Sunday, October 15, 2006

Slumming The Golden Arches

I love this article because it's all about eating at McDonald's when you are in a foreign country because at least it is familiar. And how this phenomena (Globalization anyone) is mostly due to the fact that McDonald's are everywhere now so even non-American travelers stop in McDonald's when they want some comfort. I totally did this recently when I was in Geneva. I was traveling in this beautiful city on the northern side of Lake Geneva called Lausanne, spending my day walking through the ancient medieval streets, exploring the cities cathedral and I was frickin' hungry. And it was 5pm so of course nothing was open for dinner. So I settled for a $20 Big Mac that wasn't that good but at least I knew exactly what I was getting and it was open at 5pm.

Here's the link to the article on Yahoo News. But I will give you a little taste to wet your appetite.

This month marks the beginning of student-travel season in Europe, which means that — at any given moment — continental McDonald's restaurants will be filled with scores of American undergraduates. Quiz these young travelers, and they'll give you a wide range of reasons for seeking out McDonald's — the clean restrooms, the air conditioning, the fact that it's the only place open during festivals or siesta. A few oddballs will even claim they are there for the food.

European onlookers will tell you (with a slight sneer) that these peripatetic Yanks are simply seeking the dull, familiar comforts American culture. And this explanation might be devastatingly conclusive were it not for the fact that European McDonald's also happen to be crammed this time of year with travelers from Japan, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Argentina, Korea, Canada, India, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and — yes — neighboring European countries.

Beware Of Baby Spinach

Well I haven't posted in a while (well okay 4 months) and the real reason is that I've essential stopped cooking dinner in my household which if anyone knows me that is totally my dream come true. I have a second roomate (do people count their boyfriends as roomates? mine is because he annoys me just like a roomate haha just kidding) that does the cooking at night during the week. And seriously he doesn't ever have to leave. No, seriously.

But this New York Times article about the recent E Coli scare was really interesting because it talked about the dangers of a centralized food economy. The author's all about the local food movement as a National Security Effort. I can see a Republican's head spinning right now.

But there’s nothing sentimental about local food — indeed, the reasons to support local food economies could not be any more hardheaded or pragmatic. Our highly centralized food economy is a dangerously precarious system, vulnerable to accidental — and deliberate — contamination. This is something the government understands better than most of us eaters. When Tommy Thompson retired from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2004, he said something chilling at his farewell news conference: “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.” The reason it is so easy to do was laid out in a 2003 G.A.O. report to Congress on bioterrorism. “The high concentration of our livestock industry and the centralized nature of our food-processing industry” make them “vulnerable to terrorist attack.” Today 80 percent of America’s beef is slaughtered by four companies, 75 percent of the precut salads are processed by two and 30 percent of the milk by just one company. Keeping local food economies healthy — and at the moment they are thriving — is a matter not of sentiment but of critical importance to the national security and the public health, as well as to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Here's a link to the rest of the article. It was written by Michael Pollan who's book The Omnivore's Dilema is in the save for later section of my shopping cart. It keeps getting pushed to the side for a new science fiction book I really really really want to read (hey I'm just being honest about the fact that non-fiction still feels like homework or brushing your teeth you know it's good for you but still).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Banner! Bourgeois Products...Proletariat Prices!

code in case you want it: <a href=""><img src="
bourgeois%20products%20copy.jpg"/ ></a>

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Nutty Nutritionist

I was watching my post-Idol, post-House, post-Law and Order SVU, post-Veronica Mars (at least for part of the season jesus Tuesday was a big night for me and Charto for a while) show, My Life On The D-list, tonight. Kathy Griffin as a poor-man's Ryan Seacrest, she would find that rich. I love the feud between her and Ryan, because most guys in my life, no matter how gay they find Seacrestina (TM Television Without Pity) and they mostly do still find him gay, side 100% with Ryan in the feud. Guys just do not like Kathy. Except of course for her gays.

Anyway, she's trying to lose 10 pounds for some stupid article that Star Magazine is doing and she hired this guy that the TV show captioned "The Nutty Nutriotionist." So I spent about 5 minutes googling the nutty nutritionist, before I figured out that probably wasn't his brand name, it was just the silly caption that the wacky producers used. Although The Nutty Nutritionist is kind of a funny name for a nutritionist.

But he didn't seem particularily funny. He advised Kathy to eat lots of twigs and berries, and he brought her a bag of groceries from Trader Joe's. In one of those hippy paper bags that I hate so much. Why do they keep pushing those awful paper bags? Those seriously have to be bad for the environment, just think of all the trees that give their life for those extra thick Trader Joe's paper bags.

I'm still waiting for TJs to make it mandatory that their customers bring their own bags. They are getting one step closer to that goal by giving everyone who brings their own bags in a chance to enter a raffle. I've entered that damn raffle three times and I don't think they have done the drawing yet. What is up with that TJs? You are just giving away a bag of groceries, which can't be more than $30. Unless some packs their groceries filled with really expensive steaks.

I do need to take a moment to acknowledge Kartik, who commented back awhile on my post about the canvas bags. Yup you were totally right about the canvas bags. They have totally gotten gross. I finally had to retire two of them to the laundry. And there is probably no laundry detergent that is actually going to clean them up that well. So I'm just going to have to tote around grungy canvas bags. And get snooty looks from all the dirty rich hippies that shop at the Toluca Lake Trader Joe's.

But back to my girl Kathy. The second best moment in the episode, after seeing the shout out to TJs? Kathy's parents bring over all these delivious baked goods from, yup, you guessed it, the best bakery in the Valley, Porto's. A perfect day is dinner from TJs (carnitas which is my favorite TJs food and is fitting since Porto's is a cuban bakery) and dessert from Porto's (the chocolate croissant is really the only dessert I've tried and it is awesome). And if TJs and Porto's combines forces they would be unstoppable and take over the world.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Menu Mondays! (6-12)

6/11 -6/17

Lunch: Porto's - If you haven't been to Porto's and you live anywhere in the area of a Porto's (Burbank or Glendale) you need to go to Porto's. And get the Cubano, the tuna melt and /or the turkey melt.

Dinner: Pot Roast and Potatoes w/Vegis - The pot roast was delicious as always from Trader Joe's. Usually I have a problem with it being a little too dry, but for some unknown reason it wasn't dry last night and I didn't feel the need to add any sauce. And the potatoes and vegis (stir fried for about 8 minutes) are so delicious that I need to remember to get them more often. Don't worry I will devote a whole post to their deliciousness.

Pad Thai with tofu - ah one of my favorite TJs frozen dinners. I wish I had remembered to pick up the frozen jasmine rice, that always makes a nice compliment to the heaviness of pad thai, but this frozen pad thai is good on its own. Actually typing about it is reminding me that I'm hungry. Hold on a second. Okay I'm back to finish posting while the microwave does all the cooking for me. Thank you Mr. Microwave. Although I do need to put a little effort into the assembly of the spinach salad.

Stuffed Bell Peppers - perennial TJs powerhouse. I haven't had it in a while so it was time to bring it back. Along with a spinach salad.

Penne with meatballs - cheap penne and cheap but tasty meatballs. Although I do need to pick up more spaghetti sauce.

Tri-Tip in Korean BBQ sauce - I haven't had this one yet, but I found it in my favorite category, "pre-packaged ready to eat after only a few minutes of microwaving meats" (see Pot Roast and Carnitas in that category). I'll cross my fingers that it tastes as delicious as I'm hoping it will. But I've never been let down before in the "pre-packaged ready to eat after only a few minutes of microwaving meats."

Out? My favorite item on the menu, going out to eat. Why cook when someone else can do it for me and do it so much better? Ah, spoken like a true Jewish American Princess.

Lunch: Lasagna - one of my favorites that I haven't had in a while.
Dinner: Salmon in a bag - another one of my favorites that I haven't had in a while. Boy that two month break from cooking was good because now I get to eat all of my favorites again. Delicious pad thai is beckoning me from the microwave so that's all for now.

Regular Features Oh Yeah! (everyone please contain your excitement)

To take a page from the blog, I've decided to try to post regular features on the days of the week so people know to check back (especially the people who have no idea was an RSS feed is to tell them that I've posted new posts).

