TJ Mediterranean Style Hummus


Trader Joe’s sells SO many varieties of hummus. They may even have too many…. Don’t even get me started on “chocolate hummus” which I think is a crime against nature. Anyway this one is My TJ hummus. My “Go To” favorite. I think it’s their best one, one reason being that this “Mediterranean Style” hummus includes TAHINI in the ingredients. Incredibly, at least to me, is that some versions of hummus on offer at Trader Joe’s do not have Tahini in the ingredients. I don’t get this as Tahini (sesame paste) is an integral part of a hummus recipe and it is why it tastes good. I can only imagine some people don’t like tahini or its calories? Or an allergy? OK that must be why TJ sells hummus both ways, with or without it? Anyway their “Mediterranean Style” hummus is very tasty. It is a little fancier as on top they have a few pine nuts and spices. This is the way hummus is normally presented. When you serve it put it in a shallow bowl. A squeeze of 1/4 lemon would be good IMO (mix in juice). Run your spoon to make a circular groove all around the hummus and add a pour of your best EVOO. Sprinkle a bit of spice (Ajika for example, or ground cumin or zaatar) all around the perimeter attractively. Voila!

Serve with warm pita or naan or other flatbread.

The Mediterranean Style hummus costs about $4 for a 16 oz tub (it’s 50 cents more then the regular one with no tahini).

BTW, you can easily make hummus (which I occasionally do) Here’s a good recipe

https://www.themediterraneandish.com/how-to-make-hummus/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/our-favorite-hummus-recipes-4164898

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/what-people-get-wrong-about-making-hummus/2015/09/04/72c7c844-4dc5-11e5-902f-39e9219e574b_story.html

TJ Brown Rice Medley


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

This is both healthy and a bit different than plain browner rice, and better I think. It’s a tasty mix par-boiled brown rice plus two slightly unusual additions of black barley and daikon seeds. Who knew you can eat daikon seeds? I didn’t till now! We tried this rice blend and it got both mine and my wife’s seal of approval as making for an interesting, nutty tasting rice side dish.

However I found Trader Joe’s instructions need a tiny bit of modification regarding liquid amounts. I would reduce the amount of liquid they suggest on the package. So instead of the 2 1/2 cups they state I say try 2 1/4 cups of water or stock (to 1 cup of rice). For a ration slightly more than 2:1.

Also if using just water, you should add a bit a salt. Butter is a good idea. Letting it sit (without peeking!) at the end for 10 minutes is important so all the liquid gets fully absorbed. Fluff up with a fork when done. Hitting this with a little more butter is a good too. Possibly some chopped parsley? Serve with your favorite main.

Its $1.99 for a 1 pound bag. Worth trying. PS If you find it a bit too cooked for your tastes or mushy, the next time you make it reduce the cooking to 30 minutes (instead of the 35 mins written on the package). The brown rice in this has been par-boiled. Normally regular brown rice needs about 45 minutes.

TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI (& recipe ideas)


TJ’s Pasta Emporium Gnocchi. Made in Italy. “Autentico Italiano”. Shelf stable package.

These gnocchi are one of my favorite TJ items. Available in the dried pasta section, these packages of TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI are a bargain at just $1.69 (1.1 lbs). Thesy are shelf stable, and can last months in your pantry (you could store them in your fridge if you like but you don’t have to). I probably usually use them within about 3 months? They have a pleasantly chewy texture, which you can accentuate even more by pan frying them (see below)

COOKING: You can simply toss these into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes and theyre ready to serve with your favorite sauce. Perhaps even better I’ve found is one can boil them for 1 minute, drain, them throw them in a non-stick or cast iron pan with 2 tablespoons of EVOO and pan fry them until they are golden brown. The crispy texture is a big plus. Actually an even easier way which I discovered and clearly others have figured out too, is you don’t have to boil them at all. You can just pan fry them, without the boiling. The chewy, crispy texture when you pan fry gnocchi is great.

PAN FRIED GNOCCHI: Just toss these gnocchi right into a pan with 1-2 tbl. of oil and pan fry them until browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. I do a variation on this. I put 2 tbls of EVOO (or even nicer, a mix of half oil and half butter) in a black cast iron (or nonstick pan). Get the oil hot on med heat until it shimmers. Toss in these gnocchi and stir till covered with the oil. COVER THE PAN with a lid. Cook covered 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. They kind of pan fry & steam at the same time for the best of both worlds. After 5 minutes or so, take off the cover and pan-fry them uncovered till Golden Brown and Delicious, maybe another 5-10 minutes. I like the texture this way, its especially chewy and a bit crispy.

What to serve with them for a sauce? Almost anything you can think of which you would do for a pasta. TJ’s jarred Pesto works quite well with these. It can be as simple as just butter and grated cheese plus some black pepper, a simple Cacio E Pepe. Or serve them with your favorite TJ tomato sauce.

In the photos below you will see I cooked them with greens (swiss chard but you can use any greens like kale, spinach, arugula…) I used lots of garlic and lots of grated Rosemary Asiago *. The gnocchi were delicious with greens. Of course any Italian cheese works Parmigiano, Pecorino, Asiago) even some Mozz cut into cubes to melt in. I had these last week with some leftover Bolognese sauce I had in the freezer and they were simply amazing with Bolognese sauce. TJ’s even has a vegan bolognese sauce.

Are these better than the frozen Kale Gnocchi? For me actually they kind of are and frankly these are half the price of the frozen gnocchi which I feel don’t have the same textural integrity when cooked this way (pan fried) though I could experiment some more. There is somewhat of a shock going from being frozen into heat that I think texturally messes up frozen gnocchi?

Anyway if you never tried these packaged Gnocchi, check them out the next time you are in the pasta section. I can’t tell you how many times when we “had nothing in the house to eat” we found we had a package of these in the pantry and had a dinner ready in under ten minutes.

*RECIPE : PAN FRIED GNOCCHI with Swiss Chard & Rosemary Asiago Cheese – Separate leaves and stems from Swiss Chard. Cook the cut stems with 3 cloves of garlic smashed until tender in olive oil. Remove greens from pan then into same pan, toss in a pack of gnocchi with a tablespoon of EVOO and 1 tbl butter. Cook covered as discussed above till browned all over. Now add back the swiss chard plus chopped up leaves. Cook and toss around in pan till leaves are cooked till your liking. Toss in some chopped parsley or arugula. Season to taste with a little salt, sprinkle of lemon juice and lots of black pepper (optionally – a spoon of BOMBA) Grate a few ounces of Asiago, Pecorino or Parmigiano over all and drizzle with good EVOO. Serve 2 as dinner or 4 as a side.

(Can substitute Kale, Arugula, Spinach or any green)

Pan fried Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Asiago

SEARCH : Pan Fried Gnocchi Recipes – IDEAS

https://bit.ly/3hIZLHo

TJ’s Giant Peruvian Inca Corn (Choclo) Snacks


Trader Joe’s Giant Inca Peruvian Corn salted snacks.

JUST CORN!

I think these are just delicious. These are my new favorite snacks. Crunchy… we’re talking Super Super Crunchy. They are a “PRODUCT OF PERU”. From a variety of Inca Corn called “Choclo“. which has HUGE kernels, grown way up in the Andes Mountains. It says only three ingredients, CORN, oil, salt. OK, I wish the oil wasn’t palm oil but still very simple, with only 3 ingredients with the main one of course being just corn. That’s pretty Natural and probably way healthier snacks to munch on I think say compared to your potato chips.

Filled with corn-y goodness. $1.99 an 8 oz bag.

Gluten Free of course!

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


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

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


RAVE

Trader Joe’s as you know carries a whole bunch of condiments and sauces, many being outstanding. It has quite a few hot sauces, most of which are VERY good. Green Dragon Hot Sauce is one of my favorite’s Trader Joe’s sells, long with BOMBA and now Peri-Peri). This is fantastic! If you Google it, you’ll find it has many fans. GREEN DRAGON has far more fans than the TJ’s Sriracha (which is 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: jalapeño, tomatillo, 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, it’s not simply “hot”With the above ingredients naturally Green Dragon can be viewed as a type of classic Mexican/South American style salsa. But works with all kinds of cuisines and foods, in particular I find Asian style foods. When I’m making many Chinese or an Asian 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 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… It’s great with egg dishes. 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 GDS 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. 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 too”. 

Green Dragon sauce is one of my “always have in fridge” TJ items! I never am without it and I keeps one in the pantry too as I never want to come up empty.

It’s a steal 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).

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!

 

 

 

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