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Friday, August 16, 2019

Trader Joe's Lemon Basil Pasta Salad



Whether you're a cubicle jockey, a work-from-home telecommuter, or a full-time traveling digital nomad—all of which Sonia and I have been—pre-packaged, refrigerated lunches like this one come in very handy most days. "Lemon basil pasta salad" sounds like a refreshing meal for these 90+ degree summer afternoons. Let's see what's going on here, shall we?

What's working: the overall taste is fresh and lemony. We found decent quality greens in our bowl, pristine bowtie pasta, shredded asiago cheese, and a significant amount of basil flavor. There's even a lemon wedge, ready for squeezing. The pre-applied dressing isn't overbearing or intrusive and adds just enough zing to make it interesting.


What's not working: I'd replace half of the pasta with more spinach. That's not something I'd expect from myself normally—craving vegetables over carbs. I guess I'd just rather see this flavor as, you know, a "salad," rather than a "pasta salad." There are plenty of traditional salad options at TJ's if you're with me on that one. I'm just pointing out that this offering is very much about the pasta, despite there being some roughage here, too. There are some peas floating around in the mixture. They don't add a whole lot, if you ask me. They weren't bad, though, either. I'd just rather see some romaine lettuce or more spinach in a dish like this one, personally. Also, when I mixed the salad elements around, I managed to spill some of them onto the counter. It's partly because I'm completely inept when it comes to stirring solid foods around in a small bowl, but it's also partly because the container isn't very rigid and the elements are packed full to the brim. 

Looking at the ingredients, I'm surprised there wasn't more oomph to the overall flavor. Cayenne pepper, chili pepper, chopped garlic, and dijon mustard are generally going to render something with a tad more kick. I wouldn't mind tasting a significantly spicier version of this salad, but it's nothing to complain about as is. I think a spicy rendition might overpower the lemon and basil, and that would be a different flavor entirely.


$4.49 seems a tad steep for what you're getting here. It would be enough for one person for one sitting. In our case, Sonia and I shared it and supplemented with other snacks for our mid-day meal. Do note: there's no little plastic fork included here, so if you're going for a car-lunch, make sure you have a utensil on hand (and probably some napkins). All in all, not a bad choice for a light lunch. Double three and a halfs.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Peruvian Potato Chips

Salt is bad, salt is bad, salt is bad. Yes, yes, yes. I know, I know, I know.

Still...does that really stop any of us?

You can limit all the sodium intake you want, it's still out there. It's inherent in almost anything. I mean, even Cheerios, which don't taste salty at all, still have a pretty hefty amount of sodium per serving for what it is.

One cannot avoid sodium. You can only try to get out of its way as much as possible. Like...not buying chips for instance.

Or if you do, consider getting the new Trader Joe's Peruvian Potato Chips.

Not. Salty. At. All.

Will admit, not realizing their low-Na ways, I was a little disappointed with the first bite. No matter how much I've love to reprogram my tastebuds, when I'm having chips, man, I want that salt. There's barely any here though. So my tongue automatically defaults to words like "bland" and "tasteless."

It's not really the case, though. I've been to Peru, and I don't really remember any big deal being made about their potatoes grown down there in the shade of the Andes. But these are good potatoes. Compared to perhaps the American standard of the Idahoan Russet, they taste perhaps a little earthier, a little nuttier. It's kinda fun that they're a little purpley, too. It's subtle flavor but it's good.

The texture and feel of these TJ's crispers strays a little more towards kettle cooked while not being as full out crunchy. I could do with a bit more crunch, to be honest, but they'll do as is.

Overall, I'm alright with these chips. They still are a little plain as they are, but would probably work well dipped in something. You know, for like more sodium and stuff. Eh well. I'm neither amazed nor dismayed, and neither is Sandy. We'll kinda shrug our way through this bag and see if we buy again, on the rare occasion we actually buy chips. Middlin' scores each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Peruvian Potato Chips: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Monday, August 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Chocolate Hummus


There are certain things I don't ever really want Trader Joe's to come out with: banana flavored horseradish sauce, caramel baba ghanoush, hot dog ice cream, any kind of kale-based dessert, or elephant dung espresso beans, just for a few examples. I might have added chocolate hummus to that list if we had not, in fact, purchased it on our last TJ's run. 

But purchase it we did, despite both Sonia and I initially reacting with disgust. Could a combination that odd possibly be good? Sure, anything's possible. I was kinda hoping that it would be just one of those marketing snafus—you know something that doesn't necessarily sound good, but actually is good—not unlike purple yam ice cream, I guess. 

Somebody tweeted about this product last week. Of course, I can't find the tweet now, but it said something to the effect of "The chocolate hummus is great. It tastes like brownie dough." Sounded promising. I was thinking, "Well if that's the case, then why didn't they just call it 'vegan brownie dough dip' or something moderately enticing instead of chocolate hummus...?" Then they could just let us discover that it's made with garbanzo beans after we've had a strawberry or two dipped in it and we've already fallen in love with it. Everybody wins.


Dessert hummus just didn't sound appealing to me, but I absolutely love chick peas, hummus, and I don't have any major problems with chocolate, either. So we dove right in. Aaaand at first bite, I tasted chocolate...and hummus. Just in case the first bite was a fluke, I took a second. Again, chocolate....and hummus. They didn't call it "brownie dough dip" because it's chocolate hummus. It is hummus...that's chocolate flavored. And there's just not quite enough chocolate flavor to drown out the garbanzo-y hummus flavor, which, again, I love...just not when it's mixed with chocolate. It's truly very close to the unappetizing flavor I imagined in my mind when I first heard the phrase "chocolate hummus." It's a darker, cocoa-ish chocolate flavor that's not very sweet, but still characteristically very chocolatey, and in my opinion, doesn't blend very well with the earthy, legumey goodness of chick peas. 

Everybody knows strawberries and chocolate go great together. Would you ever add hummus to your chocolate strawberries? Did it ever occur to anyone to mix Gone Berry Crazy with hummus? If your answer to either of those questions is "yes," then go ahead and try this stuff. You might love it. I, however, did not.

Even the texture is identical to traditional hummus. There's a fair amount of grittiness to it. I wasn't a huge fan of the way it mixed with fruit. Strawberries, raspberries. Neither worked perfectly in my opinion. I tried it with pita bread, just because, you know...hummus and pita, right? Wrong. I almost wanted to try it with pita and peanut butter and see if that worked, but we didn't have pb on hand, and I had kinda noped out by that point anyway.


Could it ever replace Nutella or Cocoa Almond Spread? Not in our household. Not that we have Nutella much anyway, but I'd never put this stuff on par with the classic hazelnut spread for any dessert-ish applications.

Sonia? She couldn't make up her mind. The only word she could utter after I demanded she share her impression of the product was "weird." "I dunno. It's weird, it's weird," she kept repeating, as if stunned by the audacity to even create such an enigmatic commodity. If it were up to this guy, the tub would go back for a no-hassle refund. Sonia wants to give it another chance, suggesting that she'll eat it plain, one spoonful at a time, although, even as she says it, it's obvious she's turned off by the notion.

Three stars from Sonia. Two from me.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.