The “I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian” cookbok

Our first Trader Joe’s recently opened, so I am thrilled to be able to review “The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook!” I’ve long been a fan of Trader Joe’s pantry staples, particularly their rice and grain blends, and was looking for new ways to put these pantry staples to use in my kitchen. (If you don’t live close to a Trader Joe’s, most of the ingredients can be substituted with whatever is available in your neck of the woods.)

Beginning with breakfast, you’ll find lots of quick and easy ideas that you can easily put together in half an hour or less, including orange blueberry cornbread muffins, pineapple upside-down pancakes, quick and dirty Danish, spiced apricot farina, and waffles.

You’ll also find all sorts of global influences, including Greek (Greek chickpea-laf), Italian (herbed polenta fries, white bean basil spread, Olive my love pasta), Asian (stir fries, gomasio, tofu), Latin (Mexi-bake casserole, tempeh tacos) Midwestern (hot dishes and casseroles) and Middle Eastern, as well as upscale nibbles (heavenly sweet n’ savory bites rich with caramelized onions, figs, and blue cheese, or the figgy blue sandwich). Old-fashioned comfort food like grown-up grilled cheese and fancy macaroni bake find their way in too.

For sweet endings, you’ll find gluten-free brownies, cakes, kheer (Indian rice pudding made with coconut milk, dried fruit and nuts), amazing everything cookies (featuring nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and banana chips), fall-inspired dishes like gingered bread pudding and fall pumpkin spice cobbler, and cheesecake (regular and vegan versions).

I tried the herbed polenta fries and the Greek chickpea-laf first. I ended up doubling the topping for the polenta fries, and would also strongly recommend blotting the polenta slices before adding the topping; otherwise, they tend not to get as crisp due to the high moisture content. They were delicious with the suggested lemon aioli (vegan), and as good as (or better than) most French fries I’ve had.

The Greek chickpea-laf is made with Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend, garbanzos (I used cannellini beans, since it was what I had on hand), lemon juice and oregano (the author is quite liberal with dried oregano; both the polenta fries and the pilaf called for 2 tablespoons each!), with tomatoes, parsley and feta cheese folded in. This would be a great dish for a potluck or picnic; the contrasts in textures and flavors (tart lemon and feta, sweet tomatoes, soft Israeli couscous) was unexpected and delicious.

Recipes are conveniently labeled as vegetarian, vegan (or include instructions on how to make a recipe vegan), and gluten-free when applicable. Also included are sample menus and conversions, however, nutritional info is not provided. For those who need photos to accompany their recipes, there are lots of gorgeous full-color photos for nearly every recipe. One small gripe: the Index only contains recipe names, not recipes by ingredient, so if you’re trying to quickly locate, say, a potato dish, you’ll have to flip through until you locate one.

Overall, ” The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook” is a great addition to your cookbook collection if you’re looking for fast, flavorful recipes that come together quickly.

(Review copy courtesy of Ulysses Press)

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