Trader Joe’s CARAMEL APPLE GRANOLA


 

This seems to be another of Trader Joe’s Fall/Winter seasonal products.

This is actually a terrific granola and excellent product, despite the very so-so name (“apple flavored”??) and pretty lousy package design (4 fonts used in the name and every letter in apple ??!)  I can’t tell if the name and package design is geared towards kids – or designed by a kid – but this isn’t a kiddie product. Its an excellent, delicious granola, maybe the best granola TJ’s sells. This is a cereal which I’m sure both adults and kids would love.

From the package: “Sweet and tart crunchy clusters with apple slices, peanuts and pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds”

Despite the words about pumpkin spice, actually this isn’t another TJ “pumpkin spice” thing. In fact if they didn’t mention it I wouldn’t even know there were any pumpkin spices. Whatever spices are in this, they are subtle and blend in perfectly with all the other flavors (apple/cinnamon).

The particularly great part about this granola is it that it contains (dehydrated) bits of whole apples, with the skin on even! The apple bits are what makes this a super granola. The clusters with apple bit are especially tasty, a bit chewy and very apple yummy. The granola is a tiny bit on the sweet side (hence the “caramel” part of the name) but I don’t find it overly so, especially when I eat it with plain yogurt and milk which balances out the sweetness.

Its great as a snack on its own, when you get those big clusters of granola. Its super as a cold cereal. I haven’t tried it warm but the package suggests its good for that, and I have no doubt it wouldn’t be wonderful and smell great when served a bit warmed up. They recommend garnishing it with some fresh diced apple. I tried it with fresh apples and its even better with them. Also with dried cranberries, they match quite well.

So I give this granola a big RAVE and suggest its worth trying while you see it. A 12oz package is $3.49. The bag is resealable to keep it fresh and crunchy as long as possible. You might even buy a couple of bags while you can get keep a few in the pantry for the “off-season”. They should carry this year-round.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/caramel-apple-flavored-granola

RAVE


Italian Tomato Paste (in a tube!)


u·ma·mi (pronunciation: u -ˈmämēe)

A category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates.

What genius invented this product? No, really I’m serious… whoever thought this up is a bloody genius. Putting tomato paste in a tube like toothpaste might be the greatest invention since the napkin. You might think of this as a minor advancement of our civilization but honestly this is so practical and useful. How many times have you needed perhaps just 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to add to something and thought, “Jeez, I don’t want  to open up that whole little can of tomato paste for a spoonful. I’ll just end up throwing most of it away”. Well, now when you need a spoonful or two you don’t have to open a whole little can of tomato paste. You just squeeze out what you need from this tube, and keep the rest in the fridge for the next time. It will last at least a month or two in your fridge. Actually a few months (even though they say on the box, use within 2 weeks…my experience says it lasts for a few months once opened). So for practicality this is a great item. Every cook should have this in the cupboard/fridge, always. This wonderful little item is only a little over a buck!

Tomato paste, which has a great deal of glutamates present = UMAMI

Tomato paste, dried mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, miso, seaweed – these are just a few food items that, as they contain natural glutamates, and bring UMAMI (aka the 5th taste) to what your cooking. A spoon of tomato paste will add a depth of flavor to many things. Unlock its secrets! See some of the links below.

Having said all that, when you need a can of paste and will use up the whole thing, or most of it, get the little can, which is cheaper in the long run, and thats only about 89 cents.

LINKS

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-tomato-paste

https://www.brit.co/how-to-use-tomato-paste/

https://www.today.com/food/chef-s-secret-how-use-tomato-paste-right-way-t75761

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.

TJ’s ROSEMARY HAM


Trader Joe’s Sliced Rosemary Ham

rosemaryham1

RAVE

Oh yeah this Good Stuff. Wonderful aroma, flavor and and truly excellent texture. I find this to be a superb, high quality, out-of-the ordinary sliced rosemary ham. It doesn’t say exactly where its produced so I imagine in the U.S. but to me somehow its got an Imported kind of taste and quality. The back of my mind says “Italy” but they would state that if it was true. I’m pleased to know WE can produce this quality too here at home! This is what I would call really good “adult ham”. Its not too salty nor sweet. Has just the right salinity and sweetness. Oven roasted with rosemary. ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS. MINIMALLY PROCESSED. No Nitrates, Nitrites, its cured with all natural, real ingredients on the label that you can recognize without a dictionary, such as : Sea salt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar cane, and of course rosemary. You get a pronounced aroma of rosemary as soon as you open the package but the rosemary flavor does not overpower the flavor of the ham, it enhances it with a lovely little rosemary coating on the outside edges. Sliced super thin, it has a super tender, fall apart, melt in your mouth, texture. Probably cooked for a long time, low and slow. Its so tender and comes apart so easily into shreds that if you don’t want to rip a slice as you remove it, you will need to do it carefully.

I love this, its a really great TJ product. It’s a little more expensive than the other ham I usually buy (Black Forest) at TJ ($3 for 8 oz). This one is $3.29 for a 6 oz. package, which is 6 slices. But for this quality, a bit less than $9/lb for a sliced ham this good, is not untoward and certainly worth trying. I would imagine if you are having guests and put this out on a plate rolled up into little bites with a toothpick….you would get a lot of “hey where do you get this ham ?”

rosemaryham2

TJ’s SWEET CHILI SAUCE


RAVE

Apparently this is one of Trader Joe’s most popular products, and not without good reason. This is absolutely one of my favorite TJ products and on my “always have in fridge” list. As the name says, this is a delicious sweet chili sauce, that is pretty much an exact copy of the traditional Chinese sweet and spicy chili sauce you can find at any Asian grocery. It’s both sweet and spicy but not crazy spicy, with a perfect balance of the two tastes plus garlic of course. This sauce is typically served with chicken in many Asian cuisines. I had been buying Chinese brands of this stuff for years whenever I went to a special Asian grocery or supermarket but now Trader Joe’s make a version of it so even more convenient, as we put this sauce on many things though its terrific with most any chicken. If you bought a store cooked rotisserie chicken for dinner, serving with this sauce will that roast chicken 10x as tasty. What else can you use it for. Really anything… Chicken sausages? Yes. Fish? Yes (in fact you can put some on top of almost finished broiled salmon and put it back for a minute for a sweet spicy glaze). Grilled pork. Sure! Eggs? Yes. Get it? Seriously I think there is little this would not be good on, except may ice cream.

Easy dipping sauce for dumplings: a few tables spoons of this sweet chili sauce, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a little rice vinegar. Fresh grated ginger if you have it. Easy. Some extra garlic wouldn’t hurt either. Now you have a sauce for the pot sticker dumplings in the freezer. Dinner in 10 minutes.

A bottle used to sell for only $1.29. Last time I checked it went up to $1.49, still a bargain. I can’t live without this stuff. I always have a bottle in my fridge.

Trader Joe’s JERK-STYLE PLANTAIN CHIPS


RAVE

My newest “Love It” item at Trader Joe’s are their new spicy flavored JERK-STYLE PLANTAIN CHIPS.

Warning: SERIOUSLY SPICY (and SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS). No kidding. I mean mouth on fire level SPICY! You’ve been warned. Now taste these, if you dare.

I’ve always loved the regular Plantain Chips. They are one of the best products at Trader Joe’s. Only $1.69. Amazing snacks.

trader-joes-roasted-plantain-chips-6oz-pack-of-6-B005E7AY50-500x500

The Jerk-Style chips are the same delicious plantain chips but with lots of seasonings added to them. I’m talking highly spicy Jamaican Jerk Seasonings. They got that Jerk flavor kind of right on the nose with this spice mix blend:

Each individual Chip is covered in a generous dusting of jerk cooking-inspired herbs and spices, including allspice, garlic powder, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and ginger extract.

What you’ll likely notice above all other flavors, however, is the increasing heat of spicy red chili pepper powder. As you snack, the spice builds steadily (but not altogether overwhelmingly) to an exhilarating crescendo of heat, making it a perfect treat for the real spice fans out there (you know who you are.)

Try ’em if you can take the heat. Also, try them with some kind of dip to go with these chips (guacamole? hummus? greek yogurt and garlic? Tsastiki?) They were delicious even with just some greek yogurt that I dipped each chip in. The Greek yogurt of course tames down the heat.

Put out a dish full of these chips with some cold beers and I think you will be in heaven. They cost $1.79 a bag.

Buy both kinds of these chips, regular and the Jerk-Style. These spicy ones are for when you want your mouth to tingle with some major, spicy Jerk spices.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/jerkstyle-plantain-chips

Trader Joe’s AUTHENTIC GREEK FETA in brine


This is an authentic, imported Greek feta made from sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk produces the best feta cheese, and so this feta has the wonderful tangy flavor and aroma with a nice creamy texture that sheep’s milk brings plus it’s not overly salty. It comes as two large slabs of cheese covered in brine. The proper way feta should be sold and kept because the brine keeps the texture of the feta creamy and smooth.

There are a many types of feta cheese made in many countries and it’s made from the milk of different animals (cow, goat, sheep). Feta made from sheep’s milk is produced in France, Bulgaria, Israel and of course, Greece! Greek Feta may be the best of them all Though I like all the ones from the countries just mentioned. TJ has on occasion carried an Israeli feta (it came in plastic bag, and was only available for a year or so. It was excellent! The Israeli feta TJ now sells in a dark blue plastic tub is not quite as good as this Greek one in a light blue tub.

The plastic tub this TJ feta comes in I find a bit tricky to open – Only the very top part is a lid comes off, once you have broken the waterproof seal, ripping a small plastic tab in one corner of the tub (look for that tab). Open it up carefully flat on a counter, so brine doesn’t fly out everywhere (and by the way don’t throw out the brine – more on this later) Here’s just a few ideas on what you can do with feta cheese. I mean its delicious just by itself but its so versatile to have in the fridge to use with other things, like….

Greek Salad: Put a slab of feta on top of salad greens, chopped up cukes and tomatoes and voila, you have a Greek salad. Throw on some olives if you have them. Drizzle a good slug of very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil on and squeeze on fresh lemon juice. Grind on fresh black pepper. You can even vamp it up with more proteins like hard boiled eggs, drained canned tuna or sardines, or grilled chicken. Serve some good crusty bread and you have a lovely, super easy dinner in minutes.

Watermelon and Feta salad: Cube up some nice sweet watermelon with cubes of feta cheese which is a Genius combo. I’ve decided I don’t need olive oil on this, just the two ingredients and a grind of black pepper. But if you like with EVOO go for it. Fresh ground pepper is good with this.

Shakshuka and Feta: Use TJ’s frozen Shakshuka starter: add cubes of this feta as you cook it. Fantastic!

Feta cheese is often used in cooking: one of my favorite Greek dishes is “Garides mi Feta” (Shrimp with tomatoes and Feta) It’s fantastic!

The latest craze is that “Baked Feta Pasta” recipe that is making feta cheese hard to find so many people started looking for it, producers could not keep up!

As this feta is imported from Greece of course it costs more than the small pack of feta cheese TJ carries at $3 for 8 oz. which is OK (its cows milk) not great like this Greek sheep feta. This Greek feta TJ sell is $6.49 for 10 oz (drained). So figure about $10/lb for a real “Product of Greece” feta, which is a decent price for real Greek feta. Honestly this stuff will make your meal or dish, so worth the occasional splurge.

Oh and remember I said keep that brine? You can actually use it. That milky feta brine actually has flavor. Mellissa Clark in the New York Times put out a great recipe for chicken using brine, plus you can marinate chicken breasts in feta brine for 30-60 minutes;  Bake, broil, pan grill…! They will be SO juicy from the brining.

https://food52.com/recipes/69859-melissa-clark-s-feta-brined-roast-chicken

https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/primers/article/feta-guide

https://food52.com/blog/23031-how-to-use-feta-brine-water-salt-tricks-tips

RAVE

“You know how many kinds of feta exist? Thousands. Every place you go in Greece, they make feta” (Greek cheese monger in Astoria Queens)

TJ’s Amba Mango Sauce


Trader Joe’s Amba Mango sauce is a unique and very tasty condiment.

I had vaguely heard of “Amba” as an Israeli condiment for “Sabich” (eggplant sandwich). Amba Sauce is one of those new tasty food products that TJ sells that you may not know what it is at first, nor what you would use it for, but give this wonderfully unique tasting stuff a try. Savory, pungent, tangy, the sauce is made from fermented ripe as well as green mangos simmered with garlic, salt, turmeric and a few other spices, blended into a smooth sauce. Amba is so unique, intruiging and tasty that once once you try it, you will end up dreaming of things you might try it with, “I wonder if this would be good on..(fill in blank).” Thats what I did. I kept putting it on things to see if they would be good with it. Many were!

So what is “Amba Sauce” anyway? From the package: “Amba is a fermented mango sauce traditionally found in Israel  India and the Middle East. Use it as a savory sauce on meat and seafood, vegetables and falafel, or even as a unique salad dressing”.

“Amba” means mango in an Indian language, Marathi. Its made of yellow ripe mangos as well as unripe green mangos, pureed till smooth and cooked with many spices and chilis and is fermented. The fermentation I’m sure ratchets up the taste level. It is both sweet, sour, and spicy. The heat comes and hits you later. Much later. This stuff is a very complex flavor bomb of fruity and spicy and many spices. Get the idea? Its great for many things. Just a few ideas: Try it over cooked chicken. Falafel, of course! Salmon. Meats. Salads and bowls. On the side with Indian pakoras, or breads, or basmati rice? Absolutely of course! Mixed with Greek Yogurt*? Yes! I came up with the idea of mixing these two things and it was amazing together as the yogurt calmed down the spice level and melded things.

