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I love having friends over to my home to share food and a glass of wine, and we’ve had many nice get-togethers lately.  There are a few ready-made Trader Joe’s items that seem to have popped into the rotation and I wanted to share them with you here in case you hadn’t seen them. These products are great time-savers:  an easy appetizer that can be tossed into the oven right as guests arrive, two desserts that just need some thawing, and versatile frozen puff pastry.  There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of tasty shortcuts like this and spending more time focusing on friends or the other dishes you’re preparing.

Trader joes frozen Tarte d'Alsace

Tarte d’Alsace: This thin crust is covered with ham, gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions. Place the frozen tarte in a preheated oven, and 10 minutes later you have a crispy, savory tarte that can be cut into small squares and served to your guests.

It also comes in a vegetarian Tarte d’Champignons (mushrooms) version. I served both the other night as an appetizer while Coq Au Vin was simmering on the stove and veggies were roasting in the oven. It was a great, hands-off way to spend the evening, chatting with friends and enjoying a glass of wine instead of messing with a lot of prep.

Puff Pastry:  This seasonal item at Trader Joe’s is a favorite of ours. Good puff pastry is so laborious to make and it takes all day.  Trader Joe’s has it in frozen sheets and this is the real thing:  Made with real butter and no trans fats (unlike other well-known brands…). It’s fantastic stuff and you can do so much with it.

Cut the sheet into 9 squares, top each square with a dollop of bruschetta or tapenade or goat cheese and toss into the oven to bake.  For dessert, top with fruit or jam or make little turnovers with a fruit filling. It’s true that puff pastry is fattening, but when you serve it at a party, it’s just a few bites for each person. (It’s even great for entrees: In our cookbooks, you can top chicken pot pie with it, wrap salmon in it, etc)

Macarons: These French macarons are simply fantastic.  A delicate and light crust – so airy it almost isn’t there – with a filling that is thick and rich and luxurious. They’re a great price too – $4.99 for a dozen (combination of chocolate and vanilla).  Thaw them for 30 minutes and serve with coffee and tea.

Raspberry Tarte: I had never tried this item until Celine Coussou raved about it on her list of Trader Joe’s must-haves.  “Well, she’s French and would know…it must be good then.”  Well, it really is. Every time I served it, it received rave reviews.  It’s pretty, easy to serve, and made in France. Don’t worry when you first open the package – it will become more attractive once it has thawed (and you can also take it out of the foil pan and place it on a pretty platter or cut into individual servings).

trader joes raspberry tarte

Enjoy!  And if you have your own party favorites at Trader Joe’s, share them below!