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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trader Joe's Chicken Chilaques Rojo

There's some dispute apparently about the origin of the phrase "winner winner chicken dinner." One of the more common theories is that a chicken dinner in Las Vegas used to cost about $2, the same amount as a typical bet. So you win a bet, you won enough for dinner. Or somebody would bet all they had in hopes to win enough for some food. That sounds kinda like a cross between desperate and degenerate, but there we are.

Let there be no dispute here, though. The new Trader Joe's Chicken Chilaquiles Rojo are an absolute winner.

Proof enough: we had them dinner twice this past week. That's rare for us, especially for a prepackaged item we'd have to buy twice. But Sandy and I enjoyed them so much the first time around, but I was convinced I could make them even better and had to try before writing this review. Not that either of us minded.

The secret for good prep is to actually ignore the directions a little bit and add no extra water. The chilaquiles are a frozen item after all; the ingredients will release enough water on their own while cooking. No need to add extra unless you like yours on the soupy side.

Regardless, these taste friggerin' delicious. There's loads of beans, onions and peppers with an almost adequate-enough amount of chicken simmering in a not-all-that spicy tomato based sauce. Seriously, don't assume they're too spicy for you - our four year old who's a spice wimp had no issue. Still, there's plenty of taste - a little savory, a little smoky, the teeniest amount of heat. There's just some depth here.

Add in the included tortilla chips to soak up some of the liquid, and sprinkle a little cotija cheese atop. The chips definitely help fill out the meal, and the cotija adds a little sourish pungent touch that works well with the overall vibe of the dish. Think of it like a bowl of nachos with chili or super thick chunky salsa, and add some guac or some sour cream. We also put a hard fried egg atop ours per the serving suggestions - delicious.

The chilaquiles rojo aren't perfect though. Primarily, it's the serving sizes. Sandy is superstrict about serving sizes. We didn't measure, but there's no way each bag has 2.5 servings. Unless we're absolute hogs, because both times we made them we made two bags and had no problems or remorse about eating the entire supposed five servings between us. Also, as slightly hinted at, there could be a few more bites chicken included.

Other than that, we're talking near perfection here. For about $3 or $4 a bag, the chilaquiles are repeat buy worthy again and again. You can bet on it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chicken Chilaquiles Rojo: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Vanilla Mochi

As long as I've been shopping there, there has always been mochi at Trader Joe's, but this here is a new iteration of the Japanese-American frozen treat. They've always carried Mikawaya brand, although to be honest, I'm not 100% sure if they still do. Also, from time to time they've released their own flavors—everything from mango to pumpkin to coffee.

But as far as I know, this is the first time Trader Joe's has offered "plain" flavors with their own branding. It should be pert near impossible to screw up vanilla after tackling all those other oddball breeds, right? answer to that question is a solid "maybe." And the maybe depends upon your feelings about the rice-based shell of this hand-held dairy dessert. I myself liked it just fine. I must admit it's a little thicker and chewier than almost any other mochi I've ever had, but it's not necessarily worse in my book, simply different. Sonia, on the other hand, hated it.

She felt like the outer mochi shell was too bulky and claimed it made the product taste and feel "stale." It moved independently of the ice cream within and kind of separated from it as you'd bite the mochi ball, whereas other mochi ice creams and shells blend seamlessly. I can totally see where she's coming from. I just didn't mind it as much.

As far as the ice cream, we were both okay with it, but not totally floored. In my opinion it tasted and felt like frozen whipped cream, rather than a rich, complex true vanilla. Fortunately, I really like whipped cream. Sonia, again, wasn't impressed at all, although she felt a little more positive about the dairy elements than the rice elements. She thought it was a bit like McDonald's-esque soft, you know, not exactly top-shelf, but still cold, creamy, and edible.

$4.49 for six mochi that come in a weird plastic egg carton-like container. Not exactly a stellar value, either. They'll do in a pinch, but we've seen better mochi from Trader Joe's, as well as from other brands. Two stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffins

Tried as I have, I'm still not a morning person. Never have been, might never be.

It doesn't matter that for over a year now I've worked an odd schedule at the day jorb that involves me waking up well before the rest of the world. I've somehow never been late for it, and usually show up even earlier. Just because I can do it doesn't mean I like it. And the days I'm off...well, I know this isn't the most conducive to a healthy sleep schedule, what with supposed to be waking up at the same time every day and all, but my body seemingly can't help but feel it needs to catch up so it can "sleep in" til I need to get on the move with the rest of the family.

So pretty much, every morning I'm pretty busy and on-the-go, whether it's rolling towards work half-sleepily or shuffling off wife and kids to whatever the day holds in store, just a little less sleepily.

So pretty much, any morning is a good morning for a Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffin.

Quick to grab, quick to eat. So very portable. I mean, duh, it's a muffin. They're popular for this very reason. You don't need me to tell you that.

What set's the TJ's almond muffins apart though is their quality. Ever eat a muffin and still feel kinda hungry after? You won't with one of these guys. "Hearty" is an understatement. So much in here - almond meal, walnuts, eggs, carrots, zucchini, berries, oats. So many calories and so much fiber and protein. Yeah, it'll keep you going for a morning.

And thankfully, all together the muffins taste pretty great! As one would imagine, they're earthy, nutty, a little moist and dense with a little bite variant from the aforementioned fruits, nuts, and veggies. All the flavors blend well with one another, with some maple and agave helping to sweeten the whole deal. I don't think there's an ingredient I would add or subtract from this whole mix, except maybe a touch more cinnamon.

One point of contention, and I hope one of you can help clear this up since I've discarded the package without doublechecking - are these gluten free? There's no ingredients on the label that proclaim gluten to me, but I don't recall them being labelled as such. Help?

At about four bucks for the package, these muffins are an absolute steal. One of these with a coffee and an apple can be a breakfast mainstay for me for sure, no matter what kinda morning it is. Double fours from the Mrs and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffins: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons