TJ’s CAULIFLOWER CRISPS SNACK


GLUTEN FREE CRACKERS / SNACKS. With Cauliflower, brown rice, coconut milk, seeds and seasonings

Personally I’m not Gluten Free myself but saw these and wanted to try these for review, and review is taste-wise, these are excellent, delicious crackers, even quite tasty plain by themselves. When I tried them with a small slice of cheese they were even better. Very yummy. Still the reality is price-wise, these crackers are a bit expensive. You don’t get very many for your money, the whole package has only about 30 crackers in it and trust me, these things went down fast and easy. They’re just about one bite. So very good, but would I buy them again? I doubt I will, not because they’re not good, they’re super tasty crackers, I just deem them too pricey. But again I do not have to be gluten free, but if you are and you want yummy Gluten Free crackers, these are terrific if pricey.

TJ’s MULTISEED RICE CRACKERS with Tamari


Trader Joe’s Savory Thin Mini Multiseed RICE CRACKERS with Tamari Soy Sauce (GLUTEN FREE)

These are delicious little savory mini rice crackers in the Japanese vein (aka “senbei“). Each is tiny, a little bigger than a nickel so quite literally bite size. They are crunchy and tasty, great on their own out of the package. Or top them with whatever you can think of (cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, tuna salad, etc) They could make a great base for little mini bite sized hors d’ouvres (imagine for example a little cream cheese, smoked salmon, and dill).

Ingredients include brown rice and white rice flour plus sesame and flax seeds and tamari soy sauce. Though it doesn’t specifically say “Gluten Free” on the package but one can assume from the ingredients that these certainly are gluten free. An 8 oz bag costs $2.99. After you try them you may buy them two at a time if a package goes as fast in your house as it does in ours.

I just enjoyed them as a snack with a little dollop of cottage cheese and Green Dragon/GDS . YUMMY

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)

Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE (OAT MILK)


oatmilk1

Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE

Now I do still drink regular milk, which I prefer in my coffee and tea. However I have been trying to cut down on the amount of real (whole) milk I use on a daily basis, as I try to watch my cholesterol. Mostly now I use real milk to make my morning cappuccino and for putting in my tea.  But for some other uses where I formerly might have chosen real milk such as on my morning breakfast cereal, I’ve gotten pretty used to trying alternatives such Soy or Almond Milk. Having tried almost all the non-milk beverage alternatives, I saw this non-refrigerated “oat milk” beverage at Trader Joe’s when it was first introduced a few months back. TJ’s seemed to have it in many places all over the store to push its introduction. I tried it and guess what? I loved it. Its terrific! I really think this is a good “milk alternative beverage”, maybe for me it may be the best of all the alternative milk products, beating out soy milk and nut milks.

I also like that when you look at the label of you only see TWO INGREDIENTS – WATER and (hydolyzed) OATS. That’s it. At least in the shelf stable pack. The refrigerated one interestingly has more ingredients.

TJ’s OAT BEVERAGE has a creamy smooth taste with a subtle milky sweetness which is very pleasing. Basically this oat milk has taken the place for “other milk” I buy now, even over the almond stuff.

The label says: “who knew that oats and water could be mildly sweet“? Instead of adding cane sugar as an ingredient, we unearth the balanced sweetness by breaking down the starches present in oats to create sugar. The sugars created bring out a whole new flavor dimension. A smooth, creamy, mildly sweet and totally amazing beverage”

Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Basically this oat milk has taken the place for “other milk” I buy now, even over the almond stuff. A quart of the shelf stable Oat Beverage is $2.29. It’s very convenient to always have one in your cupboard.
Oh and by the way, as far as dairy farmers are concerned nothing except what comes out of a cow should be called “milk” and I totally support dairy farmers as if we lose more numbers of them, we are screwed.

