Trader Joe’s Favorites … My Recommendations


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I have so many favorites at Trader Joe’s that I discover (and continue to discover) and re-purchase time and time again. I often get asked about products I would recommend to someone who is heading to Trader Joe’s to pick up some healthier-for-you or point friendly options.. Many of these items have been featured on my blog. If there is a related post to an item listed, I will link that to the original posts review.  I will update this list as I find/try additional products that I enjoy.
But without further ado … come do a little shopping with me! Here are some of my Trader Joe’s favs/recommendations:
FRESH:
Fresh fruit (seriously, they have THE best apples, etc)
Produce (I recommend purchasing their produce if you know prices of produce in your local shopping center)
Broccoli Slaw
REFRIGERATED:
PREPARED MEALS:
Traditional meatloaf
FROZEN:
Berry cherry blend
SEASONINGS:
21 season salute
Everyday seasoning
Coconut oil spray
SAUCES:
Low fat marinara
CONDIMENTS:
Pumpkin Butter (SEASONAL – Fall)
Hot & Sweet Pepper Jelly
DIPS:
Hummus (Garlic, Chipotle Pepper, Horseradish)
SNACKS:
Cookie butter (original and crunchy)
DESSERTS:

DRY/BOXED:

Polish Potato Pancakes

Polish Potato Pancakes are one of my favorite “comfort foods” but they’re definitely one of those foods I only have once in a blue moon.  My grandmother made these often when I was a kid and as the tradition goes, my mother made these throughout my childhood into adulthood once in a while.
They’re actually quite easy to make, meaning the ingredients needed are very few, but the grating of the potatoes takes effort. Typically two potatoes in, my arm is sore and I’m wondering what I got myself into (haha).  There are many different graters on the market but the one I use is my grandmother’s old school potato grater (which I admit are hard to find, but can be found if you search for them), which essentially pulverizes the potatoes into little starchy potato “clouds”. While it pulverizes the potato I have to be VERY careful to not let it nick my hand because it’s not a pretty sight if it does.
These can be enjoyed any which way you like. Plain, with sour cream, or my absolute favorite way: with ketchup!
While I did calculate the points plus values for these, I was able to do so by measuring the oil I used in the beginning and measuring the oil I had leftover at the end. I assumed the oil that wasn’t present was absorbed into the end product.
Serves 10. 6 Points Plus per serving. (Serving size varies based on the amount made – I was able to make 20 pancakes making a serving 2 pancakes).
Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds peeled potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste
Place a grater over a large bowl and grate potatoes. Feel free to grate to your desired consistency. I prefer the old style grater which pulverizes the potato into a pillowy substance.
Place a skillet with ½ cup vegetable oil over medium heat.
Strain some liquid from your potato mixture. When the potatoes are grated they let off water, using a gentle hand allow the water to strain from it but do not push the liquid out of the potatoes because you want it to retain some moisture.
Combine egg, baking powder and ½ cup of flour into mixture. Combine, then add in the remaining ½ cup. You want the mixture to be loose but thick.
Using a heaping tablespoon, spoon the mixture into the hot oil and allow cooking until lightly golden on one side, flipping and cooking on the other.  Flip the pancakes over to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes per cooked side.  I find the pancakes need to be cooked additionally on each side before removing from the pan otherwise the inner pancake is raw and gummy.
When cooked, remove from the oil and set on a paper towel lined tray. Sprinkle with salt.
Continue cooking until all batter is used.

Turkey Pie

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Transforming leftovers into a completely different dish is something I enjoy. I admit eating the same leftovers can be a little boring.  On Christmas Eve there was an abundance of leftovers and one of the things leftover was a turkey. Since there wasn’t much turkey leftover at Thanksgiving, I decided to whip up a quick turkey pie for dinner and to put one into the freezer to have another night within the next couple months.
My go to turkey pie recipe is something my mother always made. We like to keep it simple because sometimes simplicity is its best. Growing up whether my mother made our turkey pies or purchased them we’ve always had pies that didn’t have a bottom crust to them  The great part is this recipe takes under 10 minutes to put together and then it’s into the oven or freezer.
Serves 5. 8 Points Plus Values.
Ingredients:
  • 9 oz. cooked turkey breast, without skin, cut into small chunks
  • 1 can diced peas and carrots
  • 1 ½ cans (roughly 2 cups) of Campbell’s turkey gravy (I prefer Campbell’s because it’s nice and thick in consistency)
  • 1 Pillsbury Pie Crust (whole round sheet)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove pie crust from the refrigerator and let sit out at room temperature for a few minutes.
In a round disposable metal pan or round metal pie pan toss together turkey, peas & carrots and canned turkey gravy.  When the mixture is well combined, unroll pie crust and gently place over the filling. Gently fold the outer edges in to create a crust.
Cut 2 slits into the top of the pie to help the steam escape.
Place into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is nice and golden brown.

