Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

What I Can’t Live Without

KRONNNNNNCH! Yep, it’s Crunch Week at my office (read: end of the production cycle), and most everyone is going a little nuts. We’re all of us sleep-deprived, overcaffeinated, a just a tetch cranky; don’t we sound lovely to chill with? Heh heh heh.

As you’ve probably noticed, my increased workload has really cut into my blogging — a tru bummer, but one that will be reversed soon enough. (I swear!)

I haven’t been cooking at all — the one proper dinner I ate this week was lovingly prepared by Alex, and it was the Most Beautiful Meal. Instead, I’ve been getting weird fast-casual food or eating snack dinners: crackers spread with hummus, small hunks of cheese, Korean pears rinsed quickly and sliced. It’s nourishment, right?

Even though my foodlyfe has been mundane, I want to get back in the blogging saddle, and so I present to you the following list of Trader Joe’s food items I could not live without. The next time you find yourself up shit creek without a paddle (or, like, a granola bar), consult this list. I guarantee you’ll have the best no-cook dinner around.

Trader Joe’s Items I Could Not Live Without

1. Tuscan White Bean Hummus I’m prone to getting myself in food ruts — periods of time during which I’ll eat the same thing over and over and over again until one day, I can’t fathom eating one more bite of the previously revered food. I’ve been in a Tuscan white bean hummus rut for months, which is to say there has been no span of time during which I haven’t had some of this in my fridge. Serious shit, this.

Hummus either blows my mind or turns me off completely. Once in a blue moon, I’ll make my own, but my version inevitably ends up far too garlicky for everyday consumption. Most store-bought hummuses are so pale and mediocre that they don’t warrant a second thought, or glance, or even this mention.

The one exception? Trader Joe’s Tuscan white bean hummus. Ooooh, baby! It’s garlicky but NOT so much so that you can’t eat it at work. It’s unbelievably creamy and spreads like a charm. Unlike its cousins, it’s the perfect shade of ecru — a small advantage, but an advantage nonetheless. Finally, this hummus is cheaper than many of its competitors (and the tub is larger, too). Score, score, score!

2. Apricot Stilton

I became a Stilton convert the weekend of October 15th, 2011. In preparation for our trip to Treasure Island, I hit up TJ’s with instructions to purchase beer, scotch, bread, cheese, more beer, cheese, fruit, and salami. Beyond the standard brie and cheddar, I grabbed a wedge of apricot Stilton. Sure, I hoped for the best; little did I know I’d just discovered a soon-to-become-favorite cheese.

Similar in texture (and pungency) to blue cheese, Stilton is best enjoyed as part of another dish. Let me rephrase: it’s hella crumbly, and you can try to eat it in chunks — just know that cheese crumbles will end up all over your table/counter/desk/other surface. For the most part, I add Stilton to salads; I’m sure it would improve any pasta dish, as well.*

3. Corn Tortilla Flat Breads (Multi-seed edition)Do you like everything bagels? How about snacks that are as crunchy as potato chips but not as greasy as potato chips? Do you like things ostensibly made from other things? Well, you’re in luck: these corn tortilla flat breads are crispy, salty, and perfect for making snackwiches: ramshackle little sandwiches of hummus, arugula, cheese, olives — whatever you might have in your fridge or cupboard.

I’m particularly fond of the flat breads’ size, which makes them ideal for topping with goodies, and their seediness, which adds flavor (and a health halo). Bonus: they’re pretty durable, so far as crackers go; this is to say, they rarely smash into millions of tiny pieces, even if I carry them home in my jostly bike bag.

4. Tempeh Here’s the scoop: TJ’s tempeh looks gnarly (like something you might buy at a community college pottery sale), and it tastes a little gnarly, but give it a chance — it’s packed with protein, slow to perish, and inexpensive. I buy a few bricks to keep on hand for quick dinners: stir-fries and pasta dishes, mostly, but I’d like to try tempeh tacos some night.

My favorite way to prepare tempeh is to 1) cube it; 2) simmer it in coconut milk spiked with spices (cumin, curry powder, smoked paprika, pepper); and 3) serve it with veggies over udon. Naturally bitter, the tempeh is sweetened a bit by the coconut milk.

There are other TJ’s products I LOVE — crack chips, sesame-seed-encrusted cashews, mochi — but these are the ones I’d perish without. And, yes: that’s it, for now. Wish me luck as I head into the final few hours of CRONCH…

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*Any pasta dish that would benefit from a gentle sweetness, that is.

Image Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]

Product Roundup: The Biggest Greek Yogurt Bang for Your Buck

The surprising winner in my personal yogurt showdown.

Like most people, I’m very fond of my routines. I look forward to my early morning bike ride, my post-workout tea and oatmeal, weekend walks downtown and evening “Forensic Files” marathons. (Aside: I realize that the elements of my routine listed here make me seem like a 38-year-old, but it’s cool. I’m practically 38.) One major component of my routine — weekday, at least — is Greek yogurt. At some point, perhaps a year after trying and becoming obsessed with Greek yogurt, I became that Person Who Eats Yogurt Every Day. Prior to the transition, the exact time of which is unknown to me, I wondered about these yogurt-eating people always mentioned in women’s magazines. Who the hell eats yogurt every day? I wanted to know.

Well, I do.

Last week, Lucky (the [big-box] grocery store nearest my house) was sold out of Dannon plain Greek yogurt. This had never happened before, so I picked up a few Chobanis and decided to return a few days later, assuming the stock would be replenished. Yesterday morning, making a 7:30 run for coffee, milk, and Aquaphor, I checked the yogurt case. Still empty of Dannon! This led me to kvetch to Hook about how Dannon has the best product for the price point and shame on Lucky for not restocking like a normal store. My kvetchings, in turn, led Hook to prompt me to write about my system of evaluating Greek yogurt, whose intricacies I will share with you now.

Yogurt Roundup: The Best Greek Yogurt for Your Money

1) Dannon 0% Plain Yogurt. In the early days of my Greek yogurt consumption, I would never have guessed that Dannon — plain old Dannon — would reign supreme in my self-determined yogurt hierarchy. While it’s true that Dannon is the best-selling brand of yogurt worldwide (who knew?), it seems, in some ways, mundane. I grew up eating Fruit on the Bottom, you know? I didn’t initially trust Dannon’s ability to produce an authentic-tasting Greek yogurt because I’d come to associate the brand with the marginal yogurts of my youth.

But the product speaks for itself: Dannon’s Greek yogurt is thick and creamy, possessing an almost custardlike consistency. There’s very little excess liquid, and the yogurt is tart but never sour. Additionally, one six-ounce carton costs a mere $.99 at Lucky — about half the price of other, arguably-more-desirable brands (which I’ll get to in a moment).

2) Fage 0%. I love Fage: the texture is incredible, the taste is spot-on, and the packaging design is lovely to behold. I don’t love that a 5.3-ounce carton of Fage costs $1.79. I’d have ranked Fage as my top yogurt were the price-per-package a bit lower, but sadly, Dannon dominates in the cost category.

3) Chobani 0%. Texturally, Chobani is very similar to Dannon and Fage; tastewise, it’s a bit tarter. I’ve found that Chobani has more liquid than either of the two brands previously listed, and I’m not a huge fan of this runoff (which I either drain off or hastily mix in to the yogurt, though I’ve been told that one should never stir Greek yogurt prior to consumption! I do not remember who told me this.). In my neck of the woods, a six-ounce carton of Chobani costs, on average, $1.69 — which means that, in a battle with Fage, Fage will win any day. (Aside: Chobani does have a Pineapple yogurt that is tasty as a dessert, but is a little too sweet for a coffee break snack.)

4) Trader Joe’s Fat Free Greek Yogurt. At $.89 per serving, Trader Joe’s Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Plain variety) leads the pack in terms of price. In other areas, though, the yogurt falls flat. I’ve found TJ’s Greek Yogurt to be runnier than the others listed, and the flavored varieties (Pomegranate, notably) miss the mark, both in terms of tangyness and in mimicking the flavor they’re meant to mimic. Not wanting to be wasteful but also not really digging the Pomegranate yogurt, I actually left a carton of this in my office fridge last week, hoping someone would sneak off with it. As of Friday afternoon, it was still there.

5) Greek Gods Nonfat Plain Yogurt. I’d like to rank Greek Gods yogurt higher — really, I would — not least of all because their packaging is eye-catching (who doesn’t love the bright colors combined with drawings of the gods?). My biggest qualm with this yogurt is its relative dearth of protein; yes, a six-ounce serving of the nonfat, plain yogurt is a scant 60 calories, but it also only has six grams of protein — hardly more than a regular yogurt. Moreover, the flavored varieties (Fig, Vanilla, Honey Strawberry) are pretty damn caloric: one cup of the Honey Strawberry has 310 calories and 15 grams of fat (basically equivalent to a half-cup serving of premium ice cream, which at least seems properly indulgent, unlike this yogurt, which masquerades as a health food). At $1.49 for a six-ounce cup, Greek Gods is not the priciest of the competitors, but the quality of the product doesn’t justify the cost.

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So there you have it — more than you ever wanted to/needed to/thought you’d know about my Greek yogurt preferences. I’m always on the lookout for new products and I’m planning to try two brands (Brown Cow and Oikos) that I haven’t tried yet. For the time being, I’ll stick with Dannon.