TJ’s TANDOORI NAAN (frozen)


I really enjoy the Naan Indian breads that TJ carries in the frozen section. These Naan are tasty, cheap and super convenient, just needing some warming up, and they as they say “Made In India” and “hand stretched” well that sounds authentic to me. A package contains 4 Naan and is $1.99, or about 50 cents each, not bad at all. TJ sells two versions, this plain Tandoori Naan and they also have a Garlic Naan version, which is quite flavorful. You might try both versions as both are really good. TJ also sells some non-frozen Naan breads in the regular Bread section. These cost a little more and I think are a bit thicker.

Naan breads can be used for so many things. Of course these flatbreads go great with any of TJ’s pretty numerous Indian food items, but Naan can be used anywhere a flatbread type bread would be good… with saucy foods, soups, etc. Bake these with cheese on top, or some ham or prosciutto, and you have a terrific easy creation. Pizza? I’ve done them that way*. Really your imaginations are your only limit on what you can do with these.

To heat them, throw these in the oven or toaster oven. I sometimes just throw them in a cast iron pan. Hit them with some olive oil or butter or ghee and they become even more tasty. I sometimes add butter and fresh crushed garlic and then put the breads in that. These are fab. Or buy the Garlic Naan versions if you don’t want to smash your own fresh garlic. The Garlic Naan versions are also great and have a more flavor and some green stuff (cilantro or scallions). I buy a pack of each kind to keep in the freezer.

  • You can put together pizzas using Naan for your base. Try with these, or if you want a bit thicker base, get the fresh Naan TJ carries in the fresh breads section.

So with your next TJ Indian feast, grab some Naan while you’re at it. A package of maybe TJ’s frozen Channa ($2.29) or foil pack of Tadka Dal ($1.99) plus some Naan and some tomato and you have a dinner in 3 minutes for a few bucks that is as good takeout. I even made my own Tadka Dal and ate it with this Naan. Since I had extra dal, gave some and 2 naan to my upstairs neighbors who thanked me profusely and told me they devoured it in minutes and that my dal it was as good as an Indian restaurant.

RAVE

Envy Apples


I never heard of this apple before I saw them at Trader Joe’s. A hybrid developed in New Zealand, “Envy” apples are a hybrid of Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties. Both of those are excellent apples, and this hybrid, Envy, is well, just a terrific tasting apple. When I first tasted this Envy, my taste buds went pretty wild with “this must be one of the best apples I ever had”. Seriously this is just a great apple. Nice crunch, firm texture, sweet but with a hint of sour underneath? It’s a complex flavor, way more complex than just “sweet” like say a Honey Crisp apple or Red Delicious (yuck). Envy are a favorite pick of the Trader Joe’s crew, who I imagine taste everything they sell. I kind of trust those “crew picks”.

INFO

https://envyapple.com/en/about-envy#tab-1

These apples go great with just about everything. What about Envy with cheese? Yes, please. I knew they would match well with most any cheese, and frankly there is absolutely nothing better than to slice up these apples and put them on a plate with the Unexpected Cheddar. What a combo these make together. Seriously. Try either that or Cabot cheddar with these apples. I would imagine Brie would be great, or let’s face it any cheese you like. I love these just eaten out of hand on their own of course. I like them in the morning, diced up for my breakfast cereal. Your kids will love these paired up with some peanut butter. I know I do. Envy sell for $1.29 each. A bit more than the apples TJ sells for 79 cents but worth the little splurge every now and then. So if you haven’t ever tried these, try one for yourselves. You may get hooked on them. I know I have. I always buy one when I’m at TJ’s.

RAVE

EDAMAME (Soy Beans, frozen)


Trader Joe’s sells two versions of EDAMAME (Soy Beans) in both in the shell and unshelled versions.

Both kinds are excellent, tasty and super healthy veggies for you to add to your menu if they are not already on it.

You may have first seen Edamame typically in a Japanese restaurant or in the Sushi section somewhere, where they are served in the shell with a sprinkle of salt for you to nibble on and suck out the beans in the shells. In the shell these are very typical “bar snacks” in Japan in a restaurant or Izakaya (pub). Edamame is Japanese for “Soy Beans”. Very healthy and good for you of course as well as very being quite DELICIOUS, with a taste a bit like peas but nuttier and earthier. I like them both ways, in the shell and out of the shell, so I usually buy a bag of both versions. TJ’s frozen Shelled Edamame are very convenient, as you don’t have to peel them of course if you just want the beans ready to use. Useful as a side dish, the same way you would serve some peas, or for adding to a dish, such as a rice dish*, again, the same way you might add green peas. When I add edamame, say to rice in the last 3 minutes, I don’t cook them first as the bag suggests (they are already cooked in fact). I just put some in a colander, rinse under the faucet in a colander the till they are no longer frozen, and then toss them in the pot of rice (or anything) for maybe 3-4 minutes. As a side dish you can’t go wrong with Edamame with a pinch of salt and some butter. Yummy! Or use them, as an addition to your favorite recipe. Soy Beans contain Lots of protein (9 gr in a half a cup!), lots of fiber, vitamins and basically everything that is Soy Good for you. Maybe one of the healthiest things you can eat.

