By Bethanie Hestermann
Who doesn’t love a good haul from everybody’s favorite quirky, reasonably priced neighborhood grocer, Trader Joe’s? Tracey started an Instagram account called @traceyjoes to share her love of all things Trader Joe’s + her recipes. Little did she know, there was a huge fan base waiting to embrace her and her delicious ideas.
This Philly-based home chef turns to creative cooking to relieve stress and doesn’t take it too seriously. (Experimentation is everything!) In our Q&A, Tracey shares her go-to TJ’s recipe (hint: YUM) and her own personal food manifesto. What she’s not sharing? Photos of herself! She likes to keep work + pleasure separate, and we love that!
Tell us about Tracey Joes!
I started @traceyjoes just for fun and to document my recipes and love for Trader Joe’s. I did not expect it to blow up at all!
What is the best part about the community you’ve created?
I love that people have actually made my recipes! Sometimes I feel self-conscious, because I wonder if my pictures are better than my recipes actually taste. But when people make them and repost saying that they enjoy them, it makes me so happy. And everyone is so positive, so I love that too.
How do you stay inspired + avoid creative ruts?
I definitely get in creative ruts, and when I do, I actually just watch “Chopped” or “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives”. I get so much inspiration from both of those shows.
How does cooking bring goodness to your life?
I’m getting my Ph.D., so cooking is a creative outlet and a stress reliever.
What do people NOT know about what you do?
I started cooking in earnest about two years ago! Before then, I did a lot of frozen food and roasted veggies.
What made you decide to start sharing recipes?
I thought I’d share when I made something and it tasted good! It doesn’t take that much extra effort to write it down, so I thought, why not?
What discontinued TJ’s product are you still mourning?
I’m not exactly sure if these are discontinued, but I haven’t seen them in my store in MONTHS—the dolmas! I loved them, and they were my favorite snack or side for my Mediterranean nights.
What’s one thing you never leave TJ’s without?
Strawberry O’s, Tuscan sourdough, and orange chicken!
Tell us about your go-to TJ’s recipe!
My go-to recipe is probably a taco bowl. They’re easy, healthy, and satisfying. If you’re vegan, you can do black beans, cilantro lime rice, corn, roasted peppers, guacamole, and salsa. If you eat meat and dairy, add some ground beef or chicken (with TJ’s taco seasoning in a packet! It’s a MUST), Mexican blend cheese, and sour cream.
Since taco bowls are super customizable, you can make them in ton of different ways for many different eating types. It’s a crowd pleaser.
Where do you imagine people enjoying this recipe?
Out on the deck with a nice margarita with their friends!
What is your food manifesto?
“FOLLOW YOUR BLISS!” I very rarely measure ingredients, and I really just go with my gut as far as my recipes go. Don’t be timid in the kitchen. Experimentation is everything and will help you to grow as a home chef.
Tips for the aspiring home chef?
Don’t give up! And watch lots of cooking shows. I get some of my best ideas from watching “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives”.