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Showing posts with label veggies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label veggies. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce

Here's an interesting one. Not feeling marinara sauce on your pasta dish tonight? Don't want Alfredo either? This product might be the alternative you've been looking for.

Or maybe not. The flavor is...interesting. It tastes sour more than anything else, but also bitter, tangy, cheesy. It's quite flavorful, the only question is: will you as an individual like this flavor? 

I could see it being quite off-putting to some and delightful to others, much like the artichoke timbales we looked at a while back, though I think I liked this product more than those oddball appetizers.

You can kind of tell from the picture this product isn't as liquidy as most tomato-based pasta sauces or even Alfredo. It's sort of a coarse, custard-like consistency—like pureed artichokes with cheeses mixed in. It doesn't look very appetizing by itself: almost reminiscent of baby food.


Of course it thins a bit when heated. We also found it works best as a very modest coating. Neither Sonia nor I wanted to pile it on too thick, since the flavor was almost too intense.

It was fine by itself on plain pasta. However, contrary to our initial assumptions, the wifey and I both liked it better when we added some sweet chicken sausage to the dish. The sweetness helped offset some of the sauce's astringency.


Sonia says she'd buy it again just to have that third pasta sauce option on hand. I don't know if I'd ever prefer this over good old-fashioned Ragu or whatever, but I feel more worldly and sophisticated having tried it. $3.49 for the jar. Three and a half stars from the missus. Three from me for Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli

 

There's nary a veggie our family doesn't love. Our twice a week Costco bill surely validates that. The only veggie I remain fairly wary of would be a kohlrabi, just because it looks too much like something I should yank from the ground and toss at a Shy Guy or Ostro a la Super Mario 2....that game frustrated me too much as a kid, and even in recent years, trying to show my kids how "awesome" it was. I don't need memories of my 8 bit trauma on my dinner plate. 

But yeah, even Brussels sprouts make the cut here. Love 'em in all varieties of ways, but mixin' 'em with bacon makes 'em even better. So, totes obvi, Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli was a must get once they popped up in store. 

You gotta really like bacon to like these pasta creations. Yes, the ravioli is green as it has some spinach powder added to try to amp up the sprout factor. Maybe it's supposed to look like some sort of cruciferous concoction. But really....take a bite. It's bacon! So much of it, all ground up and mixed in with some not too chunky Brussels, and a smattering of cheese sauce-ish base. The package also says caramelized onions, and yeah, if I tried hard enough, I could kinda taste them...but mostly, it was bacon and soft cheese with only the occasional fibrous lil chunkie that suggested vegetative content. 

In other words, you're gonna want some veggies on the side here, folks. 

Nonetheless, it was a quick, tasty, fun meal. All we did was boil them up which took no time as they're sold fresh, then we added a little oil. The kids sprinkled (or in the case of our seven year old, totally cakked them) with Parmesan cheese, whereas I was pretty content to eat them as is. The ravioli would probably do okay with a variety of sauces, but perhaps a lighter one would be suggested - I feel as though some taste would get lost in something too creamy, too heavy or too rich. 

$3.99 for a package that yield two pretty ample servings. That seems about right, with prices what they are these days.  Two packages were more than enough four crew. These will be a staple for a quick, easy, fairly delish family meal this fall. Double fours here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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 



 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry


 Yeah, yeah, I know, we review plenty of snacks and treats here - more than plenty, but believe me, we eat our veggies too, at least my lovely bride, our kiddo squad and I. Produce takes up a significant chunk of our grocery bill and food storage, and as long as we don't stick it in the basement refrigerator, almost never our garbage bags. The beer fridge unfortunately where fruits and veggies go to be neglected and die.

We just don't review too many here, except when something new and exciting like Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry comes out, we just gotta try it!

Wait...what? This isn't brand new and has been around for months...or maybe even years? I could have sworn I've never seen this before - maybe it's somehow magically new to the Pittsburgh region (we are, after all, pretty much last to get anything), or maybe we do need to pay more attention to the veggies at TJ's after all. 

Anyhoos, what you see here is what you get. It's a nice little medley of everyone's trendyish low crab fave - zoodles! -  carrots, diced bell peppers, edamame, broccoli and green beans, all awash in a soy-based gochujang-tinged sauce. Nothing fancy, and honestly, a touch underwhelming, for a couple reasons. 

First and foremost - where's all the zoodles?!?!?!?! For a supposed four serving bag, which Sandy and I easily split two ways, we each got maybe two bites of zucchini. C'mon now.  If we stuck to a serving each, does that mean one bite - or less - for each? Give up the zoodles! 

Second, this would be much better off as a fresh and not frozen product. There's so much moisture from the freezing process here that everything seems a little soft and limp, aside from the edamame. It also took forever for the sauce to vaguely thicken up which further contributed to the over-steamed sensation. 

