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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Trader Joe's Criollo Chocolate


 Living in a 100-plus year old house, I often dream of finding some hidden treasure somewhere in here. Like...it'd be awesome to find an old stash of historic collectibles or coins or, well, just something old and cool, right?

It's not nearly the same, but I was hoping I struck some gold when we cleaned out the fridge and found this nicely preserved, newer era Trader Joe's Criollo Chocolate Bar. 

Sounds fancy, eh? I had no idea we even had it or when we bought it or if it's even still a thing but, well, here we are. 


I really have no idea what criollo means, but according to the wrapper, its some fancy cocoa beans. I'm down with that. But honestly...as a fan of dark chocolate, this bar doesn't do it for me. The dark stuff is supposed to be bittersweet, which I like, but this...not enough bitter, a bit too much sweet. it's a careful balance that has to be done well. By no means is the criollo anything approaching like milk chocolate or anything - 80% is a plenty dark - but there's this little added tinge of sweet. Some other reviews I stumbled across mention a "hint of cherry" which maybe is what they're referring to, but I don't taste cherry. it's more just a meh than any specific flavor. 

It's smooth enough, and is okay, but there's other bars I'd be going for. Not even sure if rebuying is an option, but if it were, i'd likely pass. Just meh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Criollo Chocolate: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, January 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Kitchari

Sonia and I both love Indian food and have been to numerous Indian restaurants in numerous cities, so I thought it odd that neither of us had heard of kitchari before this. Apparently, the way it's pronounced rhymes with "stitchery" or "witchery," and it's a dish frequently used for cleansing or anti-inflammatory purposes. Here's a good article on the subject.

We've seen these convenient microwavable pouches of Indian Fare from Trader Joe's before. Nuke for about a minute, dump on rice, and voila, an extremely cheap and easy Indian meal. 
The smell of this dish was wonderful straight out of the microwave. There was a rich earthiness under a fragrant spice blend including ginger, fennel, cardamom, and turmeric. Upon tasting it, we were both somewhat unimpressed. We both agreed it didn't taste as bold as it smelled, and we wished there had been more whole peas or beans or something to bite down on. The texture was quite mushy.


The split mung beans by themselves didn't do much for us in the flavor department, and the spice blend, though pleasant, wasn't as pungent as we'd hoped. We certainly liked it overall, but didn't love it by any means, especially when compared to the vast majority of amazingly flavorful Indian products we've tried from TJ's over the years.

But then I decided to do some internet recon on the dish. That's when I stumbled upon that article I linked to in the first paragraph. It seems like maybe kitchari is more of a medicinal dish than the typical wild ride for the taste buds that East Indian cuisine can often be. Apparently, it's mushy by design, and that makes it super easy to digest. Other properties of the mung beans help remove toxins from the digestive system. Also the spice blend is so mild that even young children and old folks can consume it, according to that article.


As fate should have it, my stomach had been upset for a day or two prior to trying the kitchari. And...as fate should have it, the kitchari helped. It helped a lot actually. I noticed an almost immediate improvement with my gastrointestinal grumblings.

So...if you're looking for a scrumptious Indian dish, click right here and scroll through 12 years of reviews. I'd put this one near the bottom of the pack if scoring on taste and texture alone, but I can't deny there are definite detox qualities here...and again, it's not bad tasting by any means. $2.29 for the single serving pack. It's not explicitly labeled as "vegan" for some reason, but I can't see why it wouldn't be.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese


 Now, cheese bread is an easy enough concept to understand. That's bread with cheese in it. But...bread cheese?

No, it's not cheese with bread in it, as the name may initially suggest. That'd be kinda odd but fun. Instead, it's cheese that's apparently baked in some sort of process that carmelizes the sugars and makes a bread like crust. No actual bread involved. Well hmm. Technology these days...

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese, to my knowledge, is my first go around with bread cheese. Cookable cheese isn't a new concept to me - halloumi, anyone? - but still it feels a bit weird to cube up some cheese to saute. No EVOO or anything needed, it's got it's own grease, for sure. 

If eaten as is, not heated, the bread cheese is kinda firm, with a curdlike squeaky feel to it. No bad, but not my favorite. Once warmed up, though, everything softens, and it's kinda hard to not imagine eating an actual slice of pizza. Sure, there's not the saucy vibrancy of an actual quality pie, but the seasonings, with tomato flakes and onion and garlic and whatnot do a surprisingly okay job of mimicing it. And perhaps I was trying to hard but...there actually kinda almost tasted like there was some sort of crust, too. Just a bit, like the outer layer of crust without any doughiness or crisp or anything to really fill it out. 


And the cheese itself? Deeeelish. it gets all soft and melty, and is really pretty mild - not as much as a mozzarella, but close, with a little more edge to it. The whole flavor and feel, with some of that aformentioned grease, make the whole illusion pretty complete. 

It's a fun cheese. Fun to cook, fun to eat, fun to pass around the dinner table. We got us a whole family thumbs up here. And it's all at a pretty good price - maybe $4 for the half pound chunk? Good stuff, and no complaints. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons