Intro to Cooking: The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook Recipe Review
When I started college, I didn’t cook. I had never really had to. I was one of those lucky kids who always came home to a homeade family dinner every single night. I was also one of those kids who was shaken back into reality by college meal plans and the reality that food is kind of expensive.
So when I was lucky enough to get Andrea Lynn’s cookbook, the I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook: 150 Cheap-and-easy Gourmet Recipes, sent to me for free (yay, for being a cheap student!), I was excited. Through college, I taught myself how to cook and found recipes I could reasonably enjoy with my limited means, both monetary and equipment wise. But I wish I had had a sweet cookbook to guide me through the process.
Trader Joe’s is a chain of grocery stores primarily on the West Coast, so unfortunately, a lot of college students won’t have access to the specific products mentioned in the book. That being said, I toured through a few chain grocery stores in my area and found really similar products. SO that doesn’t devalue this cookbook.
You’ll need… 1 box of Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Brownies, 1 cup of light sour cream, ¼ cup of applesauce, and ½ cup of Trader Joe’s Raspberry Preserves. (Possible replacements include any low-fat brownie mix and homemade or jarred raspberry jam or preserves.)
Combine sour cream and applesauce before adding brownie mix. (I had to add a little water to get it to come together.) Gently fold in the raspberry preserves. (I decided to spoon the preserves on top and swirl them in with a butter knife.) Bake at 350 degrees for 32-40 minutes.
These brownies are delicious. They would be great to take to a study party – they are lower fat that regular brownies, but about twice as delicious.
Nutty Caramel Popcorn
You’ll need… 1 pack of Trader Joe’s Microwave Popcorn with Natural Butter Flavor (or Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Air-Popped Popcorn), 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 cup of Trader Jacques’ Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce (about a whole jar), and 1 cup of Trader Joe’s Roasted and Salted Mixed Nuts.
If using microwave popcorn, start it in the microwave according to the package instructions. (If using the pre-packaged Air-Popped popcorn, measure out about half the bag.) In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and caramel sauce. Add about half the popcorn and the nuts. Stir to combine. Then add the remaining popcorn. Spread the popcorn onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to slightly harden.
I could drink this caramel sauce. The end. This popcorn is delicious. As it was sitting out to harden slightly, my boyfriend and I couldn’t stop eating it. It would make a great gift around Christmas time, tied up in cute little plastic bags.
This cookbook includes an entire section of recipes that can be made in the microwave, which is super handy for those still living in dorms. Also, there is a labeling system that labels things as microwave friendly, vegetarian and vegan friendly, and quick.
The best chapter is the one dedicated to quick and hearty brain food, specifically for finals week. Quick, easy, delicious recipes that are bursting with nutrients. Yes, please. Everyone is deprived of time during finals week, but to stay focused, it’s great to have handy recipes (like Salmon Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce or Potato Frittata) to make in a snap.
Almost every single recipe looks delicious. I wish I had the time and resources to make every single one.
Of course, this cookbook relies heavily on Trader Joe’s products. Of course, there are ways to replace them with common grocery store ingredients, so it isn’t really a problem. However, there is also a reliance on pre-packaged foods. In the past year, I’ve definitely tried to cut down on my consumption of processed foods. However, Trader Joe’s has some of the best products out there so I’m not too worried. That being said, if you really hate eating processed or pre-packaged foods, this might not be the cookbook for you.
This is a great cookbook for any college girl who wants to learn how to cook, or at least to stop relying on fast food and the school cafeteria. Plus, the recipes are really, really yummy and can make great group dinners or gifts for others. (I would personally get really excited if I was gifted a box of Raspberry Brownies. Just saying.)
This recipe won’t teach you to make anything really complicated, but it doesn’t assume you own specialized equipment. It is the bare basics, tailored to the average college students needs. And who doesn’t love that?