Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

"The pig is an amazing animal. You feed a pig an apple, it makes bacon. The pig is turning an apple - essentially garbage - into bacon! That's magic! Or the most successful recycling program ever!"

That's not the joke about pigs and apples from comedic genius Jim Gaffigan I had in mind while sitting down to write this review; however, Google failed me. He once threw out a line about feeling bad for the pigs at a pig roast, because one minute they're happily eating an apple, next minute they're up on the spit, apple still there. With that second joke in mind, I took one look at Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts - must've been an interesting though perhaps tragic nacho night at the chicken coop.

There's a lot of good stuff going on here. In the case of our package (which Sandy referred to as a "meat splurge", given the price tag and rarity we buy things like this) there were two pretty good sized chicken chunks, one a little bigger than the other. The two of us and our semi-meat-adverse toddler probably could've split a single breast and been reasonably satiated, but we were both pretty hungry, and our kiddo actually ate her fair share, too, in an upset. Everywhere you look, there's corn tortilla chip shards - literally everywhere, covering the breasts liberally, some stuffed inside, excess ones spilling out of the package everywhere. Mix in some nacho cheddar cheese chunks (which oddly melted inside the chicken but not outside - what kind of sorcery is that?) and peppers (presumably poblano) and a couple oddly placed black olive slices, and it's pretty nacho-licious. I kinda wish the chips got a lot a little more crispy while baking - some did, while others remained a little soggy, perhaps understandably. In all, these plucky pollo fellas made a very hearty, filling dinner almost entirely by themselves.

Still, there's a little something missing. Hmmm...let's start with the ingredients and nutritional info, shall we? I know packaged meat doesn't always carry all that info, but with all the added ingredients, it sure would've been nice. There was no such sticker on our package, not even on the reverse side of the main label (I checked). Not sure if that was a QC misfire or the norm; regardless, I can't provide a snapshot of ingredients and nutrition like we normally do. Also, while I'd call the chicken "flavorful" and "tasty," I would not use "zesty" to describe it. There's no real spice. I've had bell peppers with more wallop than the pale green hombres in here. Prior to sticking in the oven, I *thought* I saw something like a light salsa glaze thru the chippy coating on the chicken, and while the chicken was lightly marinated in something, it wasn't that, nor was it overly apparent or stuck out. As much of a cliche as it is at this point, a little chipotle action, or some included salsa, or a little extra spice akin to previous southwestern-inspired offerings would have been a real bonus.

Not going to quibble too much though. One could reasonably expect to pay at least $11 or $12 at a restaurant for one something similar to one of these breasts and a side or two, so $5.99 a pound strikes me as a decent value. In all likelihood, we'll purchase again but will have to keep in mind adding a little something extra to kick it up a notch. Sandy enjoyed it all, except the peppers - she and cooked veggies have a strained relationship at best, so that's not too surprising nor is it a poor reflection. In her book, these merit a 3.5, while I come in a notch lower.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  


  1. Nutrition and Ingredient List that was posted on a different blog in case anybody is interested: http://danicasdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/IMG_0364_thumb.jpg

  2. Gafffigan: "Pig roasts, you know? Pig roasts, they always have that pig head sitting there. Which is sad 'cause you can tell they killed the pig when it was eating an apple."