Trader Joe’s TRADITIONAL CARNITAS Mexican Style Oven Roasted Pork


Trader Joe’s sells packages of “CARNITAS” (Mexican style oven roasted pork). Frankly in the package it may not look look very appealing but trust me, this is not just good, TJ’s Carnitas are delicious. Tender, slow roasted, melt in your mouth, delicious porky goodness. Carnitas (“little meats) are a traditional Mexican preparation & cooking method with the pork typically cooked in enormous copper pots by special masters, slowly stirring it for hour with long handle wooden paddles. Cooking carnitas is an art. You can’t even really make carnitas at home. When done the pork is so tender and juicy it is almost falling apart. Typically the cooked carnitas meat is chopped up for tacos or other dishes. “Trader José’s” version of carnitas can be used to make excellent tacos. Now even though it’s fully cooked, it will be far tastier if you brown it and I strongly recommend you do. Its worth the little extra effort and your tacos will be far tastier. Please do not microwave it – despite the fact they say you can on the package. Just toss it in a pan. I cut up the big piece of meat into a few pieces and cooked it on low-med heat for about 10-20 minutes turning the pieces every 5 minutes or all the side were golden brown and delicious. Some interior fat in the meat will melt doing this too. The carnitas may start to fall apart as you turn it, that’s fine. When its all done, take out the meat, rest it a minute or two and then either chop it up into bite size piece or what I like to do: shred it up using two forks. You can use the carnitas as a filling for tacos or quesadillas with your desired accompaniments. Personally I like traditional Corn Tortillas but use any tortilla you like. Now besides using this for tacos, this tasty roasted pork can be used for other things too of course. So for example this pork is great used for Chinese cooking. I make fried rice using this pork chopped into bite size pieces instead of Cha Siu and it’s super yummy. How about Ramen? Sure. Cut into slices, grill them a bit and use these as the Ramen topping like the traditional slices of Cha Siu. Italian? Chop up the meat for a super easy tasty meat sauce, which you add to tomato or marinara sauce – voila, an instant “Ragu” or meat sauce for pasta or gnocchi. You can even just serve this delicious pork on its own with some lime or salsa or as a topping for a salad. Or make a Cuban Sandwich with this, ham and some Swiss! Trust me, you will find this TJ Carnitas useful to use for many things. The 12 oz. package of TRADITIONAL CARNITAS goes for $6. I would buy this again

BTW – TJ’s PINEAPPLE SALSA goes very well with this pork carnitas for tacos etc.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC POLENTA


Trader Joe’s ORGANIC POLENTA; cooked; ready to heat and serve. Gluten Free.

Ingredients: Water, Organic Corn Meal, Salt

Just in case you are not familiar with Polenta, it’s simple – and delicious. Polenta is just cooked coarsely ground corn meal. This Organic version from Trader Joe’s comes in a tube pre-cooked. Slice the polenta into 1/2″ slices which you grill up into crispy fried polenta. Delicious – and cheap! This is why polenta has been a staple of Italian “cucina povera” for centuries, very similar of course to “grits” here. Polenta is inexpensive, healthy, gluten free, and vegetarian.

TJ’s tube of cooked polenta is convenient, shelf stable, and only $1.99. One tube can easily make a dinner for two people. We love it as an alternative to pasta. I like to pan fry it and recommend that as the best way to serve this. The package also says you can bake it. However please don’t even think about microwaving as it also says on the package; it has to be crispy, as crispy as possible. If cooked till crispy fried polenta gets a really nice chewy “meaty” texture.

As shown in the first picture is how I made the polenta into dinner recently for us. I sautéed the slices in olive oil plus a little butter to help it brown better, for maybe 10 minutes a side – note, this is double the recommended time of 4-5 minutes on the package. Trust me, you want this very crispy, golden brown and delicious. I flipped the first side over and put a bit of mozzarella on top of the slices, which melted as the other side cooked. When it was ready to serve, I plated it and spooned over tomato sauce, in this case TJ’s Roasted Garlic Marinara sauce which is quite good by the way. I grated some extra cheese, Asiago all over. This made for a delicious Italian dinner along with a little salad and crusty bread. Dinner for two for about $4 bucks.