A 12 oz. bag of the shelled version is $1.99 which is less than in a Asian specialty store where you normally find these goodies. And about $1.69 (1 lb) in the shell, which are of course great to serve people to nibble on and suck out of the shells in the traditional style. Maybe the kids would like those, as they are very hands on, play with your food.

  • RANT: Re: rice. We’re a rant I have about Trader Joe’s. They carry Basmati rice , Jasmine rice, Brown rice varieties… but they don’t carry SHORT GRAIN (Japanese) Rice! Why oh why Mr. Trader Joe’s?! Short grain rice is called for, for Asian dishes. I have to buy it at Asian groceries. It would be so convenient if you carried short grain rice. Any one else second this? Arghh!

More:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-edamame-3376830

RAVE

 

Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


Over in the Dried Fruit section at TJ’s I’ve always liked the dried bananas (the full size ones). Recently this bright yellow package caught my eye for DRIED BABY BANANAS. I’m not quite sure if this replaced the bigger ones the used to see or I just never noticed these before. These stoked my curiosity. Well I really liked these DRIED BABY BANANAS, which are interesting looking. In fact some people might think they look a little scary as they look like little dried monkey fingers! Taste-wise they are just what they are bananas, which I am guessing are sun or air dried, and these are a bit moist, and a bit chewy and have an intense banana taste as the flavors are very concentrated from drying. And yes “baby bananas” are a different variety than your normal banana. So did I like them? Here’s one way to answer. After I tasted one, then another, I basically couldn’t stop eating them. They were quite tasty as-is right out of the bag. But then I had a bright idea, “Hmm, I wonder if they would be good match if I dipped them in peanut butter!?” Needless to say, they are a great combination. If you put some out with a little bit of PB to dip them in on the side I have a feeling kids would love these as a snack, though when they first see them no doubt they will say something like, “ewww gross, these look like dried baby monkey fingers ! The package says they come from Thailand and the INGREDIENTS list one thing: “DRIED BANANAS”. So I call that a pretty “natural” product. A package costs $1.99. The bag I got yesterday seems to have only 4 little bananas left when I just checked them…. so you could say they went down easy and way too fast. Next time I better buy 2 bags. By the way – I found out that Potassium is good for blood pressure and these have a lot of Potassium, a bit more than even regular fresh bananas. In short, another very good dried fruit snack from TJ, well worth trying so check them out.

RAVE

Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar


My review for TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar seems to get a good deal of interest, so next up for review in the Cheese Department is an absolute classic cheddar which I mentioned in that earlier post.

For my money the well known, long established, classic cheese, Cabot Cheddar, is the very definition and Gold Standard for what an “East Coast” Extra Sharp Cheddar tastes like. Its terrifically convenient that Trader Joe’s carries it under Cabot’s own well known brand.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is my personal go-to cheese to pretty much always have in the house. Labeled an “Extra sharp” cheddar, it’s got a slight tangy taste to it. “Intense, rich cheddar flavor with an “East Coast” bite” is how they describe it on the package and I would say that description is spot on. Cabot is made in Vermont, and is a bit unique as a company, as its a Farmer’s Collective. Cabot has been around for almost 100 years and has won many many “best” awards.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is both great just sliced as is out of the package. It’s also great to cook with. It melts wonderfully well and I think makes one of the most fantastic melted cheese sandwiches you will ever try. Also terrific melted into an omelet. Do I need to say, melted on top of a burger is good? It’s not, its freaking amazing.

Eaten as is slice up and paired with some fruit, that is a perfect, heavenly match especially paired with an apple, grapes or a pear. Put a piece of this cheese in front of me with a knife and a good apple (like TJ’s Envy (!) and I am one happy camper eating that delicious salty sweet combo. Ending a dinner with this is a divine dessert.

Trader Joe’s sells Cabot cheddar for an excellent price ($6/lb) in a block. If you have never tried this cheese, you may want to give this a Try. I think you will love it (even though the kids may want something a bit tamer)? You can give them the New Zealand cheddar, also excellent, or TJ’s sliced cheddar. The adults can enjoy the Cabot Extra Sharp.

