Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE (Fall Item) with Recipe, Braised Chicken & Vegetables


This “roasting sauce” is a new Fall item for as part of TJ’s annual “pumpkin spectacular”. Now I’m not one who goes crazy every Fall with all their Everything Pumpkin items. While some of the products they come up with are good (like this one!) some sound just bad to me (case point, TJ’s PUMPKIN SPICE HUMMUS, whose very name offends me as did TJ’s infamous “chocolate hummus”). But having said this, I hear Pumpkin Spice Hummus is popular and sells out often, so clearly I’m in the minority! Anyway as far as this new sauce is concerned, I liked it. It was better than what I imagined. This PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING sauce was quite tasty used it to braise chicken and vegetables (a recipe follows below).

This Pumpkin Chipotle sauce uses an imaginative blend of ingredients. Though it has pumpkin puree as the first ingredient it has so many other ingredients, the pumpkin flavor blends in with so many other flavors it makes a complex and tasty combination. This doesn’t have anything like a “pumpkin pie” flavor at all. Rather this sauce’s flavor profile is complex, balanced and delicious. Ingredients are: pumpkin puree, cane sugar, water, apple cider vinegar, apple juice concentrate, onion puree, sea salt, molasses, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, chipotle in adobo puree, chipotle chili powder and spices like nutmeg, ginger and allspice which are subtle here and blend well.

I used this sauce to make a braised chicken dish which turned out delicious. I used boneless chicken thighs and onion, garlic, celery, yellow peppers and mushrooms. This would work very well with bone-in thighs too, roasted as per TJ’s recipe (see link below)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/roasted-pumpkin-chipotle-chicken-thighs

In addition to chicken, I am sure this sauce will work very well with pork. Also just on roasted veggies. Probably it would work well even with tofu too. So it might be fun to experiment with this sauce and see what you can come up with. Here’s my saucy dish in the picture.

Braised Boneless Chicken Thighs (sliced up) in Pumpkin Chipotle sauce with vegetables

Trader Joe’s suggests roasting it with cauliflower or peppers which sounds good and they also mention using it with pasta too…. I have not tried that yet.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/pumpkin-chipotle-roasting-sauce-074648

This is how I made my chicken dish if you are interested.

RECIPEBONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS IN PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE SAUCE : Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dust with a little flour (optional). Brown chicken in 2 tsp olive oil for about 5 minutes per side. till golden. When browned, remove temporarily. Toss in your chopped vegetables to the pan (onions, garlic, celery, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms). Sauté on low-medium heat for about five minutes till translucent. Then add a few tablespoons of liquid (wine, stock or water) to the pan to de-glaze it, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom. Add your chicken back in and cover with Pumpkin Roasting Sauce and braise on gentle simmer (either on top of the stove or in the oven, loosely covered). I used about 3/4 of the jar in my dish but you can adjust amount if you want less or more sauce in the finished dish. Simmer / braise on low heat for about 25 minutes or so. If you use chicken breasts instead of thighs, reduce cooking time to about 12 minutes and if using bone in chicken simmer or roast for about 40 minutes. When done, I took out the chicken, rested it a bit, then sliced it and added it back to my sauce. Leave whole if you prefer of course. Check seasoning for salt and pepper. Optional – add 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce. Serve the chicken, veggies and sauce on top of Jasmine rice (or orzo or potatoes).

TJ’s says: “Use this Sauce to coat some Baby Cauliflower and Organic Mini Sweet Peppers before roasting them in a hot oven. Make it a marinade for chicken or pork to turn into an aromatic, shredded taco filling. Or give it a try on pasta night, combined with a touch of cream and tossed with Organic Cascatelli Pasta.”

PUMPKIN CHIPOTLE ROASTING SAUCE is $3.49 a jar (14.5 oz). I would buy this again. If you like it, I would say stock up on a few jars as it may vanish after Thanksgiving as I think its a seasonal item.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FROZEN SPINACH (and 2 ingredient hack)


It may seem a little silly to me to write a review of spinach but here goes anyway because it’s something I buy all the time from Trader Joe’s. Its healthy, tasty and super convenient to have on hand in the freezer. and a bargain at $1.99 for a 1 lb bag organic version. At the risk of heresy there are a few vegetables which I propose are actually better frozen than fresh. One is green peas. Two is spinach. While I love fresh raw spinach, the reality is it’s a pain. Spinach is really sandy. You have to seriously wash it about 3 or 4 times to get rid of all the grit. Then you start with what looks like an enormous amount, raw. You can fill the biggest pot you own with it to the brim, and that shrinks up into almost nothing! All of these are reasons I find frozen spinach way easier than using fresh spinach I’m going to cook anyway.

RECIPEa two ingredient Trader Joe’s hack I came up with for spinach with TJ’s Garlic Spread – which are so good together and takes minutes!

SPINACH IN GARLIC – Rinse frozen spinachfor about a 30-60 seconds in a colander and squeeze out water. (optional)

Toss spinach in a pot with a teaspoon of olive oil or butter (or 50/50 mix). Cook on medium till it’s just cooked but still bright green (don’t overcook it) adding a heaping tablespoon or two of TJ’s Garlic Spread and mix it all together. Give it a grind of fresh black pepper, taste it and if it needs it, add a pinch of salt (as the Garlic Spread has some salt). Optionally give it a squeeze of fresh lemon. This creamy combo is absolutely delish. You can even mix in noodles to this for an instant dish.

Spinach omelet – make the above and toss the spinach in the middle. Yum!

Spinach rice: Cook Basmati rice. Cook some spinach. Mix the two together when done with some Greek yogurt. Season to taste.

TJ’s organic spinach is $1.99. The regular spinach is even less only ($1.49). Either is a bargain and is a great thing to always have in your freezer. So eat your Spinach! It’s healthy – it’s what made Popeye so strong.

Trader Joe’s SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI w. butter & sage


These are called SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI with sage and butter (frozen section). That sounded interesting to me so I decided to check them out. Results? Well they were tasty but frankly different than what we were expecting from the name. First off there turned out to be quite a bit of sauce in relation to the gnocchi than expected (kind of swimming in it) and the flavor of the sauce while nice, dominated over any subtle sweet potato flavor to the point that three of us tasting them all had the same comment : we couldn’t tell these gnocchi were “sweet potato” as opposed to regular gnocchi, other than these were slightly orange in color. The first 3 ingredients are listed as: sweet potato, wheat flour, potato. So there is regular potato. We didn’t think they were bad but they didn’t stand out as “Sweet Potato Gnocchi”. All 3 of us trying them for the first time said while kind of tasty it was probably something we would not buy again. Rather I could make the regular gnocchi I like at TJ’s and get them a bit crispy on the outside and then add some butter, sage and cheese. These were about $3.39. So giving them a “meh” as both plus and minus opinions on them.

Seen at Trader Joe’s: Jalapeños, 29 cents each


I like that you don’t have to buy a whole package now. Sometimes when I have a package of jalapeños in the fridge, often I don’t use them up quickly enough and they start to get old, then go bad and I end up throwing them out. So this is better by the piece for 29 cents each. Naturally I will grab the biggest, freshest one I can find in the bunch to get the best bang for my buck (er, 29 cents). In fact, other than a banana I think this one of the cheapest items you can buy at Trader Joe’s, right?

Trader Joe’s KOREAN BEEFLESS BULGOGI (with recipe hack)


“Plant based Bulgogi style strips marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce”

Bulgogi is a popular Korean BBQ dish consisting of grilled marinated beef. It’s delicious. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beef-less Bulgogi is their vegan version, consisting of small pieces of mock meat made from soy protein, wheat gluten and other things. Judging from the internet, this product seems to be a bit of a hit especially with vegetarians of course (which I am not). The mock bulgogi strips have a pleasantly chewy texture that kind of make it resemble beef with a pleasantly chewy but tender texture. There isn’t really any sauce on these and I promise these will be tastier with some kind of sauce on them. A no-brainer sauce for these would be some Korean Gochujang (red pepper paste, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). You can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips with it and give it a little bit of sweet heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after cooking which is what I did (see below)

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

To best enjoy these, what I strongly suggest is don’t do this lazy thing I see on the ‘net about these TJ Beefless Bulgogi strips where people say all they do is microwave this package and put them on top of a bowl of rice. People exclaim “this is the bomb”. Wow, that is a such a low bar. Makes we wonder if these folks ever tasted real Korean cooking where a dishes flavors can explode all over your taste buds? Anway, to me just nuking the package and putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people! I suggest you think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish with. Make a stir fry for instance using these strips which will take you ten minutes of work, most of which is cutting up veggies. Below is one recipe stir fry idea for these vegan strips. First off, these will taste better if you get a nice sear on them, so suggest don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown them up a bit. You can throw a dish together in about 10 minutes with just a little effort. Defrosting needed?! Yes. TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on their packages (again, geared towards making everything “easy”?) Anyway I do suggest defrosting these before cooking. They defrost fairly quickly. I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or you could take it out in the morning for that night’s dinner. Or just leave the bag on the counter for maybe an hour or two? In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted. See below for a Stir Fry recipe featuring the “Bulgogi Strips”….

