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Showing posts with label chicken/turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chicken/turkey. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Trader Joe's Roasted Turkey & Sweet Potato Burrito


I guess it's more of a November thing than an October thing, but some time in the fall, gobbler-style wraps, sandwiches, and even Mexican-inspired dishes like burritos roll out of the woodwork with turkey instead of beef or chicken, along with hearty harvest fillings instead of beans and lettuce. This lunchtastic item isn't quite a "gobbler" in my book since there's no stuffing, but it's not a far cry from one, either.

We do have a bit of cranberry up in the mix, as many gobbler type snacks do. There's not a ton of it in here, however. Both Sonia and I wouldn't have minded more. And at this point, I must point out that it's actually "cranberry salsa" rather than your run-of-the-mill cranberry sauce—and it contains green jalapeño peppers alongside the fruit for just a mild to moderate kick.


Oddly, Sonia found the fillings in her half of the burrito to be wanting. I was more than pleased with the enormous chunks of turkey and sweet potato I found in mine. We both agree the quality was above par for both the meat and the sweet potato. The roasted turkey was particularly on-point in terms of taste and texture, cooked with a super tasty blend of herbs and spices like cumin, cilantro, paprika, and guajillo chile powder. Despite the many spices, the overall effect is sweet, thanks to the sweet potato, cranberry, and cane sugar.

There's a bunch of rice, which doesn't add or detract much in either direction. Black beans are mentioned in the ingredients list but neither of us found any discernible beanage throughout the melange. I wouldn't have minded a black bean or two. As it stands, I give this a hearty thumbs up and "would buy again" just for the top notch turkey and huge yummy chunks of sweet potato. Sonia wanted more turkey and potato but agrees about the high quality ingredients. It's possible the burrito was transported vertically on our way home and all the heavy filling items shuffled to one side before we heated it. Lucky me. I'll take this any day over 2020's Turkey & Pumpkin Mole Burrito.


$4.49 for the single serving burrito. Microwave and conventional oven heating instructions are printed on the packaging, but we winged it with the air fryer and it worked out nicely. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Roasted Turkey & Sweet Potato Burrito.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Chicken & Chimichurri Empanadas


Despite her Latin-ness, Sonia isn't an expert when it comes to empanadas. That is, she didn't grow up eating them and I certainly didn't either. However, we've sampled a few tasty ones here and there throughout the years, so we're not entirely unfamiliar.

In the manner of tamales, mole, and flan, empanadas are eaten year round but are often associated with special occasions, including the Christmas and New Year's holidays. So I guess these are appropriate for this final week of the year when it's difficult to discern what day it is and 2022 resolutions still seem abstract and irrelevant.


Air fryer instructions are given on the back of the box. Hallelujah. And for the first time EVER I wound up heating the product for LESS time than was suggested on the packaging. The box said 375° for 15 minutes, but the chicken and chimichurri empanadas were fully cooked and crispy at about 13 and a half.

The crust was nice and flaky. It was crispy but not brittle. I wouldn't have minded a tad more filling inside each pocket, but what was there was impressive—finely shredded chicken and a delicious blend of veggies and spices. Very flavorful. Mildly spicy.


Sonia remarked that they were "very salty...but really good." At just shy of a quarter of your daily sodium in each empanada, I think that qualifies as "very salty."

$4.29 for two empanadas. It's not the most food for your buck at Trader Joe's. Each empanada feels more like an appetizer to me rather than a main dinner entree, but the quality is there in my opinion. Nearly restaurant quality for nearly restaurant prices. Four stars each from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice

 

Earlier this week, we discussed rice turned into stuffing, so in the name of equality, it's only appropriate to now cover stuffing turned into rice...right?

Look, I was just as bewildered as you may currently may be at the existence of something known as Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice. I mean...well, as my duty, I shall grab a couple bags and make it for dinner and let y'all know what I think. I chance family dinner time for you all a lot. 

In all honesty, though, the stuffing fried rice is a decent enough product. The first bites are a bit odd, yes. Wish I would have filmed the reaction of my lovely bride. She's the cutest when she looks all quizzical. There's the initial comfort of, yes, stuffing..all that rosemary and sage and customary flavorings...but also the realization it's in a different form, known roughly equally as well for its comfort vibes. It's unmistakably stuffing in fried rice form. Taste and texture do not match. Brain must compute. It's odd. 

Once you get accustomed though...it's good stuff. 


There's carrots and green beans and corn all mixed in for some good veggie representation. Every here and there, you'll get a breadcrumb clump to help remind you'd its kinda like stuffing. Plenty of spices and flavorings all point towards stuffing

Turkey sausage though? That's an interesting choice. That's meant as no offense against turkey sausage. Generally speaking I appreciate it just fine. But still...maybe some turkey shreds might have been a better choice. A couple turkey chunks, all roasted and whatnot? Yeah, there we go. As is, the turkey sausage mini-meatball guys are somewhat nondescript and not overly suggestive of turkey. 

