Fun Trader Joe’s Things

6 July, 2009

So instead of doing another makeup post today, I figured I’d focus on one of my favourite things-food. I am lucky enough to live a few miles from a Trader Joe’s, and if you are a vegetarian, you will absolutely love them as they have some items that the typical grocery store doesn’t carry. That doesn’t mean that it’s a vegetarian store-far from it. They have offerings that everyone will like, so here are some of my favourites!

One interesting thing that I have never seen anywhere is a vegetarian French onion soup. Typically, the soup will have a beef stock, which makes people like me sit out. However, this one has a vegetable base. It comes in a pack of two, and they’re essentially shrink-wrapped rounds, where you have the soup, the croutons, and the cheese all in the thing. You put it in a ramekin or oven-safe bowl, and heat it for 40 minutes. I had never had French onion soup before I went veg, and I’ve been veg for 8 years…so I can’t compare. However, the TJ’s soup is good. It’s very filling, and in the 40 minutes I get the crust that I need on the top, with the oniony goodness underneath. I admittedly like to mix them together, to get a blend of all the flavours. I think this retails for $4 for the two-pack-and it’s a great thing for when you want something different, but don’t want to pay up to double the package price for a soup at a restaurant.One thing I always have to stock up on are their vegetable egg rolls. They come in a pack of 5 for around $3, and you just heat them for 20 minutes in the oven. They are very filling on their own, but I like them with a little bed of brown rice and teriyaki sauce. I must have three packages of them in the freezer right now, because I can never be without them. Also on the note of Asian food is their pad thai. It comes in a little carton over by the pastas, and it’s $2-and get this: totally vegan. Most pad thais that I’ve experienced use an oyster sauce or some sort of fish derivative, so this is a pleasant surprise. It comes with two packets-the noodles, and the sauce. You empty the noodles into the carton and break them up, and then pour the contents of the sauce over it. Heat it in the microwave for two minutes, let cool, stir, and voila-instant pad thai. This honestly is the best pad thai I’d ever had, and the convenience makes it even more worthwhile. Not to mention you’re getting it cheaper than you would if you went out to buy it, so it’s a win-win.

They also do a wide variety of flatbreads. For about $4, they do a two-pack of a basic garlic parmesan-best served hot out of the oven, while it’s still soft. There’s also a truffle flatbread, which I unfortunately have not tried. However, my favourite-and an absolute favourite food of mine from anywhere-is the tomato pesto, which is more like a glorified pizza. The flatbread is topped with a pesto sauce, followed by mozzarella and diced tomatoes, and cooks in 8 minutes. I can eat these all the time, although my expanding waistline prevents that. In addition, there are a wide variety of pizzas as well.

Over with the meats and lunches they have little two-packs of tofu blocks. They are ready to eat, so just slice them for a sandwich, or stir-fry them. I love how it’s already pre-cooked, and I plan on doing the sandwich thing in a few days. They also carry a wide variety of meat substitutes, however I love the tofu the best. On the note of the prepared meals, they have about 10 varieties of sushi, as well as Middle Eastern dishes, salads, and all sorts of fun things. When I used to eat seafood, I LOVED the spicy halibut rolls, but I don’t think they make those anymore.

On the note of condiments and such, their almond butter is great. I am using the creamy version, which has nothing but almonds, and it’s a great way for me to sneak in some necessary protein. Also their dijon mustard is cheaper than Grey Poupon, although you definitely get a bit of a kick. It’s a sinus clearer, that’s for sure. I have yet to try their curry pastes, however I would love to do curried tofu soon. Moving on, there is a huge selection of beverages. I tried the ginger beer (a “near beer”) and didn’t like it, however their bottled sodas are great. They also sell Hansen’s, and of all their sodas the pomegranate is the best, by far. The pomegranate limeade, in a 64 ounce bottle for under $3, is a good unique juice drink. (What I like to do though is get a bottle of pomegranate juice from the store and mix it with lemonade concentrate and water-it gives me cheap pomegranate lemonade, for about $2 a pitcher) There’s also sparkling lemonades and so forth, and yes-hibiscus juice. Remember how pomegranate burst onto the scene as the “it flavour” a few years back? Well I have a feeling hibiscus is going to be the next big thing. Both Monin and Torani (two makers of flavoured syrups for beverages and so forth) have added hibiscus as a flavour, albeit in the restaurant lines. TJ’s also sells dried hibiscus, which I will be trying here very soon.

The snacks at TJ’s are amazing. They used to do wasabi cashews and wasabi crisps, which were absolutely amazing, but now they just have the wasabi peas. (I hate peas) There are bags of pita crisps, and both the Parmesan Garlic and Cinnamon Sugar are absolutely amazing, at $2 a bag. There are also bagel chips. The everything ones are fun, but I also love to have plain ones on hand for whenever I feel like a dip (rarely, as I can’t make a good dijon-based dip).

Finally, desserts. They sell a small cheesecake-about 9″ in diameter-for $8. However, it is very filling! You have to refrigerate it overnight, and eat it within a few days, but it is so good, especially for cheesecake lovers like myself. I consider myself a cheesecake fanatic, and the local grocery store fails miserably at cheesecake. Also of interest? The raspberry creme brulee. It’s $4 for a two pack, and you put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. It comes in its own ramekin-which is totally reusable-and has a sugar packet, so you can get that perfect crust. I have never been able to get it just right, as I can’t tell when my broiler is heated, but it still is delightfully good. Finally, as a seasonal offering, they carry a vegetarian-friendly pie crust-ie, no lard. I went a few weeks ago and was saddened to see that they didn’t carry it anymore, so if and when it comes back I am stocking up big-time.

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have one in your area and you’ve never been to one, what are you waiting for?

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