TJ’s CRISPY COOKIES with Belgian chocolate


Trader Joe’s CRISPY COOKIES filled with Belgian chocolate

RAVE

There are my new favorite cookies. They are just delicious, and frankly very addictive. I can tell you the whole box went quite fast chez nous ! Well, they are small and there are only 18 in a box. Though TJ’s CRISPY COOKIES cookies don’t have butter listed in the ingredients they taste very good and are delicious due to the fact they are so loaded with a thick layer of nice Belgian chocolate in the middle. The outside cookie complements the chocolate well and as you can see, the chocolate layer is as thick as the cookie. These cost $2.49 a box. I may have to buy 2 boxes at a time in future.

And hide one for myself!

Trader Joe’s JUST BEETS beet juice


Trader Joe’s JUST BEETS – 100% beet juice with a splash of lemon

“Naturally sweetened with a subtle earthiness” As the name says this is “100% pure beet juice pressed from whole beets (with just a hint of lemon from concentrate)”. Trader Joe’s carries this in the refrigerated drinks section, so it’s fresh. Kind of what you might get if you went into one of those fancy juice bars except this was not made right in front of you by a cool tattooed up Juice Guy with a goatee throwing beets into a juicer who charges you seven bucks plus a tip. Still I think this tastes fresh enough so that if you shook it up hard, put it in a carryout cup with a cover, told me you just bought this from a cool tattooed juice guy I would probably have no reason to think otherwise 😉 Though it has a pretty long “good by” date, I think it tastes best within 3-5 days after you open the bottle so I drink it within a few days. Personally I would not down the whole bottle in one sitting, but rather a glass at a time. But you can if you want to. You get 20 oz for $3.99., which is probably less than a fancy juice bar would charge. I love beets. I like this juice. Healthy and good for you. Remember later in the bathroom to just remind yourself, “I’m OK. I had a lot of beets today.” Beets do that to you.

RAVE

TJ’s Smoked Ahi Tuna


Trader Joe’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna

I am crazy for most any smoked fish. Some nice smoked salmon on a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese is my idea of Heaven, or at least a heavenly Sunday breakfast. I also love Ahi Tuna, so when I saw this new product, Smoked Ahi Tuna it immediately said to me, “give this a try”.

TJ’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna is very, very lightly smoked. As in barely smoked. Unlike most smoked salmon, where you open up the package and really get a smoked fish aroma this is so light that its a mere hint. So to be honest, while I found TJ’s smoked ahi tuna to be kind of tasty it’s not anything like smoked salmon or most any smoked fish I’ve had. Maybe people who don’t love smoked fish might like this as it’s not strong, its light. It has a light pink color and looks rather pretty. There are some white thread-like areas (more on this later). It was cut a bit unevenly so it was a little thick in some places and thin in others. I found the thinner cut tuna tasted better than thicker areas. Cutting smoked fish by hand is an art.

One thing I didn’t like was some white thread-like areas, some of which when you ate them were tough and inedible. Like sinew.,,, if tuna have sinew? You can see the white areas in the package. So I carefully cut the densest of the white areas away before serving, which was a pain. These tough white areas seem like a lack of quality of the tuna and its preparation.

I served it by putting the smoked Ahi on top of halves of TJ’s Red Chile scalloped crackers (LOVE THESE!) spread with softened cream cheese mixed with a pinch of greek yogurt and lemon, and topped it all off with fresh dill. This actually did make a nice combination and a nice appetizer for us. Still our guests and I couldn’t help thinking it would have been better made with smoked salmon. So would I buy this again? Frankly I doubt it as it was not terribly special, was not great quality and I think the smoked salmon TJ sells is better for the same price. However if are not big on smoked fish and/or want to try something different for all I know you just might like this as it’s barely smoked fish. A package is $6.

Asiago Cheese with Rosemary & Olive Oil


“Rosemary and Olive Oil intensify the rich nutty Asiago flavor”. Yes, it does! TJ’s Asiago with Rosemary is an excellent, super tasty cheese. I was really impressed when I tasted it. Compared to the regular Asiago that Trader Joe’s carries, which frankly is just OK, this is way more flavorful. In this version the added flavor, especially that of rosemary which the cheese is liberally coated with, really benefits and expands the cheese’s flavor. It’s excellent just on its own, sliced thinly. Great on crackers. Great with wine. Obviously this cheese will be a great match with almost any Italian dish. I grated this and tossed a generous amount over sautéed gnocchi and it was absolutely delicious. If you try this with almost any pasta dish you will like it. This is great as a second or third cheese on a Pizza. I did one with it and people scarfed it up! Rosemary Asiago would be great on a cheese plate or charcuterie plate, especially with grapes or other fruits, and some nice crackers. Wine too, naturally! TJ sells this cheese for $9/lb a decent price for a premium cheese like this. Try this, you will love it.

