Trader Joe’s ground fermented BLACK GARLIC


“Use like garlic. Delicious on avocado toast, in butter and sauces, on vegetables and proteins, or any time you want extra depth of flavor”

This is a pretty interesting Trader Joe’s product, a bit of an unusual find. Now a few years ago, they sold something in the produce section labeled “Black Garlic”. It was from Japan. It basically looked like a whole head of garlic you had forgotten about in the pantry that had shriveled up and turned completely black! Wild looking! I tried it. Inside shriveled shells were cloves of black garlic inside were softish and absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a kind of amazing, and pretty unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This stuff eventually vanished or was discontinued, anyway I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I noticeed this small jar in the spices section. “Ground Fermented Black Garlic…Made In South Africa”. The black garlic has been dried and ground up into little tiny black bits that can be sprinkled onto things. It tastes garlicky but different from fresh garlic or garlic powder for one thing this was fermented. It’s full of Umami, adding extra depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I did think it’s a little on the pricey side at $2.99 for a tiny 1 oz jar but I have found it does last a bit. It’s terrific added to sauces and as they mention vegetables. I am trying this on so many things. Avocado anything especially. I am thinking this is a hidden gem that many will look at and bypass and it may vanish in the future. So as we don’t know how long this product will last, if this sounds interesting, grab one to try.

WHAT IS BLACK GARLIC

https://www.thespruceeats.com/black-garlic-4165384

A little search and you find that it’s super healthy to boot! https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-black-garlic#1

https://www.mashed.com/325207/trader-joes-fans-are-so-excited-about-this-new-fermented-black-garlic/

TJ’s Indian Masala Simmer Sauce


Trader Joe’s Indian Masala Simmer Sauce makes a wonderful base for authentic Indian meals.
Masala Simmer Sauce is a Indian style spiced tomato-based sauce which can be used as the main sauce component to easily make a tasty Indian inspired dish that could come together in as little as 15-20 minutes. We made a very tasty Indian style stewed dish with chicken and vegetables using the Masala simmer sauce. It turned out really tasty, served with basmati rice and Naan and some chutney. The sauce is concentrated so you can thin it with water as they suggest (TIP: after emptying the jar into the pot just half-fill it with 8 oz of water, shake it up and pour that into your pot). Or if you want to make a coconut milk version use 8 oz of coconut milk instead of water. I haven’t tried that yet but I know that would make a wonderful dish.

The spices used in this include: pureed ginger, tumeric, cumin, fenugreek, red pepper, cinnamon and clove. All of which combine perfectly with the tomato base to make a very delicious combo. Naturally there’s nothing stopping you from adding some more spices, and I’m in that camp. I had added additional chopped ginger and fresh garlic plus a 1/2 chopped onion which I browned up first in some ghee (butter) before adding the sauce. As they suggest on the label, this sauce works very well to make a stewed dish with boneless chicken, either breast or thigh meat. Even tastier might be chicken on the bone which one would cook 20 minutes more but boneless works fine and is easy. Add in some frozen veggies (peas, or haricot vert green beans, or edamame) during the last five minutes if you like. I do. Serve the finished dish with basmati rice and some Naan for sopping up all that delicious sauce. We ate this with TJ’s MANGO GINGER CHUTNEY which matched beautifully. Of course one can make this strictly vegan or vegetarian. Just use either tofu and/or just vegetables (veggies, plus beans for protein like chick peas or lentils….) In short, TJ”s MASALA SIMMER SAUCE can be the base of a very tasty dish which is easy and delicious. A 15 oz jar was $2.69.

TJ’s PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST BREAD


(*super for French Toast)

(fall seasonal item) I am not one of those people who goes crazy every Fall for Trader Joe’s seasonal “everything goes pumpkin” thing which frankly I find can be a bit much. Seriously… Pumpkin Dog Treats?! Pumpkin Hummus?! Come on now, that sounds like a crime against nature. However, that doesn’t mean Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a few pumpkin related items which are actually quite good and worth checking out. Here’s one of them: the Pumpkin Brioche Twist bread. It’s really good!

Now I’m absolutely in love with TJ’s FRENCH BRIOCHE. So when I just saw this new seasonal variation, PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST, I had to get one of these to try. Not only does it look really good, it is in fact excellent. It isn’t heavy in the pumpkin spices department, there is just a subtle hint of spice going on and if I didn’t see pumpkin listed in the ingredients I may have not even known there was any pumpkin in it. So personally for this very reason, that they have done the pumpkin thing as subtle, I find this quite good.

