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Friday, November 16, 2018

Trader Joe's Turkey & Stuffing En Croute

There's always something to be thankful for. So why not have Thanksgiving a little early?

In addition to wanting to sample this Thanksgiving-in-a-box for all you "Trader Nation" folks, Sonia and I are very thankful for a number of things. We're thankful that we sold our house and can now travel the country nonstop in our RV, and we're also thankful that despite a severe stroke, Sonia's mom is in stable condition and now seems to be on the mend in most ways. 
 
We'll still be hitting up Trader Joe's stores as we pass by them in different cities, but we'll seldom be patronizing the locations at our old haunts in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. "But how will you see the states that don't have Trader Joe's?" you ask? Apparently, there are only 7 left without one, and they're generally either A) close to a state that does or B) not in the continental 48. Alaska and Hawaii will have to wait a few years. Furthermore, Sonia and I aren't looking to go too far out into the boonies, since we both need cell reception and internet for our day jobs. We'll be sticking relatively close to the cities most of the time—places where TJ's are anyway.

On to the review.

I'll just start off with some positives first. Let's look at the cranberry sauce. Yes, it comes with a pouch of cranberry sauce as well as a pouch of gravy. I hadn't realized that at the time of purchase. I can't think of any specific examples right now, but there have been a number of products throughout the years from TJ's that appear to come with some kind of dipping sauce or condiment and in our excitement, we purchase the product without really reading the packaging, only to get home and be disappointed to read "serving suggestion only" on the label. This product is the opposite. There's a small note on the big box explaining, "gravy and cranberry sauce packets included." That's a good thing. That's one of those things that you can go ahead and print in a large font on the cover of the product. Although there's not a ton of it, the cranberry sauce is sweet, tart, citrusy, and full of festive spices like allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon—tasty. It reminds me very much of a gelatinized Winter Wassail. It's a nice treat on its own or mixed with the turkey and stuffing.


In typical Trader Joe's fashion, our bird required an extra half hour in the oven to remove the last bit of pink from the inner turkey. There's a nice subtle blend of herbs and seasonings in the dish, and the copious outer layers help keep a ton of benevolent moisture in the TJ's brand "butterball."

Speaking of the "outer layers"...

My goodness. After eating a slice or two of the product, one begins to realize the shocking ratio of pastry crust to meat. As in, there's more "en croute" than there is turkey. Fortunately, most of it is flaky, bready, flavorful, and almost worth eating on its own. I'll remind you now that Sonia is a professing pescatarian, yet she sampled this product after realizing that she could eat a good bit of it while only taking a bite or two of turkey. I confess, I prodded her into it. In exchange, I agreed to eat only turkey-less turkey on actual Thanksgiving this year. Fair exchange.
 
Oh yeah. There's the gravy. It's okay. I've never been much of a gravy guy, truth told. This particular dressing is nothing special in my humble opinion. It's super salty. It's almost like miso soup with turkey fat swirled into it. Not terrible. Just unnecessary in this instance. The turkey was juicy enough on its own.

About $13 for the meal. Plenty of food for two people, even on T-giving Day. You could probably stretch it to four if you had a few extra sides to go with it—and I'm not talking USDA "suggested serving sizes," I'm talking Thanksgiving Day, pig-out, all-you-can-eat, give a plate to each of the dogs, let's celebrate life kind of servings. 

Three and a half stars a piece. And an extra half a star. Because I'm in a good mood. Why not?
 
Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pancakes

Really wish I could, but as close as it comes to actually working, it just doesn't. Cauliflatkes. Get it?

It's almost an apt word to describe Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pancakes. Almost. So close. It's caulifower. It's a wannabe potato pancake, which is more accurately a latke. It's a cauilfower latke.

But a cauliflatke? It just doesn't work.

Oh well.

Which is too bad, as these cauliflower latkes are incredibly decent. It's nearly shocking. We all know by now how versatile cauliflower can be, and how well it can mimic rice and potatoes...still, let's be honest. You can usually tell if something is cauliflower. If it's not in the feel, it's in the taste. Kinda like how you can sense gluten free goods more times than not, or diet sodas. There's a distinctive differewnce more than times than not.

File these wannabe spudders under "not." If I didn't know these were cauliflower, I would've assumed there were regular potato. The cakes are dense and heavy, with a lot of "build" to them. Granted, they do look a little different, as there's not toasty shredded bits of potatoes here and there, but eyes closed, not sure I'd tell the difference. Even when baked in the oven, as we did, there's a greasy crispiness that makes me wish we woulda deepfried them. I'll have to settle for the gratitude of my arteries.

There's a small taste difference, though, but not due to base matter. Almost every latke I've ever had contained onions in them, and weren't shy about it. No onions here. Instead there's a small amount of Parmesan cheese used as flavor. It's not over the top, but could more paltable for the anti-onion crowd, whoever you are. Weirdos.

Bake them, fry them, eat them straight, top with sour cream, serve with applesauce. Eat at dinner, at celebrations, as a party appetizer...heck even be weird like us and have them for breakfast. Nutritionally speaking, they're a black hole, but this time, less carbs, amirite? It's every bit a latke. These TJ taterless cakes aren't labelled as gluten free but I'm not seeing anything indicated on the ingredients that would have me to expect they're not...correct me if I'm wrong please. You can't say the same about the regular TJ latkes.

Small note: the box of six costs $3.99. That's one of those odd price points that screams neither screaming deal nor complete rip off, which probably means it's fair for all involved...but as much as I like them at $3.99, I'd like them even more at $2.99.

Call them whatever you want. Maybe with enough support "cauliflatkes" could be a thing...but I'm not counting on it. Count this though: double fours.


Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pancakes: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trader Joe's Vanilla & Pretzel and Trader Joe's Coconut & Almond Greek Lowfat Yogurts


Chobani Flips, Fage Crossovers, Yoplait Mix-ins, Siggi's Simple Sides...you know what I'm talking about. They're yogurts that come with their own toppings. Pretty much idiot-proof. Just open up both compartments and dump the side with the mixables into the side with the yogurt. If you can land the toppings in the container and stir them up without spilling anything onto the table or the floor, you've passed the test. Just consume and enjoy. 

I think these products indicate that the yogurt industry is trying to combat the idea that plain yogurt is boring. It certainly can be, but I'm still fine with non-mixable yogurt. Maybe it was all the business little yogurt shops like Yogurtland and Pinkberry were taking away from the mainstay yogurt guys. 

"Oh, you want to PUT STUFF on your yogurt?" said yogurt CEO's, annoyed with their customers for not being a little more brand-loyal. "We hear you loud and clear, friends. Here's yogurt with STUFF you PUT on it. Sheesh."

Now, it's Trader Joe's turn. These were the only two flavors we saw on TJ's shelves so far. If any others have been sighted, let us know in the comments below.

Sonia and I both share our thoughts in this short video review. Sonia gives three stars to the vanilla pretzel offering and four stars to the coconut almond one. I'll throw out three and a half to each.



Trader Joe's Vanilla & Pretzel Lowfat Greek Yogurt: 6.5 out of 10.
Trader Joe's Coconut & Almond Lowfat Greek Yogurt: 7.5 out of 10.