Guide to Buying Honey at Trader Joe's

Oh honey, how much I love you. I use this saying in reference to my wife, but also in reference to that sweet nectar that the bees oh so kindly provide for our enjoyment. I love sampling different varieties of honey. Ever since my trip out to California, 4 years ago, when I first discovered orange blossom and avocado honey, I have been trying as many new varieties as I could. You have to search them out. Most of the big chain stores don’t offer a good selection. However one of the exceptions is Trader Joe’s. In the last year, the selection has even gotten better. They have three honeys that are available for a reasonable price and are easy to find. Which one should you select? I brought home 3 of their finest so that I could help make your decision of which to buy that much easier – ok, mainly because I wanted to taste them side by side, but I am using my blog as an excuse, which bloggers are allowed to do!

Trader Joe Honeys

For years Trader Joe’s has sold their 100% Desert Mesquite Honey. More recently their Mostly Mesquite Honey showed up. I originally thought it was replacing the Desert Mesquite because I only saw the new one on the shelf, but eventually it came back. They also then added Tukish Honey. Let me share with the differences between these 3 different honeys.

TJ Desert Mesquite Honey

100% Desert Mesquite Honey
Origin: Desert of Northern Mexico
What is Mesquite? It’s a type of plant that actually falls into the legume family. It grows like a tree. You can find it in northern Mexico to the southwestern United States, even as far north as southern Kansas. It’s wood is used for smoking food, particularly in Texas and southwestern BBQ. When the tree blossoms it makes a great nectar source for bees. The honey that make from it is a light to medium amber color. It has a mild, yet distinctive taste. More flavor than just a clover honey. It would be great used in homemade BBQ sauce especially with some added mesquite liquid smoke.

TJ Mostly Mesquite Honey

Mostly Mesquite Honey
Origin: Argentina
The bottle says “Collected from bees whose primary forage source is the nectar of the Mesquite Tree’s blossom. This one is not 100% mesquite. The bees are getting their nectar from other sources as well, although the bottle doesn’t indicated those sources. The color is pretty much the exact same. The taste is similar, but I dedicate a hint of spice and it’s a little bit sweeter. They are similar that they can be used interchangeable, but different enough where it’s fun to have both on hand.

TJ Turkish Honey

Turkish Honey
Origin: Turkey
The bottle says “Produced by bees foraging nectar from primarily Rock Rose, Citrus, Wildflowers, and Turkish Pines”.
This honey is vastly different than the two above. It’s flavor is the sweetest. It has a very unique hard candy like flavor that I have never had in a honey. It tastes just like I was sucking some kind of hard candy. It’s color is darker than the other two honeys as well. It has several floral sources. Rock Rose is a shrub found in temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean. When it blooms the shrub is just covered in flowers. Lots of nectar opportunities for the bees. The Turkish Pine is a pine that is native to Turkey and some of the surrounding areas. An aphid sucks sap out of the tree and then secretes sugar that the bees collect for honey. Yes I mean the bees are collecting aphid poop. Try not to think about that one too much.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up all 3 of these honeys. Great to have when guests are over and they can taste the differences. For $5.99 for a 24 ounce bottle that is a wonderful deal on some good honey. Unless another store has a sale these are my go to honeys to have on hand for everyday use.

How to Make Easy Sesame Ginger Dressing

in Salads & Dressings

How to Make Easy Sesame Ginger Dressing

Been on a mini-sesame kick here on the blog. I thought it would be appropriate to talk about one of my wife’s favorite dressings. This dressing is so good that after one salad, she had to go back in have another. I want to show you how to make a sesame ginger dressing that is simple to make. No special machinery required.

