Envy Apples


I never heard of this apple before I saw them at Trader Joe’s. A hybrid developed in New Zealand, “Envy” apples are a hybrid of Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties. Both of those are excellent apples, and this hybrid, Envy, is well, just a terrific tasting apple. When I first tasted this Envy, my taste buds went pretty wild with “this must be one of the best apples I ever had”. Seriously this is just a great apple. Nice crunch, firm texture, sweet but with a hint of sour underneath? It’s a complex flavor, way more complex than just “sweet” like say a Honey Crisp apple or Red Delicious (yuck). Envy are a favorite pick of the Trader Joe’s crew, who I imagine taste everything they sell. I kind of trust those “crew picks”.

INFO

https://envyapple.com/en/about-envy#tab-1

These apples go great with just about everything. What about Envy with cheese? Yes, please. I knew they would match well with most any cheese, and frankly there is absolutely nothing better than to slice up these apples and put them on a plate with the Unexpected Cheddar. What a combo these make together. Seriously. Try either that or Cabot cheddar with these apples. I would imagine Brie would be great, or let’s face it any cheese you like. I love these just eaten out of hand on their own of course. I like them in the morning, diced up for my breakfast cereal. Your kids will love these paired up with some peanut butter. I know I do. Envy sell for $1.29 each. A bit more than the apples TJ sells for 79 cents but worth the little splurge every now and then. So if you haven’t ever tried these, try one for yourselves. You may get hooked on them. I know I have. I always buy one when I’m at TJ’s.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


In the Dried Fruit section at TJs, I’ve always liked a package of dried bananas that Trader Joe’s has sold. A few days ago, this bright yellow package caught my eye. Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS. Not sure if product is new, replaced those, or I just never noticed them before but they stoked my curiousity to review for the site so got a bag. DRIED BABY BANANAS are tasty! Some people might think they look a little scary, almost like little dried cut off fingers. Taste-wise they are just what they sound like, baby bananas, which I am guessing are sun or air dried.  They are a bit moist, a bit chewy and have an intense banana taste as the flavors are concentrated. And “baby bananas” are a different variety than your normal banana. So did I like them? Here’s the answer. After I tasted one, then another, I basically couldn’t stop eating them! Delicious. 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, great combination…  of course 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 like that as a snack. Though when they first see them no doubt they will say something like, “ewww gross, these look like dried fingers off a dead monkey” – which they do to some extant, though they look exactly like what they sound like, dried baby bananas all shrunken up. The package says they come from Thailand. INGREDIENTS: “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. In short, another very good dried fruit snack from TJ, well worth trying so check them out.

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.

Trader Joe’s OAT BEVERAGE (OAT MILK)


oatmilk1

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

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!

 

 

 

Italian Tomato Paste (in a tube!)


u·ma·mi (pronunciation: u -ˈmämēe)

A category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates.

 

What genius invented this product? No really, I’m serious. Whoever thought this up is a bloody genius. Putting tomato paste in a tube like toothpaste might be the greatest invention since the napkin.

You might think of this as a minor advancement of our civilization but honestly this is so practical and useful. How many times have you needed perhaps just 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to add to something and thought, “Jeez, I don’t want  to open up that whole little can of tomato paste for a spoonful. I’ll just end up throwing most of it away” With this in a tube when you need a spoonful or two you don’t have to open a whole little can of tomato paste. You squeeze out what you need from this tube, and keep the rest in the fridge for the next time. It will last at least a month or two in your fridge. Actually a few months (even though they say on the box, use within 2 weeks…my experience says it lasts for a few months once opened). So for practicality this is a great item. You should have this in the cupboard/fridge always. This wonderful little item is only a little over a buck!

Tomato paste, which has a great deal of glutamates present = UMAMI

Tomato paste, dried mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, miso, seaweed – these are just a few food items that, as they contain natural glutamates, bring UMAMI (aka the 5th taste) to what your cooking.

A tablespoon of tomato paste will add a depth of flavor to many things. Unlock its secrets! See some of the links below.

Having said all that, when you need a can and will use up the whole thing or most of it, get the little can, which is cheaper in the long run, and thats only about 89 cents.

LINKS

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-tomato-paste

https://www.brit.co/how-to-use-tomato-paste/

https://www.today.com/food/chef-s-secret-how-use-tomato-paste-right-way-t75761

 

PACIFIC ORGANIC ALMOND MILK


I’ve tried a number of the “milk alternative” beverages at Trader Joe’s. Most of them are pretty good. The one I keep going back to is PACIFIC FOODS ORGANIC ALMOND MILK (“Original”). I think the reason is I find its taste is a tiny bit better due to the fact the almonds its made from are roasted.

The Pacific Foods website says: “We take organic almonds and add a gentle roast to emphasize the robust, authentic flavors of the almonds. The result is our smooth, signature taste that’s a pleasure to drink by the glass and blends perfectly in your dairy-free recipes.”

We all know roasting nuts brings out their flavor, right? This subtle but noticeable taste in this almond beverage makes a small but slightly significant better taste giving this almond beverage a little depth of flavor over the other almond milks TJ carries.

I mostly use Almond Milk in the morning on my cereal. But this is also good to drink on its own (well chilled), mixed with yogurt, which is usually the things I put on my breakfast cereal with some fruit. I use this almond milk to make Smoothies; and its great for those. I actually do drink regular (cow) milk too though. I use regular whole milk in my daily cappuccino. Almond or Soy milk adds a taste that I don’t like in coffee drinks, for my taste or a cup of English tea.

The Pacific Almond Beverage costs a bit than the other nut milk beverages. This sells for $2.19 (1 Qt) compared to for example TJ’s Almond Milk ($1.89). Still this is worth trying and comparing to see what you like best. This version (original) does have a little organic cane sugar in it, but its hardly “sweet” and I think that also makes it tastier. Cow’s milk has naturally produced sugars too you know, just check the label.

The dairy milk industry by the way has been going crazy for the last few years about the word “milk” being used for anything other than the liquid produced by lactating cows. Hence the wording: “plant-based beverage” on the this box! The FDA thinks people get confused seeing the word milk used for anything other than cow milk. I do feel bad for dairy farmer’s, who have seen milk consumption decline way down from say, when I was a kid.

 

NO RECIPE RECIPE: BREAKFAST SOAKED OATS aka OVERNIGHT OATS (No Cooking)

OVER NIGHT OATS ARE A YUMMY AND HEALTHY BREAKFAST!

The night before, put up some rolled oats (or quick oats) in a bowl or container. Pour an equal amount of almond milk over them to cover by a bit and stir to mix. A spoonful of chia seeds are nice too! Let this oatey mix sit and soften up overnight in the fridge. The raw oats will soften up without cooking and become yummy. If you use Quick Oats this can be ready to eat in 15 minutes or so. Dried fruits thrown in will soften and be lovely too (dried cranberries, dates, raisins….) In the morning the mixture will be ready to eat. Top your overnight oaks with your favorite fruits (bananas, berries…) yogurt or kefir and maybe more almond milk if too thick. Some crunchy topping? Granola or a cereal. Nuts. Sweeten with honey or some raw sugar if desired. 

OVERNIGHT OATS WITH NICE PHOTOS

Trader Joe’s SAUERKRAUT with Persian cucumbers


SAUERKRAUT – German for “sour cabbage”

If like yours truly, you love sauerkraut then you will find that this TJ product is probably the best sauerkraut you ever tried. According to Trader Joe’s website they say even if you don’t like it now, this may change your mind about SAUERKRAUT. Now, that’s confidence in your product, huh?! Unlike commercially made mass-produced sauerkraut which is cooked and has vinegar added to it, this sauerkraut is a raw, fermented product. TJ says its made by a small batch producer in the traditional way, which is simply cabbage treated with salt, left to ferment for a period of time. So Old School. This is the real McCoy in Sauerkraut. It has pickled Persian cucumbers in it too, which are nice and add a little more crunch and variety. This Sauerkraut goes perfectly with hot dogs, of course, and sausages and would especially be great of course with the German made BAVARIAN BRATWURST previously reviewed, with a Rave. As we know now, fermented foods are very good for your digestive system, gut health and overall health in general. It’s considered healthy to eat something fermented on a regular or daily basis. A spoonful of this – or kimchi or kefir – and your gut will be aces.

Trader Joe’s Sauerkraut with Persian cucumbers is $3.99 for a 14 oz. container. Ingredients:, Cabbage, Persian Cucumbers, Salt, Garlic.

TJ’s SWEET CHILI SAUCE


RAVE

Apparently this is one of Trader Joe’s most popular products, and not without good reason. This is absolutely one of my favorite TJ products and on my “always have in fridge” list. As the name says, this is a delicious sweet chili sauce, that is pretty much an exact copy of the traditional Chinese sweet and spicy chili sauce you can find at any Asian grocery. It’s both sweet and spicy but not crazy spicy, with a perfect balance of the two tastes plus garlic of course. This sauce is typically served with chicken in many Asian cuisines. I had been buying Chinese brands of this stuff for years whenever I went to a special Asian grocery or supermarket but now Trader Joe’s make a version of it so even more convenient, as we put this sauce on many things though its terrific with most any chicken. If you bought a store cooked rotisserie chicken for dinner, serving with this sauce will that roast chicken 10x as tasty. What else can you use it for. Really anything… Chicken sausages? Yes. Fish? Yes (in fact you can put some on top of almost finished broiled salmon and put it back for a minute for a sweet spicy glaze). Grilled pork. Sure! Eggs? Yes. Get it? Seriously I think there is little this would not be good on, except may ice cream.

Easy dipping sauce for dumplings: a few tables spoons of this sweet chili sauce, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a little rice vinegar. Fresh grated ginger if you have it. Easy. Some extra garlic wouldn’t hurt either. Now you have a sauce for the pot sticker dumplings in the freezer. Dinner in 10 minutes.

A bottle used to sell for only $1.29. Last time I checked it went up to $1.49, still a bargain. I can’t live without this stuff. I always have a bottle in my fridge.

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