Nuts & Heartbreak At Trader Joe’s


nuts1

A tale about Trader Joe’s Roasted ALMONDS IN THE SHELL.

nut·crack·er

pronunciation:ˈnətˌkrakər/

NOUN  1) a device for cracking nuts.

—-

Oh! This is so just typical… I find a new product at Trader Joe’s that looks interesting , says to myself ‘Self, you have to try this!’, buy it, open it up and instantly think, “OMG this is so great! I love it! I will buy this from now on, every time I go to TJ’s”!!!! And so it happened with this product :

Trader Joe’s Roasted ALMONDS IN THE SHELL.

I’ve bought natural almonds in the shell before, back in the day, when you sat down, Old School with a bowl and a nut cracker. In the old days, my folks and I would sit down together with a bowl of nuts and our family nutcracker and crack each one open to enjoy as we chatted or watch a tv show together. Its a bit of work cracking open nuts over and over but that was the way you ate nuts back then in the 70’s. You didn’t pay peons in some foreign land to not just grow them for you, but to also sit there and open them for you too, you lazy Gringos. We opened them ourselves with a nutcracker.2009673-man-cracking-walnut-with-metal-nutcracker-in-hand-isolated-on-white-background

And nowadays? Everyone’s gotten so lazy, its hard to even imagine a family with a nut cracker spending time opening your own nut you are about to eat. But yes thats why there is such a thing as a “nutcracker”.

So I see these babies in a bag, “Almonds In The Shell” and notice upon close examination in the bag that they appear to have somehow been “pre-cracked” (?!!) I mean they look like pistachio nuts with a little slit waiting for your thumbnail to just pry apart. Very interesting ! So I says to myself, boy those guys at Trader Joe’s have figured out that we still want the enjoyment of sitting down with some nuts and opening them but with a little help. Make it easier than the old nutcracker. And sure enough, when I try them, they are easy to open! They are just like pistachios, you just pry them apart with your fingernails. No nut cracker needed! The shells are somehow thin. Much thinner than any unshelled almond I’ve ever see before. How did they manage that?!

Its like someone at Trader Joe’s found the Holy Grail of Nuts.

And TASTE? Oh man, they are FABULOUS. My taste buds seem to think they’re better than the shelled almonds. As if they’re holding a little extra flavor inside the shell with the almond that’s there waiting to escape as soon as you pry them open. You can smell it. They are just so…. almond-y! Like a Super Almond. They are really SO VERY GOOD!

I am in love.

They become my new favorite Trader Joe item. I buy a package every time I go to Trader Joe’s.  I find a pound can just last a few days- if that. We go through the bag like butter. I have to hide them from myself (and my wife) otherwise they can go in a night watching some movie on Netflix, cracking open almond after almond. But it seems better than just putting a hand down and putting two or three in your mouth. There’s work involved. OK, very little work but still you have to open them. You’re burning up a few calories doing it right?

There’s are  shelves full of them. I even see them featured in the NEW PRODUCTS section. On display. In a huge, huge pile.

A few weeks pass, and my wife goes to get them and comes back empty handed. She say’s there weren’t any. I go in a week or two and see its not there. Worse, the shelf where I was picking them up from in the Nuts section, doesn’t even have the Sign for them up!

Oh No! NO NO NO! You GODAMM TRADER JOES Muthafuggas!!

We all know this scenario. This sinking feeling. That oh so Trader Joe’s feeling you get at the pit of your stomach when you realize, “Oh no! Maybe this is not just Out Of Stock! Maybe this is (gulp!) A DISCONTINUED ITEM !2009673-man-cracking-walnut-with-metal-nutcracker-in-hand-isolated-on-white-background.jpg!!

If you are a TJ regular, you KNOW this feeling. Its a bad feeling. Almost like learning a best friend has died. Almost like turning on your computer and you push the power button but it won’t start up and you realize oh my computers broken. Almost like coming out of a store and going to the place your bike was locked up, and not finding it there and realizing, some motherf-er stole it (for me, a bike, for you, might be your car)

And so it was. I went to the Manager’s counter and asked about my beloved Almonds In The Shell. Where they out of stock? Any idea when you might be getting more in? The Manager (Captain?) consults her computer screen and tells me the bad news. “I’m afraid they weren’t selling well. They were discontinued”

Gasp! Discontinued?!!! Not selling well?! I was buying them constantly. If I only knew, I would have bought a case.

I left the store, heart broken.

It wasn’t the first time.

Even worse, I knew, it won’t be the last either.

My unspoken rule for Trader Joe’s is “never fall in love”.

Its just too risky.

RANT

(published In Memoriam – Dry Roasted Salted Almonds In The Shell – 2013-2013)

“Out out brief candle!”

nuts2

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!)

DIY – Simple Homemade Jam


jam

My Home-made Peach Jam

This is a jar of some “DIY fast-and-easy peach “jam” or “preserves”. I’m using the quotation marks because it is not the fully “preserved” type that will last months and months. Rather I make this to keep in the fridge, aka “refridgerator jam”. Its EASY and DELICIOUS, fast and much cheaper than store jams. You can make it in half hour. 97210-turbinado-sugar

      Of course one could make this with Trader Joe’s very nice

TURBINADO RAW SUGAR

    Or that plus half plain sugar…experiment!

Here’s a basic recipe:

Buy some fruit. It should be fairly ripe. To make these fast jams, I usually buy the “quick sale” stuff at the supermarket that is over ripe, not perfect looking…but this is exactly what is perfect for making jam. Fruits: you can use peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, figs, strawberries, other berries. Have a fresh lemon on hand too. Sugar – Trader Joe’s sugar is perfect. But honestly almost any sugar will do (real sugar not fake). What matters is that you need to cook this a fairly long time. Use a heavy sauce pan.

    Its not a hard and fast recipe. More like a basic recipe / ratio with many, many variations.

    SIMPLE HOMEMADE FRIDGE JAM

    Ingredients: About 1-2 lbs of fruit. Eg – Peaches, about 6 large.
    Wash and cut up the fruit into small pieces. I do this directly into the pan. I throw in the pits too (will fish out later, or not) as I think they have natural pectin which will help with the ‘jelling’. I put about 1/2-cup to 1 cup of sugar. While that may sound like a lot its not, as it will all cook down, and the sugar will make it jell in this recipe.
    Cook the mixture at a medium-high heat. You want a low boil that will not boil over (your pan should be big enough so that it has high sides and room). Watch it. Cook it stirring occasionally, for about 40-45 minutes total. Check it and stir it every 10 minutes. What you want is for it to all fall apart, and the fruit to mostly disintegrate. What looked like a lot of fruit will become a much smaller amount after its cooked down. At the end, I squeeze in half a lemon or lime’s juice. Let it cool, place in a jar and refrigerate for a few hours. It should thicken up. Use within a few weeks. This won’t be hard, trust me! It probably won’t last that long.

Melissa Clark of the NY Times has a wonderful recipe for jam here which you can use to experiment more with…

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.

On Brand Loyalty


I liked this piece I stumbled upon via Twitter and thought I would re-blog and Share it….

“A Study on Brand Loyalty: What We Can Learn From Trader Joe’s”

by Danielle Hagen

http://www.mpdailyfix.com/a-study-on-brand-loyalty-what-we-can-learn-from-trader-joes/

Danielle makes a lot of good interesting points about Trader Joe’s from a Marketing standpoint.  You can read her blog post HERE

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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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