TJ’s Chile Spiced Mango


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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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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)

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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 FLATBREAD


flatbread1Trader Joe’s Flatbread
These are soft and quite chewy Middle Eastern style flatbreads. Kind of like a thick flour tortilla. They are great for sandwiches, kebabs, gyros, rolls…

I find these flatbreads are useful for so many things. Naturally they are perfect to serve with Hummus or any kind of dip.

They are convenient to keep on hand in the freezer as they freeze well and can be defrosted pretty quickly just by taking the package out for 1/2 hr. They are best warm so you should heat these before serving them, of course. I throw them right on the gas burner of my stove turning them with tongs quickly and until they get a few more brown spots (but be careful they can get burnt quickly). Or pop them in a toaster oven or oven for a few minutes, or in the microwave.

You can use these as the base crust to make a super easy instant fresh mini pizza, done in a few minutes. Or lots of other flatbread with topping variations. Here’s a easy mini-pizza I wanted to try using these as the base (pic shot before I baked it).

SUPER EASY FLATBREAD PIZZA “no recipe, recipe”

Spread a flatbread with some of your favorite tomato sauce, grated or sliced mozzarella, and anything else you fancy. A drizzle of EVOO can’t hurt. Bake them on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Fast, easy and delicious. I can eat 2 no problem.

Other pizza / flatbreads? Spread with a little ZHOUHG and a splash of good olive oil for an herby spicy treat. Olive oil and TJ’s DUKKAH and greek yogurt would be great too. Or Zaa’tar. Everything bagel spice. TJ’s artichoke spread. Sausage. Prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula… you name it, the list is endless, you can dream up all kinds of things to try to make a nice baked flatbread using these. When cooked, just cut them into half or quarters and serve. Guests will flip.

TJ Flatbreads sell for $2.29 and come 6 in a package, sold in the bread section at TJs near tortilla. I usually have a pack in my freezer at all times. Super handy to have on hand.



Trader Joe’s KEFIR


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Heard of KEFIR? Kefir is all the rage in the natural health community. Kefir is a good source of calcium, protein, and is very high in probiotic bacteria. So both high in nutrients and probiotics, it is very beneficial for digestion and gut health.

Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk drink. Kind of like a drinkable yogurt, originally from the mountainous regions that divides Asia and Europe, still Kefir is actually different and unique from yogurt. Kefir is a more powerful probiotic than even yogurt. Probiotics as you know are very important for your digestive system and overall health, and especially your gut health. If you look at the label with a list of all the active cultures and you may notice there are a lot more cultures than usually seen in most yogurts. I recognize the first three L. ones (L. means Lactobacillus) but I don’t recognize many of the other bacteria listed.  The bottle says it contains 12 active (live) cultures. So more diverse bacteria in kefir than in yogurt, equals more probiotics.

I wanted to try Kefir for awhile, so bought this Mango one. Review? Trader Joe’s Whole Milk KEFIR is definitely super tasty! This Mango version is sweetened (with natural cane sugar). Its not too sweet though. They also carry a Strawberry* flavored one which I would buy next time as I would like to try that flavor also. (UPDATE: I bought the Strawberry and it was also good)

Kefir is also supposed to be tolerated better by those who are lactose intolerant. I’m not Lactose intolerant so I can’t say. Normally Kefir is supposedly quite sour and tart. If you didn’t grow up drinking “straight” pure Kefir, it might take you some getting used to it. The drink is quite thick, like a smoothie. In fact, one could probably use this in Smoothies, I bet it would be great.

I’ve been using the kefir also pouring it over my morning bowl of oatmeal, or cereal. Or over some fruit. Its seriously yummy. Even kids might like it. So kefir is both super healthy and super tasty stuff.  A 32 oz bottle sells for $3. If you like yogurt, this is something well worth trying. There is also a Plain Kefir (unsweetened) if you are inclined to try it “au natural”. TJ’s even sells one made from Goat’s Milk (!)

Mango one is rich. I would not drink this a full glass at a time, a little will go a long way. Drink a few ounces, especially till your body gets used to all that extra probiotic healthy bacteria! 

UPDATE: I bought the Strawberry* Kefir and realized that it says LOW FAT. The MANGO KEFIR is made with WHOLE MILK. Whole milk is 4%. Low fat milk is 1-2%.

Nutrition (per 1 cup):  200 Cal. and  4.5 g of sat. fat for the MANGO Whole Milk Kefir. VS 160 Cal. and 1.5 g sat. fat for STRAWBERRY Low Fat Kefir which interestingly also seems to have 1 more gram of Protein per cup serving? Plain Kefir=100 cals (1 cup) So if you want to save some calories get the STRAWBERRY Low Fat Kefir or PLAIN Low Fat Kefir (though the Mango was very tasty!) Honestly, I can’t see anyone drinking it a whole cup at a time straight though of any variety straight, this is a small glass thing, or mix with some ice and a dash of water….

Has anyone tried Plain Kefir version ? Is it really sour or tart? Let us know in the comments.

KEFIR SMOOTHIE RECIPE: In a blender, try 1 cup Kefir, 1 cup of ice, a banana, 1/2 cup of some fresh or frozen berries, tablespoon of chia seeds, drizzle of honey ?

And if you are so inclined try out the Goat Milk Kefir and report in the Comment section as well. I am tempted to try that.

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Strawberry Low Fat Kefirlofatkefir

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