Summer is a deceptively busy time: Between running around from camp drop-off to camp pick-up, trips to the pool, and all the playdates that pop up during the long, hot days of summer, sometimes I can’t spend quite as much time in the kitchen as I’d like. On those days, I hit up my arsenal of Trader Joe’s secret weapons, my go-to shortcuts for getting dinner on the table quickly while staying cool.
If I weren’t feeding a family of four, my shortcut for an easy summer dinner would be to pop the top of these smoked mussels open and dig in, but since I’m cooking for my family, I do the next easiest thing: spaghetti. While my pasta is boiling, I sauté some fresh summer tomatoes, garlic, and these flavor-packed mussels to make an easy sauce. I’ll add some basil and parsley from the garden and a glass of pet nat to toast a dinner well done.
Tikka Vegetables and Tandoori Naan
TJ’s packs a lot of flavor in this packet of Tikka Vegetables, thanks to spices like cumin, cardamom, and fenugreek. So, all I have to do is make a pot of basmati rice and warm up some Tandoori Naan in the oven to get a quick, vibrant meal on the table. In the event that I can’t even be bothered to make rice, I’ll treat the naan more like a flatbread pizza and load up the Tikka Vegetables on top, with a dollop of yogurt and some fresh cilantro.
This precooked tube of polenta is the jumping off point for one of my kids’ favorite dinners, and I can have it on the table in about 20 minutes, which makes it one of my favorite dinners too. I fry off slices of the polenta in a shallow pan of oil and then top the crispy slices with our favorite marinara sauce, a big dollop of ricotta, and some basil from the garden, and magically, everyone is happy. Leftover fried polenta also makes a great resting place for a poached egg for breakfast the next morning.
Teriyaki Baked Tofu
This seemingly simple package of tofu is the key to a quick, wholesome dinner that my whole family loves—a riff on this recipe for Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce. Or if it’s too rainy to grill, I’ll use the tofu to bring some extra protein to a bowl of peanut noodles. Leftovers get sliced and thrown in the lunchbox for the next day, with some cucumbers and snap peas and a little extra sauce for dipping.
Trader Joe’s pizza dough has saved our household from many a crisis. That’s why I keep several balls of dough in my freezer at all times. Throughout the summer, we escape the heat of our kitchen and head into the heat of the outdoors, making pizzas in our Roccbox pizza oven. Each person gets to stretch their own dough and top their own pie, and fortunately for all of our wildly different pizza visions, there are plenty of toppings up for grabs at TJ’s, from fresh mozzarella to pineapple.