Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing


This is one of those “only at Trader Joe’s” products, or at least I’ve never seen another type of product like this one.

I am something of a “Sriracha freak”. I love the stuff, and love The Spicy though I wouldn’t call myself a chile-head like those types of people who go for the “Death Head” type of sauces. Me, I want spice AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food things on the planet. A food product who’s fan’s are legion.

I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on a salad. So guess what? This is a terrific idea, and Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrific product. Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which in my opinion Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than Sriracha or most hot sauces for that matter. I used to mix it with some yogurt or mayo to tone it down a wee bit, but that is no longer needed. This is when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? Maybe people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with less of a heat level. Anyway I just bought a bottle and it doesn’t seem nearly as spicy as it used to be, though it is still spicy, and still very good! Not only is  this ranch dressing good on salad or greens of course but it has many, many more uses on all kinds of foods. You can put a little on the side as a sauce for most anything, for instance grilled chicken, or shrimp, or fish, or grilled tofu, or what have you.

In fact you can use this as an ingredient to cook with it. For instance, try brushing this stuff on chicken which you would bake, broil, or grill. Its awesome on hamburgers, mixed with some ketchup for some homemade spicy “special sauce”. Try a little on some asian style noodles… with some chunky organic peanut butter on top? In fact try this on just about anything you think might be better with some spice to it. You will come up with some interesting tests.

So congratulations on a fantastic product, Trader Joe’s. Some  hard core chile- heads might be disappointed that you toned down the heat a bit for mere mortals. (But folks, you can mix some Sriracha sauce with this, if you want it spicier still, or add some cayenne pepper and it will be like it used to be). It sells for $2.99 (16 oz. bottle) which is not bad since most TJ salad dressings are 8 oz bottles?

So try this, its one of those love it or hate it type TJ products! Do I love it? Yes, yes, yes! Giving it a:

RAVE

54860-organic-sriracha-ranch-dressing

 

 

By the way, the story of HUY FONG FOODS SRIRACHA and it’s founder Vietnamese refugee David Tran, is one of the best American immigrant success stories there is!

ADDITIONAL LINKS

http://nextshark.com/sriracha-hot-sauce-david-tran-vietnamese/

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/14-things-you-didnt-know-about-sriracha-including-its-proper-pronunciation

https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-22/story-how-one-hot-sauce-huy-fong-sriracha-got-so-hot

 

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

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!

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.

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.

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)

Trader Joe’s Kimchi Fried Rice


 

TJ’s Kimchi Fried Rice

Disclaimer: I only tried this at the Sample Station. In fact I confess the Sample Station is the locus where I usually gravitate to almost immediately after I enter Trader Joe’s. I check out if they have something interesting to taste that day, and of course to grab myself a little cup of free coffee. Don’t you? Truly the Coffee Station is one of the best things about Trader Joe’s, isn’t it? Every supermarket should copy them; going shopping would be much more fun.


Kimchi Fried Rice is a fairly new item and TJ’s seemed to be promoting it quite a bit. Recently it was the product “on sample” 2 or 3 times that I had been to TJ’s of late. What I found funny was they had a sign next to the samples: Its said something like, “Warning: Spicy! Try at your own risk! If you can’t take spicy food, be careful!” Then I tasted it and my first thought was “Huh? This is spicy?”. Seriously to me it was about as spicy as baby food (I can take the heat). I started discussing this disconnect of the “WARNING” sign with the TJ employee who was in charge of the Sample Station at the time. He was of the same opinion – the Kimchi Fried Rice is not spicy at all! He cracked me up when he told me however how many people actually complained “Jeez this is so spicy” after they tasted the Kimchi Fried Rice on sample. So many that they put up the “warning, spicy” sign!

So here is what I thought after tasting the Kimchi Fried Rice. I know me some Kimchi Fried Rice (the authentic Korean kind). I adore it. I can even cook a decent version myself. So if I compare that taste to this stuff, I just have to say this is a pretty bland, insipid version. The two times I tried it was soft and fairly mushy, plus it had barely any kimchi taste; To me, its flavor profile was just weak, which I attribute to an industrial production of such a “homey” dish. For one, truly Kimchi Fried Rice needs real garlic flavor, as well as Kimchi. This barely even had any garlic nor Kimchi flavor for me. The real thing is a fantastic dish, and this? Frankly to my tastes perhaps it would be suitable for babies (ok maybe Korean). Now having said that – Trader Joe’s does have a decent “ethnic” fried rice. TJ’s JAPANESE FRIED RICE is actually quity good (another disclaimer: My wife is Japanese/Korean). I’ve eaten tons of both Kimchi fried rice and Japanese fried rice. I know what these should taste like. I can cook decent versions of both.

So, sorry Trader Joe’s in my opinion your KIMCHI FRIED RICE is a miss! If you try it, try the JAPANESE FRIED RICE next time and see which you prefer.

Pretty much same as your other new “Korean” addition, Trader Joe’s Kimchi, which I found such a poor product I actually “returned” it! Perhaps those who don’t live in a city where you can buy real kimchi sold at a Korean market, might think “so this is kimchi, tasty”.  Actually if you had real Kimchi you would know this stuff is not even close to being as tasty as a real Korean-made kimchi – for example this brand (Tobagi) of Napa cabbage kimchi I get at HanAhReum supermarket on 32nd Street (Manhattan’s Korea Town). If you A/B taste tested this prepared kimchi vs. the Trader Joe’s version? It would be almost a joke, just no comparison! Anyone who’s been to a Korean restaurant will know the real taste. At $1.99 (10 oz) you can try TJ’s version and see for yourself. Let me know what you think.

RANT

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean...

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean cuisine (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


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