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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Trader Joe's Creamed Greens

It's kind of ironic and counterintuitive, but Thanksgiving Day and the days surrounding it produce some of the lowest numbers for us on this blog as far as traffic is concerned. You might think that what is arguably the most food-centric day of the year would generate greater interest in food blogs and such, but you'd be wrong.

I mean, it's great that people are apparently paying attention to their families and traveling and preparing for the big day rather than fussing about our silly little grocery store blog. Doesn't bother me a bit. And now that I think about it, it might be slightly disturbing if the reverse were true.

But we're heading into not only the biggest and best family + food holiday of the year, but immediately after, we dive headlong into the Christmas season. At least around our house, turkeys and gourds will be replaced by fat men in red suits and reindeer by the end of this long weekend. So I found it appropriate to look at a product that might find its way into either a Thanksgiving meal or a Christmas meal. It's nothing quite as exciting as a pie or a cake, but hey, every big holiday meal needs to at least pretend that there's been an attempt to provide greens and veggies. So if the creamed corn side dish isn't looking adequate in the way of plant-based roughage, here's another item to consider.


Trader Joe's Creamed Greens with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, & Parmesan Cheese. In addition to being the only Trader Joe's product I've ever seen that includes the Oxford comma before an ampersand in its extended title, it's also one of the only dishes that takes not one, but two of the most hated vegetables in existence and attempts to turn them into calorific comfort foods...with moderate success, I might add.

The flavor is somewhere between a spinach dip and a green bean casserole. There's a heavy, creamy, salty, savory vibe. It tastes quite strongly of parmesan cheese and onions, but the kale and Brussels sprouts are far from wanting in the mixture. That is, your fork will be full of actual greens with what appears to be a medium-thick glaze of cheesy creaminess. The overall effect is a nice hearty veggie flavor with a major comfort food component.

My biggest and possibly only complaint is that certain bits seemed stringy. I'm guessing that the kale is mostly to blame for the stringiness, although sprouts can be a little tough and pulpy, too. There seemed to be "veins" of vegetable matter that didn't want to melt in the mouth quite like the rest of the dish did. Not every bite was stringy, and even the ones that were didn't stop me from plowing through my share of this otherwise smooth side. Sonia didn't seem to mind the texture of the creamed greens at all.

$4.99 for the one pound package. I'd eat this again alongside a traditional holiday meal. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

p.s. It works as a chip dip, too.

Three and a half stars from this guy. Four full stars from Sonia. 

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend

Some days are just potato soup days, aren't they?

This past Sunday was. First of all, it was a Sunday. Also: cool, rainy, all not-sure-if-November-or-March outside (in so many ways, actually). The kinda day that just made you want to curl up with a warm blanket and cats and books and movies while the crockpot did its thing all day to bring forth a warm, comforting meal that goes down easy.

One of the best things about potato soup is: you can make it taste however you want with toppings and mix-ins. In my opinion you gotta go with bacon, cheese and green onion at the very least, but then something else is needed. Something to give it a little more flavor, a little pizzazz, a little je ne sais quoi. Could go hot sauce or salsa, sure, but sometimes, that's not what I'm looking for.

Turns out it was Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend. 

Look at this stuff. It's beautiful. It looks very fancy and refined, what, with all the different rustic colors and flakes and crinkles all mixed up. That's just how it looks - but also, how it smells? Wow. "Aromatic" is an understatement. Crack it open and this warm, inviting scent of herbs and spices wafts everywhere. I kinda want to leave a jar open somewhere as an air freshener. If I were to open a fancy Italian restaurant, I think I'd pipe in the scent from this somehow to the dining room - it'd be an automatic five star review. 

Inspired by the "holy trinity" of onions, carrots and celery (or as the French would say, mirepoix), the Italian soffrito seasoning is very evocative of those elements without actually featuring carrots or celery. There's a lot of onion, for sure, which adds a little punch and really drives the overall flavor, but the rest of the ingredients like garlic or rosemary or crushed red pepper taste more like the seasonings one could put on those veggies instead of the actual veggies. Which works, because that's what one tastes anyway from a mirepoix/soffrito/onions, carrots and celery. I really wish we Americans had a cool name for all that. Still, a little dried carrot and celery salt could have been used, just to pay proper homage, but I'm not going to quibble too much and just run with it. It's just too good, with herbal warmth, the right amount of salt (neither too much nor too little), the smallest of kicks 

We love it in our house and have used in various ways already, not just on potato soup. Top of pizza? Check. Eggs? Yup. Grabbing a little pinch here and there? Absolutely. With holiday and soup season in full swing, I can see this in more soups, sauces, dishes like stuffing, atop a roast, most anything else...as always if you have ideas or favorite implementations please share! And only like 4 bucks max for an ample sized jar - I just bought a regular little guy of seasoning salt at a regular grocery store for nearly that much, so the price is definitely a good deal for what it is. 

Speaking of fours, we're gonna hit it with two of them and add a little more, because that's what you're gonna be doing once you give this a try. Boom.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons




 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Trader Joe's Cranberry Orange Relish


Apparently there are some cran-haters out there, but I ain't one of 'em. I love me some cranberries. Especially this time of year. Oh how I love the sweet-tartness, the tang, the taste of cranberries. But then, hmmm, it occurs to me that I've never eaten an actual cranberry. I really don't think I've ever had one in my life. I mean, I've had "craisins," which are dried cranberry raisin-esque thingies. And also, apparently, that name is trademarked by Ocean Spray, so it's actually Craisins®. Please don't sue us, Ocean Spray.

I've had cranberry sauce, cranberry jam, cranberry juice, cranberry juice mixed with literally every other kind of fruit juice, and cranberries baked into all sorts of confections. But why on earth haven't I ever eaten a plump, juicy cranberry straight off the vine...? Bush...? Tree...? I don't even know where cranberries grow.


Oh well. It may be some time before I eat an actual whole cranberry in its natural state, but thanks to long-time reader and commenter NJ-to-TX, I was recently reminded of this product, which I'd heard about before, but never really paid much attention to—and lemme tell ya' it's crantastic. It's been around Trader Joe's for a long, long time. And, as is usually the case with such a product, that's a testament to its scrumptiousness.

This stuff is sweet. It's very sweet. It's actually a bit sweeter than traditional cranberry sauce by my estimation, and you'd expect it to be so with 25g of sugar per serving. There's plenty of tartness, too, to make it a little less like a candy and more like a condiment.

There are exactly three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and oranges. I'm a little surprised sugar isn't the number one ingredient, but I guess cranberries are a little sweet on their own. There's definitely more cranberry flavor, while the citrus kick of the orange is more subtle and understated. It's a beautiful balance of the constituent flavors.


Channeling my ten-year-old self that zeroed in on cranberry sauce over any other dish on the Thanksgiving Day table, I took bite after bite straight out of tub upon first opening it. Sonia was less enthused to consume it plain, and like a real adult, prefers it on turkey, tofurkey, stuffing, and/or mashed potatoes. It does go VERY well with all of those things, but I'd get creative and try it in pies, as a dip for chicken nuggets, or whatever ridiculous combo pops into my foodie-hack brain at the moment.

If you haven't checked it out, I recommend trying this in place of traditional cranberry sauce at your Turkey Day meal. $3.49 for the 6 serving tub. Four and a half stars from me. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.