – ELOTE – a few times. One might even say TJ’s has a bit of an obsession with Elote. Just in case you don’t know what Elote means, “elote corn” is a typical Mexican street food consisting of corn on the cob sprinkled with cheese and lots of spices served carts by street vendors. In Mexico City there are probably as many Elote carts as in NYC we have hot dog carts.

Elote corn is delicious, slathered with mayo, lime juice, dusted with chile powder and sprinkled with Mexican Cotija cheese. MEXICAN STREET CORN is not hard to make yourself, and conveniently, you can get everything you need at TJ’s. I just made some a few days ago with some really fresh corn and it was so yummy I thought I would share how to make it easily. You will need: Fresh corn on the cob, Everything but the ELOTE SEASONING, CHILE LIME seasoning, some mayonnaise, fresh lime, and Cotija cheese (like a Mexican parmesan). As far as mayo, TJ’s Chile Lime Mayo might work great or Suzi’s Organic Mayo.

SHOPPING LIST: fresh corn, Everything But The ELOTE SEASONING blend, Mexican Cotija cheese (or Parmesan), Lime, Mayonnaise (Chile Lime Mayo?), optional, CHILE LIME seasoning

RECIPE – ELOTE / MEXICAN STREET CORN

If you can grill the corn, great, but steamed corn is fine. Cook corn. When done, hold it with tongs (or spear on a chopstick) or just put it on some foil. Slather some mayo all over with a spatula (mayo is authentic but if mayo turns you off, just use butter). Next sprinkle on a generous amount of Everything But The ELOTE Seasoning. Next sprinkle a good amount of grated COTIJA cheese (or Parm or Asiago). Squeeze some fresh lime juice on it. OPTIONALLY; if you want even more spice add TJ’s CHILE LIME Seasoning blend and/or a little hot sauce of your choosing. Now enjoy!

Now just in case you are a lazy bones and this sounds too complicated for you here’s a simpler version I do when I’m in a rush. Make your regular fresh buttered corn and just sprinkle a good amount of the EVERYTHING BUT ELOTE seasoning all over it. Easy enough?

Do you think Trader Joe’s has an ELOTE obsession?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/discover/entertaining/we-like-it-elote

https://traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/059063

Watch how fast this Elote vendor is !

   

TJ Mediterranean Style Hummus


Trader Joe’s sells SO many varieties of hummus. They may even have too many…. Don’t even get me started on “chocolate hummus” which I think is a crime against nature. Anyway this one is My TJ hummus. My “Go To” favorite. I think it’s their best one, one reason being that this “Mediterranean Style” hummus includes TAHINI in the ingredients. Incredibly, at least to me, is that some versions of hummus on offer at Trader Joe’s do not have Tahini in the ingredients. I don’t get this as Tahini (sesame paste) is an integral part of a hummus recipe and it is why it tastes good. I can only imagine some people don’t like tahini or its calories? Or an allergy? OK that must be why TJ sells hummus both ways, with or without it? Anyway their “Mediterranean Style” hummus is very tasty. It is a little fancier as on top they have a few pine nuts and spices. This is the way hummus is normally presented. When you serve it put it in a shallow bowl. A squeeze of 1/4 lemon would be good IMO (mix in juice). Run your spoon to make a circular groove all around the hummus and add a pour of your best EVOO. Sprinkle a bit of spice (Ajika for example, or ground cumin or zaatar) all around the perimeter attractively. Voila!

Serve with warm pita or naan or other flatbread.

The Mediterranean Style hummus costs about $4 for a 16 oz tub (it’s 50 cents more then the regular one with no tahini).

BTW, you can easily make hummus (which I occasionally do) Here’s a good recipe

https://www.themediterraneandish.com/how-to-make-hummus/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/our-favorite-hummus-recipes-4164898

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/what-people-get-wrong-about-making-hummus/2015/09/04/72c7c844-4dc5-11e5-902f-39e9219e574b_story.html

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