Seame Ginger Dressing Ingredients

Rundown of Ingredients

Mild Oil
Dressing begins with oil. For this dressing I want the sesame flavor shining bright, so I don’t want my oil to be too assertive. Leave the extra virgin olive oil in the pantry, and turn to a mild flavored oil. I like sunflower seed oil or grape seed oil. You can use canola or vegetable oil as well, but I am more careful about selecting those oils unless labeled as being non-GMO (read my post on Why I Stopped Using Canola Oil)

Vinegar
Here you want to go mild as well, so no balsamic. Rice wine vinegar is the ideal choice, however I used apple cider the last time I made this dressing. Why? Because it’s the best vinegar for gut health – which I am working to improve. Make sure to choose a unfiltered apple cider vinegar that contains the mother – which turns alcohol into acid, which is what makes vinegar.

Whenever I make a vinaigrette, I like a 3 to 1 ratio. 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, gives me the best results. Not too acidic and when shaken makes a nice creamy emulsion.

Trader Joe's Toasted Sesame Seed Oil

Toasted Sesame Seed Oil
This is the key ingredient to what makes this salad dressing amazing. You don’t want just any old sesame seed oil, it need to be toasted to bring out that strong flavor. I love the one available at Trader Joe’s. It’s under $3 and a little goes a long way – thus it will last a while. It needs to be keep refrigerated to keep it from going rancid.

Garlic Powder
I am all about using fresh garlic in dressings, but in this one I want it as a background player, so I add a little bit of powder.

Fresh Ginger
This is where you want to use the fresh stuff. You can grate the ginger using a box grater or a microplane, which is what I use. No worry about peeling, just grate away. This is the one ingredient I would add a little at a time until you get what you like. I would add it at the very end.

Sesame Seeds
For even more sesame flavor, I add in the whole seed. I like to go with the black sesame seeds. They have a stronger flavor than the white ones. To learn more about where to find them, see my post on Where to Buy Black Sesame Seeds.

Soy Sauce
Pick a low sodium soy sauce. You don’t want one that is too salty. The one I used in the photo above is Kikkoman Organic Soy Sauce. I like that it is organic, yet it is bit salty. I only call for a tablespoon of soy in this recipe to provide a little background flavor.

Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing

How to Bring the Dressing Together
No fancy equipment needed here. You don’t need a blender or food processor. Just mix everything together in any good container that has a lid with a good seal. Even better if it is has a spout for pouring like my Lock & Lock salad dispenser you see above. The best advice I can give you is, taste, taste, and taste some more. What I think tastes perfect may not be what you think tastes perfect. Adjust the ingredients for your palate. Needs more salt, add more. Too much ginger, then back it off. Learn what you like. That’s the best think about homemade salad dressings, your completely in control.

How to Make Sesame Ginger Dressing

 

Easy Sesame Ginger Dressing
Dressing
Cuisine: Asian
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup mild flavored oil (sunflower, grape seed, vegetable, canola)
  • ⅓ cup apple cider or rine wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons black or white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Measure out and combine all the ingredients except the ginger in a container with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Add the fresh ginger a teaspoon at a time until flavor is to your liking. Shake to emulsify.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Makes enough for about 5-7 side salads.
  5. Shake well before each use.

 

Where to Find Black Sesame Seeds

in Tips

Black Sesame Seeds

Are you a sesame seed fan? Do you like them other than on top of your fast food burger? Do you throw them into your salads or your dressings? They you must be a sesame seed fan. Have you ever tried black sesame seeds? A couple weeks back, I wrote about the differences between the white and black sesame seeds (see What is the Difference Between Black and White Sesame Seeds?). The black sesame seeds have a stronger flavor than the white counterparts. It’s a reason why people seek them out. They often have more of crunch as they are not hulled like most white sesame you find are (although you can get unhulled white sesame seeds at Whole Foods Market).

How to Find Black Sesame Seeds
Typically black sesame seeds are harder to find, hence the motivation for writing this post. If you look in the spice section of most large supermarket chains you won’t find them there. If they have them they are most likely in an international section. When I see them they tend to be in large containers, too large unless you are a serious sesame user. I did however locate a small package (which is featured in the photo at the top of this post) at Hiller’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The store is known for having a great international selection. You also should be able to find them in any good Asian market. Do a Google search of your area. A lot of those markets are “hole in the wall” places that many of us overlook. They might be hidden gems. Or also look for a bulk food or spice specialty store. Don’t forget if all else fails you can find them on the world wide web.

