November 09, 2012

I Heart Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook review

People often think of Trader Joe's as a place to find well-priced, interesting, specialty items — and it is — but you can also get nearly everything you need to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet, if you know where to look. We used to live two blocks from a Trader Joe's, and stopped in often for our favorite items. We liked to get their hummus and peanut butter, and I was especially fond of the frozen mangoes, and tomatoes with green chilies. I also used to buy large bags of cashews, bags of avocados, and I admit that we often have a couple packs of frozen, cooked brown rice in the freezer for "emergencies". When I was offered a copy of Kris Holechek Peters' new cookbook, The I Heart Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook, I was really curious to see the range of recipes Kris assembled that could be created with food from Trader Joe's.

The cookbook is vegetarian with a vegan version of every recipe, though a great many of the 150 recipes are already vegan. There are also many clearly marked gluten-free recipes.

We decided to try two recipes for this review. Though there were a lot of appealing possibilities like Thai Lentil Simmer, Tahini Broccolini, and BBQ Bowl, my husband was craving tomato soup, and I was fixated on the polenta fries, so we chose our test recipes accordingly.


The Tuscan Tomato Soup was easy to prepare and very satisfying with its rich flavor and creamy consistency. The simple ingredients, which included tomatoes, onions, potatoes, beans, and lots of crunchy celery, added up to a pleasant meal on a chilly evening.


To accompany the soup we opted for polenta fries. I have always made my own polenta, and I don't recall ever buying a tube of prepared polenta, but to make the recipe I picked up one of Trader Joe's shelf-stable tubes of organic polenta. I have to admit that we enjoyed the (oven) fries so much, and they were so easy to prepare, that I recently bought another tube of TJ's polenta to keep on hand in case the urge to have polenta fries pops up unexpectedly in the near future.

The cookbook relies on combinations of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, packaged grains and beans, and convenient prepared foods, to create quick and tasty meals that are both economical and healthy. I think fans of Trader Joe's will find the cookbook handy. The recipes are fairly simple and straight forward — perfect for new cooks or those looking to change their diets to vegetarian or vegan.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of the cookbook and no one has attempted to influence my review. I wasn't paid for my review, and I purchased all the ingredients myself. Bummer.

25 comments:

  1. i absolutely LOVE trader joes! they have so many staples to my diet there! this cook book looks really great! i love that they have vegan versions of vegetarian items. on my recent quest to veganism, that is such a great idea.

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    1. I loved living so close to TJ's — so much good stuff there, and so reasonably priced.

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  2. Sounds like a good book. I had no idea you could by ready prepared polenta. Tsk, these modern new-fangled things :)

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    1. Crazy, isn't it, the things you can buy? When I walk through a market I'm always amazed at the thousands of items I've never bought and probably never will. And now I've bought ready-made polenta. Who would have thought...

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  3. Yes! I saw that my library has this book "on order" and I've already reserved it! The polenta fries look so good! It sounds like they would be quick and easy to make with the prepared polenta too.

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    1. There's something alluring about "quick and easy," isn't there? :)

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  4. I buy certain things at TJ's--much cheaper than Whole Paycheck. Like you, I get some frozen fruits, there and also beans and cleaning stuff. Not fresh fruit though. Ew!

    Cookbook looks like something I might take out of the library--but I honestly don't think I'd much it because while I like TJ's, I don't "heart" it ;)

    Great review and photos!

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    1. The only fresh fruit I can remember getting at TJ's is bananas. And the bagged avocados. Although the TJ brand is often specified in the recipes, they could be made with any brand. The recipes are simple and straight forward, making them perfect for new cooks or those transitioning to a vegetarian/vegan diet. (I should add that to the review!)

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  5. I actually tested for this cookbook--everything I tested was fantastic! I am glad you liked the recipes you tried :) There are certain staples that I do get at Trader Joes, but I don't feel like I could do ALL of my grocery shopping there...I always end up going there and at least one or two other places. They do have great deals on almond milk, though!

    Courtney

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    1. I agree that it might be hard to get all your groceries at Trader Joe's. I don't know if this has changed, but I couldn't get tahini or miso there in the past. If your diet is pretty basic, you could probably do most of your shopping there. They have more veggies and more organic stuff than they used to.

