Trader Joe’s ORGANIC BAKED TOFU


 

 

Here’s another Tofu product… a very good one (as opposed to my previous post on High Protein Tofu…)

 

ORGANIC BAKED TOFU is a tofu that’s already been prepared, flavored in a marinade and baked. Baking tofu gets out a lot of water and it gives the tofu a firm texture, that is pleasantly chewy and well, “meaty”. It would be a very good substitute for say chicken in fact, and could be used as a ingredient in a dish like a stir fry or can be eaten on its own as the Main ingredient. As you can see from what I did with it, it can still be cooked (I grilled it up) which I think improves it’s flavor even more.

There are two versions at Trader Joe’s, a TERIYAKI flavor version and a SRIRACHA version. Though I am a big fan of Sriracha, I find the Teriyaki version has a better overall flavor profile and if you are trying this for the first time, suggest trying the Teriyaki version. But both are good, so do try both and see which you like.

What I did with it here (as pictured below) is just cut it into slices and sautéed it in a non-stick pan with some Toasted Sesame Oil for about 5 minutes a side until it was golden brown. I added Soy Sauce and a little Sugar (two elements of Teriyaki sauce) and a good deal of fresh black pepper and cooked that for a few minutes more until the sauce has cooked in and thickened a bit. Garlic (and fresh ginger) would be great to add too, of course.

This can be served with even some more sauce on the side (Sriracha, Green Dragon Sauce, or even Sriracha Ranch Dressing on the side! Serve up along with some rice, a vegetable, and salad and you have a great tasty and healthy dinner. I would say the package serves 2 (with other stuff). A package is 7 oz.

You could also use this or the Sriracha version as the main protein plus veggies, with THAI CURRY SIMMER SAUCE. As the package says “be creative”.

 

RAVE

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High Protein Organic Super Firm Tofu


 

 

Let me begin with saying the regular Firm Organic Tofu from Trader Joe’s is very good… that one comes packaged in water in a container. This tofu does not come in water. Its just comes in a plastic package. 

Anyway I saw this different product (“High Protein Tofu”) and thought I’d give it a try for the blog.

Big Mistake, folks!

So here’s the shortest review I’ve ever given – High Protein Organic Tofu – its horrible!

 

 

 

Super firm? They are not kidding about that. Picture in your mind, what “Shoe Leather made of Tofu” might be like…. then you will have some idea of the texture of this tofu product. Have you ever cut Tofu? Sure your knife glides right through it.. Well this stuff, your knife has to be pushed with some pressure to cut through it. Firm? Its HARD and TOUGH. Like a rock made of tofu. I guess thats the “High Protein” at work? This stuff is so tough that its inedible. Its sounds good when you look at it and it see, “high protein”, oh you think that must be better for me but the reality is this extra protein must make it hard and tough and makes it suck.

If you buy this stuff, you will also be sorry as I was. It was like chewing over cooked tough tough steak. We found it inedible. We only choked it down because we were starving at the time. 

So now you’ve been warned. Avoid!

RANT

 

PS The regular Firm Organic Tofu is very good and I highly recommend that! 

PPS This Tofu product (ORGANIC BAKED TOFU) they sell is fantastic.

Trader Joe’s RICE CRACKER MEDLEY snacks


These are very tasty, very crunchy cracker type snacks. I would say these are one of my very top Trader Joe’s products. I usually buy a bag whenever I am there.

A favorite snack food in Japan are SENBEI (pronouced Sen-bay).

Senbei are a variety of snacks made from rice which is baked into a crunchy cracker and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. In Japan there are probably hundreds of kinds. I’ve been to special Senbei shops in Kyoto that are over 150 years old (the shop, not the snacks!)

These “Rice Crackers” that TJ sells are a mixed variety of typical Japanese Senbei snacks. The package says that they are Made in Thailand. If I didn’t see this I would swear these were made in Japan as they are exactly like Japanese Senbei, of which I am really fond of and have tasted plenty!

In the bag are a mixed variety of shapes and sizes as you can see in the photo here. There are both the flat cracker style ones, some short stick type ones, some plain and some coated with “nori” (seaweed). You don’t get more Japanese than these! There are even some of the typical spicy “Wasabi Peas” you probably have tasted, in this Rice Cracker Medley. Every different kind is tasty. My favorite ones are the biggest round crackers, which are a little thick and SUPER crunchy.  Trust me, when I say “super crunchy” you may not believe how “crunchy”, crunchy can be until you eat these. I’m talking LOUD, noises going off inside your head, you can barely hear, turn up the tv 10 notches, that crunchy, dig?

These rice crackers have a great deal of “umami“, the “5th flavor” that Japanese covet, and which every chef in America is currently interested in. These crackers go great with beer, they match well with cheese, or you can just eat them on their own. To me, they’re so good, I classify these as a “dangerous” TJ product – meaning a bag in my house can go really FAST between myself and my wife (who’s Japanese, aha!). I could almost eat a whole bag (but I don’t). If you try these you will probably also love them, and want to buy them every time you visit TJ’s. A bag costs $2.29, not a bad deal.

Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce


“Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce is a delicate blend of coconut milk, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, coriander seed, Thai lime peel, ginger, turmeric, cumin and basil”

I should start with the fact that I can make a decent Thai curry from scratch, having been taught by some Thai friends. In fact its pretty easy IF you use a pre-made canned curry paste (a Thai brand) and add in coconut milk. 

When I saw this jar of “Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce” which says “Made in Thailand” on the shelf at TJ’s I immediately had to try it and give this product a taste test. First, here’s a link to TJ’s Fearless Flyer post about the product so you can see what Trader Joe’s says about it.

TJ’s “Thai Simmer Sauce” is not bad – in fact I like it! However I do need to  warn you if open this up and expect as I did at first, expecting you are going to taste an authentic, powerful Thai-level SPICY Green Curry, you will be disappointed. Lets be honest, this classifies (to me) as barely spicy. This sauce fits into a mild baby-level Thai and is something that I could easily imagine some Thai Mom feeding to their two year old!

So that is why the say its a “delicate blend” – It is just that. A mildly seasoned coconut milk based green curry sauce with a small level of spiciness. Still, though mild in spiciness, this sauce is actually VERY TASTY and full of nice Thai flavors. It can really make a decent base for cooking a meal very quickly just by opening up the jar of this and adding some ingredients as the label says to do: “SAUTÉ ABOUT A HALF POUND OF YOUR FAVORITE PROTEIN. ADD AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF VEGETABLES AND SAUCE AND SIMMER”.

Now if you happen to have a can of some authentic Thai curry paste you could add a spoonful or two and make it into a more powerful curry. And if thats too much trouble just add a few tablespoons of Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE if you want to turn up the heat some.

Last night I used it to make a Thai Seafood Curry which was actually quite tasty. (“No-Recipe Recipe”: I sautéed some celery, carrots, onions, garlic and cubed potato for 10-15 minutes, then added a jar of this sauce and simmered for about 5-10 minutes till all was just tender, then added some shrimp and “krab” and simmered it for another 2 minutes, serving with some white rice. It was quite Yummy!)

You could use just about any protein: chicken, fish, beef, or tofu, plus a slew of veggies. Experiment! Pair the curry with rice or rice noodles. A 12 oz. jar is $1.99. “INGREDIENTS – Coconut milk, water, green curry paste, sugar, rice bran oil, food starch, green chili, salt. Product of Thailand.” This is worth a try if you like Thai flavor, and is a good thing to have in the cupboard for whenever you get in that mood.

TIP: The label says “add a 1/2 pound” of your main ingredient. So figure this jar is for about 2 servings? So for 4 people, I would double everything: a pound (or more) of the main ingredient, same of veggies, and 2 jars of sauce.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC SUGAR


“Trader Joe’s Organic Cane Sugar contains only one ingredient: pure, natural, organic evaporated cane juice.”

…Grown in plantations in Paraguay, the sugar cane is cut by hand…. and delivered to a facility where the cane juice is extracted and evaporated into pure sugar crystals. The evaporation process produces perfect sugar crystals, rich in flavor and molasses.”

EXACTLY! The less you do to stuff (process it) generally the better it is! Keep it Natural!

The result is a very high quality sugar with sugar crystals that have a distinct flavor and crunch (ie, the crystals of this are bigger than refined white “regular” Domino sugar) and is almost exactly like this sugar I usually look for and buy in Hispanic grocery stores called AZUCAR MORENA, which is a “premium sugar” that I find especially delicious in coffee. Its kind of hard for me to find this consistently and this TJ product is almost an exact match for just a tiny bit more per bag.

Taste? A very subtle “brown sugar taste” and is lighter in color and flavor than a the taste say of “light brown sugar” – which is actually regular refined “white sugar” that has had molasses added back to it. It is molasses that has the taste we think of as “brown sugar”.

TJ’s ORGANIC SUGAR has more flavor than regular (white) sugar, but its not strong. It will add just a bit more flavor but not overpower the ingredient it is added to. I think this is especially excellent in coffee, and I also like it sprinkled on plain yogurt, or oatmeal.

A 2 lb. bag goes for $3.49 which comes out to $1.75 per pound – so not cheap at least compared to Domino or other regular sugar which is about 50-60 cents a pound.

I don’t use this to replace all regular sugar that I use, I still use regular sugar in some things, but I use this stuff when I want to really taste some great sugar, flavor and texture. Think of this as an “affordable luxury” where a little bit kind of goes a long way.

PS – Trader Joe’s does sells molasses, the leftover product that is what is normally extracted in the sugar making process. It has a very strong flavor, and is frequently used in baking. A little molasses goes a long way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’ll start by saying one could say I am a little bit of a “Sriracha freak”. I mean I love the stuff, and in general I love “the Spicy” but in no way would I deem myself to be one of those chile-head types who go for sauces with “Death Head” logos on the label.  No thanks.

Me, I want a balance of heat AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food products on the planet. Its a product who’s fan’s are legion. I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on SALAD. So guess what? Sriracha Salad Dressing is actually a terrific idea! And Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrifically marvelous unique product.

Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down since I first tasted it, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than actual 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 the case. I’m talking about when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? I have a feeling people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with much 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 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!

I’m giving this product 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!

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