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Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - June 2014 [OLD]

Summer is right around the corner-grills will be ablaze, patios will be lounged on until the wee hours of the morning, and pools will host daily cannonball competitions.

What have you tried recently and would you rate it a YAY, MEH, or NAY?

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  1. YAY! Toasted pumpkin seed oil, $9.99. Appears to be made by la tourangelle, like the holiday nut oil trio. I used it to dress a grain salad, and it was fantastic. Can't wait to try it in other applications.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ohmyyum

      Silly question, but does the oil taste like toasted pumpkin seeds?

      1. re: Boston_Otter

        It does taste nutty and delicious. It's a specialty in southeastern Austria and in Slovenia. The salad bars in Slovenia always had it. A common dressing for the salad was pumpkin see oil and yogurt. I grew to like it and created my own concoction when I moved back home.
        Pumpkin seed oil, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and cut-up celery.
        It can also be used to dress a pumpkin soup.

        1. re: shoo bee doo

          It also tends to be a bit darker than other oils, but yes, very delicious and unique tasting. Love in salads.

          --Dommy!

    2. YAY.......TJ's is one of the few places I can find Grade B Maple syrup. It's supposed to be for baking, but I like its richer flavor and thickness

      11 Replies
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        Our Publix sells Springtree Grade B Pure Maple syrup...8.5 ounce bottle for around $5 or $6? Can't remember what I paid for it...will have to compare TJ's to it next time I'm there...thanks!

        1. re: Val

          that would be a good price! a rough rule of thumb, GradeB should be 70-80% of the price of Grade A, regardless of vendor.

          TJ's sell a bigger amount....but not that cheaply

          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

            I thought grade b was more expensive than grade a, am I mistaken?

              1. re: angelo04

                Grade B usually is 20% cheaper.at least

                1. re: angelo04

                  I've never seen Grade B sold cheaper than Grade A, but I live somewhere where I buy it straight from the producers (whether this means I'm getting a good deal on Grade A or gouged on Grade B, I don't know). My experience in the last eight years living in New Hampshire has been that the price of Grade B relative to Grade A has fluctuated a lot year to year - demand has gone up (I grew up making maple syrup, and few people had any idea what Grade B was back then, much less sought it out) and the supply doesn't always match it. I paid at least $5 more for a half gallon, two or three years ago when the sugaring season was truncated. A couple times I've missed it entirely and had to wait for the next season.

                  Looking at prices online for a few places, I see that at the moment, they're all selling A and B at the same price. If I had to guess, I suppose I've probably been paying a premium for the privilege of knowing where my syrup comes from, like with local apples, strawberries, etc. But I can at least confirm you're not crazy for thinking Grade B costs more.

                  1. re: okaycheckitout

                    I heard from some friends in Vermont that part of the reason for these fluctuations has to do with the naming - calling the darker syrup "Grade B" implies that it's inferior to or less desirable than the lighter stuff. As real maple aficionados know, that's not the case at all - so in places where people tend to be "in the know" (like maple-producing regions), Grade B costs the same or more than Grade A, typically. Elsewhere, Grade A is more expensive.

                    All of this is soon to become moot, though, from what I hear - Vermont is going to be changing their labeling soon (to be more in line with Canadian/International standards), and I would assume the other maple producing regions in the US will do so as well. Don't worry, though, we'll still be able to get the dark stuff! It will just be called Dark/Very Dark or Strong/Robust. http://www.thekitchn.com/no-more-grad...

                    1. re: okaycheckitout

                      Lucky you!..when I lived in Milford NH, local syrup was an option....and a very welcomed one, regardless of price.

                      Nowadays, I get what I can get.......and the Grade B tends to be cheaper, but damn near impossible to find

              2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                I agree - grade B is my fave!!! Have not tried it from TJ's but I love grade B in general.

              3. Yea - Organic Polenta (shelf stable). Cooked and packed in a plastic skin like a thick sausage. Cut off a couple of slices, sauté, and have as a breakfast side dish.

                Yea - Roasted and Salted Sunflower Seeds. At $2 for a 16-oz bag, a bargain alternative to nuts as a snack. A bit heavy on the salt (TJ also sells roasted and unsalted sunflower seeds, same price), but I like salt.

                Yea - Skipjack Tuna in Water (canned). This smaller fish is promoted as a sustainable alternative to big tuna, which are being overfished. Tastes like tuna to me! It would be better if packed in olive oil.

                Meh - Multigrain Country Bread. Currently TJ's cheapest sandwich loaf. Firm even texture, but not very different from white bread in flavor, and unbleached white flour is the top ingredient.

                Yea - Shepherd's Bread. Another firm-textured sandwich loaf, a couple of dimes more expensive but worth it. Pleasant wheaty flavor that goes well with pretty much anything. Not for fans of Wonder Bread.

                Nay - Steak & Ale Pies (frozen). All the fat and cholesterol aside, the crust is tough and neither it nor the filling have much flavor. Reminds me of the bad old days of English pub grub, which may actually have been better.

                Older items featured in the current Fearless Flier:

                Yea - Sweet Potato Frites (frozen). Delicious. You don't have to fry them yourself, just heat them up in the toaster oven.

                Yea - Vegetable Masala Burgers (frozen). Really vegetable patties, with potatoes as the main veg and peas, corn, green beans, etc. added. A staple for me since my very first visit to TJ's. I wouldn't eat them in a bun as that would mute the flavor.

                Nay - Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs (refrigerated). Not a good substitute for beef or pork; the flavor is off and the texture is rubbery and floppy. The uncured beef hot dogs are great; accept no substitutes.

                32 Replies
                1. re: John Francis

                  Wholeheartedly agree on the chicken hot dogs and same goes with the turkey hot dogs that they sell - neither are very good. I cannot eat beef and am always struggling to find a decent hot dog substitute. Oh how I wish they would start to carry bison hot dogs!!!

                  1. re: littleflower

                    TJ's chicken sausages are good. Maybe a little thick to eat in a bun, but we can adjust. :-)

                    1. re: John Francis

                      I agree with you on the chicken sausages. I'd like them a whole lot better if they were organic but whatever. They were sampling them in my store on Friday and I was so impressed I ended up with eight packages in my cart!! Two packages cooked up with one jar of the marinara, lots of peppers and onion and it is sausage sandwich heaven, They used the frozen pepper/onion mix and no sauce.

                  2. re: John Francis

                    I regard the Veggie Masala Burgers as the best hash brown potatoes ever, so I also use them topped with a fried egg and a sausage patty, on a bun, as a breakfast sandwich.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      And speaking of hash browns, another golden oldie:

                      Yea - Hashbrowns (frozen). Not the bagged product, 10 patties to a package. Ten minutes baking in a toaster oven or less than that sautéing on the stovetop and breakfast is 1/3 ready.

                        1. re: John Francis

                          I was just thinking about those! I see them in TJs and they remind me of McDonalds hashbrowns which are a weakness of mine. Will definitely pick some up.

                          1. re: Fromageball

                            Those are pretty good. I took some on a trip and cooked them on a flat top griddle on a propane barbeque at the drag races and they turned out nice and crispy on the outside.

                            1. re: Fromageball

                              Amyone know how they compare to the supermarket brand, Cavendish? I used to like the onion version but nowadays I only see the plain ones. They are in a frozen sleeve, I think 10 per package. Same size/shape as McD's.

                          2. re: greygarious

                            I just tried these tonight - really good! I agree that they are like the inside of a samosa.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I wound up buying them today, and my lunch was one of these under a fried egg. Dee-lish!

                            2. re: John Francis

                              The Multigrain Country Bread is awful. Like fldhkybnva, bread is an every so often treat, and this was dreck.

                              The Masala burgers are good. Sad I can no longer eat them. They are kind of like naked samosas.

                              Thanks for the heads up on the sunflower seeds. I love them sprinkled over coleslaw or a salad with bleu cheese dressing.

                              1. re: MplsM ary

                                I have tried a few different kinds of TJ's breads and the only one that I have liked is the Tuscan Pane. I personally have only tried the regular Tuscan Pane but have heard rave reviews on both the regular and whole wheat version. It is especially good when toasted!!

                                1. re: MplsM ary

                                  If you like a bit of a heartier wheat, the Sprouted Wheat and Sprouted 7-Grain are both great. Similar to Ezekiel, but in my opinion, better tasting. They freeze really well too.

                                  1. re: huntandharvest

                                    I like both, also - AND because I don't use bread that much, I do also keep mine in the freezer. PERFECT way to not waste and it defrosts the same as a fresh!

                                    1. re: huntandharvest

                                      I really also love TJ's Sprouted 7 Grain bread...great stuff!

                                      1. re: Val

                                        Makes a stellar grilled cheese ( along with the double cream Gouda)!

                                    2. re: MplsM ary

                                      Why can't you eat the masala burgers? Look up veg cutlet or aloo tikki recipes if you'd like to try rolling your own version.

                                      1. re: Scrofula

                                        I guess I could eat the masala burgers for a special, higher carb treat. But they'd probably sit for a while.

                                    3. re: John Francis

                                      Thanks for taking one for the team RE" Steak and Ale Pies... that was my fear...

                                      And you are correct, the Skipjack tuna is wonderful! I still prefer some of the higher end tunas, but for the price, it's great for tuna pasta salads and anything you really want a nice meaty canned tuna...

                                      --Dommy!

                                      1. re: Dommy

                                        I rather enjoyed the steak and ale pie I had this morning. I added a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. I probably don't know what a good one tastes like since I've never had one.

                                        1. re: shoo bee doo

                                          I agree about the steak and ale pies- I have had some of the best of many different cuisines in the world, but one of the few I have not have much of is British. My SO and I both love these things- in fact, we are going to get more shortly before they disappear.

                                      2. re: John Francis

                                        Stupid question (?): what do you do with the rest of the polenta if you just slice off a couple of slices? I'd like to do this but I'm not sure if it can be stored...

                                        And the vegetable masala burgers are delicious (I wouldn't have expected them to be, but they were sampling them at my local TJ's--now a must-buy!).

                                        1. re: wintersweet

                                          Good question re polenta. Without preservatives, once opened I would think it would spoil pretty quickly...no?

                                            1. re: wintersweet

                                              I haven't actually done it, but it seems like it would freeze well?

                                              1. re: wintersweet

                                                In my refrigerator, which runs very cold, the polenta lasted 2 full weeks. I sliced it all at once, then put it into a rubbermaid container. I finished the package last night and it still tasted as good as it did when first opened. I didn't notice any texture change before cooking, either.

                                                1. re: wintersweet

                                                  I put what's left in a ziplock bag and store it in the refrigerator. Seems to keep indefinitely, though I've always used it up in a week or so.

                                                2. re: John Francis

                                                  Those veg masala burgers have been my favorite for years...!! I have them ontop of a salad most often but also loved them chopped up as a taco filling

                                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                    Just had my first one tonight...Definite YAY!

                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                      Taco filling is a great idea! I love them in a pita stuffed with iceberg, tomatoes, sweet onions and tzatziki or crumbled in a butter lettuce wrap as faux laab.

                                                    2. re: John Francis

                                                      I agree on the steak and ale pies. I am British and these pies are a poor take on the idea. There was almost no meat present. I thought the gravy was OKish and too much veggies in them. If price is an issue I would rather pay a dollar more to have a decent amount of chunky steak in there and a more prominent ale flavour. Also, British steak pies tend to more often have flaky pastry, not the shortcrust. But I do applaud TJs for trying to introduce USA to British style pies.

                                                    3. New to me,fresh organic lemons 5 in a pkg, for $1.99 I believe. I cut a half every morning and seep it in hot water for 2 minutes like tea. I love that they are organic yet reasonably priced.

                                                      www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mcel215

                                                        That IS a good price ...organic lemons are usually $1 a piece if you can even find them!

                                                      2. Haven't cracked it open yet, but I purchased raw fermented sauerkraut in the refrigerator section!

                                                        40 Replies
                                                        1. re: Savour

                                                          That's exciting news! Time to grill some brats or kilbasa to go with that kraut.

                                                          1. re: Savour

                                                            Do you mind checking the ingredients list? Is it anything other than cabbage and salt? Also, how is it packaged?

                                                            1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                              Fingers crossed for no preservatives...I can't find a real sauerkraut anywhere

                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                I'd be very surprised if there were added preservatives. Although preservatives very rarely sneak into a TJ's product, the company has a pretty strict no preservatives policy.

                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                  The policy is "artificial preservatives" which leaves a lot of wiggle room. There are plenty of natural preservatives.

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    Very interesting. Their written policy states: "No artificial flavorings or preservatives". This wording is ambiguous. It could mean "no artificial flavorings and no preservatives" or as you suggest it could mean "no artificial flavorings and no artificial preservatives", meaning that "natural preservatives" are allowed. Has anyone tried to definitively clarify this with TJ's?

                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                      That's a tough one to mail down. Sugar and salt are both natural preservatives. Should jam say the sugar is a preservative? Should olives say that salt is a preservative?

                                                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                        Only if you are really, really anal-retentive about "preservatives" and things like "organic, gluten-free, farm-raised, MSG,HFCS, etc etc"

                                                                        Oh....but I guess the TJ/WF following does get a bit more "cautious".....thereby missing out on a world fo delights. May they live longer and prosper

                                                                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                          I'm not fanatical but with fermented products (like the sauerkraut mentioned above), I prefer they not contain preservatives which is what started this discussion. I eat plenty of other preservatives every day. There are a list that I try to avoid but I haven't blacklisted them all.

                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                            The new sauerkraut looks good, just salt, but strangely includes cucumber. I fear that is to make the prodct sweeter which is why I haven't tried it. Bah.

                                                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                                                              I didn't find it to be sweet at all. But it's not overly fermented either.

                                                                              1. re: AmyH

                                                                                I put a coffee filter over the top with a rubber band and left it on the counter for a couple of days to develop some funk. Perfect! (not sweet at all, thankfully.)

                                                                                1. re: AmyH

                                                                                  It was too salty for me. MEH. Anyone who likes it should look for Poland's Finest Mixed Garden Salad. I find this at Ocean State Job Lot. It contains cabbage, cucumber pickle slices, carrot, red pepper, and onion. The salty brine is similar so I both dilute and sweeten. $2.99 for the quart-ish oval jar.

                                                                            2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                              I love tjs and whole foods. I much prefer Cheetos to "baked cheese crunchies." I miss out on no delights. :-)

                                                                          2. re: josephnl

                                                                            The turkey burgers have "rosemary extract" which is a natural preservative. It's in nearly 90% of ground turkey products. Grab a jarred item off the shelf and many of them have preservatives. The last thread had a discussion about dried apricots and sulfur dioxide which I think is also a natural preservative. I think the word artificial applies to both flavorings and preservatives.

                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                              TJ's carries dried apricots both sulfured and unsulfered dried fruits, so I conclude that natural preservatives are allowed.

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                We found the turkey hot dogs pretty awful - overly chewy, and with a sweet-ish taste imparted by the rosemary. We had to douse them in ketchup. Sad.

                                                                                1. re: dori_pm

                                                                                  Are you speaking about the turkey hot dogs or turkey burgers? The burgers have the rosemary in them and we eat them on a regular basis. The turkey hot dogs however are another story - they are dreadful. Bought them once a long time ago, ate one and threw the rest out.

                                                                                  1. re: dori_pm

                                                                                    Picked up a package today and them back after seeing the nutrition facts and long list of ingredients. Tart cherry powder?

                                                                                2. re: josephnl

                                                                                  On their website under "want to become a new vendor" it specifies that Trader Joe’s brand products do not contain synthetic colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, MSG, added trans fats, dairy ingredients from rBST sources or genetically modified ingredients. So this leads me to believe that natural preservatives are allowed to be added to their products.

                                                                                  1. re: littleflower

                                                                                    That sounds correct and reasonably definitive. Now as others have said many things from salt, to sugar, to rosemary extract are natural preservatives. So...bottom line, are there any natural preservatives which are significantly harmful and should be avoided? I mean really, although I'm not a fan of heavily processed foods, I don't think many folks are keeling over from even artificial preservatives, so I can't imagine that natural preservatives can be so bad.

                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                      I'm not sure if it's a preservative but I avoid HFCS which since sugar is probably also is. I also avoid gums when I can which serve multiple purposes in most foods. It's not a big issue for me since most of the foods I eat don't have labels.

                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                        I simply clarified a statement above about TJs policy, I didn't intend to make a public health statement.

                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                          Can't help you with Baddy naturals........and not sure anyone here knows about Goody artificials.......it's just easier to attach a label

                                                                                3. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                  My wondering what the other ingredients are doesn't have anything to do with preservatives. I'm curious to see if it's actual, real fermented sauerkraut and not fermented and then jarred and pasteurized which kills the probiotic bacteria. My kitchen is too hot to make my own this time of year.

                                                                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                    Yes most of these products contain preservatives which has been a useful marker.

                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                      I'll try to remember to look if I get to swing by there tonight (somehow we have run out of every kind of oil and butter all at the same time!) but I know I'll be short on time.

                                                                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                        I didn't see it but I still don't know what kind of packaging I'm looking for. The store was busy and I didn't have time to grab an employee away from stocking. Next time!

                                                                                  2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    Bubbies.
                                                                                    Ingredients: cabbage, salt, water.
                                                                                    Look for it at whole foods, its refridgerated. And awesome
                                                                                    http://www.bubbies.com

                                                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                      Bubbies is ok but is flash heated which kills off some of the cultures. (Otherwise the jars would explode.)Given the choice I'd rather have one that isn't but Bubbies is good when I can't find anything else. And the jar is the *perfect* size to make mayo with an immersion blender.

                                                                                  3. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                    Cabbage, persian cucumbers, salt, garlic. That's it. It's in a clear plastic jar.

                                                                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                        And I can give the sauerkraut a Yay. Nice and sour, I like the added cucumbers. I love keeping fermented sauerkraut in the fridge as an easy veggie to eat with dinner.

                                                                                        1. re: Savour

                                                                                          I tried a sample tonight of this sauerkraut in the store. They served it over a small slice of their all beef hot dog. I liked both items. I bought the sauerkraut (not the hot dogs, although they were yummy...but dang, so unhealthy!). The sauerkraut tastes very crunchy and fresh...not sad and wilted! LOL

                                                                                          1. re: Savour

                                                                                            Snagged that raw sauerkraut the other day...VERY VERY delish!

                                                                                    1. re: Savour

                                                                                      A YAY for the new sauerkraut. I paired it with TJs Bavarian Bratwurst for a tasty dinner.

                                                                                      1. re: chinchi

                                                                                        We also enjoyed the new sauerkraut. Very nice and not too strong.

                                                                                      2. re: Savour

                                                                                        I finally got to try it, they were sampling it when I was there. Its good but really mild. I think it would benefit from being put in a glass jar with a coffee filter rubber banded over the top and left on the counter for a couple of days to ferment a bit more.

                                                                                        1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                          How long should the sauerkraut last in the fridge after it has been opened? It's hard to tell if what's left of mine smells fermented-funky or past-its-prime-funky.

                                                                                          1. re: chinchi

                                                                                            i don't know sauerkraut is bad until i see mold. ;-).