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Water cooler: Add healthy options to favorite Trader Joe’s meals

People wait in line to shop at a Trader Joe’s grocery store on April 6  in Woodmere Village, Ohio. (Tony Dejak / AP)
People wait in line to shop at a Trader Joe’s grocery store on April 6 in Woodmere Village, Ohio. (Tony Dejak / AP)
From staff reports

One of the most well-known aspects of the Trader Joe’s franchise is its frozen food section. During quarantine, it’s a godsend. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of us are a bit burned out on cooking day in and day out.

For those looking for frozen options that cater to different dietary needs, are a bit more health-conscious and offer a wider variety of cuisines, Trader Joe’s has you covered.

Even the best of premade frozen foods, however, are limited. They don’t always make for the most nutritious or filling meal, so here are some strategies to add a little more bulk and nutrition to Trader Joe’s frozen options without losing the primary appeal – convenience.

Trader Joe’s Mandarin orange chicken is a popular favorite. It provides a good amount of protein, but some high-fiber vegetables will help round out its high carbohydrate count and keep you satisfied longer. Pair it with Trader Joe’s vegetable fried rice, and throw in some extras like broccoli, bell peppers and carrots to make it more robust. Or skip the rice altogether and saute some vegetables for the side – fresh or frozen will work just fine.

Trader Joe’s chile lime chicken burgers are great even on their own, but for a full meal that is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, just chop it up and throw it on a bed of mixed greens to make a burger bowl. Add your favorite accompanying vegetables like tomatoes, red onion, pickles and even roasted potatoes to sooth your fry craving.

Turn Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala into a heartier Indian meal by cooking yourself a little extra basmati rice and adding the store’s palak paneer, which is made of blended spiced spinach with hunks of soft Indian cheese. This adds more fiber and more protein with the cheese, as well as more grains.

Spice up Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Mac & Cheese by adding canned diced green chilies, black beans and diced tomato (fire roasted for extra smoky flavor). Again, more fiber means you’re fuller for longer and the black beans also provide extra protein.

Noodles made of vegetables are a huge hit for people looking to avoid gluten and refined carbohydrates. Trader Joe’s carrot spirals are an excellent option for a vegetable-based pasta, and they provide a bit more crunch than zucchini noodles. Throw in your favorite protein source like tofu, sausage, chicken or shrimp and add one of many Trader Joe’s sauces, like their kale and cashew pesto, tomato basil marinara, limone alfredo sauce or creamy pink primavera pasta sauce.

Brain train

Test your knowledge with today’s trivia question

In what land in Disneyland can you buy the Dole Pineapple Whip?

  • Tomorrowland
  • Toon Town
  • Frontierland
  • Adventureland

Wednesday’s answer: Matilda

Grill master

With all the rainy weather that has hit the area this week, many people in the Inland Northwest must be yearning for the true arrival of barbecue season.

Of course, there may be a few dedicated grillers who will stand outside in the rain anyway, but for those with a little less determination and a little more patience, now is a great time to get that grill cleaned for all the barbecuing to come. Get ready to whip out a little elbow grease for this one.

Start by burning off last year’s caked-on food. Light fresh coals and let the grill reach a high heat. Once the heat helps loosen some stubborn remnants, you’re ready for Step 2.

Let the grill cool slightly until it is warm. Cover the grill with water-soaked newspaper or put a heat-safe container of water inside the grill. Close the lid for about half an hour to let the steam go to work.

Now that everything is loosened up, it is time to bring your muscle into the game. Get out your grill brush and go to work scraping off the remaining gunk. If your grill grates have porcelain enamel, use a soft bristled or nylon grill brush to avoid damaging them. If you don’t have a grill brush, you can bunch aluminum foil to use as an abrasive scrubber.

To ensure that all grime and dirt is removed, go over the grates with a dishcloth and some hot soapy water. If you need something stronger, use a commercial cleaner specifically designed to clean and degrease grills.

If your barbecue has a base, make sure to rid it of ash. Any ash left out will absorb moisture and be much harder to clean off later.

Don’t forget to wipe the outside with soapy water. If your grill is stainless steel, use a polishing spray. To protect the exterior and give it a shine, you can rub a light coating of mineral or baby oil on the outside.

To prevent buildup in the future, a coating of sunflower oil will help keep food from sticking. It has a high smoke point and will not go rancid.

Sweet tooth

You can’t go to Disney’s parks and resorts right now but you can still bring a little bit of Disney magic into your home – and this magic you can even taste.

As part of Disney’s hashtag series #DisneyMagicMoments, Walt Disney World has released their Peanut Butter and Jelly Milk Shake recipe, which is a favorite for guests at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The best part – it’s incredibly simple and uses common ingredients that you might already have on hand.

Here are the ingredients for a single serving:

  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons jelly (either strawberry or grape)
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup milk

Simply blend all the ingredients together and feel free to add additional peanut butter or jelly to taste. You can also substitute 2 cups of sliced strawberries for jelly if you prefer. For a dairy-free option, use your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream and milk alternative.

A video tutorial of the milkshake recipe is available on YouTube, titled “#DisneyMagicMoments: Peanut Butter & Jelly Milk Shake from 50’s Prime Time Café.”

The Disney Parks blog also features recipes for Tonga Toast from Disney’s Polynesia Village Resort, Disneyland’s Mickey Mouse-shaped Beignets and Disney Parks Churro Bites.

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