TJ’s Refried Black Beans “With Jalapeños”


“High in Fiber and a Good Source of Iron”

Says so right on the front label and all true. This is a very healthy thing for you to eat. And since a can costs just 99 cents, it’s very economical too. Now if you are not familiar with “Refried Beans” there are a few things you should know. One is in Spanish “frijoles refritos” is slightly misleading in that while it literally can be interpreted as “re-fried beans” they are not “fried” twice, they are “cooked twice”, first the beans are boiled, then they are mashed/fried with some kind of fat. Authentic Mexican FRIJOLES REFRITO are either pinto, black, or other beans that have been cooked till very tender then cooked and mashed till they are a smooth paste. The mixture is cooked with onions and garlic and spices in some oil or fat (traditionally manteca (pork fat) is used but more ‘modern, healthy’ versions use olive oil). Manteca does it great flavor.  Cooked until a thick paste, its generally eaten with corn tortillas in one form or another, or put on the plate as a side. Of course the famous combination of Corn and Beans eaten together create a complex protein that is equal to meat protein, and are eaten in many places all over the world to sustain the population. In Mexico this is very true, and is both a high quality protein at a relatively low cost compared to meat/chicken/etc, and is a staple eaten daily by MILLIONS of people around the world.

However Trader Joe’s Refried Black Beans ingredients simply say: Prepared black beans, water, sea salt, spice, jalapeños. So actually since there is no fat of any kind listed, in truth these are not really “refritos” at all! You could eat them this way just out of the can, but I find them just so-so that way, I think of them as a time-saver over making my own beans (soaking overnight, etc) and mashing them. Tasting these you may say as I did, “what where’s the jalapeño’s?” Are there really Jalapeño peppers are in this?? They seem non-existant taste wise so I assume the amount is miniscule. Generally I find TJ products are not too spicy to fit in with middle American tastes? Unless the product is advertised as “spicy” like Harissa, or hot sauce.

If you invest a mere 5 minutes to improve these* to make them tastier and more authentic, you will be rewarded with something twice as good as the way they taste right out of the can, I promise you.

Here’s what I suggest you do once you open the can:  Smash or chop up a fat clove of garlic and toss it in a non-stick pan, over medium heat with a nice slug of Olive Oil (I used TJ’s Spanish EVOO). Add the bean paste from the can (carefully it may spit hot oil) and perhaps some diced fresh or pickled jalapeños or other chile peppers ‘to taste’. You could add one small can of TJ’s Roasted Green Chiles, chopped up. A little diced onion sauteed for 5 minutes before the beans go in couldn’t hurt too and will add much flavor! Now add some spices: oregano, cumin if you like it, a dash of red pepper flakes plus a good sprinkling of black pepper. Taste for salt. Cook the the beans, pushing down with a wooden spoon, mixing into the oil and every now and then stirring and making sure they don’t burn as they cook. Use a low flame. Cook the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until the paste softens up, moves freely (If too thick, add a pinch of water) until the Frijoles look smooth and smell wonderful. If you like spicy, a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce would go well. There….much improved over just opening this can. Are you Super Lazy and say all that sounds like way too much work (Wow you are a lazy bum!) OK then if you do nothing else, when you heat these up just add some olive oil and lots of black pepper and some hot sauce.

Eat your Frijoles Refritos with tortillas, tostadas…. Use as fillings in burritos. Add salsa, cheese, tomato, greens. Refritos are also great served as a side with a sprinkle of cheese, maybe some mexican style rice, and possibly some Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo.

When you open up up the can, be aware these refried beans don’t look too appetizing till cooked (frankly one could say it looks like dog food) but it will look fine after you heat them up and hopefully gussy them up as I suggest above .

If you’ve never had these before, try them, or their cousin Trader Joe’s Pinto Refried Beans with Salsa.  They are very tasty when jazzed up a little, so filling, healthy and economical it’s not even funny. Your heart and cholesterol will thank you, especially since you made them with olive oil and not lard (thought authentic manteca does taste best, sorry!)

RAVE.

VEGAN FRIENDLY

 
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A Week In The Life Of A Trader Joe’s Employee


If you are interested in how Trader Joe’s works, you may find this interesting. It’s part of a Huff Po series called Food Informants – “a brand-new, week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world”. This post from the series is from a TJ’s employee.

I find it has a few interesting facts one can glean about TJ”s employee conditions (which sound better than your average supermarket’s working conditions) and the Trader Joe’s corporate mentality as an employer.  I’ve noticed that TJ’s employee’s seem more engaging with customers than any supermarket I’ve been to – as if they’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. It seems partly that this is what they are instructed to do with customers, but also it does seems TJ’s hires employees who seem to be “people persons”. I’ve been told by staff they have very good benefits. I like that TJ’s recognizes that people should not be stuck doing the same thing all day and lets them rotate around tasks and doesn’t make them work a whole shift at Checkout (which this employee says is the most tiring thing).

I had someone I know tell me they did not like the way TJ’s employee’s engaage them in small talk while checking out. I find it totally refresing and humanizing – even if the employees are encouraged to do so. As “Jane” states customers can be very rude and condescending to Checkout people, “especially where she works” Gee – I wonder if its NY?

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