And third - well - maybe this is just me and my mixed experiences with gochujang, but I'd expect just a touch more of a kick. The spice level here is pretty mild, more of a touch of warmth than anything. It's pretty tasty and pleasant, don't get me wrong, but seems like maybe a touch less soy and a bit more chili pepper would do the trick. 

It's not an awful mix, but don't get it thinking it can be a meal by itself. We added some grilled chicken and even then it was somewhat lacking, even when doubling up servings. A little rice, or a lot more zoodles, would have been a good touch. 

In all, it's not bad mix for what it is, but I'd much prefer the raw/roasted/fresh veg we're used to than this frozen mix. At least it didnt come from a can. I'd pick it up again, maybe but maybe a couple zukes abd break out our spiral cutter too. And add some of our own gochujang to kick it up. or maybe just makes it mself, can't be that hard...anyways....

Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Artichoke Timbales


Never had a timbale before. Even after doing some internet research, I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. I got at least three different versions. My natural inclination would be to pronounce it the Spanish way: teem-BALL-ey. The one thing every source agreed upon was that timbales are named after a type of drum, although which type of drum was yet another point of contention. It's either a timpani, a kettledrum, or a tom-tom.

But I suppose that since we're just talking about a general shape, all of the above could be applicable at least somewhat. At any rate, that's probably enough blabbering on about the name and shape of this food. How does it taste?

Well, honestly...it's nothing to write home about. I mean, there are obviously artichoke hearts in there, and I like artichoke hearts. But even the hearts aren't bursting with flavor. They're more salty than anything else. The quiche-like base doesn't add a whole lot to the flavor, either.


Sonia commented, "there's an earthy, planty taste about them." I totally agree with that assessment, although she apparently meant it as praise. I'd say the conglomeration is a little too planty. There's almost a bitterness about the whole thing. The two cheeses, mozzarella and grana padano, don't provide enough flavor to save the dish. There's a significant presence of olive oil—like you can actually taste the olive oil, which isn't necessarily something I look for in an appetizer. Although there was no broccoli mentioned in the ingredients, the beautiful wifey and I both tasted something decidedly broccoli-ish.

A more impressive, more complementary, or more potent spice blend might have gone a long way with this hors d'oeuvre, but it's just not there. I tried numerous additives, but nothing redeemed it completely. I guess I should give an honorable mention to the Italian Style Sprinkle, but even that failed to completely exonerate these pseudo-souffles.

There's nothing to complain about as far as the texture is concerned. It's slightly crispy on the top and softer toward the middle and bottom. The artichoke hearts floating throughout the mixture aren't chewy or stringy at all, so that's a plus. The overall texture is not unlike that of a quiche or souffle as mentioned above, although there are very different ingredients used here. Looks like the body is made of potato starch, rice starch, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable bouillon, among other things.

Once again Trader Joe's introduces us to an exotic, foreign appetizer for a mere five bucks or so, brought to us all the way from Italy. I can't fault them for that, but I wouldn't buy these apps again. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two stars from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 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.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie


 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls

Yes, dear, I left the air fryer on the counter.

I know we've been trying hard to do better about keeping everything cleaner and uncluttered. And I know that, on first impression, it makes no sense to have the air fryer out as we just had the crockpot there after that delicious lasagna you made last night. I put that....mostly away before getting out the air fryer. The crock still needs to be cleaned fully and is soaking in the kitchen sink if I recall correctly. 

So here's why the air fryer is out...I needed to write a review of the new Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls.

Yes, I know, we ate them as a part of lunch the other day, and we both generally liked them. But, I kinda forgot what they tasted like, so this morning, before you awoke, to try and write the review, I made and ate one at like 5am. Hence the airfryer out, it needs to be cleaned, I'll take care of it, and don't worry, there's still some spring rolls for you too. I hope all that satisfies you. 

Remember how good these are, though? I mean, as far as greasy, delicious comfort, it's tough to beat a good spring roll at times. Especially when it's full of soft, tasty pulled pork, and mixed in with glass noodles and the usual veggie suspects like carrots, green onions and cabbage. The noodles have just a touch of that mung bean taste to add a little sly funk, and of course there's pretty ample soy sauce to help tie everything together. The garlic and black pepper on top on all that...chef's kiss. 

That and I'm not sure how I forgot about the hickory smoke taste. It's...kinda the dividing line on the product. On one hand, it's a nice added touch and is definitely, unmistakably present in every bite. But, it's definitely an added flavor, as in, the pork itself wasn't hickory smoked (which would have been delicious) but is instead an added smoke flavor. As a result, long after the spirng roll is down the hatch, that smokey taste lingers on. Granted, it's not overkill like way too many liquid smoke-infused foods that made me more or elss swear them off and only go for actual smoked stuff ten times out of ten, but still. It's done well enough that I'll sign off on them, but I'd still opt for actually smoked meat, not meat splashed with "natural hickory smoke flavor."