AMBA SAUCE is carried in the refrigerated section and comes in a convenient squeeze pouch with a plastic top. A 14-ounce re-closable, pourable yellow bag of Trader Joe’s Amba Mango Sauce is $3.29. A bag lasted me quite some time as a little goes a long way, and it can last for a month or two in the fridge. This is a fantastic TJ product well worth the price. Amba is hard to find in the U.S.

Here’s a super easy tasty sauce mix with Amba I came up with; it makes a smooth, creamy yummy sauce, toning down the spice level but still getting some and you can adjust the ratio of amba to yogurt.

*GREEK YOGURT & AMBA SAUCE

Mix about 1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt with about a 1/3-1/2 cup of Amba Sauce. Add chopped garlic mashed with a little salt. Fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine and let it sit in the fridge for a bit. For a GREEN SAUCE version of this which I made, just add chopped parsley or arugula or baby kale, chopped very finely. Let flavors meld in fridge for at least a 1/2 hr or more. Serve on fish, chicken, meats, grilled tofu, or over basmati or jasmine rice, or practically anything! Adjust the ratio of amba and yogurt to your exact liking.

 

TJ FEARLESS FLYER INFO ON AMBA SAUCE (CLICK)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC TOFU (& RECIPE)


I can tell by the stats that a good number of visitors to the site are interested in posts about Tofu.

Therefore I’ve been wanting to write up a post reviewing this tofu that I always buy at Trader Joe’s most anytime I go there, along with a simple basic recipe on how to prepare an easy tofu dish. Interest in tofu is well deserved of course, as tofu is an excellent, high-quality protein that is plant-based and is inexpensive. So what’s not to like?

Even if you, like yours truly, are not vegetarian, tofu is a good thing that you should be eating for so many reasons. Tofu is healthy, good for you, good for the planet, and is versatile and easy to use in many ways. If tofu is not already on your typical “mains” or  “proteins” list when you go shopping I would suggest tofu be added to your list. How about Meatless Mondays? Thats a good start! In our house we usually make a Japanese “tofu steak” type recipe once a week or so.

“Trader Joe San’s ORGANIC TOFU” in the pink & white package is a good tofu. Not too soft nor too firm, it takes well to being cooked up as described here. Not for most of us Americans tofu pretty much seems to have “no taste” on its own. However what tofu does quite well is absorb flavors. What flavors should you think about? Obvious ones are all Asian flavorings: Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, cilantro…. You can not go wrong with these flavors cooking tofu. What about texture? I like cooking my tofu till its “golden brown” and develops an outside surface texture with a slight bite to the tooth, which it can get if cooked in certain ways. So one of the ideal ways for me to make it is to grill it until golden brown to improve the texture and then serve it with some kind of sauce.

Here’s a very basic and easy recipe to make grilled or sautéed tofu.

1. Take the tofu out of the package, pour off all the water, and set it over a colander or strainer to drain as much water as possible. Let it sit for about an hour. I sometimes put a few plates for a little weight and pressure.

2. Cut the tofu carefully. First into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then if you want smaller pieces, cut those into half. Heat up a non-stick or cast iron pan till it is good and hot with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and add the tofu slices (a little sesame oil added now is great for extra flavor). Let it cook for about 10 minutes at medium heat until the tofu looks golden brown when you check it. Flip the slices over and cook the other side till also golden brown. In the picture below I’ve sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper too.

3. When the tofu slices are browned, now is when you either go one or two ways with sauce or flavoring. One way is to add the sauce (ingredients) to the pan and cook in the sauce till they are absorbed mostly. The other way is to remove the golden brown slices of tofu to a serving plate, then make your sauce and pour it over the tofu and around it. Both ways are good and I would suggest trying both methods and see which you prefer (the pouring over keeps the crispy texture of course a bit more). I like both ways and make it both ways depending on my mood.

How to Make a Basic Sauce: Sauté freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic for a few seconds till fragrant in some veg or sesame oil, then add your liquids: 2-3 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce (Trader Joe’s sells this).  Maybe some veg or chicken stock too. A teaspoon of Sesame Oil (TJ). Optional: Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce, Sriracha, Fish Sauce, chopped scallions, pinch of sugar or honey, and Cilantro if you like it. If its very liquid you can add a little cornstarch/water slurry to thicken up the sauce.

Lazy options: If you prefer to just buy a sauce for your tofu steak: Try TJ’s SOYAKI or TJ Ginger Soy salad dressing. Sriracha and Soy. Anything flavorful that might go well with it.

A package of this tofu feeds 2 or 3 with other things (rice, sides) and costs around $2. Cheap!

Marinating also is a good technique for flavor. Here’s a good sounding recipe for Baked Tofu.

Easy Baked Tofu with Sesame and Soy Sauce

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries