TJ’s Chile Spiced Mango


chile_mango

RAVE

This is a “love it or hate it” item. The cashier might even ask if you’ve tried this already, and warn you, that you may not like it.

Me? I’m in the “love it” category. These snacks are amazing, in fact, this is one of the best snack treats TJ sells as far as I’m concerned. Sweet and spicy can be great together and these are just great.

Ingredients: Dried mango slices, sugar, paprika, salt, citric acid, and cayenne. 

So imagine dried mango slices that are just covered with a spicy/sweet/salty/tangy red mix of chiles and spices (and by covered, just look at the picture, they have a heavy coat of the red spice mix).

And when I say spicy, these are quite spicy from chile’s. With a heat that hits you 30 seconds after you finish chewing it. So, if you don’t like spicy and can’t handle the heat this may not be for you. However if you do, you will probably find these to be a flavor bomb exploding in your mouth, and drool worthy. For me, these are totally addictive. I eat one piece and can’t stop putting my hand in the bag to eat “just 1 more”. Whereas my wife, tasted these once and just thinks they’re horrible. So to each, his own.

In Mexico, sweet and spicy is one of the most beloved of flavor mixes (See: What is TAJIN and why you should be eating it). In the street, on every beach, even in New York in some neighborhoods you will find Mexican fruit vendors selling freshly cut mango, melons, cucumbers and other things, that the vendor will season before giving it to you with a very spicy chile mix, then sprinkle lime juice all over it. This product is in that vein. So yes probably no middle ground with these snacks. You will either love them or hate them. But if you can take spice and heat and love to discover new flavors, I highly recommend trying these dried fruit snacks, as you just may just find these as addictive as I do.

BTW, can you pair these with something? I tried these cut into small pieces with some jack cheese and cheddar cheese and I thought they went amazingly well together.

A 7oz bag goes for about $2. Find this in the Dried Fruits section at TJ’s. The nice thing is if you do hate them, after you try them, TJ will of course refund your money if you just ask (use the refund to get the regular dried mango slices instead – you wimp!)

MORE TO READ: GREAT NYT PIECE ON TAJIN

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TJ Coffee Lover Espresso Beans (candy)




I love chocolate covered espresso beans. The best ones that I’ve had are from Porto Rico imports, one of my favorite stores in New York City. I used to work a few blocks from Porto Rico and could pass by twice a week.The chocolate espresso beans they sell are two things for me. 1) Heaven. 2) Crack

If you love chocolate and love coffee they are too die for. They are $10 a pound but on occasion you catch them on sale for less.

So I saw these new product Coffee Lover Espresso Beans candies at Trader Joe’s and for just 99 cents (!) I said give ’em a try. Naturally not equal to Porto Rico’s masterpiece espresso bean candies which are their excellent freshly roasted espresso beans coated with dark chocolate.

These are “Not Bad”. The beans don’t have great flavor, they are not top quality at this price but they have some coffee/chocolate combo flavor. These are a bit on the too sweet for me. The brown ones in the package are OK. I was not crazy about the light color ones (cappuccino?). But still for under a buck, these are worth trying yourself to see what you think. Neither a rave or a rant, I’ll give these a “meh”.

ONLY 99 CENTS

 

SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE


Trader Joe’s SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE

If you are a fan of an traditional English orange marmalade, which I am in a big way, then you will probably enjoy this as much as I do.

SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE is a proper English marmalade, even though the jar this is a “product of Canada”. Well Canada was once under English rule so clearly the Brits passed on to Canada the how and whys of making a nice English marmalade, because this is really good. Its made from Seville (bitter) oranges, which are de rigeur for a proper marmalade. Its a thin-cut marmalade, having small bits of chopped peel with a good balance between the Seville orange peel, juice, pectin and sugar, and overall an good balance of slightly bitter and sweet for a marmalade. This is jam for the adults, not the kids.

I had it this morning on a toasted TJ Classic English Muffin with some good butter and a nice dollop of marmalade, along with my morning cappuccino, and all was right with the world. So delicious.

If you are a marmalade fan, this does the trick. A big jar, more than a pound is $3.49.


VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE AND SOBA NOODLES STIR FRY KIT (or Yakisoba!)

This “stir fry kit” is composed of prepped veggies all ready to stir fry, along with 2 packets of soba noodles (cooked) plus a packet of soy ginger finishing sauce. It has broccoli, bok choy, savoy cabbage, snow peas, scallions.

You’ll find this in the refrigerated vegetables / salads  section. This convenient $5 package is basically most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA minus a few ingredients that one could add to make that super tasty dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). YAKISOBA is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out and made at home. Or school. Japanese kids grow up on it.

Sure you could just make it As-Is and it will still make a decent Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry. But with a few additions its very easily made into a Japanese Yakisoba dish. The main thing missing would be some kind of protein. Plus some fresh ginger and garlic.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add some BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, would be nice for more “umami”.

If you are not vegetarian, protein options are sliced or ground pork which is quite traditional (even thinly sliced pork belly). Chicken strips could work or even ground beef. Any meat you can stir fry with the veggies will be fine. I used sliced pork tenderloin from TJ that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in plastic bags, and when you open the bags the soba noodles are all jangled together in a very firm doughy block, that you can’t do anything with yet. You must prep them ahead of the other cooking. Soften by letting them soak in very very hot (even boiling water) for 15-20 minutes, and not for only two minutes as the package says! Once loosened up you can gently untangle and loosen them with your fingers and drain them in a colander, ready to throw in at the end.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with the Main (slicked pork, meat or tofu)  in a few teaspoons of neutral oil. Toss in the veggies. Add mushrooms if using. Stir fry veggies about 3 mins. till barely cooked (do not overcook!) Add the softened noodles and the meat or tofu back to the pan. Stir fry for a few more minutes, then turn off heat and add the sauce to coat. A few drizzles of sesame oil would be great. Green Dragon Hot Sauce if thats your style. Stir to combine. I threw some arugula and more chopped green onions on top. Katsuobushi* flakes if you have them? Done. About 10 minutes and you have a delicious dish.

PS – If you can find “Katsuobushi” flakes* at an Asian store, that would be great to top with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  As well as BENISHOGA (Picked Red Ginger)

sobastirfry3

TJ’s Amba Mango Sauce


Trader Joe’s Amba Mango sauce is a unique and very tasty condiment.

I had vaguely heard of “Amba” as an Israeli condiment for “Sabich” (eggplant sandwich). Amba Sauce is one of those new tasty food products that TJ sells that you may not know what it is at first, nor what you would use it for, but you should give this this wonderful unique tasting stuff a try. Savory, pungent, tangy, the sauce is made from fermented ripe and green mangos simmered with garlic, salt, turmeric and a few other spices. Its flavor is so unique, intruiging and tasty that once once you try it, you will end up dreaming of things you might put it on with the thought “I wonder if this would be good on …. xxxxx?” Thats what I did. I kept putting on things to see if they would be good with this (many were!)

So what is “Amba Sauce” anyway? From the package: “Amba is a fermented mango sauce traditionally found in Israel  India and the Middle East. Use it as a savory sauce on meat and seafood, vegetables and falafel, or even as a unique salad dressing”.

“Amba” means mango in an Indian language, Marathi. Its made of yellow ripe mangos as well as unripe green mangos, pureed till smooth and cooked with many spices and chilis and is fermented. The fermentation I’m sure ratchets up the taste level. It is both sweet, sour, and spicy. The heat comes and hits you later. Much later. This stuff is a very complex flavor bomb of fruity and spicy and many spices. Get the idea? Its great for many things. Just a few ideas: Try it over cooked chicken. Falafel, of course! Salmon. Meats. Salads and bowls. On the side with Indian pakoras, or breads, or basmati rice? Absolutely of course! Mixed with Greek Yogurt*? Yes! I came up with the idea of mixing these two things and it was amazing together as the yogurt calmed down the spice level and melded things.

AMBA SAUCE is carried in the refrigerated section and comes in a convenient squeeze pouch with a plastic top. A 14-ounce re-closable, pourable pouch of Trader Joe’s Amba Mango Sauce is $3.29. Look for the yellow bag in the refrigerated deli section at TJ. A bag lasted quite some time in my house, and it can last for a month or two in the fridge. This product is well worth the price and well worth trying. Amba is hard if not impossible to find in the U.S.

Here’s a super easy tasty sauce mix with Amba I came up with

*GREEK YOGURT & AMBA SAUCE

Mix about 1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt with about a 1/3-1/2 cup of Amba Sauce. Add chopped garlic mashed with a little salt. Fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine and let it sit in the fridge for a bit. For a GREEN SAUCE version of this which I made, just add chopped parsley or arugula or baby kale, chopped very finely. Let flavors meld in fridge for at least a 1/2 hr or more. Serve on fish, chicken, meats, grilled tofu, or over basmati or jasmine rice, or practically anything! Adjust the ratio of amba and yogurt to your exact liking.

 

TJ FEARLESS FLYER INFO ON AMBA SAUCE (CLICK)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC TOFU (& RECIPE)


I can tell by the stats that a good number of visitors to the site are interested in posts about tofu.

Therefore I’ve been wanting to write up a post reviewing this Tofu that I always buy at Trader Joe’s most anytime I go there, along with a simple basic recipe on how to prepare an easy tofu dish.

Interest in tofu is well deserved of course, as tofu is an excellent high-quality protein that is plant-based and is inexpensive. So what’s not to like?

Even if you, like yours truly, are not vegetarian, tofu is a good thing that you should be eating for so many reasons. Tofu is healthy, good for you, good for the planet, and is versatile and easy to use in so many ways. If its not already on your typical list of “mains” or  “proteins” that you go shopping for on a regular basis, I would suggest tofu should be added to your list. Meatless Mondays? Sure, thats a good start!

In our house we usually make a Japanese “tofu steak” style recipe once a week or so. This package: “Trader Joe San ORGANIC TOFU” in the pink & white package is a good product. Not too soft nor too firm, it takes well to being cooked up as described here.

Tofu for most of us Americans will pretty much seem to have “no taste” on its own. However what tofu does quite well is absorb flavors. What flavors then should you think about? Obvious ones to use are Asian flavors: Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil…. You can not go wrong with these flavors and cooking tofu.

What about texture? I like cooking tofu so that it get a bit “golden brown” and develops a surface texture with a slight bite to the tooth, which it can get if cooked in certain ways. So one of the ideal ways for me to make it is to grill it until golden brown to improve the texture and then serve it with some kind of sauce.

Here’s a very basic and easy recipe to make grilled or sautéed tofu.

1. Take it out of the package, pour off all the water, and set it over a colander or strainer to drain. Let it sit for about an hour. I sometimes put a few plates for a little weight and pressure.

2. Cut the tofu carefully. First into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then if you want smaller pieces, cut those into half. Heat up a non-stick or cast iron pan till it is good and hot with a teaspoon of some neutral oil and add the tofu slices (a little sesame oil added is great for extra flavor) and let it cook for about 10 minutes at medium heat until the tofu looks golden brown when you check it. Flip the slices and cook the other side till those are also golden. In the picture I’ve sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper.

3. When they are cooked, now is when you either go one or two ways sauce or add flavoring. One way is to add the sauce (ingredients) to the pan and cook in the sauce till they are absorbed mostly. The other way is to remove the tofu to a serving plate and make your sauce and pour it over the tofu, or around it. Both ways are good and I would suggest trying both methods and see which you prefer (the pouring over keeps the crispy texture of course a bit more) I like both and make it both ways depending on my mood.

Make a Sauce: Sauté freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic for a few seconds till fragrant and then add your liquids: 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce (Trader Joe’s has one).  Maybe some stock. A teaspoon of Sesame Oil (TJ). Optional: Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce, Sriracha, Fish Sauce, Chopped scallions, Pinch of sugar or honey, and Cilantro if you like it. Sometimes at the end I will add a little cornstarch/water slurry to thicken up the sauce.

If you prefer to just buy a sauce for your tofu steak: Try TJ’s SOYAKI or TJ Ginger Soy salad dressing. Sriracha and Soy. Anything flavorful that might go well with it.

A package feeds 2 or 3 with other things (rice, sides) and costs around $2

Marinating also is a good technique for flavor. Here’s a good sounding recipe for Baked Tofu.

Easy Baked Tofu with Sesame and Soy Sauce

Trader Joe’s MINI HAMBURGER BUNS


Just in time for Memorial Day….I got some Trader Joe’s MINI HAMBURGER BUNS.

I love these. If you haven’t seen these before, they are just thing to make mini-hambugers or “sliders”.

Theses buns are very soft, eggy, yummy small buns, coated with sesame seeds on the top. They are the perfect size for making mini-burgers, which I prefer actually. Say 2-3 oz of meat in a mini burger / slider? You can eat one, maybe 2 of them.

These toast up very nicely. If you don’t want them toasted I would at least warm them a bit before serving, maybe 5 minutes in the oven/toaster oven.

They’re not only good for burgers but also for making any kind of small sandwiches of course! Ham and cheese, melted cheese, turkey, peanut butter and jelly… just about anything. Use your imagination. Or you could just serve them as dinner rolls. Anyhow, they’re good. A package of TJ’s Mini Hamburger Buns (8 buns) goes for $1.69. You can’t beat that.

RAVE
photo credit wikicommons by Praytino

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