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All About Food: Make meals more saucy with Trader Joe's products

September 12, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz | By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Various tastes from across the globe at Trader Joe’s include the salsa verde, canned marinara, Thai yellow curry sauce, and General Tsao’s stir-fry sauce, left to right.
Various tastes from across the globe at Trader Joe’s… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

We give thanks weekly to the god of convenience food for the blessings of Trader Joe's.

People who don't have time to cook, people who don't know how to cook or people who just don't like to cook all can be found wandering the aisles in search of a three-minute meal. They usually end up in the frozen food department or the prepared food aisle.

We have found that with very little more time and minimal effort, you can create a delicious dish with fresh ingredients combined with the great variety of their bottled sauces. The secret we would like to pass on to you is how to kick these sauces up a notch in a few minutes and get credit for a meal that tastes like you have been slaving over a hot stove for hours.

Trader Joe's salsa verde is a tomatillo sauce, but the little green tomatolike vegetable itself, tomatillo, is hard to find and even harder to prepare for cooking.

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Although the sauce is tasty as it is, if you throw it in the blender with a half bunch of cilantro, a teaspoon of cumin and a serrano chile or half a jalapeño, according to your tolerance for heat, you will have a multilayered and beautiful green sauce to pour over chicken breasts, boneless thighs or fish. It also makes a mean green enchilada. The sauce is good hot or cold, but if you heat it, do it briefly or it will lose its vibrant color.

Speaking of enchiladas, if the red kind is your favorite, try adding a large peeled roma tomato to the blender with TJ's enchilada sauce. It gives it a nice, fresh, homemade flavor.

The easiest way to peel a tomato is to cut an X in the nonstem end and dip it in boiling water for one minute. The skin will peel right off. Then follow the directions on the bottle but use more chicken.

To turn Trader Joe's inexpensive traditional marinara and tomato basil sauces into something that tastes like it was made by your Italian nonna, simply sauté two tablespoons of olive oil with two cloves of chopped garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional). Add the marinara to the pan and heat. If you have a few extra minutes, add a freshly chopped tomato to the mix.

Pour it over cooked pasta. Add vegetables or protein, if you are so inclined. Gussy it up with a sprinkling of oregano or, in the summer, fresh-chopped basil.

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