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

 

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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.


Trader Joe’s FRENCH CULTURED BUTTER


 

If you want to “up” your butter game at home you should try this excellent, high quality butter from France. But be warned, if you try it once, you may never go back to “regular” butter!

Spread a bit of this French butter on almost anything you put butter on, say some fresh asparagus, frozen peas, a baked potato, some steamed Yukon Golds, a nice slice of bread, on top of an omelette…anywhere…and you will notice how good really good butter is once you taste some.

I’ve lately grown to buying two kinds of butter at Trader Joe’s. What you might call “normal” butter and then the “really good stuff” (imported butters). This French butter is the Good Stuff. If I’m having some toast in the morning and I put some of this French butter from Brittany on it, or anything…well its just heavenly. At any other store you would pay something like $6-7 for this 1/2 lb. pack. Trader Joe’s sells it for about $3.50

I’ve gotten to really like the two Imported “premium” butters that TJ sells. One is KERRYGOLD butter which comes in a gold or silver package (unsalted and salted). It’s from Ireland and is also quite excellent. Next I tried the “Trader Jacque’s” FRENCH CULTURED SALTED BUTTER in the blue package, which may have a slight edge on the Kerrygold Irish butter. This butter comes from Brittany (Bretagne), a region in the North West of France famous for cows, butter and cheeses. I’ve tried to do taste tests comparing the two butters and pick one over the other. They are both so good I almost can’t pick one as “best” but I have started to buy this French one more as according to my neighbor the French one is better. The difference may be that this one is a “cultured” butter (fermented with enzymes similar to those in yogurt) to give a little bit of a tangy taste edge over the non-cultured Irish Kerrygold.

The premium imported butters naturally cost more the regular butter Trader Joe’s sells for about $3/lb which is fine, and I would say equal to Hotel Bar butter or similar. But this French butter does up your butter game.

FRENCH CULTURED BUTTER comes in a 8.8 oz pack which sells for about $3, So figure its costs about twice as much as the regular butter. Still TJ’s French butter is I think the equal to butters you might buy in a supermarket in France. And if you compare this to imported premium butters you might see sold in an upscale supermarket here which carries imported butters, well they are crazy expensive (12/lb?). So as usual Trader Joe’s is selling this premium imported butter at a still fairly reasonable price (around $6 lb.) for an excellent French butter. The Cultured French Salted French butter only comes in a salted version but I find it fine, not overly salty at all, it’s just right for most applications. I’ve grown to love it. In fact, my Japanese sister-in-law loved this butter so much when she was visiting us that she actually carried back two packs back home to Japan (!) Give it a try once, say slather some on a piece of warm French baguette just out of the oven, and you may never go back….

Mes amis, c’est La Vie en Rose!

Cultured butter is typically created by adding live bacteria (cultures) to the butter before it’s churned, versus regular butter which is cream that just goes straight to the churning machine. … Results in a higher-fat product, which in turns makes the butter more silky and gives it a richer taste.”

RAVE

 

UPDATE: The price has increased to $3.49

 

 

Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


Yesterday I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH had undergone a price hike. It had been only 99 cents for as long as I can remember, ever since our TJ’s opened. But yesterday I noticed TJs raised its price to $1.19 (this in NYC) OK, ok twenty cents does not seem much you say, true…  Still if instead, I told you they gave it a 20% price increase, you might think “hey thats a bit steep”. OK rant over, now here’s the good part of this post!

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah Baby!)

Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner recently using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough. To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can in the fridge!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home. Its EASY! No, really, it is pretty dam easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine.

Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course generally way cheaper than buying one. There is *nothing* like eating a pizza you just pulled fresh out of the oven a few minutes before. If you have never made pizza at home before, you absolutely must try making one yourself at least once, and promise, once you do make one, you’ll want to make a pizza every week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight). Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres one:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some SAUCE (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb Cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better, Fresh Garlic, (optional: diced tomato, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course, Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but longer is better). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out.  (around the 1/2 hour point, you can turn on, pre-heat oven to 450-500)

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work on and lightly dust it with any kind of FLOUR. Remove the dough from the package (TIP: Its sticky! I invert the plastic bag to remove and just keep tugging and pulling till I get it all out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I used a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square shape instead of a round shape but I like it like this. If using this kind of square pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put some on top of the dough and work it with your fingers…keep pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough into shape. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ to you and keeping the shape you want and keeps “fighting you” and pulling back in (thats normal, just let it rest 5-10 minutes, then do some more work on it). Try to be careful and not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. And not too thick either or it will be tough! Get it just right. Build up the edges to make your crust. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want (optional).

