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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Trader Joe's Grainless Cassava & Coconut Tortilla Chips and Trader Joe's Romesco Dip

Probably like a lot of you, a lot went by the wayside this year for us. Vacation? Nah. Day trips to Idlewild, our designated family happy space? Season pass went unused. Schools are still not back to "normal," whatever that means any more, and I spend at least half the week in pajamas because when you start work no later than 5am in your own basement, that's a perfectly acceptable dress code. As opposed to the one time on the weekend at the office, where wearing PJs with a couple work buddies raised some eyebrows but no HR complaints, thank goodness. 

It's been a weird year, to put it mildly. 

One traditional holdover, though, that has not quit nor will it ever is the idea of having a family "snacky dinner" as we call it. it's up there with our Friday night jammie/movie/pizza nights in terms of favorites. Simple enough - get some cold cuts, cheeses, olives, pickles, chips, dips, hummus, veggies, fruits, whatever and we all pick at whatever we want to do for dinner. Nobody has to eat anything they don't want to, as long as they hit the major food groups. It's terrific, and we're always on the look out for new/new-to-us components. 

So, while on a trip for snacky supplies and I saw Trader Joe's Grainless Cassava & Coconut Tortilla Chips and also Trader Joe's Romesco Dip, it was a no-brainer for something new to chew. 

Let's start with the chips. If anything, I'm impressed by how normal they are, as there seems like a lot going on from the bag's description. No grains. Cassava, which is kinda like a potato but not quite, and coconut, fried in avocado oil, with some white pepper and garlic. No flour. No corn. None of the "normal" comforts of a typical tortilla chip. But yet, in an eyes-closed test, they might almost pass as near-variant of a usual tortilla instead of a complete reinvention. The biggest difference, naturally, is the texture - a tad crunchier, a wee less crispier, and more of a dry to "sandy" feel to them. Without knowing too much different and if unaware of ingredients, I'd guess they might be baked, because there's much more that feel. The flavor by themselves isn't awful but not terrific either - there's just something about white pepper that makes things taste off to me. Maybe that's my lack of sophistication more than anything else. Regardless, the flavor quickly disappears when dipped into most anything if that's what you wanna do...

...and you just might wanna do it with the TJ's Romesco Dip. Granted, cassava chips likely aren't a traditional use of romesco - there's likely a Catalonian fisherman somewhere rolling his eyes - but that doesn't mean they can't be snacky buddies. This is some pretty dang good stuff. The base is mainly roasted red bell pepper and tomatoes which add a little sweetness but are tamed in by the olive oil/almond butter base, with some ground almonds in there to boot. The mouthfeel isn't offputting in the least - it's a bit soupier and softly grittier than hummus, but along those lines - but works exceptionally well. With some crushed chili pepper mixed in, there's the smidgiest smidge of heat, but the whole feel is warm, hearty, zesty and glowing, not spicy. Just...flavor. Lots of it. Lots and lots of yummy flavor, and it was an instant hit. I'm glad I got more than bite or two. 

Of course, there's plenty of ways to enjoy these chips and/or the dip. For the chippies, eat 'em plain if thats your thing, nab some nachos, grab some guac, swim 'em in salsa, whatever. It's a tortilla chip, it'll work. The romesco strikes me as very versatile - though I haven't tried it this way, I'd imagine with grilled fish or chicken, or with a little pasta, it'd be great! Always open to ideas you can leave in the comments as well.  

So yeah. Big thanks to TJ's for another snacky dinner success and a couple new usual snack time rotation members. The purchase price wasn't bad  on either but regretfully I once again misplaced the receipt. One of these times I'll actually remember to stick it to the fridge. Both will be repeat buys but as a fam we're all more ecstatic about the romesco dip as you'll see in our scores below. 

Bottom lines: Trader Joe's Grainless Cassava & Coconut Tortilla Chips: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons. Trader Joe's Romesco Dip: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons



 

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