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First off I should state I’m and omnivore, not Vegan. I adore real Bulgogi especially in a smoky Korean BBQ restaurant using old school charcoal. These Beefless Strips don’t compare but THEY ARE pretty good and do slightly resemble beef though they won’t fool an omnivore that they’re beef. However frankly my Korean wife ate my Stir Fry dish and until I told here this was Vegan and not real beef she she didn’t know at first. What they got right here, is the chewy texture, which is good, it’s a little “beefy and chewy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty, where they are an ingredient and not just the star of the show. A package was $3.49. (Yikes. they went up since I wrote this; now 4.29?) If real beef, at least 10 or 12 bucks I would guess.

Note: While this is Vegan it is NOT Gluten Free as it contains Wheat Gluten. In fact Gluten is what gives this the nice, chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten to make Vegetarian Mock Meat for a thousand years. This is what “Seitan” is.

RECIPE – EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY : Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a wok or pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted bulgogi strips in a single layer and let them brown and get seared (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them around until they are seared. When they are, add vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the dish in the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (fresh garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Add 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling Gochujang sauce over the top. For a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang with an equal amount water slowly until its a smooth sauce. Serve with rice of course. Also – Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up * vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJ’s frozen Asian veggies mix and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

Trader Joe’s GARLIC SPREAD / DIP (with Spinach recipe hack)


This has become one of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s! If you love garlic as much as I do, you will adore this “GARLIC SPREAD DIP” . I find this stuff amazing. It’s become yet another must have always in the fridge things for me. I think of it as much as an ingredient as a “spread”. You can add a spoon of this to a dish to give things an immediate flavor boost, kind of as you would fresh garlic. I put this in mashed potatoes, spinach, pasta, hummus…. It’s so versatile. It makes a great spinach dish. I came up with a super quick hack using (frozen) spinach which you can make a yummy dish in 3 minutes just by adding a heaping spoon of this dip. See my recipe hack down below.

Quite a few countries have some type of garlic spread like this. In Lebanese cooking, they have the garlic spread called “Toum” (basically TJ’s spread is Toum). In Greece, they have a spread called “Skordalia” made from garlic, olive oil and potato. In the South of France they have the yummy yellow garlicky mayonnaise called, “Aioli” famously served on toasted baguette alongside Bouillabaisse. Mashed garlic acts as an emulsifier with oil to make a spread. Trader Joe’s version like Lebanese toum is an emulsified paste of garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt, traditionally made in a mortar and pestle. They did not skimp on garlic. TJ’s GARLIC SPREAD is so garlicky it’s not funny. True garlic lovers will want to try this on everything. So what can you use this Garlic Spread on? To start with just try it on thin slices of toasted baguette, which will be match well with a salad or soup like croutons or garlic bread. This stuff is especially good for any pasta dish. Just toss in a spoonful into your finished pasta, especially tomato pasta (PESTO ROSSO? Add some of this to jazz it up! Use this instead of butter for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches. Put a little into your tuna or egg salad. Eggs, try some in an Omelet for some kick. Salmon or other fish, for sure. I’ve found it’s fantastic in mashed potatoes to jazz them up. Almost any vegetable dish will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this vegan garlic spread, so it’s ideal for vegans and vegetarians as well as us non-vegetarians. It was amazing on the CHICKEN SHAWARMA. Greek yogurt plus some of this spread makes and instant super easy tasty sauce. Here’s a recipe I came up with using spinach. This is a great tasting spinach dish in under 2 minutes.

SPINACH WITH GARLIC SPREAD RECIPE – Two ingredients: frozen spinach and garlic spread. Toss the spinach in a pan with a little olive oil (or butter) and cook for a few minutes till done (keep it bright green!) then add in a nice heaping tablespoon of this Garlic Spread and mix. Fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt if needed. DONE. It will look a little bit creamy and taste absolutely delish.

In fact most vegetable dishes will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this VEGAN spread, so it’s ideal for vegans / vegetarians to give a enormous flavor boost to most things. One thing to remember, it does have some calories same as a mayonnaise, its mostly oil. 2 Tbls have about 150 calories. Its $2.99. GREAT ITEM!