Overall though, the stuffing fried rice is a pretty decent dinner pickup for a quick, easy crowd pleaser. Our kiddos gobbled it down and asked for seconds. And at $3.99 a package, and a few minutes of heating up in our wok, it's not a bad choice and one we are looking to repeat. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, September 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Shawarma Chicken Flatbread Wrap


Chicken shawarma...yummm! I've ranted on here before about my love of Lebanese chicken shawarma. Oh how I miss Roro's. So any time I see something called "shawarma" at Trader Joe's, I have to pick it up and see if it compares to that scrumptious slow-roasted, perfectly-seasoned dish from a hole-in-the-wall in SoCal.

So I'll just start with the good news first about this happy little snack wrap: there's LOTS of tzatziki sauce. Who could have seen that coming? If there's one thing TJ's likes to skimp on, it's condiments and sauces. By my estimation, there's twice as much tzatziki as you need here. There's literally more tzatziki by volume than chicken! It should have been called Trader Joe's Tzatziki Sauce Wrap with Shawarma Chicken.


The tzatziki is creamy, tangy, and savory to the max. It's great, so I'm not complaining...about the sauce. But I WILL complain about the rest of the wrap...because, like, WHERE'S THE BEEF? Er...I mean where's the CHICKEN? and the LETTUCE? and the ONIONS? Where did they go? You can see from the pic they're more than a little sparse for the size of that pita wrap—which was fresh and delicious and plentiful, by the way.

The shawarma spices I'm used to were lacking on the chicken, I think. It was hard to tell because there was so little of it. So let's look on the ingredients at which spices were used to season the chicken. Ah. That explains it: the number one "seasoning" listed is "potato starch." Potato starch isn't really a seasoning by my reckoning. Further down the list I see paprika and garlic powder. That's more like it. Should have loaded the meat up with those a bit more.

On the plus side, however, the chicken was cooked to perfection and wasn't stringy or chewy at all. It was absolutely spot-on texture-wise, which made the lack of seasoning and lack of quantity all the more frustrating.


Also, I must point out that I've never heard of eating cold shawarma before. I guess you could heat the meat in the microwave or something and put it back in the wrap for a hot sandwich kind of deal. There were no heating instructions, and this product was in the area with ready-to-eat cold sandwiches and stuff, so I assume they just want you to eat it cold. It was fine that way, I guess.

This product was good enough that I'd pick it up at another Trader Joe's location just to see if there's the same dearth of meat and greens. The sauce makes up for the lack of shawarma spices in terms of overall flavor, so that's not a deal breaker. I just want my wrap to be full next time. Sonia agrees. Three and a half stars from her.

Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Chicken Wraps


Can we count our chickens now?

I've heard all my life: "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Well, this chicken has clearly been hatched. That is, it's been given the Hatch treatment with chile peppers from Hatch, New Mexico.

During our travels, Sonia and I spent about a week in Las Cruces, NM. It was one of our favorite places in the country—like probably in the top 5. Definitely top 10. I'm not sure if Las Cruces is technically part of the Hatch Valley, but at any rate, it's less than an hour from the town of Hatch. While there, we bought a jar of mom and pop's Hatch chile salsa that we greatly enjoyed, the brand name of which escapes me now. We did find it a bit watery, but the flavor and spice level were just about perfect for us, though. It might have been just a notch above the Trader José Hatch Chile Salsa.


The flavor and spice level here are pretty spot on, too. There's not an overwhelming level of heat, and what heat there is brings a flavorful wave of chile pepper. It's not just heat for heat's sake.

The crust is flaky, crispy, and medium-thick. Before biting into the product, the folded shape of it greatly resembles that of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme® but instead of beef and lettuce, it's filled with chicken and chiles.

The poultry in the dish is so shredded and minced that there are virtually no discernible "pieces" of meat, per se. It's like a chicken salad kinda vibe, texture-wise. Likewise, the peppers and black beans aren't whole, they're sort of smooshed and whirled into the filling mixture.


There are a few types of cheese in the filling mixture, too, namely mozzarella and Monterey Jack. They're tasty, but they don't provide quite the level of comfort food satisfaction I was hoping for. Sonia and I both wanted more chunks of...anything. Kernels of corn, whole beans, or even larger pieces of peppers would have been a bit more appetizing than the mushy filling as it is.

Still, it's a tasty mush. $3.29 for two wraps, enough to feed two people for dinner. All in all, not a bad purchase, but not sure if it will find its way onto our TJ's shopping list on the regular. Three and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Jerk Chicken Burrito


Lately, I've been waking up super early. Not sure if it's just part of being an old man or a type of insomnia or a shift in circadian rhythms. Growing up, I always wanted to stay up as late as I possibly could. I found it exciting. All the best TV shows were on late at night, for one thing. Now, I have little to no interest in television, and in the summer time, I often nod off shortly after the sun sets.

Likewise, I tend to be up an hour or so before sunrise. I find I get a lot done very early in the morning. I can make my own schedule for my work, so I often have more than half the day's tasks completed before the beautiful wifey even wakes up.


