Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Favorites

Trader Joe's feels like a small store to me, but so often when I ask people what they like there, I've never heard of their favorite products. Items vary a bit from store to store and some things are seasonal, but there are also gems hidden in plain sight that will probably change your life.

Some items I love that are not exclusive to Trader Joe's but that I always buy there: Pita pockets, edamame, basil plant, Virgil's rootbeer (chilled = nectar of the god's! Made with cane sugar), and fresh flowers. The macarons (frozen dessert section) are unique to Trader Joe's (especially the price!) but I'm still on the fence about whether they belong on my greatest-hits list.

As for Trader Joe's-only favorites...

Triple Ginger Snaps - I love molasses cookies, but I don't like ginger and I'm not a huge fan of crunchy cookies. Somehow, these cookies manage to combine crunchiness and chunks of caramelized ginger into the most addicting spicy-sweet morsels. 

Mango Passion Granola Cereal - I usually make my own granola, but this stuff is yummy if you need to grab a quick breakfast. I used to keep a box in my desk drawer when I worked in an office. The freeze dried fruit bits are like grown-up lucky charms. 

Muhammara - This stuff if a Syrian walnut-pomegranate hummus-like paste for crackers and bread and what not. My Aunt Cathy introduced me to it, and it is delicious. 

Feta Cheese Spread - Once again, TJ's has taken something I don't like on its own (feta) and turned it into something I love. My friend Janae first showed me this spread, eaten at a picnic with a baguette, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and prosciutto. Easiest, most elegant, scrumptious picnic ever. I also use this spread in a Tzatziki pasta salad instead of crumbly feta. 

Savory Mini Thin Crackers - When not picnicking, I dip these babies into the feta spread. They're yummy and super crunchy, my current party cracker go-to. They're gluten free too, because they're rice based. 

Caramelized Onion Cheddar Cheese - Here's another one my Aunt Cathy found. It's not stiff and prone to chunking like regular cheddar and that onion is irresistible (but gives you powerful breath, fyi). I feel like the cheese section in general is something I haven't explored much at Trader Joe's. The prices can be off-putting to me, but when asked to bring something to a party, you're likely to find something delicious in there that will be festive, unique, and unheard of to most of your friends. 

Sriracha BBQ Sauce - I feel silly about liking this because I could probably just mix sriracha and BBQ sauce by myself, but honestly, it wouldn't be cheaper than just buying this, and making BBQ sauce myself (or messing with brands) does not guarantee a concoction as well balanced as this one. 

Cilantro Dressing - Nom nom nom. It's actually been a while since I've had this, and making salad dressing is pretty easy, but in a pinch, I'd definitely grab this.

Bollywood Popcorn - Once again, I could just make this, right? Wrong. Every time I try and make flavored popcorn, it gets soggy and unevenly coated. Just buy this. (Pro tip, though: pop regular salted popcorn in coconut oil. Next level goodness.)

Morello Cherries - These are very well priced and perfect for holiday cooking, especially if you don't want the goop that goes with regular cherry pie filling. I love to use the leftover juice to drizzle over ice cream or mix into drinks.

Pork Gyoza Potstickers - These are my go-to dinner when I can't bring myself to cook. Everyone in our family loves them and at about $3 a bag, I feel zero guilt grabbing two bags to throw in the freezer for an emergency meal. Also available with chicken filling, they're great as party appetizers or in soup as well.

Soft and Juicy Mandarins - These are a yummy snack that my boys love, and I like them because although they're simple, they seem kind of unusual to me - not a type of dried fruit you get in a mix. Sometimes I keep a bag in my purse to munch on when I skip breakfast or the boys are grumpy in the car.

Peruvian Inca Corn - Like giant, healthy corn nuts.

Finally, a few things I couldn't find pictures of: mango mints (near the registers), rice blends (Brown Rice Medley with amazing radish seeds, and Basmati Rice Medley) that are great meal-fillers or soup bulkers, and the dill tartar sauce (delicious, but I eat fish and chips once every several years, so...).

What are your favorites? Staples? Treats?

*post sponsored by no one :'( 

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