Cluck Cluck! TJ's Gluten Free Stuffing Review

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This is a super delayed post. Like, so delayed I wrote the original version a month or two after Thanksgiving 2016 and the original opening told people that although the post was delayed, the could go screw. Imagine my delight then that I find this right before Thanksgiving 2017 - right as I’ve been reminding myself to stop at a Trader Joe’s For another box. Thank you past Kerry for taking care of Future Kerry!**

 

Since our family went gluten free for holidays, we haven't attempted to make any stuffing. We weren't huge on it for Thanksgiving anyway, but last year I was really jonesing some (this is where my mother would pop in and say "Kerry you never CRAVE anything I just don't believe that" -  just want you to know my life and everyday struggles) and luckily we had a box of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing downstairs. 

I'll be honest - I wasn't expecting much. Something about pre-packaged bread  (gluten or no) in a box ready to use tends to lower expectations. But this was a huge freaking win! I could eat it all the time. Everything came together so well, just by following the basic instructions.

 

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What resulted after a quick mix and bake was one of the most amazing, homemade-knockoff sides I've ever made from a box! With such a simple mix, I ended up with a (Food Word Trigger Warning) moist mix that had some amazing crispy pieces - the best part to me - after a few minutes under the broiler. The gluten free bread "croutons" in the mix wasn't noticeable versus gluten full bread in a typical stuffing; maybe because gluten bread is typically stale for this recipe so the xantham gum I usually note immediately wasn't noticeable in a baked mix? For whatever reason, the bread was perfect, the seasoning was noticeable without being overwhelming, and I really appreciated not having to do any extra sautéing or prep for additonal ingredients to end up with, as the Great British Bake Off would say, "a showstopper."

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Once again, Trader Joe's swoops in with the win - thanks for redeeming another foodie event.

 

Are you a fan of traditional US Thanksgiving and leftovers? Any gluten free faves?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** - 

I Still Love You, TJ: Brownie Crisp Review

Oh, Trader Joe's. I should be sad that after ages of insanely delicious gluten free food, you've finally let me down with a product. I mean, the white sandwich bread, hard shell tortillas, waffle mix, and cornbread mix are all game changers. It feels like I've gushed in every post I've written about my boy TJ at an almost embarrassing level. But instead of feeling disappointed in Trader Joe's because of their lackluster Brownie Crisps, I almost feel relieved.

I saw a tweet raving about these gluten free brownies, so as soon as I saw them in the house I was Ready. To. Go. From the moment I opened the bag though I started to realize this wasn't going to be as exciting as I expected. The brownies are indeed "crispy," but in a way that they look more dehydrated than anything else, and their crispy-ness results in a bunch of broken down pieces as they jostle around in the bag.

My ideal brownies are served hot and just barely cooked, where you end up with a fudgy gooey mess full of pieces of chocolate; so I probably wasn't the ideal tester for this crispy prepackaged version. Even so, these definitely let me down since they had very little true chocolate flavor, broke apart into billions of crumbs in your hands on the way to your mouth, and had that xantham gum feeling (where your teeth almost feel like they're sticking together) that I've documented my hatred for in the past. 

Trader Joe's, thank you for reminding me that no one is perfect. Next time I need some brownies though I'm going straight for the at-home gluten free brownie recipe I have on deck.
 

Trader Joe's Brown Rice Pasta

Yassss! We're finally getting sun again! I can't tell you what a huge difference sunlight makes - just a few minutes at the beginning of the day when you get up and when you leave your office/school/where ever you spend your day makes such a difference. People are suddenly kinder and have loads more patience than they did a month ago. Knowing that we're at the tailend of the dreary, freezing months and only a week and a half from Daylight Savings leaves people visibly happier, a huge weight off our collective shoulders.

When the world goes from this...

When the world goes from this...

With that in mind, let's talk about the food that will go with all those fresh garden veggies headed our way! Or at least the ones we're picking up at winter farmers markets or grocery stores near home.

