The Fork

Three Easy-Ass Trader Joe’s Meals

We Love You, Little Shrimpies!

During the whole pandemic thing, our grocery shopping habits often came down to one consideration: Was there a line? We’d drive to whatever store, and if there was a line out the door, we left to try another place or another day. Yes, we know it is highly privileged to do such a thing, but there was also that part of our fight or flight response that told us waiting in a line wasn’t entirely safe. And we do have a point to this, which is that we hit up Trader Joe’s for the first time in a loooooooooong time recently, and it was pretty alright. Why? Well, it’s not just the vegetarian chili (though that does help)—it’s because sometimes we get home from work and think about how cooking is hard or it’s too hot to stand over a stove or whatever, and that’s when we open our freezer and pull out something from TJ’s knowing we’ll have a meal we’d call “fine” within 20 minutes. Ah, America...we stay for the convenience.

So anyway, we have a couple recs from that most democratic grocery store, and we also thought you might, too (our email is always open), so here’s three easy-ass meals we’ve made recently that should only take you a couple minutes:

Tempura Shrimp with White Rice and Steamed Zucchini

You probably wouldn’t think that frozen tempura shrimp that you can bake would be as crispy and tasty as they’d be at your local Japanese joint, and you’d be mostly wrong. The first few times we tried this item, we pan fried them for crispiness reasons, but then our laziness caught up to us and we just started chucking them in the oven. The result? They’re effing perfect. Plus, they come with a pretty tasty soy sauce packet that we heat up in hot water during the cooking process and then we get to dipping. For simplicity’s sake, we used our automatic rice cooker to prepare some fluffy white rice, and we cut and steamed up a couple zucchini (also from TJ’s) for a green. We lightly salted the rice and zucchini to taste, then crammed everything into a bowl. Perfection! At $7.99 for 10 little shrimpies, it feels like a steal, too...and we’re told that air frying them is just, like, this whole other level. Anyway, they used to keep them by the fish sticks and stuff, now they’re more over by the fried foods (in Santa Fe, anyway).

Veggie Frito Pie

We mentioned the vegetarian chili before, but in the time since then, we’ve learned it’s actually a vegan product. Score one for vegans! Anyway, it’s often sold out when we swing by, which is why we usually buy, like, 10 cans when we can. We don’t know how much it costs per can because we threw our receipt out and couldn’t find the information online, but it’s cheap as we recall (don’t you love how well-researched this piece is?). We’re going to say the same about the Organic Corn Chip Dippers, which we searched for on the official TJ’s site, and we could only come across a recipe for what they call “chili pie,” which sounds like some bullshit because everyone knows it’s called Frito pie even when you’re not using Frito brand chips. Anyway, the TJ’s version of them chips is probably between $3-$4, and they’re delicious on their own. We toss that vegan chili in a pot on medium and stir regularly for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, we put a layer of cheese on the bottom of the bowl (yes, the bottom), throw in some of them corn chips and add another layer of shredded cheese (TJ’s shredded Mexican blend is great), and then we pour it all together, mix and go. It not only feels like a full-on meal, it takes roughly 12 minutes to put together. Take that, whiny kids who can’t wait to eat!

Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels and Vegetarian Fried Rice with Pan-Fried Asparagus

Not to only be about meals with rice, but both products are pretty amazing on their own—especially for freezer fare—and when you put them together? Amazing. So, yeah, you bake the fake orange chicken guys (they’re $3.29) for whatever amount of time the box demands, and also pour the whole-ass bag of rice into a pan in which you’ve pre-heated roughly two tablespoons of oil on medium. In another pan, bring a teaspoon of olive oil to a medium-high kind of heat—the kind of heat that slithers into a man’s body in the summer, reminding him of whisky he’s drank or dames he’s known and/or crimes he’s solved. Once to that medium-high heat, pop in as many asparagus spears as you think you can eat (we can do, like, 50) and then salt and pepper to taste. If you’ve got some minced garlic on hand (which you ALWAYS should), pop some of that in there and then, every minute or so, flip over the asparagus with tongs. You’re gonna want to stir the rice a lot until you figure it’s good and hot. Put all of it into a bowl. Boom.

