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/

TJ Brown Rice Medley


Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley – “A delicious blend of long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon seeds”

This is both healthy and a bit different (better I think) than plain brown rice.

It’s a quite tasty blend of long grain par-boiled brown rice, plus two slightly unusual additions, black barley and daikon seeds. Who knew you can eat daikon seeds? We tried this rice blend and it got both mine and my wife’s seal of approval as making a very tasty and slightly nutty tasting rice side dish.

I have found Trader Joe’s instructions need a tiny bit of modification. I would reduce the liquid a tiny bit. Instead of the 2 1/2 cups the package suggest a bit less liquid. I would try 2 1/4 cups of water or stock (to 1 cup of the rice). Also if using just water add a bit a salt to taste. Letting it sit (without peeking!) at the end for 10 minutes is important so all the liquid gets absorbed. Then fluff up with a fork. Hitting this with some butter is a good idea! Serve with your favorite main.

Its $1.99 for a 1 pound bag. Worth trying.

PS If you find it a bit too mushy, the next time you make it reduce the cooking time to 30 minutes (plus the 10 minute rest covered)

TJ’s PERI-PERI SAUCE


RAVE

Trader Joe’s PERI-PERI SAUCE with fermented and dried chilies

This is as the label says: “A CONDIMENT WITH RICH COMPLEX HEAT”.

Peri-peri sauce is one of those Trader Joe’s products that currently seems to be all over the Internet. So naturally I decided I better check it out. First thing to tell you is TJ”s Peri-Peri sauce is HOT! I’m talking spicy with a capital S, as in the spiciest product I have ever tasted from Trader Joe’s. It remided me of the first time I tasted TJ’s original super spicy (and sadly discontinued) Organic SRIRACHA RANCH dressing (sigh!).

I opened up the Peri-peri sauce and just tasted a wee bit on a teaspoon by itself. OMG. My mouth lit up on fire. Though I’m not a chili-head, I enjoy “spicy” and can take most levels of heat, however this Peri-peri was way up there. It took a while for my mouth and taste buds to calm down and I thought, this sauce is way too spicy. But then I found the “secret” to using Peri-peri, is to use it really sparingly. Small even tiny amounts and you will get its flavors. Note, it’s pretty liquid-y so be careful pouring it lest you get way more than you want. I usually first put some on a spoon to gently dole it out in little dots of sauce.

Once I realized about using in sparingly I started to really love this stuff. It’s very flavor and quite complex with a ton of umami going on as well as “spicy”. The bottle which I expected would last me a few months is already 2/3 gone in just a few weeks! So Peri-Peri may even be addictive.

This label says Product of South Africa. Peri-Peri sauce is popular in South Africa, though it’s origins are from elsewhere in Africa, Mozambique or going even back going back to Portugal.

https://www.nandosperiperi.com/what-is-peri-peri

It’s a lovely orange color. The first ingredient listed on the label interestingly enough is LEMON JUICE. So there is a citrus-y background level behind the spiciness which I find works perfectly. Peri-peri recipes traditionally call for tiny birds eye chilies which are super spicy. The label does not specify exactly what chilies are in it but it does say “fermented” as well as dried chilies. As TJ’s BOMBA SAUCE also uses fermented chilies, from which you get a lot more complex flavors than just “hot”. It also lists garlic,salt, dried chilies and xanthan gum (it’s a thickener).

What is this good on? What have I tried it on? Perhaps a better question is what haven’t I tried this on? I’ve tried it on almost everything! For one simple thing I so love this sauce on something so simple as cottage cheese (on toast or a bagel or crackers…) Again I just need a few dots of sauce here and there. It’s simply magnificent with chicken, which is what it was created for (Peri-peri chicken). I will next try it on chicken breasts marinated in the sauce. In fact if you marinate chicken in some Peri-Peri sauce, you will find its just stunning. Use some oil too of course and easy on the peri-peri till you learn its heat level, though cooking will of course mellow this out. I’ve mixed a little of the peri-peri even into some ketchup and that was fantastic with hamburgers. A bit on grilled shrimp or fish? Yes, yes, yes. If you experiment with this (cautiously) and you will no doubt come up with some great combinations of things this sauce is good on. Oh, and you can of course mix it with something, say mayonnaise or greek yogurt in whatever ratio you like and come up with a fantastic sauce in seconds.

Trader Joe’s PERI-PERI sauce comes in a glass bottle of about 7 ounces for $3.29. I think this is really worth checking out. And check out this recipe for grilled Peri-Peri Chicken which you could whip up using this I think.

https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/peri-peri-chicken/

Want to learn about the peri-peri (piri-piri) chili ?

https://hotsaucefever.com/hot-peppers/piri-piri/

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 Roasted Whole Golden Flax Seeds (Omega-3 !)


Trader Joe’s Roasted Golden Flax Seeds (whole seeds) – “Naturally rich in Omega-3, Lignans and Dietary Fiber”

You may know that flax seeds are probably one of the healthiest things you can eat. We’re talking Super Food healthy ! For one thing flax seeds are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and fiber. Heart health: studies have shown just by eating 2 tablespoons of flax seeds a day, they can lower blood pressure 10-20 points. Personally every day I eat 2 spoons of flax seeds, which I grind up and mix with yogurt and/or soy milk in my breakfast cereal. I add some chia seeds to boot! You can also put theses in your smoothies.

Up to now I bought flax seeds (raw) in Bulk at a health food store. Then I saw these Roasted Flax Seeds at Trader Joe’s. After trying them I decided these are better tasting than the other ones. Why? Roasting them definitely improves the flavor of flax seeds making them more nutier tasting and crunchier.

You can either eat them whole or grind them up (coffee grinder or morter and pestle). You can sprinkle flax seeds on your morning cereal, put them into baked goods and sneak them into foods like baked goods as well as add them to your smoothies.

$2.99 / 15 oz bag

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 Hot & Sweet Jalapeños


RAVE

TJ’s Hot & Sweet Jalapeño Slices

These are SO good! Another simply Brilliant condiment which Trader Joe’s seems especially good at coming up with. These are sliced picked jalapeños plus sweetness from organic cane sugar so they are Hot & Sweet which makes for an even improved version over TJ’s regular pickled jalapeños which are quite good too. Now know that these are SPICY! Spicier than the regular TJ pickled jalapeños. There are whole dried red chilis in the jar plus it says pureed jalapeños too to ramp up the heat level.

My wife and I dream up new ideas for things to put these on. Last night we put them on top of grilled hamburgers (on toasted brioche bread). Ok this is a no-brainer of course they were freakin’ delicious on our hamburgers… or hot dogs or sausages or sandwiches. For breakfast this morning I put a few slices of these hot and sweet babies on my toasted half a bagel with cottage cheese. They went perfectly with the mellow cottage cheese to spice up something that otherwise would be pretty boring. Great combo. The bottle has good suggestions on the label, such as add them chopped up to your guacamole. For that matter add some chopped up on top of your avocado toast! Grilled cheese? Oh yes, these go perfectly put some in with the cheese before you grill them so they mix into that melted cheese (chopped or whole if you want big spicy bites). Scrambled eggs? Oh yes, again delicious. Ditto with cream cheese and crackers. Brilliant. Especially with the Red Chili Crackers. For nachos? Another no-brainer. Finally do not ignore TJ’s suggestion about not wasting that leftover juice in the bottle for using in marinades. This hot and spicy pickle juice is amazing. I keep of bottle of just that in the fridge.

Here’s just one idea: SPICY CHICKEN – Marinate BONELESS CHICKEN (BREASTS or THIGHS) in the spicy juice for a 1 hour. Then grill them with a sprinkle of Ajika Georgian seasoning. When done, spoon a little extra spicy syrup on top of the finished grilled breasts with their juices. Dot with a few slices of the jalapeños. You’re welcome.

$2.50/12 oz jar

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN POT STICKER DUMPLINGS


Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers – Perfect for now (its currently Chinese Lunar New Year) or ANYTIME!

Chinese dumplings are one of my very favorite things to eat. Seriously. Over my lifetime I would not be surprised if I’ve eaten a thousand of them, in one small hole in the wall place or another, mostly in Manhattan’s Chinatown or Flushing’s. Flushing especially has become a destination for dumplings with terrific places that specialize in dumplings of all kinds. I’ve even learned how to make dumplings myself, from scratch, including at times even making the wrappers! (I usually buy them in an Asian market). However that’s too much for most people. Which is where these babies come in. When you just get a craving for Pot Stickers, you can buy these frozen Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section. They’re good! They’re cheap. $3 bucks a bag. Wow.

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can measure up against my favorites dumpling joints but I do buy these dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer for whenever I get a dumping craving and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time right now in the middle of Covid-19!)

These TJ bagged dumpling are not at all bad for what they are, they are super convenient, and frankly at $3 a bag (about 21 dumplings) they are a steal. TJ sells both a Pork & Veg version and this Chicken & Veg version which I am reviewing here. As the pork one is not “porky” enough for me (I can make a decent pork and cabbage dumpling) personally I give a slight edge to the chicken ones surprisingly, as of course pork dumplings are way more typical dumplings. Buy a bag of both and see which you prefer.

Frankly the stuffing of both versions are too finely ground. In any handmade dumpling you would be able to see chopped up vegetables which one can’t in either these pork or chicken frozen dumplings. These are a tiny bit on the blandish side but a good dipping sauce makes these work. One can easily add some a great deal of Asian flavors with a good dipping sauce. My first choice is to make these in a pan as Gyoza or Pot Stickers. Pot Stickers means first frying the bottoms, then steaming them, giving one the best of both worlds texture-wise in a single bite, with the wrapper both a bit crispy/chewy plus soft. The skins on these TJ dumplings are neither too thick nor too thin but acceptable in proportion to the filling. If I make them myself they would have thicker skins, be bigger and more packed with filling. But these do fine in a pinch. I have never tried cooking these in a microwave though the package states you can make them that way. Nor have I tried making boiled dumplings with these, as also suggested on the bag. If you did boil them in a strong flavorful chicken broth they might be very good that way, especially with some spinach, kale or other leafy vegetables, i.e., a “chicken soup with wontons and greens” type soup (hmm, i just gave myself an idea to try out!)

PAN FRYING YOUR DUMPLINGS: One can boil these but personally I make these mostly as Pot Stickers aka Gyoza (fried/steam) using a well-seasoned black cast iron pan. If you don’t have one of those just use a good non-stick pan. Swirl a tablespoon or so of a neutral vegetable oil in the pan with medium high heat. Put your frozen dumplings in bottoms down, being careful to be sure they don’t touch, or they will stick together. You will hear them start to sizzle. Let them cook without touching them till they are nice golden brown on the bottom, maybe 4-5 minutes, You can check one every once in a while. You don’t want to burn them but you do want very browned bottoms. When they are there, you now toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! Stand back of course. Reduce the heat a bit. If you have a clear glass cover thats ideal so you can see whats going on inside but if you don’t, any cover that fits tightly will be fine. We want to let them steam until the water is just about all gone which may take about 6-8 minutes. Check when you think they are done. When they are almost ready if you put a tiny bit more oil when the water is all gone and let them keep cooking they can get a quite crispy bottom which is lovely, but this step is tricky, and optional. Anyway this is the reason these dumpling are called “pot stickers” as they do tend to stick to the pan and not want to leave it! If they are a bit stuck use a thin spatula to gently help release them, being careful not to tear the skins.

You should to eat your Gyoza right away while they are nice and hot, so timing is critical. What we do, is we get everything else ready, then take just 2 or 3 dumplings at a time on our plates, cover the pan with the heat off to keep them warm and come back to fill up with a few more when we finished the first ones. Thats way you always eat nice hot dumplings. In the first picture you can see I served them with edamame and peas which were a great match with these dumplings to add in more veggies. You can serve them with a little rice too and any kind of veggie or salad. We can usually eat about 6 each easily as the Main, along with other stuff though they can be just an appetizer of say 3 or 4 each. I strongly suggest eating lots of green veggies with these. Edamame go great. If you can get Bok Choy or Choi Sum, that would certainly go well. And toss lots of chopped scallions all over these when you serve them.

Many countries have some variation of pot sticker dumplings. In Korea, “Mandoo“. In Japan they are called “Gyoza“. In China, Jiao-zi or Guo-tie.

锅贴 
Goutié

https://www.tasteatlas.com/guotie/recipe

You eat dumplings with a dipping sauce. One classic sauce might be Chinese Black Vinegar* with lots of fresh julienned ginger. Or soy sauce plus vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic. TJ sells a bottle of “GYOZA DIPPING SAUCE” which is fine if making your own sauce is too much trouble. If you like fresh cilantro it’s wonderful with these chicken dumplings. Something spicy to add a kick if thats up your alley. Green Dragon hot sauce for example is great with these! TJ’s Sweet Chili sauce is also lovely! I mean some mixed in with your basic sauce.

While I can’t say these TJ frozen dumplings compete with the best Chinese homemade dumpling places I have gone to, these are quite decent and make up a great deal with the convenience of being able to have them anytime you get a craving! These bagged ones are such a bargain for 3 bucks for a 1 lb bag. TJ has a number of other “fancier” dumplings in the frozen section in boxes which cost a bit more but frankly I keep coming back to these. I recently tried TJ’s Pork and Ginger Soup Dumplings and frankly was not impressed. Not surprising as making Xiao Long Bao is a pinnacle of the art of dumpling making. I’ve eaten them at some top dumpling restaurants like Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing, Queens (fantastic! go if you get a chance).

  • Chinkiang Black Vinegar can be found at most Chinese or Asian groceries (5-6 dollars?) If you can’t find it and don’t mind paying through the nose Amazon sells it. It’s a classic, pantry item.

If you live in NYC and want great pot stickers and boiled dumplings I highly recommend VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE which I first enjoyed 20 years ago in her original tiny hole in the wall joint on Eldridge Street where no more than 4 people could fit. Word grew about her amazing dumplings which were a buck for 5. Vanessa’s business grew and she became a very successful immigrant entrepreneur who kept expanding and improving and now has multiple beautiful places. If you eat her pot stickers or any of her many kinds of dumplings you will learn what great dumplings are truly like. They do cost more though now! Finally, if you really are interested in learning more and maybe trying your hand at them you will find lots of great info here

https://carlsbadcravings.com/potstickers/

and if you are REALLY inspired, make these yourselves!

VEGETARIANS – TJ does have vegetable dumplings too ! (boxed, frozen)

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