The Trader Joe’s Report – vol. 1

If you are blessed to have a Trader Joe’s (henceforth TJ’s) in your area, then you know what an awesome place it is.  I loves me some TJ’s!

Following are some of my all-time favorite “special” TJ’s products that I hope they never discontinue. Since TJ’s is always bringing new products into the rotation (which means some things have to go) so get ’em while you can!  Check out my other post on my favorite “everyday” products from Trader Joe’s.

  • Chocolate Croissants –  You’ll find these gems in the freezer case.  Each box comes with four small frozen, unbaked croissants, but don’t let their size fool you.  You place the croissants on a baking sheet to thaw out overnite.  When you get up in the morning you will discover that they have quadrupled in size!  A quick turn in a hot oven and you’ve got yourself the most indulgently delicious breakfast treat ever.
  • Pretzel Slims – These gems combine the salty crunch of a pretzel with the usefulness of a cracker.  They are perfect for scooping up everything from salsa to cheese dip to hummus and everything in between.   I will also admit to covering them with chocolate!
  • Reduced Guilt Pita Crisps – These crisps are super crunchy, perfectly salty and great for scooping up all kinds of dips, including…
  • TJ’s Three-Layer Hummus – I love hummus, and this little tub is one of my favorite snax.  The top layer is roasted pepper with a light, sweet flavor.  The bottom layer is boldly flavored with cilantro and a nice bit of heat.  The middle layer is plain ol’ hummus, a welcome buffer between the sweet top layer and the mucho macho bottom layer.
  • TJ’s Margarita Mix – I hate anything chemically tasting, and to me almost all cocktail mixes, especially margarita mixes, taste awful.  This one is just the right blend of sweet and tart with no chemically or salty aftertaste.  Ole!
  • Heirloom Navel Oranges – TJ’s only carries these for a few months each winter, and when they arrive I buy bags and bags of them to stockpile.  I store them on the attic steps where it is nice and cool during winter and early spring.  These are the best oranges I have ever eaten in my life.  They have bright orange flesh that is rich in flavor and pleasingly tart.
  • TJ’s Uncured, Precooked Bacon – This is some pretty great bacon, and a bonus it’s not full of preservatives.  lt is a bit more expensive than raw bacon, you save a whole lot of time and there is no mess.  The major bonus tho, is the incredibly complex sweet, smokey, salty flavor.  The bacon is “just cooked”, meaning if you like it crispy, as we do, you will have to nuke it for 30 seconds or so on a paper towel lined plate.  It’s well worth that little step to really bring out all the smokiliciousness.
  • Nuremberger Sausages – these are tiny little German brats that are meant for supper but we love them for breakfast.  They have a smooth, soft texture and mild flavor.  They are definitely great with a hot potato salad or sauteed cabbage (and a beer of course!), but their mild flavor works just as well with pancakes or scrambled eggs.
  • Fresh Mozzarella Log – This stuff is addictive.  Creamy, light tasting and pleasingly chewy.  I use it several different ways: in a caprese salad, layered with sliced tomatoes and whole basil leaves: in paninis made with ciabatta bread (also bought at TJ’s!); and on top of homemade pizzas – it melts just like butter and tastes fabulous!  Wrapped tightly it keeps for quite a while in the fridge.
  • Fruit Frenzy Bars and Fruit Floes – These are the best ice pops ever!  The Fruit Frenzy Bars have 3 layers made with real fruit – raspberry (rich and fresh tasting), lemon (super tart – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!) and my favorite layer, strawberry (sweet and delicate).  My husband John loves the super-tart Lime Fruit Floes and I love the Strawberry and Caribbean (strawberry, pineapple, mango and coconut) ones.
  • Fresh Orange, Pineapple and Grapefruit Juices – These juices are always fresh (not from concentrate), delicious and well-priced.  The pineapple juice is especially fab.  It’s a little too sweet for my morning sip, but it makes the best cocktails.  When I buy a carton I pour it into pint freezer jars and freeze.  When I need juice for a recipe or a drink, the small containers are just the right size and quick to defrost.
  • Plain and Blueberry Chevre (Goat Cheese) – TJ’s sells some excellent chevres at great prices.  The plain chevre is fabulous in salads, hors d’oeuvres and on pizza.  The blueberry chevre is a luxurious topping for morning bagels.  It would also be great served room temp with crackers and grapes.  I have found that both cheeses freeze well, only becoming a little bit softer on thawing.  I can never finish a whole log before it goes bad, so I always pop 1/2 in the freezer when I first open it.
  • Almond Butter with Flax Seeds – This is my favorite of the nut butters sold at TJ’s.  It is sweet (without any added sugar), nutty, and the flax seeds add a pleasing crunch factor.
  • Truffle Brownie Mix – Ordinarily I’m strictly a “from scratch” kind of girl, but I like to keep a box of brownie mix on hand for chocolate emergencies.  TJ’s truffle brownies are rich, chewy and deeply chocolatey.  A definite pantry staple.
  • Morello Cherries from Germany – These German beauties come packed in large jars and are unbelievably well-priced.  These tart-sweet cherries are excellent spooned over Greek yogurt with honey and almonds, pureed with yogurt, almond milk and frozen mango for a healthy smoothie, thickened with cornstarch for a pancake/waffle topping or simply used for baking.  I even use the flavorful “juice” they are packed in to make spritzers with soda water or a cocktail with vodka.
  • Canned Artichokes – TJ’s has the best price on canned artichokes, and they are great quality.  I use them pureed into my hot artichoke dip and sliced in Greek salads or on top of homemade pizza paired with roasted peppers, kalamata olives and feta.
  • TJ’s Brand Feta – Speaking of Feta, TJ’s sells many variations of feta, but the one I really like is the small block that is shrink-wrapped in plastic.  It has a bright, not-too-briny flavor and an unusually creamy texture.  This is a great feta to try if you are not a fan of feta’s sharp taste or crumbly texture.
  • TJ’s Bran Flakes – These have a great, nutty taste and a natural sweetness without a bunch of added sugar.
  • Joe’s Diner Mac and Cheese – this little treasure comes from the freezer case and is surprisingly like homemade.  My mom made great from-scratch mac and cheese, and I often make my own with her recipe, so I’m a bit of a mac and cheese snob.  It’s now one of my fave quickie lunches when I’m craving something substantial but don’t have any good leftovers.  It is very rich, and a bit high on the calories, so I always portion each package into two servings and round out my lunch with some veggies or applesauce.

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