So what’d you think of this week’s Fork? Pretty OK? Not our best? Basically the newsletter version of the meals we’re describing? Yeah, well yuk it up—we only spent, like, $20 on EVERYTHING and also we had shit to do this week, so...

Into it, but maybe skip to the 1:30 mark if you just want the jamz?


-Hey, did you catch SFR’s Summer Guide glossy insert this week? There’s all kinds of good stuff in there, including staffers’ favorite patios, things to do when you want a porch garden and more. There’s also the GIGANTIC Restaurant Guide (which is available online only), which is a great way to find places to eat.

-Santa Fe’s Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits is facing a bit of a conundrum after losing the lease on the space it has inhabited since 2005. Seems that despite finding a nice new spot on Agua Fría Street, the beloved local liquor store is still jumping through hoops with state, city and residential weirdness. Get the whole story here.

-Through our impeccable sleuthing skills, we recently sussed out that Jambo Café has finally taken over its space within the CHOMP food hall. We predict everyone is going to love it (mostly because everyone totally already loves Jambo).

-One quick note from a local restaurant worker who prefers to stay anonymous: “John Q Public needs to be a little patient with restaurants right now because it is virtually impossible for us to find people to work! This means we’re open fewer days than we’d like, or shorter hours, or it just might take longer to get to you. But we’re really trying.” This is not someone who’s talking about Sonic or whatever other fast food place pays its workers poorly—this is from a local brick-and-mortar at which employees can make good money. So just be nice, maybe? In fact, do that all the time.

More Tidbits

-Mushrooms and coffee—together at last! At least that’s according to Thrillist-dot-com, which tells us why a trendy new drink merged fungus ‘n’ beans, and why you should be into it.

-Ummmmm, a company called Truly has frozen hard seltzer Otter Pops but with hard seltzer. It’s getting hotter out there, so this actually sounds pretty good to us even though we’re not huge into hard seltzer.

-Speaking of hard seltzer, apparently the celebrated new-ish bevvie has paved the way for a booming canned cocktail industry. According to CNBC-dot-com, ready-to-drink cocktails-in-a-can are the fastest-growing booze category going right now.

-In the never-ending saga of delivery apps, Eater-dot-com looks into new incentives the likes of DoorDash and Grubhub are offering to restaurants—and what that might mean to you. As always, the smaller spots, the mom and pops and the non-chains face more complicated realities than the big guys.

-Since the whole COVID-19 thing is apparently over (we’re being sarcastic and are actually kind of scared at how blasé people and businesses have become), Sam’s Club announced it will bring back free samples in its stores. So, like, if somehow not getting a little cheese cube or two was the worst part of your pandemic experience, congrats—the worst is over.

-Over in Rome (which is in Italy), a new pizza vending machine is turning heads. See, Italy is pizza’s womb, if you will, and apparently this machine churns out fresh pies in three minutes. We’d point out you’ve gotta be a very special kind of person to need pizza that quickly, but there are also implications for those who struggle with social anxiety. Either way, lots of cool things come out of machines, so maybe it’ll be alright?


In the print edition of SFR, a vegetarian SFR staffer throws it all away for a hot dog.

A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence

Number of Letters Received


*Y’all sound really upbeat, too!

Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader)

“When do you shut up?”

*We never do.

Actually Helpful Tip(s)

“When are you offering “Frenz of The Fork” tee-shirts? I’d say there’s a whole passel of us out here who would happily wear/gift such items. ‘Twould make a swell fund raiser

-Oh. Em. Gee. Should we make tee-shirts?!?!

Mentally designing our tee-shirts,

The Fork

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