There are few things our office gets as excited about as products we 'discovered' at Trader Joe's. (Just us?) The aisles are packed with seemingly limitless examples of creative, time-saving, delicious products we can't get enough of. Frozen mandarin chicken that's as delicious as takeout? Sign us up! Read on for the Trader Joe's products our team can't get enough of, and don't forget to tune into our Editorial Team's shopping trip on Instagram Live (@shopcupcakesandcashmere) later this morning:
1. Mini Basque Cheese: In all fairness, the entire selection of cheese at Trader Joe's is impressive (particularly the prices), but it's the new-ish addition of one particular variety that I love most. When I was little, my dad and I'd visit a tiny cheese shop in Mill Valley where the owner would give me transparent slices of Petit Basque, a nutty, buttery cheese that almost melted on my tongue. I've been buying it ever since, though in small quantities since it's pretty expensive. It wasn't until my dad clued me in that they offer pretty much an identical version at Trader Joe's that's affordable enough to include on every cheese board. Honorable mentions: Port Salut, Cotswald, and 1,000 Day Gouda.
2. Mandarin Orange Chicken: I'd be surprised if there was a person out there with access to Trader Joe's who hasn't tried this frozen staple—it's that good. It's not one of those everyday staples since it's quite indulgent, but we keep a bag in our freezer at all times for those nights when we're craving something indulgent, but don't have the patience to wait for Chinese take-out.
3. Dark Chocolate Bar - Caramel with Black Sea Salt: The combination of slightly bitter chocolate is balanced by creamy ribbons of caramel and a sprinkling of salt. I'm typically a milk chocolate kinda of girl through and through so this is kind of my gateway bar to embracing darker cacao (it's 70%). G and I used to do late-night drugstore runs and return with a boatload of different candies, so to avoid those impulsive binges, we always have a couple of these bars at home. It's so satisfying that even a third of the bar satisfies my sweet tooth.
1. Bruschetta, pre-cooked lentils, and crumbled feta: Okay, I know that's technically three things but combined they make the quickest, simplest healthy meal I know of—with leftovers for days. Simply mix together the entire contents of each of these containers—it makes a perfectly balanced salad base with protein from the lentils, fat and acidity from the bruschetta, and a salty brine from the feta. It is delicious. I often eat it plain, over the sink with a spoon, but when I'm feeling extra fancy I spoon it over some arugula and add chicken on top. Boom. Dinner is served, and it makes enough for four to six meals.
2. Trader Joe's Soy-rizo: When I decided to stop eating red meat early last year, I immediately began to mourn for my favorite pasta recipe—an indulgent combination of chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, heavy cream, and chorizo. But the first time I made it with Trader Joe's Soy-rizo I could barely taste the difference! I try to avoid soy, but in a pinch this stuff is good.
3. Shaw Organic Wine: Talk about a rebrand! The first time I saw my old college friend, Two Buck Chuck, I almost didn't recognize him. But this iteration is all grown up made from 100% organic grapes, with the still super-affordable price of $3.99. And yes, I'm sure he's packed with sugar and all that stuff—but the nostalgia gets me. I love this wine.
1. Harvest Grains: I am, no joke, eating Harvest Grains as I'm writing this. It's a blend of couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans and quinoa that you cook in chicken broth. We make them with any Mediterranean-inspired dish–generally a healthy spread of hummus, tzatziki and lamb meatballs. They'll knock your socks off.
2. Everything But The Bagel Seasoning: Since leaving New York a year ago, I can confidently say that bagels are one of the top three things I miss about the city. But Trader Joe's—bless their hearts—have helped alleviate a bit of that pain. I douse avocados, eggs and even mediocre Los Angeles bagels in this stuff. I can't get enough.
3. Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies: I've been buying these for years and have, on two occasions, finished the entire tub in a week. They're bite-sized, buttery, and have a perfect cookie-to-chocolate ratio. I'll crumble them on top of vanilla ice cream or pack a Ziploc bag full of them before a movie in place of candy.
