In preparation for this post, I ate Trader Joe’s (TJ's) exclusively for the past two weeks - that's breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 14 days straight. And after all those jars, boxes, and bags of TJ's prepared food, I can honestly say that I’m NOT sick of it yet. Actually, the opposite is true; I now have a greater appreciation for TJ's. They offer quality prepared foods at fair prices in an unpretentious and welcoming store. I love to cook, but I also love to be able to microwave a delicious meal in about four minutes flat.
Here are my 10 favorite prepared foods from Trader Joe's. I would love to know if there is anything delicious I left off the list.
(Note: Although I love TJ's olive oil, marinated meats, beer, wine, etc., I decided to stick to prepared/packaged foods for the purposes of this post. Also, the top 10 are not presented in order of ranking).
English Toffee with Milk Chocolate - $2.99
For the past two years, I've included TJ's English Toffee in the Christmas baskets I make for family. This toffee is always fresh and practically shatters when you bite into it. The rich milk chocolate adds a smooth sweetness to the crunch of the toffee. Finally, the whole thing is rolled in chopped almonds - a finishing touch that truly makes it a special occasion candy.
Vegetable Pad Thai - $2.29
I won't go as far as to say that this frozen pad thai is as good as what you can get at a restaurant, but it is the next best thing. It's leaps and bounds better than the box kits you can buy. There is a clear tamarind flavor and a mound of mung bean sprouts and green onion at the bottom of the tray. I like to sauté vegetables and scramble an egg to add to the mircrowaved pad thai. Currently, I have 4 boxes in my freezer.
Tarte aux Champignons - $3.99 and Tarte D' Alsace Lorraine $4.49
The Tarte aux Champignons is in the running for my favorite TJ's food. It looks like pizza but is nothing like the American version. The crust is delicate and flakey and is topped with restraint. The mushrooms are intensely earthly, and the emmental cheese melts to a cream sauce consistency. There are two versions of this flatbread. The Tarte aux Champignons has mushrooms, emmental, and parmesan cheeses. The Tarte d' Alsace Lorraine has ham, caramelized onion, and gruyere cheese. Both are equally as good. This is a must buy.
Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl - $3.99
I recommneded this spread to a friend and here is the series of texts I got from her after she bought it:
"Ok. Cookie cocoa butter just changed my life. You are a savior"
"Oh Marcella. There were 4 of us standing in the back of tjs eating it out of the jar together. 4 strangers bonding over jars of cookie butter."
The next day I got a text that simply said, "Cookie Butter".
I think the texts speak for themselves. Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl is extremely good.
Inner Peas - $1.49
I limit myself to only one (maybe two) bags of Inner Peas every time I go to TJ's. If I purchase more than that, there is a chance I may finish every bag before the next day. They are addictive and crunchy with a mild pea flavor.
Creamy Polenta with Spinach and Carrots - $3.69
If I was served a side of this polenta at a restaurant, I would be very pleased. It has a smooth, creamy texture with a healthy garlic flavor and enough vegetables to make it feel like you are being good. I like it for breakfast, topped with a sunny side egg and parmesan cheese (pictured below).
Gyoza Potstickers - $3.29
I've eaten a lot of dumplings in my life, and TJ's potstickers are just as good as the best Asian brands. They are so versatile: you can fry or steam them, or just throw them into your next bowl of ramen noodles. I like to have a bag in my freezer at all times.
Paneer Tikka Masala with Spinach Basmati RIck - $2.99
I'm eating a box of this Paneer Tikka Masala as I write this post. The first time I tried it I couldn't believe how good it was. The flavors are not watered down for the American palette. The sauce is incredibly well balanced; it's rich, sweet, and a little tangy, and has an abundance of lovely Indian spices.
Pumpkin Macarons - $4.99
I am a macaron fanatic, but unfortunately they are hard to come by in Richmond, VA. When I saw them in the freezer section of TJ's, they were a no-brainer. These dainty little macarons taste like pumpkin flavored clouds. It would be easy to eat all 12 in one sitting. The directions say to thaw them out for 30 minutes before serving, but I like them better right out of the freezer.
Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread with Mozzarella Cheese - $.4.69
If you love mushroom and truffle you will love this flatbread. The crust is fantastic. When baked on the lower rack it develops a crunchy bottom that is a great contrast to the soft, chewiness of the rest of the bread. The mushroom puree is deeply truffle-y and there is just enough gooey cheese to bring the whole dish together.