TJ’s CALROSE RICE (Japanese rice)


In our house, we eat a lot of rice. For years, I have bemoaned the fact that TJ carried a few kinds of long grain rice (Thai Jasmine, Indian Basmati) which are all terrific, however they didn’t sell short grain rice (aka Japanese rice).

Well now they do. OK Trader Joe’s Calrose White Medium grain rice is yes technically a “medium grain”rice however the reality is this is for all intents very close to an Asian Japonica short grain. This is Sushi rice.

Finally! I can buy Asian rice at Trader Joe’s! Seeing this for the first time after so many year made me happy. It meant I would have fewer treks in future to H-Mart or an Asian supermarket in Chinatown or Flushing and lugging a 20 lb bag of short grain rice back home on the subway.

So what exactly is CalRose rice? (yes you guessed it’s from California).

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/what-is-calrose-rice/

Maybe you have seen Kokuho Rose brand rice . Or Nishiki? Brands of Calrose “sushi rice” grown in California. Nishiki brand is one popular brand in the US among Japanese.

https://amzn.to/3lbISIH

One thing I should point out. I found the directions on the package stating to “simmer for 30 minutes” crazy talk. That’s twice as long as one normally cooks white rice. Are they kidding? This is not brown rice. If you follow TJ’s instructions you will end up with very overcooked mushy rice. Yuk. So I recommend you cooking it this way. Wash rice gently. Drain rice 10 minutes in a colander to get rid of excess water. Put in pan adding 1 1/4 cups of water. Add a little salt. Turn heat to high and cover with a tight fitting lid. Set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check rice. You should see some “holes” with almost no water left. Turn heat to lowest setting. Cook for another 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat. Don’t open lid! Leave covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes rice should be perfect. Fluff rice with fork or chopsticks. Taste test it. If you really think its not done put on low heat for another 5 minutes. You’re welcome. (If you’re Japanese like my wife you will say, no don’t add any salt, but I prefer a adding a bit. Gomen!)

A 2 lb. bag of Trader Joe’s Calrose Medium Grain rice is $2.49. Pretty decent price as rice has gone up in price a lot since a few years ago.

Can you make sushi with this? You certainly can. Or easier – make rice and serve rice with Spicy Tuna (with mayo and Sriracha) and sheets of Nori (TJ seaweed snacks) for some hand rolls. Need a recipe? Here you go!

https://pickledplum.com/spicy-tuna-roll-recipe/

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI


TJ KIMCHI Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (Made in Korea)

Eating fermented foods is good for you and your gut!

I love kimchi and OK, I’m a bit picky about it. I want the good stuff! As someone who has Korean in-laws, and adores Korean cuisine, I have eaten a good deal of all kinds of Kimchi. I can tell really good Kimchi from “Just OK”.

Trader Joe’s has tried their hand at Kimchi before. Over the last few years, I would see Kimchi at TJ’s and eventually it seemed to vanish (?) Either they dropped it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors and changing the packaging. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they had a kimchi sold in a soft plastic bag (see link). Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “it’s OK”.

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-has-kimchi-here-are-6-ways-to-use-it-183085

So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is “it’s OK”. It’s not great but it’s decent. This is better than the one they sold previously in a bag. It’s certainly better than no Kimchi, if you can’t easily find kimchi where you live. I can’t say this latest TJ kimchi is as good as kimchi you would get from a Korean supermarket like H-Mart or even a small Korean owned fruit and veg grocer where the owners sell kimchi themselves. My corner Korean fruit and veg store sells some kimchi which is decent. So on the plus side this Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have the kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient). I don’t find it terribly spicy, but I imagine this is a personal opinion.

If you can’t get Kimchi anywhere else this is one is “not bad”. Its about $4 for a 10 oz. jar. Honestly I’m happy that at least Trader Joe’s sells kimchi period. Maybe they will eventually find a terrific kimchi maker.

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can also make some dishes with it. Kimchi is great as an ingredient, cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Pork & Kimchi)” (recipe: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

Or KIMCHI FRIED RICE.

Finally, think about some DIY Kimchi! It’s not hard to make actually. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) its not terribly hard to make your own kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s and make you feel like a star when you impress people saying “I made it”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a good “easy kimchi” recipe made from regular cabbage (it’s a “summer kimchi”) I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage one I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was amazing. It’s great one day later and will be amazing in two weeks in the fridge as it ferments.

TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI (recipe ideas)


TJ’s Pasta Emporium Gnocchi. Made in Italy. “Autentico Italiano”. Shelf stable package.

These are one of my favorite TJ items. Available in the dried pasta section these packages of TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI are a bargain at just $1.69 a pack (For 1.1 lbs 500 grams). These are shelf stable packages, which can last months at room temperature in your pantry (you could store them in your fridge if you like but you don’t have to). I probably usually use them within about 3 months. They have a pleasantly chewy gnocchi texture.

COOKING: You can simply toss these into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes and they’ ready to serve with your favorite sauce. Or you can use them in a recipe.

Even better I’ve found is boil them for maybe 1 minute and then drain and throw them in a non-stick or cast iron pan with 2 tablespoons of EVOO then pan fry them until they are brown. The crispy texture is a big plus. Actually an even easier way which I discovered, and clearly others have figured out, is you don’t have to boil them at all. You can just pan fry them immediately without boiling. The chewy, crispy texture when you pan fry gnocchi is even better.

PAN FRIED GNOCCHI: Just toss these gnocchi right into a pan with 1-2 tbl. of oil and pan fry them until browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. I do a variation on this. I put 2 tbls of EVOO (or even nicer, a mix of half oil and half butter) in a black cast iron (or nonstick pan). Get the oil hot on med heat until it shimmers. Toss in these gnocchi and stir till covered with the oil. COVER THE PAN with a lid. Cook covered 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. They kind of pan fry & steam at the same time for the best of both worlds. After 5 minutes or so, take off the cover and pan-fry them uncovered till Golden Brown and Delicious, maybe another 5-10 minutes. I like the texture this way, its especially chewy and a bit crispy.

What to serve with them for a sauce? Almost anything you can think of which you would do for a pasta. It can be as simple as just butter and grated cheese plus some black pepper, a kind of Cacio E Pepe. Or serve them with your favorite TJ tomato sauce. The TJ Pesto works quite well with these.

In the photos below you will see I cooked them with greens (swiss chard but you can use any greens like kale, spinach, arugula…) I used lots of garlic and lots of grated Rosemary Asiago *. The gnocchi were delicious with greens. Of course any Italian cheese works Parmigiano, Pecorino, Asiago) even some Mozz cut into cubes to melt in. I had these last week with some leftover Bolognese sauce I had in the freezer and they were simply amazing with Bolognese sauce. TJ’s even has a vegan bolognese sauce.

Are these better than the frozen Kale Gnocchi? For me actually they kind of are and frankly these are half the price of the frozen gnocchi which I feel don’t have the same textural integrity when cooked this way (pan fried) though I could experiment some more. There is somewhat of a shock going from being frozen into heat that I think texturally messes up the frozen gnocchi?

Anyway if you never tried these packaged Gnocchi, check them out the next time you are in the pasta section. I can’t tell you how many times when we “had nothing in the house to eat” we found we had a package of these in the pantry and had a dinner ready in under ten minutes.

*RECIPE : PAN FRIED GNOCCHI with Swiss Chard & Rosemary Asiago Cheese – Separate leaves and stems from Swiss Chard. Cook the cut stems with 3 cloves of garlic smashed until tender in olive oil. Remove greens from pan then into same pan, toss in a pack of gnocchi with a tablespoon of EVOO and 1 tbl butter. Cook covered as discussed above till browned all over. Now add back the swiss chard plus chopped up leaves. Cook and toss around in pan till leaves are cooked till your liking. Toss in some chopped parsley or arugula. Season to taste with a little salt, sprinkle of lemon juice and lots of black pepper (optionally – a spoon of BOMBA) Grate a few ounces of Asiago, Pecorino or Parmigiano over all and drizzle with good EVOO. Serve 2 as dinner or 4 as a side.

(Can substitute Kale, Arugula, Spinach or any green)

Pan fried Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Asiago

SEARCH : Pan Fried Gnocchi Recipes – IDEAS

https://bit.ly/3hIZLHo

TJ’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Trader Joe’s Super Premium MINT CHIP ICE CREAM (Mint Chocolate Chip)

Trader Joe’s carries many excellent ice creams and frozen desserts.

This Mint Chip is one of my favorite ice creams they have. It’s deliciously creamy with a great real fresh mint flavor that is cooling and refreshing on a hot summer day. Its loaded with little slivers of chocolate. The color is a natural, creamy white not a fake green that most commercial brands have from adding food coloring. Frankly the reason the box is a bit messed up in the pic as it was so good I didn’t take a picture until after we finished the whole package! We particularly liked this as part of a coffee float with iced coffee! This ice cream, or the wonderful Coffee Ice Cream they sell too!

I find MINT CHIP ICE CREAM is especially great in the summer time with its refreshing minty freshness.

$3.99/1 quart

TJ’s GREEK YOGURT with HONEY


This is what I have started to buy at Trader Joe’s pretty regularly. It’s very lightly sweetened from the honey and I find perfect especially for breakfast with some fruit and my granola in the morning. But I also find other uses for it. I use it like “creme fraiche” or whipped cream as a topping for desserts with a bit lower calorie count than either of those. TJ sells it in a big 32 oz container for $4.99 or small cups for $1.29. It’s quite yummy.

TJ’s Channa Masala (frozen)


Trader Joe’s Channa Masala (cooked chick peas with onions, tomato and spices)

Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s of course has quite a number of good frozen and non-frozen Indian foods, many worth exploring. If you haven’t tried this, I would say try it the next time you are doing an “Indian food” night. I find this is one of TJ’s best frozen offerings. Their “Channa Masala” (spiced chick peas) is really good; almost equal in taste to many Indian restaurants. Channa means Chick Peas. Masala means mixed spices. This dish is very tasty and well spiced, it can be nuked or cooked on the stove (let it defrost then put in a pan). It’s kind of a steal at $1.99. Serve this with Basmati Rice and some Naan and you have a meal for 2. Especially if you eat with TJ’s excellent Mango Chutney and some yogurt.

PS – no one says you can’t add something to this. I often add something ; like greens: chopped swiss chard or spinach and another pat of butter, cooked for 5 minutes. this variation with added greens is excellent.

$1.99 (10 oz package)

TJ’s Washable PAPER PLACE MATS


Trader Joe’s Washable Paper Placemats

Wait up, what….?!!! Trader Joe’s sells place mats? Yeah you read that right. These place mats recently appeared in the New Products “home goods” area at my TJ. Looking at them they so totally say “IKEA” cool to me. These intrigued me, then reading the label about how they’re made from “Supernatural Paper” (!) that really got me interested. Honestly I’m always intrigued that TJ’s has any home goods type things at all. They seem to especially appear around the holidays (I slightly regret not getting some olive wood bowls and cutting boards I saw last Xmas but they were a bit pricey even for TJ’s, but they looked beautiful and handmade). Anyway since we needed to replace some old place mats and these were just $10 bucks for a set of 4, I just grabbed them in kind of an impulse buy. I picked a darkish color out of the 4-5 colors on offer as I thought this darker grey / green color would hide dirt best. These mats are on the thin side meaning when you pick up a glass that was on them you may see a little ring depression where it was, but it brushed out easily by just swiping it with my fingers. They have what I might call all kind of faux leather texture. Feels a little like thick waxed rubbery paper? I believe there are two pieces sown together. “MADE WITH SUPERNATURAL PAPER (cellulose and latex). Latex = rubber. They say “CAN BE WASHED” (hand wash separately). I think I will avoid that if possible, and just wipe/wash them daily. Wiping them clean with a soapy sponge seems to work fine. I had a little stain from some food and just wiped the mat with a damp rag with a little soap and that took off the stain as I hoped. So the rubbery, waxy covering seems to work. I like them for a change from our textile place mats. My wife complained about the white stitching they have on the edges but that doesn’t bother me at all, I kind of like it. They have a funky feel going on…in a good Ikea way. The more I have used them and lived with them I have grown to like them more and really dig the funky Ikea-ness of these.