I don't know if this goes along with just suddenly becoming a morning person after a lifetime of leaning towards being a night owl, but I find myself craving more substantial food for breakfast, i.e. lunch or dinner type fare for my morning meal. And yes, that's exactly what I did with this jerk chicken burrito. I fired up the oven around 5 a.m. and was chowing down by 5:30 or so.

I'm always super hungry at that hour, and that may have influenced my enjoyment of the product, but I'll try to be objective as I can. First impression: cutting into the burrito, there's a sweet, fruity smell. That must be the fruit salsa mentioned on the wrapper. I'd rather smell spices on jerk chicken, but it can also pair well with sweet stuff, too.

Taste-wise, the sweetness isn't overwhelming. Along with coconut rice, the fruit salsa is enough to give the burrito a distinctly Caribbean flavor. The jerk spices are there, but could be stronger. They linger on the back burner while you chomp away and creep up on you after a number of bites. They're still not as intense as jerk spices should be, but they're flavorful and pleasant.


The texture of the chicken was excellent—cooked to perfection. Trader Joe's chicken products have been hit or miss in that department throughout the years. The chicken chunks here were not chewy or stringy or rubbery, at least in our batch.

I cut the burrito in two and saved half for Sonia, who reheated it in the air fryer and consumed it many hours later around lunch time, like a normal person. She liked it, too, noting the large, whole beans and coconut rice rounded out both taste and texture nicely.

For $3.99, it's a pretty decent meal for one person, or it could be split in two and supplemented with a few snacks or sides. Could use more heat for authentic jerk status, but it'll get a thumbs up from both Sonia and me. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Trader Joe's Olive Chicken Bites

Ever wonder where food concepts were thought of/ Like, their originations? It's an interesting thought exercise. 

Take, for instance, this: Who would watch a chicken drop a spherical white orb from its butt and decide, "Hey, I wanna pick this up." I mean, I've seen an egg fresh from the source, and let's just say there's a lot of cleaning involved before it makes its way into a carton. A LOT of cleaning. But then, pick it up, decide to crack it open, see all the egg insides and then have the insight to add a heat source and watch it firm up and then decide to actually eat it...and find out that it's really good? Especially with salsa. Crazy. I never would have come up with that myself.

Nor would I have invented something quite as silly as Trader Joe's Olive Chicken Bites. 

No, I am not saying that these newish frozen appetizers are going to be a dietary cornerstone like eggs, cuz no, that's ridiculous. But who thinks of putting an olive inside a chicken bite...and how does that actually taste, anyways.

Second question first. It's...odd. As you might be able to tell by my pic, I made up a batch in the air fryer for lunchtime the other day. Anything to beat PBJ/mac n cheese/ramen day 10,142 in a row, seemingly at least. As I waited for the bites to warm up and crispify, I read the ingredients. Potato, onion and chicken, along with the olive and whatever else to hold it all together and season it a bite. A protein, a starch, a veggie or two all in one - it's like a meal in a bite. 

So all that stuff aside from the olive makes up the outer shell. There's nothing too wrong with it. It is dark meat, which i don't mind but I know that's a deal breaker for some. The meat itself is the chicken nuggety-y variety, all kinda mashed and shredded with the potatoes and onions kinda holding it all together. Kay. Not bad, but not overly flavorful, aside from the flavor leaking out from the olive core. 

About that olive...okay, who's idea? It's so just so random and basic and odd and bewildering at once. Why a plain green manzanilla olive with a little pimento in there? If you're gonna do an olive, why not something a little more lively like a kalamata, with a little garlic? That'd be bomb.  Even better, why not a hot pepper or some bacon or a little cheese reservoir or something of that sort? Something a little more than just a plain boring green olive. It's like trying to be clever with paper clip chains. If you're gonna go the basic kitschy route, you have slim margin for error. 

There's not much flavor other than the olive, though. A little dipping sauce would probably go a long way towards appreciating the product. A little cheese here could real compliment it well. 

Anyways, pretty much everyone in my family except me turned their nose at them. I ate them...not happily, I was just hungry. Back to those PBJs I guess for everyone. For $4.99 I was kinda expecting this experience but was hopeful for better. Oh well. Not gonna score too high here, let's just call it a 4 and move on. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Olive Chicken bites: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla

Ever hear of the Gobblerito?

It's legendary out here in the Pittsburgh area. Maybe there's something similar wherever you are, but here, every fall, at the local chain Mad Mex, it's officially Gobblerito season. it's literally Thanksgiving dinner as a burrito - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, black beans and corn all wrapped up and served with gravy and cranberry. Somehow, all my life I've avoided trying one until just a few weeks ago, and I am lost in the awareness of the error of my ways. It's amazing. It's huge. It's comforting.  

And it's a major dietary depth charge. It's so bad for you it practically makes Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla look like health food. 