RAVE

TJ MEYER LEMON COOKIE THINS


Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins

Very, very thin cookies with a wonderful lemon flavor. I’ve eaten them with coffee, tea, and milk. They go perfectly with anything. They are so thin, they go down fast and easy, and I found myself reaching for “just one more”. The package says “9 cookies is one serving” (no problem!) These cookies would look elegant for guests coming for tea or coffee. Whenever we have guests again, that is. About $3. Worth trying.

RAVE

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 Habanero/Lime flour tortillas have a bit of heat in them from habanero chiles, plus a bit of lime flavor. They also have a nice color with a reddish orange tint from anatto.

Last night, I made Quesadillas for dinner last night with the Habanero tortillas. Inside: 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 SauceRefritos on the side…. They were really tasty!

  • 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!

TJ’s GINGER HAND CREAM


RAVE

Trader Joe’s Ginger Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream ($4.99)

The package caught my eye. Catchy design. “Ginger? Hand cream?” That’s an interesting combination. I bought some for for my wife, a big hand cream user, to try. I asked her opinion of it….

“Fantastic product”

I put some on and sure enough, it smells great with a really nice clean ginger smell from “ginger root extract” (ZINGIBER OFFICINALE). It’s got a few recognizable ingredients (to me) the first two being shea butter and coconut oil. Personally what got my attention originally is the clean simply graphic design which is brave as they went with a text wraparound on the box with only half of “Ginger” hanging off the top of the box in a long narrow San Serif type. Notice how your brain just completes the word?

I’m going with my wife’s 2 word review, a “fantastic product” (and she’s tough so that’s a double RAVE) a reasonable price, smells great, and works great to moisturize your skin. What’s not to like? At a big name beauty shop this would cost double the price. Another good health and beauty product from Trader Joe’s. Worth trying.

gingerhandcream2

Trader Joe’s SHAKSHUKA STARTER (bring your eggs)


RAVE

Ever hear of SHAKSHUKA ? It’s become kind of cool and trendy in the US. Shakshuka is a popular dish all over the Middle East and North Africa, consisting of peppers and onions in a spicy tomato sauce in which eggs are poached in the sauce. Eaten with fresh pita / bread, it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner! It’s delicious and one currently see’s it in trendy restaurants around the US.

In this version found in TJ’s frozen section they have come up with a “Shakshuka starter” kit meaning this is the base sauce to which you add at an egg or two to finish it, and possibly some other things optionally. I took the package, ran some hot water on the bottom to loosen it up and then slid the contents into a pan (personally I like to cook with fire, I’m not big on microwave). I used my trusty, small black cast iron pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover the pan and cook for about 6-7 minutes till nice and bubbly. When ready, make indentations with the back of a spoon, and carefully slide the eggs into the depressions. If you are talented, you can crack your eggs directly in. If not crack them into a little cup first, then pour them in. Whatever you do try not to break the yolks. The runny yolks will be important to the final dish. Put a cover back on the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Ideally we want the yolks runny. Well at least I do. I also added some cubes of Feta Cheese sprinkled around the top before covering the pan, which adds some great flavor.

Take off your cover and tuck in. You can bring the pan to the table and eat it right out of the pan – typical for shakshuka – or carefully spoon it with the whole egg onto a plate. Drizzle on some very good virgin olive oil, maybe add some chopped parsley, and break the yolks so they run all over. Mop up the eggs and sauce with a spoon and lots of bread like Pita bread (or Naan). This amount is only 9 oz, so say one portion. So you should probably make one for each person. YUMMY!

OPTIONS: you can sauté up some more red peppers and garlic in olive oil if you like and add them in. As noted, cheese such as FETA is very nice addition too. Something spicy like HARISSA, BOMBA, OR GREEN DRAGON sauce to give it some kick is a must IMO. This is not spicy as is. It’s only $1.99. Worth a try.

Here’s a NY Times piece on Shakshuka by Melissa Clark with her recipe (may need registration to read)

Rutland Red Leicester Cheese


RAVE

rutlandredcheese

If you are a cheese lover – I certainly am – you will probably really like this, Rutland Red Leicester. I found it a very interesting cheese and terrific new find. This is a special cheese, I mea a kind of quality hand-made artisanal cheese that one might find in a high end gourmet cheese shop… yet you can buy it at TJ’s (well while they still carry it, don’t tarry, just in case their supply doesn’t last). When my eye caught it in TJ’s cheese section, I first thought it was a French cheese which looks the same and is a favorite of mine called “Mimolette“.

This reddish orange cheese is however from England and is in vein of a true English cheddar. Red Leicester has a wonderful nutty flavor and crumbly texture. Red Leicester is a traditional hard English cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, and is produced in the county of Leicestershire which is up in England’s Midlands. Leicester City is well known for two things these days, Richard III‘s bones and its football team winning the English Premier League a few years back as a 500-1 underdog!

Supposedly the history of Red Leicester cheese dates back to the 17th century when farmers decided that the color of the cheese should denote its richness and to set it apart from cheddar, they decided to give it a reddish color using annatto, a natural vegetable dye.The wheels of cheese are coated in butter to make it richer then wrapped in cloth (i.e., a “cloth-bound”cheese ). Rutland Red Leicester is dense and has that “aged cheese” look and taste with a crumbly flaky texture and has an edible orange rind. I like it sliced very thinly. It’s excellent served on a cracker or toast or with fruit such as apples or grapes. It would probably pair wonderfully with wine, a white or a light red. I also found it melts very well and is delicious melted or cooked (grilled cheese with this, yes!)

If you put this on a cheese plate for guests it would surely get attention and questions. I’m sure the terrific English striker of Leicester FC Jamie Vardy would love this cheese. Well I do. TJ’s sells Rutland Red Leicester for $10 a pound -in a cheese shop this would be a $20/lb cheese, so once again, a TJ bargain.

“As the cheese ages, the butter keeps it moist, and the cloth seals in the butter, resulting in a super crumbly texture that simply melts in your mouth.”

Here’s a link to Trader Joe’s post on it. If you are interested, get this while you still can, it may not be there forever, unfortunately.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/rutland-red-leicester-cheese

Trader Joe’s CUBAN SPICE SEASONING BLEND


or to be more accurate as TJ’s calls it, Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend”

This CUBAN STYLE SPICE BLEND seasoning is a new TJ’s spice blend. It’s really good. This spice blend gives a nice Sabor Latino to almost anything.

TJ says it is inspired by the classic Cuban (Dominican / Puerto Rican) “mojo” which is a Caribbean sauce mixture that includes garlic, citrus (bitter orange or lime juice) oregano, and sometimes other things like cilantro and chiles. Mojo sauce is used both as a marinade and a sauce on the side for roasted chicken and pork. I used to eat “pollo a la brasa” like this (at El Malecon up near the GW bridge. Their rotisserie chicken is famous and amazing.) The little container of green sauce is their Mojo…. lots of cilantro, garlic and jalapeño)

If you’re interested in making MOJO SAUCE yourself sometime here’s one recipe I found online: MOJO (Saveur)

Back to this spice blend: I tried this on many different foods. It’s yummy. Interesting that they’ve managed to get the citrus acidity into a powder. Dried lime and lime oil? Aha! Thats how.

This is good and useful to jazz up many things. Try it as a rub on your poultry, meat or fish, or grilled tofu for that matter. Or grilled veggies. BEANS! Fo’ shure. I added it to black beans and it was outstanding making the beans from bland to yummy, adding much flavor. Try a little bit on/in your eggs. Put some in your next rice dish. I cooked rice with about a teaspoon thrown into the water and it was great. Sprinkle it on top of an avocado or avocado toast (yum!) or tacos, tostadas, quesadillas!

It was terrific for making grilled chicken breasts BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS – How To Cook Them Nice and Juicy!

Was equally great seasoning for sautéed (and poached) ARGENTINA RED SHRIMP! argentinian red shrimp

I sometimes add more real lemon or lime juice too with this, for even more citrus-y flavor! You will like this blend. Cuban Style Seasoning can jazz up lots of things that you will discover it works well with.

Its worth checking out for $1.99 for a jar.

PS – Ooo, this spice was excellent with SHRIMP (marinate 20 mins) Or any fish for that matter….

Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend is essentially a blend of garlic, lime oil, lime juice, onion powder, salt, and red pepper—plus bay leaves, coriander, cumin, cilantro, black pepper, oregano, cilantro, basil, lemon oil, marjoram, and parsley to round it out. It’s all the essential flavors you’d find in common Cuban cuisine, packaged in one little jar…

RAVE

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