TJ’s TRAIL MIX CRACKERS


Trader Joe’s Trail Mix Crackers with mung beans, seeds, cashews, raisin, and cheese.

OMG. Crispy, crunchy, nutty, cheesy, raisin-y, sweet and salty… Just outstanding and a very original cracker. Each cracker supposedly is fixed up by hand, to place a cashew nut on it. These are seriously delicious. So much so that I promise you they will go fast, they just seemed to evaporate into thin air (ok more like your mouth). Plus you don’t get that many in a bag, so a little expensive, but very wonderful. Oh, and while delicious as-is right out of the bag there is no law that says you can’t top these with something to boot…like maybe a thin slice of CHEDDAR? Some peanut butter perhaps? About $2.50 a bag (4.5 oz).

TJ SAYS https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/065411

TJ’s Organic Five Country Espresso blend coffee (whole bean, dark roast)


Trader Joe’s Organic Fair Trade FIVE COUNTRY ESPRESSO blend, whole bean, dark roast coffee

If you’re want espresso or dark roast coffee the options at Trader Joe’s are a little more limited compared to the light and medium roast coffees. Now don’t get me wrong, light and medium roast coffees are wonderful and a terrific choice for most coffee lovers, especially those who make coffee using a pour-over or French press method. However if you make espresso, either with an espresso machine or even in a Moka pot (as I have started doing recently for Moka Pot Espresso) then you likely want whole beans in the darkest roast possible. You will grind the beans yourself just before too, for maximum aroma and flavor…you know, the way your typical coffee geek (like yours truly) will do.

TJ’s FIVE COUNTRY ESPRESSO whole bean is a very good coffee for espresso, moka pot and all dark roast coffee lovers. It’s especially terrific when you first open up the can, when you’ll get the aroma and see super shiny beans just glistening with oil, which is what fresh espresso roast looks like. Once the beans get exposed to air they’ll look less shiny, in about 3-5 days however they still taste pretty good. TIP: you can parcel up the beans in a number of small ziplock bags, freeze them, and take out bags as needed.

These beans are from FIVE different countries….El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Sumatra, Indonesia (wow huh?). Grinding this coffee will release an intense aroma. Another dark roast coffee option at TJ is the very good CAFE PAJARO.

FIVE COUNTRY ESPRESSO WHOLE BEAN COFFEE; $8.99 (13 oz)

MOKA POT – If you are interested in getting one, there’s a link below to one of the more inexpensive Moka Pots (Primula) on Amazon. The original Bialetti Moka Pot is excellent of course but a bit pricey. (note: cups in this case refers to tiny espresso cup 2-3 oz) I like the “9 cup” Moka Pots for doing Cafe Con Leche for 2.

https://amzn.to/3p9W2rW

Disclosure: as an Amazon affiliate I may earn a tiny bit from your purchase at no additional cost to you

TJ’s Mini Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches


Trader Joe’s 12 Mini Mint Ice Cream Mouthfuls – Mint Chip Ice Cream between chocolate cookie wafers

Tiny. Bites. Yummy. Delicious. Minty. Chocolatey. Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Each one is maybe 2 or 3 bites, so they go down easy (too easy! I could eat 6) They’re not too sweet, the mint ice cream matches perfectly together with the chocolate cookie. Let them stay in the freezer till they are nice and firm and as hard as possible. $4 a box. A box will go fast! 1 mini sandwich is 60 calories.

TJ’s Italian Style Meatballs


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

Were these TJ’s cooked meatballs anywhere as good as if my made my own homemade meatballs – which in all modesty are pretty damn good? Of course not, nor would I expect them to taste like home cooking. Never the less these meatballs were actually pretty tasty, and we did enjoy them for dinner. So it might be worth your giving them a try.

The dish I made with these beef meatballs turned out quite tasty. I made my own tomato sauce, a really quick & easy one (big tablespoon of tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, onion, can of diced tomatoes, grated pecorino cheese and fresh basil). I put the meatballs in the sauce and simmered them for 30 minutes to get them imbued with the flavor of the sauce. They turned out well except, my one small complaint about them, a slightly rubbery texture. Honestly though it may be my fault. I don’t know if this was due to my method of defrosting them (or lack thereof in this case). I confess I rushed it. I didn’t thaw them in the fridge as I would normally have done and always recommend. This was kind of a last minute dinner idea and I thought maybe I could just put the frozen meatballs into the sauce and slowly warm them and defrost them in the sauce. So I am wondering if perhaps this is why they were slightly rubbery. Anyway I served the meatballs with the sauce and some of that fantastic Country Loaf bread I had found at TJ and we did kind of a “meatball sub” thing with them. It was actually delicious. A few night’s later, I made Ziti with the leftover meatballs & sauce which was quite tasty. So my take is these are pretty good and 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 promise myself I will do next time. Also I will brown the thawed meatballs even more first before cooking them in sauce in good olive oil. I recommend one definitely simmer them in a sauce for 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 Meatless, which you will find near these.

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

FAST EASY TOMATO SAUCE and MEATBALLS: Take 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook it in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced garlic and diced onion and cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally till translucent. Add a can (or two) of Diced Tomato, rinsing out the can with a little water (or wine) to get everything. Simmer on low 30-40 minutes, with the thawed meatballs. Add Italian Seasonings. Optionally add capers, and some Bomba. When serving, add grated Parm, Asiago or Grana and if you have some fresh basil, lovely. Serve with either pasta or bread for a meatball hero.

