ZHOUG SAUCE


Trader Joe’s ZHOUG SAUCE is a fresh tasting and delicious Middle Eastern / Yemeni condiment. When they describe it on the package as “very spicy” in this case, TJ is not kidding! Repeat – this is “VERY SPICY” as in will knock your socks off spicy.

Herbal from cilantro, spicy from jalapeno and chile, seasoned with cumin and cardamon, this stuff is bloody wonderful.

I’ve put it on just about everything you can think of…chicken, tofu, eggs, fritattas, pasta…. you can’t go wrong with this on just about anything you put it on, it will make you smack your lips. I suspect it would be good on shoe leather.

This was even a bit too spicy for me (rare!)  Unless you are a total chile-head, capsaicin obsessed death-head sauce freak you might want to tame it down a tiny bit as I did. I added some olive oil and lemon juice to cut down the heat ever so slightly. I liked it better that way as I could use it more generously. You will use this in small amounts…a little goes a long way, especially right out of the jar as they make it. Its in the refrigerated section at TJ and costs $3. A steal.

Here’s a DIY version I found if you want to try your hand at making ZHOUG

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/diy-trader-joes-zhoug-sauce_n_5b96758ce4b0511db3e480d0

RAVE

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Trader Joe’s GYRO SLICES


This looked like an interesting idea when I saw it. Despite some trepidation if it could possibly be any good I decided to give it a go.

So what’s “gyro” anyway? Its the Greek version of a certain style of cooking and a street food found in many cultures and parts of the world.

Shwarma, Gyro, Doner Kebab and Tacos Al Pastor are pretty much the same thing: meat, sometimes lamb, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken that is seasoned quite a bit, then placed and layered onto a rotating spit, that is cooked upright as it rotates (get it, gyro?) Oh, and by the way, the way to say Gyro with its Greek name would sound like “Yeero”.

The Gyro chef slices off meat getting the nicely browned outside layer onto bread or a curved metal thing as you can see in the picture below. The slices of goodness are then usually arranged in some type of bread … Pita, Pide or other Arab bread or a in Mexico a tortilla, with veggies (tomatoes, lettuce, cukes) and a sauce of some type (tzaziki, tahina, salsa…)

Turkish, Greek, or Lebanese in origin? Mexico’s dish called Tacos Al Pastor originated from Lebanese who had emigrated to Mexico City, and had opened restaurants, made a type of food that was from their homeland and adapted that dish to a Mexican palate (and they used pork!). Its is hugely popular in Mexico, and delicious. Traditionally there is a pineapple roasting at the very top which is sliced off onto your Taco Al Pastor

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Making one of these towers of meat is complicated. The link below shows all the many steps involved to make a real “GYRO” just in case you wondered or have never seen one of these types of restaurants with a huge rotating “trompo” (spit) in the window.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-greek-gyro-is-made-4121890

 

Above: here’s a gyro cook slicing off some meat to make a Gyro… This looks pretty amazing, right?

Now look below at whats actually in the Trader Joe Gyro Slices package! Ugh! Cooking it only improved the look slightly. And it shrunk a good deal, as lots of fat came out.

Read the ingredient list : Beef, Water, Breadcrumbs…   Bread crumbs is the third ingredient listed. Its a binder to hold some ground stuff mixed together which is then pressed into a form, cut into slices, and packaged. Already you can kind of get this is an attempt to make something in a factory setting that’s not at all similar to the real thing – which as you know is just meat with spices layered onto a spit and cooked vertically.

I had a Doner Kebab in Vienna and it was fantastic. I had Tacos Al Pastor in Mexico City, ditto. I’ve had this in many Greek places in NYC and its great. They slice it in front of you and hold the bread to catch the juices as they run off. Yum!

This TJ stuff is not even close.

If you look at what the stuff actually looks like, when you open the package up, you will probably be a bit surprised at how unappealing it looks. . Its a bad idea to begin with. I made it as they suggest on the package, I put the cooked slices onto a pita with some tzatziski sauce with lettuce, onions and tomatoes and it tasted just OK if you ignored the main ingredient – the “gyro slices”. It would not fool anybody. It was OK as far as the the pita, sauce, veggies… but the main ingredient was quite lacking in taste and texture, especially if you ever had a real Gyro Sandwich from a greek joint.

So I give this product an F for FAIL

$4 a package.

RANT

Trader Joe’s SHAWARMA MARINATED CHICKEN THIGHS


Trader Joe’s SHAWARMA MARINATED FRESH CHICKEN THIGHS

It’s rare that I buy meat or chicken that’s comes already marinated in a package. I normally would make any marinade I wanted myself. Still I saw this product, boneless chicken thighs, which looked promising and thought I would try it out and report on it here.