RAVE

TJ ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA



Trader Joe’s (Giotto’s) ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA

 

Normally we eat pasta in my house at least once if not two or more times a week. My wife and I adore pasta. I’m good at making it. Or I should say “we used to” eat it that often! Recently my wife decided to try going “Gluten Free” and that has changed things not just for her but for “Us”. To keep life simple as far as eating and cooking, whats happened is basically we stopped eating pasta, much to my chagrin as you could say I’m a bit of a pasta freak. As Italians usually do, I could eat pasta almost every day. Really, I could be happy as a clam eating pasta every day, in fact I’d be super happy eating Linguine with clams!

So I really wanted to try something in the pasta department that we both could eat together, meaning I would give “Gluten Free Pasta” a try.

So I saw this Red Lentil Pasta at TJ. Unfortunately I was not impressed with this for cooking as a substitute for regular pasta. For me at least – that is someone who can eat gluten and wheat products – this lentil pasta would not be something I would willingly sub in for my “normal” pasta.

TJ Red Lentil Pasta is made from “red lentil flour”. Its even made in Italy! (I can imagine them rolling their eyes at making this stuff for all those crazy Americans) Uncooked, it looks quite nice, like a beet colored pasta. It has an interesting shape I was not familiar with, “sedanini”, a ridged, curved long ziti type shape.

When I cooked this, well this gluten free pasta just didn’t do it for me. This could never replace pasta for me, but again I don’t have to be Gluten Free. I had made a nice meat sauce sauce to go with this, a kind of Ragu for the lentil pasta, and cooked it up a bit with some some sauce just as I would normally prepare regular pasta. When we ate the finished pasted with the sauce we both kept commenting on that it was just not the same as eating pasta. Honestly we didn’t really enjoy it due to the somewhat odd texture we found. It didn’t have the chew of pasta. It seemed to get kind a bit grainy or granular when chewed, not smooth like real pasta.

To top things, the GF pasta’s at TJ are a bit expensive as well. A 12 oz package goes for $3. This is about 2 to 3 times the cost of TJ’s extremely good “regular” pastas made with semolina flour.

So I wanted to like this but didn’t, as I don’t have to eat this. it was a choice. On the other hand, my “gluten free diet” wife, found it to be not great but OK as in it was kind of “acceptable” if you can’t eat normal pasta but you want to eat something like pasta. If you HAVE to be on a gluten free diet, then you may find it OK too. I can’t think this will fool anyone as an excellent substitute for real pasta. For me, its kind of fake pasta frankly. A knock off.

Still I will try some of the other gluten free pasta products TJ sells, and see if they work better than this one made from lentils. TJ does have a few gluten free pastas: a black bean ziti, and a spaghetti made from brown rice and lentils. So if you must be gluten free, try all three and see which you like best out of what they have to offer. So just saying if you must be gluten free, then there are a few choices. Everyone raves about the Cauliflower Gnocchi (frozen). Again I tried it. I found it pretty good, but I still prefer TJ’s regular gnocchi. If you don’t need to be GF, like me, I find regular pasta and related products are superior to any GF ones.

If you are not gluten free and want an excellent pasta, get TJ’s Organic Spaghetti or Ziti. That is excellent high quality pasta, made in Italy, and is the equal to top Italian import brands sold in the US for 3-6 times what TJ’s sells it for, $1.29 for 1 lb, which is an excellent value.

If you are GF then this may be OK for you with a lot of sauce.

 

TJ Fresh Mozzarella Log


I think I can get this review in just in time for End of Summer when one can get excellent tomatoes. The perfect thing to pair with some perfectly ripe, juicy farm fresh tomatoes is this Trader Joe’s Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. Unlike the firmer, drier “pizza” mozzarella, fresh mozzarella is a milky soft fresh cheese. Fresh mozzarella is perfect for pairing with tomatoes, basil and good virgin olive oil for a super easy and delicious classic: a “Caprese Salad” (Insalata Caprese) Caprese Salad is the simplest of Italian salads, with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, dressed with olive oil. Like Pizza Margherita, it features the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, red.