...to this!

...to this!

As I've found out over the past few months, I am a huge fan of Trader Joe's - specifically, their gluten free products (I've always been a fan of their samples and cheap wine bins!). Even thinking of just their pancake mix, sandwich bread, and taco shells, they seem to have a gluten free product for whatever you're in the mood for. Today we're venturing into their pasta world, but in a less direct way than you're likely expecting. Instead of going the real Italian pasta dinner route, we treated TJ's Gluten Free Organic Brown Rice Penne like, well, brown rice. 

We started off with small pieces of chicken breast seared in a little olive oil on the stove, then added in green beans, zucchini, and finally a whole can of tomatoes (San Marzano or any related brand is perf). Once the pasta was ready, we served our high-in-protein-and-veggies-low-in-hating-yourself-after-eating stew of sorts over the penne, which was cooked just like any regular pasta.

I would definitely recommend serving this brown rice penne as a fun brown rice side instead of a standalone pasta. Between local gluten free pasta and versions as simple and accessible as Barilla's gluten free pasta, there isn't really a need to settle for a pasta that doesn't taste like it's gluten-full cousin if you don't have to. On it's own the brown rice penne is chewy and flavorful - ever so slightly gummy but not in a way that turns you off at all. I treated this as a brown rice that had a cool shape, and as that it was a delicious side for my dinner. As a standalone pasta though it didn't have the traditional bite or flavor that I was expecting, and was a little too dumpy for what I was expecting - there was nothing wrong with it, but not a true pasta in my book (although I'm Irish so...).

If you're looking for an additional carb to complement stewed veggies or maybe even as a mac and cheese though, this could fit the bill. I think that's where we're headed next - mac and cheese world. This guy seems like he can manage a big hit of cheese and some time in the oven. I'll let you know how that goes!

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Happy Valentines Day! Well, belated but the thought's still there. Here's hoping you had a wonderful day with others or appreciating the fact that you're the most hilarious, intelligent, fabulous person you know. With pancakes. If there was nothing else, there should have been pancakes.

If there weren't; get off your lazy bum and grab a box of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes & Waffles Mix, we're making 'em now!

Although I am the type of person that goes all in with their pancakes - butter and syrup are both musts (hey, why not if we're already carb-loading?!) - I definitely would recommend one or the other here for people that aren't big on toppings, since you'll want a little something to brighten up the typically-pancake-like-flavor. Which is to say, pancakes are made to embellish! They are your blank food canvas to make as exciting as you'd like, so go wild!

The pancakes come out looking just like gluten-full pancakes - thick and golden, with those perfect batter waves throughout and soft layered edges. Taste-wise they're pretty much on par as well: dense, not too doughy, and with a good balance that compliments anything you add in - think berries or chocolate chips - or on top. 

My biggest qualm with these guys was the way they were layered. I was able to use my fork to cut off pieces - a must in my pancake world - but once I broke off a piece it almost immediately separated into a top and bottom section. I don't think the pancakes themselves were too thick, but something in their little pancake hearts (ha! Pun intended) decided to quit once a section was cut off. Every. Single. Time. This was not an issue in terms of taste, but it was a little bit annoying, especially when tinier pieces kept breaking off resulting in a few pancake-crumble-syrup-roadblocks on my plate. Again, not a major issue, but a different experience to be aware of, especially since the syrup and butter hadn't permeated the top layer, forcing me to keep adding little pours of syrup here and there to give the bottom layer some love.


All in all, I left with a nice full stomach and a little sugar high that encouraged my Gilmore Girls-watching binge, so a big thanks (as always) to Trader Joe's for being an enabler! Have you tried Trader Joe's mix? Any other favorite gluten free pancake mixes or recipes?

Trader Joe's White Sandwich Bread

Success! Finally. I feel like there should be trumpets going off or something. After a long few months of various gluten-free bread purchases and a failed homemade gluten-free bread experience, I'm psyched that my dad has finally found a favorite gluten-free sandwich bread.

Trader Joe's White Sandwich Bread has really delivered, according to my dad. Although the bread is on the smaller end, like pretty much all gluten-free varieties we've found, we've been able to keep it in a drawer instead of a freezer, and my dad can't get over the taste. The ability to make a sandwich (or maybe two) for lunch without pulling a few slices out of the freezer to defrost overnight or toast a few hours before taking them to work is a huge benefit. And for someone who's always liked plain white sandwich bread more than the whole-wheat options, finding a simple and delicious brand for easy lunches takes away a lot of the stress of the last few months and planning what to eat in advance.

It looks great too! With some nice density it's chewy, and even with the classic little air bubbles of gluten-free bread it looks like the gluten-full bread we're used to. I can't get over how many new avenues it opens up - now toast with jelly for breakfast, bread as a side with pasta or soup, or even a little PB&J snack are all options again! I wonder how it would work as a crumb topping for haddock..definitely something I'll be trying out since we're constantly going back to TJ's to restock! 

Lots of credit to Trader Joe's for making their own insanely good bread option for Celiacs! Although our closest store doesn't have a gluten-free section, I've been continually impressed by the gluten-free options we've found throughout the store over the last few months.

What's your favorite gluten-free sandwich bread? Any other favorites at Trader Joe's I should stock up on?

Cornbread Review: Trader Joe's Mix

 

What a week! After a busy (and cold! -8°! But more on that in another post) week in Southern Minnesota, I was so happy to sleep in my own warm bed and start cooking again. My first day home we went with chili (a post in the Cooking section tomorrow) and Trader Joe's "Baker Josef's" Gluten Free Cornbread Mix for a comforting and homey dinner.

This had nothing to do with the mix itself but I just liked the way it looked when the wet ingredients were added. Yes I'm a weirdo.

This had nothing to do with the mix itself but I just liked the way it looked when the wet ingredients were added. Yes I'm a weirdo.

Other than the milk, egg and oil, the only thing that's really required of you here is elbow grease. You'll start off by whisking together everything except the mix itself, then slowly pouring in the mix and whisking that in. You're supposed to mix that together for 2-3 minutes which involved just enough arm strength for me to regret not using our new KitchenAid stand mixer. But now I'm strong! And I have one less bowl to clean. Okay I'm still completely weak and will never be able to do a single pull-up. But still one less bowl to clean.

 

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While mixing everything together, I was annoyed to find little lumps. As previously noted, ever since gym class in elementary school where I would be told I could stop if I'd just do one pull-up and could still barely dangle from the bar, I am not upper-body strong, but that didn't stop my irritation that those little clumps wouldn't go away. Upon closer inspection though I realized they were pieces of corn! And any other small pieces were cornmeal, which is normal for cornbread. So all was forgiven.

After letting these stand in a greased pan for ten minutes, the mix baked for about 18 minutes (less than the recommended 20-25) when the top looked golden and a toothpick came out clean.

On to the fun part:eating! Overall grade of this cornbread would be a solid A. The texture was spot on, with the expected rich cornbread flavor with minimal xantham gum (my biggest gluten-free enemy!) problems (where it makes your teeth feel like they're sticking together as you chew) and a beautiful texture. Beautiful probably seems a bit over-the-top here, but I loved that this cornbread tore apart as I'd expect, and was chewy and dense and would bounce right back when you stuck your finger in a piece like gluten-full cornbread would.

Normally we'd only have cornbread at restaurants, so there was something especially fun about fresh out of the oven cornbread pans everyone slicing their own piece instead of eating what came with their meals. I'm usually more of a chips-and-chili gal myself, but with this particular recipe I'd call it a huge hit. We didn't even think of adding butter at the table to this cornbread, which seems like an indicator of good cornbread. All in all I'd call this a huge success! Definitely going back for this easy and quick mix again.

 

 

Any other gluten free cornbread faves? Have you tried Trader Joe's gluten free cornbread mix?