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Thanksgiving is, perhaps, one of the American people’s most beloved holidays and with good reason. It is a day during which we emphasize the values of gratitude, humility and community. At the same time, it is a day on which we consume an exorbitant amount of food. As many Bruins head home for the holidays, one of their highlights while away from campus might be enjoying a home-cooked meal or contributing to the festivities by preparing turkey, gravy, stuffing or even a mean pumpkin pie. However, with final exams just two weeks away, it can be difficult for students to find sufficient time to cook foods from scratch. That is where this Trader Joe’s lover comes to the rescue.
I recently took a trip to my local Trader Joe’s in the Westwood Village area and discovered that the Caribbean-themed market offers a wide variety of kosher semi-prepared and ready-made Thanksgiving foods. I decided to take one for the team and test out a series of Trader Joe’s most popular kosher Thanksgiving desserts, and I have prepared a list of the foods that will ease your cooking process this holiday season, making your taste buds say “L’chaim!”
1. Gingerbread Cookie Sticks (dairy): These dairy and seasonal treats are perfect for serving up alongside desserts or alone with a warm cup of tea, apple cider or milk. They have the perfect amount of ginger to give the cookie sticks a kick of spice without being too overbearing.
2. Sweet Potato Pie with a Touch of Maple Bourbon Flavor (dairy): Ever attempted to make sweet potato pie, only to find out that it came out with a stringy texture and a somewhat bland taste? Well, then, TJ’s twist on the sweet potato pie will make your cooking experience all the more simple and sweet. When heated according to the temperature listed on the box’s directions, this pie comes out tasting like heaven. The crust is flakey and buttery, yet strong enough to hold the sweet and savory potato pie filling. TJ’s has taken a twist on the average sweet potato pie by not only infusing it with a rich Maple Bourbon flavor, but they have also finished it off with a crumbly oat topping. While no other toppings are necessary, a little birdie in a tree told me that it becomes addictive once you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
3. Pumpkin Pie Spice (parve): Okay, so you might be thinking, “how would a spice help to make my Thanksgiving meal prep day infinitely easier?” This glass bottle of spice is actually a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and citrus. This item is integral to making the most optimal pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake — the list goes on. Even more so, TJ’s version is the closest you can find to the fresh version of pumpkin pie spice. You can be sure that using it will make your food all the better.
4. Pumpkin Cheesecake (dairy): That’s right, folks. TJ’s now sells a ready-made and kosher pumpkin cheesecake. This cheesecake is the perfect blend of pumpkin spice and tangy cream cheese, and is served best defrosted with a scoop of whipped cream. If you want to be daring, sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top of the whipped cream for an extra hint of flavor. Whether you plan on serving dairy food prior to or hours after serving turkey, this is definitely an item you would want at your table.
5. Pilgrim Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream: I think that this ice cream can best explain why I love Thanksgiving — and the fall season, in general. For all those pumpkin spice lovers out there, this is a prime dessert you need to top pies, lattes (yes, vanilla lattes, believe me) and cookies with. A TJ’s staff member recommended that I add a scoop of this delightfulness to any flavor of their Joe-Joe’s cookie sandwiches. Word of advice — always listen to TJ’s staff suggestions. Always.
6. Trader Joe’s Marshmallows (parve): These fluffy and sweet marshmallows are a must-have for anyone heating up cups of hot chocolate for the family or topping a sizzling pan of baked sweet potatoes. Tip: for hot chocolate, use one large marshmallow instead of several minis and top with whipped cream and crushed cookies of any flavor.
7. Sticky Pumpkin Cake with Hard Sauce (dairy): You must genuinely understand and embody the values of Thanksgiving if you have it in you to share this divine dessert with your friends and/or family. The pumpkin cake, itself, is defined more by its sweetness than its spiciness, and the rum-caramel sauce that comes with it complements the sweet taste. If you want to kick this dessert up a notch, go ahead and add a scoop of either vanilla or pumpkin flavored ice cream.
8. Chocolate Brooklyn Babka (parve): Yes, this item is sold year-round and is not, technically, specific to the Thanksgiving season. However, I wonder: if a meal doesn’t begin or end with a babka cake, did it ever really happen? Although these cakes aren’t sold fresh out of the oven, they moist and supple, even when left in the fridge or cabinet for a week. As the proud eater of about a million and one of these in my lifetime, I can rightfully say that this treasure is best eaten hot with a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and a caramel drizzle on top. But, hey, that’s just me.
I hope that this brief list of suggested Thanksgiving desserts make your meal preparation process just a little bit easier or at least gives you the incentive you’ve been looking for to visit your local Trader Joe’s, discover the wacky yet ingenious kosher options they have to offer and experiment with recipes that suit your taste.
Happy Thanksgiving, from the Ha’am family to you and yours.