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Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts

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.

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.

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.

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, November 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Stuffed Roast


A couple weeks ago a weird article about a human meat flavored product was going viral around the interwebs. Yep. Vegan peopleburgers from Sweden. A quick read of the article certainly raises more questions than it answers, at least in my mind. Like: how do they know what peopleburgers taste like? Also: what market are we targeting here? Native cannibal tribes who are running out of victims? Luciferian elites that consume children but are becoming wary of being exposed? Even meatatarians and carnivores should be able to get behind a cause that encourages people to eat fewer people, right? 

Okay, okay. Sorry. That subject is macabre and kinda gross for Friday fare on a food blog. But it got me thinking: if I eat something like Turkey-Less Turkey and I like the taste on the whole, but I don't think it tastes anything like real turkey, it's kind of a flop, right? But on the other hand if they don't tell me it's supposed to taste like turkey and I still generally like the taste, then it's a thumbs up, no? Likewise if a vegannibal eats a peopleburger and his reaction is "Delicious! But it tastes nothing like REAL people meat," then wouldn't it have been smarter to just leave it up in the air as a "meatless plant-based sandwich" that may or may not taste just like real dead human?

Again, sorry for the dark subject matter. If you're anything like me, you find it mildly amusing. Also, I just made up the word "vegannibal."

This product isn't necessarily supposed to taste like turkey or people or any other particular animal. It's just a "meatless plant-based roast with savory vegetable stuffing." I like that. It is what it is. Nothing less. Nothing more.


Although, now having said that, the finished product looks a bit like a baked ham, complete with scoring lines. Perhaps this product is scored for the same purpose: so the baste will penetrate a little deeper into the "meat." I basted ours with avocado oil. Tasty.

The texture was just a tad more rubbery than any type of roasted meat I've had. Maybe rubbery isn't the right word...perhaps "chewy" would be more accurate and a little less insulting to the roast. I suppose a few more minutes in the oven might have remedied the chewiness to some degree, but I was concerned about having it dry out. I used the "heat from frozen" directions and had it in the oven for a total of 85 minutes, basting twice during the process.

There's a nice blend of seasoning in the roast, including onion, garlic, lemon, and paprika. It's not particularly potent, though, so you might want to throw on some extra spices from the rack to suit your taste. The overall flavor is savory and pleasant, and honestly it's not a far cry from that of ham.

Unlike the aforementioned Turkey-Less Roast, this product doesn't have any kind of gravy. I'm not really into gravy that much, but I found myself wanting some here. The roast isn't dry per se, but the uniformity of the dense texture just begs for some kind of liquid condiment. The vegetarian gravy included with the Turkey-Less product was surprisingly good and would have worked with this offering, too.

I liked the central stuffing part of the product more than the outer portions. The stuffing is a little more interesting, texture-wise, and there are some veggie elements you can see and taste like kale and cauliflower.

$5.99 for 5 servings. Pairing this roast up with other sides like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce would work nearly as well as a traditional meat-based holiday meal. I'd happily eat this if I were giving thanks with vegans or vegetarians or just some other adventurous eaters. It's wheat-based, rather than soy, which is another plus in my book. I think we're looking at about 3.5 stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Tzatziki Dip


I was highly skeptical about this condiment.

I've never been a fan of vegan cheeses. I honestly think I've had more consistently edible vegan fake meat than vegan cheese or vegan dairy in general. Sonia and I both love our dairy products.

Likewise, I love me some tzatziki sauce, so I was curious how this would turn out, curious what they'd use in place of yogurt, curious if they'd be able to mimic both the taste and texture of that unique, tangy Middle Eastern sauce.

Just as I suspected, the flavor is nearly identical to traditional tzatziki, but the texture is somewhat different. The taste is full of dill and tangy citrus flavors, with notes of garlic and pepper in the background. There is a creaminess there, too. But it's not quite like dairy cream. It appears they used an alternative that's made of coconut oil and potato starch. Yikes! That's a weird combo to replace Greek yogurt, right?


But you know what? It works. It works in terms of flavor—somehow it doesn't taste like coconut or potatoes. It really tastes pretty darn close to actual tzatziki.

Now the texture is another story. To me, it's significantly thicker than the traditional stuff. It's a bit starchy, too, but still there's this quality that nearly imitates actual thick yogurt. And in the end, unusually thick tzatziki isn't really bad at all. It's easier to get a bunch of it on your falafel or veggies or pita or whatever you're eating it with. It comes out of the tub in little globs. It's much less runny than traditional dairy tzatziki. It's honestly weirdly good that way. I don't know what the dairy equivalent might be. Like maybe...what if they made tzatziki with cottage cheese instead of Greek yogurt?


Sonia's a big fan. She likes it better than traditional tzatziki and promises she'll buy it again. Four and a half stars from her.

$3.99 for the tub. Although I'm a fan, I can't say it'll replace dairy tzatziki for me completely. If I were vegan or lactose-intolerant, I'd be all over this stuff every time I stepped into a Trader Joe's. Three and a half stars from me and an overall thumbs up.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Trader Joe's Crisp Crunchy Crisps

Inflation is here, friends. I'm sure you've noticed your grocery bill going up lately. Even if you're buying the exact same stuff week after week, the prices keep rising, slowly but surely. Or, in some cases, the manufacturers simply put less of the product in the packaging and keep prices on an even keel. You know, like a bag of chips—they can fill it with fewer and fewer chips and then literally inflate the rest of the bag with air...which may very well be the case here.

I mean, I've never purchased this product before, and I'm pretty sure it's new-ish, but that's what strikes me first about the product before even opening the bag: it's barely even half full of crisps. For $2.29, these things better be good.  Made primarily of pea, potato, and chickpea flours, these chips are unique, if nothing else. At first bite, I thought they were a bit boring and maybe a little bland. I expected them to have a more pungent, earthy array of flavors, but found them to be more like plain rice crackers.


After shoveling a few more crisps down the hatch, I started to taste that pea-ish earthiness that I expected up front. It's there. It's just more subtle than I was expecting at first. They're moderately salty, as well. Maybe even a tad too salty. 

True to their name, they are indeed crispy...er, crisp...and crunchy. Gosh, I mean, these would have been a complete failure if they had been soggy or soft or chewy. The bag says to try pairing them with your favorite dips. I did. They do go well with things like guac or corn and bean salsas. Their subtle taste lets the spiciness of the condiment shine through and provides a nice crunchy vehicle for consumption. Though somewhat airy, they're not as brittle as you might assume, so they can carry a dollop of dip without breaking...at least not every time.

Sonia liked them un poquito mas than I did at first, but they definitely grew on me. By the end of the bag, I was pining for more. I do still wish they tasted a tad more like actual chickpeas. 

Four stars from the wifey. Three and a half stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Bolognese Style Pasta Sauce

Funfact: when Sonia was young, her elementary school classmates emotionally scarred her by calling her "Sonia Bologna" on the playground. 

Another funfact: her husband would resurrect the nickname many years later, you know, just because. 

Yet another funfact: Sonia and her husband would enjoy a pasta sauce from her namesake city of Bologna even further into the future—in late May of 2021, just yesterday, in fact.

This is actually the second Bolognese sauce we've reviewed from Trader Joe's over the years. The first one was made with turkey. This one is made with "meatless plant-based crumbles." From what I've read, it's a sauce that's traditionally made with beef...but enough cows and octopuses have given their lives for the advancement of Trader Joe's brand online criticism this week. Time for a vegan option.


Although it's not really apparent in the picture, the sauce contains a fair amount of the meatless chunks mentioned above, along with plenty of veggie pieces, too. The pea protein-based crumbles flaunt a mouthfeel somewhere between an actual bite of ground beef and a very small cube of tofu. 

The sauce coats the pasta fairly evenly. While not super thick, it's chunky enough to remain hearty.

There's a rich, tomatoey flavor. The blend of spices is somewhat milder than I expected for an Italian-inspired pasta sauce. I remember tasting lots of fennel in the turkey Bolognese—almost as if it contained bits of black licorice. That's not the case here. The overall flavor is more oniony and garlicky, with notes of less pungent elements like basil and celery.

$3.99 for 18 oz of sauce, easily enough for dinner for two to four people. We ate ours atop some large spiral pasta and were pleasantly surprised. Might buy again.

Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta

If you've lived in a northern climate most of your life, you probably think palm trees are exotic. I'm guessing you've seen them on vacations when traveling to tropical or Mediterranean climes, and understandably, you probably associate them with good times and easy living. I sure did until I moved to Southern California. I was in awe of the majestic palm trees lining the streets of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley for my first couple years there on the west coast.

But at least for me, the novelty eventually wore off. Palm trees are actually kind of messy. Their large, cumbersome leaves fall all over the place and litter the sidewalks and roadways, they provide relatively little shade, and at least the ones in our old neighborhood frequently smelled like urine—and, um, you know, not from dogs urinating on them. I guess I can't blame the palm trees for that one, but the point is that my perception of palms changed.

Likewise, I had no idea that any part of a palm tree was edible. I'd heard of hearts of palm before but didn't realize they came from actual palm trees. I don't think most Angelenos know that either, otherwise they'd be chopping down the trees in their neighborhood and selling hearts of palm from a little street cart as a side hustle.


But if there aren't any hearts of palm vendors in your area, there's always this simple option from Trader Joe's. It's ready to heat and eat right out of the package. It comes in a vacuum-sealed pack, and all the little noodles are densely wadded together in a light liquid. At first, I thought it might be some kind of oil, but there's only one ingredient listed on the package: hearts of palm. So it must be the natural juice that comes from the palm plants.

At any rate, the pasta slides right out of the pack and into your pan with a decent amount of moisture. There's an earthy, planty, almost bittersweet smell at first. It's not unlike that of an artichoke heart. As the product cooks, the noodles disentangle and the smell evolves into something more squashy, or maybe even sweet potato-esque. It's a subtle fragrance.

Likewise, the taste is very neutral and understated. Without any fixins of any kind, I think it tastes like a white squash more than anything else. We mixed ours with some other veggies, tomato cream sauce, and some parmesan cheese, and it worked out quite nicely.

As far as texture is concerned, it's much more like zucchini spirals or other vegetable-based "pasta" than any real linguine. It's a great base for anything you might put on regular pasta, but it's just a tad stringier than grain-based noodles.

Scoring this as just a regular guy walking into a TJ's store from off the street rather than a hearts of palm connoisseur, I'd give this about three stars. I don't think I'll pick it up again any time soon, but it was another adventure in exotic-to-me foods, thanks to my good buddy Trader Joe. It's vegan, gluten-free, and super low in carbs, so if you're on a restricted diet, this is something to consider. $2.99 for the three serving box. 

Sonia concurs with my assessment and liked the product even a little more than I did. Looks like a four star affair on her end.

Bottom line: 7 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.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Trader Joe's Riced Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Risotto

Since Americans apparently like to "let their voices be heard" and stuff, I'm setting up a little referendum of my own. Voting is all the rage here in these United States as of late, so let's have a mock election for the president of the pantry...the culinary commander in chief...the premier of the palate. It's another Micropoll! Please vote down below.

Just assume that all variations of each answer are included under the broader category. For example, if you like "apple cider" or "apple cinnamon," you'd vote "apple." If you like "pumpkin pie" or "pumpkin spice," you'd simply vote "pumpkin." If your favorite fall flavor is something other than what I've included in this particular poll, then just leave a comment below.

In all honesty, I don't think butternut squash can keep up with those other choices, but hey, you never know. Likewise, Kanye West could be the next president of the United States. Wouldn't that be a trip? #BirthdayParty2020

In case that poll isn't displaying correctly on mobile, just click here to vote.


Fortunately, unlike American politics, we don't have to choose just one delicious flavor to consume all autumn long. We can indulge in all the many tasty treats fall has to offer. And I'm glad I got to try this unique "risotto" dish this year.

It's easy to prepare. Like most Trader Joe's products, the heating time went well over their estimation of 10 minutes in the pan. The frozen pellets of sauce had just barely melted at the 10 minute mark. I let it heat up a bit more and cooked off most of the liquid. The sauce eventually went from watery to creamy, if that makes sense. It was probably more like 15 minutes when all said and done, and it turned out pretty well. 

If anything, I think the riced cauliflower gets just a tad softer than the rice in regular risotto, but when consumed with the sauce and butternut squash, the consistency is very creamy and the overall effect is very pleasant, authentic, and similar to a traditional risotto dish. What can't they do with riced cauliflower?

The flavor here is subtle—it may be even verging on too subtle, as in...you know, kinda bland. It's a creamed veggie essence with delicate notes of garlic and cheese. There's earthy, planty, nutty flavors, and the light sweetness of butternut squash. We just wish the flavors were all just a tad stronger and richer. It tastes vaguely fall-ish, but I'd be happy to consume it any other time of year. Trader Joe's Riced Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Risotto isn't really a stand alone entree in my opinion, but it makes a great side dish for your choice of protein. We served ours with salmon and it paired perfectly.

$3.69 for the 16oz bag. We'd consider buying it again. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Trader Joe's Mini Spicy Pumpkin Samosas

It's an important distinction to make: these are spicy pumpkin samosas, not pumpkin spice samosas. Pumpkin spice samosas would be weird and maybe even a little gross. Hopefully even you pumpkin haters can set aside your disdain for the fall gourd and consider giving these a try...that is, if you like Indian food.

Because the spice blend here isn't ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and clove. It's cilantro, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Yes, I'm aware ginger is on both lists, but the order in which it falls within the list is significant. It's a background flavor here, not the main attraction. These samosas are a little sweet, too, but they're not "pumpkin pie" sweet, if you know what I mean.


In addition to real pumpkin, Trader Joe's Mini Spicy Pumpkin Samosas have paneer cheese and sweet potato within them, too. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if that combo was going to work, but it definitely did. Both Sonia and I were fans from our first bites.

We've always loved Indian food. After Mexican, Indian is probably our favorite type of international cuisine. There's a sweet, spicy, savory curry essence to these appetizers that works oh-so-well and is oh-so-unique. It's a harvesty kinda flavor, but it's also unmistakably East Indian-inspired. The heat level is mild to medium—enough to enhance the flavor but not enough to cause any discomfort to someone who enjoys spicy foods.

Like other Trader Joe's samosas we've tried, the breading here is crispy, flaky, buttery, and delectable. It might be a little on the oily side, but it adds to the richness of the flavor. The only complaint I can think of is that I wouldn't have minded some kind of chutney in a little packet on the side for dipping. I know, I know, I always make that same complaint, but a bit of chutney as uncommon as these little apps might have made them even more delicious.

$3.99 for 12 mini samosas. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.