RAVE

 

Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE (OAT MILK)


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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

Everything But The Elote Seasoning Blend



RAVE

Here’s another nice addition to Trader Joe’s seasoning blends, in a similar vein obviously to their very popular “Everything but the bagel” seasoning (which is excellent btw, and something I will review in future).

Well “everything but the bagel” is pretty obvious to most people but “everything but the elote” maybe not quite as well known, at least in America. So what is “Elote” anyway that this is “everything but”? Elote is a very popular street food found all over Mexico, which is hot corn on the cob, adorned with mayonnaise, cheese, chile powder, lime juice…. Trust me if you’ve never tried it, it’s quite delicious. The elote vendor takes an ear of corn, which he then sprinkles with lime, spreads mexican crema or mayonnaise over it, sprinkles it with a tons of grated cotija cheese, chile powder and maybe hot sauce. The combined flavors will send you to heaven.

Here’s a video I found on Youtube of a Elote vendor in Oaxaca prepping one for a customer in a jiffy with all the works. Watch how fast this guy is!
 

 
Don’t you wish we had smellovision?

Trader Joe’s did a good job of capturing all these flavors into this seasoning, which is so good this stuff has quickly capturing been the internet by storm. It gives you the cheese-sy smell, sweet and spicy flavor profile of Elote. Ingredients include cheese, cumin, chile, salt, sugar, chipotle… Very yummy stuff.

While I intend to of course try it on fresh corn this summer when corn is available in season, you can use this seasoning in lots of ways besides on corn, as yummy as that will be! You can sprinkle this on all kinds of veggies or meats. I tried it out on some boneless chicken breasts for dinner, I hit them with olive oil and a good amount of the Elote powder all over them, let them marinate for 10 minutes or so, before grilling them in a hot cast iron pan (recipe below). The chicken turned out fantastic with a super flavor. I also tried it out just mixing some of the blend into greek yogurt, which made an instant delicious dip or sauce and tried that on tortilla chips and that too was super Yummy. Hey you can put that yogurt sauce on top of the chicken (or what have you)!

Trader Joe’s has a number of “elote” products now.
A jar of this is $2.49. I hear its flying off the shelves. It’s very worth trying if you like spicy, cheesy, delicious stuff.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/everything-but-the-elote-seasoning-blend

Here by the way is my patented greatest method to cook boneless breasts of chicken so they come out juicy, not dry. The seasoning can be almost anything you can think of.

Prep your chicken breasts. Season them. Put them in a very hot black cast iron pan, or non-stick pan with some olive oil, or oil and butter. Grill on one side for about 3-4 minutes till nice and brown, then turn them over and grill for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and cover the pan. This is the secret. Let them rest without peeking for about 5 minutes. The breasts will continue to cook through but not over cook and dry out. There will be juice in the pan which you can pour over the chicken breasts when you serve them or serve these pan juices on the side. You can also mix the pan juices with some greek yogurt, or any sauce you care for. Everyone will tell you how juicy the chicken is.

Try this recipe with a good amount of the elote seasoning blend, or everything but the bagel or your own. 

Just in case you didn’t get enough, here’s another “elotero”in action ; making it a lot slower so you can check out all the additions (god, he puts crema and tons of mayo!) … cheese made from goat and cow…homemade red chile paste…. All for just around $1.

 

 

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.

 

Trader Joe’s WINTER WAKE UP TEA


So let me just start off with the comment that I really like this tea but frankly found the name a wee bit misleading. When I saw the words “Wake Up Tea”, I just assumed this will make a cup of strong, dark, kick-ass, rocket fuel (English/Irish) tea… A dark cuppa that really wakes you up in the morning. But when I brewed up a cup as you can see in the picture its not a very dark super strong tea. However when I tasted it I thought, oh this quite good! So I really like this tea but my take is kind of Trader Joe’s should have come up with a different name minus “wake up”. “Winter Wake Up Tea” is probably not something I would brew to wake me up in the morning. But other than that comment, Trader Joe’s has come up with an EXCELLENT TEA BLEND with great spice flavors that would satisfy me at any time of day, and makes me feel all nice and warm and cozy!

TJ’s Winter Wake Up Tea is a wonderfully balanced tasty spiced tea, a blend of black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger and cloves. If it was called something a bit different without “wake up” in the name, I would have simply started the review with “A most wonderful spiced tea that will make you feel warm and toasty on a cold snowy winter’s eve, and will warm your heart and soul! Drink it in front of the fireplace and just relax….” Personally Mr. Joe, I would have named it something like, say… WINTER COZY TEA. or WINTER SPICE BLEND TEA* or something like that.