Spiced Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

Last week I whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Walnut Muffins and they were such a hit they were gone in a couple days.  So being in the baking mood I decided to make a similar batch but using spice cake mix.  Spice cake is one of my favorite types of homemade cakes, but since I don’t always get to have it homemade, boxed is second best.  I used a very similar recipe to what I did with the pumpkin muffins, although with this batch I increased the amounts of some ingredients.
These came out perfect – they’re moist, delicious, and again another crowd pleaser. These were even given the stamp of approval from my 4 year old niece. I’d call that a success in my book.
4 Points Plus. Serves 16.
Ingredients:
  • 1 box Betty Cocker Super Moist Spice Cake Mix
  • 15 oz can Libby’s Pure Pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp egg whites
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
  • 3 tbsp chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers, each paper spritzed with non-stick cooking/baking spray.
In a large bowl mix together cake mix, pumpkin, egg whites, baking soda and water until blended and smooth.
Evenly distribute batter to each cupcake paper. I found large heaping tablespoons helped distribute the batter evenly, with the remainder being distributed throughout the cups.
In a small bowl mix together chocolate chips and walnuts, then evenly sprinkle over the top of each muffin. I used a ½ teaspoon to distribute.
Bake per box directions.  Cupcakes are done when a knife is inserted and comes out clean – roughly 15-18 minutes.

Pumpkin Chocolate Walnut Muffins

With the temperature dropping to freezing cold, what better way to warm up the house, other than baking goodies? So with that, I decided to make some muffins to not only get some warmth throughout the lower level of the house – but also to have some goodies since I haven’t baked since Halloween.
I had a few boxes of pumpkin cake mix, so I decided to put one box to good use.  This recipe is truly SO incredibly easy to throw together. The most tedious part is putting the batter into the muffin tins in the pan. They puffed up marvelously and are delightfully delicious and not guilty whatsoever!
 
Serves 12. 4 Points Plus Values.
Ingredients:
  • 1 box, Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin Cake Mix
  • 15 oz can Libby’s Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 tbsp Egg whites
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 5 tbsp Water
  • 2 tbsp Milk chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)
  • 1 ¾ tbsp chopped walnuts
Line a muffin pan with 12 liners, spraying each tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl mix together cake mix, baking soda, pumpkin, egg whites and water until well blended and mixture is fully combined.  Evenly distribute mix to each muffin tin.
In a small bowl toss together chocolate chips and walnuts. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the top of each muffin.
Place muffins into oven and bake per box directions, adjust time based on how fast/slow your oven cooks. My oven is on the faster side and these were done in 16 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when a knife is inserted and it comes out clean.

Lightened Up – Magic Apple Pie

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Growing up my grandmother’s Magic Apple Pie (recipe here) was a staple a few times during the year. I admit, that recipe is delicious while also near-and-dear to my heart … but sometimes the sheer sweetness of it gets me. So with trying to lighten it up I conjured up the following recipe. I had recreated this recipe last year using Splenda instead of sugar and I truthfully wasn’t a huge fan of it. So I opted to recreate it using regular ingredients, just less of them while swapping a few things out.
This pie is good and tasty – but it’s not very sweet. The recipe could be adjusted to incorporate more sugar into it – but I found it to be pleasing on the palette as is. Since I used McIntosh apples they provided a nice sweetness so it wasn’t tart. But if you use something like a granny smith I’d suggest tweaking the sugar to subdue the tart.
Serves 8. 5 Points Plus Values.
  • 1 lb peeled sliced apples (I use McIntosh or Cortland)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup fat free egg substitute
  • 4 tbsp margarine, melted
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp water
Toss peeled, sliced apples with roughly 3 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat then pile apples into a pie or cake pan.
Add flour in with leftover sugar/cinnamon mixture from tossed apples and add in remaining sugar, brown sugar, margarine, water and egg substitute and mix until well combined and blended together. The batter will be very, very thick.
Fold in walnuts until well combined, then pour mixture over the apples.
Bake for 1 to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Pie is done when top is golden brown and the crust has hardened a bit. The pie is done when the apples aren’t watery (you should be able to tell, it’ll bubble up a bit around the crust).

Guilt Free Banana Cream Pie


Banana Cream Pieis one of those desserts that I have always favored and oddly enough it’s usually in the late summer/fall time that I enjoy it.  While grocery shopping my boyfriend picked up a box of banana cream pie mix while in the produce department.  I used that package many, many years ago, but I’ve grown to enjoy my version of banana cream pie a lot more. We decided that I’d make my version and we’d see if he liked it.
A few days later, I picked up the ingredients and made the pie a few hours before dinner so it could sit in the fridge and get nice and cold. Turns out it was a hit!  I simply love this pie, not only because it’s point comfortable, but because it’s so easy to make and you really don’t miss the full fat version.  Of course, if you wanted whipped cream you could add a few dollops of fat free or light cool whip to the top to seal the deal. But I personally enjoy it just like this.
Granted this is not really a “recipe” but I wanted to share a very point friendly dessert I like to make.
Serves 8. 4 points plus valus.
Ingredients:
  • Keebler Reduced Fat Ready Crust Graham Cracker Crust
  • Jell-O Sugar Free Banana Cream Pudding
  • 2 cups fat free milk
  • 1 banana, sliced
Slice banana and layer sliced banana along the bottom of the graham cracker crust.
In a medium bowl whisk together Jell-O Pudding and milk. Blend for roughly 5 minutes until the jell-o has thickened and there are no more clumps.
Pour the pudding over the bananas.  Place into the refrigerator for a minimum of 1-hour to chill down completely.

Autumn Chicken Pasta


I was inspired by a Skinnytaste recipe but decided to throw a spin on it since I had chicken out to cook and not sausage and ground beef.  I was actually at Trader Joe’s when I spotted the brussel sprouts and pulled up the Skinnytaste recipe to have a peak since I had never looked at the regular recipe before then (I’d only seen the picture of it).
Deciding since it was later in the afternoon and I didn’t want to head to my regular grocery store, I’d make due with what I had on hand and what I could pick up at Trader Joe’s.  With that a lot of the ingredients I used are Trader Joe’s brand, but comparable products can be picked up at a regular grocery store.
This was a delicious meal. Quite interesting with the brussel sprouts in it, and the flavor category was fabulous. Packed with flavor, a heaping serving and the leftovers were able to marinate a little further while in the refrigerator overnight.
Serves 6. 1 ¾ cup serving. 10 Points Plus Values.
Ingredients:
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/8 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, cut into small chunks
  • 28 oz. can of Trader Joe’s Trader Giotto’s Low Fat Tuscano Marinara Sauce (you can substitute with another variation of low-fat marinara sauce)
  • 12 oz. spaghetti (I used Barilla White Fiber Spaghetti)
  • 10 oz. shaved brussel sprouts
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp water (optional)
Add raw chicken to a bowl, season with garlic powder a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Toss to combine, stabbing the chicken with a fork to get the flavor into the chicken pieces.
Fill a large pot with salted water. Once brought to a boil, add in your spaghetti and cook until (I recommend) al dente.
In a large non-stick skillet, add 1 ½ tsp olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Once hot add in garlic and let sauté for roughly 30 seconds before adding in the brussel sprouts – season with remaining salt and pepper.
Saute the brussel sprouts for 5-7 minutes until they begin to soften.  If they begin to stick to the pan add in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until cooked through. Remove brussel sprouts from the pan and set aside.
In the same non-stick skillet, add the remaining 1 ½ tsp of olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add in chicken and let brown and crisp up on both sides until cooked through. Try not to move the chicken much on each side to allow it to brown and get some color.
Once chicken is cooked, combine with brussel sprouts and toss. Pour in can of sauce and begin to add spaghetti, tossing to ensure the whole dish is combined and coated with sauce.
Remove from the flame and enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

I was struck with inspiration when thinking about what I wanted to do for my boyfriend’s birthday. Should I buy a cake or make a cake?  Buying a cake is an easy way out, even though it is a nice gesture, but premade cakes at bakeries can get pricey. Whereas making a cake shows you’ve put work in. I think it means a lot more and it’s a lot cheaper to make your own cake than to buy one.  With the back and fourth in my head, I finally decided on making a cake.  The only golden rule I went by was the cake base had to be chocolate because that’s my boyfriend’s favorite.  The rest was up to me to get creative with … and I ran with that creativity.
Lately we’ve both been on a peanut butter kick. So I thought, why not bring two delicious worlds together? Peanut butter and chocolate? I decided on making a peanut butter cream cheese frosting … but that in itself wasn’t enough, so I decided to make a chocolate ganache for the top of the cake to help draw together the whole cake and to cut on the sweetness of the frosting.
The end result was a delicious, perfect harmony. The cake was moist and delicious, the frosting was spectacular and the chocolate ganache truly held it all together and kept it from being sickeningly sweet.  We had family and friends over for dinner and all were equally impressed with the cake and I even got a few “you made that?!”
If you’re a peanut butter and chocolate fan … I highly suggest you give this a try. It’s quite simple to pull together!
8 Points Plus Values. Serves 12.
Ingredients:
  • 1 box, Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • 12 oz can Diet Coke (or Diet Pepsi or any diet clear colored soda of your choice)
  • 8 oz. 1/3 Less Fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 9 TBSP PB2 (Powdered Peanut Butter)
  • 1 1/3 cup powder sugar
  • ¼ cup fat free skim milk & 1 TBSP
  • 3 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Non-stick cooking spray
Allow cream cheese to warm to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or per box directions based on your cooking pan coloring).
In a large bowl combine cake mix and can of diet coke. Mix well until all combined.
Spray two cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Distribute combined batter to each cake pan as evenly as possible.  Place pans into oven and bake per box directions.  When cakes are done allow them to cool completely.
In a large bowl combine cream cheese, powder sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk. With an electric mixer blend until smooth. Frosting will be very thick so begin to add the 1/3 cup of water 1 tablespoon at a time. The frosting should be thick, but smooth and not runny.
Transfer frosting to a bowl, cover with a lid and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to “harden” up a bit.
When cakes are cool, smear roughly 1 tsp of frosting to the bottom of a cake dish to hold the bottom layer cake. Place cake cooked side up face down and smear top of cake with roughly ¼ of the frosting.
Remove additional cake from pan and invert. Place bottom of cake to the frosted cake – then frost top and sides with remaining frosting.
In a medium bowl add in semi sweet chocolate chips and ¼ cup milk and place into the microwave for 20 seconds. Remove from microwave, blend chocolate and milk together and return to the microwave in 20 second increments until the mixture is smooth.
Allow the chocolate mixture to cool for roughly 2 minutes, until almost luke warm then begin to smooth onto the cake. Start at the center and gently blend outward. Don’t go all the way to the edge of the cake. Continue gently smoothing until all chocolate is spread to the top of the cake.
Cover the cake and allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (I left mine in the fridge almost 24-hrs) before serving.
Cut into 12 equal pieces and enjoy!

Sheppard’s Pie

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Sheppard’s Pie is a dish I grew up eating. I know there are many different ways to make it … but like many of the dishes I’ve grown up eating, I’ve adapted this recipe along the lines of how my mother made it. That is only cutting a few corners to make it “lighter” but still have that same classic Sheppard’s pie flavor I remember from growing up. This is actually a really simple and easy dish to throw together; it can even be assembled the night before and popped into the oven the next day to heat through.  Since I do like the top of the mashed potatoes to crust up a bit, I do cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.
Serves 8.  8 Points Plus Values/serving.
Ingredients:
          1 ¾ lb 93% lean ground beef
          2 ¾ lb potatoes, peeled and chunked
          1 medium onion, diced
          ½ cup skim milk
          1 tsp minced garlic
          1 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
          1 ½ tsp salt, divided
          1 ½ tsp black pepper, divided
          1 ½ tsp Imperial margarine
          14 oz. Del Monte Sweet Corn Cream Styled, No Salt Added
          14 oz. canned corn, no salt added, drained
Fill a large pan with water, season with salt and place onto medium high heat. Add peeled, chunked potatoes to water and allow water to come to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
In a nonstick skillet, add ground beef, onions and garlic. Break up beef as it cooks, season with McCormick Steak Seasoning, salt and pepper.  When beef is cooked through strain of any excess water/fat.
When potatoes are fork tender, strain and return potatoes back to the pot. Season with remaining salt and pepper, add in 1 tablespoon margarine and milk. Mash until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large casserole dish, layer beef and onion mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle meat with strained corn kernels, then top with canned cream style corn. Gently begin to pile mashed potatoes onto the mixture. I find it’s easier to add it in “glops” of mashed potatoes and fill in any holes as you go. If you try to smooth the mixture before all potatoes are added, the creamed corn will just move along with it.
One all mashed potatoes are in place, dice up remaining ½ tbsp margarine and add chunks over the top of the mashed potatoes.
Place assembled sheppard’s pie into preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.
Once cooked, allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 equal sized pieces.