Trader Joe’s Favourites

Trader Joe’s. Everybody’s favourite place to shop. And because I love to see everyone else’s most-loved items, I decided to put  together one of my own.

~Croissants  These will in no way, shape or form be able to hold their own against a flaky, crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside croissant from a Parisian bakery. But they’re not half bad either and can happily hang out in the freezer until they’re needed. They do have to be left out overnight (a task which can sometimes prove elusive) but other than that they’re great for a quiet weekend morning to round out coffee and eggs. The chocolate ones are also good, indeed preferred by some members of this household.

~Battered Halibut I used to feed this to my kids when they were little and tell them it was chicken. Then Trader Joe’s stopped carrying it for a long time. Now it’s back in heavy rotation and I no longer have to lie about its chickenness. I cook it for a little longer and at a slightly higher temperature than stated to make sure it gets nice and crispy. Fabulous for fish tacos. Or fish and chips.

~Pork Belly  I now worship at the trotters of this divine product. Try this recipe to become a convert.

~Dried Mandarins  Do not be fooled by these little buggers. This is candy rather cheekily masquerading as fruit. The sugar content is high (especially as it is ridiculously easy to eat half the bag in one go) but they are delicious. The orange slices go down a treat too and chopped up would be a great substitute for candied peel in a recipe. And I think they’d be heavenly dipped in chocolate as an after dinner treat. Alas, I have never been able to make them last long enough to try.

~Mango and Cream Bars  These things are absolutely delicious and completely addictive. They taste exactly as the box describes them…like fresh mango with a little bit of cream, chilled. At 60 calories a piece they make for a nice low cal dessert. Unless you accidentally eat the whole box in which case you’ve just consumed 460 calories. Call it dinner? I’ve no idea why anyone would do such a ridiculous thing though. Truth be told I don’t know why I am recommending these at all as I avoid buying them at all costs.

~English Peas There aren’t too many places you can buy fresh English peas and these are delicious for throwing into a variety of dishes. Salad is a favourite but they’re also fabulous in pasta or eggs or just lightly cooked as a side dish. If they make it that far. These are delicious eaten raw right out of the bag. At least these can be consumed by the handful with less guilt than say, mango cream bars. Or dried mandarins.

~Sweet Chili Sauce  I buy this sauce 6 bottles at a time because the earth would tilt off its axis if we ever ran out. My son has a tendency to put this on anything and everything because its superpower is hiding the taste of even the most vile food items. It’s great to jazz up plain chicken or salmon served over rice.  Makes it taste like bento from a food truck. We have tried a variety of different brands in the sweet chili sauce department but this is by far the best.

~Coconut Milk You can’t beat the price of it here and the can of coconut cream is great too if you want to use something a little richer in curries or the like.

~Balsamic Vinaigrette I have a love/hate relationship with salad. Love to eat them, hate to make them. Don’t know why. And while I have made my own dressing many a time, I find that I am much more apt to throw a salad together if I have dressing ready to go. I especially love this one because it’s heavier on the vinegar than the oil.

~Olive Oil I don’t like the taste of olive oil by itself (probably because I don’t like olives) so I cannot proclaim to be a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. This one is a big bottle for a decent price and serves all my cooking needs admirably.

~Chocolate  When I first started buying the Pound Plus Bars years ago I believe they weren’t quite $3. The price has steadily crept up over time, but at $4.99 you won’t find cheaper or better chocolate anywhere. It’s Belgian and has a high cocoa butter content. I use it for all chocolate baking. It comes in bittersweet, semi-sweet and milk. Eaten out of hand the milk isn’t the best (although serviceable should you be desperate, which, let’s face it, I am on more occasions than I care to admit) but it is great for recipes.

~Chicken Tikka Masala and Channa Masala I find that a lot of Trader Joe’s ready made meals can be hit and miss and over the years I’ve tried plenty of bad ones. Both of these have a really nice balanced blend of spices and are great to have in the freezer for a quick bite, but it’s the channa masala in particular which I eat for lunch at least twice a week. I love to serve it over some rice with a nice big dollop of mango chutney.

~Garlic Naan  Goes well with the above. Heats up in the oven in minutes so is great to match up with a curry I’ve thrown together or even spaghetti if I’ve forgotten to buy French bread. When it comes out of the oven I usually swipe the top with a bit of butter.

~Frozen Fruit  Again you can’t beat the price, especially on the organic varieties. I particularly like to have the pineapple and mango on hand to sweeten up a morning smoothie.

~Cheese  Yet another item that the store sells for a great price. Parmesan Reggiano, the real stuff, is a great buy as is fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and a variety of fab British cheeses…Double Gloucester, Stilton and Irish Dubliner, primarily.

~Soft Cheese and Cream I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but the price on Trader Joe’s mascarpone and creme fraiche is half the price of that at my local grocery store. The ricotta is not quite as cheap but definitely twice as good. This tastes bright and fresh compared to some store bought ricottas and I frequently find myself eating this plain and by the spoonful. You’ll taste the difference in your next lasagna, too.

~Flowers Because no self-respecting Trader Joe’s favourites list would be complete without the mention of flowers. The orchids and hydrangeas are by far the best buy primarily because of their longevity.

~Soap Orange blossom liquid soap and lemon verbena bar soap. Both smell of warm, sunny days in the South of France. Enough said.

~Greeting Cards So many cards are ridiculously overpriced and, well, just plain ridiculous, quite frankly. Trader Joe’s selection of 99 cent cards is charming and constantly changing.

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