Brew this up and you get a very nice spiced tea that reminds me slightly of CONSTANT COMMENT tea – a famous spiced tea blend created back in 1945. My parents always had it in our cupboard, especially making an appearance when “company” came over, as it was kind of special and would get a “yum… whats this tea?” comment from our guests. Ah the good old days! This TJ tea make a lighter cup than Constant Comment, with less black tea prominent in the blend but probably more spices such as cinnamon, ginger, plus clove and orange peel. It even is has the slightest bit of sweetness naturally as an under-note from a bit of licorice, which possesses natural sweetness.

So will this wake you up like the Irish Breakfast tea which actually is a “wake up tea”? Myself, to wake up I need a strong cuppa like TJ’s excellent Irish Breakfast Tea, or a typical English tea like Typhoo Tea or the like. But still enjoy this Winter Tea for what it is – a quite lovely spiced tea full of flavor.

Aha, methinks, I’ve a great idea! What if I combined the two teas together?! I brewed both teas up together, and very much liked the resulting concoction. If you do you want something a bit darker and stronger but with lots of nice spice flavors, just take 2 cups of water, bring to a boil in a pot, and toss in a bag of this Winter Tea plus a bag of Irish Breakfast Tea. Let it brew for at least 5 minutes. The result is nice mix-up of both, a strong “cuppa” plus lots of warm spices and flavor, not terribly unlike Constant Comment, and which actually now is a Wake Up Tea that will perk you up on a cold winter’s morn.

*So Mr Trader Joe, should you borrow my ideas and rename this product “COZY WINTER TEA” you better at least send me a case of this stuff!

 

 

 

TJ Soy Ginger Marinated WILD COD FILLETS


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I picked up a package of Trader Joe’s “Wild Soy Ginger Marinated Cod Fillets” in the Frozen section at TJ’s to try. I was quite satisfied, this dish turned out to be really  good. This marinated cod costs about $7/lb. – very much on the lower price end for almost any fish these days, and this is wild caught cod from the Atlantic, so another good find at TJs.

This cod is  tasty, and easy-peasy to make. I followed instructions on the package about defrosting them overnight in the fridge. An overnight thaw in the fridge is always the best method for defrosting as thawing slowly is best to preserve the original quality. So just remember you need to think about this the day/night before if at all possible. If after an overnight thaw, you find its not completely defrosted when you are ready to cook you can put it in the sink in a pot and run a stream of cold water over the unopened package for 5-15 minutes till it feels completely defrosted. I didn’t try the method on the package where they say you can defrost in a bowl of warm water, in fact I would completely say never use warm water, its too fast and damages cell structure. If  you really need to do a “quick defrost” again run a stream of cold water on it till defrosted (again, “emergency only” method). A fish monger told me to do it with cold running water.

On the package they suggest 3 methods to cook the cod – in a skillet, bake it or microwave it. Me, I decided I would cook the miso cod by broiling the fish and glazing them with the marinade. Broiling is a typical Japanese method of cooking. I took the fillets out of the package with tongs careful to reserve all the marinade for later use. I placed the drained defrosted fillets in a black cast iron pan (my favorite cooking utensil), dotted them with a little butter and put the pan under a very hot (pre-heated) broiler. The fillets were not thick. One was a little bit thicker. So I cooked the fillets for about 3 minutes then took the pan out of the oven so I could pour over that reserved marinade over the fillets. Aha! The reserved marinade will make you a very nice soy miso glaze. So I immediately put the pan back under the broiler to finish for about just another minute or two, keeping a close eye on the fish and the glaze which was all bubbly and browning up. As you can see the glaze browns up beautifully, thickens, to make a nice sauce for the fish, and obviously keeps the fish moist and not dried out. You can even put another little bit of butter in the pan and hit the fish with freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I forgot to mention I threw in some frozen shelled Edame (soy beans) around the fish to cook with it. The edamame were a perfect match with the fish, along with some some rice. There’s a Japanese meal for you.

We really enjoyed this. Sometimes cod fish can be a bit boring but this miso / soy marinade treatment makes this product very good. You can hit it if you like with even more freshly grated ginger (I generally do).

To sum up I found TJ’s Soy Ginger Marinated Wild Cod Fillets to be super convenient, easy to make, and really tasty. I would buy it again, and in fact have a few times since I first tried this. This is becoming a Go-To item for me at TJ now and I usually have a package in our freezer.

RAVE

 

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