Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Trader Joe's Favorites

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Why hello there!  Yes, it's been awhile, and though I feel a little silly coming back with something like this, it tells you something about where my head is right now. These days it's all about putting a decent, healthy meal on the table in the after-work hours without spending a fortune. Sound familiar? I am guessing it does. These "Trader Joes" lists go around periodically - usually focused on what tastes good, but I'm going to try to tell you the things we like because they're not only tasty, but economical and versatile too.  I'll even tell you a little bit about what I do with them.  Then I'll tell you about the things I buy because I just can't resist, 'cause there are plenty of those too, and everyone deserves a treat now and then.

Let's call this first group the meal staples:
  1. organic baby arugula (pictured above) - the small leaves are tender and mild, and it lasts longer than the bagged lettuce.  
  2. bags of 4 avocados - reasonably priced at $3.49, and almost always ripe in a day or two.  (Tip: if you need ripe avocados stat, try the guacamole kit.)
  3. organic cherry/pear tomato mix - great roasted.  just toss with olive oil and bake on a parchment lined sheet pan at 275 until they start to shrivel (about 1-1.5 hours.) Toss with pasta, put on pizza, mash on a panini, etc.  store in the fridge in a jar covered with olive oil.
  4. packaged cooked beluga lentils - great addition to a salad, or toss with chopped fresh vegetables, herbs, vinaigrette and a little goat cheese.
  5. frozen mahi mahi - total lifesaver.  Just thaw, pat dry & saute or bake - makes great fish tacos or put it in a salad.  around $5.00 for a package that feeds two.  
  6. chevre (aka goat cheese) - the one in the 8 oz package with the brown and black label.  It's nice and soft and always tastes good.   Crumble in salads or spread on bread, or use to stuff sweet, hot cherry peppers. 
  7. whole organic chickens - they're not exactly cheap but they're a bargain compared to whole foods prices or the pre-cut packaged pieces.  If I can't get to the Hillcrest Farmers Market to get one from Curtis (Womach) I'll pick a smallish one (under 5 lbs) and either roast it whole - dry brined ala Zuni in a cast iron skillet at 425 for an hour or so - or cut the breasts off and turn them into cutlets, and use the rest to make stock.   
  8. the Spanish olive oil - glug glug glug... all over everything. 
  9. The instant mushroom risotto - I was skeptical, but it's pretty amazing.  No added fat - just broth.  
  10. the organic jarred marinara sauce - take half a cup of the pre-chopped onion (or onion/shallot/garlic mix if they have it) and saute in chicken broth or olive oil until soft.  Sprinkle liberally with red pepper flakes, add a cup of red wine, reduce a bit. Pour in the jar of sauce and simmer a bit to let the flavors blend. Serve over spaghetti with turkey meatballs or sausage. 
and this group will be the treats.  Those things that are good, if not so good for you.
  1. the 72% organic fair trade dark chocolate bars.  They have many good dark chocolate options, but these are my fave. In the flat package with the green/brown box. 
  2. the salted blister peanuts.  with a bourbon cocktail??  enough said.
  3. cheese sticks. with champagne?  Again...
  4. the Tarte d'Alsace or Tarte d'Champignon (pictured above) put one of those in the oven and pour yourself a nice glass of cold white wine at the end of a long day.  You won't be sorry.
  5. the Truffle Brownie mix - for years I went on and on about the perfect brownie.  Yadda yadda.  Since I tried this I have made brownies from scratch exactly once.  True story.  (p.s. - the Baked recipe is truly the best out there - so now its all sorted.)
  6. the chocolate covered raisins.  So good we never buy them anymore.  
  7. the ice cream - it's Double Rainbow,  packaged with Trader Joes labeling. I can't get the mint chip, because I can't leave it alone, but we usually keep the vanilla on hand.  The little baby drumstick cones are good too (esp. the chocolate.)
  8. the Trader Josef's coffee cake mix - just discovered this one, but it's a keeper.  Great fluffy texture, lots of nutmeg in the topping and no weird ingredients.  
  9. also for breakfast:  the pain au chocolat - let them thaw for a minute or two on the counter, then separate and allow to rise in the oven overnight before baking (I think everybody knows about these now.)
  10. the chocolate macarons.  Really.  In the fresh bakery section with the coffee cakes and stuff.    
I'll be back in a few days to talk about a couple of recent dining out experiences. Au revoir!

photo from instagram, where I've been spending quite a bit of time lately - user name aliceqfoodie (surprise!)

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