Almondina Cookies


alm-originalBesides the products sold by Trader Joe’s under the “Trader Joe’s” brandname, TJ’s also sells some carefully selected products which which are sold under their own original brand.

Trader Joe’s team of product selectors are know to be pretty picky about what they select to sell in their stores. In fact, TJ has a fairly well known reputation as a retail outlet where its not only hard to get them to sell your product, but also many times if they sell it they may want to put their own TJ brand on it, as they frequently rebrand and repackage products. So one can assume existing brands and products they sell under their original name probably are established brands with a long history and their own reputation for quality. As an example of one such product sold at Trader Joes are “ALMONDINA” original cookies which TJ carries in its stores. A review of them follows (Full disclosure: I was sent some cookies by Almondina’s for review. Rare? Beyond rare, its a first! (Product managers –hint, hint — please feel free to send me stuff for review!) Naturally rest assured this will not sway me in any way from giving a totally unbiased review.

In short, these are really good! ALMONDINA original cookies are essentially a biscotti type of cookie. Their tagline is “The Delicious Cookie Without The Guilt”. What makes these rather unique compared to normal biscotti cookies is how thin they are. They are very thin, maybe a 1/4″ wide, which is way thinner than any biscotti type cookie I have ever had.  A regular biscotti is about 4 or 5 times that width and as you know are typically quite “hard” and crunchy and very typically you eat the regular biscotti’s by dunking them in some coffee or tea. With the Almondina cookies theres No Dunking Required — though I tried them that way too — and they are excellent dunked in tea or coffee or milk.

Being so thin makes it more “guilt free” as you will consume less calories per cookie, hence the “without the guilt” tagline on their package.  The best thing about these aside from being delicious is they are made from a short list of real and simple ingredients from a 100-year old recipe that was invented by the owner’s grandmother Dina. They are made with only “all natural” simple ingredients and there are no added fats or oil. They are loaded with Almonds – hence the name. In fact the first ingredient listed : “Almonds”. It says they are 24% almonds! So if you like almonds you will love these as they are so almond-y. They are absolutely delicious on their own or paired with cheese of almost any kind. Brie for one is excellent with them. They would be good to have on hand when guests come over .  I even found a little recipe using the cookies at Trader Joe’s website using Almondina cookies to make some nice little dessert sandwiches with cream cheese. Looks yummy!  High tea, anyone?http://www.traderjoes.com/recipes/recipe/5151mainimage

 

So I really liked ALMONDINA’S and you will too no doubt. Try them, you will not be disappointed.

RAVE

Have you tried this product?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

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Trader Joe’s Pita Chips; Parmesan, Garlic, Herb


tj_pitachips_1Trader Joe’s Pita Chips

(Parmesan, Garlic, and Herb flavor)

RAVE

To me these are one of those “wow these are amazing!” TJ’s products you buy once and instantly fall in love with. The kind you put into the,“I want to have these on hand at all times” category and buy every time you go to the store.

Cut quite thick, and baked – these chips are SERIOUSLY, majorly crunchy!. They’re so savory and full of massive amounts of flavor that you might devour the whole bag in a sitting.

The buzz word these days in the food world? Umami… Parmesan cheese is known to have lots of umami. That must be a) why they are so tasty and b) why when I eat these even my cat instantly comes running over, starts to cry, and tries to grab them out of my hand (really, if I just open the bag she goes nuts)! Its a hoot.

These Pita Chips have a bold texture and taste… very tasty combination of the parmesan, garlic and herbs. I can not begin to tell you how crunchy these are, you must try for yourself but when I say “crunchy” I mean so crunchy if you were watching TV and eating these you would have to turn the sound way up just to hear it over all the major noise going on in your head.

They are thick enough so could they be wonderful with salsa, guacamole, or any dip and are guaranteed not to break like normal chips might. But the truth is they are so good by themselves, they don’t even need dip; you can easily enjoy these plain (they are anything but plain) right out of the bag . The hard thing is to stop eating them, period. You say just one more and realize the bag’s almost empty. I’m pretty sure these would even work to as croutons on a salad I  read somewhere on the web that they are possibly actually “Stacey’s Chips”. I’ve never tasted those so can’t judge but these are $1.99 and I read that Stacey’s brand just under $4. TJ_pitachips_2I (try) to put a bag of these away in the back of the cupboard to keep and save so we have always have something special on hand for guests who might drop in — but the reality is more than once we just went to the cupboard and grabbed a bag and said, “Come on lets open these; we’ll get some more next time we’re at Trader Joe’s”. So much for will power. We might have to buy 2 or 3 bags at a time… And even then, they might not be safe. So these get a RAVE and are definitely worth a try. They’re dangerously good!

 

Have you tried this product?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Pizza 102 – “Getting More Advanced” No Knead Dough


“Pizza 102”

Pizza, No Knead

Pizza (No Knead Dough) Canned crushed tom., fresh tomato, garlic, mozz, Grana Padano, EVOO, arugula topping…

Once you really get into making your own pizza, the next evolutionary step for you to take might be to make your own dough!

No…really! Its easier than you think. Especially now as over the last few years there’s been a kind of revolutionary dough recipe and technique that has caught on like wild fire. I’m referring to “No Knead Dough” which thanks to both its creator, Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, and the internet, which has spread the recipe to an enormous number of people who’ve tried it, has started many, including yours truly on this truly DIY fun and tasty path.

You can learn a lot by watching Jim Lahey show how to make homemade pizza with no knead dough:

More in depth info:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/jim-laheys-no-knead-pizza-dough-recipe.html

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/no-knead-pizza-dough

http://food52.com/recipes/16641-jim-lahey-s-no-knead-pizza-dough-margherita-pie

No-Knead Pizza Dough
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Co.
Makes four 12-inch pizza crusts OR 1 large square sheet pan pie

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus some more for dusting {Trader Joe’s White Flour does well}
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (such as SAF brand)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups water
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70°.
2. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough with it. Let the dough rise for 2 hours (If you are doing a square style pizza then keep the dough in one piece)
4. Stretch or toss the dough into the desired shape, cover with toppings and bake on top of a very hot pizza stone. …Or stretch dough out onto sheet pan, add toppings and bake. Hot oven, 500, until it looks done.

from:
http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm

Read more: http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm#ixzz2tcZdQqoX

Have you tried this ?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

TJ’s “South African Smoke” Seasoning Spice Blend


Spices – Not something that may first come to mind when you think “Trader Joe’s” stuff but actually they have shelves and shelves of spices. They are well priced, if you compare them to a regular supermarket, and always seem fresh to me.

I seem to especially like some of their spice “seasoning blends’  that are pre-mixed blends of whole spices. They are sold right in their own cleverly made grinder, which by the way are very practical and easy to use (even easy to re-use, they have screw tops). As you may know, grinding a spice just prior to using it is the way to get a spice’s optimal flavor.

I am now particularly fond of this Spice Blend called “South African Smoke” seasoning blend:

20130619-230820.jpg

The ingredients are listed as “smoked paprika (which are large flakes), sea salt, garlic, basil” Well though it doesn’t sound so exotic on paper, when you grind this onto almost any food, you get a heavenly smoky aroma. I couldn’t even begin to list all the foods this is good on, because it is so tasty it might make even a slice of wet cardboard taste good! But if you try it on almost any food (meat, chicken, tofu, veggies, rice, potatoes, pasta…. you name it)… then you will agree with me — This stuff is the bomb.

A jar costs about $2.29. I even added some coriander and fennel seeds into the jar, which I thought made it even better. So you could experiment a little too with these jars of spices, added some of your own spices too.

Here’s what “Trader Joe’s themselves had to say about this on their site:

Our travels take us to some of the world’s most interesting regions, where we have the opportunity to taste foods we may never have encountered on our home turf. (Full disclosure: this is the royal we, as it refers to our buyers and not, alas, to certain writers of food-related information.) Among our recent “discoveries” is Trader Joe’s South African Smoke seasoning blend, one of the more unique items we’ve come across.

