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Showing posts with label lunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lunch. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Trader Joe's Carnitas with Salsa Verde Burrito


Confession time: I was thinking this was a beef burrito when I bought it. You'd think being married to a Latina, I'd know enough Spanish by now to not make that mistake. I've been learning to hablo the español for the past 14 years. I use the Duolingo app now. I have a 932-day streak going, for crying out loud. That means I've studied Spanish for at least 10 minutes a day for 932 days straight!

But here's the thing: in Spanish, "meat" is carne. The most common example is "carne asada," which literally means "grilled meat." It's always beef. Logically, "carnitas" means "little meats" and would just be teeny tiny beef cutlets, right? Nope. Carnitas is pork. I mean, it says it's pork right on the label, but...well, I'm an idiot, and not at all a real foodie.

Sonia and I avoid pork for the most part. I'd get into the reasons, but that would be a whole other can of worms. We're generally not dogmatic about it. It's just not our thing.


Ironically, the pork was by far the best part of this burrito. I mean, it wasn't spicy, which was disappointing. It was flavorful, but not hot. The tender texture and savory taste of the meat was the only saving grace of this product in my opinion.

Salsa verde? There was salsa in this thing? Neither of us saw or tasted anything even remotely resembling salsa verde here. We added our own salsa verde and it did blend quite nicely.

Likewise, neither Sonia nor I tasted or saw any evidence of cilantro, lime, or pepper jack cheese in our burrito. I'm not saying it wasn't there. I'm just saying if it was there, there was so little of it, it was virtually undetectable. We both just got tortilla—which is pretty run-of-the-mill for a Trader Joe's burrito—and pork, rice, and beans.


All in all, the flavor was good but not great. If the heat, cheese, and cilantro lime had shown up the way I'd hoped they would, I might have been able to recommend this wholeheartedly to pork lovers. We opted for 35 minutes in the conventional oven at 350° for a "crisp" tortilla. $3.99 for the burrito. As is, I think we're looking at about two and a half stars from Sonia, three and a half from me on Trader Joe's Carnitas with Salsa Verde Burrito.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes

 Meat and potatoes. Potatoes and meat. Classic pairing, often done in various forms, almost always tasty and tough to argue with, and comes thru in a pinch. 

Please pardon the partially crinkled box of Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes we have for this post's model. It had been lurking in the bottom of our freezer for who knows how long - few weeks minimum,  maximum of...well....I don't know. 

What I do know is the final form of this product doesn't look much like the box pic. In my state of heightened crankiness and bad hangritude (that's be hungry/angry/attitude all in one) I totally neglected to take a pic. Just imagine bigger, more starkly white potato chunks, without nearly as much sauce to cover and immerse. The pic almost looks like a tasty homemade concoction, whereas the real deal was pretty adamant it was, in fact, a freezer one. 

But no mind. It's meat and potatoes! So it's almost by default tasty. A little ground beef, a handful of tomatoes and scallions, almost enough creamy cheese sauce (nothing fancy, it's a mozz and cheddar combo with cream), coupla jalapenos and boom. Nothing fancy, and something almost like what I'd make as a 'Dad meal" from whatever I had in the kitchen. Except....no work involved. Just nuking a tray for eight-plus minutes. I'm not sure if that's a weak microwave we have or if we just had a radiation resistant batch, as directions call for five but was cold enough when pulled out that my lovely bride had to spit out her initial bite. 

What did this cost? $3? $4? Something like that. It's really not big enough to share, but is somewhat nutritionally advantageous to do so. Get some veggies on the side to fill in, as man, this wasn't close to enough. But it was tasty. Another serving idea: heat some up then scramble in a couple eggs to make some sort of cheesy breakfast kinda hash. I'm positive that'd work and be more filling too. there's not much spice to be had here, so if hot sauce is normally your kinda thing, you'll want some on hand. 

Not amazingly awesome, but not bad at all either. Meat and potatoes. Always dependable. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, May 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup


 Let's see....great, interesting stories of some time in my life where kimchi and tofu came through for me when nothing else could? Some fond memory, me as a young boy, kimchi in one hand, tofu in another? Anything really relevant in my life with kichi and tofu?

Well...I've tried making kimchi once or twice when I went through a fermenting craze two years ago....and my lovely bride has taught my meatarian self to enjoy a little tofu every once in a while....well, that's about it for me, so nah. 

But put the two of them together in a product like Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup, and I'll be intrigued enough to buy for a $4 lunch pickup. 


There's not a lot I can say here. In some ways, it was a bit of a letdown. First, the tofu was way too soft for my taste. If I'm going to have it, I need it to be firm. I'm really not sure how well tofu is supposed to hold up to being cooked, then frozen and reheated, but I was hoping for better than the soft crumbly mess we had here. The bite wasn't enjoyable. Secondly (and I may be completely in the wrong here) everything seemed more kimchi-flavored than actual kimchi. Sure, there's plenty of gochujang spice, and some complex notes of garlic and spice, which all in all is pretty tasty, but there wasn't much in the way of cabbage and everything else. What was there was pretty soft and uninspired. The spice could've been a little more vibrant too.Instead most of the bite and texture came from an abundance of black rice.


The soup itself wasn't overly bad, but was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I'm used to the few small batches I made of kimchi and that being how I like it. Kinda like pierogi or pizza even - it's getting hard for me to enjoy getting those from other sources, unless truly magnificent, because in my own mind I make them perfectly darn well, at least according to my taste. I realize that's pretty selfish/arrogant and probably inaccurate, but I know how to make things the way I like them. I'm pretty sure if so inspired I could make a better tofu and kimchi dish than this TJ's soup, but I'd love to get an "authentic" one from somewhere. 

Eh well. Sandy wouldn't touch this - she just wasn't in the mood the day I heated up some for lunch. So all me. I'll be nice and double three's it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Egg Wraps


Look, in the deli section! It's an egg....it's a wrap...it's the new Trader Joe's Egg Wraps!

You ever eat something with a familiar flavor in an unconventional or at least non-standard form? That's pretty much the experience here with these new-fangled gluten-free dairy-free kinda crepe-like eggy tortilla type thingies. It's...equally somewhat familiar and somewhat foreign all at once. 

The closest approximation I can make as far as taste is a Dutch baby pancake, which are pretty heavy into eggs and flour if you're not acquainted with them. Even that's not quite right, as it's rice flour and millet used here, not all-purpose. And obviously the wraps aren't all big and poofy either. But it gets the idea of a super egginess into a pancake-esque form, with a slightly more "grain"y taste. Odd, perhaps, but it works. 


The wraps themselves are super pliable and easy to use, like any respectable tortilla. Whether warming up or eating cold from the fridge, the flavor and flexibility remained really about the same. it was easy to make a quick ham and cheese wrap that wasn't greasy or slimy or offputting in any way. For us, I could see us using the wraps as a quick morning breakfast when the craving for eggs hits, but the time doesn't allow. Of course, if you need to be gluten-free, or just want to sneak some extra protein into your diet, you don't need to wait til breakfast time. That's just us. 

Six wraps come in the package, which is good for three servings. Cost was about $4.49 if I recall right, so about 75 cents each. Seems fair to have that kinda convenience/novelty upcharge baked in. No real complaints, and they're differently interesting to try on out.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Egg Wraps: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Kitchari

Sonia and I both love Indian food and have been to numerous Indian restaurants in numerous cities, so I thought it odd that neither of us had heard of kitchari before this. Apparently, the way it's pronounced rhymes with "stitchery" or "witchery," and it's a dish frequently used for cleansing or anti-inflammatory purposes. Here's a good article on the subject.

We've seen these convenient microwavable pouches of Indian Fare from Trader Joe's before. Nuke for about a minute, dump on rice, and voila, an extremely cheap and easy Indian meal. 
The smell of this dish was wonderful straight out of the microwave. There was a rich earthiness under a fragrant spice blend including ginger, fennel, cardamom, and turmeric. Upon tasting it, we were both somewhat unimpressed. We both agreed it didn't taste as bold as it smelled, and we wished there had been more whole peas or beans or something to bite down on. The texture was quite mushy.


The split mung beans by themselves didn't do much for us in the flavor department, and the spice blend, though pleasant, wasn't as pungent as we'd hoped. We certainly liked it overall, but didn't love it by any means, especially when compared to the vast majority of amazingly flavorful Indian products we've tried from TJ's over the years.

But then I decided to do some internet recon on the dish. That's when I stumbled upon that article I linked to in the first paragraph. It seems like maybe kitchari is more of a medicinal dish than the typical wild ride for the taste buds that East Indian cuisine can often be. Apparently, it's mushy by design, and that makes it super easy to digest. Other properties of the mung beans help remove toxins from the digestive system. Also the spice blend is so mild that even young children and old folks can consume it, according to that article.


As fate should have it, my stomach had been upset for a day or two prior to trying the kitchari. And...as fate should have it, the kitchari helped. It helped a lot actually. I noticed an almost immediate improvement with my gastrointestinal grumblings.

So...if you're looking for a scrumptious Indian dish, click right here and scroll through 12 years of reviews. I'd put this one near the bottom of the pack if scoring on taste and texture alone, but I can't deny there are definite detox qualities here...and again, it's not bad tasting by any means. $2.29 for the single serving pack. It's not explicitly labeled as "vegan" for some reason, but I can't see why it wouldn't be.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Cheeseburger Burrito

 

I've always had a dicey relationship with condiments. Whereas barbeque sauce, hot sauce and salsa generally get a free pass, others are generally a nope when given the option. Mayo? Hard no. Mustard? Well, okay, maybe sometimes, but usually no. And ketchup? No. No no no. Hate that stuff. Even as a kid, even now as I'm approaching 40. Can't stand it, and don't even think of shaking a ketchup bottle near me. 

See the key words though? "When given the option"? Essentially....on the rare occasions I'd grab a fast food burger and one of those condiments is a default topping, I'll just for it and eat it. I'd never subtract them, yet never add them either. Make any sense? No, not at all. But such as it is. 

So, with Trader Joe's Cheeseburger Burrito, at first glance I was relieved to not see any of those aforementioned sauces as present. I can handle an okay relish, maybe. But then, in the ingredients, they there were, lurking. Mustard. Mayo. Ketchup. And unfortunately not in little side packets I could skimp out on. 

As it is, that unholy trinity is melded all together into some somewhat oily, creamy, sweet, vinegary, tangy, oddball sauce that's not distinctly different from the melted cheddar cheese. it's just all mixed up and, to my taste, just isn't that delicious. It's...just kinda like glop. With the pickles and onions, the end result isn't all that much different than a fastfood burger - maybe slightly more towards Wendy's than McD's - but in all it's kinda a mess of a sauce. 

As for the beef? Here's some further crumbling. Ha, get it, because it's "beef crumbles? A singular oblong patty or two would have been a better choice, except I'd guess that'd veer everything more towards snack wrap than burrito...but anyways. There's enough meat in here for sure. Not any skimpage, which is always appreciated. But there's also not really enough to get a full handle on the quality. It's not like mushy el cheapo carne, but instead is...chewy? A touch rubbery? A bite more to the bite than expected? Sure, it tastes fine enough, but also just doesn't quite have the right feel. 

All together, the TJ's cheeseburger burrito makes an okay grab, if burgers that try to outplay their hand are your kinda thing. Not delicious, not awful, maybe could use another little something, or maybe less of those pesky condimental conglomeration...and yeah, it's a nutritional abomination. Whatcha gonna do? I'm not 100% on the price but I figure is in the $4ish range. My lovely bride saw it and kindly noped her way out - all this "trying to not garbage" nonsense she's always talking to me about. Likely the burgerito won't be another pickup for me. Thanks, though, to Debi at the Pittsburgh North Hills TJ's for suggesting giving it a try when asked about anything new in this particularly slow time of year for new TJ's stuff. You're always appreciated! This particular thing, not so much. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cheeseburger Burrito: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Vegan Thai Green Curry


Well here's something I definitely can't heat in the air fryer. Looks like a tasty, convenient, work-friendly microwave meal, and fortunately, I have a hankerin' for some Thai today. Let's dive in.

Like I mentioned, this is a microwavable meal. No other heating options are given. And for the second time in a row, I'm looking at a product that took LESS time to heat than was suggested on the packaging. The instructions say to heat for 3 minutes, then stir, and then heat for 2-3 more minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, the product began to boil over the side of the tray and onto the microwave carousel lazy Susan thing. Our microwave is filthy at the moment. Will the wife even notice if I leave a few little pools of green curry in there?


The tray easily bends in the middle in case you want to try to simply fold the curry compartment onto the rice compartment. I was wary of spillage, so I mostly just flicked the curry over with my fork. Or you could be fancy and put the whole thing in an Asian-style bowl, of course.

It's a tasty product, for sure. If there's any difference between the curry they used here and the epic Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce, neither Sonia nor I could detect it, flavor-wise, although I think this curry was a tad thinner in texture.

Swimming around in the curry were carrots, eggplant chunks, and tofu sheets. The tofu "sheets" are more like wads of tofu by the time they're heated, transferred to the rice, and scooped up by a fork or spoon. I've never tried tofu in this format before. It yields a less chewy texture by virtue of its thinness. I'm fine with it this way, while Sonia prefers tofu cubes. The veggies weren't chewy or rubbery or anything, so we were good with those, too.

99% of the flavor of this dish is coming from the curry. That's not a bad thing, because it's an outstanding complex, coconutty, salty, spicy, savory flavor. At $3.99 for the single serving, Sonia thinks it would be much wiser to grab a jar of the curry itself for half the price, heat up your own rice, and mix in whatever veggies or additions you choose. You're absolutely paying for the convenience factor here. Guess we can't punish it too harshly for that since that's apparently what TJ's is going for. You'll find it in the frozen section. Vegan.

So...something like three and a half stars a piece on this product.

Bottom line: 7 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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap


I don't think a lot of kids like lentils. I know Sonia didn't develop an appreciation for the lens-shaped legume until her late teenage years. I guess I don't blame her. She had lots of tasty home cooked Mexican food as a kid and there was no need to explore unusual soups or strange beans to expand her horizons until much later.

I, on the other hand, had weird food limitations and restrictions due to allergies, so my parents always bought alternative foods and tried to get me interested in stuff like lentil soup from a very early age. I actually loved it at first bite. Lentils as the centerpiece of a meal doesn't seem strange or unappetizing to me at all. On the contrary, this product sounded pretty good to both the beautiful wifey and me.


What's working here: tasty lentils, red pepper paste, and fresh cabbage all wrapped up in a thin layer of soft lavash bread with a beautiful blend of other spices and flavors like onion, parsley, cumin, and pink peppercorn. There's actually a decent kick to the wrap, spice-wise. It's mostly a smooth, zesty mush, but the cabbage adds a welcome crunch to the texture.

What's not working? I actually wanted more cabbage in our particular specimen, mainly for that crisp crunch factor. Sonia wanted more tahini sauce. It added a nice spicy earthiness, but there wasn't enough in the packet to cover each bite of the wrap.


Also, holy high blood pressure alert, Batman! More than two thirds of your daily sodium if you eat the whole wrap in one sitting, which is quite plausible. I mean, Sonia and I shared it for lunch, but we supplemented it with other snacks. I could have easily downed the whole thing myself, and I'd bet she could have too. Sonia did complain that it was way too salty. It's a little scary that I didn't think it tasted too salty. I thought it was just about right until I looked at the nutrition info.

$4.49. Vegan. It's a surprisingly enjoyable wrap. Would buy again to share. We're both torn between three and a half and four stars a piece, so we'll go with one of each.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Chickpea Masala Salad


I'm not sure how appropriate it is to review this product right now. We're right in the midst of pumpkin, butternut squash, apple, maple, sweet potato season. It's officially fall. October. Autumn. But this here is essentially a cold bean salad. I think of this as more of a summer type food.

But once in a while, it's fun to do something wildly inappropriate. Well, okay, wildly inappropriate might be hyperbole. I mean, look at the colors. They're as fall-ish as you'd want them to be: bright orange and crisp yellow, with vibrant red on the label.

The product tastes as vivid as it looks. Sonia and I were both surprised how much we liked it. I'll eat chickpeas any day of any season, and masala dishes are almost always delicious. I was a bit wary of the "topped with pickled vegetables" part of the equation, though, but it turned out to be the perfect crown for this unique melange of flavors.


Mustard, lemon, onions, garlic, paprika, tamarind, cilantro. You can taste it all. It's nice and spicy, but the actual heat is extremely subtle. As you might expect, there's a rich, earthy, beany flavor at the core of this dish, but it's so much more complex than that. The teensy bits of cauliflower and carrot soaked in brine and vinegar round out the dish with tang and crunch.

The beautiful wifey and I had big plans to put this product in wraps and sandwiches and maybe even slather it on toasted naan bread, but we didn't make it that far. Between the two of us, we polished off the tub in a single day. It just kept calling us back for forkful after forkful of the Indian-spiced bean salad.

Every once in a while Sonia gets mistaken for an East Indian woman. Maybe it's all the masala spices on her breath. I'm sure she'll buy this product again, but she also wants to try to make her own version at home. $4.99 for the 12oz tub. Perfect five from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque


Have you noticed that the internet can read your mind now?

I mean, for as long as I can remember, it's shown me targeted ads based on my searches, purchases, and sites that I visit frequently. Then it started to show me ads for things that I'd only talked about, which isn't all that spooky since pretty much every device has a microphone that's listening 24/7. A little creepy, but easily explainable, right?

But lately, I've noticed there are ads for things I haven't even talked about—only thought about. Like after mowing the lawn the other day, I was thinking about how my back felt a little out of alignment. I hadn't thought about visiting a chiropractor in years, but for some reason the notion crossed my mind to look for a local one, and sure enough, the very next time I brought up this very blog, there in the right side bar was an ad for a local chiropractic center. Never said a word about it to anyone.


The logical conclusion? The internet can read my mind. We live in The Matrix. Or there are some ultra-advanced algorithms that have gotten weirdly good at predicting specific events within complex systems. I'm not sure which. Similarly, yet perhaps not quite as dumbfoundingly mysterious, Trader Joe's "read our minds" with this particular iteration of pumpkin soup.

Both Sonia and I had talked about how the pumpkin bisque from a couple years ago was too sweet and would have worked well with other veggies like butternut squash. Lo and behold, here it is in our grocery bag just two years later.

It's still punkinny. It's still creamy. It still has hints of onion, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. But it's much less sweet. Still a little sweet, to be sure, but they toned it down a few notches in a really good way. The savory flavors come through better in this iteration. It has a rich, harvesty taste that's very pleasant.


The part where they neglected to read my mind is where I wanted chunky veggies in the previous version. This one is still very smooth. There are teensy bits and flecks of stuff, but everything is pureed. It wouldn't have hurt the mix to have actual carrot and onion pieces floating throughout. We tossed some of the recently-reviewed veggie bites into our bowls, which partially redeemed them from their boring-ness, and partially redeemed this product from its lack of toothsome chompability.

Sonia's still into this stuff significantly more than I am, but it's a step in the right direction from that super sweet pumpkin bisque in the Mason jar if you ask me.

$3.99 for a 20 oz tub. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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, September 24, 2021

Trader Joe's Kale & Cauliflower Chili with Navy Beans

 

Let's get real here for a quick mo...can anything really beat chili?

Of course, this is a seasonally qualified statement. Chili on a 100 degree/100% humidity day? No way no how. Nuh uh. Non starter. There's amendments against cruel and unusual punishments, after all. So yeah, not then. 

But on a cool or cooler day, when only something warm and hearty will do? Chili please! Keep it coming. All day long. 

Though nothing beats homemade, in a quick pinch for a bite, may I humbly suggest giving Trader Joe's Kale & Cauliflower Chili with Navy Beans a try?

Though I'm carnivorous by nature, I'm always down for an intriguing sounding veggie/vegan chili option. Chili works really well sans meat, heck, I'll even make it that way sometimes myself. This particular new TJ's chili, when spotted, became a must try, even when met with an initial wave of excitement mixed with a little skepticism. How good could it really be?

I took a taste, and now I'm a believer. 

Really, there's nothing not to like here, and nothing is missed. Big ol' meateating me loved every bite. There's the right consistency - not too watery, with plenty of bite between all the kale and beans and cauliflower crumbles. There's the right level of spice - enough to get a rise, sure, but not enough to overwhelm. It's kept in check perfectly. And there's the right amount of flavor - and it's delicoous! Kale is as fresh as can be given its circumstances, the beans add their beany goodness, all the spices are balanced in the right proportions to another. There's a pretty healthy dose of cinnamon added, which gives a nice little slant on the whole experience with a nice little warming touch that seems to really add a solid base to everything else. There's pepper and garlic and tomatoes and...it's just good. Every bite has a little bit of everything. It's awesome. 



Going back to the spice level, I'd rate it as about a 6/10 if eating straight on. It's more a flavorful spice than straight-out fire. I for one felt no need to add a little extra somethin'-somethin' to give it a kick. But , if say, one would add some cheese or pour over a baked potato (which this chili practically screams for doing) or some cornbread, I could see the heat getting dissipated a bit. For some of you, that'd be a plus, others, maybe not so much. But to me, that means it strikes about the right balance so as to be platable to the masses.

My lovely bride and I have already decided: we're stocking up. It's delicious and a jar will easily fill the two of us without giving either of us the food baby/food coma/ingested brick feeling I get with other chilis. This just may become our new cold day quick meal go to, and for like $4 for the jar, it cannot be beat. Love it. No faults at all here. Shoo the clouds away from the top of Olympus, we got a new Pantheoner here. Perfect fives and we mean it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kale & Cauliflower Chili with Navy Beans: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons










Monday, September 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Chickpea & Red Lentil Risoni

Did you know you can eat more food if you eat very quickly? It's true. If you eat slowly, you can feel yourself getting full. If you eat too fast, you're far more likely to overeat.

I did that with this deceptively dense and filling rice substitute for my "second breakfast" meal the other day. It was my first time trying risoni. I made about two thirds of the six-serving box, threw in some olive oil and onion salt and started chowing down.

Within minutes I had eaten about half the portion that I made, which if you do the math, is about two full servings of the product. I don't think I'll see any long-term weight gain or anything like that, but in 5 or 10 minutes these legume-based "grains" expanded in my tummy and made it feel FULL as can be, and lemme tell ya, I had some massive postprandial somnolence going on. I could barely function for a few hours. Didn't expect that from a box of chickpeas and lentils.


Full disclosure, I did add some cheese before I finished my portion—er two portions, rather—because I felt it lacked a little zing. I mean it lacked zing the way plain rice lacks zing. It's actually much tastier than I thought it would be.

Usually mid-morning, Sonia is still in coffee and cereal mode, but on this particular occasion, she followed my lead and finished the other half of the risoni in the sauce pan well before elevensies. She was even more impressed than I was and wound up more than full after consuming approximately two regular servings of this would-be side dish turned stand-alone meal randomly prepared and consumed on this Labor Day weekend.

There's an earthy richness that white rice lacks here, however, both risoni and rice need at least a little bit of salt to be palatable, if you ask me. Texture-wise, it's slightly more al dente than regular rice, but still somewhat soft and supple. Along with olive oil and cheese, this could be a stand-alone meal, or at least a snack. We both think it would go great as a side for chicken or fish, or basically wherever you'd use rice or cauliflower rice or orzo type foods.

$2.99 for the box. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Garden Vegetable Soup

Soup is a good fall and winter food. It's also nice when it rains. We've been making up for a relatively dry summer with heavy rainfall nearly every day for the past week or so here in the northern midwest. So I thought a nice bowl of hot soup was in order.

First impression: it's quite thick. Sonia noted that the product is almost stew-like, since there's relatively little liquid in relation to the large, plenteous vegetable chunks. She likes it that way. She doesn't like "soupy soups," as she put it.

As far as texture is concerned, I'll agree. It's very chunky and hearty. Surprisingly so. Add anything like crackers or croutons, and they quickly absorb what little wateriness there is, resulting in something nearly as thick as traditional gumbo.

Flavor-wise, however, I thought the soup was too salty. Rather than relying on the actual vegetables for crisp garden produce type flavors, all I tasted was a briny, tomatoey liquid.


Even the veggies themselves seemed too saturated with the broth to taste anything other than something salty and vaguely tomato-esque. Too bad, because there's pretty much a whole garden in that jar: potato, sweet potato, spinach, carrot, kale, celery, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, etc...

Sonia thinks the flavor is fine, too. She'll give it four stars.


$3.99 for the three serving jar. We've seen much better soup from Trader Joe's over the years in my personal opinion, but this one does come in a Mason jar you can keep, and it's shelf-stable for about two years from date of purchase. So...three stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7 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.