In short, I liked these SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS a lot, and would buy these again. They’re quite good!

These are skinless, boneless chicken thighs so very convenient to use. Just take them out of the package (messy, I used tongs), toss them in a hot pan, or on a grill, or broil them, and they will be ready in about 15 minutes.

I cooked these thighs in a pan, grilled as suggested, about 7 minutes or so per side, in a black cast iron pan with olive oil over a medium fire till they were a nice golden brown color on the bottom. I flipped them over and cooked them till the other side was done about the same time. So maybe 15 minutes total? The kitchen smelled great while I was cooking these. The spices they use are very nice, Middle Eastern, flavorful but not overpowering. Of course you could add even more spices if thats your bag (fresh garlic, cumin, or something spicy…) They aren’t spicy/hot. Take them out of the pan and rest them for a few minutes. You could hit them with some lemon juice. They don’t need it but its a nice fresh addition. I could have used a tiny bit less salt, which is listed a bit high in the Sodium count. But it was not salty especially with other food, and as I served it over rice, fine. I served these with TJs’ “ZHOUG” Yemeni green hot sauce, which is quite spicy, and it matched well with the whole Middle East flavor going on.

The nice thing about Chicken Thighs is they are very “forgiving” and stay juicy almost no matter what. They are hard to over cook unless you really try! As you know quite unlike boneless chicken breasts which are very easy to overcook and turn out dry (mine? never!)

SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS cost $4.49 a pound. The 1.5 lb package I bought was $6 and I got two meals for two from it with sides.

This would be great sliced up and served SHAWARMA style on pita, with veggies and a tahini or yogurt garlic sauce. Or try TJ’S ZHOUG SAUCE if you can handle the heat!

The second dish I made with them: Chicken Tacos/fajitas. Despite the slight cultural melange, they were great for in that dish too.

(LINK) Here’s The TJ FLYER PAGE I FOUND ON THESE

YES REAL SHWARMA IS COOKED ON A ROTATING SPIT…..l313283930

5-MINUTE $3 DINNER FOR TWO (GNOCCHI WITH PESTO, A NO-RECIPE RECIPE)


 

The other night I came home tired and hungry. I looked in the fridge and saw nothing really to eat.

I wanted something hot and delicious that would not require any time at all.

I looked in the cupboard and saw 2 things, a package of TJ GNOCCHI plus a jar of TJ PESTO ALLA GENOVESE.

Aha, dinner!

(NO-RECIPE RECIPE) FIVE MINUTE GNOCCHI with PESTO SAUCE

STEP 1 – BOIL WATER

STEP 2 – THROW IN THE GNOCCHI (ADD A PINCH OF SALT IF YOU LIKE) BOIL GNOCCHI THREE MINUTES

STEP 3 – DRAIN GNOCHI (NB: KEEP 1/2 CUP OF THE PASTA WATER!) TOSS DRAINED GNOCCHI BACK IN THE POT TO KEEP WARM

STEP 4 – ADD PESTO (I ADDED ABOUT 1/2 THE JAR). ADD A FEW TABLESPOONS OF THE SAVED PASTA WATER BIT BY BIT STIRRING GENTLY TILL YOU HAVE A SAUCE OF DESIRED CONSISTENCY. KEEP WARM WITH A TINY FLAME UNTIL READY TO PLATE

DONE

FANCIER? A drizzle of a great EVOO…. Freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (or Mozz?) Fresh ground black pepper. Optional: Green it up with some chopped arugula (or parsley or baby kale). I added in some Arugula to the pot and stirred for about 45 seconds until it wilted a bit into the pesto. YUMMY! With 2 slices of toasted bread, some greens and dressing, a glass of wine…we had a full nice dinner that took almost no effort and very little time.

TIME (under 5 minutes not counting the water boiling)

COST – TJ’s Gnocchi (1 lb) costs $1.69.  A jar of the Pesto Alla Genovese costs $2.49 (so figure 1/2 jar’s $1.25) So the dish costs less than $3 with 2 nice servings as a dinner, or about 4 as a side-dish.

So its a good idea to keep these 2 handy items on hand in your pantry! The Gnocchi is shelf stable for months. The Pesto once opened lasts a week or two in the fridge. Covering the pesto with some olive oil will help it keep a bit longer.

 

pesto2

RAVE

SHISHITO PEPPERS


Shishito Peppers are a Japanese pepper variety, quite popular and common in Japan and  just getting a bit known in the U.S. finally. But that might change soon, as they’re quite delicious — and especially now that you can find them so easily in your local TJ’s Produce Section, instead of having to look for them at a specialized Japanese grocery.

Shishito peppers are even a new “it” food you will see in upscale and trendy restaurants these days.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE PEPPERS – NOT SPICY -vs- SPICY!! 

As a rule Shishito Peppers aren’t spicy. That is until you get a Spicy one! The general saying about them is: “1 in 10 will be spicy”.  When you get a spicy one (my favorites) I would say they’re a bit less spicy than a jalapeño in level of kick. Meaning, yes it will be pretty spicy. So be warned, if you’re feeding them to your kid and grandma. If you bite into one and its spicy and you don’t like spicy, just put it to the side and the next one will in all likelihood be mild.

The usual way to make Shishito peppers are grill them in a pan over medium fire with a pinch of oil (sesame oil would be great) until they blister or get a tiny bit of char on one side, then turn them to the other side and do the same till cooked.

Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and they’re ready to serve. They can be a great little side dish, so they will go great with most anything you might serve as the Main. In Japan they are famous as a drinks snack served to go with beer or sake. You can also use them as an ingredient in foods, just as you would put in some green pepper.

LINKS

https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/shisito-pepper-recipes#charred-shishito-peppers-garlic-herb-oil

SHISHITO / WIKI

TJ’s sells a bag of them for $2.29 so they’re pretty affordable to try out…

We really love them in our house, and you might too. Give them a shot.

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TJ’s CINNAMON ROLL BREAD


TJ’s CINNAMON ROLL BREAD

The name of the bread is a wee bit of Hyperbole if you expect this to ooze like a Cinnabun. However this is very, very good raisin bread with lots of cinnamon flavor.

I love this bread, and it’s another of my Must Have In House products from TJ’s. The package says it’s “ooey, gooey…” but its not really ooey gooey, it’s just a tiny bit gooey which is fine if you want to put this in your toaster. Which you do! While it’s OK untoasted, you really must toast this bread up IMHO. Only by toasting it do you get the full cinnamon / raisin flavor effect. The bread toast’s up to absolute yummy perfection (but be careful, keep your eye on it and be careful not to burn it or you’ll be sorry. Its a fine line from perfectly toasted to burnt toast and raisins!

TIP: I go Full-On Maximum Cinnamon and once its toasted I put butter and a little Cinnamon and Sugar on it, and thats Heavenly. Really try it, just a sprinkle of cinnamon and some natural sugar.


Or try: Cream Cheese and Dates chopped up (or more raisins or dried cranberries.

Or by itself with some butter. Even thats good!

You can’t go wrong with this excellent product at breakfast time. Your family will go nuts for it when they smell it. A 24 oz loaf goes for just $3.49. So another great TJ deal. I would recommend you freeze the bread and just take it out as you need it to toast it up.

TIP #2  Sunday – I woke up thinking this would be great to make French Toast with. So I made it. Yup. It was fantastic for French Toast!

 

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CHICKEN BREAST STRIPS TREATS FOR DOGS (AND CATS!!!)



INGREDIENTS: DRIED CHICKEN BREAST FILETS
These are all natural, pieces of chicken that have been dried into strips. They are sold as Dog Treats. Now I don’t have a dog. But I have 2 cats. They love chicken. I thought I am going to get a pack of these “dog treats” and see if my cats like them. Did I say “see if they like them?” Who are we kidding? When I opened the package up, they could smell it instantly and went nuts, pawing at me to give it to them.

Relax, I don’t give my cats a whole strip, first I break one into smaller pieces, easy to do as they have score marks on them. I gave some to my cats and they go crazy…chewing, chewing, chewing….crunching them up till they are gone as they devour these treats. Who says, “these are just for dogs”!

One of my adopted cats came with some dental issues. I have been taking good care of his teeth and gums since I got him. A (holistic) Vet told me the act of chewing is the best thing for his teeth and gums. She suggested I give him raw organic chicken with tiny bones, and especially chicken necks as chewing up the chicken necks are really good for his teeth and gums, yes crunching up the little bones and all. So I buy chicken necks but also give these dried strips which is very good chewing exercise.

Summary: Great product. All natural. $4 a package. Whether you have a dog, or like me, cats, your pet will love these. If you give to your cat, just break up a piece into smaller pieces for them.

NOTE: I gave one of these treats to my neighbors dog, and she loved it of course. So I’m saying these are good treats whether you have a dog or a cat! Equal Opportunity!!!

aspen&kuro2017

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