i really love trader joe’s

This week’s LA Daily is all about an awesome cookbook Anne and I discovered entirely by accident, and how it’s made cooking fun again:

When I was in my early twenties and had the dual luxuries of copious time and disposable income, I loved to cook. I cooked different things all the time, experimented with various styles of cooking and ingredients, and wasn’t afraid to take a chance on something exotic. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I thought. “I’ll just make something different if this doesn’t work out.”

Then I got married and had kids. My days got longer, my responsibilities grew exponentially, and the whole concept of free time became a memory so distant, I wondered if it had ever really existed at all.

I still cooked, but I had a new set of priorities. Instead of grabbing a cookbook and picking out a recipe that looked interesting, I had to ask myself: How long would this take to prepare? How much is it going to cost to feed two growing boys in addition to two adults? How likely is it that the kids I’m working so hard to feed are going to complain about the uniqueness of the meal I’ve prepared? Wouldn’t it just be easier to order take out or throw something in the microwave?

I had resigned myself to a lifetime of culinary boredom until last month, when my wife and I came across a cookbook that singlehandedly made cooking fun, easy, and affordable again. It’s called Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s, and it is exactly what it sounds like: choose a recipe, head into your local Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients, and make your friends and family think you’re a hell of a chef.

We’ve been making something different every night since we got this book, and it’s just awesome. I wish I’d discovered it years ago.

23 thoughts on “i really love trader joe’s”

  1. *giggle* I not only gave that cookbook as a holiday present to another Trader Joes lover I know, but I was almost having too much fun reading it to wrap it. I was thinking I should go get one for myself, and then you post this…. At least now I can blame it on you!
    -Elisabeth, the tea lady

  2. Canada doesn’t have Trader Joe’s either though my American friends rave about it.
    I’m more for cookbooks that call for generic ingredients anyway; despise ones that use brand names or special products.
    Of course, these are all excuses as to why I don’t really cook.

  3. We love TJ’s too, for the sole purpose that both my kids developed autism and need to eat food that isn’t filled with non-foods (check grocery store ingredients on say a box of bisquick, or dinner-in-a-box meals for example for good list of non-food items available for the American consumer to enrich his already nutritionally lacking diet). TJ’s carries real food! Imagine that! :) Gonna pick up that book. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Ahh if only we had easy access to a Trader Joe’s. The closest is just under 2 hours away from where we live (Harrisburg PA). Not that we haven’t driven the 2 hours to go there some times but only if we were already heading that direction for some other reason (like visiting family who live close to Trader Joe’s).

  5. Is this book available at Trader Joe’s? I was about to head there after work to pick up something fresh to make for dinner. This book will surely be among my purchases if they have it in the store. Sounds like it’s full of win.

  6. The last time I was in a Trader Joe’s was when we lived in Sacramento 10 years ago. *sigh* Only one of three things I miss about living there.
    Someday we’ll have TJ’s in Colorado. Someday…

  7. Ah, another reason to be jealous of this thing called “Trader Joe’s”. Mr. angie k talks about it all the time. Before I met him I’d never heard of one before. (Looking at their locations there were a few in the major cities around where I grew up but none close enough to even be considered a place to shop.) But looking at their website I’m now very jealous.
    Awesome that you found a great cookbook. If/when I ever move to an area that had a Trader Joe’s I think I’ll check them and the book out.

  8. What is this thing of which you speak? “Trader Joe’s?” Around here, I’d expect to find beaver pelts and mountain men in an establishment with such a name.
    Semi-seriously, I’m happy for you – but the only use I personally have for a cookbook is to prop open a door. I’m seriously dangerous in the kitchen…

  9. The best cookbook that I currently own is I’m Just Here for the Food from Alton Brown. Even if I’m using a recipe from somewhere else, I’ll often check it for techniques or tricks. It’s got the perfect blend of science nerdery + good basic advice that makes Brown my favorite tv cooking personality since the Frugal Gourmet.(who was usually the capstone to a Saturday night PBS home improvement run with my dad, which could explain the nostalgia)
    Trader Joe’s has always seemed a bit overpriced to me for items that more and more often are showing up in larger grocery stores, and even the IGA thats right down the street from me. The main reason I go there is if I need a largish quantity of cheap but decent wine.

  10. Thanks for your review of this cookbook. My husband and I ran across it while we were Christmas shopping but weren’t quite sure how good it was. I think I’ll get it now though, since I’m always looking for good, but affordable and relatively easy, recipes to make for dinner and for my husband’s game night. I’m basically the good inn keeper who provides them with sustenance for the game. I might have to start giving them quests though, simple things like procure me a few loaves of good crusty bread or please carry this heavy air conditioner to our stagecoach through the cavern of steep steps. :)

  11. Gee. Just what we need. Another cookbook. Not like theres an entire closet full of them downstairs, a good many of which my mother has threatened to pass on to me (uh oh).
    Since there is a TJs in Charlotte, I guess Ill check it out next time I make it over there.
    Thanks!
    Oh, and by the way. In N Out Burger and Oingo-Boingo (huh?) havent made it here yet.

  12. Might just have to get that there cookbook.
    Regarding Trader Joe’s, though, while it’s a great place for ingredients, and while most of their prepackaged frozen food is good and fun, we did get one bag of frozen Asian chicken chunks that was downright nasty. Something about the cut of meat. We couldn’t even finish it. Otherwise, never a problem with Trader Joe’s.

  13. I’m always at Trader Joe’s, and thanks for the tip about the cookbook. Have you ever tried their frozen Mac & Cheese?? It contains a blend of 7 different cheeses and is really yummy – my kids love it for a quick meal when I’m not home to cook something. I can’t keep enough of them in the freezer.
    blocksmash: If you go there for the wine, you must already be aware of TJ’s “two-buck-chuck” wine. It’s not bad.

  14. TJ’s rocks – unfortunately due to backwards Massachusetts I can’t take advantage of two buck chuck. Also, I get in and out in probably half the time it would take me to shop at a conventional grocery store.

  15. Colin, not sure where in Massachusetts you are but there are three stores that carry wine: Brookline, Framingham, and Cambridge. The two buck chuck is a little more expensive; I think it might be three or four dollars, but still a good buy. We go to one of those every so often and stock up.

  16. TJ’s made it here a couple of years ago, but I’ve only been there a handful of times so far. I find them a bit pricey, though of course not as much as someplace like Whole Foods (one of the few alternatives I have). That’ll teach me to move to the expensive part of town by not doing my pre-move research! It was a job relocation… I do use them to find Paradise Tea (aka the fruity tea that’s served at The Cheesecake Factory) and I’ve been really impressed by a lot of their pre-prepared stuff. I just never get all that motivated to go that way instead of the other direction to my regular store. Guess that will be my new year’s resolution. Branch out a bit more. I do kind of drool a bit when I get their mailers; they probably put out the only advertising pieces I’ll not only read through but spend a lot of time going through. Those suckers are encyclopedic.
    BTW, no In-N-Out Burgers or Oingo Boingo here. I’ve heard many profess their love for I-N-O-B on TV and such, but haven’t ever heard of the latter–not even sure what they sell. So not thanking you quite yet, but I’ll give you a polite nod and smile for TJ’s, how’s that?

  17. Exactly what I need; exactly what I’ve grown through. Just substitute Kroger {shudder} for TJs and it should work.
    And out here in SW VA, if you want a burger joint and aren’t afraid to spend $25 for two adults and two kids, check out Five Guys. OMG Sooooo Gooood! And the big secret is YOU can make burgers just like they do for less cost! Fries though is something different. You’d need a big deep fryer and lots o’ peanut oil.

  18. Wil — I saw you in TJ’s on Sunday night; no doubt acquiring some goods for a tasty meal. Can’t wait to check out the book. Thanks for the tip.

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