Trader Joes – a mecca of frozen, affordable foods, unique twists on classics, and ridiculously cheap cheese. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, chances are you do at least part of your shopping there. It’s not great for everything, especially produce, which seems to never get perfectly ripe and wilts twice as fast as farmer’s market greens. I pick up basic essentials and ingredients elsewhere, but I love TJs for those weird items you just can’t buy anywhere else. They have a particularly good array of premade, frozen options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert which are awesome to just have on hand for those times you don’t have anything else or can’t be bothered to cook.
My list of Trader Joe’s favorites could probably go on a lot longer than five, but I figure we’ll start there and maybe do a follow-up later. Here are the items that I go out of my way to pick up from TJs:
1. Tarte d’Alsace – A French-Style Flat Bread with Ham, Caramelized Onions, & Gruyere Cheese
Not quite pizza, this frozen tart is my go-to spoil-myself-rotten treat. It’s about enough for one person, since the crust is quite thin, although I suppose you could theoretically slice it up and serve it as an appetizer. It’s not so heavy that it makes me feel ill, but it’s definitely over the top decadent and those toppings are an incredible combination.
2. Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough
Yes yes, I know pizza dough is quite easy to make, but like pie crust, sometimes it’s just not worth the time and effort. If I’m whipping up a fast meal or making a couple of pizzas with friends, I find this dough is the best way to go. It doesn’t need to rise at all, and the garlic and herbs in the crust are a mouth-watering addition.
3. Szechuan Style Beef and Broccoli
This is probably the #1 item that my boyfriend and I most consume from TJs. It’s our default dinner when there’s nothing fresh in the house or we don’t feel like cooking, plus it’s a lot cheaper than ordering Chinese. The entire thing comes together really quickly, the sauce is the perfect amount of spicy, the crunchy beef pairs perfectly with the broccoli, and because there’s plenty of veggie, we feel like we had a complete after eating it. We serve it on top of rice, and it’s the perfect amount of food for two.
4. Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Popcorn
I would be failing miserably if I didn’t include one dessert on this list, because TJ’s has no shortage of options. That being said, I’m kind of a dessert snob and prefer more high-quality, expensive ice cream, chocolate, and so forth. However this chocolate popcorn is the perfect marriage of sweet and salty, and I have yet to find an item elsewhere that compares. A year ago I binged on the stuff, and now I’m only up for it a couple of times a year – you have been warned.
5. Cornbread Mix
Closer to cake than bread, there is no doubt this is the best cornbread mix I’ve ever had. I know it’s a little less unique than the other items on the list, but it is truly that good. It’s incredibly fast like most mixes, and there are these little kernels of corn inside that give it added flavor and texture. Pro tip: finely dice a jalapeno or two and stir it into the batter to give your bread some heat.
Do you have a Trader Joe’s nearby? What are your favorite foods there?