What Sesame Seed Flowers Look Like

Flowering black sesame plant (photo from rareseeds.com)

Grow Your Own Black Sesame Seeds
As I was pursing through the Whole Seed Catalog from the Baker Creek Seed Company I came across their grains & cover crops section. I discovered that they sell black sesame seeds. You could grow your own! It is what Thomas Jefferson did! Story goes he received sesame oil and fell in love with it (see for more info on the Monticello website). He decided he wanted to grow them. They still grow on site today. And they can grow at your house as well. I myself am going to grow them. I am further north than in Virginia where Jefferson grew them, I have heard of people being successful here Michigan. Even if I don’t get a lot of or any seeds, there are still the leaves. The leaves are edible. You may see them sold at Asian stores as perilla leaves. They can be used in salads and are popular to wrap rice, veggies, or meat in. One of the benefits to growing something yourself is experiencing the plant in new ways that you may have not experienced if you just go to the store and buy the seeds. Not to mention they produce pretty white flowers that will beautify your yard.

Stay tune to my gardening blog, the Pea Project, for updates on how my sesame seed crop does.

You can order white or black sesame seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Here are the links to order them:

Sesame, Light Seeded
Black Seeded Sesame

Farmhouse Culture Gut Shots Review

in Beverages

Farmhouse Gut Shots

Have you ever seen an item at the grocery store that you thought there would be no way that thing would ever end up in your cart? Looking at said product makes you recoile. No how, no way am I buying that. Yet somehow, someway it finds it’s way into your shopping cart? I have had those experiences in the past (example: asparagus, brussels sprouts) and I just had one of those experiences again today. At my local Whole Foods market, I have been noticing these gut shots from Farmhouse Culture. The company is known for their sauerkraut and kimchi. I also think they have really lively packaging – with vivid colors and bold & easy to read words in an attractive font. It was practically jumping off the shelf – big props to their marketing guy (or girl).

What Am I Doing?
Back to the point, I thought I would never try this stuff. I am not a “kraut fan” to begin with. So why am I even talking about this right now? I am in the midst of a 3-day cleanse to help fight off excess yeast in my body that may be the root of my continual sinus troubles. During this cleanse, I am eating only vegetables. No fruit, no cheese, no meat, none of the things I love and carve. The veggies I am having are low sugar and low starch vegetables. No potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, etc. Not easy to do, but good for my health. When I spotted the Farmhouse Culture Gut Shot drinks I decided this is the time to try it. The cleanse is all about improving gut health which in turn should improve my overall health. The gut shots contain natural live probiotics, just what my gut needs.

Farmhouse Gut Shots

Choosing my Flavor
They had several flavors available – Classic, Ginger Beet, Garlic Dill Pickle, and Smoked Jalapeno. For my cleanse sake I needed a flavor that didn’t have any sweet veggies in them, so I passed on the Ginger Beet. I also say the Classic has caraway in it, and I can’t stand caraway at all, I don’t even like the smell. So Garlic Dill Pickle it is – I do like pickles.

Farmhouse Gut Shots

The First Taste
When I opened the bottle I was greeted by a strong scent of garlic, cabbage, and cucumber. What the heck I am thinking – this stuff smells as bad as it sounded to me. I gave myself a pep talk, making sure a sink was nearby in case, pouring the drink into a little disposable cup and went for it. I was floored. It didn’t taste bad. No at all. In fact, it was quite good. I got the sensation of eating a dill pickle in liquid form. It sounds weird, didn’t taste weird. I can’t get over actually how good it was. The flavors were well balanced. I can’t imagine they could do a better job. My hat’s off (if I wore hats) to Farmhouse Culture – you have one surprised and satisfied customer here. It also helped out with the stomach ache I was having at the moment. Happy tongue, happy tummy, happy gut equals a happy blogger!

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