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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trader Joe's Spud Crunchies

For a moment after opening the bag, I thought, "Oh, bummer! There's no resealable ziplock on this package." A moment later, I realized why. These things won't last long enough to get stale. Oh, and that whole "4 servings per container" there on the nutrition info IS A BIG FAT LIE.

You'll be lucky to get two servings here. Especially if there's more than one person involved. Not just because two people eat twice as much, but because eating the bag becomes a race against the other person. If you snooze, you'll lose your share.

And I should mention that the picture right below this paragraph was taken near the end of the bag. I had opened the package with every intention of taking a picture right out of the gate, but we actually plowed through nearly the whole thing before we remembered we hadn't taken a picture. As a result, the crunchies you see here aren't perfectly representative of the ones in the bag—they're somewhat smaller than the average sticks you actually get.

A long time ago, there was a mini-discussion about another TJ's product that emulated "zombified McDonald's French fries," Trader Joe's Veggie Sticks. We were a fan of those snacks, but somehow, by some miracle of science, Trader Joe's got their hands on an even better product.

There are significantly fewer ingredients here. These snacks feel even more potato-y because they're not made of potato flour, wheat flour, and other weird vegetable "powders." These delightful, snacktastic sons of mothers are made with "potato," and in my opinion, they even more accurately approximate an age-old McDonald's fry, but miraculously, they do it with more flavor.

They're quite salty, which totally works here. As mentioned before, they're also very potato-y, and you can taste and feel the canola oil as well. Texture-wise they're definitely similar to an ancient fry, but ever so slightly in the direction of a potato chip. They're less starchy than long-forgotten fast food fries, and perhaps slightly more crispy.

This is just a fun, tasty snack all around. Would make a great after-hike treat. Two bucks at the local Joe's. I'd buy 'em again.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Extra Hot Habanero Ghost Pepper Salsa

It's that time of year again. There's so much to love about weather, baseball playoffs, crockpot dinners, hoodie sweatshirts, pumpkin patches. So on and so forth. It's my favorite season of the year by far.

But, it's not perfect. There's the one big thing that always comes, always stands in the way, the one thing I cannot avoid or shake no matter what.

Pity me. It's man cold season.

Starting around now, and ending sometime in April, I will almost always have a cold, or at least some semblance of one. The sneezing, the cough, the know what I'm talking about. Between now and Easter I'll probably guzzle a pallet of DayQuil. No matter what,  though, I can never shake it.

But I maybe have a secret weapon now: Trader Joe's Extra Hot Habanero Ghost Pepper Salsa.

This may be a bit premature, but I may be cured only about 8 days into man cold funk season, all thanks to this super spicy salsa. The cactus  on the package has it right - this is some fiery sauce. I will admit, I was a little scared to try it. But once I did, the sinuses cleared. The head unfogged. Even the cough went away. Musta been burned out of me. And it's stayed out.

The salsa doesn't smell too intimidating, with an almost more chipotle kind of essence than anything else. It's almost enough to lull you into a false sense of safety, as the heat kicks up right from the first bite. It's not upfront - since it's refrigerated, the physical coolness of the salsa kinda tempers it a bit - but right as it's going down the hatch, the spice ramps up. Pure heat - enough to make you cough or have your eyes tear up. But the thing is, unlike some spicy fare, the heat doesn't seem to build and build with successive bites. Instead, it plateaus from the start - granted, a pretty high plateau. Which is a good thing, as it makes it much more snackable than the salsa would appear at first bite.

Aside from the habenero and ghost peppers, there's plenty to like. There's a very fresh feel to the salsa overall, almost as if it were almost homemade. It's not quite chunky, but not quite smooth either. There's some tomatoey sweetness and a little garlic and some other bits of flavor here and there, but even with the spice, it's not enough to completely overpower your food. That being said, I'd advise using sparingly.

Both Sandy and I enjoy the super hot salsa enough to make this a probable repeat purchase, especially if it can keep those cold symptoms at bay. Look for the tub in the refrigerated section, and if I recall correctly, it's about 3 bucks. Cheaper and tastier than DayQuil, for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Extra Hot Habanero Ghost Pepper Salsa: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Curried Carrot & Cashew Dip

I think the pumpkin craze may have finally reached its apex and is starting to experience a bit of backlash. Can't put up a pumpkin review these days without at least one person remarking "I'm so sick of pumpkin!" With pumpkin spice hummuspumpkin flavored dog treats, and even pumpkin spice cough drops on the market, it's pretty clear society has reached a saturation point. Even Trader Joe's seems to have slowed down the release of new pumpkin products this year. There are definitely a few additions, but on our last TJ's run, all we saw were the same sixty items that were available last year. So we'll just take a breather...for today, anyway.

So we turn our sights to another unique orange concoction: Trader Joe's Curried Carrot & Cashew Dip

It's NOT what I expected.

Our last adventure involving a tub of Trader Joe's curried veggies was surprisingly successful in my book, as have most of our other forays into the Indian-inspired land of curry-laden culinary creations. This one...I, personally, am not nearly as enthused about.

There aren't any suggestions for how to serve this condiment. It's packaged in one of those distinctive, clear, round hummus containers. Are we to smear it on a piece of warm pita? Is it a chip dip? Or is it a marinade for meats on the grill? 

We tried it as a chip dip. Interesting. But I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it again for that purpose. On bread? Okay, I can see it taking the place of hummus, but I'll take most hummus over this dip any day. Served with veggies, riced cauliflower, and chicken? Better still. But again nothing I'd crave over a "normal" condiment. 

I was expecting the curry flavor to dominate this product, but it certainly doesn't. In fact, carrot is the primary flavor coming through. It's essentially a tub of creamed carrots, with a few miscellaneous spices and vague cashew flavor throughout...not sweet. Certainly not what I was hoping for. I swear there's a strange, funky, almost mildewy essence in our tub. Sonia doesn't detect it at all.

To make matters worse, there was a single white glob of....something in our container. At first, we thought it might have been a cashew. But it wasn't. It was fairly firm, somewhat powdery, and...not at all like anything else anywhere in the tub. Sonia suggested it might be a ball of corn starch, as corn starch does indeed appear on the ingredients list. She seemed perfectly fine with that notion and proceeded to eat around the object in question. I began referring to it as "the tumor" and like any good amateur scientist decided to dissect it. Its middle looked like something in between white meat chicken and the inside of a nut of some kind, though much too large to be a single cashew. You can see it in two halves there toward the right side of the product photograph. 

I dared Sonia to eat a piece of the mystery blob—which, shockingly, she did with remarkably little coaxing. She just popped it in her mouth, shrugged, and said "it's fine."

I couldn't let her be a braver eater than I am, so I hesitantly cut a little bit with my fork and tasted it. It felt like a curd of cottage cheese and tasted completely flavorless. I still don't know what that thing was, but it grosses me out just thinking about it.

Unfazed by the incident, Sonia continued dipping various foods into the little tub and mixing it into her food. She said, "I enjoy it. What do you think?"

"I'm not feeling it," I muttered, backing away from the table.

I might have mustered two stars if not for that...wad of...stuff. One and a half stars from me. I haven't disagreed with the wife this strongly on a TJ's product in a long time. Four stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.