Here's what I've come up with so far

Mondays: Menu Mondays! where I post my menu for the week and talk a little about what I cooked over the weekend

Wednesdays: New Banners Are Up To Get You Over The Hump! where I post new banners that I have made around funny TJs quotes

Fridays: Food and Heating Up™ Recipes (because I have half-day Fridays so I have more time to work on these posts)

Well hopefully I will see more of you here because of the regular features (and not just because I send emails out to people reminding them to check out the blog whenever Fearless Flyers come out)

Supermarket Sleuth

Okay how awesome is this, a day after deciding that I'm going to open up my blog to talking about food and eating in general (along with the primary focus on Trader Joe's, can't hurt the feelings of my beloved Joe), a great article appears in Salon about shopping in American supermarkets.

Jun. 12, 2006 | If you've seen "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's hilarious documentary about fast food, you've already met Marion Nestle. She's the only person in the movie who is able to offer a coherent definition of a calorie.

Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food science and public health at New York University, has long been a leading critic of the salty, fatty, sugary junk that passes for food in America, and especially the way it's hawked to kids. She blasts the U.S. government for allowing the food industry to determine public health policy on everything from the food pyramid to transfats. And her books, such as "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health," have inspired such fear and trembling from Big Food that she's been smeared as a "diet scold" and, even more feverishly, as "one of the country's most hysterical anti-food-industry fanatics."

Nestle's new book, "What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating," brings her analysis of food politics into the grocery store, giving shoppers advice on what to buy and what to leave on the shelves. Armed with a notebook and calculator, Nestle spent a year in the field -- or, in this case, the produce, beverage, cereal and dairy aisles -- making observations about what's actually being sold. She came away stunned at the blizzard of choices offered up in the average Safeway or Kroger, and how easy it is for consumers to be bamboozled by marketing messages masquerading as nutritional data.

Read the entire article here.

I'm actually interested in seeing what advice Nestle give's on shopping in the typcial Safeway or Kroger (or in my case Vons and Albertsons). The silliest observation (and I've always wondered if it means anything) that I always have after a shopping trip to Vons vs. a shopping trip to Trader Joe's is how brightly colored and cheerful and fakely excited (Low Fat! Half The Fat! Half the Sugar! Half the fat none of the sugar!) all my foods are that I buy from Vons. The Trader Joe's food never screams at me. And it is usually in tastefully muted colored packages, browns and oranges and blues. Are those the colors of soothing organic farmers? I wonder if TJs did any focus groups with organic food buyers and found out that brown and blue were their favorite colors (hey I'm a market research I have to wonder)

I mean just compare the bag of Roasted & Salted In-The-Shell Virginia peanuts that I bought at TJs to the typical jar of Skippy peanut butter. Don't get me wrong I love bright orange and teal together as a color combo, just maybe not on my food. My TJs peanuts are in a clear bag with a pretty dark blue painting of the sun rising over a river next to a field where I assume that peanuts are grown (are peanuts nuts from trees? grown in a field? who knows they are so delicious, sorry to mock your peanut allergy, Nancy).

But really if you buy the main argument that most food is marketed to kids (and to the kid in all of us) then it makes sense that our foods are packaged in cheery bright fake colors. I never feel good about bringing home all that fake happy packaging because I know that most of it I shouldn't be eating. Yes I'll admit that this weekend Paul and I had an accidental overdose of El Monterey Taquitos in a happy red package that if I had really read closely I would have seen that my taquitos were now 50% LARGER which seriously when you factor in the fact that we didn't even need to overdose on taquitos in the first place did we really need taquitos that were 50% larger?

Well the taquitos just went in the trash, the happy red packaging just went in the recycling and I'm going to renew my pledge to eat only foods that come packaged in muted earth tones.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chez Panisse

Okay note to everyone, I think that I'm going to morph this blog into something where I primarily talk about Trader Joe's but also every once an a while talk about food and eating in general. Because most of the interesting blogs that I've been reading (and I've been reading a bunch because I'm trying to get Blogistan to take notice of Paul's band Dialtone, jesus who knew there were so many flippin' blogs?) post everyday on something. And that something isn't always related to the topic. Although most music blogs are pretty general (I like Indie Rock more than you, you stupid hipster fucks) so something can usually relate back to their blogs. And really all I've got in my title is Trader Joes, so I'm a little limited. Except of course if I change the about this blog statement. Hee.

Back to the title of this post. Has anyone out their heard of Chez Panisse? If you are from the Bay Area, you probably know about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. She's totally a celebrity up there. She's this chef who opened this restaurant called Chez Panisse in 1971 and it's really awesome. Or something. I'm not sure if I have actually gone to it. I go to a lot of snooty patootie restaurants in the Bay Area because my aunt Marlene lives up there and she's a foody and me and my family would always visit her and go to really yummy tasty expensive but socially concious restaurants. And then we would go to the exact same restaurants in Los Angeles but they wouldn't be socially concious, they would mostly just have a couple of D-list celebrities hanging around hoping to get off the D-list (shout out to Kathy Griffin whose new show is on Bravo again check it out).

Again back to the title of this post. I was reading the in-flight magazine on Delta back in April and there was this long article about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse and this foundation she has started called the Chez Panisse Foundation. Through the magic of google you can read the article here. Jesus what did we do before the Internet and cell phones? The article talks about her edible schoolyard program which I will let them explain better than I ever could:

The Edible Schoolyard, in collaboration with Martin Luther King Junior Middle School, provides urban public school students with a one-acre organic garden and a kitchen classroom. Using food systems as a unifying concept, students learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare nutritious seasonal produce. Experiences in the kitchen and garden foster a better understanding of how the natural world sustains us, and promote the environmental and social well being of our school community.
Aw I really like that idea, gets kids thinking about the environment and eating and the community all in one. I'm totally inspired by this idea so now I have to think of more ways to get involved other than just donating a portion of my paycheck. Which is really the easiest way since I'm lazy and barely able to make dinner for myself on a regular basis, so I think I'm going to start slow and give money and think of the edible school yard every time I harvest fresh food from my local Trader Joe's and cook it myself (or have help from the microwave).

See technically this post really is about Trader Joes.

The bioregion hippy jam band

Does Trader Joe's count as harvesting food locally? They seem like the type of grocery store that purchases locally. Like does everyone remember that post that I wrote about the Gala Apple Juice that was farmed up in Oregon or Washington (is there really any difference between those two states? Ha! Just Kidding! Not Really! or in internet speak H!JK!NR!) Well whatever Oregon and Washington are in my mind local.

Food Ways | Eat Where You Live

Last year, Jessica Prentice and Dede Sampson, Bay Area chefs, and Sage Van Wing, a writer, started Locavores, a group in San Francisco dedicated to eating foods grown within a 100-mile radius of home (like the yogurt above). In an attempt to raise awareness about the globalization of the food supply, members invite people to register online ( and to eat locally for at least one month out of the year. MELISSA CERIA

Okay I went and checked out the website. I like some of their ideas, especially about how we use lots and lots of fuel to transport food. And they have my favorite term, bioregion. That should definitely be the name of a hippy jam band. I'm not sure if I can actually do that locavore (I'm just so damn lazy when it comes to food, I'm lucky if I make it to Trader Joe's instead of Del Taco) but it's something to aim for.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


How much do I heart Trader Joe's and their special collector's ediction fearless flyer? If you didn't get one in the mail (and shame on you for not signing up for the Fearless Flyer) you can download one here. It's a little different state by state so apologies to the California folks (TJs took down the Cali fearless flyer rather soon although I will be honest and admit that this post is about a month late)

The special collector's edition fearless flyer features the top one-hundred and four (oh TJs aren't you wacky?) products as judged by their tasting panel. Which gives me an idea, I wonder what it would take to be on their tasting panel? That would be such a cool job. And I could send them a link to this blog as an example of my passion about TJs products.

The cutest most "California-Liberal-Hippy-Don't-Want-To-Offend-Anyone" thing about the special collector's edition is that they didn't want to put the list in any particular order, "to be fair." Aw. Did they think that the wasabi peas would be hurt that they were #104? Well luckily I'm not too much of a hippy ... here are my top 20 choices from the special collector's edition, IN ORDER, and wasabi peas, they made it to number 19. Hey, they are no carnitas (but don't tell em that I said that)

1. Carnitas – this is number one on my list because it’s my go to TJs meal. Anytime that I can’t think of something to get from TJs, I just get Carnitas, their enchilada sauce, number 2, number 3 and I have a delicious meal. Seriously this Carnitas is so tasty and easy to make that I’m surprised other grocery chains haven’t picked this up.

2. Avocado’s Number Guacamole – 5 avocadoes go into this guacamole and I’m not really sure why they even call it guacamole, since it’s really just mushed up Avocados. But that’s the type of guac that I love best. You will need to add flavors and spices to this “guac” if you are into that sort of thing. But I prefer just to pile it high on top of my Carnitas wrapped in handmade flour tortillas.

3. Truly Handmade Flour Tortillas – I’m not a big tortillas connoisseur but I knew I was on to something when even Paul asked where I got those handmade tortillas. These things are tasty, the only problem is that most of the time when you go to TJs they are gone, so snap them up right when you see them

4. Greek Yogurt – aw, the great Greek yogurt as anyone knows holds a special place in my heart for being my very first post to I heart TJs. This stuff is awesome and no you don’t have to buy the expensive kind (shout out to Cassandra) the private label stuff is just as good, trust me.

5. Peach Halves in White Grape Juice – again, what would I do without my peach halves in white grape juice? I’d seriously never ever ever eat peaches because I hate that gross furry peach fuzz stuff. But I love me the floating peach halves. Taste great in the Greek yogurt or buy themselves or with ice cream.

6. Fire roasted veggies w/ Balsamic Butter sauce – yummy these sure are tasty. I love anything that makes vegetables taste a little more tasty and this balsamic butter sauce does the trick.

7. Organic Three Cheese Pizza – all of TJs frozen pizzas are delicious (shout out to KrisTIN). This one is a nice simple snack of a thin crust pizza and delicious cheese. I like the suggestion to use it as a blank slate and add your own toppings. Maybe I can put some prosciutto on this (see number 16)

8. Super sweet canned corn – this stuff is great and it’s nice to just have around in your pantry along with the organic pinto beans just in case you have Mexican food night (see numbers 1, 2, and 3 above)

9. Roma Tomatoes – my least favorite thing about tomatoes is all the tomato water and seeds that always sprays out when you are slicing them. My favorite thing about roma tomatoes? Less water and seeds that spray out when you are slicing them than the average tomato.

10. Penne from Italy – this is really tasty penne and the price! 69 cents! Beat that Barilla! (that’s the pasta that I usually get when I go to those other grocery stores)

11. Vanilla almond clusters – I do really love this cereal but mostly it made the list since Paul luuuuuuuuuuuuuvs this cereal. And it didn’t make it higher on the list because I feel like the flake to cluster ratio isn’t as strong as I would like it to be. Thank god for cereal mixing (TM those kids in the college dining hall that taught me the magic of cheerios and lucky charms). I usually buy a big ol’ box of TJs Corn Flakes and add more flakes to my Vanilla Almond Clusters. TJs also has a whole line of cluster cereals (cranberry, raisin, you get the idea) so don’t just limit yourself to the vanilla almond, although that really is the tastiest.

12. Penne Peppernata – this stuff is soooooooooooo delicious. The only problem is that the bag is about 1000 calories which is sad because I’ve totally accidentally eaten the entire bag once because it is so delicious. So I’m just saying you have to watch out on this one.

13. Tuna Salad Sandwich on Pretzel bread – I love me the tuna sandwiches (seriously I think I get a tuna sandwich from Subway about once a week, should I be worried about the mercury? isn't mercury a suppliment in some parts of the world?) and the extra special thing about the TJs tuna sandwich is the pretzel bread which is super duper tasty.

14. Slice Muenster Cheese – I’m starting to detect a common theme here, TJs does all the work for me in the kitchen so I can enjoy my favorite foods without having to lift a slicer. Muenster Cheese sure is yummy but it’s so much tastier when it comes pre-sliced

15. Mandarin Oranges- these little puppies are a must have when you get the TJs Chinese Chicken Salad, they add color and a zesty taste

16. Prosciutto – I never knew about prosciutto until TJs (sorry Dad) but this stuff is good, way better than Oscar Meyer ham in water.

17. Diced Onions in a Zipper Bag – no slicing of the onions? Are you kidding? I don’t even cook with onions that often but because they now come pre-sliced, maybe I will.

18. Complete Spinach Salad Kit – seriously who makes salad from scratch anymore? Okay my dad and probably millions of other people who haven’t discovered the magic of salad kits. But I have to be honest sometimes I still buy the individual parts of salad kits because I like to have more servings than the kit offers, that’s why this wasn’t higher on the list.

19. Wasabi Peas – these little suckers are addictive, but I needed to take a break for a couple of months because I couldn’t stop eating them. Wasabi + Peas = delicious. Try em. Seriously I know they sound weird but you might like em and they are a relatively low calorie snack.

20. Fresh Cut Mango – again with the less work to eat a fruit that is just so tasty. I don’t think I’ve even ever thought about cutting up a mango in my life. Which would be a wonderful life skill if I ever got stranded on a tropical island through a mysterious magnetic force that pulled my airplane to its doom (Lost). But since I try to avoid flying over water, I’ll let TJs cut my mangoes for me.

The Junk Food Jihad

I'm back! Actually I never went anywhere (well okay I did travel a lot for work), I just went through a non-cooking period, which happens to me from time to time. See I just really really really don't like cooking that much. So I use any ol' excuse not to cook and for the past couple of months I've been traveling for work and I got some bad headaches and Mercury was in retrograde (okay that last one wasn't true but it sure sounds like a reason not to cook).

So now I'm going to try to jump back on the cooking bandwagon. I feel like an addict who had a relapse (I'm sorry! No more Del Taco! I promise!) Actually I did have a moment where Paul and I paid $16 for Del Taco and surprise surprise it wasn't that good. And I could have gotten filet mignon for $12 and some green beans and mashed potatoes for another couple of bucks to make a very tasty meal. I made a birthyear resolution to make more of an effort to connect with food (through taking more time to cook, shopping more often, buying fresh foods rather than fast foods) instead of just quickly consuming it, like I usually do. Does that sound pretty California hippy dippy or what?

I've also gotten into the idea lately of how Americans are always at war with their food. The war on obesity. The battle of the bulge. The Junk Food Jihad. Food = bad. How many times have people said to you that they've eaten something that they know they shouldn't have, with a slightly gleefully/guilty look in their eye? And then they of course talk about going to the gym to work off the calories. Blech. I'm tired of exercising just to pay off all the cheeseburgers that I've had in my life. I want to exercise because it feels good (swimming) or it's fun (tennis) and I want to eat because I enjoy it. Crazy, no? I guess the real problem (and the problem for most of America) comes in when I don't feel like exercising enough but I do feel like eating In N' Out.

Okay well one more post and then I need to decide whether or not to go for a walk or get a cheeseburger. Well maybe I can combine the best of both worlds and walk to In N' Out. Heehee.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

An Insider's Guide To Trader Joe's

Wow there have been so many articles about Trader Joe's lately I have hardly had any time to blog about the Trader Joe's food, or even shop there, or Heat Up™ my Trader Joe's food, because I'm spending so much time reading those articles.

Of course I'm overjoyed at all the wonderful press that Trader Joe's is getting over opening a grocery store in New York. But seriously you would think that this was the second coming of grocery stores, the way that the New York Times and Slate has been covering it. While three or four articles isn't too excessive, it's the tone of the articles, the excitement over Trader Joe's, the spreading of the TJvolution! I guess it's always a little suprising when something that I'm really excited about other people are excited about too... a little suprising and weird...

The recent Slate article is filled to the brim with fantastic Trader Joe's tips, but I thought that I would share the best of them:
Adopt a Soviet Mentality. This is the first thing nearly every regular TJ's shopper mentions: Products appear suddenly, work their way into your daily routine, and then disappear with no warning. Example: no-boil lasagna noodles. Here one day, gone for months. If you really like something, hoard it. You never know when it will vanish.

The Shopping-List Guarantee. If you go to TJ's with a shopping list for a dinner party or even a moderately complex recipe, you are guaranteed to leave the store without finding at least one item on the list. Just accept the fact that you will have to hit one or two other stores on the way home. This raises a bigger issue: TJ's has great prices on many staples, and it's easy to forget that its selection is tiny compared to a real supermarket. It is not a one-stop shopping solution.

Health Food. Trader Joe's is mindful of the ingredients it allows in its products, and the number of organic items has increased noticeably in recent years. However, good ingredients do not a healthy diet make. TJ's offers a bodacious and promiscuously displayed selection of sweets—big tubs of cookies, myriad frozen desserts, and chocolate-covered everything (blueberries, for example). It takes a strong-willed shopper to leave the store without a few thousand empty calories hidden at the bottom of the bag.

More Bags Per Dollar. Here's a fun one, New Yorkers. I'll be surprised if, within your first few shops at TJ's, you don't find yourself at the register thinking, Wow, that was cheaper than I expected. How often does that happen at Whole Foods?

Produce Roulette. Most of the fresh fruit comes packaged in plastic containers. You can't buy just one apple—you buy a box of four, preselected by TJ's. While the fruits are often quite good, it won't shock you to learn that, in the experience of my panel, packages of four tend to include at least one clinker.

Weird Products. To TJ's credit, it stocks many unusual and intriguing products, but if you're not careful you'll need to build an extra cabinet to hold all the stuff you toss in the cart and never use. My wife is sure she had a plan for that big bag of rice flour when she bought it, but damned if she can remember what it was …

Friday, March 10, 2006

I Heart NY

Just thought I'd through a little love to Milton Glaser, the graphic desinger who designed the very famous I Heart NY design. Which I've totally ripped off for my I Heart TJs design, mostly because I couldn't think of anything better. And now that I've found the orginal, I see how nice his heart is (mine was some dumb heart that I made in Photoshop) and I'm a little jealous of his mad graphic designer skillz.

For more about the I Heart NY design, try this link:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For Trader Joe's, a New York Taste Test

A great article on all about Trader Joe's. The cult phenomena is spreading! And I love this paragraph because it acknowledges the weirdness/dorkiness of loving TJs: small stores, odd selection and people who like to be entertained and educated about what they eat.

The stores are small, the selection is uneven and the corporate culture can be described as dorky. But because its products are often not available anywhere else; because they mysteriously appear, disappear, then reappear on the shelves; or perhaps simply because they often taste very, very good, Trader Joe's has become tremendously popular among Americans who like to be entertained and educated by what they eat, as well as nourished by it.

There's also a section of the article where they acknowledge how Trader Joe's is helping thousands of people who hate cooking eat "home cooked meals". Trader Joe's call is "speed scratch" cooking, but I like to refer to it as Heating Up™. Plus that little ™ is just funnier.

Trader Joe's has also guided its customers into the world of prepared food and precut vegetables — what Mr. Rauch, the president, calls "speed scratch" cooking. "Trader Joe's customers are people who really care about cooking," he said, "but like everyone else in America, they don't feel like they have time to chop all the vegetables, cook the chicken and make the dessert — but they want to be in the kitchen." The stores stock lots of things like precut butternut squash and beets, "simmer sauces" that make quick stews, and marinated salmon fillets packaged with fresh herbs in oven-ready cooking bags. "We are very careful about marinades," Mr. Sloan said solemnly. "Dill can be very polarizing."
Okay I'm dying that Mr. Sloan says that dill can be very polarizing. In market research we call anything polarizing if some people like it and some people hate it. Polarizing is becoming a non-word, just like edgy. Plus I think I'm going to have to immortalize Mr. Sloan's words in a banner. Plus he's talking about my favorite TJs item, the Salmon In A Bag (With The Polarizing Dill Sauce). I'm glad they decided to go with the dill sauce, who knew that dill was so polarizing? Although actually now that I type this, I think Paul doesn't really like dill at all. Seriously what's wrong with you people who don't like dill? It's a pretty bland spice but a very unique taste. I can't say enough about dill.

And the best part about the article, it mentions the first Trader Joe's on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena. Oh yeah, I see a pilgramage in the future. Mayhaps the first Trader Joe's podcast will be recorded at the first Trader Joe's? Look for it in the near future folks!

And yes I will try to get an exclusive interview for my upcoming podcasts with my New York friend Gabe, who is familar with Trader Joe's because he's lived in California for a couple of years, on how the New York version of Trader Joe's is fairing.

You can read the whole article on website here: (special thanks to Tia for pointing out the article!)

The Wal-Mart of Burritos

Okay so technically this article on Slate, The Wal-Mart of Burritos, is about Chipotle. I heart Chipotle, so I'm going to blog about the article. Trader Joe's is mentioned in the article so I feel I can justify the post.

There are many factors driving increased restaurant patronage. With people working longer hours and seeking greater convenience, taking out—or eating out—makes more sense. Time is money. And for many people, eating out can save time on cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The growth of a dining and food culture has also meant that the cost differential between restaurants and home cooking has narrowed, especially for Bobos who buy produce, meats, and precious specialty items at Whole Foods, Balducci's, and Trader Joe's.

I love that paragraph because it addresses the fundamental guilt that I have from eating out versus cooking. See for the price of one mediocre meal in LA, you can buy a week's worth of groceries. But you also need to factor in how much it "costs" mental for me to cook, if you hate cooking like I do. I hate cooking, I hate planning it, I hate preparing it, cutting things up, making a mess, I hate eating my own cooking because it's usually really bland, and I really really really hate cleaning up.

I guess the point the paragraph is really trying to make is that shopping at Trader Joe's can be just as expensive as eating out, which I kind of agree with. So when you do a price analysis, one meal at a mediocre restaurant can get you a couple of days of groceries from Trader Joe's and a weeks worth of groceries from Vons.

My Heating Up™ method of "cooking" Trader Joe's prepared foods probably isn't that much cheaper than eating at Subway or Chipotle but it's still cheaper than eating at mediocre sit-down restaurants. And it helps me feel like I'm "cooking" and not going out to eat all the time. Because even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn't go out to eat all the time. But I would probably hire a personal chef.

You can read the entire Slate article on Chipotle and the rise of the restaurants at:

Friday, March 03, 2006

Salmon In A Bag

Okay I talked a little about Salmon In A Bag in my fearless flyer post. But Salmon In A Bag is so awesome that I need to post about it. Plus I heard a pretty funny radio commercial on Salmon In A Bag where the Trader Joe's guy talked about the phobia associated with cooking salmon. Which seriously I have. It's more a fish cooking phobia where the fish usually tastes okay but I'm not a huge fan of fish so okay isn't really good enough.

I'll be the first to admit that Salmon In A Bag is not necessarily the best name. And a quick double check of my last post reveals that it's actually called "Boneless Skinless Salmon Fillets in a Cooking bag" which sounds a little better but not that much better. But seriously this is the best tasting salmon I've ever had, including Salmon In A Restaurant. It comes out of the bag really tender and delicious and doesn't taste that fishy at all. And the best part of course is that it doesn't stink up my entire kitchen and I don't have a gross pan to clean up afterwards.

The one drawback is that when I grill salmon, it gets this yummy crispy crunchy skin. That doesn't happen when you cook Salmon In A Bag In A Microwave. But I will definitely give up the yummy crispy crunchy skin thing for all the things that I gain.

I've had Salmon In A Bag twice in the past two weeks so my heart is really happy from all the Omega-3 oils or whatever makes salmon the most perfect happiest food in the world.

Cost: $7.59 a pound

Nutrition facts: I'm blogging from the road so I'll grab this later

On the back: I'm blogging from the road so I'll grab this later

Store Location: In the fresh meat/fish area, in my Trader Joe's, it's right near the fresh vegetables.

I Heart TJs Banners

Here are some banners that I created to support I Heart TJs. I don' t really know why I went to the trouble of creating banners since most of the people reading this blog don't have websites where they can advertise my blog. Except for my friends Kristen and Aaron who are getting married soon (hint hint) and are putting together a wedding website.

It's funny because some people are really against wedding websites, they think they are tacky. But I think wedding websites are a fantastic idea because there is so much helpful stuff that you could put on the website (directions, things to do in the city where the wedding is being held). Also you could totally blog about how the wedding is progressing, rather than having to update all of your friends separately on how the wedding is progressing.

I think what I will really use the banners for is to advertise I Heart TJs on MySpace. I think it's time that I go around randomly adding friends of friends and leaving thanks for the add messages that include my banners.

And I did actually get around to making I Heart TJs business cards. They are essentially the same as the black/white/red banner only it has some contact information on the bottom. I got 250 so I need to step it up a notch and start handing them out, not just to friends and family (oh yes you will get yours) but maybe to actual Trader Joe's shoppers. Like the other day, there was a perfect opportunity for me to pass out a business card: this woman was on the phone, talking about how she couldn't find a particular product. I could have helped her find the product, and then directed her to visit my blog for more product information. But I'm still not over the fact that I think people might think I'm a weirdo if I start randomly talking to them at Trader Joe's. And what if Trader Joe somehow finds out and busts me?

Of course if anyone does want to post the banners on their site here's the HTML code: (special props to Kartik for helping me post just the code and not the banners again he is an HTML god among men)

the first one: <a href=""><img src=""/></a>

the second one: <a href=""><img src=""/></a>

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I heart MySpace! I heart The Charles Shaw Project!

Reasons to love MySpace:

  • the interface is so old-school crappy DOS-esque and yet you can do all this crazy stuff to your site to make it look totally unique. I've opted for the old-school crappy DOS-esque version.
  • there are tons and tons of random groups to join including a group all about Trader Joe's. So of course I joined!
  • the main thing about MySpace is spreading the love for unsigned artists that you would otherwise have to hear about from your indie-music-snob friend... and maybe not everyone has a music snob friend... my latest find is a band that takes its name from a Trader Joe's product I think because they were drinking it while they wrote the songs... here they are take a listen...

Add them as your friend, spread the love, isn't that graphic awesome??

Viva La TJvolution!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fearless Flyer February 2006 Shopping List™

For those of you who want a simplier, version of the Fearless Flyer Shopping List™, one that you can print out and shop with, well here it is.

Note: All foods are Trader Joe's brand unless otherwise noted.

Fearless Flyer February 2006 Shopping List™
  • Organic High Fiber O's (16oz $2.49)
  • Just A Handful Of Roasted Unsalted Almonds (15.6oz $5.99)
  • Boneless Skinless Salmon Fillets in a Cooking bag (1 lb $7.59)
  • New England Clam Chowder (12oz $3.49)
  • Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon (12oz $3.99)
  • Banana Bread Mix (15oz $1.99)
  • Sliced Sourdough Bread (24oz $1.69)
  • Figs & Feta Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette (8.4oz $3.79)
  • Thai Joe's Lemongrass Chicken Stix (10 Stix $2.99)
  • Tequila Lime Jalapeno Breaded Shrimp (12oz $5.69)
  • Double Crème Brie (1lb $4.99)
  • Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops (7.5oz tub $2.99)
  • Chocolate Flavored Tea (20 bags $2.29)
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal (16oz $1.59)
These items aren't technically new to Trader Joe's (I'm pretty sure I've bought them before) but they might be new to you! Also maybe Trader Joe's did something different to them.
  • Microwave Ready Butternut Squash (16oz $2.59)
  • Cut & Peeled Carrots (1.5lb $1.49)
  • Organic Sliced Apples (18oz $2.99)
  • Stuffed Peppers with Seasoned Turkey & Rice (15oz $4.49)

FEARLESS FLYER February 2006!

Yeah! It's Fearless Flyer time! How can you not love a grocery store that gets this excited over new products?

For those of you who aren't aware of the magic of the Fearless Flyer, every couple of months (I would guess quarterly but Trader Joe's doesn't seem to fly by anyone's rules but their own) Trader Joe's releases a Peterman-esque catalog of the new products that it is introducing into its store. Besides of course all the wonderful new products to look forward to, the best thing about the Fearless Flyer is the time that the Fearless Flyer authors put into selling these foods.

In case you haven't signed up to get a Fearless Flyer in the mail, you can download them here.

Yes I do admit that when it comes in the mail, I happily sit down with a pen and blank piece of paper to create my Fearless Flyer Shopping List™. The Fearless Flyer Shopping List™ consists of products that the Fearless Flyer convinces you to try because:

  1. the product actually sounds delicious, regardless of the magical spell the Fearless Flyer writers have woven
  2. the prose that the Fearless Flyer writers have created is so good that you just want to reward them by giving their product a try
  3. wow that price is too good to be true, I need to get me some of [insert TJ's product here]
  4. oh yeah I forgot that TJ’s sold that, thanks Fearless Flyer for reminding me of that

Here's my Fearless Flyer Shopping List™ for the February 2006 Fearless Flyer, with some snippets of the best of the best of the Fearless Flyer writing. I actually already went shopping with my list, so I'm going to have some editorializing on the products as well. Viva La Fearless Flyer!

Note: All products are Trader Joe's Brand unless otherwise noted.

Gala Apple Juice (64oz $1.99)
I'm a huge Gala apple fan so of course I got excited about this one. Also I'm a huge apple juice fan; it's a fantastic juice option, especially when you aren't in the mood for the acidic taste of orange juice. So what could be better than Gala Apple juice?

Well, it’s this murky brown color which reminds me of the yucky apple cider that my dad used to buy, but also makes me feel like I'm drinking something a little bit more natural and healthy than the clear apple juice that still makes me kind of feel like a kid when I drink it. So yeah the color turned me off, but luckily the tasting station at my local Trader Joe's had some for me to try and it tastes delicious! Just like regular apple juice only with a little more apple taste and a little less sugar water taste.

Paul complained a little bit about the juice and said that it gave him heartburn, and unfortunately I've gotten heartburn from it too, but don't let that stop you from trying it! Maybe your heart is made of sturdier stuff than ours.

Also how can you beat this, seriously I have to give a shout out to the Native American Gala Apple juice makers:

FF: Our supplier is a juice company owned by a Pacific Northwest tribe who also grow their own apples on 2,000 acres of Native American tribal lands in the state of Washington. The apples are turned into juice in the tribe's juice plant and bottled in the tribe's bottling facility.

Organic High Fiber O's (16oz $2.49)
I'm sure these are going to taste awful since anything with 10 grams of dietary fiber is very good for you and yet awful tasting. Although my Fearless Flyer reassures me that the O's are "super crunchy with a little nutty flavor and just a touch of sweetness." Of course I'm willing to try anything that's better for me than Cocoa Rice Krispies (which I've recently rediscovered thanks to Paul's recommendation against Cocoa Puffs since they "hurt your teeth" true dat). Plus I can always add as much sugar to it as I want and negate the good for me-ness.

Just A Handful Of Roasted Unsalted Almonds (15.6 oz $5.99)
FF: Each bag contains 1.2 ounces of almonds, just the amount the FDA has determined should be eaten daily to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How much do I heart Trader Joes??? They totally know what it means to want to eat almonds, but also go over board on the almond eating. So they pre-package the almonds to save me from myself. Which allows me to live longer and consume more almonds, of course. Smart business move and I love them for it!

Boneless Skinless Salmon Fillets in a Cooking bag (1 lb $7.59)
FF: Each tray contains an oven-able bag with two fillets of farm-raised Norwegian salmon. It's ready to be cooked, without any further work on your part... In less than ten minutes, the bag comes out of the oven, the fish comes out of the bag and you come out looking like a master chef!

It's like they looked into my brain and created a totally fool proof way to cook salmon. I know that salmon is really good for you, and I've been trying to cook salmon for a couple of years now, but it always ends up stinking up my entire kitchen and messing up one of my pans. I ran right out and bought this, and I might even try it tonight, although all this blogging has made me a little tired and a little too lazy to even put this bag in a microwave. How lazy is that?

New England Clam Chowder (12 oz $3.49)
What we like about it most is that it tastes like homemade chowder. It's creamy but not too thick. It's loaded with clams, but not at all fishy. And it has big chunks of potato, just like New England Clam Chowder should.

Bring Trader Joe's! I love New England Clam Chowder, especially when it is heavy on the cream and light on the fishy. I'll let you all know how it tastes ASAP.

Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon (12oz $3.99)
We have a confession to make. While we love sophisticated exotic and unique foods, if there's one thing we love more than just about anything, it’s bacon.

Oh lord, again, the Fearless Flyer writers looked deep within my heart! I actually got this bacon based on the funny writing, and I have to admit, it's pretty good bacon. A little pricey for bacon, because as any true bacon connoisseur knows, bacon is bacon. Except for Canadian bacon, which seems like a really good idea but just isn't the same.

Banana Bread Mix (15 oz $1.99)
FF: Any way you choose to prepare it, Trader Joe's Banana Bread Mix makes bread that tastes like you spent hours mixing and blending and baking - and if people think you did, well, we won't tell if you won't!

Ha! I'm detecting a theme here. Trader Joe's is my co-conspirator in the kitchen, allowing me to lie my way through domesticity! Actually Paul knows that I don't cook, I just Heat Up™.

I have to admit that I bought the banana bread mix because the Fearless Flyer writers told me it was easy to cook. And it actually was, it only took me approximately 6 minutes to mix all the ingredients together, clean the bowl and pour the mixture into a bread pan. The oven did the majority of the work, cooking the bread for 45 minutes. And it was truly delicious, although I ended up using Canola oil instead of vegetable oil, so it tasted a little strange. And yes I will Mix It Up™ again (because something this easy can't be called cooking), only this time with vegetable oil.

Sliced Sourdough Bread (24oz $1.69)
FF: And the price of $1.69 for a 24 ounce loaf really is the best thing since sliced bread.

Har!Har! Any grocery store flyer that can make me chuckle deserves my business.

Figs & Feta Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette (8.4oz $3.79) (not listed as Trader Joe's Brand I'll have to check on that)
FF: Figs and feta are a natural marriage of taste and texture and give this salad both its name and its signature flavor profile.

Thai Joe's Lemongrass Chicken Stix (10 Stix $2.99)
FF: How best to describe our new Chicken Stix? Well, think of them as Asian flavored taquitos, or flautas.

You had me at taquito, Trader Joe's.

Tequila Lime Jalapeno Breaded Shrimp (12oz $5.69)
FF: Remove shrimp from package ... [and] place on baking sheet in oven. Leave kitchen and enjoy your guests. Live dangerously; pour yourself a glass of wine... Remove shrimp from oven and place on serving tray. Take one shrimp for yourself (trust us on this one) and take serving tray to guests. Retrieve wine. Enjoy shrimp and conversation. Repeat as necessary.

Who the heck needs Martha Stewart when you have Trader Joe to give you life and cooking advice?

Double Crème Brie (1lb $4.99)
FF: Time to dispel a myth in the world of cheese: Brie is not just a French cheese. While its origins may lie in France, the fact is, Brie of outstanding quality is made the world over. Trader Joe's Double Crème Brie comes from a Canadian supplier of award-winning, European style cheeses.

Thank you Trader Joe's for clearing that up. Although I'm sure there is some stupid French law about not calling Brie outside the French Brie region Brie (like Champagne anywhere else in the world is Sparkling Wine which makes it sound a little like sparkling water and also sound a little stupid and I'm sure that was deliberate). Also how can I not love that your number one reason to buy Trader Joe's Canadian Brie is "1. It's Brie... 'Nuff said."

Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops (7.5oz tub $2.99)
FF: You may have seen similar items in high-end catalogs or expensive gourmet markets. Ours are different in a couple of very important ways. First we worked tirelessly with the supplier to make a unique version that was free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. That's right, all the colors you see are derived from natural sources. It's true. Second is our price. While others are selling small packages of treats like these at ludicrously high prices, we're selling our "clean" version in a 7.5 oz resealable tub for only $2.99.

My guess is that it is truly a bitch to be a Trader Joe's supplier. NO! WE SAID NO ARTIFICAIL COLORS AND ONLY 1CENT A SEED! That being said, thanks Trader Joe's for whipping your suppliers into submission so that I can have delicious and cheap Chocolate Sunflower Seeds.

Chocolate Flavored Tea (20 bags $2.29)
FF: Chocolate tea is quite a hot property these days. It's hard to argue with that distinctive chocolate taste, a toasty warm beverage and - what's this - no sugar.

I have no friggin' idea what this is going to taste like, but I'm intrigued, Fearless Flyer writers.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (16 oz $1.59)
FF: We were as surprised as you probably are to discover frozen oatmeal. But this is not ordinary oatmeal... Steel cut oats are denser than rolled oats, and create heartier, chewier oatmeal. Making this type of oatmeal from scratch can take as long as 40 minutes - 40 minutes of constant stirring. And stirring. And still more stirring.

I'm pretty sure this is the type of oatmeal that South Beach guy wants me to eat so I will go ahead and try this. With plenty of added sugar of course.

Etc. about the Fearless Flyer:

  • You know how Trader Joe's has those funny names for its specialty foods, like Trader Giotto's for its Italian line? Well how funny is this, their vitamins are from Trader Darwin. I love a company with such a cheeky sense of humor.
  • Fearless Flyer also throws out random quotes throughout the flyer: We think Frank Lloyd said it best: "Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity." Indulge your inner artist - eat well.
  • They also throw out Philosophy, TJ's style: Sartre: "Man is not the sum of what he has but the totality of what he does not yet have, of what he might have." Joe: "Have a cookie, find fulfillment."
  • I guess I should technically call this post Cliff Notes for the Fearless Flyer. I didn't realize how long and detailed the Fearless Flyer was until I started blogging about it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Recipe" Baby Spinach/Thousand Island Dressing/Goat Cheese Crumbles

+ + = YUMMY!

There really isn't anything bad that I can say about the Trader Joe's Les Salades du Midi Baby Spinach, except for the fact that I don't really understand the connection to the fancy French. It's really cheap ($1.99) and very tasty and keeps in the fridge for almost two weeks which is usally one week longer than any other lettuce I've ever had.

I think the greated thing about the baby spinach is its versatility. I can use it as the base of a salad, I can add some arugula to it (I've been doing that lately), I can eat it all by itself with just dressing (which happens more often than not since I never seem to have fresh vegis around to toss in a salad but I'm usually in the mood for a salad), I can saute it in a little olive oil and add some cooked corn or tomatoes. It's really become one of my staples, because a little spinach is a great healthy snack and it never seems to go bad in my fridge. Which is kind of creepy but maybe it's also a sign that Paul and I are actually eating lots and lots of spinach like we should be doing.

My current favorite Baby Spinach "recipe" is Baby Spinach, Thousand Island Dressing and Goat Cheese crumbles. A little cheese really does make all the difference in salad, especially when it is delicious and good for you, like goat cheese.

And in case you are wondering, recipe is in quotation marks because I don't think it really technically counts as a recipe if all you are doing is telling people to put things together. But since that is going to be the extent of the cooking advice on this blog, I thought that I need to have an official sounding word like recipe.

- $1.99 for 12oz of Baby Spinach
- $1.99 for 4oz of Crumbled Goat Cheese
- $1.69 for 8fl oz of Thousand Island Dressing (I need to double check on that one, seems too good to be true)

The serving below is enough for two people so the total calories is about 100 per serving.
- 20 calories for 4 cups of Baby Spinach (2 g of dietary fiber)
- 80 calories for 1 oz of Goat Cheese (5g of fat, 3g of protein)
- 110 calories for 2 Tbsp of Thousand Island Dressing (11 g of fat, lordie that's why it tastes so good)

On the back:
Sadly none of the three items has anything funny or cute or interesting on the back, unless of course you cound the "Nothing added, no preservatives, pre-washed, final rinse recommended" on the back of the Baby Spinach.

Although that pre-washed thing is really important to note, actually. See most of the time, I get annoyed by lettuce because you have to rinse it and then you have to spin it in one of those salad spinners which really just means you get green water all over the place and then all you really have is soggy lettuce. With the pre-washed Baby Spinach, I really just toss it in a strainer, splash some water on it and it's all good to go. And if we are being completely honest here, sometimes I don't even do the final rinse (but of course if you've been reading this blog you know that about me already).

Store Location:
The Baby Spinach and the Thousand Island dressing are both in the fresh vegetable section, while the cheese is in the cheese section which is usually pretty close to the fresh vegetable section.

Categories: Dairy_, Heating Up™ Recipes_, Sauces, Dressings and Dips_, Snacks_, Vegetables_

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Puffins Peanut Butter Cereal

So I decided to mix it up a little bit with this post. See the image is on the right this time. Crazy I know!

I've always been a little wary of the cereal with the rain forest animals on the front of it at Trader Joe's. I'm totally for the rain forest and I buy the over priced rain forest crunch candy at the rain forest cafe and make sure to eat the rain forest Ben and Jerry's peace pop thingies. But the rain forest animals on my cereal box was pushing it. I really love cereal and I didn't want to end up with some granola crunchy rocks and twigs swimming in milk full of fiber but tasting like crap. Paul would have killed me if I brought that home.

Luckily Puffins cereal is so delicious that you don't even really remember that it has something to do with endangered animals. Actually I have to throw this out there I have no flippin' clue what a Puffin is. But I'm sure the back of the box will tell me! (cut to the scene of me reading the back of the box and trying to figure out what the heck a puffin is)

Well that was disappointing. There's some information on the number of species of puffins, but I swear, the box is acting like I'm some puffin expert. (aside: seriously I don't think I've had this much fun in a while, you should really try typing the word puffin over and over and over again and see if you don't laugh out loud). The box is telling me to Adopt A Puffin, but I'm not really sure why, are they endangered? They kind of look like do-do birds, maybe puffins are toast because they look too much like other species that went extinct? The box invites me to buy some puffin stuff (a beanie puffin no thanks and a puffin canvas tote bag, an idea they clearly stole from TJs) and also sends me to a website about "these unique costal birds" on

Yeah, uh, these birds aren't actually endangered, project puffin just refers to the fact that they no longer live in Maine and they are trying to bring them back. Are you kidding me? But I do like the website because it answers 26 questions that I might have about puffins, including where they got their name: Puffin originally meant "fatling." The name was used to describe the chubby chicks of the Manx Shearwater, with which puffin chicks were confused.

Well even if the plight of the puffin was a little disappointing, the cereal really is the best thing ever. It's got a delicious crunchy peanut buttery taste, it tastes delicious with milk and it doesn't go soggy in milk at all (but maybe that's because I eat it so quickly because it's so yummy!) There are so many things going for this cereal taste wise. And because it is TJs, it's relatively healthy, which means:
  • 100% Natural (whatever that means)
  • Low Fat (okay but seriuosly most cereals are low fat... that's like putting low fat on Hershey's chocolate syrup, what do they think we are stupid? yeah I guess we are stupid)
  • Wheat Free (this one took me a while, I marveled at how something so delicious could be wheat free because that sounds so wonderful, but really it just means that the puffin cereal is made of corn and they just don't want to advertise that it's really corn deliciousness)
  • No Hydrogenated Oils or Trans Fats (those are the newest enemies so thanks Puffin Cereal!)
  • Dairy Free (well okay but I'm going to add tons of dairy because it's cereal, do the Puffin people really not understand that part of eating cereal?)
  • Vegetarian (ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What, cereal comes with bits of meat nowadays?)
  • No Cholesterol (thanks Puffin Cereal!)
  • No Artifical Flavors, Colors or Preservatives (I kind of doubt this one, since it tastes so yummy it can't possibly be free of preservatives)
  • Kosher (Oy that's good I guess)
Long Live The Puffins!

Cost: $3.29

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 3/4 Cup and 1/2 Cup Skim Milk
Calories: 150
Total Fat: 2g
Dietary Fiber: 2g (this is the important thing to check out on cereal... 2g is pretty standard for cereals that aren't that good for you like Lucky Charms)
Sugars: 6g (this is also another important thing, especially if you like the sugar cereals like I do, Lucky Charms actually has 13g of sugar per serving, so I guess Puffin Cereal is marginally better than Lucky Charms)

On the back:
A whole bunch of information about puffins, but here's the hard sell on the Puffins Cereal (in case you are wondering Barabara is the name of the bakery that puts out the puffin cereal, visit her online at

Energize your day the healthy way with the nutritious crunchy corn taste of Peanut Butter Puffins. Lightly sweetened with real peanut butter and made from only natural ingredients, Peanut Butter Puffins make a delicious breakfast fun. All Barbara's products are made without artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or refined white sugar and Barbara's never uses hydrogenated oils, which may increase the risk o fheart disease. Enjoy Puffins as a low fat snack right out of the box or as a tasty topping for yogurt or ice cream. Try all four varieties - Original, Cinnamon, Peanut Butter and Honey Rice.

Store location: by all the scary natural granola, rain forest cereal types.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Tipping Point

No Trader Joe's isn't selling The Tipping Point. But it relates back to my TJs blog, I swear.

I finally picked up the Tipping Point this morning in La Guardia because I was there two hours early (okay I'm usually early for flights but that's just ridiculous) and I needed to do something besides read about Brad and Angelina (IT'S A BOY! SHE DUE ON MAY 2ND!). I say finally because I've wanted to read it for years, but I just never got around to it. I have a bunch of books on my to-do list and usually I get around to them when I'm in airports and the only thing to buy besides over-priced Brookstone toys is books, bad food court food and magazines about Brand and Angelina.

I've only read about a hundred pages so far, but I see why everyone recommends this book. Mr. Gladwell is a great writer of non-fiction, which really is a talent. Non-fiction is usually very interesting and informative, but it rarely makes for a page-turner. But seriously I can't wait to get back upstairs and continue reading it.

But how does this little popular book relate back to Trader Joe's? Well in the one-hundred pages so far that I have read, one of Mr. Gladwell's theories is that in order to spread things (epidemics, fads, etc.) you need three kinds of people: Salesman to sell the idea, Connectors to connect the idea to the people (think Paul Revere), and Mavens to educate people on the idea.

Maven's know a lot about a lot of different things, especially consumer products. They like to read consumer reports and shop a lot in order to get a great deal. So I'm a Maven! I totally paraphrased the maven definition to better fit me, but I have to say it's nice to finally put a name to my weird hobbies of always wanting to tell people about the products that I love.

And really I'm just trying to teach everyone I know (and their friends and also any connectors out there who want to help me spread the word) about the magic of Trader Joe's, so that we can tip this thing and create a Trader Joe's Revolution or a TJvolution! (yes I totally stole that from Tivolution, my other favorite thing)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Canola Oil Spray

I really really really don't cook that often, no seriously, did you read the part about what this blog is dedicated to? Trader Joe's has given me the wonderful luxury of heating up stuff that tastes yummy without going to any real effort. But every once and a while, I stir fry things (most prepackaged frozen veggies in delicious pre-made sauces that I'll blog about later). And when I do stir-fry, I usually grab the TJs Canola Oil Spray to coat my wok. It's a light, non-stick cooking spray that probably works just as well as Pam, but is made with Canola oil, which is the good oil (according to the South Beach Diet). So I can feel a little better when I spray my 1/3 of a second, no-calorie spray on my wok.

A quick note about my wok. I love that thing. My dad always used to cook with a wok when I was growing up, which meant that instead of p, b and j for lunch I had to eat Star Annis Chicken. Which of course I appreciate now as an adult but man Star Annis Chicken sucked when all you wanted were chicken nuggets. And of course when I got older, I found out that other kids got to eat all the chicken nuggets that they wanted. I even have one friend whose sister ate only chicken nuggets for three years. Man she was lucky. So the funny thing about my wok is that my dad got me one of those authentic ones, where you have to wash it very carefully and bake it in the over or something. I tried to work with it for a couple of times, but it was a real pain in the ass to take care of, so I traded it in for a Calphalon fake wok. Which is coated in teflon and you can clean with soap and water and it really amazingly easy to use. Plus it heats up in 30 seconds and cooks the food really evenly. It's like a Chinese microwave.

Back to the Canola Spray. Since it does it's job, and is kind of boring to talk about, I'll talk about other things, like the cute packaging. Look how pretty those flowers are. Trader Joe's does a great job of making it's packaging look so cute. Although the cooking spray looks a little too similar to spray that you might have in your bathroom and that type of mix up would just be gross.

And how about this for a little Canola trivia? Canola stands for "Canadian Oil" which techincally doesn't work out to Canola, but you get the idea. It's really rapeseed oil, but the Canadian rapeseed industry realized that rapeseed is a horrible horrible product name if you are trying to market anything. Rapeseed is actually this really pretty yellow flower (the flower pictured on the front of the packaging). I remember seeing it all over England, these beautiful fields of yellow and feeling a little violated whenever someone would remind me that I was looking at beautiful fields of rapeseed.

Cost: $1.99 I've got to double check on that

Nutrition facts: nothing to see move along folks

On the back:
Trader Joe’s Canola Oil Cooking Spray is made from naturally clear expeller pressed canola oil. Canola Oil spray is excellent for non stick frying, sautéing or baking. It can be used for cooking meats, poultry, eggs and vegetables or to make garlic bread. It can also be lightly sprayed directly onto salad greens, hot pasta or vegetables to add flavor. Trader Joe’s Canola Oil Cooking Spray is a sodium and cholesterol free food and is made without alcohol.

Store Location: by the oils, the sprays and the pasta sauces

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A note about sugar

Okay so I have to take a little time to talk about the latest enemy sugar. I started this blog for my mom (and my dad but he hasn't been reading it so it's really just for my mom until my dad starts reading it and now that they got this amazing new computer and high speed internet access he really doesn't have any excuses). I thought she would like to read about products at Trader Joe's, since a new Trader Joe's just opened up in West Hartford.

Then I traveled back east for a bit and was informed that sugar is my parents newest enemy and they are on a low sugar diet. Now their reasons for being on a low sugar diet are totally valid (more medical and health than cosmetic). So for my mom, I will make an effort to make more low sugar posts. I don't want to be the cause of any health crisises because I recommended the delicious tasty high sugar treat of Mango Juice.

But for everyone else, a note about sugar and my eating philosophy. Everything in moderation. So sugar's not the enemy, as long as you don't go crazy and pour it down your throat. Of course if I could follow this wonderful philosophy of everything in moderation when I'm around pizza or french fries, my heart would be much happier.

One of the things that I like about eating foods from Trader Joe's is that they do seem a little more healthier than the processed junk that you get at your local chain grocery store. I don't know if that is a marketing/packaging myth or if the foods really are healthier. Although the fact that I'm actually heating up (tm) dinner instead of eating fast food every night, that is definitely healthier.

Mango Juice

This is one of my most delicious finds at Trader Joe's. I picked up this jug of Mango Juice one day because they were out of the fresh squeezed Orange Juice that Paul likes (just as an aside Paul has this whole thing about not-from-concentrate that I have to admit I still don't get but I'm also really careful to purchase ever since the Concentrate OJ diaster of 2003 where he accidentally drank some concentrate OJ... I think it must be a Florida thing, like how California people are really picky about good avocadoes or Maine people are really weird about good lobsters). I also have to admit that I don't really like Orange Juice. I know crazy right? But its so acidic and usually in the morning I'm just not in the mood for something so harsh. I've actually taken to drinking apple juice and boy is that stuff delicious. Even though I feel like a little kid whenever I drink it (and no I'm not drinking out of juiceboxes).

But back to the Mango Juice. So I picked it up, not expecting a whole lot. I mean is says something on the front about how it's magical and fortified and filled with Antioxidants and probably will keep me from the brain cancer I'm most certainly going to get from all the diet soda I drink now (but it can't possibly save me from the other types of cancer living in LA is probably going to give me, yeah that's right I'm a realist). Everything seems to be fortifyed and filled with antioxidants nowadays so that stuff didn't impress me.

But the taste did impress me. The Mango Juice really is a magical blend of mango and (apparently) taste enhancing antioxidants. It's very rich and creamy and smooth and basically tastes just like a mango smoothie. Cooincidentally, my favorite Jamba Juice smoothie happens to be Mango A Go Go, so I'm already prepped and ready to love the mango drink.

And the price! (okay now I have to watch myself I'm starting to sound like a cheesy infomercial). For 32 FL OZ its $2.99. Now if it basically tastes like a mango smoothie, and Jamba Juice mango smoothies are about $5.00 for 16oz (factoring in time/gas to drive to Jamba Juice) then all I have to say is you do the math (yes I'm lazy its too early in the morning for math). I'm not Jamba Juice hatin' there's always a need for a delicious Mango A Go Go, espeically when you are on the go go (hahaha god I hate puns but that was a little bit funny).

But back to the taste. I just got some Mango Juice because I'm one of those people who talking about a food makes them hungry for it (I also have a problem seeing food on TV, did you ever get hungry for carrots after watchin Bugs Bunny? man those carrots looked awesome). Also when I blog about foods I need to actually have them in front of me so I can type out the information on the back. Again back to the taste. Delicious. Plus I tried a little experiment, you know how when you brush your teeth, orange juice tastes awful? Well Mango Juice doesn't taste all that bad. It still tastes a little funny but that goes away after a while.

It's really thick and rich so I've found that the 8oz cup is totally sufficient at filling me up. That's another thing about orange juice, when I do drink it, its usually pretty thin tasting so I end up drinking a lot of it. I didn't really mean for this post to be anti-orange juice, I hope the growers in Florida don't sue me ala Oprah and the cow people, sometimes when I'm in the mood for it, I do really love Orange Juice.

Cost: $2.99 per 32oz

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 8oz
Calories: 120
Sugars: 18g

On Jug:
Mango & Antioxidants Flash Pasteurized: A juice blend of 5 fruits with vitamins C, E, A & Selenium.

Store location: by the juices, right above the orange juice usually

Sunday, January 15, 2006

TJs in West Hartford is Awesome!

Here she is, Trader Joe's West Hartford! I was back east for a couple of days this past week and I decided that even though a blog is a wonderful thing for introducing Trader Joe's to my mom and dad, a shopping tour would be the best thing ever. Luckily my mom was game (she's usually up for anything as long as it doesn't involve snow).

We walked slowly around the store to each of the different sections, while I talked about which products were my favorite and why. We got a couple of strange looks, but I did notice some people listening now and again. The Trader Joe's employees were all very smiley and helpful. I love how Trader Joe's hires the same people on the East Coast as on the West Coast (ethnically diverse, friendly, happy to be there, who knew those people existed outside of sunny California?)

I had a really fun time giving my mom a tour of her newly opened Trader Joe's. Part of the fun was finding new products that Trader Joe's doesn't offer in my California store, like Challah (it looked yummy!) and a fancy frozen pot roast dinner that looked like it might become one of my go-to meals (if only it was in California, hint hint). This Trader Joe's, probably because its new, has the most amazing sample section, which is so great, because that really is one of the best things about Trader Joe's, that you never have to go hungry whilst shopping.

Unfortunately, this Trader Joe's didn't have as large a selection of prepared fresh meals (I can only move back to West Hartford when the TJs gets in the Stuffed Bell Peppers) but that won't really bother my parents since they like to cook anyway. But they will be bothered by the fact that TJsWH doesn't sell any liquor. That's just so funny because Trader Joe's is known in California for its really cheap and delicious wine and beer. A funny (funny teehee but not LOL funny) story that probably everyone reading this blog has already heard a million times: My best friend Dale and I managed an eating club in college where we had to purchase large supplies of cheap food and liquor. We bought the majority of our booze from Trader Joe's. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived on Dale's couch in West Hollywood and he let me know that there was a Trader Joe's within walking distance of his apartment. I was confused because I thought that Trader Joe's only sold liquor. Oh look how far I've come, Trader Joe's!

I thought maybe the tour of Trader Joe's was a little much but my mom said that it was actually really helpful. She thought that it was nice to have someone point out specific foods to try because Trader Joe's is filled with a lot of crazy unfamiliar options. I liked doing the tour because it gave me some more ideas for blog posts and meals. I also realized that this blog is going to be great for me and Paul, because it's going to force me to try new things and branch out beyond my six or seven meals that I like to cook from Trader Joe's. Because otherwise the blog would be done and over with in six or seven posts.

And of course the best part of going to Trader Joe's West Hartford was that we did a little shopping. My mom really liked the packaged Indian foods that come in boxes and are sealed in cool silver space age pouches (but you don't find that out until you open the box). She also got some hummus and guacamole to try, along with some mini-pitas. I also convinced her to get the Greek Style Plain Yogurt (I swear they haven't paid me). I have to admit it was really satisfying when she tried it this morning and declared it "Amazing!"