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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices

So, what's your quarantine hobby been?

For me, to help keep myself from going mad, I've gotten a little bit into pickling and fermenting. So for it's been a blast, figuratively speaking and thankfully not literally, yet. I've seen enough explosion videos from home fermenters to know it's a thing. Like Robert Plant once sang, my time is gonna come.

But yeah, I've done a couple things. Sauerkraut, green beans and other assorted veggies, honey garlic, a ginger bug, even some mangoes for my very own amba sauce as well as my own hot sauce. It's been pretty fun, and it gives me something to look forward to, whether it's looking for little bubbles or feasting down.

So, I'm not an expert yet (watch out, Brad Leone) but I know enough to know that pickling and fermenting, while both are delicious processes and have a little overlap, are not the same thing. Here's some more info on all that.

So, naturally, a product like Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices will catch our eye right now.

Can I ferment and/or pickle my own jalapeños? Easily! takes a while, and these are ready to go, and within easy reach. Sometimes you just gotta go with the here and now.

Opening the jar is a pleasant, spicy aroma - it's not overly funky or smelly. Good so far. Don't think of the standard mushy green circle you get with your stadium nachos, these peppers are fresher with a lot more snap to them. That's an even better step in the right direction.

And as far as taste - yep, it seems on point. A little initial sweetness is followed quickly by a little dive towards sour before finishing up with the heat. There's an overall saltiness at play, in a nod towards fermenting, while the total effect seems accentuated with vinegar, which of course would be the pickling. The heat does linger for a bit after but isn't unpleasant, unless you don't really like jalapeños and therefore wouldn't be in the target audience here. Visially, it looks like maybe about half the seeds were removed from the peppers, which might be the right way to balance out heat without too much bitterness.

M lovely bride and I got to enjoying a good bottle of honey mead (another blessing from fermentation, gonna try that soon) while grilling some hot dogs and corn on the cob last night, and got the great idea to put some of these peppers on the hot dogs with some melty knockoff Velveeta...hey, don't judge, you know it was awesome. Simply yes. We're both already looking forward to our upcoming burger night to bust these peppers out again, and hey, I'll get another little glass jar for next basement experimental ferment.

Nothing wrong with these peppers, and of course I'm gonna do my own soon now, but for a commercial batch, Sandy and i would sign off on them with a 4 each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, May 22, 2020

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Greek Style Yogurt Dip

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Trader Joe's latches on to certain themes and just goes downright crazy from time to time. I think we're on our fourth or fifth EBTB product at this point.

The thing about EBTB is that it comes in a shaker. It's designed to be put on/in anything and everything you want to try it with. It'd be pert near impossible to get pumpkin, mango, cookie butter, or coffee in the right ratios in the products that Trader Joe's has offered, but Everything But the Bagel Seasoning? I might be overestimating the average TJ's shopper, but I think we can handle mixing it into stuff ourselves.

If you do internet searches for "Everything But the Bagel Dip" you'll inevitably run across more than one result that mentions "Copycat Everything But the Bagel Dip."

The process for creating this copycat dip goes something like: 1) Take Greek yogurt 2) Add Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning.

As culinarily dim as I can be sometimes, I think even I might have been able to figure that one out.

So...most of our complaints about this product aren't that it tastes bad or has a poor texture, but rather that it couldn't possibly hurt to simply make your own. Sonia wanted lots more EBTB flavor. I thought the amount was just about right, but just for kicks, I tried adding my own, and I felt that the seasoning was somehow a little more crisp and potent when freshly added. 

I felt like something was lost by having the EBTB seasoning submerged in the yogurt indefinitely. The seeds just crackled in my mouth a bit more when they were fresh. I guess seeds don't really get "soggy" but perhaps they were a bit too soft...? Also, by adding your own EBTB to a yogurt dip, you can purposefully keep the dip dry and on top of the mixture, whereas all the elements are thoroughly stirred together in this mixture. An even better idea would be to have two separate little dishes side by side: one with Greek yogurt, and the other with Everything but the Bagel. Then you could roll your yogurt-covered carrot or what have you in the EBTB, getting just as much of it to stick as you'd like. You'd maintain the crunch and dryness of the EBTB while still adding Greek yogurt flavor to the mix.

Taste-wise, there's plenty of Greek yogurt tang in this dip. You can taste most of the constituent seasoning ingredients, as well, although your mileage may vary when it comes to whether you think there's enough of it or not. 

$3.50 for the tub. The nutrition info is innocent enough at 60 calories per serving. It's a tasty condiment, and it goes with just about anything you'd want to eat with yogurt dip. Even though it's traditionally cream cheese you put on a bagel, this works in place of it passably despite its relative thinness, in case you're looking for a lower calorie alternative. 

I just can't see us buying this product again, as we'd almost universally prefer to create our own concoctions with EBTB. Three and a half stars from the missus. Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Trader Joe's Dill Pickle Hummus

Probably like most of you, I've spent a lot more time with my kids the past two months or so. And like most anything, it's somewhat of a mixed bag. Don't get me wrong, I love e'm a whole heckuva bunch, as I remind them to the point of eyerolls almost every day. They're incredibly smart, creative, funny, and remarkably full of grace. Somehow they took all the best parts of my lovely bride and I and made them even better. 

But man...they're also gross.

Like...please flush. And don't get cat food in the sink and just leave it. Also, I didn't think I'd have to tell them to not put random sticks from the neighborhood creek into their mouths, but here we are...and if given the chance they were double, triple, quadriple, and possibly even quintuple dip a chip into any dip they like.

Like the new Trader Joe's Dill Pickle Hummus, for instance.

We are a hummus and pickle loving fam, for the most part. But never did we think of combining pickles and hummus...although I don't see why not, I guess. There's enough natural overlap and complementary flavors that it could totally be a thing.

And make no mistake: this isn't merely dill pickle flavored hummus...there's dill pickles in the hummus. Just look at the ingredients. It's between the chickpeas and the tahini. Full out dill pickles, blended or mashed or whatevered in.

There's no textural disruption to this. Nah, it's just the classic smooth, creamy, cool hummus mouthfeel. There's some green flakes here and there, but nothing else to really tip off the presence of pickles either by sight or feel.

But taste and smell? Yup. Definitely dill pickles. The dill comes out a bit strong, and the vinegar and whatnot give a little extra tangy sour kick, but it's nothing unwelcome provided you like pickles. It all meshes well with the garlic and other other spices as well as the otherwise traditional earthy hummus taste. It's as smooth and scoopable as the day is long...and these are indeed long days, my friends.

No wonder my kiddos loved digging in their pita chips none stop. Heck, I wanted to, too, as I really didn't want more pita chips...I wanted more pickle hummus. Maybe those kids got my instincts with a little less manners cultivated as of right now...we're working on it. For now, we had to settle for separate bowls for everyone, so everyone could do as they wished. Hooray for more anyone else's dishwasher running nonstop? Ours absolutely is, except when we're doing laundry or we're showering. No wonder the water bill I got yesterday was twice as high as normal. Yeesh. Gonna be one of those summers, but fortunately we got a new tasty TJ hummus to help us get through. It's a tour de fours all around.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dill Pickle Hummus: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons