TJ’s Channa Masala (frozen)


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. Their “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)

TJ’s Hot & Sweet Jalapeños


RAVE

TJ’s Hot & Sweet Jalapeño Slices

These are SO good! Another simply Brilliant condiment which Trader Joe’s seems especially good at coming up with. These are sliced picked jalapeños plus sweetness from organic cane sugar so they are Hot & Sweet which makes for an even improved version over TJ’s regular pickled jalapeños which are quite good too. Now know that these are SPICY! Spicier than the regular TJ pickled jalapeños. There are whole dried red chilis in the jar plus it says pureed jalapeños too to ramp up the heat level.

My wife and I dream up new ideas for things to put these on. Last night we put them on top of grilled hamburgers (on toasted brioche bread). Ok this is a no-brainer of course they were freakin’ delicious on our hamburgers… or hot dogs or sausages or sandwiches. For breakfast this morning I put a few slices of these hot and sweet babies on my toasted half a bagel with cottage cheese. They went perfectly with the mellow cottage cheese to spice up something that otherwise would be pretty boring. Great combo. The bottle has good suggestions on the label, such as add them chopped up to your guacamole. For that matter add some chopped up on top of your avocado toast! Grilled cheese? Oh yes, these go perfectly put some in with the cheese before you grill them so they mix into that melted cheese (chopped or whole if you want big spicy bites). Scrambled eggs? Oh yes, again delicious. Ditto with cream cheese and crackers. Brilliant. Especially with the Red Chili Crackers. For nachos? Another no-brainer. Finally do not ignore TJ’s suggestion about not wasting that leftover juice in the bottle for using in marinades. This hot and spicy pickle juice is amazing. I keep of bottle of just that in the fridge.

Here’s just one idea: SPICY CHICKEN – Marinate BONELESS CHICKEN (BREASTS or THIGHS) in the spicy juice for a 1 hour. Then grill them with a sprinkle of Ajika Georgian seasoning. When done, spoon a little extra spicy syrup on top of the finished grilled breasts with their juices. Dot with a few slices of the jalapeños. You’re welcome.

$2.50/12 oz jar

TJ’s Washable PAPER PLACE MATS


Trader Joe’s Washable Paper Placemats

Wait up, what….?!!! Trader Joe’s sells place mats? Yeah you read that right. These place mats recently appeared in the New Products “home goods” area at my TJ. Looking at them they so totally say “IKEA” cool to me. These intrigued me, then reading the label about how they’re made from “Supernatural Paper” (!) that really got me interested. Honestly I’m always intrigued that TJ’s has any home goods type things at all. They seem to especially appear around the holidays (I slightly regret not getting some olive wood bowls and cutting boards I saw last Xmas but they were a bit pricey even for TJ’s, but they looked beautiful and handmade). Anyway since we needed to replace some old place mats and these were just $10 bucks for a set of 4, I just grabbed them in kind of an impulse buy. I picked a darkish color out of the 4-5 colors on offer as I thought this darker grey / green color would hide dirt best. These mats are on the thin side meaning when you pick up a glass that was on them you may see a little ring depression where it was, but it brushed out easily by just swiping it with my fingers. They have what I might call all kind of faux leather texture. Feels a little like thick waxed rubbery paper? I believe there are two pieces sown together. “MADE WITH SUPERNATURAL PAPER (cellulose and latex). Latex = rubber. They say “CAN BE WASHED” (hand wash separately). I think I will avoid that if possible, and just wipe/wash them daily. Wiping them clean with a soapy sponge seems to work fine. I had a little stain from some food and just wiped the mat with a damp rag with a little soap and that took off the stain as I hoped. So the rubbery, waxy covering seems to work. I like them for a change from our textile place mats. My wife complained about the white stitching they have on the edges but that doesn’t bother me at all, I kind of like it. They have a funky feel going on…in a good Ikea way. The more I have used them and lived with them I have grown to like them more and really dig the funky Ikea-ness of these.

If you see them, check them out at least with a feel and see what you think. They are $10 for set of 4 mats ($2.50 each) and come in about 5 or 6 colors. Personally I would lean to the dark / earthy colors for hiding stains.

I found this online. Are they the makers of “Supernatural Paper”?

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

BONELESS PORK TENDERLOIN (with recipe ideas)


Another one of those things that I get almost every time I go to Trader Joe’s as it’s delicious and an extremely versatile thing to have in the fridge (or freezer) as well as a real bargain.

If you are not familiar with “pork tenderloin” let’s put it this way… If this was beef it would be the filet mignon. The best melt-in-your-mouth deliciously tender cut. One big difference? Beef filet mignon costs about $15-20/lb or more? But this “pork filet mignon” sells for $4/lb at Trader Joe’s. A $5 piece can feed a family. So deliciously tasty as well as super affordable.

