In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, I give you:
A Love Letter to Trader Joe’s
My Dearest Trader Joe’s,
How do I love thee? Certainly too many ways to count, but please indulge me as I list a few (in no particular order.)
I love that, without fail, I can fill one of your cute red carts to the brim with everything from pomegranate seeds to prosciutto, and I still spend less than $100. I love that I get to exclaim “That’s all?!?” after my items have been rung up at the register (and I do exclaim this every single time — sorry about that — it’s just exciting, that’s all.)
I love that said cart filled with groceries is somehow neatly consolidated into two compact double-bagged paper T.J.’s totes, making me feel less sheepish about not bringing my own eco-friendly bags. An expertly packed Trader Joe’s bag is the clown car of the grocery container world. How you manage to fit it all in there is a mystery that we customers will never solve. At the other end of the spectrum, my local Albertson’s bagger places each of my ten items into their own plastic bag. You are clearly masters of your craft.
Pound-Plus Belgian dark or milk chocolate bars for $4.99…..enough to make any baker fall in love.
Your guacamole “kits” are the only way that I can bribe my husband to go grocery shopping with me, and they are most certainly on his list of “Top Ten Favorite Things Ever.” Via a plastic container filled with two avocados, a tomato, a jalapeno pepper, a lime, a shallot, and garlic, you have managed to turn Mr. I-can-barely-find-the-kitchen into Mr. I-always-make-the-guacamole. At $3.25, what’s not to love?
When I toss 18 packs of Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks into my cart, I love that your impressively polite staff doesn’t bring up the fact that, yes, I did just buy some last week. I might be slightly addicted. I might be eating some as I type this.
And most of all, I love that every visit to your stores inevitably results in my discovery of at least one (adorably packaged and reasonably priced) new item. Typically, this is a product that I didn’t know I was lacking until you were kind enough to bring it to my attention. It’s strategically stacked into a pyramid on an endcap with signature whimsical Trader Joe’s signage. You know what you are doing in the marketing department.
On my most recent shopping trip, this new discovery was Trader Joe’s Organic Tri-Color Quinoa ($4.99/bag). I love that you created this item, because it provided me with the inspiration to make today’s recipe, Tri-Color Maple Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa, a dish that is not only healthy, but so much more interesting and beautiful than plain ol’ oatmeal.
That’s all, T.J. I just wanted you to know how I feel about you. I’m certain that I am not alone. For example, you are opening a new store in a few weeks near my mom’s house, and I think that she is already in line. She loves you too.
I’ll be back next week for more Wasabi Seaweed Snacks.
Here are some extra tips for making this protein-packed oatmeal alternative:
- This is a great recipe to make at the beginning of the week and enjoy for breakfast throughout the week. You can either reheat it or eat it cold.
- Feel free to mix and match your dried fruit and nut combinations in this recipe. Other options could be chopped hazelnuts and dried cherries, cashews and diced tropical fruits, or chopped walnuts and dried blueberries.
- You can substitute honey, brown rice syrup, or agave syrup for the maple syrup.
- If you prefer butter, you may use it in place of the olive oil, but pay close attention as you saute the nuts to avoid burning them.
Tri-Color Maple Cranberry Breakfast Quinoa
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed (such as Trader Joe’s Organic Tricolor Quinoa)
Generous pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Zest from 1/2 orange, plus more for garnish
3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Greek yogurt (optional)
Prepare the quinoa: Combine the quinoa with two cups of water and the salt in a medium saucepan; stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed by the quinoa, about 15 minutes. Allow the quinoa to rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet overr medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and toasted, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the dried cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, zest, and 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, 1 minute more.
Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and toss to incorporate with the fruit/nut mixture. Divide into serving bowls. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and/or drizzle with additional maple syrup, if desired.