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Showing posts with label sides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sides. Show all posts

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives

Olives! C'mon, who doesn't love a good olive, seriously? Snackable, grabbable, fun to eat, cool, refreshing, a surprising variety, versatile, savory...what's there not to like? Really, anytime is perfect for olives, but especially late summer like right now, after a few days vacation, when you accidentally forgot to write anything for your blog before you left, didn't have a laptop to write while you were gone, so had to wait an entire week almost to publish anything...that anyone else or just me?

Anyways, I definitely had time to read up on the new Trader Joes Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives while taking an inadvertent break. There's everything to love here. Garlic! Jalapeños! Ampersands! Some pretty choice looking olives! Sounds perfect!

Indeed, in some ways, these olives really are. They're big and fleshy and firm, with plenty of bite to them. Sure, green olives are kinda basic in the olive world, but they're just such a crisp, clean classic that they're really hard to argue with. They're delicious, through and through. 

Inside each olive there's a decent sliver of brined garlic and a little chunk of deseeded jalapeño as well. I mention the no seeds because that's key on a couple levels. First, there's no unwelcomed seedy texture. And two, if concerned about the spicy level of these olives, don't be. It's the faintest smooch of spice. No seeds means most of the flame throwing capacity of jalapeños is largely extinguished. On a scale of 0 to 10, it's maybe a 1. It's almost not worth writing about. If anything, there's more garlic, and plenty of olive to balance it out.

Which reminds me: sure, they're shelf stable 'til opened, but do yourself a favor and chill these olives before tasting. Warm, eh, not a lot of flavor. Ice 'em down a touch and the flavors really seem to be out and about more. 


Whatever you do with olives, do 'em with these. They won't be the highlight of an olive mix or a charcuterie board, but they will be far from unwelcome. Nothing wrong with a small twist on an olive and that's what we got here. And at $2.99 for the jar, it ain't a bad price either. 

My lovely bride is odd and only likes black olives, not green, and so is sitting this out. Just me for this round of olive munching, so if this score is irresponsible you'll know why. Personally I'd like a touch more heat, but that's my only real complaint. I'll be enjoying these very much as is.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 



 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Chive Cheddar Cheese

Chive. Cheddar. Cheese. Cha cha cha.

That allium family is at it again. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and...you guessed it: chives. I don't know that I've ever even had a proper chive outside of, say, sour cream and chive dip. But I know I like the flavor of chives, just like I like the flavor of garlic, shallots, scallions, and leeks. They have that savory, oniony, herby, planty flavor. Yum.

And it's here in this tasty block of Irish cheddar. To my taste buds, this cheese falls somewhere in the middle as far as the sharp vs mild spectrum goes. It's tangy, smooth, and creamy. High quality cheddar is never cheap—in this case, about five bucks for 6 ounces. But it's definitely worth splurging for once in a while.

There are little green flecks of chives all over the rind of this cheese. One side of it is nearly completely covered in chive bits. Through the rest of the chunk of cheese, the chives are somewhat scarce. 

That's Sonia's biggest complaint. She wants more chives and more chive flavor, distributed evenly throughout the product. I see where she's coming from, but I'm fine with a few super chivey bites followed by a few not-so-chivey bites since the cheddar is impressive all on its own.

I could probably eat this whole wedge of cheese in one sitting, just snacking on it by itself or with complementary crackers. We've also tried it in an omelette made with spinach and eggs. Delicious. It melts well and it's got such a nice milky taste and texture, I'm sure there are a thousand other things we could do with it, but it probably won't last that long.

Put me down for a solid four stars and the desire to purchase it again. Put the beautiful wifey down for three and a half, as in she liked it but she'll probably want to try something new next time we splurge for cheese at Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries

 

Man, is there anything really all that much better in the world than a nice, big pile of piping hot, crispy, delicious fries?

And make them waffle fries at that? Sign me up! It won't matter if I'm hungry or not, I'm down.

All that added surface area, with all the little nooks and crevices and valleys and whatever else, when made just right, make quite possibly the most perfect fry in the world....

....which is absolutely why I should've taken the suggestion on the bag of Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries and airfried them. 

But NOOOOOOOOOO. 

We have an airfryer. It's just a little guy, with small features. Small basket. Takes a while to do much of anything for a hungry crew with it. So I thought I'd just bake them a few extra minutes instead and get the whole batch done with at once. That'd be close enough, right? Certainly spot on, but it'd work....or work enough...right?

Wrong. 

Even when baking a few extra minutes, man, these TJ's fries just wouldn't crisp up, at all. The texture was almost more like steamed then baked. Maybe a few more minutes would've done it, but I already had them in there for an extra five or so, and dangit, we had dance classes to get to. They were kinda damp and undercooked and felt like they were more ready to mash in a bowl them into my belly. 

I guess all that's on me? Maybe? Our oven works pretty decently, so...anyways. 

Anything else with the fries are great. The seasoning blend is pretty basic but pleasant with a little paprika and pepper and other assorted spices. Our kids who tend to be somewhat spice adverse had no problems with it whatsoever. We all love our fries.

Definitely, we need to get these again and go for it with the airfryer. Or maybe get a bigger better airfryer. We're redoing our kitchen coming up shortly, so I guess we'll toss that on the list and slot it right behind the espresso machine both my lovely bride and I want and will finally have space for. Or something.

Seriously, airfryer or bust with these, it seems. 

$3.99ish for the bag, came with enough to feed our hangry crew. If you have teenagers, you'll need an extra I'm sure. Pretty tasty and we'll do better next time, and heck even though we enjoyed them decently as is, I'm sure we'd give them a bump. 

AIRFRY THEM!!!!!!!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons



Monday, February 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Beer Bread Mix

Ah, beer, bread, and butter. That's a winning triple B combo right there. Each of the three is pretty delish on its own. Combined? Even better. Throw in some shredded cheese—yes this product calls for shredded cheese as an optional ingredient—and those are four pretty spectacular food elements. 

All together, will they become even greater than the sum of their parts, a la Voltron? I know I'm dating myself with that reference. I'd have said Avengers or something more contemporary, but they never physically combine into one giant superhero. Man, I miss the 80's.

Unfortunately, three of the four ingredients aren't supplied by Trader Joe's in this box. It's just the mix. But most people have some kind of butter or butter substitute in the kitchen. 

Not a drinker? No beer on hand? No problem. You can substitute with any carbonated beverage. Coke or Pepsi? Hmmm. I wouldn't chance it, personally. But I think seltzer water might be even weirder. Red Bull or Rockstar? Please try it and report back here. The wife wouldn't let me turn this loaf of bread mix into an energy drink experiment.


So we used Tiramisu Pastry Stout—also from Trader Joe's, but not Trader Joe's brand. It's a dark beer. Fairly desserty. Way better than the Chocolate Babka Stout by my reckoning, but still not something I'd seek out regularly. As mentioned above, the shredded cheese is optional, but we used a blend that included jack, cheddar, and colby.

We wound up having ours in the oven at 350° for about an hour by the time it was all said and done. The bread came out with a big poofy top. The "head" of the bread was crusty and crispy. The insides ranged from absolutely perfect to just a little undercooked, texture-wise.

The flavor was surprisingly good straight out of the oven. It's hard to put my finger on just what it reminded us of, but we were both thinking of that complementary bread from Outback Steakhouse for some reason. 

It also reminded me a little bit of banana bread, but without bananas obviously, and maybe a little less sweet. Honestly, pretty darn yummy. Paired well with a thin spread of butter.

I'm curious what the results would be if you used a different beverage or different kind of cheese. I feel like this would be another product entirely if you used cheap beer and left out the shredded cheddar combo. 

$2.99 for the mix. It yields 16 servings of bread. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Focaccia Bread Mix


I often depict myself as a barely-functional buffoon in the kitchen on this blog. I imagine it's more fun to read about some fool who is scarcely able to read baking instructions than a Julia Child protege that has his act entirely together.

Like most jokes, the idea that I'm not great in the kitchen is certainly rooted in truth—the worst grade I ever received as a student was in Home Ec, and I may be a little too comfortable improvising when no improvisation is called for. Although at this point, I'm probably average-ish at baking and cooking among American men in my age group...but for the sake of entertainment, I'll continue to write as if I'm the moron who can't measure quantities correctly or handle red hot baking sheets while cartoonishly clanging pots and pans around and spilling ingredients on the floor, upsetting my wife and pets with my gross incompetence.


I was left unsupervised for the mixing and baking of this bread, as the beautiful wifey got stuck on a late work call last evening. All too familiar with those unprompted improvisations mentioned above, she reminded me before I began baking that "the dough has to rise before you put it in the oven," knowing that my impatience might impel me to skip that step altogether.

"Of course I'll let it rise," I replied.

The directions specify letting it rise "in a warm area." Not knowing whether the ambient winter temperature of our kitchen qualified as "warm," I helped the mixture along by placing it in front of a space heater. But that was my only improvisation. Well, okay, I subbed avocado oil for extra virgin olive oil since it was the only cooking oil we had on hand.

Honestly, the bread came out pretty good. I might have left it in the oven a few minutes too long, as the crust around the edges got just a tad too dark and firm. The herbs were nice and flavorful, but not overbearing. The bread itself was wonderfully soft, dense, and slightly doughy on the inside, while just a shade firmer than that on the outside. I thought they might have overdone it with the sea salt in the mixture. That I can blame on Trader Joe's, since I added absolutely no extra salt or seasonings other than what came in the pack.

$2.99 for 12 servings of focaccia bread. Considering the only additional ingredients called for are oil and water, that's a pretty good value, and it's easy enough for this dummy to make without adult supervision. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Cheese Empanadas with Cassava Crust


I suppose if they can make tortilla chips out of a nutty, starchy root vegetable like cassava, then empanada crust shouldn't be out of the question either. The texture of this cassava isn't chewy per se, but it's just a smidge less crispy than traditional crust. It didn't bother me at all. In fact, I was surprised how much I liked it. It tasted like...well, a nutty, starchy root vegetable, but yet strangely similar to a normal, wheat-based bread.

Sonia made two odd comments about the product when she tried it. The first was that as soon as she cut hers open, it smelled like fish fillet. Um. Okay. I didn't get that at all. I assumed that meant she didn't like it, but the next words out of her mouth were something about enjoying the product a lot and that it was really good.


The second strange comment from the wifey was something about really wanting a dipping sauce, specifically a tamarind-based one. Yikes. I certainly wasn't thinking of any fixins here—despite the fact that I'm usually the condiment-craver between the two of us—and tamarind was about the last thing I would have thought of as a dipping sauce.

Some might think the filling here is a smidge on the boring, plain side I suppose, but we both loved the ricotta, onion, and spinach combo. To me, it was almost like a cheese-based spinach dip. That's why I didn't crave a dipping sauce I think. Spinach dip is already a condiment, and you don't dip a condiment in another condiment, right?


Two empanadas come in the pack. They're a bit smaller than other empanadas we've seen from Trader Joe's, but at about $3 for the box, they're a bit cheaper, too. No meat. No gluten. We'd buy them again. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese

That cheese section at TJ's can be dangerous. There are so many interesting choices, it would be very much within the realm of possibility to blow your entire grocery budget before even getting out of the cheese department. I mean, good cheese isn't exactly cheap, and it's getting even pricier these days. I generally just steer clear altogether. That's why I have ordained the lovely Sonia with the title: Resident Fromager de Chateau Rodgers.

Apparently this item has been around for a number of years. I wasn't aware. Shows how much time I spend in Trader Joe's cheese area. I probably would have picked it up sooner since I'm generally more of a lemonophile than the wifey...although fruit-flavored cheeses aren't necessarily something I'd gravitate towards. What this is: a mild cheese with a modest amount of lemon flavor. What it isn't: a stand-alone dessert food.

The texture is almost spongy, yet creamy. It's nice and soft, supple, and not very dense. The rind is, of course, significantly darker and firmer than the inner portions of the wedge. The picture included might have an inordinate amount of rind represented (the brown parts) but at least you get an idea of what the cheese itself looks like.

I could see this working well in baking applications. You could easily create some kind of lemon pastry by baking this stuff into something bready and topping with lemon curd or some other type of citrusy icing.

Surprisingly, Sonia liked this cheese more than I did. She was fine snacking on it plain. We both had some on crackers. It worked okay with any type of neutrally-flavored crackers like water crackers and butter crackers. I think it would have clashed with anything with seeds or garlicky flavors or anything like that.

Next time, we'll have to get more adventurous in the kitchen and see if we can whip up something lemontastic despite our lack of mad baking skills. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Taralli and Friends Crackers

Wikipedia describes a taralli cracker as a "toroidal Italian snack food." For those of you who neglected to snag your masters in geometry from a prestigious university, a toroid is basically a donut shape.

The toroidal taralli crackers in this bag are kinda like Italian wontons I guess, at least flavor-wise. There's a vague sourdough vibe, too. Some people say you can dip them in sweet stuff. So if you dunk wontons in duck sauce as an appetizer or snack, you could dip these in...I dunno...cream cheese and fancy Italian marmalade?

I guess there are many different kinds of taralli crackers? Some get dipped in wine, some get paired with cheese, and others get dunked in spicy stuff. I need some Italian folks to weigh in on these because I clearly have no background with this fare.

The straight sticks taste very much like classic garlic croutons, but maybe a little softer. They're tasty, with a complex spice blend. There's a melt-in-the-mouth quality that most croutons lack. But I would totally throw these into any savory soup and I'm sure they'd enhance the taste and texture significantly. Both Sonia's and my favorite.


The square crackers are like sesame sticks kinda. But they're crackers instead of sticks. If you like sesame sticks, you'll like these. There are actual sesame seeds listed in the ingredients, so my tastebuds must be working today.

The twisty sticks are probably my least favorite of the bunch. They're a bit like plain saltines but puffier. And twistier. Fun shape, boring flavor. Could make a decent vehicle for a cheese dip I suppose.


$3.29 for the bag, imported from Italy. A sack of crackers with no chocolate or toffee or dipping sauce packets doesn't seem super Christmassy or exciting to me, but then I'm about as Italian as a spot of tea and crumpets. How do you serve these? How does TJ's offering compare to what Nonna used to make? For now, I'll score with a very neutral 3 out of 5 stars. Sonia will go with three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Bean Casserole Bites

It's understandable why, when tasked with the creation of the new Trader Joe's Green Bean Caserole Bites, a poofy phyllo pastry shell was chosen. First of all, it's delicious. Second of all, it adds a comforty vibe and a fun twist on a holiday meal classic. Third, it's certainly more than capable of fulfilling the role. 

But...that's not to say it was the best choice. 

I'm thinking BIG here. What's the absolute best thing about green bean casserole? The fried onion crunchies atop, of course...so why not make a shell out of them!?!?!? 

That'd shoot this benign beany bites to legit legume legends in no time flat! Who WOULDN"T love that. There'd be no tenth dentist here...everyone would agree that was an AWESOME idea. 

Oh well. As is, the casserole bites make a decent, and kinda fun little snackbite. The issue seems to be that the phyllo does add a definite puff pastry feel, and seems more dominant than the green bean/mushroom soup filling or the few little onion crunchies sprinkled in. It's too bad because the flavor of the filling is spot on, but with a little touch of cheddar cheese it goes up a notch. There's a little innovation right there, and it's delish.

Will give extra credit for the air fryer instructions on the box. You know your fanbase, TJ's. Still watch them carefully as ours got a little burned even when we cut the time a minute or so short.  

I neglected to snap a picture of the nutritional info or ingredients, so I'll link the TJ's website here for that info. A serving size is one whole box!?!?! Lol TJ's, don't be so greedy and share. 

Not great, not bad. So much potential. As is? Meh. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Green Bean Casserole Bites: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, November 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Mashed Sweet Potatoes


A very long time ago at a county fair in central Pennsylvania, I had some sweet potato fries from a random vendor. They served them dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and then poured some maple syrup over them. They were absolutely dessertastic.

Although I've recreated the recipe at home a few times since then, I've come across quite a few other restaurants and eateries that serve sweet potato fries, and in every instance they bring them out with ketchup or tartar sauce or some other condiment that I consider an abomination to pair with sweet potato fries. I never got that.


That would be like making sweet potato casserole with mayo and relish or tomato sauce or something like that. Nobody ever does that...because it would be disgusting. You put sweet stuff like marshmallows on your sweet potato casserole. And with this convenient, Thanksgivingy Trader Joe's offering, I decided to add cinnamon, maple syrup, and a dab of whipped cream to emulate a mushy version of those delicious fries.

And it was awesome. Sonia thought so, too. The product on its own is fine, as well. There's only one ingredient: sweet potatoes. So you know what it's gonna taste like, right? The bag contains approximately 35 pellets of frozen sweet potato. I guess about 10 pellets equals one serving. So you throw the desired amount plus a little water into a sauce pan. They melt right down into a smooth mush in about 6 minutes. There's not a lot of lumpiness in the equation. The product has a very nice even consistency, and it seems to be as flavorful as any non-frozen mashed sweet potatoes I've ever had.

If you want to get fancy and make a marshmallow glaze with chopped pecans and whatever else, this would work. Or if you want to take the lazy man's route and just dump a few tablespoons of maple syrup in the mix, top with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and a dab of whipped cream, I can verify that tastes great that way, too—very much worthy of Thanksgiving Day dessert status in my opinion.

$2.49 for three and a half servings—could stretch it to four if you're serving with a big Turkey Day meal or anything like that. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix


 So listen...yes, it's Halloween in a few days and I hate the seasonal creep as much as anyone else. One holiday at a time. Yes, absolutely, yes. 

But stuffing really shouldn't be relegated to "just Thanksgiving" right? Like, when it's one of the first cold rainy days of the fall, when it's a great day to stay inside, watch some movies, play some games, read some books and snuggle some cats, a little warm stuffing will only do, right?

Such as it was this past weekend, and my lovely bride and I wanted to make one of her mom's classic comfort foods, chicken and stuffing. It's...what it sounds like it is, except with some cream of whatever soup and cheddar cheese all dumped in and mixed up. Not classy, per se, but pretty darn delicious. 

As you guessed by now, we used Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix. 

And you know what? it worked. Everything about the celiac friendly stuffing mix hit all the right buttons. We have no express need to be gluten free so we tend to judge these kinda products a bit closely. Honestly, and I mean this a compliment, I'd have no idea this was sans wheat if I didn't know.

No graininess. No dryness. No weird vibes. Okay, a few bites were a bit granular and sandy, but none so more that can happen with "regular" stuffing. That can be the fault of inadequate mixing more than anything. I'd never think that rice flour were capable of such a thing, but technology these days, I guess, right?

For taste, the stuffing gives off all the right flavors. There's all the savory aspects of chicken broth and celery and pepper and yeah, absolutely, a lot of salt. It's all there. If not making our particular dish, adding some apple slices or raisins like my mom did would have been a nice little touch. 

There's really not much to suggest that the TJ's GF stuffing is all that much different from Stove Top or even a decent homemade variety. It's easy and convenient and delish - all our kiddos gobbled it down and begged for seconds. Winner winner...turkey dinner? Grab some if you see it. $3ish bucks so it's worth it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix

A day without learning something is a day wasted, right?

Today, courtesy of Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix, I learned of jollof the dish.

Here's a tl;dr: jollof is a common West African dish with many variations. At its core are three ingredients: rice, stewed tomatoes, and seasonings. Simple...yet a a mainly blank canvas for all sorts of variations and seasonings and spices to tailer to different tastes. A summary Google search refers to jollof as being a "unifying" dish across different cultures - well, why not? Good food will always bring people together, right?

Is the TJ's take authentic? Nah, probably not. I mean, it's a convenience product first and foremost: boil water, add some butter and salt if you're feeling randy, dump in package contents, stir and simmer. There are some little tomatolicious bitey-bites tossed in for good measure so yeah, not quite "stewed" but it gives a similar enough effect.

Really the only big (and real) "complaint" here is a lack of robust flavor. Really, the whole mdish seems understated. Rice with garlic and onions and pepper and whatever else should have a little bit of a vibe to it, but honestly, not so much here. For the most part, the flavor is rather tame. Granted, there's a small, slight spice that kicks in, but it's super mild in the grand scheme. The word "spicy" seems much of an overstatement in both flavor and heat. I'm kinda tempted to add a spalsh of hot sauce to be honest. 

That being said, the jollof isn't bad....it's not just overwhelmingly great either. I'd eat it happily enough, both the leftovers we have and any repeat purchase at the $2ish this set us back. But yeah, if I were ever in the position to get real, actual, authentic jollof, I'd be pumped for it, with less hesitation due to lack of familiarity thanks to TJ's here. 

Pick it up for a side dish or even a main course. Each package gives four pretty ample servings. Won't change your world but might help broaden your horizon ever so slightly. Double threes here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons




 

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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Goddess Gouda

I've never been a fan of cheeses with mold growing on them, and I'm kinda allergic, so...fortunately, that green stuff in the wedge isn't mold. If you hadn't figured that out by the title of this post and the label on the product, then I'd have to call you out for being unobservant. But most of you have figured out that the green stuff is, in fact, green goddess-ness. I can't say it's "dressing" per se, because it looks like it's just a bunch of random green goddess-ish ingredients like avocado oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Sonia doesn't think the green goddess flavors come through much at all. I'm not saying they're strong, but I certainly taste them. They blend nicely with the semi-sweet creamy richness of the gouda as they are, and if amplified too much might upset the delicate balance.

We had it with crackers, tried it in vegetable soup, and crumbled it on salad. I'm sure there are dozens of other applications we didn't think of. It worked fine in all cases but wasn't something I'd consider a game-changer.


In the end this green goddess gouda didn't stand out from other Trader Joe's specialty cheeses, nor did it stand head and shoulders above any plain gouda we've had from TJ's or anywhere else. This particular wedge was $3.60. Personally, I don't think we'd purchase again, but it's not a bad concoction by any means—especially if you like green goddess flavors.

Bottom line: 6.5 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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Veggie Bites

Alright alright alright....who here is HYPED for the brand new Trader Joe's Organic Veggie Bites?!?!?!

C'mon now I can't hear you!

Who here is...wait, what, none of y'all? Not even one? All of y'all getting too pumpkin spice drunk to even realize these were a thing? 

Can't blame ya one bit. On a scale of anticipation excitement between root canal and ditching the kids at my parents' and running away for a weekend with my lovely bride, these new TJ veggie tots probably registered between getting an oil change and paying the water bill for me. 

Gotta maintain your vehicle, pay your utilities, and eat your veggies. Ho-hum. Not complaining, just saying. 

All that being said, for what they are, these veggie bites are alright. If you'd like the over domineering flavor of mirepoix in a snackyish ball form, these would be right up your alley. First three ingredients are carrots, celery and onions. That'd be mirepoix, and what really rides out the flavor. Can't taste the tomatoes at all. Sunflower seeds? Nope. Kale? there visually, but not much else. Sweet potatoes, which for some reason are lumped in with the veggies on the ingredients label (they're tubers!)? I mean, yeah, they're there, mostly because something has to be the stuff that holds all of it together. But taste? Can't taste them taters so much. That, a (un)healthy dose of salt, a little pepper. Meh. 


The form itself works decently though. A few minutes in our air fryer produced the two-bite sized veggie balls that were warm, soft and a touch greasy. Those sunflower seeds must be ground up or something, because there's no sense of biting into one anywhere. 

And that's about what there is to them. Eating them straight up was kinda boring, so maybe a good dip or condiment was needed. I could see something creamy-ish working alright. Our kids didn't like them one bit, and normally they like veggies, but none of them would tell Dada what was so offputting about them. Sandy and I ate most of them, and by that I mean mostly me, and that was mainly out of a sense of obligation to not waste food. Safe to say on that hypothetical kidfree vacay, we will not be stopping at TJ's to snag a supply of them. 

Not gonna lie: probably not gonna rebuy, ever, not of spite or repulsion but more out of there's not much worthy of a return. I'm truly indifferent to their existence and would rather eat raw or roasted veggies. Double twos. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Veggie Bites: 4 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.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Style BBQ Flavored Ridge Cut Potato Chips

Oh BBQ chips. Such a good ol' 'merican staple...yet so kinda stale. I mean, they're good, don't get me wrong, but when's the last time you had a truly innovative, outside the box BBQ chip? Possibly never? I guess maybe there's a tried-and-true mold, a classic, that's it's hard to innovate besides perhaps tweaking the mesquite or upping the spice a tad. 

But whereas most BBQ chippies go into more or less default Kansas City style, TJ's dare goes towards a different, delicious classic American BBQ genre: the Carolinas! And so shall it be with the the new Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Style BBQ Flavored Ridge Cut Potato Chips. 

Carolina BBQ is a lot more mustard and vinegar based. A touch sweet, definitely tangy, vaguely bitter, huge acidic bite, with varying degrees of spices and heat mixed in...it's not my favorite, but it's right on up there for my lovely bride. Give it to me on some smoked brisket anytime though. 

That's the experience here sans brisket. Except...there's something about a potato chip that doesn't help the flavor translate as well. Not sure if it's more the mustard or the vinegar, as both are successful on chips in other flavor combos, but the flavor builds only very slowly, from not-that-perceptible to mild to fairly good to this weird bitter aftertaste. 

It's a decent chip, but there's two things here that can make them better IMHO: first, more seasoning. More spice. More stuff. Having had the real deal, I'd love something closer to the complete Carolina experience here. Secondly, let's reconsider the chip type. These big crunchy ridge cut are big and chompy and kinda thick, and not terribly greasy....maybe that's holding them back to. I love the big crunch but maybe let's go kettle-cooked, hmm? A little added grease would make them much more snacky. 

Anyways, for $3 and a change up from the norm, we'll take them happily. Our kiddos hate them so there's a plus for us. Still...meh at best for me, while the wife is more in love than I am with them. Two from me, four from her.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Style BBQ Flavored Ridge Cut Potato Chips: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons