Quick Fix: Warm Sausage Salad à la Trader Joe’s

by | Jan 7, 2009

A couple weeks ago I was visiting friends and family down in Southern California (Orange County & Inland Empire) and on the first night found myself without my farmers market, without my Whole Foods and without a decent (or healthy) restaurant for miles and miles and miles. And miles.

The evening was getting late, so the only respectable option on the horizon was my beloved Trader Joe’s. But I have to admit, TJ’s is not exactly my first choice when it comes to produce. While they do have a small produce section with moderate variety, the stuff they carry is always pre-packaged and a little, well, let’s call it *off-fresh*. Not bad or old, but not exactly the pinnacle of freshness either.

I do not mind their bagged salad greens, however. Even at Whole Foods I buy the boxed kind because it always seems a little cleaner than the bulk bin. I don’t mind farmers market dust, but back-of-a-grocery-store-loading-dock dirt? I’ll pass.

So salad it was. I bought their herb salad mix, which has a nice assortment of interesting flavors. Salad is tough in the winter though. For starters, tomatoes are inedible. The Persian cucumbers looked okay, so I bought those and a bag of avocados.

What really takes the meal to the next level though is a sausage, onion, red pepper and mushroom sauté. The heat from the pan wilts your greens, adding a warmness to your fresh green salad. Eureka!

The secret is to use a sweet onion. Trader Joe’s always has several different onion varieties in little bags, so just read the labels and you’ll be fine.

Trader Joe’s also has a fantastic cooked sausage selection and I like them all. This time we went with Cilantro Chicken, but follow your heart when you are picking a flavor for your own salad.

If you are vegetarian you can substitute tofu or just skip the sausage.

A perfect any-season healthy meal in about 15 minutes.


Warm Sausage Salad à la TJ’s

(serves 2)


  • 2 Trader Joe’s cooked sausages (any flavor)
  • 1 bag of salad greens
  • 1 small (or 1/2 medium) sweet onion
  • 1 small red bell pepper (optional)
  • 6-8 brown crimini mushrooms
  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 Persian or Japanese (small) cucumbers
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Good quality vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Slice onion and bell pepper into slivers about 1 inch long. Clean mushrooms and slice into desired thickness. Dice the cucumber and avocado. Cut sausages into thin slices.

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat until it swirls easily. Add onions and peppers and cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes.

While the onions and peppers are cooking, empty salad bag into a large bowl add and the cucumber and avocado. In the summer, tomatoes are a nice addition too. Who doesn’t love summer tomatoes?

Dress the greens with olive oil and vinegar (balsamic is my favorite), and season liberally with sea salt and cracked pepper. Toss with tongs and set aside.

Don’t forget to monitor your vegetables while you are tending to your greens.

When ready, add mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cook until mixture starts to slightly brown then add sausage, making sure the cut ends touch the surface of the pan. Continue to cook until the edges of the sausage start to brown, 4-6 minutes.

Scrape contents of the pan on top of the greens and mix well with tongs. This salad serves well with a chunk of baguette and even a bowl of TJ’s boxed Tomato and Red Pepper soup.


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15 Responses to “Quick Fix: Warm Sausage Salad à la Trader Joe’s”

  1. Anonymous says:

    *Off-Fresh*I like the concept- actually putting into words a reaction that I have toward this kind of food. I feel good eating it, but there is always a nagging sensation that I could have done better- then I swing back and rationalize that the ‘off-fresh’ was probably healthier than 99% of other people’s dinner that night….

  2. Healthyliving says:

    I’m never quite sure how you feel toward TJs. Seems like by percentage of types of food, it is one of the healthiest chain grocery stores out there, but you never throw your full endorsement behind them. Must be because of the shaky produce selection? Whenever anyone finds out I shop at Trader Joes, they are impressed with my health-conscious efforts.

  3. Darya Pino says:

    @Anon1I completely agree. Off-fresh is better than processed, by a long shot. For me it is a taste thing…—–@HealthylivingI love TJ’s, but to me it is definitely a place to get cheap, good-quality dried and frozen goods. I’m not so impressed with their fresh stuff, but as mentioned above, it is better than most options.

  4. Karin says:

    Darya your pictures are great, even at 8 in the morning I wouldn’t mind having a bite of your salad- is it okay to eat salad for breakfast?!@Anonymous- my favorite off-fresh TJs item is their herbs. They are usually pretty tasty and stay good for up to a week in the fridge, yet there is just something a little wrong with buying herbs that are folded up into a plastic container. But you’re right, off-fresh is better than bagged frozen!

  5. Scott says:

    Actually I think off-fresh hurts us more than helps: we will never be able to get back to pre-industrial diets unless we eliminate fake healthy food like that. People need to commit to a healthy lifestyle, then commit to going all the way and really making a life change. It will be a never-ending spiral of fake-healthy food unless people make the real decision between industrial food or farmed food. I don’t think there is a middle ground…..

  6. Darya Pino says:

    @KarinYou can totally eat salad for breakfast 😉 That actually reminds me of one of my favorite Beck songs called “Nightmare Hippie Girl”. Ha ha, let’s not get that extreme!—–@ScottYou make some great points, and in theory I agree with you. But I think for those of us just trying to be as healthy as we can here and now, any vegetables are better than no vegetables at all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    for those of us who can’t afford whole foods all the time, TJs is a good alternative – yes, i’ve spent hours going through every single basket of strawberries trying to find ones that aren’t moldy (my husband does all the rest of the shopping while I complain and look through the produce), but I think it’s VERY possible to have a healthy meal just from TJs – why do you sound so surprised?

  8. Darya Pino says:

    @anon2Excellent point. It is not that I am so surprised that it is possible to eat healthy at TJ’s, I know it is. But I get a lot of complaints from people (especially in Southern California) that it is too hard to eat healthy because they can’t get all the fancy farmers market stuff that I get here in San Francisco. (They don’t have many Whole Foods either).This post was intended to show them they do have a good resource in their neighborhood.I think part of the issue is that TJ’s isn’t a typical grocery store and doesn’t have tons of produce and, as I mentioned, it can often be *off-fresh*, which can make it unappealing.My last 2 bits is that I don’t think Whole Foods is as expensive as people say. The produce definitely is expensive (that’s why I buy mine at the farmers market), but it is leaps and bounds better than every other grocery store so it is easy to argue it is worth it.Their dry goods on the other hand are pretty cheap. My favorite example is Flax Plus cereal, which is $4.50 at Safeway, $3.00 at TJ’s and $2.30 at Whole Foods.I’m just glad we have all these wonderful options!

  9. Anonymous says:

    really? people are complaining about a lack of farmers markets in so cal? I’ve lived all over so-cal and have always had them nearby, and have found them to be much better here than in 99% of the country – I would love to support them all the time, but I just don’t have the financial resources. It’s true that a lot of stuff is cheaper than one would think at whole foods (I regularly stock up on their bulk foods) but unfortunately their produce, while delicious, is also just too expensive

  10. Darya Pino says:

    @anonGreat to hear! I haven’t lived there in over a decade so it is hard for me to give good advice. I enjoy the Santa Monica market, and I know there are others in LA (Hollywood). Orange County is a little tougher to find a nice big one. Irvine is great, but Santa Ana is *temporarily* closed due to lack of funds. The Inland Empire doesn’t have that much either. I don’t know about San Diego.I will definitely look harder next time I visit.Thanks!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Orange county actually has a number of produce markets that supply restaurants; etc, but are open to the public – and are cheap. it’s probably the one good thing about orange county.I just discovered, and really like, your blog, btw – I hope I haven’t given a different impression!

  12. Darya Pino says:

    @anonAre you kidding? Your comments are wonderful! I know many an Orange County reader that will be happy to hear this.We really appreciate all your input, thank you for not being shy 🙂

  13. starteatinggreens says:

    This is awesome-well, you are awesome. Thanks for the idea. I am wondering if you have a list of salad dressings that you like? I tried the oil and vinegar and its not making my salad taste super awesome. My partner is diabetic and I am trying to pull him towards eating more greens with me and brain storming on some home made salad dressings.
    Thanks a bunch!

    • Darya Rose says:

      Try adding something to the oil and vinegar. For instance, try mixing olive oil, brown rice vinegar and a scoop of miso paste, and maybe a grate of fresh ginger. Alternatively add dijon mustard to olive oil and red wine vinegar, with some chopped chives. Plus salt and pepper. It’ll make a huge difference.

  14. starteatinggreens says:

    Thank you!

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