Cooking with Trader Joe's: Gourmet Bail-Out Plan Eases Sub-Prime Economy Menu Challenges

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Just Biden time during the economic crisis? Our budget gourmet meals using Trader Joe's will have your usual menu Palin by comparison!

Fill the dough with your favorite olive tapenade before baking. When you cut into it, you will have a loaf with a gourmet stuffing. It looks fancy, but it's so easy and inexpensive.

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Do challenging economic times mean an end to joyful parties and fabulous food? The holiday season is upon us with the promise of friendly get-togethers. Is it possible to pull off gourmet entertaining on a limited budget?

Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, authors of Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's (http://www.cookingwithtraderjoes.com), say that strict budgets don't have to mean sitting it out, cooking ho-hum fare, or looking cheap. Gunn and Miniati, loyal Trader Joe's fans, took it upon themselves to write an independent cookbook that make gourmet dishes an everyday reality.

"We're all short on cash right now," says Gunn, "but throwing a great party with friends can still be affordable. With the right menu, you can offer your guests gourmet treatment without breaking the bank."

People who once shopped exclusively at high-end grocery stores are now starting to frequent conventional stores and farmers' markets, adding gourmet items more selectively.

"We love the gourmet bargains at Trader Joe's," says Miniati. "You can find an eclectic selection of cheeses, sauces, tapenades, and bruschettas, at a fraction of what they would cost in upscale grocery stores. Combine these gourmet products with simple fresh ingredients to create food any epicure would love."

Here are some great ideas to kick off the festivities:

1) Posh Pasta Party: Pasta is an elegant yet economical way to feed a large gathering of guests. Stir in some arugula or basil, add vegetables, and complete the dish with fancier items such as pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, or a sprinkle of goat cheese. On the side, serve simple salad or bread. "You can buy prepared dough and make something more sophisticated than a plain loaf of bread," says Miniati, "Fill the dough with your favorite olive tapenade before baking. When you cut into it, you will have a loaf with a gourmet stuffing. It looks fancy, but it's so easy and inexpensive."

2) Sippers and Dippers: How about a wine tasting party with appetizers and fondue? Nothing says "elegant" like fondue. With the money you'll save on budget-friendly dippers like crusty breads and vegetables such as cauliflower or zucchini, you can afford to spend a little more on decadent cheeses for the fondue. Pair your fondue party with great inexpensive wines ($3-5 a bottle from Trader Joe's), or make it a wine tasting and ask each guest to bring a favorite bottle. For appetizers, spread goat cheese on water crackers and top with a spoonful of bruschetta sauce. A log of goat cheese, a box of crackers, and a jar of bruschetta cost less than $8 and can serve 20 guests.

3) Gourmet Pizza Night: With prepared dough at about $1 per pound (one per pizza), this is a very affordable and low-effort way to make a few interesting gourmet toppings go very far. Toppings might include proscuitto, eggplant, some sprinkles of cheese, olives, and fresh herbs. Sauces might include a can of tomato sauce, pesto, or drizzles of olive oil - a little of any will go very far on a pizza. "We often have big gourmet pizza parties, and we might have 10 different pizzas coming out of the oven one by one while everyone congregates in the kitchen with a glass of wine," says Gunn. "It's a highly social dinner, and we can really get creative with toppings."

This holiday season, more families are likely to celebrate by entertaining at home rather than splurging on fancy restaurant fare. It's more intimate and personal, not to mention easier on the wallet. And now there's a guide to navigating the gourmet bargain finds at Trader Joe's.

"We believe our cookbook is more relevant now than ever," says Miniati. "The economy is top-of-mind with just about everyone, and we are all looking for ways to save on food without sacrificing health and nutrition. With Trader Joe's and our cookbook, families can continue to enjoy fabulous, nutritious food on a budget."

"We predict that Trader Joe's will have an edge over higher-priced grocers like Whole Foods in this tough economic climate," says Gunn. "While many businesses are tightening the reins and curbing growth, my local Trader Joe's seems to be busier than ever. Shopping at Trader Joe's is one way I'm saving."

Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's is a novel cookbook that uses Trader Joe's stores as a "prep kitchen," using time-saving prepared, frozen, and bottled products to make gourmet cooking easy for even the most novice of cooks. The cookbook has been met with resounding praise from leagues of Trader Joe's fans across the country. Based on the success of this first title, Gunn and Miniati are working on another cookbook in the series. Their website, blog, and free recipe newsletter are found at http://www.cookingwithtraderjoes.com.

Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's is available at bookstores everywhere including Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

About Brown Bag Publishers, LLC

Brown Bag Publishers is a media company committed to creating and distributing unique, fun, and creative book titles. Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's is the first cookbook series in the portfolio. Brown Bag Publishers is based in Encinitas, CA.

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