Shaping your dough is the only “hard part” of this project and the more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling pizza dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time dont fret! I promise it will still taste mighty good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit and practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it getting much easier in future.

IMG_0003READY TO ASSEMBLE (I am using smoked mozz and a little provolone) 
Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin sparse layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Ie, very hot (real pizza ovens are even hotter). Bake on middle or top oven rack. Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pizza, if your oven bakes unevenly after 10 minutes). The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

IMG_0002The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes or so for the pizza to come out of the oven.

IMG_0004

The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really not that hard to make, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself.

Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

 

UPDATE / TIP: I have been experimenting with “aging” the TJ dough in the fridge and let it sit for a few days before use. It will ferment slowly and will get sourdough-y taste this way as the dough ferments. Try this aging for 1 (or 2 days) past the “sell by” date. Experiment with the aging of the dough tip and see if the crust and flavor is improved. I find it so.

Personally I have found the regular dough is the best version TJ has  – I have found the whole wheat version too tough, and the herbed version too fake and weird. Your mileage may vary.

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

Amazing 99 cents deals at TJ’s this Xmas


My checkout person told me during the holidays TJ’s puts on a lot of deals for 99 cents. Here are two examples of things I found today for just 99 cents each:

Gingerbread Man Kit”

Its one huge gingerbread cookie with packets of icing, candy buttons, and sprinkles that you add as customized decorations. The packages says “made in Germany” so I assume its tasty. For a buck, this is an easy and fun present for kids (or adults).

The Sample Station that day had these Chewy Eggnog Cookeis so I got to try them before I bought them (which were really tasty with the TJ’s coffee I had with them).

“Chewy Eggnog Cookies”

They are soft and chewy and have the typical spices that go in eggnog. They are tasty. They went amazingly well with the Winter Spice Blend coffee at the Sample Station.

Again,  TJ”s is selling these cookies for a buck. Who wouldn’t buy these to try?

Personally I stocked up on quite a few of both of these 99 cents steals, both to give as fun gifts and to put some in the pantry.

Eggnog Almonds


My local Trader Joes had a sign next to these candies, around Christmas-time…
“Oops – We bought too many of these; our mistake is your gain. Reg. price $3.99. Now $1.99”


Who could resist such a come-on? I bought some to try …and they are actually quite tasty.

They are good-size almonds inside with a white chocolate outer coating, and they do taste like “Eggnog”. They have that flavor profile and spices. You can see flecks of nutmeg in the coating.

As I’m a dark chocoholic I normally avoid anything with white chocolate (no cacao? thats not chocolate) as a waste of flavorless calories, but the spices make this into something tasty. Try them if you see them , especially for the overbuy “mistake” price.

TJ’s Multigrain and Flaxseed Water Crackers


This looked worth a try the other day – and it was. This is a “healthy” cracker. Ingredients? Package states, “Whole Grain Flour (Wheat, Quinoa, Spelt, Millet, Kamut), Enriched Wheat Flour, Sunflower Oil, Whole Flaxseed, Salt, Sugar”. That looks pretty natural to me. Just about every healthy grain on the planet is in this cracker. So you don’t have to feel too bad eating these. The label states 4 crackers are 60 calories. Also not too shabby right?

Taste? Very good. They do NOT taste like cardboard, as some “healthy” products tend to. These taste great: Natural and fairly neutral as a “water cracker” should. Like “Carr’s”, which are the standard, but a bit more flavorful, no doubt due to the whole grains. They are a fine base for anything: cheese, dips, meats, etc, and yes I’ve eaten some on their own and I think they are better than Carr’s this way, which are way too bland for me. These are crisp and delicate but sturdy enough to support anything you top them with. These sell for a very good price too – well at the moment, TJ”s is now raising prices on a weekly basis! They are a great deal for $1.29!

A RAVE

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