I always like to keep one of these shelf stable packages of TJ’s polenta in the pantry as it can make an easy, fast dinner for those times when you have “nothing” to eat in the house. A tube of this and a jar of sauce and you have dinner in 10 minutes. Not to mention Polenta’s perfect for Meatless Monday’s. Would I but this again? Yes I buy this regularly, its an excellent cheap TJ product and a great staple to have in your pantry.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/fried-polenta-5535085

PS DIY PAN FRIED GRITS – might be worth the little extra effort (cook the grits, let cool, cut into slices) not to mention even cheaper

TJ’s VAULT No. 5 CAVE AGED CHEESE


If you love finding great new cheeses I think you will find this new cheese Trader Joe’s started carrying as outstanding as I did. It’s called “Vault No. 5 Cave Aged” cheese from the “Cellars at Jasper Hills”. You can probably tell just by looking at that funky rind, this is a “serious” farm produced cheese like cheese you might find in a “fromagerie” in Paris. The moment I tasted this cheese I fell in love with it. To me, it’s another Wow Trader Joe’s item, just amazingly good. If you blindfolded me I would have sworn it was some European cheese, maybe an aged Comté or Gruyere or Emmenthaler with those types of complex, nutty flavors present in those cheeses. Well guess what, “Vault No. 5” is not from France or Switzerland but comes from the Green Mountains of VERMONT from Jasper Hill Farms . It’s cave aged by them for 12 months as it undergoes affinage in their cellars underground.

It has a natural (and funky looking!) rind which looks like that because it is loaded with (friendly) bacteria and cultures. Vault No. 5 has an edible rind (I ate some) but of course you can cut it off as my wife insisted before she would eat some. In fact, she first said the cheese is spoiled (ha!) but I told her no its just aged in some cave in Vermont for a year.

“Vault No. 5” tastes terrific on its own, on a cracker or with some good bread. How is it with fruit? When I paired it with an apple it was seemed to taste even better, in fact I couldn’t stop eating them. They say this cheese matches well with red wine and ales. Now when you melt it, it’s out of this world. Grilled cheese? Yes please. I can only imagine a grilled cheese made with this and some Unexpected Cheddar (note to self; try that) Trader Joe’s is selling Vault No. 5 for $10.99 a pound, a not a bad deal considering it’s high quality. In a top cheese shop in NYC I know premium farm cheeses like this go for at least $20 a pound or more. If you love TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar, you will probably love this one too so check it out folks, this is a keeper and I hope TJ’s continues to sell it forever.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/jasper-hill-vault-no-5-cave-aged-cheese-062684

TRADER JOE’S SAYS:

What happens when you marry old world cultures and cave-aged technique with quality milk production in the Green Mountains of Vermont? The cheese mongers at Jasper Hill did exactly that, and came up with Vault No. 5 Cave Aged Cheese.

Toasty and aromatic, Jasper Hill Vault No. 5 Cave Aged Cheese was inspired by Swiss and Italian mountain cheeses—delightfully creamy, toasty and savory, with subtle earthy notes. It’s cave aged for a minimum of one year, a process that allows a natural rind to form around its golden, straw colored paste. In short, it’s the stuff cheesy dreams are made of.

https://www.jasperhillfarm.com/cellars

Trader Joe’s MOCHI ICE CREAM


Mochi is a very Japanese food product being “sticky” or glutinious rice pounded or ground for a long time until the texture becomes very chewy. Mochi has that wonderful chewy texture prominent in many Asian food cultures. Trader Joe’s MOCHI ICE CREAM product is a terrific combination of this plus ice cream and you can find it in the frozen desserts. TJ’s took a hockey puck of ice cream which has the soft chewy mochi dough wrapped around it to encase it. This combination is delicious. TJ’s mochi ice cream treats come in 3 flavors: Strawberry, Vanilla and a Green Tea (Matcha) flavor. All the flavors are really good and worth trying. These little Mochi Ice Cream treats make for an unusual, interesting and yummy dessert that everyone seems to love. I know we do, we buy them all the time, and yes a box seems to go pretty fast. You get six pieces in the box, and the package now goes for $4.79. Well they are a bit special, its not just ice cream. They’re a special dessert, and these are well worth a try. TIP: keep them frozen as it says on the package and take out just before eating (defrost for 3-4 minutes) If they get too melted its very messy to eat but with a plate for run-off you will be safe and yes you will be licking your fingers like we do.

