We're all a little nuts for Trader Joe's around here; their cheap, smart wine collections never fail to please, and their inexpensive pantry staples are often very good deals. So when I met Andrea Lynn, author of an entire cookbook using Trader Joe's products, I had to find out what her favorites were. Read on for a little more about this fun cookbook, and see Andrea's top five picks at Trader Joe's!
First — a whole cookbook for Trader Joe's products? Considering how often TJ's rotates their product selection (we hate it when things disappear, never to be found again!), how practical is this book? Very, it turns out. Andrea aimed this book towards college students, with extremely simple recipes designed to help even the most beginner cook learn how to match up their shopping with their cooking.
She points out easy, healthy meals that can be thrown together with literally four ingredients, like the Lentils with Chicken Sausage pictured above — a bowl of lentils topped with seared sausage and woken up just a bit with a squeeze of lime. She takes whole foods and solid ingredients, and makes it really, really easy to turn them into a meal with the help of a prepared product, like TJ's jarred arrabiata sauce. The best part is that even though this book is focused on Trader Joe's, many of the ingredients she calls for can be found anywhere — not just Trader Joe's.
While we don't focus a lot on prepared ingredients, we do think this is a fantastic way for young cooks and college students to start learning the rhythms of shopping and cooking, and seeing how you can put a meal together with just a few inexpensive foods.
The book is illustrated with quite a few photos and cute line illustrations, and Andrea's recipes are smart and simple in the best ways.
• Get the book: I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook: 150 Cheap and Easy Gourmet Recipes, $12.21 at Amazon. By Andrea Lynn, published by Ulysses Press.
Andrea Lynn's Five Favorite Products from Trader Joe's
Writing a cookbook revolving around all things Trader Joe's makes one very well-versed on (ahem, addicted to) Trader Joe's products. These are five Trader Joe's items you'll always see in my cart:
1. Trader Joe's Mango and Cream Bars
I practically live on these in the summer. The bars take the concept of a creamsicle and bring it up a few notches with the tropical combination of frozen mango and sweet cream. Plus, they're not too big, so eating one is relatively guilt-free (which is why I usually end up slurping down two at a time). The only downside is that they're stick-less, so you don't wind up with arts and crafts supplies.
2. Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter
I've never been a fan of straight-up peanut butter. I don't mind it incorporated into a recipe but the stick-to-your-mouth consistency of pb just doesn't work for me. So I was thrilled to discover sunflower seed butter, which has a smoother, less gummy consistency, along with a more mellow taste. I slather it on bread for a quick snack, and I use it to make sunflower seed butter cookies, which can go head-to-head with pb cookies any day.
3. Trader Joe's Savory Broth Chicken Flavor
Oh, how I adore these convenient packets. The box takes up so little room in the cabinet compared to the equivalent number of chicken broth cans, which weigh a lot for someone who lugs their groceries home. Don't get me wrong--I still make homemade chicken stock from scratch for soups. But when I need chicken stock to flavor rice or sauces, this is what I reach for.
4. Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken
There's a reason the Mandarin Orange Chicken is Trader Joe's number one selling product--and that's because it's like a Chinese restaurant has set up shop in your kitchen. Just pour the coated nuggets onto a baking sheet, cook in the oven and then toss with the enclosed orange sauce. Serve with rice, and it's cheaper (and tastier) than ordering out. Sometimes, I even toss the chicken in different sauces from Trader Joe's, like their General Tsao's Stir-Fry Sauce, and mix with sautéed broccoli.
5. Trader Joe's Chocolate-Covered Edamame
When someone first told me I couldn't miss TJ's chocolate-covered edamame, I was a little skeptical. But they taste ten times better than they sound. I'm generally a sucker for the sweet-salty combo, so these crunchy, savory dried edamame coated in dark chocolate definitely hit the spot for me. It's an added bonus that I'm reeling in the protein from the edamame. At least, that's what I tell myself.
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Thanks for visiting, Andrea!
• Visit Andrea: Andrea Lynn's Website & Food Blog
Related: Spotted at Trader Joe's: 5 Great Staples for Our Pantries
(Images: Ulysses Press; Andrea Lynn)