I get asked a lot who does the cooking for my kids (the first most common question is who takes care of my kids during the day when Joe and I are at work, to which I am tempted to answer: the TV) (actually we have a nanny) (a human one, not just a euphemism for the TV) and while I will occasionally give some bullshit answer about doing some cooking on the weekends and trying to have a lot of fresh fruit around, the real answer is that without Trader Joe's, we would all be dead.
I don't mean to turn this into an ALL REVIEWS, ALL THE TIME blog, but I know many of us are busy, and though most of us probably cook better than I do (all my "cooking"--I used that term loosely--must be able to be completed in a single pot or saucepan or else I am simply not interested), I just wanted to review some of the new things I've tried at Trader Joe's that the kids like. Maybe this can be a recurring blog topic--I know they had a similar segment on some of the earlier episodes of "Jordan Jesse Go!", but while those segments were used to comedic effect, these reviews are deadly serious.
The other thing is that I know Trader Joe's has the sometimes annoying, usually revitalizing habit or rotating certain items in and out, so there's usually one or two things that I happen across in the frozen or ready-made aisle that I would like to try, though I'm not sure if I'm willing to take the risk. I am risk averse. So anyway, I'll review some of the new products that I tried and liked, you can reciprocate in kind in the comments section, and so we will all prosper.
Mainly, my main considerations when shopping for food at Trader Joe's are this:
- Will the kids eat it?
- Can it be prepared in under ten minutes? Preferably via microwave? I will skillet things and suchlike, but my nanny is even less cook-y than I, so if I'm not the one preparing (read: heating up) dinner, it's got to be microwave, toaster oven, or, you know, vichyssoise.
- Can I at least pretend that it has some nutritive value?
- Does it cost $10 or less? (Luckily almost everything at Trader Joe's is $10 or less, so the answer is usually yes.)
OK, first up, this turkey bolognese sauce:
Look, I have that Prego sauce in a can too. (Yes, I know it's easy to make your own spaghetti sauce, shut up already, Racheal Ray, GOD.) But sometimes you want a little protein in there so your kids don't get kwashiorkor. Also, meat sauce tastes good. Plus, pasta and kids = success. I got this turkey bolognese for the first time last week. Three days later, I went back and got three more boxes for the freezer. Guys, it's good. And it's frozen, so you can keep it for months, ready to unthaw and spoon over your fusilli or what have you at the drop of a hat. Put some fresh parsley over it if you're fancy like that--I'm not, but I do appreciate that this sauce has a somewhat finer flavor than your usual prepared pasta sauce, which is usually just like a can of Hunt's tomato sauce with lumps in it. It's also not too salty, a major fault of many other brands of prepared pasta sauces. You can probably get four to six kid-sized meals out of this serving of sauce (depending on how big your kids are), or feed two hungry adults.
Next up, this beef bourgignon:
(How do you say that anyway? I've been pronouncing it bore-zheen-YON, but then I kind of mumble it in case I'm saying it wrong so no one notices that eight years of French class in my formative years taught me nothing.)
I know what you're thinking. Red wine sauce? Kids won't eat that. I had the same concerns, so I just got one figuring that if the kids hated it, at least Joe and I could eat the remainder. But it actually isn't that red-winey--actually much less so than the beef shortribs that TJ's occasionally pedals in the refrigerated ready-made foods aisle, but which Cal LOVES--so I think that on the kid front, it's highly palatable. It also doesn't come with quite as many giant meat chunks as depicted on the box, and with somewhat more sauce (which, as mentioned, is not winey but still very meaty) so it becomes quite an ample meal spooned over noodles or rice or potatoes or what have you. I would consider cooking a side vegetable--the only identifiable vegetable I saw were pearl onions--but overall, I was impressed with this entree. Maybe four meals for kids, depending on how much starch you serve it on top of. I know it's probably supposed to be two adult servings, but I could easily finish this whole thing myself if I was really hungry.
Finally, not a new product, but an old standby in our household:
Look, I'm not going to pretend that this is healthy. It's not. It's elbow macaroni and a lot (A LOT) of cheese. But kids like it. Serve it as a side, save some for leftovers, and it won't be overkill. We always have a box or two lying around for emergencies. At least it's better than that powdered orange stuff. Pro tip: after you heat it up in the microwave for six minutes, give it a stir, and then (if you're kids aren't howling for blood because they're so hungry Mom OH MY GOD SO HUNGRY MOOOOOOOM) stick in in the toaster oven on toast for another few minutes. Gets a nice crust.
What do you like at Trader Joe's? And more importantly, do your kids like it? I got these new curry panang sticks there this past weekend, but I'm under no illusions--that one's for me.