Granted, the TJ turkeydilla is somewhat of a lighter take. No taters. No gravy. Still plenty of turkey of the roasted variety - not quite as good as a fresh bird, but not dry and insipid either. It passes muster, for sure. Stuck some kale in there, too. That's healthy, although I'm pretty sure I've never seen kale on my Thanksgiving table. But it works. A couple tart cranberries sprinkled in add to the freshness and give a little "flavor sparkle" and seem at home. And naturally it's all held together with a big ol' flour tortilla, with neither too much nor too little tortilla or filling to make it all work

The two other ingredients, though, are worth more insight. First off, the butternut squash. My lovely bride loves butter nut squash while I'm much more ambivalent towards it. We decided to share a quesadilla for lunch the other day, and after just one bite, she unwrapped the whole thing and plinko'ed out every bit of squash she could. Never, in all my years...I took a bite, expecting some shenanigans of the crookneck pumpkin variety. None, really. But my wife? Couldn't stand it. "it...It just doesn't work here, with everything else," she said. With a little unpacking, it seemed that maybe the fibrous nature of the mini chunks weren't the hoped-for mouthfeel, and perhaps some mashed or squashed squash would have been a better option. Taste was good, feel was off. Make of that as you will.

Also: mozzarella. I'm a bit torn on this. I can see why mozzarella was chosen - it is, after all, a quesadilla so a gob of melty oozy cheese is a must, and mozzarella is always on call and ready to go for that kinda job But the rest of the ingredients seemed to demand something sharper and more robust, perhaps like a decent cheddar or even gouda. Some mozzarella would still be welcome, or heck, keep the mozz as is and sprinkle in some quality parm shavings to pique it up - but mozzarella as the only cheese, when not really jiving with the rest of the ingredients in a way that makes Thanksgiving sense, just seemed a bit too haphazard and uninspired. 

That being, said, in all, the turkey quesadilla made a good enough lunch which we may or may not repeat buy. Costs $4.49 (way less than a Gobblerito!) which puts it in the right kind of price range for a quick grab, easy, filling meal. Matching 3.5s from us!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup

Got a meal rotation in your family?

We don't precisely...but we do have a fairly regimented meal concept rotation.

Monday is "breakfast for dinner" AKA "brinner" night. Wednesdays are "pack a dinner" night for the two hours of dance lessons we have the joy of being subjected to. Fridays are "jammie movie pizza night" and Sundays are generally leftover days. Conspicuously missing is Taco Tuesday, but tacos can work their way into all those themes easily anyways. Plus my kids are weird and don't like tacos. More for me. Shrug. 

As for Saturdays...now that it's officially crockpot season, it's gonna be Soup Saturday, and kicking us off, no crockpot required, is Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup. Hey sometimes we're low on groceries and have errands including a TJ's trip to do....skip leg day, but not Soup Saturday. 

Warming up on the stove, the aroma of the broth is nearly intoxicating with its promise of salty savoriness. That's the miso magic - who knew fermented soybeans could be so umami-fully delicious? Whoever invented that deserves a medal. But lay in a little lemongrass, gin up a little ground ginger, and boom! It takes off to another level. If this broth were sold separately as a warm sipper, I'd be all in. 

There's nothing wrong with the rest of the soup. There's ample pieces of white chicken that taste and feel just right, and all the veggies are that perfect not too firm/not mushy either. There's...just not quite enough of it. Interestingly, the chicken seems about right but the veggies feel skimped on. For instance, my lovely bride doesn't like mushrooms while i do, so she picked the maybe one or two max out of her bowl to give to me, which gave me like three total. Most of the soup seemed "empty" and was closer to that sipping broth than i would have liked right out of the package. It worked well for a lighter soup, but for something heartier, you may want to consider adding some rice noodles or something of the sort. 

Regardless, the soup tastes pretty great. It must be all that salt. It doesn't taste too salty, but it just is as part of the package deal with soups like these. You can find it in the refrigerated section for about $3 which makes this an easy, reliable, good option for Soup Saturdays or whenver the mood may hit. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Trader Joe's Turkey & Pumpkin Mole Burrito

I was actually exposed to mole (rhymes with olé) before I met Sonia. I had some co-workers that brought chicken in a mole sauce to a break room potluck lunch one time, and I loved it. I remember it had a nice peppery kick to it and it tasted rich, a little sweet, and a little nutty. There was something peanut butter-esque about it, and I asked what was in it. To my surprise, the base was actually peanut butter.

Since then, I've realized there are many different kinds of mole sauces, and people use everything from Mexican chocolate to almond butter as a base for it. There's red mole, mole poblano, mole verde...the list goes on and on. The one thing every mole I've ever tried had in common: they were bursting with rich flavor—that is, every mole I've ever had except this one.


The mole here was apparently pumpkin puree-based. I've got absolutely nothing against pumpkin puree, especially this time of year, but you can imagine expecting something with a chocolate or nut butter base and getting something with a veggie base was unanticipated, if not a little disappointing. There was a very mild amount of heat, but like 90% of Trader Joe's Mexican and Tex-Mex style foods, Sonia and I were both pining for much more kick.

