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 New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings


apple rings

New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings

“Unsulphered and unsweetened”

These may be a new product, or at least I’ve never noticed them till recently. Anyway I bought them to try and really liked these. Its really good new Trader Joe’s product.

My first impression upon opening the package was my nose immediately caught a very nice “apple-ly” scent coming from the bag, and them upon popping one of these dried apple rings in my mouth… next was that “oh yeah so yummy” reaction to something new you’re trying.  This has a really natural taste and delicious flavor, this is neither too sweet, nor too tart. You are thinking yeah “These are what dried apples should taste like” as you chew and chew a few more. In fact you may find as I did, its really hard to stop eating them!. I could probably devour the bag munching on them. Not that I should do that! But I can see a bag will go fast in my house.

The apples have been dehydrated to just the right point, where they are not too hard or rubbery like some dried apple rings can be, but are wonderfully softish, and chewy and kind of taste what I imagine, if I made my own dehydrated apples, what they would taste like. The ingredients are one thing, and one thing only: Apples! “SELECTED FROM BRAEBURN, ROYAL,GALA, FUJI AND PINK LADY APPLES” Unsulphered and unsweetened. I really like ingredients where one thing and one thing only is listed. You know what you bought come with no hidden agendas.

In sum, try these, you are sure to like them. These could be a healthy snack and treat for you or your kids to have around. Try with some peanut butter and you have something heavenly (could even be put into a sandwich?)
An 8 oz. package sells for $3.49. The package I bought got eaten fast. They are slightly addictive. Be forewarned.

So these get a

RAVE

 

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

 

Trader Joe’s FIG BUTTER


RAVE

OK so this was featured in the current Fearless Flyer, and I saw it yesterday and thought I should buy it and report.  Got home and almost instantly opened it and dug a spoon in to taste. First reaction: OMG, this is some fantastically good stuff, Trader Joe! It is extremely tasty.

It’s a true fruit butter, meaning fruit that has been cooked down till its super concentrated. No, there’s no “butter” in it all all, as the flyer points out. TJ Fig Butter has only a few pure ingredients: figs, water, sugar, lemon juice, pectin; so it is “all natural”. It tastes like very yummy, very ripe figs. After reading the Fig Butter post in the Fearless Flyer, I learned there are three different kinds of figs used to make it and surely this is one of the reasons the flavor profile is so complex. TJ FIG BUTTER

For breakfast the next morning, I made a piece of TJ Tuscan Pane toast with some TJ Peanut Butter and Fig Butter. People, this is a heavenly combination,  you’ve got to try.

In fact the main problem with this fig butter is desire. I just bought it yesterday, and between my wife and myself, the jar seems to be half gone already. Next, I will have to sample the other fruit butters TJ sells – for the sake of this blog of course. Mango, Pumpkin, Lemon, etc…

A 11 oz jar of TJ’s fruit butters costs $2.29*

*I have a feeling it was cheaper last month. Everything at TJ’s seems to be going up in price of late

Stay tuned!

…Working with Maine-based culinary craftsmen, focused on old-fashioned, farmstand goodness and flavor, we created Trader Joe’s Fig Butter. It starts with a medley of fresh, ripe figs: Mission figs for their extreme sweetness, Calimyrna figs for their distinctive nutty flavor and Conadria figs for their nutty-sweet balance. The whole figs are dried, ground and then crushed before being slow-cooked, in small batches, with sugar, lemon and pectin. It’s a simple recipe using only the finest, freshest ingredients, and no preservatives or artificial colors. The result is full fig flavor concentrated in a smooth, spreadable butter.

In some markets a great deal of butter is reta...

In some markets a great deal of butter is retailed from tubs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TJ’s Refried Black Beans “With Jalapeños”


“High in Fiber and a Good Source of Iron”

Says so right on the front label and all true. This is a very healthy thing for you to eat. And since a can costs just 99 cents, it’s very economical too. Now if you are not familiar with “Refried Beans” there are a few things you should know. One is in Spanish “frijoles refritos” is slightly misleading in that while it litterally can be interpreted as “re-fried beans” they are not “fried” twice, they are “cooked twice”, boiled, then mashed/fried with some kind of fat. Authentic Mexican frijoes refritos are either pinto, black, or other beans, that have been cooked till very tender then cooked and mashed till they are a smooth paste. The mixture is cooked with onions and garlic and spices in some oil or fat (traditionally manteca – lard is used but more ‘modern’ versions use olive oil).  Its generally eaten with corn tortillas in one variety or another. Corn and beans together create a complex protein that is equal to any meat protein. In Mexico this is a high quality protein and relatively low cost food, and is eaten daily by MILLIONS.

