Posts Tagged ‘Trader Joe’s’

Product Profile: Easy Brownies and Sweet Sprinkles

August 22, 2011

I love trying new products, especially when it comes to new foods!  On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, it was so nice to see so many new products on the shelves.  One that caught my eye was the  “Ready to Bake Brownies“, which is basically pre-mixed brownie batter that you just pour into a pan and bake.  I’m a huge fan of their Truffle Brownie Mix (which I think is the closest to homemade that you’ll get without it actually being from scratch), so I figured this was worth a try.  Not that it is particularly difficult to mix up a batch of brownies, but particularly since I was just in a beach rental house for two weeks, I was thinking how convenient this would be to bring along to a place where you may not have eggs or vegetable oil readily available (this winter, think ski house apres-ski brownies!)

The verdict?  Well, the brownies couldn’t have been easier.  Just pour into a greased 8×8 pan and bake for 20-22 minutes.  As for taste, well, I don’t like them as much as I like the TJ’s Truffle Brownies, but they weren’t bad at all, especially considering they took all of 30 seconds to prepare for the oven.  I found them a little more cake-like than I prefer (I’m a chewy brownie fan), but based on how quickly my daughter’s group of girlfriends gobbled them up, they passed the taste-test.

The other new item I picked up was the “Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder“.  I had to look at it for a minute or two to even figure out what it was, but I liked the name!  Basically, it’s a little pepper grinder filled with, no surprise, sugar, chocolate and coffee beans.  The label suggests grinding it over “cupcakes, coffee, tea, buttered toast, or ice cream…”.  Since I’d just picked up the brownie mix, I thought, “or brownies!”.   I spread some white vanilla frosting on a few of the brownies and ground away, and not only did it make a pretty topping, but gave the brownies a tiny bit of crunch and extra sweetness I loved.  I think it would also be great ground over a cappuccino or latte as an alternative to cinnamon.  Okay, it’s a bit of an indulgence item, but what the heck.  Live a little.

Testing these items certainly didn’t fit in with my post-vacation diet plan, but hey, it was ‘for work’!  Enjoy!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Taste of Tuscany with a Crunch

October 4, 2010

When I studied in Siena, Italy during my senior year of college I fell in love with their cookies.  Well, I fell in love with a very specific cookie–a super-sweet, crunchy almond variety called “Brutti ma Buoni”.   If you know any Italian, you will recognize this name to be a slightly less than flattering choice of name for such a delicious confection.  Only the Italians could get away with calling a cookie “Brutti ma Buoni”–literally translated as “ugly but good”.   My own family has a cookie I’ve always known as “Cosi cacati” (my grandmother was quite a ham) —but I’ll let you imagine what that means, as it is not appropriate language for a food blog!  I guess Italian-American cooks are equally as colorful as our overseas sisters.

The Brutti ma Buoni cookies really aren’t ugly, but they are definitely good, and they are the perfect accompaniment to a good cup of caffe.   I once found an almost-as-good almond cookie at a bakery in New Canaan, Connecticut, but I rarely find myself out in that direction (although I admit to making a few nonsense trips just for the cookies).  You can imagine my delight when I went into Trader Joe’s today and saw they are now carrying Brutti ma Buoni cookies!  Not only convenient, but I’m happy to report that they capture the exact flavor and texture I remember from Italy.  I’m having one with my glass of wine right now, and can’t wait to have another with my morning coffee tomorrow.  Crunchy, sweet, small, perfect. 

I’m still perfecting my own Brutti ma Buoni recipe, but as I’m more of a cook than a baker, haven’t quite hit on a winner yet.  Until I do, I’m sticking to the ones at Trader Joe’s!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: Heirloom Tomatoes

August 30, 2010

Growing up in rural upstate New York, roadside farm stands were a common sight.  Anyone who had a sizable garden would put a table in front of their house with a box for money, the exchange completely on the honor system.  Living in suburban Connecticut, the sight isn’t as frequent an occurance.  Today, when I passed a roadside stand in front of a house which boasts one of the few working farms within the town limits, I screeched to a stop to see what was on offer.

The stand was mostly tomatoes of every shape and size.  The owner came outside to tell me that he does not use any chemicals in his farming, and started pointing out some of the heirloom varieties he thought I’d enjoy.  The smallish, light green zebra tomatoes, he insisted were sweet as sugar and a must-try.  As he picked the choice tomatoes from the cart to put into my bag and rattled off half a dozen different varieties, I was wishing I’d had a piece of paper.  All I knew was that I was going to have a delicious, colorful, beautiful salad tonight.  (note:  don’t forget to store your tomatoes at room temperature on your countertop–never in the fridge which kills the flavor!)

I’d just been at Trader Joe’s and purchased their (relatively) new Fresh Mozzarella sticks, which are perfect when you only need a small amount of cheese, perhaps for an individual-sized tomato and mozzarella salad.  Fresh mozzarella doesn’t keep for very long once opened, so this is a perfect solution for longer storage.  Besides, for those watching calorie intake, it is a great way to manage portion size.  These are not the rubbery mozzarella sticks you put in your kids’ lunchboxes—these are soft, buttery fresh mozzarella, definitely for a grown-up palate! 

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

6 heirloom tomatoes, a variety of colors, cut into wedges

2 fresh mozzarella sticks, or  2 oz fresh mozzarella, diced

extra virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Place the tomato wedges and cheese in a bowl and toss gently.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with about 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil and an equal amount of vinegar.

Toss again and serve.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Product Profile: Complete Body Cleanse

March 13, 2009

cleanse-001I was recently listening to the radio when a commercial caught my attention.  It was describing how from 5-12 pounds of waste can get “stuck” in our system, on the walls of our intestines, colon, and more, and how it is a good idea to occasionally flush it out.  It advertised some sort of regimen that would rid you of all this excess waste, which would translate to significant weight loss.  While the “get thin quick” aspect of this ad didn’t have me convinced, I did find myself continuing to think about the concept of  all that waste “stuck” in my system.

When a friend announced that she was starting a week-long “body detox” program, I started thinking more about the idea.  As I strolled the aisles of Trader Joe’s that week, I noticed a blue box among the vitamin and herbal supplements.  It read “Complete Body Cleanse” .  It seemed simple enough— take three different dietary supplements for fourteen days and your body will be gently detoxified.  The box states that it “supports detoxification for the entire body including the intestines, liver, gall bladder, and digestive systems.”  After speaking to one of the associates, I decided for $12.99 it was worth a shot.  While my main goal wasn’t weight-loss, a few pounds shed would be a nice bonus.

cleanse-005The three supplements include an herbal  Digestive Formula, which promotes “bowel cleansing”.  The Liver Formula rids your body of toxins, and the Fiber Formula is designed to absorb the toxins and safely carry them out of your body.  Safety is mentioned several times, as is the fact that this is a “gentle” cleanse (which is why it takes two whole weeks).

Well, gentle it was.  The first five days…nada.  By day six, I think the supplements finally began to kick in, but not in a major way.  As impatient as I was the first several days, I believe this slow readjustment of your system is a much safer way to detox.  When I initially mentioned this system to my husband, he wanted me to be the guinnea pig first, since I work from home.  He didn’t want to be in a meeting and have to make a mad dash to the office bathroom if things were moving too quickly.  I can honestly say that this would never be an issue, so you don’t need to take a vacation to detox! 

I ran into my friend who planned to do a much more intense detox through her chiropractor’s office (one in which you couldn’t eat!), and she admitted that after 12 hours she had to quit.  She was sick as a dog and couldn’t move, so quickly abandoned the idea.  To me, this could be a very dangerous thing, and I certainly don’t think any detox program should leave you incapacitated.  We’re talking about the detoxification of bodily waste, not heroin!

At the end of fourteen days, I do feel as if I’ve cleaned out the pipes a bit.  That being said, I think I normally get plenty of fiber in my diet from lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains.   For a person who wasn’t used to fiber, the results would likely be far more signifcant.  Is it worth trying?  Yes.  It is simple enough, and all you need to do is remember to take the supplements.  No additional dietary restrictions are required.  Would I recommend it?  Again, yes.  Do I feel like I rid my body of 5-12 pounds of waste and toxins?  Not necessarily, but every little bit helps.  And for the record, I didn’t lose any actual weight on the scale… so if your goal is weight loss, don’t expect it to put you back in that bikini. 

The Complete Body Cleanse can be found at Trader Joe’s in the vitamin/supplement aisle.

American as Apple Pie

February 6, 2009

After our autumn trip to the apple orchard, and the many apple recipes that were inspired by our bumper crop, I thought I’d never want to cook with an apple again.  However, on a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I came across a box of frozen pie dough that made me hanker for apple pie.  Although all the apples from our apple-picking excursion are long gone, it was time to

I am definitely not ashamed of being a short-cut baker, but I will say that I have always made my own pie crust.  After growing up with my father’s homemade pie crusts, anything store-bought seemed simply put, sub-par.  This is not to say that I make pie dough with any sort of frequency—a few times per year is about my limit.  I figured that the few times I was taking the time to make a pie, I might as well go whole-hog.  That was until I tried this particular frozen dough.

One or two times I tried the “leading brand” boxed pie dough found in the supermarket refrigerator section.  Sure, it was easy, but the taste and texture left something–check that–A LOT to be desired.  I felt almost as if I could taste the preservatives.  Besides, if I’m going to eat something as fattening as pie crust, I want it to be fabulous!  Since “fabulous” wasn’t a word that I’d ever use to describe that crust,  I never bought store-bought again.  That was until I tried the Trader Joe’s version!

No, I am not getting paid on the side by TJ’s, nor am I looking for endorsements.  But I have to tell you, this is one good crust.  I have fooled many a person with this crust, because it really does taste very close to homemade—-good homemade.  It got rave reviews at Thanksgiving and was a hit at my last dinner party.  Even my father gave it the seal of approval!

What I like about this crust is that first of all, it is frozen, so you can keep a few boxes on hand for whenever the baking inspiration hits.  Secondly, the dough is pre-rolled into perfectly sized circles.  Most people who have made dough from scratch will probably tell you the rolling is the most difficult part.  This takes the stress out of the crust, so you might be willing to make pie a little more often. Keep in mind that these crusts are also great for quiches and pot-pies.  Just remember they need to be thawed first!

So, once again, “the secrets of a short-cut baker” are revealed to you here!  Shhhhhh—–I won’t bust you if you don’t bust me!