If you see them, check them out at least with a feel and see what you think. They are $10 for set of 4 mats ($2.50 each) and come in about 5 or 6 colors. Personally I would lean to the dark / earthy colors for hiding stains.

I found this online. Are they the makers of “Supernatural Paper”?

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

TRADER JOE’S PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


TRADER GIOTTO’S (TRADER JOE’S) PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

Mentioned in an earlier post, Trader Joe’s Pesto (basil pesto) in the glass jar makes an extremely convenient item to always have in your pantry. Whenever you get the mood for a Pasta and Pesto dish simply open a jar of this and add it to pasta (with a little pasta water) and bingo, you made dinner or a side dish to put on your table in under 15 minutes with almost no effort and for very little dough ($3-4)! Add some fresh grated Parmigiano and EVOO and improve it. So what’s not to like?

Now if you have ever made pesto yourself, you know it takes a bunch of expensive ingredients and some effort but in the end its truly worth it as the smell when you open up your blender, when that pungent aroma of fresh basil, cheese and garlic permeates your kitchen. The smell is so heavenly it may knock you off your feet. So having said that I won’t tell you this jar of pesto is as good as if you made your own or your Italian Nona made you some to take home. Let’s be honest. Still, this jarred TJ’s Pesto is tasty and the convenience of having it in your pantry makes up for a lot and you can (and should) Level Up this stuff.

Value-wise this is a great TJ value at only $2.50 for a jar. Though you can tell by the fact that is says Sunflower Oil as the first ingredient and not extra virgin olive oil, they skimped on the expensive ingredients. But even so this TJ jarred Pesto Genovese is decent and believe it or not, I prefer this glass jarred pesto to the “fresh” one TJ sells in the refrigerated section which costs more. In fact I was pretty surprised that I tried both and compared them and liked this one a bit more. You can, in fact should absolutely tweak this with good ingredients! Pour a nice glug of your favorite TJ EVOO plus a nice sprinkle of extra freshly grated Parmigiano and / or Pecorino cheese plus freshly ground black pepper on top of your finished dish. If you have a few sprigs of fresh basil you can tear over it, all the better. For $2.50, this is good value and really worth keeping a jar or two in your pantry as a go-to item to always have on hand. I certainly do, its made us a quick tasty pasta dish a few times when I “had nothing to eat” in the house.

Easy Pizza with Tandoori Naan


When I saw these frozen TANDOORI NAAN, I had an idea… Could I use these naan for the “base” of a pizza? If so than I could make pizza in mere seconds! OK it actually took me more like 5 minutes to assemble these pizzas (see pic) and pop them in a hot oven. But the idea? It basically worked fine. Using these Naan breads makes it super fast and easy to whip up some individual sized pizzas almost instantly. Just spread some of your favorite sauce, put on some cheese, and pop them in the oven, and Bingo you got a fresh hot pizza in about  10-15 minutes with almost no work at all.

As you can see in the pictures, I simply put some marinara on. I put slices of TJ whole milk mozzarella on, then threw it in the oven on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes at 400 .

Yes, I spruced these up a little adding a few sliced mushrooms and a few sliced asparagus to make it a bit “veggie”. I had this stuff in the fridge. Now I turned on the broiler for the last minute or two to really get the top nice and browned (I over did this by a few seconds so be careful if you do the broiler browning part). When they came out, I put some fresh grated parmesan on for good measure, and a drizzle of EVOO.

DELICIOUS!

naanpizza3

The Naan Pizza turned out quite good as you can probably tell from the pic. We ate one each with a salad for dinner and that made a very satisfying (and tasty!) dinner for us. Making these with the Naan requires so little time and effort. Yes the naan is not a real pizza base, it is more bread-y than a real pizza but seriously this was so fast, easy and cheap that making PIZZA NAAN is certainly worth giving a try sometime. TIP: Buy and try this with the GARLIC NAAN version TJ has as well. Obviously the Trader Joe’s Naan are great used in the traditional way too. For example accompanying some of the TJ Masala Chickpeas (frozen section) which are delicious!

A pack of 4 Naan is $1.99 (50 cents each, not bad huh). These are great to have in your freezer for pizza or Indian food or to use in many imaginative ways whenever you are in the mood.

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