Trader Joe’s COWBOY CAVIAR (corn & black bean salsa)


“Corn, black bean and pepper salsa. Smoky sweet with just the right amount of kick” – Trader Joe’s

This is a must try, if you never had it. Both my wife and I really, really love this terrific salsa. We both even think it could be a pick for a TJ’s Top Ten.

“Cowboy Caviar” – You gotta love that name. “Cowboy Caviar” is a typical South Western dish made with kernels of corn, beans (black beans and/or black eyed peas) in a tomato base. Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar is a great version, maybe more in a salsa style with corn, black beans, red bell peppers, onions, jalapenos, lime juice and spices, with some kick to it, from chipotle chiles in adobe which give it a bit of heat plus a smoky undertone. TJ’s doesnt have the heat level rating on the jar. Call it a medium heat? This stuff is soooo good as a salsa, as a dip for chips, like the Corn Dippers, on top of tacos, on top of rice, with eggs, mixed into veggies, alongside grilled chicken, or as a little side dish…. you name it, I think it will perk it up. Its a really good pantry item to have on hand. You can put out some of this with chips or crackers and you can have something in a few seconds for unexpected guests. A jar now goes for $2.99 (13 oz)

I would buy it again.

Trader Joe’s GARLIC BREAD CHEESE


” A mild cow’s milk cheese seasoned with garlic powder and baked golden brown”

What is Trader Joe’s “bread cheese”. There is no bread. It’s a cheese you can grill. It’s really, really good! Too good perhaps. Inspired by a popular grilling cheese from Finland, Trader Joe’s “Bread Cheese” is designed to be grilled. It’s a firm cheese with a high melting point which has been pre-baked until golden brown, then packaged up. We now grill this cheese up in a pan until it it gets all melty and gooey. While it is all nice and soft, you eat the slightly squeaky yummy cheese which is kind of like a mozzarella stick without the breading. In fact they suggest you dunk it in some tomato sauce. Some people have put the Hot Honey on it. Some have put Ranch on it. I like it “Greek style” with fresh lemon juice sprinkled over the hot cheese. This stuff is wonderful on top off a salad, or eaten with with a crusty baguette or other bread. Trust me, this is so good and you will come up with lots of ways to enjoy it. Anyway you eat this, you will find it delicious. Its about $4.29 for the package (6 oz). I would buy this again.

My suggestion. Try it Greek Style like Saganaki. Cook it up in a small pan with a little olive oil until golden and sprinkle it with fresh lemon, then bring the whole pan to the table for everyone to tear into and enjoy with warm bread or pita and some salad. TJ’s sells another yummy cheese for grilling called HALOUMI, which is also delicious. Try them both.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/garlic-bread-cheese-071622

“Known in its native Finland as juustolepä, Bread Cheese contains no wheat, or gluten, nor anything else of that nature, but rather gets its name from its hearty, remarkably bread-like consistency and squeaky, Halloumi-like texture. And much like Halloumi, Trader Joe’s Garlic Bread Cheese is best served nice and warm, after it’s had a chance to get just a little melty and gooey.”

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s GOLDEN ROUNDS CRACKERS


Similar in appearance to famed Ritz crackers (which in my lifetime, I’ve probably eaten a few thousand of. ). These however I think these may be slightly healthier with better ingredients. For one thing, comparing the ingredients labels, I see TJ GOLDEN ROUNDS list Sunflower Oil and Cane Sugar in them whereas Ritz’s ingredients include Palm Oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup. How are these compared to Ritz? They’re good! (OK maybe a tiny bit less compared to Ritz) But the ingredients here are a bit healthier for you and that small difference in taste is outweighed by this. These crackers were very good tasted with a bit of Unexpected Cheddar cheese on top. These crackers are perfect for a cheese plate or snacks. There are about 100 crackers in a box. TJ Golden Round crackers sell for $1.99. $2.69.

Give these a try. I would buy them again.

Seen at Trader Joe’s: PINEAPPLE PLANTS (baby so cute!)


Just to give you an idea of how small it really is, the cute little pineapple growing on the stalk is about the size of my thumb. It looks so cool and adorable.

Full name of the plant is PINEAPPLE BROMELIAD. See the link for info on care and growing.

TJ’s was selling these for $15.99

Now have you ever wondered why you see so many pineapples in depicted in design, old buildings and architecture? There is a reason: it showed wealth and hospitality.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-hidden-history-of-the-housewarming-pineapple

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