However Trader Joe’s Refried Black Beans ingredients simply say: Prepared black beans, water, sea salt, spice, jalapeños. So actually since there is no fat of any kind listed, in truth these are not really “refritos” at all. You could eat them this way just out of the can, but I find them just so-so, I think of them as a time-saver over making my own beans (soaking overnight, etc) and mashing them. If you invest a mere 5 minutes to improve them, to make them tastier and more authentic, you will be rewarded with something twice as good as the way they taste right out of the can. And you will say as I did, where’s the jalapeño’s. They seem non-existant, so I assume the amount is miniscule.

Here’s what I suggest you do once you open the can:  Smash or chop a fat clove of garlic and toss it in a non-stick pan, over medium heat with a nice slug of Olive Oil (I used TJ’s Spanish EVOO). Add the bean paste from the can and perhaps some more diced fresh jalapeños ‘to taste’ (TJ’s label say “with jalapeños” but damn if I taste any!) Or add one small can of TJ’s Roasted Green Chiles, chopped up. A little diced onion couldnt hurt too! Add some spices: oregano, a dash red pepper flakes plus a good sprinkling of black pepper. Taste for salt. Cook the the beans, pushing down with a wooden spoon, mixing into the oil and every now and then stirring and making sure they don’t burn. Cook the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until the paste softens up, moves freely (If too thick, add pinch water) and the refritos look smooth and smell wonderful. Eat!

Are you Super Lazy and say that sounds like too much work? You lazy bum. OK then, if you do nothing else, when you heat these up just add some olive oil and lots of black pepper and some hot sauce and stir.

Eat your Frijoles Refritos with tortillas, tostadas…. Use as fillings in burritos. Add salsa, cheese, tomato, greens. Refritos are also fine served as a side with a sprinkle of cheese, maybe some mexican style rice, and possibly some Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo.

When you open up up the can, be aware these refried beans don’t look too appetizing till cooked (frankly one could say it looks like dog food) but will look fine after you heat them up (and hopefully gussy them up as I suggest above .

If you’ve never had these before, try them, or their cousin Trader Joe’s Pinto Refried Beans with Salsa.  They are very tasty when jazzed up a little, so filling, healthy and economical it’s not even funny. Your heart and cholesterol will thank you, especially since you made them with olive oil and not lard (thought authentic manteca does taste best, sorry!)

RAVE.

VEGAN FRIENDLY


Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo


My first post on this new site. Lets make it a RAVE:

Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo: Great stuff. I’m not a vegetarian but tried this once as it looked interesting. All I can say is I was really impressed by this vegetarian soy product. It tastes like, well, chorizo!  And by chorizo lets state for the record this is the “mexican style” chorizo (crumbly kind) and not the “spanish chorizo” kind that is firmer and like sausage which you can slice and dice up.

This stuff is really tasty and flavorful. Its is loaded with the correct spices, especially  cumin and anatto plus its quite nicely spicy. All of which really makes it taste “real” to me. I’ve used it in so many ways. Crumbled on top of eggs (delicious), used it as a taco filling mixed with potatoes, onions and other veggies; added it to pan fried hash browns; added to lentil stew or soup; even put it on top of pizza instead of sausage! Its good in many things, and a little bit goes a long way to flavor other ingredients. Its is so tasty I don’t even notice or care if its real or fake “meat”, so its a product that is good for both vegatarians and omnivores, and the occasional vegetarians like yours truly. Whats not to like? A 12 oz package is $1.99, and I find 12 oz of this really goes pretty far. Its a popular item. If you Google ‘Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo’, you will find tons of fans and recipes for it. If you haven’t tried it yet, this is highly recommended.

One tip though. I find it kind of messy to work with once you open the package, so be sure to carefully cut open the plastic casing it comes in. When stored I’ve found the dark red anatto colored oil in it has a tendancy to “leak” so be sure to rewrap it carefully. I alwasy put another plastic bag around it, or spoon the leftovers into a glass jar. I find it can keep a fairly long time in the fridge.

Here is a recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms that sounds good from the Cooking with Trader Joe’s blog. I have to try this, it sounds yummy and easy.

What do you think of TJ Soy Chorizo. What do you use it for? If you have any ways you like to use it or recipes, please leave them.