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Why Trader Joe’s is My, and America’s, Happy Place

5 Mar This container of candy from Trader Joe's holds a world of kindness

We all have rotten days. Yesterday was one of mine. Or at least, a day where things didn’t come together well, posed more problems than it solved, and just left me with a sad, crummy feeling.

And I needed to go to Trader Joe’s.

So, I tucked my feelings under my hat and went.

Walking around hunting and gathering for my dinner, I smiled at other shoppers and TJ’s staffers. I was OK. But as I walked to check out, I got sad again. Of course, that’s not too weird – feeling better walking around TJ’s, and getting sad as I’m leaving!

The checker Shaun greeted me with, “How ya doing?!” I said, sluggishly, “OK.” He said, “Just OK?” “Yeah,” I said. We continued chatting a bit. He loaded my bag and put it in the cart.

As we waited for my chipped card to finish processing, Shaun asked, “Do you like chocolate? Do you like dried fruit?” I said yes.

He walked to the product pylon by the check out lane, picked up a container of chocolate-covered dried fruit, put it on top of my bag and said, “I hope you have a good evening!”

I was blown away. And this isn’t the only time I’ve encountered amazingly kind behavior at Trader Joe’s. The store’s feel-good culture is an example for us all in how to care and treat each other. Just a little kindness goes such a long way. Thank you, Shaun! And thank you, Trader Joe’s.

A pot of gold

This container holds a world of kindness

 

A Christmas Story from Trader Joe’s

23 Dec Eucalyptus

EucalyptusI was headed to the 12-items-or-less line on a Saturday afternoon with a basket of four things. The woman in front of me had two items – a package of eucalyptus and a rosemary tree.

At first she rolled her cart back to let me through. I said, “I’m going behind you!” As I took my position in line, she held up the eucalyptus package to my nose and said, “Smell this!” Of course, it was wonderful. I thanked her for sharing the fresh scent. Then she had me smell the rosemary – again, lovely – and even broke off a little bit to share with me.

She was drinking a coffee sample. I was a little tired, and realized I forgot to get a sipper. She immediately offered to hold my spot for me to go get a cup, pushing my basket in front of her cart.

I west to get the coffee, and I chatted with the woman in charge of the sample station. She pointed to an envelope full of coupons and said that a woman left it there, and she described the coupon owner. The physical description was similar but not exact to the woman in line, but the sample woman said, “She was so nice.”

I went back to the line and asked the woman, “Do you collect coupons?” She said, “Yes!” enthusiastically, and then turned to realize her envelope was gone. I told her it was at the sample station, and before I could get it for her, she was off to retrieve the pack.

She got back and said, “See, if you hadn’t gone for a coffee, I wouldn’t have gotten my coupons!”

The line finally reached the check out. She insisted I stay in front of her. She said, “You have so little!” I pushed back, “But I have twice as much as you!” She wouldn’t relent.

I told the guy at the check out that the lady behind me was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met. The checker – Cory – turned to her and said, “I’ve been hearing some really good things about you.” She said, “You have?” Cory looked at her basket and said, “You know what, for being so sweet, I’m not going to charge you for the eucalyptus.”

She looked at me with a big smile and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I said, “Merry Christmas, to you,” and left.

Several times I started to introduce myself and ask her name, but then got distracted by something and didn’t. I hope I see her again. She may have gotten the gift of the eucalyptus, but she was a gift for those she talked with even for a moment.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! Wishing you that warm, fuzzy Trader Joe’s joy all year long.

Happy Hanukkah!

13 Dec

Another example of TJ’s “One-Buck-Chuck” greeting cards for every occasion! We hope everyone celebrating this holiday of light had a bright Hanukkah!

ChanukahCard

 

 

 

 

If it’s watermelon time, it must be summer

2 Jun Glass2

It’s not the heat and it’s not the pool opening. It’s not the strappy dresses and sandals or the birds chirping too early and the fire-pitless porch parties lasting past midnight.

What tells me it’s summertime is the large, cardboard box full of big green orbs that greets me when I enter Trader Joe’s.

I received that happy welcome last weekend. There was even a woman handing out watermelon samples at a makeshift tasting station. She advised that the sweetest watermelons were ones with yellow on them. Taking her word for it, I grabbed (if you can “grab” a bowling ball without finger holes) a fine looking specimen and weighted down my cart immediately.

At the official tasting station, they were sampling Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Good stuff! I’d bought a container the week before, but hadn’t opened it yet. As Persian Cucumbers are one of my shopping-list staples, I looked in my cart and thought, “Cukes, watermelon…why not make my own juice?!”

Hydratedly inspired, I searched for a recipe and found a three-ingredient drink I thought I could master. The third ingredient was lime juice – and I found that it makes ALL the difference!

(Although there are several sites with similar recipes, mine came from AllRecipes.com. Thanks, AllRecipes!)

How To Make Watermelon Cucumber Cooler:

I used:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 the fruit from a watermelon
  • 2 limes

Trim the ends off your cukes and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Cut the watermelon into chunks.

Combine the cuke and watermelon chunks and liquify in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the juice from the limes. It’s OK if a little lime fruit drops in, too!

It makes a pitcher-full of juice. Enjoy!

This is what it looked like:

Glass2 ingredients

Notes: The cukes were unpeeled. The watermelon had very few seeds, so I just let the few involved get mixed in the batch.

I had planned to make a fizzy drink by adding carbonated water to half a cup of juice, but I got caught up in the deliciousness, and the batch was finished before I remembered I wanted to do that! Next time.

When is pasta not pasta? When it’s mushroom.

2 Mar

For me, cooking is usually an arts-and-crafts project or a science experiment. I imagine that certain flavors will go together well and then test the theory.

Other times, I challenge myself by trying to recreate an amazing dish I’ve had at a restaurant. Like I did this week.

Recently, I went with friends to John Bentley’s in Redwood City, Calif. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and I thought it was going to be hard to decide what to order, until I got to the end of the menu and found: “Trumpet Mushroom “Pappardelle” with tomato, garlic, basil,Kalamatas, edamame and Pecorino Romano.”

Mushroom Pappardelle

A carbless delicious beauty from John Bentley’s

The waiter said the chef created Pappardelle from mushrooms. The dish had a red sauce, and it was like a pasta dish without the pasta. I was so intrigued I had to order it. And WOW! It was SO delicious!

A week later, I decided to try to recreate the dish with a few embellishments.

For my mushroom pasta, I did not use edamame or fresh basil, although there was basil in the pasta sauce. I used shiitake mushrooms, garlic, Kalamata olives, spinach, onion, tofu and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan on top. I went with the short cut of using Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Maranara sauce.

I started by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil.

Step one, saute onions and garlic in olive oil.

Onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil.

Then I added the mushrooms, olives, tofu and spinach.

A garden in a skillet

Ingredients. Not pictured: sauce, cheese.

After the vegetables were softened, about 10-15 minutes, I poured in some marinara sauce, sprinkled shredded Parmesan on top and. SOOO good!! (To make it vegan, don’t add the cheese at the end.)

As you can tell with the difference in ingredients and stage presence, it wasn’t exactly the meal I had at John Bentley’s, but it was close enough and very satisfying!

Give it a try!  Add your own twists, and please share your recipe thoughts in the comments.

Bon appetite!

Chicken Poppers: The Mexican Falafal

9 Dec

I’m not a falafel fan. But when I approached the Redondo Beach Trader Joe’s today, I was hungry.

What I saw was a paper cup with a falafel-looking bite accompanied by guacamole. I was hungry, and I love guacamole.

Tasty taste of Chicken Popper and guac

As I said, I WAS hungry, so that factor could have clouded my falafel-averse tastebuds, but the Chicken Popper bite I had was good enough to tempt me to buy a whole box. Plus the Avocado’s Number Guacamole, which was mighty tasty, too.

Trader Joe's has guacamole's number

I hesitated, though, because the calorie count and fat content were on the high side. The tasting bar-ista suggested they were meant as appetizers, which made me think of the uber delectable Kale and Spinach bites. You can bet that once inside your house, the balls of delight will mysteriously disappear between the time you take them out of the oven to when the plate arrives in front of your guests.

ChickenPopperBox

Instead of saying, “180 calories per 3-piece serving. Box contains 4 servings,” the box should read, “720 calories per serving. Box contains 1 serving.” Psychologically, if you can restrain yourself, you’ll feel like, “I have many fewer calories than I could have!”

The falafel issue
Both the taste and texture of the Chicken Popper were reminiscent of its Middle Eastern cousin. But the crunch in the CP comes from crushed tortilla chips, and the protein element traded chicken for chick peas.

If you don’t like falafel, you may really like Chicken Poppers. If you love falafel, you’ll probably love them.

Suggestion: Perhaps the next time you have falafel, whip up some guacamole to go with it – or just buy a batch from Trader Joe’s.

Lemons+Ravioli: A match made in Trader Joe’s heaven

5 Nov

It was another tasting bar moment. One paper-cup-sized bite and I knew what was for dinner.

The TJ’s staffer added some prosciutto and dressing to her sample. I tried something different. (My recipe’s below.)

Ricotta and lemon filled ravioli = tasty wonder

Lemony, cheesy, ravioli-y

 

My recipe for delicious ravioli from Trader Joe's

This is how my mixture looks in a square bowl.

JA’s TJ’s Lemon Ravioli Recipe:

Bag of Girasole Ricotta & Lemon Zest Ravioli
Bundle of fresh asparagus
3-4 Tbl fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of salt
Juice from half a lemon
To make it meaty, add half of TJ’s flat of “Just Chicken”

Combine. Serve. Enjoy!

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