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  6. Trader Joe's is my FAVORITE! I did not know they had a cookbook! I can't wait to try some of these recipes. I am not a vegitarian, but I try to cook vegitarian several times a week for my family. I have another cookbook that I just love. It is called, "Holly Clegg's trim&TERRIFIC KITCHEN 101: Secrets to Cooking Confidence" by author Holly Clegg.
    This book is designed for all ages, but specifically for the 18-25 and anyone with their first kitchen.
    http://www.hollyclegg.com

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  7. Sounds like a great cookbook. Maybe it will encourage them to expand their non-animal choices, even further.

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    1. Maybe. They seem to have a reasonable selection of vegan items, but there's nothing wrong with expanding the choices!

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  8. We've only been to Trader Joe's twice and it was so busy both times that we quickly left. I wish we had one close enough that we could go during the week because this cookbook sounds fantastic. Seriously, Thai Lentil Simmer? I would have never thought of polenta fries! Both them and the soup look really delicious.

    Very cool that the cookbook is veg, too.

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    1. When the TJs first opened in Madison, it was a hilarious scene. People were coming from all over the state, and the store was so packed it was nuts. There were people wheeling cases of wine to their cars. We neighbors stopped in to view the shenanigans, but we waited until things simmered down before we shopped there! It's still a busy place, but nothing like those early days!

      I've seen quite a few recipes for polenta fries online. You can make the polenta yourself instead of buying a tube.

      It's nice to see you back again! You were missed.

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  9. Those polenta fries are calling my name. I first tried them at Candle 79 last year and they were amazing (well, I don't know whether they used the packaged TJ's polenta, but you know what I mean). ;) Sounds like a great book!

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    1. Haha. I can just imagine the chefs at Candle 79 rushing off to TJs for tubes of polenta. Cough, cough. It would be easy enough to make polenta, chill it, slice it and bake it into fries — unless of course, you need the fries TODAY!

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  10. Last time I was in the US, I marvelled at the wonder of Trader Joes. I kept dragging my boyfriend in and hissing 'look, look at all the vegan things!'

    I like the look of the polenta fries - are they baked or fried?

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    1. These puppies are baked! They taste kind of fried though. I will eat deep-fried things on occasion, but I never deep-fry anything myself.

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  11. What a perfect combo, tomato soup and polenta fries! Your cravings meshed well. :-) They both look and sound delicious!

    I've only been in one Trader Joe's, and that was in San Diego in 2003 (I think it was). I've ended up in plenty of Whole Foods, but have never come upon a Trader Joe's since! That's really something about the opening of the one in Madison! Doesn't sound from Molly's comment like the interest in it has waned much since!

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    1. Why, thank you. I thought the combo was well -meshed, too.

      TJs is kind of a novelty for people who aren't used to having one. The one in Madison replaced a long-time traditional neighborhood grocery store after a LONG, UNPLEASANT battle to keep a food market in the space. A not-quite-honest developer bought the property, held it for a while, and taunted a new, grass-roots co-op effort with a possible sale. Then they screwed the co-op and tried to sell it to Walgreens but the neighbors loudly revolted and Walgreens bailed. Eventually TJs took over the property, beating out a local, established co-op that was looking to expand. It's a perfect location surrounded by an established neighborhood, and on a main street linking several travel routes. There aren't that many TJs in the Midwest, though there are now a couple in Milwaukee, so it's still kind of a novelty.

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  12. YOUR PANDOWDY LOOKS EPIC...why have I never heard of that term before. I love ANYTHING with fruit, and like...a layer of crust, or crumble...UH YUM.

    Going to read your mango banana ginger..chocochip ice cream post now :P
    It's winter but I can still eat ice cream, right?

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    1. Oh how I wish I had come up with the pandowdy recipe — I'd be pretty pleased with myself! It was delicious.

      As long as you stay warm enough, you can eat anything you like. :D Can't go wrong with mangoes, bananas, ginger and chocolate chips, right?

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  13. I live just a hop skip and jump from a TJ's. I know that because I often op skip and jump to get there. Crazyboy just got badck from there, with some kale and corn tortillas. I've used the polenta tube to make polenta fries and they are great! Hoorah for Trader Yoho's

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    1. I miss being two blocks away. Now it takes 30 minutes to walk to TJ's which is good for exercise but bad for laziness. Maybe I could get there faster if I skipped.

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