That's not to say the overall flavor wasn't pleasant. The turkey pieces in this burrito were surprisingly plentiful, plump, and juicy. I found one or two specimens to be a tad on the gristly, chewy side, but those few bites were the exception rather than the rule. The combo of rice, beans, and sweet potato was nice, too, and the spice blend was appetizing, but it needed to be ratcheted up a notch or two or ten.


But our biggest complaint by far was the lack of richness in the mole sauce. This tasted like a diet mole sauce, for lack of any better or more universal comparisons off the top of my head. Sonia agrees, and her family is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and she's as close to a mole connoisseur as anyone I've ever met. I'm sure there were way fewer calories and less fat than in any other mole either Sonia or I have had, but we're heading into the colder months and we'll need that extra layer of fat to keep us warm anyway. 

It was an interesting idea with a lot of potential, but I doubt we'll re-purchase. It's not a bad burrito by any means, but it's not what we were hoping for in terms of mole. $3.99 for the single serving. Three stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers

Don't know about you, but I've been putting on the COVID pounds, which I'm trying to be better about...but then something like Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers comes along and somehow falls into my cart and, well, what do you expect?

Look at that picture of the front. Just looook. It's a little wedge of snacky time perfection, from what it appears, right? Oozy filling, deep fried wrapper, the words "buffalo chicken" promising that classic spicy taste...who can resist? Not me.

But wait, there's more! Silly me, calling it just a wrapper. No, friends. No, It's not just any wrapper, it's phyllo dough! I mean, mathematics and philosophy and Yanni are fine and all, but phyllo just may be the greatest Greek contribution to society. All those irresistably thin 'n crispy layers, making these poppers more of a pastry than just another Chotchki's-type deep fried dish...oh yeah, for sure.

Naturally there's only one proper way to prep these: air fryer. No question. If you don't have one, you should, and you'll never look back. That's what we did, and the result was piping hot, not-too-greasy, light and crispy buffalo chicken poppers ready to, well, pop right in our mouths.

And all that phyllo...delicious. I think I'll have another bite of it, and maybe another nibble. Good, but where's the chicken? Where's the buffalo? Where's the whatever else in there?

Oooh...there it is. Sorta.

As always, it's possible we just got a particularly stingy batch of product, but that'd be one helluva unlucky streak. So I'd rather assume that the little perhaps half spoonful of chicken and cheese per popper is pretty representative, and in my opinion it's just not quite enough filling for all the dough.

That being said, the chicken-cheese-hot sauce filling is pretty decent. Personally, I woulda opted for more a classic bleu cheese or ranch to match with buffalo chicken instead of some sort of cream cheese/Cheddar hybrid. But for what it is, it's fairly tasty and proportionate to its components. I'd also add a little more buffalo to ramp up the spice, but that's not everyone's thing, I know.

In all, it's a great appetizer or snack. Pair with a cold 'n frosty IPA for a respectable bar-at-home type experience, or just nosh on for a little classic comfort vibe, and share with a friend. I was pretty happy with just two of them, which is surprising as a serving says it's three of them...maybe I'm beginning to learn restraint once more? Watch it, COVID pounds. Matching 3.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken  Poppers: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls

I've said before I'm an eater, not a foodie. This means I'm not necessarily all that well educated in different food terms. Longtime readers of this blog probably know that already.

So...mochi?

As far as I knew, mochi was only a term for ice cream treats! You know what I mean - those little rice dough covered balls of frozen deliciousness. A little chewy and odd on the outside, creamy and delicious in the middle, and once accustomed to them they make an awesome snack. That's all what I ever knew mochi to be without ever having much reason to look into it further. I knew I liked mochi already.

So imagine my initial reaction when I heard of the new Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls.

Intriguing? Yes! But...how are they gonna incorporate ice cream into that?

Obviously, there's no ice cream here. Mochi is just a general term, more or less, for the rice dough balls which can be served in a variety of ways. TIL.

But anyways on to the mochi - oh goodness.

I can say that in relation to a lot of different factors here. That rice dough? It's a marvel, especially when cooked in an air fryer! Dry, dusty, crusty on the the outer shell, but that's just so, so shallow a layer that somehow hold plenty of crisp with a little crunch. The flipside (the innards) is completely different - wet, doughy, moist. Yes, I hate that word too. But it all suggest a slight bit of almost sauciness - that's the wrong word, but I don't know what else to use - when interacting with the rest of the set up. More on that coming up next paragraph. But really, for so thin a shell, the mochi is AMAZING with two very different, very enjoyable experiences. I'd suggest to maximize it use an air fryer instead of oven if you have it - about 10 minutes at 400 made 'em just right.

And the filling? Wow. It's HOT.

