Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


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

RAVE

Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar


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

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

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

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

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

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

RAVE

 

TJ’s Tea Tree Hand Wash Soap


Clearly these are trying times for us all (i.e., Corona Virus pandemic). So I have to say its nice to find something that seems to help during these times, and this soap actually helps me. Whenever I wash my hands with this soap,  which is often of course, the most lovely odor of tea tree oil scent hits my nose a second later, and I just find the aroma very comforting, and very calming. Seriously – This stuff is helping my mental state in some small way. Aromatherapy perhaps? And should I add I’m a straight male!? Seriously folks, this Tea Tree hand wash soap has the most amazing aroma. It’s a kind of “medicinal” smell, in a good way, that is wonderful and comforting every time you use it. Using this heavenly soap will no doubt make you feel slightly better and more relaxed as soon as that tea tree oil smell hits your nose. Plus the Aloe and oils in the hand wash will keep your hands from drying out from all the hand washing we’re doing! Tea tree oil has its own antibacterial properties. The soap is a “Product of New Zealand”, and that sounds good to me too. Label says “Cleanse and invigorates the senses” – it really does. The whole bathroom smells good after you washed up with this.

Seriously if you can find this in your Trader Joe’s, be sure to grab yourself a bottle (but just one please, leave one for the next person) It cost about $4.50 a bottle, and mine is seeming to last quite a while as a little squirt of this liquid soap goes a long way.

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!

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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.

Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE (OAT MILK)


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Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE

Now I do still drink regular milk, which I prefer in my coffee and tea. However I have been trying to cut down on the amount of real (whole) milk I use on a daily basis, as I try to watch my cholesterol. Mostly now I use real milk to make my morning cappuccino and for putting in my tea.  But for some other uses where I formerly might have chosen real milk such as on my morning breakfast cereal, I’ve gotten pretty used to trying alternatives such Soy or Almond Milk. Having tried almost all the non-milk beverage alternatives, I saw this non-refrigerated “oat milk” beverage at Trader Joe’s when it was first introduced a few months back. TJ’s seemed to have it in many places all over the store to push its introduction. I tried it and guess what? I loved it. Its terrific! I really think this is a good “milk alternative beverage”, maybe for me it may be the best of all the alternative milk products, beating out soy milk and nut milks.

I also like that when you look at the label of you only see TWO INGREDIENTS – WATER and (hydolyzed) OATS. That’s it. At least in the shelf stable pack. The refrigerated one interestingly has more ingredients.

TJ’s OAT BEVERAGE has a creamy smooth taste with a subtle milky sweetness which is very pleasing. Basically this oat milk has taken the place for “other milk” I buy now, even over the almond stuff.

The label says: “who knew that oats and water could be mildly sweet“? Instead of adding cane sugar as an ingredient, we unearth the balanced sweetness by breaking down the starches present in oats to create sugar. The sugars created bring out a whole new flavor dimension. A smooth, creamy, mildly sweet and totally amazing beverage”

Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Basically this oat milk has taken the place for “other milk” I buy now, even over the almond stuff. A quart of the shelf stable Oat Beverage is $2.29. It’s very convenient to always have one in your cupboard.
Oh and by the way, as far as dairy farmers are concerned nothing except what comes out of a cow should be called “milk” and I totally support dairy farmers as if we lose more numbers of them, we are screwed.

RAVE

Everything But The Elote Seasoning Blend



RAVE

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

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

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

 
Don’t you wish we had smellovision?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE


Trader Joe’s as you may know carries a whole bunch of all kinds of condiments and sauces. It has quite a few hot sauces, some of these being VERY good. Green Dragon Hot Sauce is perhaps my favorite hot sauce Trader Joe’s sells (followed by BOMBA).

In short, this is a fantastic hot sauce. If you Google this product you’ll find it has many many fans all over the internet and with good reason. GREEN DRAGON has far more fans than the TJ Sriracha (not bad but IMO nowhere the equal of the original classic Huy Fong Sriracha {red rooster label).

Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce‘s ingredients include: jalapeños, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, garlic, lime juice and habanero. It is spicy of course but not blow the roof of your mouth off spicy. This stuff has a lot of lovely flavors going on. Its not simply “hot”With the above ingredients naturally Green Dragon can be viewed as a type of classic Mexican/South American style salsa. But its not just for “Mexican food” at all. It works with all kinds of cuisines and foods, Asian style food in particular. When I’m make Asian or Chinese dishes I tend to use Green Dragon a good deal. Its very floral as it is made from fresh green chiles, herbs and aromatics. Used judiciously this sauce adds flavor to all kinds of dishes. A few drops can go a long way in the flavor and heat department, so you can use it a bit sparingly (unless you love heat, then put more of course!) For example a splash of this when you are making eggs, either in scrambled eggs, or on top of fried eggs…really really good! I even put a few drops on something “boring” like cottage cheese (no really, try this combo on a toasted bagel) Cottage cheese, Boring no more. Toast up a bagel, top with cottage cheese, dot with Green Dragon; Thats one yummy breakfast. AVOCADO TOAST? YES! See below for a mini-recipe.

I just put some G.D.S in a lentil soup I had made and found it was perfect for that too, it added just that little bit of something extra that the soup needed, with that cilantro flavor. It is easy and fun to experiment with Green Dragon. Once you start trying it on different things, you will also discover, “umm, that works with this” for yourself. Green Dragon sauce is one of my “always have in fridge” TJ items! So I never am without it and I keeps one in the pantry too just in case.  It’s a steal too for $3.29 a bottle (18 ounces). In another Gourmet type store, something like this would be six bucks no doubt.

Avocado Toast: mash a ripe avocado up with salt, pepper, a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and Add some Green Dragon to taste. Spread mixture on buttered sourdough toast or sliced brioche or a bagel. Yum! Side note – add some into your guacamole, of course thats fantastic).

RAVE

Trader Joe’s WINTER WAKE UP TEA


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

TJ Soy Ginger Marinated WILD COD FILLETS


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

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

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

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

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

RAVE

 

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Trader Joe’s CUBANO WRAP SANDWICH


Pretty rare that I buy pre-made sandwiches but I saw this in the case at Trader Joe’s recently and was intrigued at the name, Cubano Seasoned Wrap. The label say its”Roasted Pork, Ham, Swiss Cheese and Dill Pickles on a flour tortilla with Cuban inspired mustard dressing”.

Just in case you’re not familiar what that is, a Cubano is a pretty famous, not to mention, amazing sandwich concoction made as this is, with both Roasted Pork and Ham (yes two kinds of pork in one place!) Swiss cheese and pickles. This traditionally goes on a very soft “Cuban bread” with a good smear of butter and goes into a special grill press which basically is like a “panini” grill. It gets pressed and grilled until its toasted up and golden brown and delicious with that swiss cheese now all melty and gooey and everything warm and yummy smelling. Trust me, if you ever had a really good Cubano, you would love it, they are to die for.

The Cubano sandwich is super famous in Miami as you might imagine with its large Cuban population. But fortunately its available in other places, especially with a large Hispanic speaking population, like New York City for one, where you can get a good Cubano. I used to go way uptown in Manhattan to a little Dominican bakery on Dykman Street in Inwood that makes them right in front of you, super non-fancy but amazingly good.

So I decided to try Trader Joe’s “Cubano Wrap” and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This tastes really good. It contains a good amount of the traditional ingredients: roasted pork with ham and Swiss cheese plus pickles but instead of bread they have put it into a burrito style wrap. The wrap variation works pretty well. I got one to make for lunch for my wife and I. We thought this was very tasty, both gave a thumbs up and since then I’ve bought it a few times.

Please note, this is a sandwich (wrap) that have to heat up – don’t even think about eating this cold, room temp, as-is.  Check out that grill mark in the picture? Thats what you want. Personally I would not “nuke” it to heat this, I suggest you grill it. Put the wrap in a non-stick or cast iron pan on med-low heat and heat it for about 4-5 minutes a side, pressing down gently till its one on one side, then flip it till both sides are G.D.B. and when everything will be warm and the cheese all melty inside. Eat it while its hot. As you can see in the photo here, it looks pretty damn yummy and for $3.99 this a good deal for a “sandwich”. It could be a dinner, for me. My wife and I usually split one for a light lunch, with some other stuff on the side. I served it with some TJ Horseradish Aioli, which was perfect with this Cubano Wrap. That is a very good sauce (I will review in future). So all in all, this Cubano Wrap gets a Thumbs Up, a Worth Trying, and Good Value seal of approval.

Let’s be real though. Its a little high in calories and sodium, so I treat this as a special treat for once in a while. I would not eat one every day no matter how yummy it is.

If this video doesn’t make you want to get a on plane to eat one in Little Havana, Miami, somethings wrong with you. Making Cubanos. From the film “Chef” with John Leguizamo and Jon Favreu.

 

RAVE

 

 

 

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