I Could Eat This Trader Joe's Frozen Side with Every Meal
When I think about my easiest, laziest dinners—meals I can make with very little effort and just the pantry staples I keep in my cabinets—they don't tend to contain many veggies. It can be tough to always have something fresh and green on hand for a quick meal, especially when prices are higher at the supermarket. If I'm craving veggies but also needing to save some cash by eating whatever I have on hand, I'll usually end up opting for some scrambled eggs with frozen spinach. But if my freezer is well and truly stocked with my favorite goodies, I'll always reach for Trader Joe's Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower.
Pictured Recipe: Southwestern Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Shrimp & Avocado Crema
My love for TJ's spicy take on cauliflower rice honestly caught me by surprise—I'm pretty picky about my cauliflower rice and never expected that I'd fall for a version that's not only frozen, but also preseasoned. But as long as you cook this side at a fairly high heat in a skillet and stir it regularly, the rice stays fluffy instead soggy. The tender cauliflower gets its flavor from tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, lime, cayenne pepper, cumin and garlic, plus some added texture from colorful bell peppers. It's one of the few frozen items I've ever bought that I didn't feel the need to season after cooking. You may find that an extra sprinkle of black pepper or a nice pinch of Mexican oregano takes the dish up a level, but it's perfectly delicious without any doctoring.
On its own, the frozen side is vegan, so you could keep your meal simple and pair the riced cauliflower with some black beans for a reliable, filling and plant-based pantry meal. But if you're open to adding some animal products to your dinner, I highly recommend pairing the rice with some affordable frozen tamales, especially if your TJ's carries some of Texas Tamale Company's offerings. Tender, flavorful tamales only benefit from being served with this cauliflower with a kick, and you can reheat them in whatever quantity you need, whether you're making dinner for one or for the whole family. You could also pair your cauli rice with an old TJ's favorite: the Mandarin Orange Chicken. The reason I first tried the cauliflower rice is because a Trader Joe's employee recommended combining it with the orange chicken in a burrito on an episode of the official TJ's podcast. While I'm still not sold on the burrito idea, I can confirm that the sweet orange chicken and spicy, fresh cauliflower rice go really well together on a regular ol' plate.
You could also swap the Spicy Mexican-Style Cauliflower Rice into a favorite recipe. It would add a punch of flavor to something like our Cauliflower Rice-Stuffed Peppers and work seamlessly with these Southwestern Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Shrimp & Avocado Crema. Use it as a based for just about any rice bowl if you're low on rice (or would just prefer to get in another serving of veggies), and you'll be in for a deliciously flavor-packed meal. Even serving this simple heat-and-eat cauli rice with a rotisserie chicken you picked up on your way home would yield a deceptively tasty dinner.
To make matters even better, versatile cauliflower is pretty darn healthy to boot. Our dietitians say that this cruciferous veggie has lots of health benefits—it's heart-healthy and has even been tied to brain health benefits. Plus, it's a low-carb option for folks who need to keep an eye on their carbohydrate intake, whether you have diabetes or are test-driving a keto diet—which we wouldn't necessarily recommend. Each 1-cup serving of Spicy Mexican-Style Cauliflower Rice contains 5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber and 2 grams of sugar, none of which is added sugar. Our nutrition parameters describe low-carb dishes as any dish with 15 grams or less of carbohydrates per serving, so this one is a win for folks aiming for fewer carbs each day.
No matter what you pair this side dish with, you'll be glad to see it in your freezer on days when an elaborate meal is out of reach. Snag a four-serving bag for $3.79 on your next TJ's run.