South African Smoke begins with African-grown paprika that is slow-smoked for 48 hours over a sustainable African hardwood called Acacia Saligna, commonly used as barbecue coals. This process enriches the paprika with a smoky, roasted flavor that evokes the South African braai, or barbecue. The smoked paprika is blended with sea salt, garlic and basil and packaged in a grinder, giving you fresh-ground flavor in every twist. Use it as a rub for meats or veggies prior to cooking, or keep it on the table in place of everyday salt & pepper. You’ll find this spice blend only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s, where we’re selling each 1.76 ounce grinder for $2.29.

My only complaint about this stuff is it goes too fast in my house!

THIS PRODUCT GETS A RAVE!

 

UPDATE SUMMER 2014 –

NO NO NO !!! NOT ON SHELF. DID TRADER JOE’S DISCONTINUE!?!

ANOTHER GREAT PRODUCT,  GONE !? RANT!

 

ANOTHER UPDATE : SUMMER 2015 …ITS BACK ON THE SHELF AT MY TJ’S !!! GRAB IT WHILE YOU CAN ?! ONE READER REPORTS ITS SEASONAL FOR SUMMER ONLY (grilling)

SO STOCK UP IF YOU SEE IT.

Beans, Beans, Beans! & Recipe for Mediterranean Bean Stew


Trader Joe’s Great Northern Beans

Trader Joe’s Great Northern Beans

With the recent publication of an important study about how a “Mediterranean Diet” can ward off heart attacks and strokes, its a very appropriate time to think about how one’s diet can be more like a “Mediterranean Diet”.

A “Mediterranean diet” is a heart-healthy diet that is “rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables”.

Personally after hearing about this study one of the things I thought was that “we should try to eat more beans and legumes” every week. So I thought I would buy some beans, make something good for dinner, then do a write-up about using beans that hopefully you can try.

I used Trader Joe’s ORGANIC GREAT NORTHERN BEANS and made a quick and easy “Mediterranean Bean Stew” with tomatoes, onion, garlic and lots of olive oil. It was delicious and a big hit at the dinner table. I hope you try it!

RECIPE: EASY MEDITERRANEAN BEAN STEW

Sauté a large onion (chopped) along with 3 large cloves of garlic in a generous amount of olive oil over medium heat. Saute these for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. To this mixture, Add 2-3 ripe tomatoes (chopped) and 1 can of Great Northern Beans (or Cannelini or Chick Peas). Normally I rinse beans but for this dish I included the liquid. Add about 1/4 cup of white wine and spices (Italian spices, oregano, basic) and a good deal of black pepper, plus a few shakes of red pepper. Add salt to taste (but add sparingly as the beans have salt in them).

Simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes over low-medium heat. When done, check the consistency. There shouldn’t be a ton of liquid, it should be like a thick stew so it seems too watery simmer for another 5 minutes uncovered on medium high heat.

To serve, plate and sprinkle with some grated cheese (parmigiano, pecorino, grana padano or ricotta salata) and dress with another good slosh of olive oil. A few olives couldn’t hurt either. This can be a Main Dish for 2 with some salad and bread, or a side dish for 4.

Beans and Legumes are very healthy as we all know. They’re extremely good sources of Protein as well as Fiber. TJ’s says one cup contains 14.7 grams of protein and 12.4 grams of dietary fiber. Trader Joe’s does sell a nice variety of canned beans. Beans are both nutritious and inexpensive (89 cents to $1.19/can). Canned Beans are great to have on hand in your pantry. I do usually try to make my own beans “from scratch” (soak overnight then cook) but the canned ones are handy when you haven’t planned ahead or had the time. So its not a bad idea to pick up a few cans and have some in your pantry at all times. They are great for adding to salads too of course, especially Cannellini and Chick Peas. These I do rinse when I use them this way.

The old song is true, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…”

(I’ll stop there!)

Trader Joe’s Virgin Coconut Oil


So I’ve been hearing about Coconut Oil, once considered highly unhealthy, being re-evaluated from a health standpoint.

Coconut Oil has been getting a fair amount of buzz this past year. I had read an interesting piece in the NY Times by Melissa Clark about cooking with it.

I saw this jar of Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil in the NEW PRODUCTS shelf at my Trader Joe’s. I thought, I should see what all this is about and made a mental note to pick up a bottle and try it.

Its an interesting product as it has uses both ‘Culinary’ and ‘Health & Beauty’ Or as I think of it – its skin cream you can eat! Or Cooking Oil you can use as Hair Dressing. No really, its good for all these things. In fact, it has so many uses!

English: Coconut oil in solid state.

English: Coconut oil in solid state. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I opened the bottle and sniffed it, it was just amazing…WOW! It has an intense smell of COCONUT. I mean you smell it and your mind instantly thinks ‘Tropical Beach’. Just smells yummy and wonderful. I heard it was great in cooking especially good for sauteeing vegetables, as Melissa Clark wrote about. So I peeled and sliced up some Carrots (TJ Organic Carrots) and tossed them in a pan with about a tablespoon of the Coconut Oil. Again, an amazing smell wafted through the kitchen. Tossed in the sliced carrots and let them sauté for about 10 minutes or so. After the carrots were slightly browned I tasted one. It had a wonderful under-note of (yes) Coconut. The sauteed carrots tasted delicious, and I could imagine many vegetables benefitting from being cooked in coconut oil. Melissa Clark mentions roasted sweet potatoes – that sounds great – and she has a number of interesting recipes listed in her piece, which you can try.

Coconut Oil when it’s kept at a cool temperature appears white and in a solid state. If it warms up it, will become clear and liquid.

Traditional bullock-powered coconut oil mill. ...

Traditional bullock-powered coconut oil mill. Dried coconuts are crushed and oil is squeezed out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally of course this is good for other things, like putting on your hair too. And it is wonderful to rub on dry skin as a moisurizer. I even read its a natural antiperspirant (you put a drop or two under your arms).

What a useful product. The question may be Where to keep the jar?! In the Bathroom or the Kitchen?!!

A jar costs $5.99 for 16 ounces. Check it out. I’m just beginning to experiment with using it. And yes, it truly makes your hair beautiful and smell wonderful too.

TJ’s Smoked Herring Kipper Fillets


RAVE

I saw these on the shelf at Trader Joe’s, where this bright green can beckoned at me among the tuna and other canned fish items shelf. At the time, priced at just 1.99* I thought I’d try them and give a report. Well the report is simply that these are a great product, and immediately  made it into my ‘always buy these things’ category. as these are extremely handy to have on hand at all times in the pantry.

A can of these may easily be the basis for a super easy quick lunch – or even dinner if you added some side dishes. The can was easy to open using the pull tab, and inside were fat, meaty smoky dark-colored fat fillets of herring (aka “kippers”, which are very popular in Britain) packed in Canola oil which in itself had a lot of flavor (don’t just dump it out!). These smoked Herring Fillets taste wonderful. We both went crazy for their  flavor. If you enjoy smoked fish – which I love – these will send you into heaven as they have a nice but not overpowering smokey flavor. I decided they would be good served with a mustard sauce, which I whipped up in a few minutes. I even used a little of the oil they came in my sauce.

To make it into a “dinner”, I made a healthy salad of whole grains, Barley and Wheatberries, with chopped veggies. They were a good combination with the fish. Or just make some boiled potatoes for a very quick easy side. Trader Joes’ Smoked Herring Fillets; A can cost 1.99 the first time I bought them, then a few weeks later they went up to $2.29 (oh well!) Again very handy to have on hand in your pantry. These taste quite “gourmet” like something you would have gotten at “Zabar’s”, or any high end smoked fish emporium. Equally I could see mashing these up with some finely chopped green onions and spreading thickly on some nice whole grain or dark bread smeared with butter, and lemon slices, for a Scandinavian style open faced sandwich.

CANNED SMOKED HERRING FILLETS WITH MUSTARD SAUCE

Dice up a few tablespoons of ONION. Place the onions in a bowl. Mix in 2 tbs of a good MUSTARD (Dijon or other french style mustard, which Trader Joe’s sells) Add a little OLIVE OIL. Add a little vinegar or LEMON juice till the sauce is of a spoonable consistency. Serve the sauce with the Smoked Herring Fillets with some lemon wedges on the side, and perhaps some parsley. Eat with a good whole grained or dark bread.

A kipper is a fish which has been split from t...

A kipper is a fish which has been split from tail to head, eviscerated, salted, and smoked (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*they’ve gone up in price: $2.29 (july 2014)

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