About a year and a half ago I was shopping in Trader Joe's. After tasting whatever food it was they were sampling that day (I have no memory of what it was) I realized I had gotten in the way of a man with a professional camera.
"No," a woman near him said, "we are intentionally filming people. Can I ask you a couple questions?"
Actually, that's not entirely true. I mostly said "I like the wine, cheese, and frozen pizzas because they're cheap and tasty."
"Yes," she said. "I don't think you're in it."
I wasn't necessarily planning on using these photos or telling this story, but then a couple days ago some comments were made by one of my thousands of readers in Rhode Island (okay, probably my only reader in Rhode Island) who had never been to Trader Joe's and is planning a maiden visit this weekend. So I decided to post photos of that meal, and perhaps a few more, just to give her (and anyone else) some ideas.
Trader Joe's (or rather, Trader Ming's, as they too-cutely call it) Orange Chicken is always a good staple to have in the freezer for nights when you feel like something a little nicer than tortilla chips and hot sauce (which is actually what I had last night; I was exhausted and in no mood to make any effort whatsoever). The only downside to it is that some of the chicken is dark meat - I know some people don't like that. I'm not crazy about dark meat but I don't mind it in these.
The sauce is too sweet for me so when I make it I usually crush a clove of garlic in it and add a few slugs of hot sauce and cilantro. I sometimes add water chestnuts, and usually serve it with either broccoli or snow peas. I used to eat this orange chicken at least once a week, but now I hardly every get it. You'll see why in a couple minutes.
The smoked turkey sandwich is my favorite of Trader Joe's sandwiches. Pretty much every week either Elizabeth or I take one to work with us. The turkey is high quality and is served on a ciabatta roll with a few slivers (not enough, in my opinion) of red onion and red pepper. On the side is a container of basil mayo. It almost doubles the caloric count of the sanwich (although it's still healthier than almost any fast food sandwich) but I don't care because I think it's really tasty.
Sometimes at home I will cook this sandwich on the panini press. Not surprisingly, it is even better that way.
Again, Trader "Ming's," although this time it's the Tempura Chicken. This is the reason I no longer eat the orange chicken: this is all white meat, is much higher-quality chicken, and, in my opinion, tastes much better. This is the dinner Elizabeth and I ate the other night during my two seconds of fame.
The sweet & sour sauce that comes in a little packet with the Tempura Chicken is only telling half the truth: it is very sweet, but there is no sourness to it. So, like with the orange chicken's sauce, I doctor it up with chili flakes and cilantro. The chicken crisps up beautifully in the oven and I toss it with the sauce, then serve it with broccoli and:
Vegetable Bird's Nests are one of my favorite frozen snacks at TJ's. They can cook in the oven or quickly pan-fry. When done well (these are slightly more cooked than I like) these taste like something you would get at a great sushi restaurant. There are eight in a package and I think it's costs two and a half dollars. I fully expect these to be the next item I love that disappears from TJ's, as things usually do (like their empenadas or chimichurri, both of which were some of the best I've ever had.)
Trader Joe's "Potato Pancakes" (or Latkes) are very good. I fry them up in just a few minutes. Elizabeth likes sour cream on them; I usually mix up something a little more spicy. I believe these have sour cream and chipotle sauce on them.
I've had their Fish Nuggets a couple times now and they are excellent. Although the box warns that they might contain small bones, I have yet to find one. The instructions on the box say to bake them in the oven for 15 minutes, but I choose to fry them much quicker than that. The fish is Alaskan Pollock.
Elizabeth loves their garlic fries. The bag comes with a pouch of garlic seasoning that you are supposed to defrost and toss with the fries, but we never do. The fries are just fine by themselves, baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.