Trader Joe’s sells 4 versions of the pork tenderloin. “Plain”, 2 marinated ones (peppercorns and garlic & herbs) that cost a bit more but come on, it’s so easy to do a marinade of your own in a few minutes. TJ also sells a “crate free” pork tenderloin if you prefer which is $6/lb. At Whole Foods I’m just guessing this would cost double that price?

Boneless pork tenderloin is a lean cut with almost no waste. It sometimes has a “silverskin” which should be removed before cooking. This is not very hard, you just need a very sharp knife.

I frequently just cut the tenderloin into “medallions” or steaks about 1/2-3/4 ” thick, season them, and cook them as one might cook filet mignon. Or one can cook it whole in a pan, then slice it afterwards (deglazing the pan after for a pan sauce). Cut the meat into strips, and this is so perfect for Asian dishes & stir-fry’s. Or Fajitas or Tacos! Whole, its great for roasting in the oven. Pork tenderloin can be an impressive center-piece of a fancy dinner (See the stuffed roast pork tenderloin video recipe below) Another tip: Be sure not to overcook tenderloin, as it’s so lean it can easily get overcooked and dried out. A correct cook of tenderloin should have a bit of pink (trust me, it’s safe and fine) TIP: Slice slits in the meat and insert thin slices of garlic all over.

Seasonings for pork tenderloin? You can not go wrong with any of these: garlic, lemon, rosemary, cumin, peppercorns…. and AJIKA!

TIP for Asian stir frying: The Chinese technique of Velveting any meat for 20 minutes will make it even better.

https://www.theendlessmeal.com/baked-pork-tenderloin/

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/healthy-pork-tenderloin-recipes

This is a terrific looking, easy recipe from Milk Street, SPICE CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN BITES

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 TZATZIKI Greek Dip / Sauce


Trader Joe’s TZATZIKI Creamy Garlic Cucumber Sauce / Dip

Tzatziki is a delicious creamy Greek sauce traditionally made with Greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon, and a ton of garlic. Unless you are lucky enough to have a Greek Yaya (grandma) who makes homemade Tzatziki for you to take home, Trader Joe’s version is perhaps the next best thing. TJ’s version is quite good. I tried it and would buy it again. Tzatziki is a great sauce to have when you make chicken Shawarma or anything grilled, it would be great served even with grilled veggies. It can be served as a dip or can even be used as a salad dressing with some more lemon and olive oil. TJ’s Tzatziki has the first ingredient listed as cucumber, and you can really see this even in the pictures here. This gives it a very little crunchiness. TJ’s version next lists kefir cheese and sour cream (maybe instead of yogurt?) A bit different than if you made it yourself. I does have a bit of dill which I like. I got it for when I was thinking of making Shawarma which I served on top of TJ’s Garlic Naan and it was the perfect sauce for that. Its $3.49 for a 12 oz container.

Want to make Tzatziki yourself? Here’s a link to recipe if you want to try your hand

https://cookieandkate.com/how-to-make-tzatziki/

BTW, this matches well with Indian foods, as it’s a bit similar to Raita

The NY Times had a recipe for Tzatziki Potato Salad which sounds interesting. Here’s the link https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022307-tzatziki-potato-salad

(registration might be needed)

TJ’s AJIKA Georgian Spice 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 display. Frankly I had never heard of Ajika before seeing this at TJ. 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 blend which is based on the typical Georgian-Abkhaz (formerly USSR) condiment. Anyway this TJ seasoning is AMAZING! This is a terrific addition to all of thier “international spice blends” TJ seems very good at figuring out.

TJ’s AJIKA Georgian Seasoning Blend contains ground red chile (not super hot ones) with ground coriander, fenugreek, dried garlic, marigold (marigold?! yes the flower dried and ground up!) and a little salt. Garlicky, (mildly) spicy it is more flavorful spicy than hot spicy. Honestly the combination of all of these spices together is fantastic. Seriously delicious, I couldn’t stop sprinkling it on so many foods. It tastes quite unique to my taste buds. Is it the Fenugreek? The marigold? Which by the way I learn is very typical of Georgian Azkaban cuisine. It’s a combination of all of these things. I had made some sautéed yellow peppers and zucchini cooked in olive oil and put a good amount of this Ajika into it and it was delicious, adding wonderful flavors to the grilled veggies. I also sprinkled Ajika on top of a bagel with tomato and cream cheese and again it added a great taste. I tried in on cottage cheese, which was boring no more, they were perfect together. Its so good you begin to wonder, what is this not good on? I will try this on grilled boneless chicken breasts, it will be an excellent seasoning for chicken or pork or steak or fish.

The coriander and fenugreek are stand out flavorings that are not typical for our (American) palates. 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 this is so much more flavorful and tasty. 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. Go nuts with this. I know I am. The internet apparently is going crazy for this. 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 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!

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