Food for Trader Joe's Fanatics

Working moms create Trader Joe's cookbook

There's certain brands and products that inspire a special level of loyalty in people, to the point where it could be considered cultish. Yes, we're talking to you, Apple fanatics and Starbucks drinkers.

Another large group of loyalists who willingly proselytize a brand is Trader Joe's shoppers. It's not uncommon for fellow Trader Joe's fans to gush about a new brand they've discovered, or a fresh way to mix an old standby in a new way. Often the epiphany is reached by sneaking some extra helpings at the free table at the back of the store in between shots of coffee.

But aside from the requisite two-buck Chuck (three bucks in Illinois) wine purchase, it's easy to get brain freeze trying to find new and unique ways to use all of the exotic foods the grocery chain offers.

That's why the book "Cooking with all Things Trader Joe's" comes in. The California authors, Deanna Gunn and Wona Miniati, shopped at Trader Joe's for years, and eventually realized the potential value of a cookbook.

"Deanna and I had been informally exchanging recipe ideas and serving suggestions with each other, and we figured there would be plenty of people out there who would be interested in finding many ways to use some of their favorite sauces, so we just figured there was a market there," Miniati said.

"Over time we learned that not only do they have great stuff, but the products lend themselves to great shortcuts in recipes," Gunn said. "With kids and work we didn't have time to come home and cook from scratch like we used to."

Audio: Interview With Authors

Over a period of several months, Gunn and Miniati gathered the recipes, took high-quality photos, and created the book. However, Trader Joe's passed on the idea of throwing its muscle behind the book by stocking it in its stores.

"They just wanted to focus on what they do best, which is pushing groceries out the door, not getting sidetracked with a book," Miniati said.

So Gunn and Miniati forged ahead and self published the book late last summer. It started to take off through word of mouth, and was eventually picked up by Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores.

Both authors come from ethnic backgrounds, which is reflected in many of the recipes in the book that use many of the exotic items that the store carries.

Ultimately the book is targeted toward people who are interested in healthy gourmet food that's affordable. It also includes wine and beer pairings for certain dishes.

"We're just working moms who love Trader Joe's. We don't have a culinary background. The recipes are really geared toward people like us, who are time-starved but really enjoy good food, and so they're easy to prepare and you don't need a lot of training. Even a novice could prepare these recipes," Miniati said.

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