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Monday, October 19, 2020

Trader Joe's Spicy Pumpkin Curry Simmer Sauce

I recently gave my spiel about how Indian-inspired spicy pumpkin is distinctly different from pumpkin spice. Instead of pumpkin pie spices, we have—you guessed it—Indian curry spices that work with pumpkin. I'll stand by that previous assertion, but we'll dive into it in a bit more detail here.

I'm still a fan of spicy pumpkin curry, but in this case, I liked it juuust slightly less than in the case of the samosas. Why? Possibly because this curry is more Thai-inspired and the samosas were Indian. But also possibly because in the case of the samosas, someone else (Trader Joe's and their mysterious third party suppliers) concocted the dish for me. It's hard to beat that blend of paneer cheese, sweet potato, pumpkin, and flaky breading. With this product, you're on your own. So, I think this falls squarely into the category of: If you have mad culinary skills, you should definitely try this product. And if not, I won't twist your arm either way.

Don't get me wrong. I loved what we made with it, and I'll admit Sonia had a bigger hand in the preparation of our meals than I did. It worked. We tried it with both chicken and fish, with rice as a side in both cases.

It can turn any boring meal into a spicy pumpkin curry-flavored meal. There's a bit of heat, a smooth coconut and pumpkin base, and lots of complex essences that you'd find in a traditional Thai curry like onion, garlic, pepper, ginger, and turmeric.

We both agree it worked slightly better with poultry than with fish, but I felt like neither dish complemented the curry quite like the ingredients in the samosas did. Honestly, the rice went best with the curry in this case, because rice brings so little flavor of its own. It allowed the flavor of the spicy pumpkin to come through more easily than the main entrees did. If we had some paneer or sweet potato chunks on hand, we would have thrown them into the mix, and it might have made the meals even more memorable. 

In general, if we have a hankerin' for some Thai curry, we'd reach for something more along the lines of the Thai Green Simmer Sauce before this product, but I still think spicy pumpkin is a brilliant international adaptation to that favorite fall flavor. I definitely think we'd consider picking up another jar in the future, perhaps next fall, but we'll take more time to think about which veggies and sides we'll pair it with next time.

$2.99 for the jar. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Trader Joe's Uncured Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Sous Vide Bites

You don't tug on Superman's cape.

You don't spit into the wind. 

You don't put no cottage cheese in your eggs.

And you don't mess around with Jim. 

That's how that song goes, right? Something like that? Close enough?

Honestly, I don't care what you do with your curds and eggs. I don't. I intentionally used a double negative so you can take it either way - the evoked versus the literal. But just keep them away from my eggs, please. As well as most anything else. Cottage cheese is just one food I never have and likely never will like unless snuck by me somehow. 

And for that reason, Trader Joe's Uncured Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Sous Vide Egg Bites are a no go for me

From the first bite, I could tell there was something in these egg pucks that was something pretty akin to cottage cheese. Eggs aren't naturally this fluffy and soft - I mean, sure the sous vide cooking method certainly helped, but there that textural element, along with a slight, low-key tang. I knew it. Cottage cheese, second ingredient. From the tast of things, there's almost as much cheese as there is egg! My lovely bride said she didn't notice that at all. I'm speechless. 

The TJ's egg plops come fully cooked but chilled as, you know, eggs. There's two recommended ways of heating them up - in the over for 10 to 12 minutes or the microwave for a minute. We made them both ways - oven on left, microwave on right. They look about the same coming out of the package as they do when they're ready to eat - fairly unappetizing to me. No comment on how their looks may progress from here. 

From the oven, they're a bit firmer but not by appreciably much. There's also the slight browning, and the added wonderment of why I spent nearly 15 to 20 minutes heating a precooked egg in the oven instead of just cracking and cooking one in less than half the time. The microwaved one was definitely softer and greasier, as one may expect. 

Everything else about them is pretty much meh. Turkey bacon never has and never will get it done in my book. The cheddar was typical, and the flavor of the herbs and spices pretty muted. A little hot sauce or some bomba would have helped, but of course those are add-ons to and not features of the original product. 

So yeah, not a fan. Sandy likes 'em a bit more. Apparently on the Interwebs folks say there's a lot of similarities between the sous vide eggers and an offering from Starbucks, which she's had but not me. The TJ's are larger and softer, and also cheaper but still not cheap at the middling $3.50 to $4 mark for a two pack. At that revelation, Sandy said she could go on Amazon and find a egg mold that could make these for breakfast sandwiches for us for like $10, so she wouldn't buy this TJ's offering unless in a pinch for a warm meal-like non-soup substance for work. I wouldn't buy the mold or the bites or anything like these guys again - just no. Not for me. Nah. Nuh uh. I'll be nice and give them a one while Sandy will be a bit higher but not by all that much. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Uncured Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Sous Vide Bites: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Trader Joe's PB&J Snack Duo

Bert & Ernie, Starsky & Hutch, Mac & Cheese, Hobbs & Shaw, Tubbs & Crockett, Batman & Robin, Siegfried & Roy, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Mulder & Sculley, Laverne & Shirley, Salt & Pepper, Salt N' Pepa, Thelma & Louise, Lucy & Ethel, Sonny & Cher, Beavis & Butthead, Bono & The Edge, Burger & Fries, Frodo & Sam, Jack Skellington & Sally, Chucky & Bride of get the point. 

And the point is: There are a lot of memorable duos in this world, but Peanut Butter & Jelly are as epic as duos come. And now it's more convenient than ever. There are six packs with eight peanut butter sticks a piece in this $3.99 box. Math isn't my strong suit, but I think that's about 48 scrumptious, wafery peanut butter sticks. And that's not even taking into account the tasty "raspberry fruit dip."

I'd say the jelly-esque fruit dip is a tad more dessert-like than your average pb&j sandwich jelly. It's both sweeter and a little thicker by my estimation, and there are little dark round things all through it. I guess those are raspberry seeds. They add a bit of extra texture and they look kinda cool, although, I think I would have been a tad grossed out by them when I was a kid.

Other than that, these are absolutely optimized for kids' school lunches. They taste good, they're fun, they're filling, they're convenient, and they're made of decent ingredients. If you lack children like Sonia and I do, then you'll just have to eat them yourselves. That shouldn't be a problem for us.

As for the peanut butter sticks: they're crispy and supple. They're not hard or tough at all. They have a tendency to snap in half when you dunk them in the raz dip. It's a little frustrating, but if you dunk a half a stick at a time or know how to brace the stick with your index finger pretty far down the length of it, near the pool of jelly, you'll be dipping like a pb&j duo pro in no time.

Sonia was surprised how much the sticks tasted like peanut butter. I mean, their main ingredient is peanut butter. In light of that, I was surprised how subtle the peanut butter flavor was. They seem to be a bit sweeter and maybe have a slight vanilla essence, too...? At any rate, we both liked them. We're happy with the stick to dip ratio and the overall value and convenience factor.

We'd consider this for a repeat purchase. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.