Friday, October 5, 2012

Trader Joe's Indian Dinners (And A Whole Lot More)

It's been pretty warm and really humid for the last few days, but last week it was cool one evening and Indian food sounded great. But instead of going out for dinner, I opted to make it home. I'll tell you how I did it. 

I used to purchase Trader Joe's simmer sauces all the time, particularly the korma. Then the korma disappeared and I just stopped buying them. But I picked up the curry sauce to make this dinner.

I have never before had to trim so much fat off chicken breasts prior to cooking. I will never purchase these again.

But, since I already paid for them, I trimmed the fat, diced up the chicken, and cooked it in pan.

Then I dumped it into the slow cooker with sliced onions, the curry sauce, and 8 ounces of water. (That's what the jar recommends; personally I think that's too much and should probably be halved.)

Biryani is a curried rice made with lots of veggies, like peas and even raisins. If you don't like raisins (or if, like Elizabeth, you don't like raisins in any form except by themselves) you probably won't like this. But I loved it. I thought the sweetness of the rice worked very well with the spiciness of the curry.

Naan is a leavened, baked flatbread. I will take it over any restaurant's bread basket. And the addition of garlic to the dough makes it outstanding. If you like garlic bread but have never had naan, please try this.

The chicken curry turned out great and we finished it off, which almost never happens.

Apparently it gets even colder in New York than the low-60s we experienced last week, so I plan to make this much more frequently over the winter.

I have not had a microwave for six months, and 99% of the time I don't miss it. But there are a few things for which the microwave is perfect. A breakfast burrito is one of those things. The instructions for cooking this in the oven were to bake it unwrapped for ten minutes and then wrap it in foil for another 20 or so.

What happened was predictable: the tortilla was crispy by the time the insides were heated and the whole thing was devoid of moisture. It wasn't bad, just extremely bland. I added sour cream and Taco Lita hot sauce, and that helped, but not enough to overcome the baking. I would be glad to purchase these again if I ever get a new microwave, but not until then (which may be never).

I don't know if there is really any difference in the kinds of frozen, shredded hash browns you buy. These TJ's hash browns, which I ate with scrambled eggs and bacon, were very good... but so are all the frozen hash browns I make. I guess I'm not the right person to judge these.

It's been many years since I've tried the Spizzico di Pizza so I thought I'd give the mini pizzas another try. They are dry and not very flavorful (until I added Texas Champagne). I would serve these at a party or in another situation with lots of people where everyone can eat one or two, but as far as cooking them for myself (or myself and Elizabeth), they get boring after a couple. And there are 12 in the box.

I ate these stir-fry vegetables by themselves, and they were good, but they needed a little something else. Next time I will toss them with rice or maybe whip up an Asian sauce to pour over them. 

I like all kinds of salad, but when I buy a bag, I usually like it simple. And this is very simple: iceberg, romaine, red cabbage. Perfect. If I want more flavors, like cilantro or corn, I can add them myself. 

I actually didn't know what carbonara means until I looked it up after buying these. (As you can probably tell, I'm a much bigger fan of Asian and South American cuisines than I am European.) It's a pasta dish based on cheese and bacon, both things I love, even if pasta itself bores me. But raviolis are all right, so I boiled these, thinking that if I did not like the flavor I could just add a red sauce. But it turned out I loved the flavor. I could only barely taste the pork, but the cheese ravioli were very nice.


These little morsels have been on the blog before, but I don't believe they have ever been featured in a Trader Joe's post. And they deserve that, because they are great. Baked in the oven for 25 minutes, they turn out with a crispy pastry shell, creamy delicious cheese, and caramelized onions. I have made these quite a few times when friends have come over, and they always disappear. I don't believe I have ever heard someone say he or she did not like these. 

Piave is an Italian cow's-milk cheese with a strong nutty flavor, similar to Parmesan. As the cheese ages, the intensity of the flavor grows. Oro del Tempo is the most mature variety of this cheese, aged more than 12 months. If you like intense flavors (I love them) you will probably like this cheese. I ate it all in one afternoon, not counting the piece my cat absconded with when I went into the kitchen for ten seconds.

Like the simmer sauces that started off this post, Trader Joe's sausages are something I used to eat a fair amount but no longer do, for no particular reason. But, when wandering around TJ's the other day, I felt like sausage. I opted to get the variety with garlic and fontina, though after grilling two of them, I did not taste any garlic. They were actually rather bland. (Maybe that's why I stopped buying them.)

I added some chipotle mustard, which was a nice complement. I will give another flavor of sausages a try one of these days, but I think I will go back to not buying these.

I have a fondness for the silliness of Halloween. I have not dressed in costume for more than two decades - well, I guess I did go to a party as Max Fisher when I was 23, now that I think about it - but I still enjoy the day. (Probably because I love October and Halloween is a big part of the month.) So when I saw these candies by the checkout, I picked up a bag.

They weren't very good. I did not like them; Elizabeth hated them. Oh well. At least they're kind of cute. 

I realize that a $2.99 crab and corn chowder isn't going to contain a lot of crab, but even I was shocked at how little was in this: I tasted it in one bite. Maybe there was more than one piece in the container (then again, maybe not) but I sure didn't taste any more than that. Now, that being said, it was pretty tasty. I would buy it again and hope for more crab. And if there isn't, well, it's only $2.99. (I'm also not opposed to buying a container of this and some lump crab meat and combining the two.)

I was going to write a little about chutneys, but then I realized it's all right there on the container. So I photographed it to let you read about it, because, well, I've been working on this post for more than an hour and now I'm feeling lazy. 

This chutney was surprisingly spicy with plain bread, and one evening when we were having fries I mixed the chutney with ketchup, which was a very good dip. I would definitely get this again.

Last night I was again in the mood for Indian, so I thought I'd make something else to write about. 

The masala simmer sauce is a much milder flavor than the curry sauce, but still tasty.

I sliced up a Vidalia onion, cubed a potato, and cooked two diced chicken breasts in a pan, then added all of them to the slow cooker.

Onto that went the masala sauce and a quarter-cup of water. I left it alone for six hours.

This is what it looked like six hours later. The chicken fell apart, the potatoes and onions softened, and the smells were wonderful.

I added some fresh cilantro and served it up. 

 It wasn't as good as the curry (or the vindaloo and korma sauces used to be) but it was still delicious.

Malabari paratha looks a little like naan, but it is quite different. Besides being made with a different kind of flour, milk and sugar are also used, lending a sweetness to the flaky dough. I don't like this quite as much as naan (though Elizabeth does) but it's still delicious. The only thing I don't like about it is that somehow one little tortilla-size piece is 290 calories. I don't know where the hell the calories come from, but that seems like a whole lot. Still, I don't have any trouble eating at least two of them.

That's it for this round of Trader Joe's products. Have a good weekend. There are lots of great football games tomorrow so I promise there will be plenty of good eats.


Anonymous said...

I am also a big korma fan. Whole Foods carries a jar of korma (I believe Pataki is the brand) that is quite good.

The rice looked good but I feel the same way about raisins that E does.

Michelle said...

Sweet I was hoping I'd get a long TJ's read today!

Bekah said...

Awesome. Just called my coworker (who lives next to TJ) over, and asked her to stop at TJ's at lunch and pick up those feta/onion bites. Sounds fabulous.

Question: why do you cook your chicken before putting it in the slow cooker? I just leave mine raw. Just wondering... Thanks!

JustinM said...

Great question. When I am making chicken breasts that go into something else - like pulled chicken sandwiches or quesadillas or what have you, I put the chicken in raw and let it cook.

But when it's a whole meal cooking in the pot, like a curry or chili or stew, I brown the chicken first. (It's not really completely cooked, just seared around the edges.) I can't tell you exactly why I do this - maybe it's because I want to be able to sample the meal throughout the afternoon without fear that the chicken isn't cooked, or maybe I just get weirded out by the idea of raw chicken in the curry/masala sauce.

Lee Ann said...

Thanks for the TJ's blog! I'm going Sunday and will try the curry and naan, unless the Rangers lose tonight, in which case I'll pick up a few tubs of their frozen Mac and cheese

Anonymous said...

another great mega post, pp. thanks

Unknown said...

Nothing new for like 2 days! How do you expect me to live like this....last night I went back to read really old posts haha

Anonymous said...

Things that look good: the Fancy bagel bites, caramelized onion bites, italian cheese, ravioli, stir fried veggies and chowder.

I would've cooked that chicken breast in some sesame oil, spices, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and then add the stir fry veggies, served with white rice.

I could use the frozen stir fry veggies when making fried rice.

We usually order roast pork chinese take out and add it to the homemade fried rice with lots of big shrimp, scallions,onions,sprouts,peas.

mw said...

bagel bites...thats what I was thinking too.

Liz said...

Those malabari paratha things were delicious! I could have just had those and been happy.

Also, a note to raisins, you have your place and it is not in rice or cole slaw, it is in tiny little snack-size boxes, or covered in chocolate. Fin.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I just bought the Curry Simmer Sauce and was wondering if it's hot... I'm going to mix with Coconut milk and see how that goes.