Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cookbook Review: The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook: 150 Delicious and Healthy Recipes Using Foods from the World's Greatest Grocery Store
By: Michelle Hershman
You might think that “The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook” is only meant for Trader Joe’s customers. And you might be right. Nearly every recipe uses ingredients unique to the grocery store chain such as Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice.
 
In fact, the catch line is “150 Delicious and Healthy Recipes Using Foods from the World’s Greatest Grocery Store.” It’s evident from the book that author, Kris Holechek Peters, is marketing to Trader Joe’s customers and/or hoping to inspire a new wave of consumers. Peters lays it on pretty thick in the introduction promoting Trader Joe’s as “magical” with prices that can’t be beat because of a unique model where the company purchases products directly from producers rather than going through a distributor like many other retailers. Peters also explains that Trader Joe’s is a privately-held company and focuses on building relationships with local farms and bakers to bring business to the community.
I’ve been to Trader Joe’s before and, I have to admit, it is a bit magical. The prices really are great and the store has a fun community atmosphere.  And, the fact that Peters, a food blogger, wrote a cookbook filled with vegetarian recipes using Trader Joe’s products shows just how beloved the grocery store is by its community.  
But what about cookbook readers out there who don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s? Can this cookbook reach a broader audience? I flipped through the book with that mindset. I wanted to know whether I had to make a special trip to Trader Joe’s (across the city) to make these recipes or whether I could use products from my own grocery store down the street.
Reading through a few recipes, it became obvious that most of these dishes are pretty adaptable. Peters may argue that TJ’s products and ingredients make these dishes extra delicious, and she may be right, but if Trader Joe’s hasn’t hit your neighborhood, you can still benefit from this book. Especially if you’re vegetarian and looking for some new eats that go beyond tofu and falafel. The Fancy Macaroni Bake calls for TJ’s Organic Tomatoes, TJ’s Italian Rigatoni, TJ’s Japanese-style Panko Bread Crumbs, and various TJ’s cheeses. All these ingredients can be found at any major grocery store and are likely interchangeable. Similarly, the Souper Easy Mushroom Soup calls for TJ’s Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce, which is another item that’s widely available. However, the Almond-Pear Oatmeal Parfait and the Cinn-Agave PB Spread both call for TJ’s Organic Maple Agave Syrup Blend. I’ve never seen a Maple Agave Syrup Blend at my grocery store. For those of you with a TJ’s across the city, the promise of Maple Agave Syrup Blend may be all the motivation you need to make the trek. But, for those of you without a TJ’s in your area, I bet you could take maple and agave syrup from your local grocery store and make your own blend if you really want to try the Cinn-Agave PB Spread. And, who wouldn’t want to try something that’s basically a mixture of cinnamon, peanut butter and sugar? YUM!
Reading through the cookbook, I was really impressed with the creative recipes Peters cooked up. Sure, some of the recipes are simple and scream “shop at Trader Joe’s” because they just mix a few different jars of TJ’s products. For example, the Amazing Tuscan Baked Potatoes, which involves potatoes topped with TJ’s Tuscan Italian Dressing and Trader Giotto’s Bruschetta. But there are numerous recipes that are really intriguing like the Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries with Lemon Aioli, Leeky Onion Biscuit Bake, and Sweet Potato Colcannon. All sound different and delicious and contain ingredients that could easily be found in any grocery store.
What I really like about this cookbook is the easy reading format. Every recipe contains a little explanatory blurb followed by a clearly-defined ingredients list and clearly-written instructions that even a novice cook could follow. Also, each recipe specifies whether the dish is vegan and/or gluten-free in addition to vegetarian. The book also contains a vegan version of every recipe. Some recipes also include additional variations and cook’s notes, making them easily adaptable.
Even though the cookbook contains solely vegetarian meals, I think the meals are diverse and hearty enough for meat lovers to enjoy. So, whether you are vegetarian or not, and whether you are a Trader Joe’s customer or not, I think this is the kind of cookbook that can be enjoyed by a wide audience. If you’re not convinced, the book contains a recipe for Amazing Everything Cookies which “incorporate everything that is good and holy in the world: peanut butter, bananas, walnuts, and chocolate.” No one can argue with that!

3 comments:

Club Trader Joe's (Steve) said...

I am going to have to add that book to my collection of Trader Joe's books! Thanks for the review!

Club Trader Joe's (Steve) said...

I am going to have to add that book to my collection of Trader Joe's books! Thanks for the review!

Lauren DeSantis said...

Enjoy!