No, I am not on the payroll at Trader Joe's. Nor am I getting any kickbacks or free groceries from them. I just love Trader Joe's for a million reasons, and I'll give you a few of them here.
In my cooking school, when someone asks where to find a certain ingredient we're using during class, the answer is more often than not "at Trader Joe's!" Although the store here in Fairfield, Connecticut is probably less than a quarter of the size of our supermarkets, somehow I just seem to find so many more things to buy there. Yes, I still need to hit the supermarket for the Special K I eat every morning, the Pepperidge Farm "Thin" Whole Wheat bread my kids love, and Hellmann's mayo, but I pretty much buy everything else at TJ's.
So why do I love it? I love that they have so much organic produce, meats, dairy and grains, and they are priced not to break the bank, which you could easily do with organics in a regular supermarket . I love that most, if not all of their meats and dairy are hormone free and use no antibiotics. I love that so much of the fish (frozen or fresh) is wild-caught rather than farmed. I love that they offer lots of nitrate-free deli meats, bacon, and hot dogs, again, at decent prices. I love their terrific selection of cheeses, which are, once again, really well priced. I love that they have lots of "short-cut" items, like pre-chopped mirepoix (trio of onion, celery, and carrot), pre-sliced mango, already-assembled veggie kabobs, and freshly cut stir-fry veggies. I love their free-trade, organic coffee (we favor the Bolivian Blend or the one with the orange parrot on the front). Okay...you're getting the picture.
I will say that I also love the staff at TJ's. Unlike at some other stores (okay, most other stores), here the staff here actually knows what they are talking about. They know the products, have tried the everything, and can make great recommendations. They are friendly and helpful, and seem (gasp!) genuinely happy to be working there. No bored faces and blank stares here! They even know how to bag groceries---- no bread on the bottom or "one-item-per-bag" you get elsewhere. And speaking of bags, they even have a weekly raffle as further incentive to bring your own (although if you forget yours, the brown paper bags with handles are far superior to the white plastic ones).
Here is one of my favorite "all-Trader Joe's" recipes. I bring this dish to lots of parties and they are always among the first things to be gobbled up! Now you know my secret!! Trader Joe's!
Marsala Cocktail Meatballs
Serves a crowd
Serves a crowd
I got this recipe from a tasting that was held at Trader Joe's one afternoon.
1 jar Trader Joe's Marsala Sauce
12 oz sour cream
2 bags Trader Joe's Mini Meatballs, defrosted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 3 quart casserole dish, combine Marsala sauce and sour cream. Add defrosted meatballs and stir to coat with sauce.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until meatballs are heated through and sauce is hot. Serve warm.
Note: Alternatively, this may be prepared in a crock pot. Simply combine all the ingredients and heat on low until heated through.