As in spicy? Yes. Kung pao usually has a couple heat notches. All the spices and peppers and whatnot combine into a pretty potent punch. It won't be the spiciest thing you'll ever eat, but I don't feel as though they're for the faint of tongue, either.  Despite that, I can still taste the chicken and garlic too. I love when spice enhances and doesn't overpower other foods, and that seems the case here.

But it's also HOT in the physical sense. As in, not cold. Those mochi shells hold some heat! I cracked one open and tried to let it cool for a few minutes before eating - still burned my tongue a little. Have a glass of water nearby, or prepare to let us sit and cool for quite some time.

I love 'em. My only complaint is I wish there was a bit more filling as the package picture implies - however I'm glad it's also not that magenta glow either. So there's that. The kung pao mochi has a fair price point too I'd say - it's $3.49 for a pack of eight golf ball sized dumplin's. My lovely bride enjoys them too, and they ought to be in the regular Asian-inspired dinner rotation. 4.5 from me and a solid 4 from her.

Save the ice cream for after!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons




Friday, March 13, 2020

Trader Joe's Mandarin Style Orange Chicken Bowl


While Sonia and I were on the road, traveling almost every day sometimes for weeks on end, we'd often take advantage of Walmart parking lots for quick overnight stops. Most locations welcomed RVers with open arms for up to 24 hours. Many were adjacent to strip malls, mini malls, and occasionally classic indoor malls. And, of course, many of these malls had a Panda Express as part of their lineup of eateries and shops. 

At this point I should mention I've been referring to Panda Express as "Poison Panda" since college. No, I'm not racist against Asians. I have cute little nicknames for every fast food chain including Toxic Bell, Booger King, Pizza Butt, and Jack in the Crack. Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that, perhaps part of some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, not once but twice, Sonia and I fell ill after eating Poison Panda on the road. We had running water in our RV, but for those of you familiar with RVing, it's very limited. You can't take 30 minute long showers, use a gallon of water for each flush, and run the sink the whole time you brush your teeth. You have to dump your tanks and refill your fresh water often unless you're extremely frugal with your usage. All that to say, if you're sick in an RV, it's not fun, and I'm not a fan of Panda since. Maybe I should just stop calling them "Poison Panda," and I'll have better luck. Law of Attraction and all that.


Fortunately, now I can get my orange chicken fix without going to a restaurant. Yes, I know there are decent orange chicken offerings that come frozen in bags and can be made on the skillet, but if you're pressed for time or want a decent break room lunch-at-work type of deal, this selection is quite satisfying.

Prep is simple. 4-5 minutes in microwave, thaw sauce in warm water, mix, serve. It's pretty close to restaurant quality as far as taste, but it's pert near impossible to make any kind of breaded chicken come out perfectly in the microwave. It's on par with Poison Panda orange chicken after you reheat the leftovers. I was surprised how much food there was in the bowl. It was actually filled to the brim. Maybe it's because we eat way less meat these days, but we were also impressed with the plentiful amounts of chicken in the mix. I might ask for more carrots, peas, and broccoli in place of some of the rice, but it was still a decent ratio as it was.

The included orange ginger sauce alone is adequate as far as condiments are concerned. I wouldn't have minded a tad more of it, but there's enough in the packet to coat the pieces of chicken and even some of the veggies and rice. You could throw in some soy sauce or sriracha if you were so inclined. I added a clove of raw garlic to mine, because I LOVE me some garlic and it has tons of health benefits. Also, I hate vampires. Go Team Jacob.

$3.99 for the bowl. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Dip

At no time, under any circumstance, is double dipping okay.

Don't. Just don't. Ugh.

I need to remind my kids of this constantly. I don't like to think I'm much of a germaphobe, but once something has been in somebody else's mouth I want nothing to do with it. It's gross. Listen - I don't even double dip when I know I'm gonna be the only one dipping. Don't do it!

Any serial double dippers out there? If so, shame on you, and I have a New Year's Resolution to propose to you.

All that being said, I'm double dipping this week when it comes to Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Dip.

Key difference: it's all just metaphorically speaking after my earlier review of the Green Goddess Dip, in which I admitted I'm not a huge dip fan. The big exception, of course, is buffalo chicken dip - who doesn't love it? Gotta go for it.

TJ's take is about average overall, in my opinion. There's some definite high points. For instance, these plenty of shredded-to-bits breast that literally make the dip chock full of chicken. Copious amounts of meat is always a plus. And there's a nice enough of a cayenne-inspired sting that slowly builds, enough to be noticed but not ever unpleasant. It's maybe a four on a 1 to 10 scale of spicy, which I think is accessible to most folks.

Issue is...it's neither bird nor spice that make up most of the flavor. It's almost all sour cream. It's impact is somewhat dampened by cream and Monterey Jack, but also a little amped by the presence of vinegar in the cayenne pepper sauce. Because of this, when making my own buffalo chicken dip, I tend to stay away from sour cream. Buffalo chicken dip should be spicy, not sour, and here it is, mostly sour.

All that being said, yeah, I can eat my fair share of this dip, and probably more. As my lovely bride said, for being no work whatsover, it's pretty decent. But it could be better...much better. I've seen some online chatter about some other folks augmenting the dip with a little added spice of their own, which makes sense to me. Meh. Not great, not bad either, I'll take it for the $4ish bucks it cost for the tub. 

Both my wife and I want to give it a three, but since we ain't gonna double dip on scores, I'll sneak an extra half spoon on.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Dip: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl

For a dude who's been co-writing this blog for over eight years now, you think I'd have a better pulse check on the new products pipeline for Trader Joe's. Lol. Nope, not at all. It's not accurate to say "painfully oblivious" as TJ's tends to be quite secretive about things, but normally I don't hear or see anything new until my lovely bride tells me about an Instragram or Facebook post she saw. That makes me about 1,876,542nd in line to hear about anything.

I'd settle for just jumping her place and finding out about anything before she even has a chance to tell me about it.

And finally, I got my chance with the new Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl.

Ha! I told her about it! I'm the one who tagged her and got her to say "oooo" with that gotta-try-that inflection. I'm the one who went to the store and hunted it down while corraling our Halloween costume-wearing kiddos, not her. I won. O'Doyle rules! This has got to be a winner....right?

Right?

Only kinda sorta, unfortunately, if only for spousal bragging rights.

Let's look at the premise here. Plentiful chicken bites - I don't mind dark meat if it means a few more bites. Seasoned yellow rice - likely means turmeric. Black beans and plantains - two of my favorites. Zesty citrus and garlic sauce - sounds intriguing. Looks like some bell pepper and some other goodies in there too. Looks like a Cuban one way ticket to Flavortown, sans Guy Fieri. 

But for all of that, there's just not much flavor. "Bland" isn't the right word. It's more perhaps "understated" or "muted." Most of the mix doesn't taste like much except a faint hint of orange and some subtle, subtle heat. Really, the only bites that pop are the plantains, which there were far too few of. With their natural sweetness and earthy starchiness, the plantains made a perfect platform for the spices and flavors to really come out and play, especially the garlic which I detected nowhere else in this dish.

That doesn't make the TJ's Cuban bowl a bad dish, it just could have been better. My suggestion; more plantains! Heck, I'd even sacrifice the chicken if it meant room for more plantains. That's saying something here.

As usual, my lovely bride may have put it best. "For all the salt and calories and everything else in there, I just felt it wasn't worth it," Sandy said. I'm inclined to agree. At $3.49 for a one serving microwavable paper dishful, there's certainly far worse options out there, but there's better ones too. This TJ's Cuban bowl seems like one of those products teetering on the fine line of flash-in-the-pan and longterm staple product availability, so if you see it, give it a try, but don't expect to be wowed.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup and Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich

Soup and sandwich. Sandwich and soup. It's a classic lunch combo for a reason: it's nearly perfect. Can't argue with it.

Trader Joe's just so happens to have a new ready-to-grab sammich as well as a delicious looking new soup, which I just so happened to pick up and enjoy for lunch the other day, and since I don't really have enopugh to say about them seperately for a full out review of either, may as well make it a combo on here too.

Objections?

Didn't think so. Here we go...


First up: let's soup it up. Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup. It's in the refrigerated section, plastic tub, costs about $3.99 for a two serving container. Heat and eat, easy as that. And man, if you need a change up from some ol' can of the usual, here you go. It's legit good. There's a lot of flavor depth here, from sweetness from the coconut milk to a slight touch of heat from the red curry and spices, to a certian earthiness form the potatoes and carrots. Overall, it's smooth and not too thivk, with only small diced crrots in there. It's got kinda the overall texture of a decent tomato soup, but tastes way better. The spice does tend to ramp up but never to the point of unpleasantness, maybe registering a three overall on the mild-o-meter. It's warming and filling without being heavy like regfular potato soup, and could potentially be the rare soup that's worthy of all seasons. Solid, solid soup, and a great addition to the line-up, TJ's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

And now it's sandwich time!


Yup, Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich. That's a pretty apt and straightforward description for this sammie. And it works, precisely because it's so simple: couple slabs of smoked turkey, a slice of sharp cheddar, about a third to half an apple's worth of sweet wedges, a little arugula, small dab of dijon mayo, all served on a pretty earthy multigrain roll. Excuse me, it's "rustico"...whatever that means but it sounds good. There's nothing utterly standout about it, but it's just a tasty sandwich that costs $5. I'd gladly pay that for this precise item at like a little cafe somewhere, so it strikes me as a good deal. I wish there were a more definign characteristic for this sandwich to really hang its crust on, but alas. That being said, it'll be a glad rebuy at anytime.


Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry

Despite all proceeding evidence to the contrary, I really thought this was shrimp.

Maybe it was just a weird random parallel pescaterian universe portal that let me see this, but I really thought I read this as "Trader Joe's Fiery Shrimp Curry," not "Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry." I was on a solo parenting trip, so no witnessses. And it being a hot day, with no plans to go right home afterwards, and this being a frozen entree, it made a purchase unwise at that time. I thought about taking a pic, but TJ's doesn't really like that, and I've bent enough rules in the past by recording a podcast there, so I relied on my old, thought-to-be-rustproof memory. I'll just tell Sandy to get it next time she goes. No biggie.

Well...no shrimpy. Internet searches and calls to all the area TJ's confirmed. It's chicken, not shrimp. It's still an acceptable protein, of course...but it ain't shrimp.

It's kinda too bad, as the chicken in the new TJ's fiery chicken curry is kinda the weak point. Not that I reasonably expect high quality pollo from a frozen dinner that cost $3.49. But I'd expect better than what I got here. The package states upfront it's chicken breast AKA white meat. Now, I have no real problem, generally, with dark thigh meat, but when you expect a few choice-ish morsels of white meat but get only three of them, and about three dense, grisly dark meat pieces it kinda throws you off. It'd be more acceptable if somewhat expected.

Everything else? On point. Gotta give it to TJ's on the sauces for their frozen dishes, particularly the Indian ones. This curry sauce is awesome. Coconutty, sweet, layered, peppery, fiery, spicy, with intensifying and lingering heat....yes to all of those. It wasn't too spicy for either Sandy or I, but could be for some of y'all out there. If the sauce were sold separately as "fiery curry sauce" we'd buy again and again and probably prop it to our pantheon on here.

Turmeric rice is turmeric rice. Helps fill out the meal and soak up all the sauce. Nice work, rice. Represent.

Still, with this being chicken and not shrimp I feel an opportunity got missed. And lo and behold I'm not completely crazy. The term "Goan-inspired" made me Wiki up some info, and, well, look: "Goan food is considered incomplete without fish." With some high quality shrimp, and even at a mildly increased price point, this dish could be a real absolute winner that'd help make up for a rare shrimp miss on TJ's part. Oh well.

The fiery chicken curry is definitely repeat purchase worthy if for no other reason than to get another hit of that tasty tasty sauce. Love it. Makes a perfect microwavable meal for my heavily birddogged no-less-than-28-but-absolutely-no-more-than-32-minutes lunch break for me. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, January 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Well, this probably sounds familiar: We're busy. Constantly busy. I continually work 11-plus hour days. Sandy works part time outside the house and more than full time inside with our little girlies. Add on top of that our girls, our several nights a week worth of activities like Girl Scouts and dance lessons, normal errands and chores as well as our desire for our house to not appear like we live in squalor, and us occasionally wanting a little down time or God forbid a good night's sleep...we're busy.

And of course ya gotta eat. Even our girls, who take forever. Like our four year old the other night who somehow took over an hour to eat a slice of pizza, a cucumber, and some grapes...which is all food that she actually likes. Ridiculous.

So time is at a premium, but some chilly nights only a bowl of warm homemade (or homemade-ish enough) soup will do. Nights like that call for this trio: Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth.

First up: linguine! Who doesn't like a good al dente noodle? They are the absolute highlight of any chicken noodle soup. I mean, yes, absolutely, you could use these garlic basil noodles as a regular kinda pasta dish - toss with some butter, a little sauce maybe, pair with some grilled chicken, etc - but they work well for soup, too! The herbal aroma is fairly potent when opening the bag and while the final taste isn't quite as potent as initially suggested, there's enough added flavor to to make this TJ's garlic basil linguine a fine choice for all your noodlin' needs.

Life pro tip though: These are long guys. Break them in half if you put them in soup unless you like slappin' broth around everywhere.

Next: TJ's mirepoix, which roughly translates as "lazy American prechopped rabbit food." Nothing magic here, just the classic carrot, onion and celery mix. Open container, dump in pot. No peeling, no trimming, no chopping, no nothing. Convenience all the way. Listen, I actually really enjoy food prep. Few things make me happier than prepping a large pile of veggies and browning meat for homemade chili...it's therapeutic and relaxing and all that. But sometimes, it's strictly business between me and dinner, and those times call for mirepoix. It's definitely a product to use within a day or two of purchase, so plan accordingly.

Lastly: TJ's organic low sodium chicken broth. It's real nice for when you don't have your own ready made chicken stock at home. Just, uh, don't forget to flavor it some. The sodium content is pretty low (less salt per serving than Cheerios) which is a great thing...but leaves it all a little bland, as we found out when silly old distracted dad here totally neglected to put any additional seasonings in it before serving up. Kids didn't mind, but we did. Fortunately we had just the thing for a good savory taste. I'll take the vantage point that this makes a great healthy base to flavor as you wish, while Sandy's a little caught up on the inherent blandness.

Well, there you have it. These three TJ toss togethers and some left over chicken combined forces to make a quick, comfy pot of soup in less than 20 minutes that we all happily enough chowed down on our nightly familial pitstop cram session. It feels kinda silly to actually grade them all separately...can I just say they all ought to be regular pick ups, especially now in the middle of soup season? Not bad all the way around.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons