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)

World’s Best Raisin Bran Cereal!


My morning brainstorm in the shower thinking about what to eat for breakfast. In a Euraka Moment, thinks I, “Why not “make” my own raisin bran? No, not with just regular TJ’s raisins but with the Golden Raisins I just bought yesterday.” The Golden Raisins. Plus TJ’s Bran Flakes (which is bar none best bran flakes made)?

YES – you heard that right

“Golden Raisin Bran”

And I did it. And it was…. MIGHTY, MIGHTY FINE!

Try it for yourself! Why has no one though of this before? Am I a genius or what?

Recipe: Put some Bran Flakes in bowl. Add a small handful of the Golden Raisins.

Milk. A little sugar. Yogurt topping? Nice.

Done.

Eat up.

OMG, right?

You must, must must try these two TJ’s items together

Then tell me if the combination is not the best damn cereal you’ve ever had.

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


TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts)


RAVE

These can easily be on any Trader Joe’s Top 10 List. Easily best “first try” of a TJ product in a while. I was quite impressed. These are in the Frozen section, and are extremely good quality French Haricots Verts “(translation: green beans”). They say clearly “IMPORTED FROM FRANCE”. 

“Haricot Verts” are better than the standard green beans you probably know and buy. Haricots Verts are the skinnier French variety, more tender green beans than we have in U.S…the kind of green beans you see on your plate in a very nice restaurant next to that $30 entree you ordered.

When I see fresh HARICOTS VERTS, imported from France, at a top produce green grocer like Fairway for example, they are always expensively priced, something like $6-8 per lb?… vs. $2/lb for “normal green beans” so about 4x what good old regular fresh green beans cost? I usually think ‘who can afford to buy these things? Those with money to burn.’ Well thanks to Trader Joe’s all of us can afford to buy these wonderful vegetables. TJ’s sells a package of HARICOT VERTS in a 24 oz bag. (1.5 lbs) for $1.99! Jeez do the math people, thats about 1.50 /lb? Thats about the same price (or LESS!) than I might buy some regular fresh green beans at the market. (a price check followup in April 2012 show the same price!) 

These are the the wonderful thin, haricots verts, all prepped ready to use, which have been flash frozen. Dark, nice green color. I‘m pretty sure they’ve been blanched for a few seconds prior to being flash frozen. Certainly easy to use: they are all prepped! (ie, tip and tailed) This is a big time saver as prepping beans is the one thing I don’t like about when I buy fresh green beans. they do take a bit of work to prepare (tip and tail). These are trimmed and cut into bite size lengths, ready to use.

To cook, either throw them in boiling water, or do as I usually do, toss the beans into a hot sauté pan with some butter and oil. Cook for perhaps 1-2 mins. Don’t overcook these, you will ruin them. Throw in minced garlic and you have a nice French side dish of haricots verts, ready in minutes. Salads? Yes! I threw them into a salad after boiling them for about 45 seconds, dumping them in a colander and running cold water to cool them, and they were really good tossed with some TJ’s Virgin Olive Oil and White Balsamic vinegar! Delicious. Toss in some diced hard boiled eggs, and parsley, and you have a nice “salade composé”. I also just add them to any dish I’m making that would be good at the last five minutes, generally breaking them in half first as I add them (stews, soups, etc).

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To sell at this price, I can only imagine these are one of those items TJ’s makes a huge deal with the vendor for. TJ’s purchases in such huge quantity, directly from the vendor, then as they say, pays in cash. Thats how TJ’s makes deals so they can sell products at such bargains (case in point is Olive Oil, right? They buy HUGE massive quantities from vendors all over the world)

Anyway TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts) are my new favorite vegetable, and are now on my “always these have on hand” Trader Joe’s List. Pretty sure there will always be a package in my freezer from now on. Right next to TJ’s frozen peas and edamame. These are very versatile things to have on hand at all times. Definitely always have a bag in the freezer of these things. Try them, you won’t be sorry.

RECIPEHaricots Verts With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

(If you make this remember the recipe assumes using fresh haricots verts so adjust the cooking time down)

 

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

TJ’s Tuscan Pane bread


RAVE:

You will see this bread on many a “Trader Joe’s Top 10” and “best products” lists, and rightly so. I think its one of the best products they sell, by far the best packaged bread I’ve had, period. Its a very good, country style bread. Pretty sure this is a slow rise sourdough; its usually full of air holes. Its has a very nice chewy texture and a good crust, of course which is better heated. In fact it gets 10x better toasted or grilled. Tuscan Pane makes unbelievably good toast, and many a morning this bread toasted is what I crave at breakfast. Top the toast with butter, jam, cream cheese, cheese, veggies or just about anything and you have a little slice of toast heaven. One of my faves would be with cream cheese and tomato. Or brie with jam, warmed till the brie is a bit melty.

A large 27 oz. loaf of Tuscan Pane original “white” was until recently $2.29. It has gone up to $2.49 (All wheat products are up) The Whole Wheat version goes for $2.69. Flavorwise I think I prefer the original “white” one to the whole wheat one but the whole wheat is still good too if you prefer that. I usually always prefer to buy whole wheat breads, but this one, not really. Since first trying this, this is yet another TJ product I’ve been become totally hooked on. I must have Tuscan Pane on hand at all times now. I keep it in the freezer; it keeps well frozen at least a week or two.

This bread can be the base of many easy sandwich, snacks and other recipes (croutons? yes!) I make quick and easy Bruschettas using this all the time. Here’s a fast, simple recipe:

BRUSCHETTA

-TJ’s Tuscan Pane

-Fresh garlic, ripe tomato, olive oil

Grill or toast a few slices of bread. When golden brown, immediately rub a cut clove of garlic on the bread. Take a slice of ripe tomato and ’smush’ it into your toast. If you want to be neat, you can dice your tomato and top it (but rubbed in is authentic Italian or Basque Pa Amb Tomaquet style) Drizzle on a nice splash of olive oil, sprinkle with some fresh black pepper and sea salt. A little herbage (basil) on top can’t hurt, but if you don’t have, thats fine.  If you want something heartier, add some sliced or grated parmesan or other cheese or perhaps some prosciutto. Done. YUM!

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.