TJ’s Rosemary Sfoliette Italian Crackers


Trader Joe’s ROSEMARY SFOGLIETTE, Thin and Crunchy, Italian Rosemary Crackers

Not too fancy, a bit even on the plain side which is sometimes just what you want in a cracker to set up whatever topping you are putting on the cracker. I really like these. Product of Italy. Delicate rosemary flavor. Top these with TJ’s Rosemary Ham and a slice of Rosemary Asiago cheese and I don’t know about you but that puts me in heaven. A bargain too at $1.69 a package.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/070151

“Our Italian supplier makes thin, hexagonal biscuits using wheat and rice flours, along with a combination of olive and sunflower oils. The crackers are seasoned with dried rosemary & sea salt and baked until they possess the ideal crunch. They’re thin and crisp, but not overly fragile. And they present the wonderful aroma and flavors of rosemary and olive oil. As you could imagine, Rosemary Sfogliette make great snack crackers—with or without cheese. They’re also a formidable companion for your favorite bowl of soup!”

TJ’s Indian Fare (pouch) Yellow TADKA DAL


Trader Joe’s INDIAN FARE YELLOW TADKA DAL is “A savory, creamy and spicy blend of lentils and spices” (PRODUCT OF INDIA)

Trader Joe’s has quite a bit of Indian foods on offer, some in the frozen foods section as well as some non-frozen ones too, such as this line of Indian dishes which comes in pouches. Some of these I’ve tried are really good, especially this one, TADKA DAL.

We ate this TADKA DAL last night and I have to say I found it surprisingly tasty, I’m mean as in “This tastes like it came from an Indian restaurant” level good. This Tadka Dal was very flavorful and nicely spiced with a wee bit of heat going on. I put it in a pan on top of the stove (they suggest heating in hot water). If you serve this dal with a few other things, you have a nice easy dinner… We had this with another dish plus cooked Basmati rice, some Garlic Naan, Mango Chutney and a salad (TJ’s has a new Indian condiment, “Garlic Achar” which I want to try) If you add at least one other dish to the Dal such as TJ’s CHANNA MASALA you can have an easy and quite tasty pretty authentic Indian dinner.

These TJ’s “Indian Fare” products come in sealed plastic pouches, which are are shelf stable and are not a bad deal at about $2 each (10 oz bags) I find these pouches of Indian dishes are great things to have in the pantry for whenever we’re in the mood for Indian food, or come home and don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to order out.

I have not tried all of these Indian Fare pouches but there are a few varieties on offer. This Tadka Dal one is excellent and worth your giving it a try. By the way, in case you want to know what “Tadka” refers to: Tadka translates as “tempering.” It is a method widely used in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and the mixture is added to a dish.

TADKA DAL: ingredients include yellow split peas, butter, oil, tomato, chili pepper, salt, cumin, onion, curry leaves, yest, mustard see, tumeric…. The Sodium level listed is a bit high, so compensate for that with other dishes (such as using less salt to make your rice)

VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN FREE

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.

TJ’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers


RAVE

Trader Joe’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers have the delectable flavor of Mexican Street Corn in a crispy snack….chipotle, habanero kick, smoky, spicy, heat…. Melt cheese over them for a punchy nacho, crumble atop scrambled eggs… Guacamole….” (from the package)

These may be the best chips Trader Joe’s sells. So good! Terrific product.

Trader Joe’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers are a spiced up version of the also excellent regular plain Trader Joe’s corn chip dippers. For this “Elote” version of the chips they add a lot of spices for a spicy delicious variation that recalls Mexican Street Corn (Elote). These are so flavorful and honestly they are pretty spicy* just eaten on their own. If you don’t eat these with something (say guacamole, dip, cheese….) your mouth will probably feel a bit on fire from the chipotle and habanero pepper seasonings. Still not crazy, a tolerable heat unless you’re really spicy-adverse. Naturally just like the plain versions, the shape of these thicker “dipper” shaped corn chips make them perfect to stand up to any dip of any kind without falling apart.

These match especially well eaten with other things, especially guacamole of course, or even just salsa. I even sometimes enjoy eating these Elote Corn Chips with something plain like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, which balances the heat level. You can even crumble these up and put them on things (they suggest atop scramble eggs, that should be great) If you just put grated cheese all over these for nachos you wouldn’t need any other spices, so I think these could make super easy nachos And naturally some beers will go great with these chips, to put out the fire in your mouth.

The Elote spice dippers costs a little more than the plain version of TJ’s Organic Corn Dippers (I think gone up to $2.99 now?)

UPDATE: * These don’t seem to be quite as spicy as they were before. I can’t tell if they’ve changed the recipe or maybe just the lot I got… (if anyone has ideas on this, please leave a comment) I have had a lot of experiences with some Trader Joe’s products I first tried getting “toned down” over time.

TJ’s Pain De Campagne (country bread loaf)


Trader Joe’s Pain De Campagne (French Country Bread) – Minimalist packaging huh? But trust me, if you see this bread, grab it. It’s delicious. In a bakery I’m thinking this would sell for about 6 or 7 bucks? Trader Joe’s had it for about $2.80 for just over a 1 lb. piece.

Ingredients include: Water, Unbleached Unbromated Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Rye Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Dark Beer…. We are talking serious bread folks, good bakery bread. Naturally this will greatly benefit from being refreshed with a baking or toasting in the oven for 10 minutes to get it crusty again.

I do find it pretty funny they write on the package: “Contains Wheat. May Also Contain Gluten”.

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. I tried it. Inside was soft black garlic, very weird. But the cloves of black garlic were absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a pretty amazing and unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This eventually vanished, or was discontinued? I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I notice this small jar in the spices section of “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/

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