Here’s a cumulative look at some of items I’ve been buying from Trader Joe’s these past few months and/or how I’ve been preparing them.
Trader Joe’s isn’t my primary grocery store — their produce is too expensive compared to other shops — but it’s close to the supermarkets that I usually frequent, so I like to pop in whenever possible to check out their snacks, frozen foods and prepared items.
This photo is of a small haul I made several months back as you can tell from the seasonal jar of Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter ($3.69) which I think I’ve already talked about in a previous blog post. To reiterate, the pumpkin flavor pleasantly surprised me. Most of the time anything that’s labeled “pumpkin spice” mainly tastes like spices and rarely ever actual pumpkin. The TJ’s Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter actually tastes like pumpkin puree and a combination of their classic Cookie Butter and holiday spices. I’m not the biggest fan of pumpkin pie but this was a good interpretation of the classic flavors in a new form.
The Steak & Ale Pies ($5.99) were okay but not mind blowing. Two frozen pies individually shrink wrapped in plastic come in each box. Chunks of beef, potatoes and other assorted vegetables in an ale-based gravy are enveloped in a strong hot water crust pastry. On paper it sounds really good but for me the pie was on the bland side, the crust a bit dry, and the ale left a slightly sour taste in my mouth that was a little unpleasant.
Each pie is nicely sized and coupled with a side or salad would make a filling meal. I served the pie with a side of baked French fries using Laura Vitale’s recipe. It was my first time baking fries and I don’t think I’ll try it again, at least not with that recipe. Visually they looked great but rather than the light crispiness that you get from traditional deep frying, the baked fries had more of a hard, stale type of crunch that I didn’t like.
I much preferred the Chicken Balti Pies, also $5.99 for two frozen pies in a box, although I still wouldn’t repurchase them.
These pies had a more tender crust versus the Steak & Ale Pies and weren’t under-seasoned like the Steak & Ale Pies. The Chicken Balti Pies contain chunks of chicken with assorted vegetables in a curry gravy. Sounds great but I still felt that they were lacking in something.
I served the pies with a side of waffle fries from Dollar Tree which were surprisingly decent.
The last few times I’ve gone to Trader Joe’s I’ve bought a container of hummus but always a different flavor because they sell so many types and I want to try them all. Every time I’ve gone there they’re usually sold out of their regular Hummus Dip ($4.49) so instead I’ve purchased other flavors like their White Bean Hummus and Mediterranean Hummus. This time however I finally got my hands on their original Hummus Dip and I really, really like it. It’s less cumin-y than their Mediterranean which I actually prefer because I’m not big on cumin but it still has a lot of flavor. Out of all the varieties from TJ’s I’ve tasted so far, this one is definitely my favorite.
This hummus lends itself really well to salad dressings or sandwich spreads because it’s more neutral and less aggressive in flavor. To put it another way, it works well as a component and doesn’t overwhelm whatever else you’re adding it to. Whenever I make a simple salad dressing of oil and balsamic vinegar I like to add a spoonful of hummus to it because I think it gives the dressing some added dimension, creaminess and zing. My recent favorite salad that I’ve been adding the balsamic/hummus dressing to is a mix of escarole greens, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted sunflower seeds, apples and shredded chicken. I really like the combination of textures and flavors.
I also had to grab a container of the Beet Hummus ($4.49). How could I not? The color itself is gorgeous and so interesting.
I didn’t use to be a fan of beets. For years I used to think they tasted like soil. It probably took me a half dozen times before they started to grow on me. I still think beets taste earthy but these days I liken them to the flavor of raw corn on the cob. There’s a particular sweet earthiness that I find similar between beets and raw corn.
The TJ’s Beet Hummus isn’t bad but it isn’t great. I’m not sure I see or taste anything hummus-like about it. It’s quite wet compared to other types of hummus. To me it’s simply a beet puree with a bit of a zippy tang. Spread on a sandwich or in a wrap, it provides a certain wow factor but taste-wise it doesn’t really do anything for me.
Lately, I’ve been making roast chicken (or ham) sandwiches with avocado and the Beet Hummus. The color combo looks cool with the green of the avocados against the bright fuchsia of the beets. The last time I made this sandwich I served it with some coleslaw and mashed potatoes.
I’m currently in an avocado phase and I try to include some in a sandwich whenever possible. I prefer my avocados lightly mashed rather than sliced on my sandwiches because sliced avocados always slip out out of the bread when I bite down on the sandwich; mashed avocados stay in the sandwich better.
I love naan so when I spotted their Garlic Naan and Paneer Masala Naan in their freezer section I had to give them a try. I believe each pack was around $2.
Unfortunately, these are probably my least favorite food items I’ve purchased from Trader Joe’s. Don’t get me wrong, the actual dough/bread aspect of the naan is really good but I’m not a fan of the flavors. There’s too much of a sharp, pungent bite to the garlic naan because garlic itself has been sprinkled raw onto the flatbread and cooking the naan doesn’t help. The Paneer Masala Naan has a thin layer of spice paste sandwiched in between the layers of dough which was a bit too salty and cumin-y for my personal taste.