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Showing posts with label microwavable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label microwavable. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Red Curry Thai Noodles


Time to break out something from the back of the pantry. Red curry Thai noodles. The name sounds appetizing enough. The packaging? Not so much. I've had some truly awful noodle offerings in big paper bowls that look very similar to this one. Hopefully it's just a trick of the eye and this will be on par with or better than the other instant curry options we've seen from Trader Joe's over the years.

After a quick glance at the heating instructions, something stands out to me: there's no mention of adding water. Huh? You mean these things are already full of their own moisture? Or maybe they'll have enough just from the sauce packet mentioned on the packaging..? Not adding water to this big bowl of noodles goes against my every instinct. But I'll be a good boy this time and follow the directions.


Preparation involves opening two big pouches, one full of noodles, one full of sauce and veggies. Then you simply nuke for 90 seconds. Simple enough. No water involved.

Things came out perfectly after following the heating instructions. I stirred the elements around a bit, since the noodles are so tightly packed from being smooshed in their vacuum sealed pouch for goodness knows how long.

The noodles are nice and thick, almost like udon. They've got some body to them. They're nothing like cheap ramen noodles. They're more like soba noodles in terms of thickness, though they're not as dark as buckwheat noodles. Although it's not apparent in the photo I took, there's the perfect amount of sauce to coat all the noodles, which is good because the noodles don't bring a whole lot to the table in terms of flavor just by themselves. There are peas in the mix and also bamboo shoots, which remind me of carrots in terms of texture and maybe even a little in terms of flavor.


The sauce steals the show. It's coconutty, sweet, spicy, and flavorful. I'll almost always want more heat in a product like this one, but I'm honestly surprised just how much spice there is in this bowl—more than enough to keep it interesting. I'm not saying I didn't crave a little more of that Thai red chili spice, but the amount I got was acceptable. I really expected this product to be bland and unappetizing, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I'd ask for more peas, bamboo shoots, and maybe some other veggies in the mix. A little more heat never hurts a dish like this. All in all, not a bad lunch for $2.49. Shelf-stable, pescatarian, easy to prepare, and surprisingly good as far as taste is concerned.

7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce

Though mainly carnivorous in nature, in all honesty, a little vegan meat substitution here and there doesn't bother me. Need proof? All the things TJ's sells, it was none other than the original TJ's soy chorizo that got me interested in helping jumpstart this here fine blog over ten years ago. Think I'm long, wordy, pointless, and all that now? Ha! You have no idea how lucky you kids are these days. 

That being said, I've been meaning to and wanting to try out Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce for quite some time. Love pulled pork, but it doesn't always love me the same way back. I've heard rumors that jackfruit easily emulates all that pulled pork can offer, and well, here's an easy chance to draw my own conclusion at the expense of $1.99 and a minute in the microwave. 

Surprisingly, to a newbie like me, decent. Take a look at my product pic. It definitely looks the part, right? Saucy, stringly, a little chunky. At first glance I thought maybe onions were involved, but the ingredients make no mention of them, so i presume it's all jackfruit and sauce. 

The bite is definitely softer than even slow-and-low smoked pulled prok, and not as stringy either. I miss that little bite, but not the little bits that inevitably get stuck in my teeth, so there's that. There was a small plastic-y square in mine - not sure if actual part of package made it's way in, a foreign intruder at the packing plant, or just a pretty not-so-great part of jackfruit. Cast aside without much drama and worries.  Everything else was great - small strands, bigger chunks with more "meat" to them - but no bark though. Oh well. 

The fruit itself is mild, without much flavor by itself. That works because that really helps take on the flavor of the sauce...and man. this BBQ Sauce is pretty legit. Thick, a touch sweet, tangy, with a upper medium kick - it's definitely Kansas City, the American classic, style. I wouldn't say "smoky" quite as much but the little touch that's there iss okay - if liquid smoke were added for the kill shotit'd be an absolutely no go for me. Hate that junk. As it was, that BBQ sauce was finger-lickin' good.

In all it was definitely a decent lunch. I ate mine plain in a bowl, but I think it'd go well over rice. In a sandwich, with a sturdy roll, I feel the texture of the carbs would heavily outweigh the bite of the fruit, so all would be tasted and sensed would be sauce. For the cost and convenience I'll absolutely buy again without a dount. My lovely bride opted for something else for lunch, but I was happy to nosh down the entire package myself as not much of a stomach stretcher. Without going into detail, I'm having some mild digestive issues which I can only really attribute to the jackfruit, but it's nothing too troublesome. Tasty, tasty, tasty, and pretty darn good. Here's another fake meat win for you, TJ's!



Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, April 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Portuguese Custard Tarts


Ah, the Portuguese. First they gave us the man o' war, then they gave us Fado music, later Cristiano Ronaldo, and now these custard tarts. That's quite a legacy.

We have a couple of firsts here. The first first is that, at least as far as I can recall, this is the very first Trader Joe's product we've tried that's actually imported from Portugal. Sweet. I had an opportunity to go to Lisbon once, via train out of Madrid, Spain. I opted for Paris instead. Ah, well. Next time.

The second first is that, at least as far as I'm aware, TJ's is actually giving us air fryer heating instructions on the back of the package. About time. Sonia and I have been rocking a Ninja since Christmas time. You know that if Sonia and I, still attempting to live somewhat minimalistically, have jumped on that bandwagon, that it's high time you do too if you haven't already. Air fryers are friggin' awesome. I won't say this is the first Trader Joe's item we've heated in the air fryer, but I will say that it's the first time we're not just guesstimating times and temperatures and are actually following some real printed instructions...so we can blame Trader Joe's if it doesn't turn out all right.


I'm excited. Let's eat some tarts.

After heating, the tarts were just slightly darkened on the top, near where the custard intersects the breading. The smell wasn't very pungent. It was almost like a faint quiche type smell, by virtue of a very similar crust.

They were incredibly crumbly. The tarts seemed to want to fall apart upon taking a single bite out of them. They were almost explosive the way they flaked apart and spread crumbs all over the plate and surrounding tabletop. I wasn't sure whether to try eating them with a fork, pulling the tart from the little aluminum tray bite by bite, or whether I should just yank the whole thing out to attempt eating it by hand. Neither method was particularly successful at minimizing the crumb carnage. These are definitely not something to eat on the road while driving.


The custard was thick and surprisingly not too sweet. It was much more creamy and eggy than anything else. There's a warm, hearty, homemade quality to it. I'm sure if it were ever Americanized, they'd make the custard much sweeter. Not saying I'd prefer it that way, just pointing out that it's much more buttery than sugary.

$2.99 for four tarts. These would be pretty decent for either breakfast or an after-dinner dessert. They're like a little piece of Portugal right in your own air fryer. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Trader Joe's Kibbeh

Although I haven't been there myself yet, I've known numerous people who've either lived in or visited Israel throughout the years. At least one of them referred to falafel as "Israeli hamburger" with a smidge of disdain. I, personally, could replace hamburgers with falafel and be perfectly happy. But I've often wondered if the reverse were true: if any Levantine people, upon being presented with beef or hamburger, thought, "Oh, this is that American cow falafel I've heard so much about."

That's probably a silly notion, since Middle Eastern diets do include beef. It might not be as ubiquitous as it is here in middle America, but there are a number of Mediterranean dishes that involve red meat. Kibbeh is apparently made with lamb just as often as beef, if not more so. I'm not a huge fan of lamb, so I'm glad this Trader Joe's offering went with another option.

The kibbeh are roughly football-shaped. That's American football-shaped, just to be clear, not futbol internacional...in case you don't speak 'Murican. They're so close to football-shaped, I'm actually wishing we'd broke these out a few weeks ago for the Superbowl. Ah well, there's always next year.


The "shell" is a firm, bread-like crust. I'm guessing that's the bulgur wheat mentioned on the box. It's not tough or chewy at all, but it has a much firmer texture than the ground beef within. The meat is tender and slightly juicy, but not oily or greasy. It's very lightly seasoned and flaunts a mild flavor profile.

It's so mild that it begs for some fixins, in my opinion. My instincts told me to throw a big slab of cheddar cheese on the kibbeh and slather it with ketchup and mustard, but then I came to my senses. 

I just had some beans and veggies on the side and added some extra seasoning. But what I really wish we'd have had on hand to pair with this dish is some baba ghanoush, garlic spread, tzatziki, or zhoug sauce. Even hummus might go well with these Middle Eastern meatballs.

It's another unique selection that I'm glad I got to try. Thanks for broadening my horizons again, Trader Joe's. I'd consider a repeat purchase, but next time, I'll be sure to pick up the appropriate condiments. They're nothing to complain about on their own. $4.79 for six beefy footballs. Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosa Burrito

I'm not into globalism as far as politics are concerned, but I must admit, when international cultures entwine, some pretty interesting and enticing culinary combinations result.

I'm thinking taco pizza, curried chicken salad, or Chicano hamburgers...or the fact that you can put sriracha on anything American and make it better. Fusion food. The only thing finer than one tasty tradition is two or more combined in the same dish. And now they're doing stuff like sushi corn dogs, kimchi quesadillas, and pierogi poutine...? What the what? I'll have to try those things some day...but until then, I'm glad there's Trader Joe's.

So it's a samosa...in the form of a burrito. Sounds good. If you use the microwave, this happy little lunch item goes from refrigerated to piping hot in just two minutes.


Despite being a little stuffy from the excessive cold we're feeling here in the upper midwest, that familiar curry-esque samosa smell cut through the kitchen and piqued my appetite immediately. Sonia and I cut our burrito in half and ate it with some other leftover Indian food and rice. By itself, it would have been the perfect size for a stand-alone lunch or even dinner for one person.

There were big chunks of potato, cauliflower, and carrots, plus plenty of large whole peas throughout the dish. The texture of the veggies was just about perfect. The tortilla would have been a bit more crispy had we used the oven, no doubt, but we were fine with it being soft and supple. It's definitely a secondary element after the veggie chunks.


To me, "tomato chutney" doesn't sound particularly appetizing or exciting. But it tasted great. Just look at the ingredients list. There's onions, garlic, mustard, vinegar, white wine, ginger, paprika, turmeric and rosemary, just to name a few of the represented flavors. The taste was every bit as complex and bold as you might expect from those elements. It's a uniquely Indian flavor in the familiar format of a burrito. Would buy again.

$3.99 for the product. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Misal Curry

I've always been fascinated with maps and geography. It's also interesting how places and groups of people got their names. I'm in awe that we can still refer to islands in the Caribbean as "the West Indies" based on the erroneous assumption that 15th and 16th century explorers found an alternate route from Europe to India.

"Man, I'm jonesin' for some authentic Indian curry. Let's try going in the opposite direction and see if we get to India faster." Great work, guys. You were only off by literally 15,000 miles.

Nowadays, we take frozen Indian food at the grocery store completely for granted, along with myriad other international cuisines. We truly don't know how good we have it. And I'm not saying that this dish or any of Trader Joe's other frozen selections are quite as good as anything you'd actually be served in India, or even a half decent Indian restaurant here in the states—what I'm saying is the accessibility factor along with the relatively authentic taste is something I'm truly grateful for, and it seems petty and frivolous to file any complaints at all about this miracle of modern convenience.


So for that reason, let's start with everything positive about this dish. It's vegan. That's good. I'm not vegan, but it's nice to not have to eat animals or animal products at each and every meal. It's actually spicy. Heck yes. So many curry products are totally lacking in the heat department. We're not talking five alarm fire type heat in this case, but there's definitely some kick to this curry. I'd put it just above half way on a spice-o-meter.

Finally, it's super easy to prepare. Six minutes in the microwave and you're good to go. It's not super fattening or calorific in the grand scheme of things, either. A lot of curry dishes can really pack a punch in that department.

The "brown rice" is kinda purple. I don't know if I've seen purple rice before. It tasted fine, although the texture was just a bit spongy. If you're not into beans, then the texture of the misal might not be your thing, either. Sonia thought the curry itself had too many "al dente" beans. Spongy rice and both squishy and firm beans made the texture my least favorite aspect of this curry. That might be a function of the beans used. There are "sprouted moth beans" and "white peas," neither of which I'm familiar with.


Some curries can be kind of sweet. This one isn't at all. It's earthy, beany, and spicy. Although there are multiple coconut ingredients in the product, I didn't taste much coconut at all.

It's actually a "product of India." I guess that makes it more authentic...? But also I'm not sure how we don't have the ingredients to make it in this country, or you know, at least in this hemisphere. For $2.29, it doesn't seem like the meal's cost has been influenced much by its trip around the globe. 

Score-wise, I think we're looking at something like double 3.5's.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Trader Joe's Corn & Green Chile Pepper Quiche


I've been watching a bunch of 80's movies on Amazon Prime lately. What a weird decade. I mean, it was so carefree compared to today. Everything was loud and goofy, from music to clothing to hairstyles. It's such a stark contrast to 2020, which is why I've been finding it so refreshing to bask in all the gaudy glory of 1980's American cinema. Plus, there's not a lot I want to see in the way of new stuff right now, and it still costs $20 just to rent the third installment of Bill and Ted.

Also from the 80's: a book called Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. I mean, it's apparently satirizing the idea that certain things are more masculine to consume than others, but still...I must admit I don't know many dudes obsessed with quiche. In defense of my own masculinity: the three quiches I've reviewed on this blog represent more than half the quiche I've consumed in my entire lifetime. And so far, all of those specimens have fallen into a kind of "take it or leave it" status with me and the wifey.


As is standard for a quiche, this one's primarily made of eggs. I heated ours for 25 minutes in the oven rather than the microwave, and the insides came out surprisingly mushy, especially when one considers the outsides were extremely crispy. I know quiche should be soft, but I felt like the insides had an excess of moisture and the outsides were, if anything, a little too dry. 

Sonia pointed out that there was a decided lack of veggies, corn in particular, in the filling. We were expecting a whole bunch of corn kernels as well as more substantial chunks of chile, too. I guess we were pining for a sort of savory corn and veggie pie rather than a quiche.

Flavor-wise, it's eggy and quichey—not overly salty, sweet, or cheesy. It begs for a little help, honestly. Some salsa and/or hot sauce is definitely in order here. We had no trouble finishing it, but for two thirds of your daily saturated fat and 98% of your cholesterol, I was hoping for just a tad more piquancy. More green chile peppers would have unquestionably made it more memorable for Sonia and me.

$4.99 for the 9 oz quiche. Probably not a repeat purchase for us. Three stars a piece.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Trader Joe's Shrimp Tikka Masala


I don't know that I've ever had a tikka masala dish that I've disliked. Just from Trader Joe's alone, we've seen chickenpaneer, and vegan varieties, all of which were thumbs up. Shrimp is one of my favorite foods and always has been. As long as it's cooked properly, it's pretty hard to mess up shrimp, so the bar is set pretty high for this dish already. 

Like most of you, we haven't been eating out much lately. So I guess if anything, that lowers the bar a tad and makes us appreciate near-restaurant-quality microwave meals even more than usual. Hopefully we're giving this Shrimp Tikka Masala its fair shake. 

Anyway, Let's dive in.

I feel like they almost wanted to go with a flippable tray, a la those yogurts that come with mix-ins, but with the shrimp and sauce being flipped into the bed of cumin rice instead of cookie bits getting flipped into a bed of yogurt. The tray isn't quite that flexible, so you're left flicking the shrimps one by one into the other side. Fair enough.


There are about 8 or 10 small shrimp swimming around in a red sauce. For a frozen meal, their texture is about what you'd expect. Shrimp doesn't fare particularly well in the microwave, in my opinion, and these specimens were no better or worse than I expected—just a tad more chewy than steamed or fried shrimp would be. 

The sauce is a "mildly spicy tomato sauce" ...and that's what it tastes like. It's not particularly bursting with Indian spices or heat. It's a wee bit more complex and interesting than, say, tomato soup, but it struck me as being significantly less flavorful than any of the previous tikka masala dishes from Trader Joe's.

The rice here isn't the classic basmati rice we see in most of TJ's Indian food. This is "cumin rice." It's plain white rice...with some cumin seeds and coconut oil. So...pretty much just plain white rice.


I polished off the tray easily enough. Never gagged. Never grimaced at the flavor. But it didn't inspire any moments of bliss or euphoria, either. 

While I can't shaft it too badly, I'd put this near the bottom of the tikka masala pack and maybe even near the bottom of the list of Trader Joe's Indian food in general. That's not to say it's bad in any way. There's just a laundry list of other outstanding Indian foods at TJ's that I'll reach for before I pick up this particular selection again. Sonia sat this one out, citing an upset tummy as her reason for non-participation.

$3.49 for the single serving meal. Ready after 5-6 minutes in microwave.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.