Trader Joe’s PECAN PRALINE GRANOLA


This is one of the granola’s I get a Trader Joe’s. I’m still upset my old go-to granola (Coconut Cranberry Granola) was discontinued (argh!!) a few years ago. The Pecan Praline granola is pretty good and now my Go-To general granola for breakfast. If you look at the closeup of the granola you can see it’s not loaded with large pieces of pecans, they are more mixed in as “praline” perhaps. When I want lots of nuts, I just top my cereal with a little Grainless Granola. This Pecan Praline granola’s a wee bit on the sweet side but not overly so. When I add my plain yogurt or unsweetened almond milk on it, it all balances out just fine. A 1 lb bag goes for about $3.50. I assume this is GLUTEN FREE, as it’s just oats. Whole Grain.

Trader Joe’s BRAZILIAN CHEESE BREAD


TJ’s Brazilian Style Cheese Rolls / Bread – with tapioca flour and Parmesan cheese. Thin crisp exterior with a chewy cheesy center. (Frozen) Gluten Free. Frozen

RAVE

From the package: “In every food culture, there is bread. And it is good. In Brazilian food culture, there is Cheese Bread, and it is very good. In your hands is our iteration of traditional Brazilian cheese bread, known as “Pao de Queijo”. These golden rolls are crafted with tapioca flour and Parmesan cheese, and deliver a subtly cheesy, mildly salty flavor, with just a hint of pepper. Like their South American inspiration, these gluten free rolls are softly crunchy outside, and airy and chewy inside. Pao De Queijo make excellent dinner rolls and delicious anytime snacks”

Wow are these delicious! If you never had tried these, you have to give them a taste. I have had Brazilian friends who introduced me years ago to the glorious little baked rolls called “Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread) in Portuguese. Trader Joe’s now carries them frozen. To enjoy them, you only have to heat them. They can be ready in 6 minutes (though it took about 10 in my oven actually). We made and ate them last night and served them to our guest, who just loved them and devoured many. To be honest they were so tasty we couldn’t stop eating them.

Super chewy and delicious, moist and cheesy on the inside. While they are delicious As-Is, I suggest you try eating these the way Brazilians sometimes eat them : cut them open and put a slice of cheese in the middle (and / or ham) to make a little mini sandwich. TIP: take them out of the oven after about five minutes, slice it open and put a slice of cheese inside then put it back in the oven to melt. Heavenly!

I dare you to just eat one of these. It’s impossible… they are so delicious you will easily want three (or four!) A package with 12 rolls is about $4. Heating Instructions: Preheat oven to 350. Place bread on baking sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes.

As they are made from tapioca flour these are naturally GLUTEN FREE. Ingredients: Tapioca flour, milk, Parmesan cheese, oil, egg, water, salt, pepper

TJ’s CANESTRATO PEPATO (Sardinian Cheese with Peppercorns )


Trader Joe’s CANESTRATO PEPATO Sardinian Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Black Peppercorns

I discovered this terrific cheese not too long ago in Trader Joe’s cheese section, and it’s become one of our favorite cheeses they sell. It’s fantastic and we adore it. “Pepato” refers to the cheese being infused with whole black peppercorns, as you can see in the pic. It’s produced in Sardinia, Italy by “an award winning cheese maker” ; The combination of peppercorns and a great sheep’s milk cheese is super. Up till seeing this I don’t think I ever encountered a cheese having whole peppercorns embedded in the cheese when they make it. It’s quite an interesting sheep’s milk semi-hard cheese that is both terrific grated onto pasta or just eaten on it’s own, cut into very thin slices. served with good bread or crackers. If you put this on a cheese board you will get comments. A piece is around $4-5 (its $12/lb)

Great Stuff! You can put this on your Cacio e Pepe dishes! Or even make it from scratch with this.