1. Vegetable Fried Rice: This is not a 'sexy' pick—can anything from TJ's be a sexy food choice? I am open to opinions on this—but this is a staple around our house. We usually keep a few in the freezer for last-minute meals: Add extra vegetables and a protein for a quick stir-fry, but if you're low on groceries and can't get creative, it tastes just as good on its own.
2. Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50: I was extremely excited when I saw this on my favorite shelf in Trader Joe's (the soap, beauty and pet food shelf—right by the coffee samples). This sunscreen stick is made from non-nano zinc, is purse-sized, and has a cute anchor on the package! Sold. I use this daily for afternoon sunscreen touch-ups.
3. Double-Wide Cat Scratcher Made with Organic Catnip: Another random pick: the Trader Joe's cat scratch box. My cat loves this and like most cats, she is picky and unpredictable—so her devotion is a true stamp of approval. Usually comes in a single and double-wide option for all your cat-scratching needs!
1. Egg White Salad with Chives: You have to love egg salad to like this, but I swear, it does not taste like it would be healthy. It's so flavorful and great if you are watching what you eat. I like to eat it plain (I add a little black pepper) or spread on slice of multi grain toast.
2. Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper (or Syrah!): This hard but creamy tasting cheese is coated in black pepper which makes it perfect for a cheese plate. It has so much flavor (sort of like parmesan, but not crumbly or too hard), and also comes in a version soaked in Syrah *drool face*
3. Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butter and Sage: By far the least healthy item on my picks, this buttery frozen aisle dish is my ultimate comfort food. I save this for when my boyfriend is out of town, and I am too lazy to cook a full meal just for myself...and honestly, I could probably do two bags at once (one never seems like enough).
1. Steamed & Fully Cooked Lentils: I love these for simple lentil salads. It makes for a filling snack or great to bring for a potluck—it's a party fav!
2. Mushroom and Black Truffle Flatbread: I love truffles, in just about anything. No exception here. This flatbread has a perfect balance of truffle, cheesy goodness and mushrooms. Definitely feels like a gourmet meal for a fourth of the time and price to make it.
3. Chicken Fried Rice: I keep bags of this in my freezer for a quick dinner after a long day out or to add as a side dish. It takes five minutes to make, and is so flavorful!
1. Pizza Dough: We make pizza at home at least a few times each month, and this refrigerated dough is the perfect base. It takes more work than buying a frozen pizza crust, but it's worth it! We use a pizza stone and do ours on the grill for the perfect crispness. (I also highly recommend TJ's Genova Pesto for pizza making as well!)
2. Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread: I really didn't want to double up here (see Ann's list above), but the TJ's mushroom & black truffle flatbread has been a staple in my freezer since about 2011. It's absolutely perfect either as an appetizer or an entire meal for one (flashback to many, many nights in my mid-20's).
3. Peanut Butter-Filled Pretzels (with salt): I honestly can't buy these anymore because I could eat the entire bag in one sitting. I can't pretend they're even remotely healthy, but they're one of my favorite snacks of all time. If you like peanut butter as much as I do, do yourself a favor and pick these up on your next TJ's run.
1. Prepared Chopped Salads: Trader Joe's saves me from caving into the tempting, lunch time Postmates order. These salads are so easy to throw in my bag, and I actually get excited about having them. I'm preferential towards the Southwestern Chop, Chinese Chicken Salad, or the Kale and Edamame. No matter what you choose, you won't be disappointed.
2. Dorot Crushed Ginger Cubes: My boyfriend and I love to cook, but, sometimes, the multi-step recipes we find can increase our cooking time too much for a busy weekday night. These frozen cubes save me from peeling and chopping difficult things like ginger root or garlic. The taste is just as flavorful, and we can focus our efforts on other things in the recipe!
3. Cauliflower Gnocchi: This is not a hidden secret of Trader Joe's, but I'd be lying if I didn't include it in my favorites. The taste truly reminds me of my favorite pasta but healthier. Super hack: Instead of boiling them on the stove, I roast them in the oven at 375° F for 10 to 12 minutes to give them a more gnocchi-like texture.
We'd love to hear: What are some of your favorite Trader Joe's products? And be sure to tune into our Live later this morning on @shopcupcakesandcashmere, as the Editorial Team goes on a field trip to our local store!