This brioche is terrific toasted, either spread with butter or cream cheese and possibly some jam. I haven’t tried it yet to make French Toast but I am sure that this would make fantastic French Toast*, so I would give that a try that for sure. You might try this broche toasted up gently and spread with grass fed butter, a sprinkle of brown or coconut sugar and a light dusting of TJ’s Pumpkin Spice (or cinnamon) it you want something yummy around Halloween time. If you are into the whole TJ pumpkin season thing I think their Pumpkin Butter (pumpkin spread?) would be good on this.

The PUMPKIN BRIOCHE TWIST is $3.99 (same as regular sliced Brioche)

* UPDATE – I finally made French Toast with this pumpkin brioche twist today. It was SO GOOD. Wow, this bread is super as French Toast! A Must Try.

French Toast with this is AMAZING

Toasted with butter and jam

TJ’s Channa Masala (frozen, Indian)


Trader Joe’s Channa Masala (cooked chick peas with onions, tomato and spices)

Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s of course has quite a number of good frozen and non-frozen Indian foods, many worth exploring. If you haven’t tried this, I would say try it the next time you are doing an “Indian food” night. I find this is one of TJ’s best frozen offerings. This “Channa Masala” (spiced chick peas) is really good; almost equal in taste to many Indian restaurants. Channa means Chick Peas. Masala means mixed spices. This dish is very tasty and well spiced, it can be nuked or cooked on the stove (let it defrost then put in a pan). It’s kind of a steal at $1.99. Serve this with Basmati Rice and some Naan and you have a meal for 2. Especially if you eat with TJ’s excellent Mango Chutney and some yogurt.

PS – no one says you can’t add something to this. I often add something ; like greens: chopped swiss chard or spinach and another pat of butter, cooked for 5 minutes. this variation with added greens is excellent.

$1.99 (10 oz package) (may be higher now due to price increases)

TJ’s Everything but the Bagel Seasoning Blend


RAVE

Is Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Bagel Seasoning” blend the bomb that everyone on the internet says it is? Well, yes. It’s terrific. It’s a classic blend of seasonings which obviously, bagel makers originally threw together perhaps a hundred years ago. TJ’s has an excellent version which is a blend of: white sesame seeds, sea salt flakes, poppy seeds, dried minced garlic and onion plus black sesame seeds. Now if by any chance you happen to be a “New Yawker” and grew up your whole life intimately acquainted with “Everything Bagels” then you already know how good this seasoning tastes. As a kid the Everything Bagels were frequently the ones our family usually fought over in a batch of fresh H&H assorted bagels my dad used to send us out for.

When Trader Joe’s introduced this seasoning blend it was such a major hit, sometimes it even got sold out. It just flew out of the store. Its so successful that TJ’s have now even started putting the seasoning on other products, such as smoked salmon (a great combo) and I even saw it in a new popcorn variety! In my opinion it’s especially the dried garlic toasty bits that make this so good. I really enjoy sprinkling EBTB on top of a TJ Artisan everything bagel topped with cream cheese and tomato (or sliced cucumbers or smoked salmon) plus more “everything” on top of the whole thing to Super Size the everything seasonings! This Everything seasoning is great on so many things: Scrambled eggs, avocados, avocado toast, grilled or smoked salmon, tuna fish sands, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, hamburgers, grilled chicken, cottage cheese (yes!), salads, steaks…. you name it, it will probably be good on it. So if you’ve been wondering if this actually worth the hype, the answer is Yes. Great stuff!

$1.99 jar (2.3 oz.)

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/291465/50-ideas-for-using-trader-joes-everything-but-the-bagel-seasoning/

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/everything-you-can-do-with-everything-bagel-seasoning-article

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC KETCHUP


RAVE

Great tasting ketchup

My wife thinks anything “organic” tastes better, while I think some things marked “organic” do, but some things don’t taste any better. This is one of those cases where yes ORGANIC is in fact better. Or should I just say that TJ’s Organic Ketchup is a great tasting ketchup, period, and possibly “the best” I’ve had. Now like most Americans Ketchup has always meant “Heinz” as I’ve been eating Heinz ketchup since well, forever, and it was probably the first ketchup I ever had in my life. When my wife brought home the Trader Joe’s organic ketchup and I tasted it (with doubts) my tastebuds did somehow react with something like, “wow, now this is ketchup”! I was pleasantly surprised and I had to admit to my wife yes this organic version was better tasting. She gave me a “I told you so” looks. Now I know Heinz switched from using sugar in their ketchup recipe to using high fructose corn syrup in their (regular) ketchup years ago, like most companies, as sugar is more expensive than corn syrup. Heinz has now come out with another version, a more expensive Heinz ketchup they call “Simply Heinz” (hah!) which does use sugar not corn syrup and the ingredients look more or less similar to Trader Joe’s. However for one thing all of Trader Joe’s ingredients say Organic. Interestingly also is the fact that TJ’s ketchup spells out the actual spices in their ingredients while Heinz just lists the generic word “spice” (why singular, not “spices”?!) TJ’s ketchups says organic spices than spells out: allspice, clove, red pepper, paprika and salt. Frankly I had no idea what specific spices were in ketchup, so maybe it’s the spices at least in part that makes TJ’s ketchup taste so good. In short, in our house we have switched brands to now buying only TJ’s ketchup. Sorry Heinz. This is better. And probably cheaper than Simply Heinz. TJ’s ketchup is $1.99 (24 oz) and for “certified organic” that’s not bad.

So if you’ve never tried TJ’s Organic Ketchup it is well worth giving a try. You just might switch brands too.

TIP: Want some Spicy Ketchup? I just mix this with as much or as little Sriracha as your taste buds are in the mood for. So good! Especially with burgers….

TJ’s AJIKA Georgian Spice Seasoning Blend


“Spicy, garlicky & deeply aromatic & savory”

RAVE

Trader Joe’s AJIKA GEORGIAN SEASONING BLEND

Wow is this good! Its my new favorite spice! Another delicious find I recently discovered in my TJ’s NEW PRODUCTS section. Frankly I had never heard of Ajika before seeing this. Googling it you learn Ajika is actually not a dry spice blend but more of a dip so one can assume this TJ spice seasoning blend is a dry seasoning based on the typical Georgian-Abkhaz (formerly USSR) condiment. Anyway this Ajika seasoning is just pretty amazing and a terrific addition to all of their “international spice blends” that TJ’s seems very good at coming up with.

The Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend contains ground red chili peppers (not a super hot variety), ground coriander, fenugreek, dried garlic, marigold (marigold?! yes the flower dried and ground up!) plus a little salt. Garlicky, (mildly) spicy it is more flavorful spicy than hot spicy. The coriander and fenugreek are stand out delicious flavorings that are not typical for our (American) palates. Honestly the combination of all of these spices together is seriously delicious, I couldn’t stop sprinkling it on so many foods, to see what it would do to them. It tastes quite unique to my taste buds. Is it the Fenugreek? Is it the marigold (which by the way I learn is very typical of Georgian Abkhaz cuisine).

It’s a combination of all of these things. I had made some sautéed yellow peppers and zucchini cooked in olive oil so then I put a good amount of this Ajika spice blend into it. It added wonderful flavor to the grilled veggies. I also sprinkled Ajika on top of a bagel with tomato and cream cheese and again it added great flavors. I tried in on cottage cheese, so boring right? Not with a good amount of Ajika, boring no more they went perfectly together.

Its so good you begin to wonder, what is this NOT good on? I put it on grilled boneless chicken breasts, and yes its an excellent seasoning for chicken…. or pork or steak or fish. Try this Ajika blend sprinkled on eggs or in an omelet. Try also on : Fish, shrimp, turkey, chicken, steak, hamburger, or grilled tofu for that matter. A turkey burger with a good amount of this spice is flavorful and not boring. I think it would be good with SO many things. Grilled vegetables and EVOO plus this are great. This was made for tomatoes which the original has. Mix some of this up with greek yogurt for a lovely easy sauce. You can go nuts with this. I know I am. The internet apparently is going crazy for this too. I was Wowed upon first tasting this. Yes its so good as people are saying. On a 1-10 level of heat I would put this at maybe 4, So barely spicy, very tolerable, especially mixed with foods.

If you see Ajika grab a jar to try. It may be seasonal or TJ simply testing the waters for interest. If you try this you may love it as much as I am loving it (along with the whole internet) and if you come up with some interesting ideas and/or uses for it, or some recipes, please post it in the Comments section. Oh BTW the word “Ajika” may come from the Abkhaz word for salt.

Aha Wikipedia states: “A dry form of ajika exists that is sometimes called svanuri marili in Georgian”

$1.99 a jar. Wow.

https://www.mashed.com/384027/trader-joes-fans-are-psyched-for-its-new-ajika-georgian-seasoning/

TJ’s RAINBOW PEPPERCORNS in spice grinder


This may seem ho-hum because we are so used to seeing it by now but come on, let’s admit the spices TJ sells 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 whole peppercorns but a number of spices & spice blends in these plastic grinders at TJs. I particularly am fond of TJ’s RAINBOW PEPPERCORNS. It’s especially nice as it’s a blend of 3 peppercorns from 3 different continents! They come from Brazil, India and Malaysia. Packed in South Africa. Wow. Peppercorns have gone up in price and I think this used to sell for $1.99, it’s now $2.29. Its the same price as a tin TJ sells of ground pepper so I would say this is better. I buy pepper grinders in pairs, one for the kitchen and one for the table.

TJ’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS


Trader Joe’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS ($2.69, 17 oz package of 10)

There are some traditional regional food divides in some countries. Traditionally in Mexico in the North they lean towards using flour tortillas (Tortillas de Harina) while Southern Mexico traditionally prefers tortillas made from corn (Tortillas de maiz). I generally prefer corn tortillas as they’re more flavorful and have a chewier texture when cooked. However sometimes I do buy flour tortillas as they have certain qualities that make them useful for some things. For one thing, flour tortillas are softer and more pliable so easier to fold. They are usually bigger too so can hold more ingredients inside. They can be used for Quesadillas and Burritos. They can also be used for “wrap type” sandwiches, etc. If you want flour tortillas, I think the Trader Joe’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS are an interesting choice as they bring a bit of flavor to the party. These tortillas have a little bit of heat in them from habanero chiles, plus a bit of lime flavor. They have a lovely color, tinted reddish orange from anatto seed (a natural food coloring). Package says “MEDIUM HOT” but remember when you add fillings that moderates the spicy level.

Last night, I made Quesadillas (vegetarian actually) for dinner with these Habanero/Lime tortillas. Filling was: Pepper Jack Cheese, Soy Chorizo and TJ’s Refried Salsa Pinto Beans (which I gussied up*). Topping of avocado, tomato, more cheese and Green Dragon SauceMore Refritos on the side…. They were really tasty!

Need a recipe for Quesadillas? Here’s one…

  • TIP – Out of the can, TJ’s Salsa Pinto Refried Beans are really boring. They need a little work if you want them to have some taste. I add olive oil, oregano, cumin, chile powder and a little Green Dragon or Zhoug. Cuban Style Spice Blend works great with these or any beans. Warm frijole refritos over low heat, stirring often so the bottom doesnt burn. Some cheese on top is nice!

BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS – How To Cook Nice and Juicy! (RECIPE)


Lots of people complain about boneless chicken breasts being dry and tasteless. Well, they don’t have to be dry. You can easily make them turn out juicy and delicious with this little cooking trick I’ve come up with.

Boneless breasts can quickly go from being moist and juicy to dry with just a minute of overcooking. So you do have to be careful with your cook time and technique. Over the years I’ve experimented plenty cooking boneless breasts and I’ve figured out a method that really seems to work well. Try this the next time you make chicken breasts.

Here’s my my not-so-secret, secret way of cooking boneless breasts so they are juicy and delicious.

Chicken breast meat, especially off the bone and with the skin removed, is naturally very lean. It just doesn’t have enough intramuscular fat like dark meat such as thighs have, which makes thighs much easier to cook without them getting overcooked and dried out. Therefore the trick with cooking boneless breasts is basically to get a very nice sear on both sides, then let them finish in the pan with the cover on and the heat off using residual heat to let them finish cooking. That’s the secret in a nutshell.

Chicken breasts – Fresh or Frozen. During Covid-19, I started buying frozen breasts instead of fresh at Trader Joe’s. Sure I usually would prefer fresh over frozen but I don’t want to go to a store as often, so having frozen chicken breasts in the freezer is very practical. TJ’s sells them prepped and quick frozen in 2.5 lb bags, either “whole breasts with rib section” which are a big whole breasts or you can get portioned, trimmed up ones which are half a breast and make a perfect portion per person. They run about 7 or 8 dollars a bag. And there is an Organic option which doesn’t cost much more than the regular ones so you might opt for those. If I get them frozen, I let them do an overnight defrost (more like a full day) in the fridge – how long will depend on how thick they are. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, I always use the slow defrost method, as it is the best method for defrosting almost everything. If you rush the defrosting and say leave it out on the counter you will see liquid run out of the meat. Then your chicken will be drier no matter how you cook them. Naturally if you prefer to use fresh boneless chicken breasts, this same cooking method works equally well with fresh breasts. Fresh of course is the “normal” way I would buy chicken pre-Covid-19 and have also at times bought fresh breasts on sale, trim them up and freeze them myself. It’s just a little more work, but when they are $1.99 /lb on sale at my supermarket, its worth it.

Here’s the general outline of this method: Season/Marinate. Sear on both sides. Turn off heat. COVER PAN. WAIT.

HOW TO COOK JUICY BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS :

Prep and trim the breasts. Season and/or marinate the meat (use a spice rub or marinade). In the picture above I used some TJ TACO SEASONING all over the breasts. Its a convenient spice blend I think actually works well with chicken as well as beef. Its a cumin and chile “mexican” spice blend. AJIKA works great too. Of course any mix or blend of spices of your choosing will work. Smoked Spanish Paprika is great to add as it helps browning and is very flavorful (TJ carries it in a tin). I almost always add fresh garlic. Rub spices all over. Salt/pepper to taste. Let the seasoned chicken marinate/sit for 20-30 minutes on the counter. TIP: Rub some Olive Oil (EVOO) over the chicken before adding the spices and they will stick better. Some people like a sprinkle of some coating (a bit of flour, or breadcrumbs or Panko). What we are going for is a nice golden brown color on both sides of the chicken.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil (or oil and butter mix) in your pan (Non-stick or Cast Iron). Cast iron is terrific. Get your pan hot on medium heat. Add chicken breasts and let them sear: DO NOT TOUCH or move the breasts in the pan for 3-5 minutes until you see a good “Golden Brown and Delicious” sear on the bottom. Good browning is crucial for flavor (aka the Maillard effect). When bottom side is done, use a spatula and flip the breasts over and cook the other side – but only about 2-3 minutes on side two (!) Now turn off the fire and immediately put a tight fitting lid on your pan. Do not peek or open the cover for 7-10 minutes (we don’t want to let the precious steam that will finish cooking them) TIP: (optional) Squeeze a quarter lemon in the pan before closing the lid, quickly. Throw the peel in too. Set your timer for 7-10 minutes to let the breasts finish cooking in the covered pan. Thats the whole trick, letting residual steam and heat finish them, slowly. Voila! Juicy Breasts with a ton of flavor.

This little trick to cook juicy boneless breasts is that easy. With this method, the seared breasts are not cooked all the way through the middle but will finish cooking in the “closed, moist environment” inside the pan. Now you may have to play around with your own actual timing, adjusting a little bit either more or less based on thickness of chicken and what type of pan (thicker pans and cast iron hold heat well). What we are aiming for in the cooking is getting them just over the line of seeing any pink or rawness. After they are just past the point of not being pink you get them out of the pan and rest them on a plate or cutting board for about 4-5 minutes (some foil over them will help keep them warm). Resting keeps juices in. The breasts should be cooked through (don’t slice before resting them, but once rested you can “peek” in a thick section). Remember meats continue cooking a bit from residual heat inside.

In the photo the bigger thicker piece did need another 30-60 seconds to finish cooking completely so I just put it back with the cover on with a lowish flame for one minute. Its way easier if they are a bit underdone to cook them a little bit more then overcook them. You can also make shallow slashes in the thicker part of a breast prior to seasoning them to help even things out with the thinner parts as heat will penetrate the slashed part easier. Or you can pound the thick part flat with a pan a bit which will even them out. Anyway give this method a few tries and you will figure out your exact timings depending on a few factors (chicken thickness, heat source, pan thickness, etc). Electric stoves of course have a great deal of residual heat after they are shut off so Wait Time would really need to be much less (or just move the pan to a cool burner). If your chicken is still coming out “dry” with this Sear & Cover Method, you will need to deduct a minute of the outside browning time especially after you turn them. Conversely if its pink in the thickest part add a tiny bit more time. You can also try it with the lid on for the second side browning, but deduct a minute or two as the steaming effect inside the pan will be more intense. Now that you know this sear and cover method, you can experiment. If you like the results please let us know in the COMMENTS section.

Naturally serving these with a tasty sauce is great for flavor plus keeping things moist too. Try yogurt and Green Dragon or Zhoug -or- yogurt and lemon, or just deglaze the pan with a tiny bit of stock, wine or even just water and using the scrapings, and a bit of butter to make a few tablespoons of pan sauce. If you want a slightly thick sauce, add a pinch of cornstarch slurry.

Hope you enjoy this basic technique. If you want to explore cooking boneless breasts by poaching them instead of grilling, the Kitchn has a detailed explanation and good cooking technique for POACHED BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS (LINK BELOW) Poaching is great for moistness, but you don’t get the intense flavor of grilling.

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

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