TJ Organic COLESLAW KIT


This is a super easy to prepare, organic Cole Slaw Kit. Just dump the contents into a bowl, fish out the packet of dressing, and squeeze it out and mix everything up together. That’s it, done.

With slaws its best if you do this at least an hour in advance (and keep in the fridge, to keep crisp). You could let it rest more, for 4 or 8 hours or even make it the night before. Everything will become all nice and cole-slaw-y when the cabbage has “pickled” a bit and the flavors meld together.

The package contains shredded green and red cabbage plus carrots, all organic. The organic dressing is a tangy, slightly sweet & sour dressing in the mayonnaise/ thousand island vein with lots of poppy seeds which add a nice flavor. Everything blends up well to make a nice, tasty fresh “homemade” cole slaw. Could you make this yourself easily with some cabbage, some carrots a hand shredder and some dressing? Of course, and I do many times during the summer especially, but if you don’t feel like doing “all that work” this kit makes it super easy. It doesn’t make a huge amount of cole slaw, about a pint of finished slaw after you let it sit for at least an hour when it will “shrink up” a bit as it marinates. A package is 10 oz and costs $2.69

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VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY

This “stir fry kit” is composed of cut, prepped veggies all ready to stir fry, along with a packet of (cooked) soba noodles, plus a packet of soy- ginger finishing sauce. It has broccoli, bok choy, savoy cabbage, snow peas, scallions.

Look for this in the refrigerated / veggie/salads case. I say this convenient $5 kit is in actuality, most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA – minus a few ingredients – that one can easily add to make that super tasty Japanese dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKISOBA – YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). Ergo, grilled noodles. Yakisoba is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out, made at home, and served at school. Japanese kids pretty much grow up on it. Everyone loves Yakisoba.

You can cook up this Kit exactly As-Is on the package and get a decent Veggie Noodle Stir Fry. Or easily turn this kit with a few additions, into Yakisoba.

The main thing missing would be some kind of Main or protein (Pork, Tofu, Chicken….) plus some ginger and garlic, and a little more soy.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, any of them will add a lot of “umami”. If you are not vegetarian, protein options could be the traditional sliced or ground pork (even very thinly sliced pork belly). In Japan Yakisoba is even sometimes made with squid! Any protein you can stir fry with the veggies will pretty much work. Chicken strips, or steak, even ground beef. When I made it, I used pork tenderloin from TJ sliced up into strips that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end when I added the sauce package. I have cut pork chops into strips to make this with. Ditto chicken breast or thighs.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in a plastic bag. When you open the bags the soba noodles are totally stuck together in a firm block that you can’t do anything with. You MUST prep them ahead a half hour before you start your dish. Loosen them up by letting them soak in very, very hot (even boiling water) for 15-20 minutes – not for  two minutes as the package says which is not enough time! Once they loosen up a bit you can gently untangle and loosen them with your fingers and drain them in a colander, ready to throw in at the end with a pinch of more oil. Want more noodles then come in this package? Then just first cook up some Soba noodles or Chinese noodles or rice noodles, drain them and have them ready to toss in the pan with some more oil.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with your Main Protein (slicked pork, chicken or tofu or SHRIMP (or seafood blend!) in a few teaspoons of neutral oil. Toss in the veggies. Add mushrooms if using. Stir fry veggies about 3 mins. till barely cooked (do not overcook them) Add the softened noodles and the meat or tofu back to the pan. Stir fry for a few more minutes, then turn off heat and add the sauce to coat. A few drizzles of sesame oil would be great. Add some Green Dragon Hot Sauce if that’s your style. Stir all to combine. I threw some arugula and more chopped green onions on top. Katsuobushi* flakes if you have them? Done. About 10 minutes and you have a delicious dish.

PS – If you can find “Katsuobushi” flakes* at an Asian store, that would be great to top this with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  Ditto for “BENISHOGA” (Picked Red Ginger). Both are traditional Yakisoba toppings. But even if you don’t put these on, it’s still pretty good.

UPDATE: The first time I purchased this kit there were 2 packs of Soba Noodles inside. Recently on 2 occasions when I purchased it, there is only 1 pack of noodles in the kit. Whats up with that? With 2 packs there was really a meal here for at least 2 people but with 1 pack of noodles, obviously that’s less noodle to veggies ratio.

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SHISHITO PEPPERS


Shishito Peppers are a Japanese pepper variety, quite popular and common in Japan and  just getting a bit known in the U.S. finally. But that might change soon, as they’re quite delicious — and especially now that you can find them so easily in your local TJ’s Produce Section, instead of having to look for them at a specialized Japanese grocery.

Shishito peppers are even a new “it” food you will see in upscale and trendy restaurants these days.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE PEPPERS – NOT SPICY -vs- SPICY!! 

As a rule Shishito Peppers aren’t spicy. That is until you get a Spicy one! The general saying about them is: “1 in 10 will be spicy”.  When you get a spicy one (my favorites) I would say they’re a bit less spicy than a jalapeño in level of kick. Meaning, yes it will be pretty spicy. So be warned, if you’re feeding them to your kid and grandma. If you bite into one and its spicy and you don’t like spicy, just put it to the side and the next one will in all likelihood be mild.

The usual way to make Shishito peppers are grill them in a pan over medium fire with a pinch of oil (sesame oil would be great) until they blister or get a tiny bit of char on one side, then turn them to the other side and do the same till cooked.

Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and they’re ready to serve. They can be a great little side dish, so they will go great with most anything you might serve as the Main. In Japan they are famous as a drinks snack served to go with beer or sake. You can also use them as an ingredient in foods, just as you would put in some green pepper.

LINKS

https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/shisito-pepper-recipes#charred-shishito-peppers-garlic-herb-oil

SHISHITO / WIKI

TJ’s sells a bag of them for $2.29 so they’re pretty affordable to try out…

We really love them in our house, and you might too. Give them a shot.

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Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH which had been only 99 cents (!) for as long as I can remember, went up to bit by bit and is now $1.29. While I loved it for under a buck, its still not a bad deal, say compared to Whole Foods prices.

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah, baby!) Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough sold in the refrigerator section.

To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can find in the fridge, that might work on it!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home, folks. No really, it’s pretty easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine. Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course cheaper than buying one. There is nothing like eating a pizza you made yourself and just pulled fresh out of your oven, bubbly and browned. If you have never made pizza at home before, you must try making one yourself at least once. I promise once you do, you’ll want to make a pizza once a week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3-4 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight).

Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres how to make a pizza:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA WITH TJ PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some sauce (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better (optional: fresh garlic, diced tomato, fresh/dried basil, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but it is too short). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out,so plan ahead! (around the 1/2 hour point, turn on to pre-heat your oven to 450-500…very hot) Do not nuke it.

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work your dough on. Dust it with flour. Remove the dough from the package (TIP: Its sticky! I invert the plastic bag to remove and just keep tugging and pulling till I get it all out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I generally use a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza in. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square/rectangle instead of a round but I like it like this. If using this kind of sheet pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put in your dough, put some oil your fingers and on top of the dough and work it into shape using your fingers, pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough towards the corners. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ and keeps pulling back on you. Normal dough behavior. Just let it rest 5-10 minutes, then come back. Try to be careful and not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. And not too thick either or it will be tough! Get it just right. Build up the outside edge a bit. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want (optional). Another Option: Use a rolling pin to get it started and transfer that carefully to the pan and then work it. Remember if its the pan style its a rectangle you are shooting for. Shaping the dough is the only tricky part of making a pizza. The more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time don’ worry. It will still taste as good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit, practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it much easier in future. If you want to go the traditional round pizza route, of course try that. Moving the raw pizza into the oven is a tricky part, though personally I have found a square one in a sheet pan works.

IMG_0003READY TO ASSEMBLE (I am using smoked mozz and a little provolone) 
Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Very hot! Real pizza ovens are much hotter than your home oven can go but we can work with just longer baking. TIP: I have started to put the pan on the oven floor for 7-10 mins then move it to the middle or top rack for the rest of the baking time. This really bakes the bottom (if you don’t have a pizza steel or stone). If moving it sounds too complicated, just use the middle rack.

Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pan after 10 minutes, to even the baking. The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut up pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

IMG_0002Before and After. The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes for the pizza to come out of the oven.

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The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really not that hard to make, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself.

Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

UPDATE / TIP: I have been experimenting with “aging” the TJ dough in the fridge and let it sit for a few days before use. It will ferment slowly and will get sourdough-y taste this way as the dough ferments. Try this aging for 1 (or 2 days) past the “sell by” date. Experiment with the aging of the dough tip and see if the crust and flavor is improved. I find it so.

Personally I have found the regular dough is the best version TJ has  – I have found the whole wheat version too tough, and the herbed version too off-tasting and bitter. Your mileage may vary. If you really want great pizza, eventually you may even make your own dough!

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

Trader Joe’s Wasabi Arugula


A RAVE

It would seem the taste-makers at Trader Joe’s have a real thing for Wasabi. They have Wasabi Mayo, Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks, among others… and this latest new product,“WASABI ARUGULA”. This is somethng pretty new I saw in the Produce section (at least in my area, NYC). As it says on the package this is “Arugula with a little extra punch”. Its does have a very nice spicy bite to it (and no, there is no “wasabi” in it, its a natural thing). It’s very good. I love this stuff! As I said, It doesnt have wasabi added to it, its just what they are calling a “spicier” variety of arugula, more than the “Wild Arugula” they have sell.

Arugula has always been very popular in Europe. Its slight bitterness and spiciness can be very delicious in salads. Its “Rucola” in Italian, “La Roquette” in French and called “Rocket” in English. Well known in rural areas of the U.S. and Canada, Arugula basically grows wild and can the wild version is harvested for salads. Call it an “edible weed”?

I’ve always found TJ’s regular arugula a bit bland, compared to that which I buy loose at Fairway Supermarket. Fairway’s arugula, sold loose, is very good, but of course its more pricy than TJ’s. Fairways sells for about $6/lb. TJ’s Arugula sells for $1.99 for a 7 oz bag (which by the way a few months ago used to be an 8 oz bag; but shh… we are not supposed to notice TJ’s is giving us less – typical hidden price increase). However this new “Wasabi” version sells for a bit more: Its $2.49 for a 7 oz bag. Maybe it was the day I bought it, perhaps it had just come in, but it seemed fresher to me than the “regular” arugula I usually buy, which always almost goes bad before you can finish it. The package of the Wasabi Arugula recommends how to store it which will help you keep your arugula longer. Slit the bag open then fold over the top and seal it with a clip, after gently squeezing out extra air in the bag. Try not to crush or smush it in the fridge too.

LINK TO FEARLESS FLYER ABOUT IT

Good Rant! And some Trader Joe’s vs. Fairway stuff


Speaking of “Trader Joe’s Rants” I happened to come across a very good rant on a blog by Leland in BK. I hope he won’t mind me linking to it and sending a few visitors over. He wrote it in 2006 but I think its just as valid now; See what you think. I think Leland made some interesting points about TJ’s produce.

PRODUCE: Ah ha. One thing I  always thought was that, compared to other aspects of the food it sells, Trader Joe’s fruits and vegs are not at the same level, generally speaking. For example compare the produce at TJ’s to lets say in my area, Fairway. Ask anyone in NYC and they will tell you Fairway’s produce is great. If you take a look at some of these videos on their site can you get some idea of what we are talking about. This stuff is FRESH, top-notch produce (cheap, no). Is Trader Joe’s produce up to this level? I can only judge the ones I have seen in Manhattan, which for all I know may not be indicative of all Trader Joe’s. Again, generally, I don’t think of their produce at the level of a Fairway. Perhaps Califorian TJ’s being closer to the produce may have better and more variety of produce? There is some produce I buy regularly at TJ’s. For one, their bags of organic carrots? They are the same price as Fairway’s non-organic carrots, 89 cents. That’s amazing. But I saw some corn today at TJ’s that I could not believe someone kept on the shelf. There were three ears of corn so old the husk was dried out like paper. It was garbage. I wish I had a camera to document that! Someone should commit hara-kiri in their produce section for that offense.

Fairway vs. TJ: Fairway, which has been here forever, is located 3 blocks away from the Trader Joe’s on 72nd St. and Broadway which opened up late 2010. So in the Upper West Side food vendor scene it was quite a big thing to have a potential competitor like Trader Joe’s open up a few blocks away! I’m not kidding, this made a for a ton of news in the blogoshpere:

http://www.foodandthings.com/2008/11/550/

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20101029/SMALLBIZ/101029834

http://www.dnainfo.com/20101007/upper-west-side/trader-joes-wins-price-war-against-fairway-whole-foods

http://ny.racked.com/archives/2010/09/20/fairways_worst_nightmare_is_here_trader_joes_uws_is_open.php

http://www.yelp.com/topic/new-york-what-do-you-buy-at-trader-joes-and-fairway

I still shop at Fairway for many things. However I now also go to Trader Joe’s for many other things. If you are looking for very good olive oil at an AMAZING price, I give TJ’s the nod hands down. If you are looking for a “super Tuscan” olive oil of the kind that sells for $30 a half/litre Fairway has it. Me, I can’t afford that stuff and I love to use olive oil, liberally so personally for everyday use, I have become a HUGE FAN of TJ’s Olive Oil. I am bowled over by their olive oils value and what you get for your money compared to others. I especially like their Spanish Olive Oil. It sells for $5.99 a litre, and I say at that price, no one can come close: superb value for your buck. Is it the same as the $30 stuff Fairway might have? Perhaps not – however its not junk, it is a very decent olive oil. I have seen much crap oil, typically “pomace”, for the same price TJ’s sells Extra Virgin Olive Oils for. Oh, and TJ does sell “really good” olive oil (“Sicialian”, “Kalamata”…) I just haven’t tried these oils yet, but I have a feeling they must be good to warrant them making them “premium” prices vs. the “normal” stuff they sell.

I am going to guess that Trader Joe’s must have great sources of producers of olive oil and major financial clout; They must be able to make huge deals to purchase massive quantities of oil to be able to sell stuff this good for $6. As they say “we pay cash” and buy alot. Olive Oil I think is a key Trader Joe’s item. I think its the ONE item than almost instantly makes people into a “Trader Joe’s customer”. If you buy a bottle of TJ’s Olive Oil, you will have you will be returning. Its usually the first thing anyone going to Trader Joe’s notices and will tell you about. “Wow. They sell extra virgin for $6 bucks!” I’m pretty sure I’ll do a future post just about Olive Oil. Its a good topic.

Comments?