This mozzarella is shaped as a log and is pre-sliced into rounds which makes this super convenient and easy. Open it, and put some mozz on a plate with sliced tomatoes. You can arrange them artistically, alternating tomato and round of cheese if you want to impress, but even just cutting the slices into quarters and tossing with cubed tomatoes is fine! Douse with some good extra virgen olive oil, of course! Sometimes I add a few capers and a little of the caper liquid. With some good bread you have a super easy dinner or lunch and a small slice of heaven ready in minutes -especially if you can find some great tomatoes. Serve this salad to guests and they will love it. And its also good of course just eaten as is, put on a cheese plate, or making a terrific sandwich.


A 1 lb package is $4.99, which for fresh mozzarella is as usual, a pretty good deal chez Trader Joes.

NO-RECIPE RECIPE CAPRESE SALAD (INSULATE CAPRESE): Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella. Tear up a good number of fresh basil leaves and sprinkle them all over everything,  arranging the salad on a large, shallow plate or platter. Drizzle the salad with good extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (OPTIONAL: some jarred capers with some of their juice, or a very small amount of a vinegar) Serve with a nice crusty bread.

(Post Summer) If you can’t get great tasting beefsteak tomatoes get the small cherry egg shaped Italian tomatoes Trader Joe’s carries. They are a little expensive but are really tasty, cut in half, and mix up with cut up mozzarella …..

RAVE

Trader Joe’s SAUERKRAUT with Persian cucumbers


SAUERKRAUT – German for “sour cabbage”

If like yours truly, you love sauerkraut then you will find that this TJ product is probably the best sauerkraut you ever tried. According to Trader Joe’s website they say even if you don’t like it now, this may change your mind about SAUERKRAUT. Now, that’s confidence in your product, huh?! Unlike commercially made mass-produced sauerkraut which is cooked and has vinegar added to it, this sauerkraut is a raw, fermented product. TJ says its made by a small batch producer in the traditional way, which is simply cabbage treated with salt, left to ferment for a period of time. So Old School. This is the real McCoy in Sauerkraut. It has pickled Persian cucumbers in it too, which are nice and add a little more crunch and variety. This Sauerkraut goes perfectly with hot dogs, of course, and sausages and would especially be great of course with the German made BAVARIAN BRATWURST previously reviewed, with a Rave. As we know now, fermented foods are very good for your digestive system, gut health and overall health in general. It’s considered healthy to eat something fermented on a regular or daily basis. A spoonful of this – or kimchi or kefir – and your gut will be aces.

Trader Joe’s Sauerkraut with Persian cucumbers is $3.99 for a 14 oz. container. Ingredients:, Cabbage, Persian Cucumbers, Salt, Garlic.

Trader Joe’s COFFEE BEAN BLAST Ice Cream


Do you love coffee?

Do you love ice cream?

Then this is for you.

OMG amazingly good. Very good coffee flavor.

TIP: I improved it even more by sprinkling a little bit (or more) of very finely ground espresso coffee on top. Double Yum!

About $4 if I remember. Worth it.

Excellent TJ product.

 

RAVE

DISCONTINUED: Trader Joe’s Rice Sticks (Boo Hiss!)


RANT

TJ’s Rice Sticks. I tried them once, and wrote a Rave post about them including a recipe. What happens next? Not a week later do I notice I don’t see them on the shelf anymore. At TJ’s, you know that feeling, uh-oh is this item going bye-bye? Sure enough I inquired at the front desk a week after that and the TJ’s manager looks them up on the computer. He tells me, “Sorry but the Rice Sticks have been discontinued’. Damn, damn, damn. Another fave gone bye-bye. Had I known, I would have purchased a dozen packs and squirreled them away for the future.

Discontinued and Trader Joe’s. Two words that seem to go hand and hand, huh?

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH (the TJ website)…

5. Why does TJ’s frequently discontinue products?

Our mission is to bring you the best quality products at the best prices. To do this, we have to manage our store space well. Each of our products must “stand on its own,” meaning it must pay its own way. Each product passes certain criteria in order to earn its way onto our shelves – including a rigorous tasting panel.

There may be several factors that determine why we discontinue products:

  • It may be a seasonal product – for example, strawberries, which are in season only specific times of the year.
  • The gang way factor – because we introduce 10-15 new products a week, we have to eliminate 10-15 items in order to give our newest items a fair chance.
  • The cost of producing the item may increase, which would in turn increase the cost to you – if the item is not a strong seller, we may choose to discontinue it.
(Whatever TJ’s. If I want THAI RICE STICKS in future, I will go back to getting them at Asian markets like I used to before I met you.)
POSTSCRIPT: Lots of comments on this item. Especially from Gluten-free diet folks…

TJ’s Rice Sticks (and recipe)


Noodles: I love them all. Any kind, any shape. Pasta, Spaghetti, Lasagna, Udon, Soba, LoMein and its cousin Ramen. One of my favorite kinds are fresh rice noodles (Ho Fun, Chow Fun) sold freshly made in large soft blocks. I have my favorite “Rice Noodle Lady” in Chinatown who sells from a open storefront on Grand Street and Bowery that I always buy from whenever I am in that area. She sells packages of rice noodles and other things. My favorite kind have dried shrimp and scallion mixed in. Most things she sells a $1; theres usually a line of people waiting to buy from her.

Fresh rice noodles are amazing but dried Rice Noodles are good too. They come in all shapes and sizes. These “Rice Sticks” or as Trader Joe’s says, “Thai Style Pasta” are a medium wide, flat rice noodle which is versatile, and can be used in a variety of ways for almost any Asian style dish, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese… Simply boiled, boiled then stir fried, added to soups, stews, etc. They have a nice chewy texture (don’t overcook them).  The package says Made in Thailand. Ingredients: Rice Flour, water (so good for Gluten free diets).

Here is what I did with them, improvising a dish on the fly in just 10 minutes using some fish filets I had on hand and what I had in the fridge. It has some Thai and Vietnamese flavors.


RICE STICKS WITH SAUTEED THAI FISH & VEGETABLES

3 pieces of fish (I used Tilapia); Rub filets with some Thai red curry paste and salt; Marinate 20 mins.
3 sticks Celery, sliced
1 medium Onion, sliced
3 Dried Shitake Mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water for 30 minutes, sliced (save liquid!)
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/4” slice Ginger, chopped

(variation: use shrimp instead)

2/3 package Trader Joe’s Rice Sticks

Sauce:
Thai Fish Sauce (Nam Pla), 3 tbs
Juice of one lemon or lime
Sugar, 1 tsp
Soy Sauce, 1 tbs
Water, 2 tbs
Red Pepper flakes, to taste
Dash of Sesame Oil

Mix ingredients for sauce. Bring pot of water with a little salt to boil. Sauté fish in 1 tsp of oil in a non stick pan. Flip fish after 2 mins to other side. Remove and keep warm. Add 1 tsp oil, and sauté the onions, celery, ginger and garlic about 5 mins. Add sliced mushrooms and their soaking water.

Meanwhile, throw the Rice Stick noodles into boiling water. Cook for 6-8 minutes (taste for doneness, do not overcook).

Add the fish to the stir fried vegetables. Cook 5 mins more on low heat to blend flavors. Drain noodles, plate and top the noodles with the fish and vegetables mixture; Serve with sauce on side to drizzle on liberally. Serves 2.

Bonus Recipe (simple!)

ASIAN SAUTEED RICE STICKS  (SIDEDISH)

Cook Rick Sticks according to directions (but only till al dente) Drain. Toss in a non-stick saute pan with a small amount of veg. oil. To rice sticks, add 1 tsp soy sauce, dash of oyster sauce, red pepper flakes to taste, and a drizzle of dark sesame oil; Toss this through, cook gently only 1-2 mins. Plate and top the noodles with 2 chopped scallions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and a squeeze of little lemon juice or drizzle of rice wine vinegar. If you have cilantro (and like it) great too! 

Enjoy!

UPDATE: I don’t see this in the store! Oh no!

UPDATE2: Yup confirmed by TJ’s:  DISCONTINUED!!!!!!!

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