Trader Joe’s ORGANIC RAW PUMPKIN VINEGAR (Fall Item)


FALL SEASONAL ITEM – Trader Joe’s Organic Raw Pumpkin Vinegar, “RAW ORGANIC VINEGAR WITH THE MOTHER, UNPASTEURIZED AND UNFILTERED”

If you are one of those into Trader Joe’s All Things Pumpkin every Fall you may find this interesting enough to check out.

It’s made exactly like they make the Apple Cider Vinegar TJ’s carries, just instead of apples they are using pumpkins. I compared the taste of TJ’s Apple Cider Vinegar and this Pumpkin Vinegar side by side to compare them to each other. Now the Apple Cider Vinegar is something I’m really used to, taste-wise and just find that really really good, a perfect vinegar. ACV tastes just right to me especially as far as acidity and sharpness. This pumpkin vinegar has the slightest taste of pumpkin. It seems to be more mellow than ACV even though technically the acidity in both is the same. Both say “diluted to 5% acidity”. But this pumpkin vinegar seems less sharp to me. So if you want a less sharp vinegar, this may be for you. Me, while I find this “interesting”, it’s just a curiosity item. I’d probably say I prefer my good old reliable ACV. I could see this vinegar as being good for making a milder vinaigrette. Or used to make a shrub (drink with vinegar)?

This is $1.99 for a 8 1/2 oz bottle. I can get a way bigger bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar for just a little more ($2.49). I probably wouldn’t buy this again. Side-note – TJ’s once carried a raspberry vinegar which I actually did like a lot, as it did actually taste of raspberries. I liked that for salad dressings – but sadly it vanished like so many good TJ’s items! (Sigh)

TJ’s says: “Our supplier takes fresh, cold-pressed, organic Pumpkins and ferments them into a cider. Then they add the vinegar “mother” (a culture of good bacteria) and ferment them together to become the seasonal vinegar before you—the very same process that is used to turn apples into our Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. This Organic Raw Vinegar is unpasteurized and unfiltered—giving it a gorgeously cloudy, orange hue—with a subtle pumpkin flavor. Use it to create a unique vinaigrette for your salads or add a tablespoon to give a punch of acidity to chilis, stews, and sauces. Best yet, combine with sparkling water for a homemade pumpkin shrub!”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/organic-raw-pumpkin-vinegar-074212

Trader Joe’s Organic Maple Syrup Vinaigrette (Fall Item)


FALL SEASONAL ITEM

This was a “Meh” for me. Just wasn’t too crazy for this vinaigrette which was one of those “sounded better than it tasted” items for me. Two tasters in our house didn’t go for this dressing and didn’t like it. I found the maple taste off putting and didn’t work at all. As opposed to honey which I like in a salad dressing. Frankly I can easily make a very good Vinaigrette myself in about 3 minutes using with oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard (optional, crushed garlic). Put these in a glass jar and shake shake shake. Frankly we prefer my Homemade Vinaigrette way over any dressing I can buy generally. However what I do think is worth buying at Trader Joe’s is their Asian Sesame Dressing which is excellent. TOASTED SESAME SALAD DRESSING. We just love that one so much. That is worth the same price as this one, $3.49. This one for us at least was a miss and a “meh”.

This was a “Meh” for me. Just wasn’t too crazy for this vinaigrette which was one of those “sounded better than it tasted” items for me. Two tasters in our house didn’t go for this dressing and didn’t like it. I found the maple taste off putting and didn’t work at all. As opposed to honey which I like in a salad dressing. Frankly I can easily make a very good Vinaigrette myself in about 3 minutes using with oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard (optional, crushed garlic). Put these in a glass jar and shake shake shake. Frankly we prefer my Homemade Vinaigrette way over any dressing I can buy generally. However what I do think is worth buying at Trader Joe’s is their Asian Sesame Dressing which is excellent. TOASTED SESAME SALAD DRESSING. We just love that one so much. That is worth the same price as this one, $3.49. This one for us at least was a miss and a “meh”. I won’t buy this again.

EASY BASIC VINAIGRETTE RECIPE

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS


Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS

You might describe me as a dumpling fanatic. I’m fortunate to live in a city with a huge Asian population and can get really excellent dumplings. And I do mean excellent. So having said that, while I can’t honestly say these Trader Joe’s mini wontons are as good as some of the great handmade chicken and basil dumplings I can get at a place like Vanessa’s Dumpling House or Shiu Jiao Fu Zhou dumpling house, these are decent little wontons. So if you can’t go buy a big bag of frozen dumplings from Vanessa’s or another Chinese dumpling maker as I do on occasion, these may be the next best thing as they are convenient to get at TJ’s. In fact I usually see a few people grabbing these when I’m at Trader Joe’s, so I know these are popular. On the web, I know there is some hack with these dumplings cooked in TJ’s Miso Ginger broth, which I tried and is pretty good – but for me that broth needs more miso and way more ginger!

These are mini wontons are small, basically one bite each. They’re good either boiled or pan fried. If boiled I like them in a strong chicken broth (preferably homemade) or possibly TJ’s Ginger Miso Broth (I would add miso if you have that) as well as cooked up as pan fried wontons. These will taste much better with a good dumping sauce. For me, that is mandatory. Also the cilantro flavor in the dumplings is weak so I recommend adding a good handful of chopped cilantro just before serving – if you like that, of course. Many people hate the flavor but I love it.

These Mini Wontons are $3.49 for a package (12 oz). I would buy these again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/chicken-cilantro-mini-wontons-099085

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced PUMPKIN SEEDS (Fall Item)


There are some Fall items that are misses and some that are hits. This is a HIT for me. These are really good. I love them and everybody I offered them too liked them. The added spices and coating is not cloying, it’s just enough but not too much so you still taste pumpkin seeds, and they are really crunchy and tasty (they have butter). $2.99 for 8 oz.

The Pumpkin Greek Yogurt however was a big Miss for me; Didn’t like that taste at all. I would not buy that again.

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.

Re: Trader Joe’s and Discontinued Items, this is a must read/listen


I came across these two links here recently and want to share them for the insight into Trader Joe’s and discontinued products. Now to we consumers, it may be “my favorite item” at Trader Joe’s. But to Trader Joe’s “its just business”. You may think of Trader Joe’s as a supermarket but it is not a “supermarket”. Think of them as a specialty food vendor. Compared to a regular supermarket, which may stock 40,000 items, an average Trader Joe’s store only stocks 4,000 items. So limited shelf space. If a item doesn’t sell enough Units, to the decision makers at Trader Joe’s, that is a found to be a “slow sales item”. These items will likely be discontinued and be replaced with some other product. We, the consumer have little or nothing to do with it, other than the sales numbers. Read the transcript below of the INSIDE TRADER JOE’S podcast to get insight into how they decide these things.

Its not happy news for us consumers. Unfortunate that’s the way it is. Pretty much “don’t take it personal, it’s just business”. This is why even when I love an item, I know in the back of my mind “don’t fall in love”… because it may dissapear one day. Or if I really like it, I may buy a few of them if they can last….

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-discontinued-groceries-podcast-23444348

This is particularly disheartening!

What can you do if your favorite TJ’s item is discontinued? Honestly, there’s not much you can do to bring your favorite groceries back once they’re gone. However, if you want to talk about it, there’s the Trader Joe’s Discontinued 🙁 Facebook group (and yes, the sad face is part of the group’s name).”

TRADER JOE’S PODCAST

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/podcast


Inside Trader Joe’s Podcast Transcript — ICYMI: Discontinued Products

Tara: Hey, Matt, what happened to the Peach Salsa?
Matt: In case you missed it, Trader Joe’s Spicy, Smoky Peach Salsa, it was discontinued.
Tara: Yeah, I noticed cuz it’s my favorite salsa of all time and now I can’t buy it.
This is a good topic for another I-C-Y-M-I Edition of Inside Trader Joe’s.
Matt: I-C-Y-M-I, in case you missed it.
Tara: These mini-episodes give us an opportunity to address some of the questions our crew members hear from customers most often.
Matt: And keep asking. The crew loves to answer questions.
Matt: Thinking about getting rid of products, discontinuing products. More often than not, it’s not an indictment of the product itself.
Tara: What gives?
Matt: Well, you know, oftentimes we’ll use a phrase and we probably overly rely on it, slow sales. What does that really mean? What it means is that there weren’t enough customers interested in buying the Peach Salsa to have it continue to make sense. Because if you don’t have high volume or growing volume, the costs of producing and handling a slow selling product are such that it doesn’t make business sense for us. And if you think about how small our stores are, and on a relative basis, they’re smaller than most grocery stores. And how few products we have? On a comparative basis, we have a lot fewer products than other grocery stores. We just physically don’t have room to carry things that aren’t popular, as disappointing as that is to hear and experience.
Tara: So there’s another piece of this, Matt, that I think is kind of important. And it’s what we don’t do to put products on our shelves.
Matt: How so?
Tara: So a lot of retailers work with the companies that make their products, the Consumer Packaged Goods Companies, to put products on shelves using something called
slotting fees. So the Consumer Packaged Goods, the CPG Companies pay the retailer, the
grocery store for shelf space. So even if a product doesn’t sell very well, and even if you see
it in the store and it’s covered with dust, it’s not going anywhere until the Consumer
Packaged Goods Company decides it doesn’t make sense to produce that product anymore.
Matt: Ah, now I get it. It’s the classical play of making money anywhere other than
with a customer buying something at the cash register.
Tara: Right. And at Trader Joe’s, the only way we make money is when the customer buys something at the cash register. So apparently I didn’t buy enough Peach Salsa. But that means that that product hasn’t earned its place on our shelves. We’re not getting paid by the producer of that product to keep it on the shelves. And our business model says let’s develop something new that might sell better and make more customers happy.
Matt: And that approach can feel and sound so cold-hearted, and yet it’s important that we maintain our objectivity about what really is or isn’t working, what really isn’t selling because ultimately customers do let us know if they like something or not.
Tara: Yeah, and I’ll be honest, when I went to buy it that one day a few weeks ago, I was just so sad standing there in front of the salsa selection in the store. And then I thought, okay, I’ll try something new. The great thing about discontinued products is it almost always
means there’s something new coming soon. You can always find new things on our
shelves. A lot of our stores have like a new product section where they’ll highlight a whole
bunch of things that have recently shown up in the stores. It’s kind of fun to try something
new.
Matt: So I see why I, and maybe this is the missing salsa edition, but if you’re
looking for the Double Roasted Salsa, which was one of my favorites, which was sadly
discontinued, you might consider trying the Guajillo Salsa, which I find to be a nice albeit
slightly spicier replacement.
Tara: And I also have taken to the Pineapple Salsa to replace the Peach Salsa if
I’m in the mood for something that has a little sweetness to it. So, there are options. We,
you know, we don’t have every product in the world, but we do have some good options.
Matt: We work hard, the product development team, the tasting panel group, they
work on things by tasting them. They think these things make sense. They think that they’re
delicious. They think they’re worth customers’ time and attention. And if that doesn’t pan
out in that way, well, we’ve gotta move on. Of course, there can be reasons other than slow
sales. Um, if there are quality issues or that we determined that the value that we once had
is no longer as strong. If we are facing different competitive pressures on a given product.
And yet, overwhelmingly, the reason for things to be discontinued at Trader Joe’s is a lack of
interest, slow sales.
Tara: Yeah.
Tara: I’m Tara Miller.
Matt: And I’m Matt Sloan.
Tara: In case you missed it. That’s why your favorite product might have been discontinued it. Thanks for listening.

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