UPDATE: I haven’t found this for some time unfortunately !!! Sigh…..

Trader Joe’s PREMIUM SALMON BURGERS


For a short while, Trader Joe’s was carrying fresh Salmon Burgers in the fresh fish section of the refrigerated case. Unfortunately for one reason or another they must have been discontinued these and TJ’s no longer sells fresh salmon burgers – which were pretty good. However TJ’s does carry a frozen version, “Premium Salmon Burgers”. Because these have a lot more ingredients listed than the fresh version had, I was a bit reluctant to try these but I finally did and found them to be actually a bit better than I had expected. At first, I tried cooking them defrosted (which the package says not do!) and I found out why. Defrosted they are so soft you can’t even get them out of the plastic wrapping without falling apart as you do it. Therefore I cooked them again, this time from frozen as the package states. Of course the salmon burger was much easier to handle when it was a frozen hockey puck. Interestingly I found the results cooking them frozen or defrosted came out about the same. I grilled the frozen salmon burgers, using the pan fry skillet method, as per the package cooking them for about 3-4 minutes per side in a little oil and butter. They were pretty tasty. We ate them on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce. On the plus side, the Sodium level listed is not terribly high which is good. I would buy these again. They’re $6.99 for a 12.8 oz package which contains 4 salmon burgers.

Also available at Trader Joe’s in the freezer next to these fish burgers are some other kinds of seafood burgers: Mahi-mahi burgers and shrimp seafood burgers. I will review these too in future.

Trader Joe’s ATLANTIC SALMON FILLETS (frozen)


(Product of Norway, Farm Raised)

Each 1 lb package contains 4 x 4 oz. portions of boneless Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon, perfectly flash frozen. So first things first, DEFROSTING: The best method to defrost anything is always an overnight thaw in the fridge. In a pinch however you could do the quick thaw method written on the package (bagged, in cold water 30 minutes) however try to think ahead if you can for the best texture . Obviously if you are not using it all, just seal the package back up for the freezer with the nice built- in air lock of the package being sure to squeeze out excess air.

COOKING : I tried the quick brine technique of giving the defrosted salmon fillets a 30 minute soak in brine and I liked the results (see link below for full info at The Kitchn)

https://www.thekitchn.com/best-salmon-cooking-method-skills-showdown-23004976

After drying off the salmon, I gave it seasoning on both sides with a nice sprinkle of AJIKA which will give great color as well as flavor (in my case as it was brined, I added no more salt). I cooked the fillets using the pan fry method in a cast iron pan (or use a non stick pan) in a mix of oil and butter for about 5 minutes on the skin side first till the skin looked crispy. Flipped them, then cooked about 2 minutes on the second side which needs less time than the first. Personally I hate overcooked fish. Don’t overcook it. Cook fish just till it’s no longer translucent and flakes easily with a fork. You can always put it back for 30 seconds if it needs it.

If you want to serve with a sauce, TJ’s tzaziki sauce would be very good with this salmon. Or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon juice, or tartar sauce. Even simple lemon juice and butter is great. Fresh dill is wonderful with salmon. This time I plated the salmon up with some lemon butter, and served it with a side of TJ’s Harvest Grain Blend (shown) which is perfect with this. The salmon was tasty, if a bit mild of course as this is farmed. Wild salmon, which I love is usually about double the price of this. Trader Joe’s sells this for $8.99 for a 1 lb package (a bit little over $2 a portion). For the price I think this salmon is very tasty and a good value. I find Trader Joe’s version, superior to Costco’s version. So giving this a thumb’s up for value and quality. INGREDIENTS: Atlantic Salmon (no added salt) Protein = 23 grams! EAT FISH

(note: price has increased)

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.

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