Anyways, love, I'll get to that airfryer on my coffee break, and next time we go to TJ's if you want more of these I won't complain. They were what, $3ish a box for four rolls for us to share? Meanwhile if served these at a restaurant they'd be at least twice as much and justifiably so. Worthy of another go, I'd say, and I think you'd say the same. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  

 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Vegan Thai Green Curry


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Fried Olive Bites


Kalamata olives I'm familiar with. It's one of the few foods Sonia is allergic to that I'm not. And that's one of the reasons I chose this app for elevensies yesterday—so I wouldn't have to share with the beautiful wifey. Haha. You think that's mean? Wouldn't it have been much meaner to share them with her under the circumstances? She actually has a pretty severe reaction that involves swelling in her extremities and face.

But there were also Castlevania olives, er Castelvetrano rather, in the box. Neither of us recognized that ingredient. If there's some way to tell the Kalamata olives apart from the Castlevania ones, we didn't figure out how to do it. It all tasted pretty much the same to me: salty, earthy, slightly bitter.


The fried breadcrumb coating was nice and crispy but didn't add a ton of flavor. As far as the stuffing was concerned, cream cheese was fine, but I would have preferred mozzarella or possibly even something more exotic than that. There's blue cheese listed in the ingredients, but it's pretty low on the list. Both Sonia and I are sensitive to blue cheese, but I didn't feel it at all. It might have lent an extremely subtle moldy tang to the filling, but for the most part, it's just plain cream cheese in there.

Trader Joe's put out a similar product stuffed with chicken a few years back. Not sure if Sonia and I tried those at the time. If we did, they weren't very memorable, and apparently the Shelly family wasn't super enthused.

Before it was all said and done, Sonia did take her life into her own hands and tried a bite. She was much more positive about these olive bites than I was, but I think that's mainly because she can't have them. "People always want what they can't have" and all that.


These would go pretty fast at a fancy Christmas party if they were piping hot straight out of the oven and people were quickly grabbing just one or two. I don't recommend them as a mid-morning snack or a substitute for lunch—although I'm thinking most normies don't do weird stuff like that like I do—at least not with the same regularity.

Anyway, these aren't bad if you're into olives and cream cheese, but we probably won't purchase again.

Bottom line: 6 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.

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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo

 

Now that I once again am back to work at home in my basement at least half the time, I've recalled the numerous perks to this kind of arrangement. No commute. Sweatpants. No one minds if I sing along poorly to Amazon Music. Dependably good coffee. There's still catty coworkers, but at least they're the purry, four-legged kind. 

And if for lunch i want something that can be either microwaved or baked in the oven...I can go for the oven. No holds barred. 

Such as it was with the new Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo. Nuke it for two or three minutes, or bake for 40-45? In CubicleLand, there's only the one...at home there's choices...well..let's take advantage then. That's exactly what I did. Lunch lovin' in the oven. Boom. 


Well-seasoned readers may recall I'm a huge fan of the TJ's soy chorizo. It's what made me want to join the TJ's review train years ago - that stuff is legit! And that's coming from a carnivore so that was a huge selling point right there. 

So here's the problem, sorta: this scramb-bowl of stuff just doesn't hold it's own by itself. Not really. This can be seen either way: on one hand, it's adaptable and suitable for a variety of tatse palates and preferences and attitudes. On the other: just feels like it lacks too much. For such a flavor and salt bomb, there's an almost surprising lack of vibrant flavor. No real spice or heat - the teeniest of smidgiest of tinges, sure, but not much. After a few bites I couldn't help but unload a torrent of my alltime favorite TJ's product into my bowl and mix around. Granted, that's kinda my default thing to do with eggy scrambles like this, so take as you will. 


That's the other thing. Aside from flavor, there's something else amiss here to really fill out the meal. It could be..an avocado. Or some sweet potatoes. Or a tortilla. Or tortilla chips. Or even some rice and beans. Something....something is needed to make the whole thing seem more complete. For me, at lunch that meant a bunch of crumbled up sweet potato chips because that's what I had. It kinda worked. 

Everything else is a plus. The tofu does a tremendous job emulating scrambled eggs - mine were dry and firm from its oven prep, so if microwaved YMMV. The cheese seemed like real actual cheddar enough, not a cocounut oil creation. Nothing offputting or weird or distasteful. If I had to go vegan, this would be a great convenience option I'd grab without hesitation. Just need the salsa and something else, too. 

There you have it. Not a bad deal all the way around for the $3ish bucks. Not earth shattering either, and made my day of insurance verifications and authorizations go by a little more happily with a satisfied belly. But not as happily as butchering "SemiCharmed Life" with only myself and the kitties as an audience. Semicharmed life, semihappy meal. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

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 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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces


 Another day, another quick hit. That's just how it rolls right now with my ever growing family as the world continues to reawaken. 

But no time for the details on all that. You want a real quick hit? Grab a shortie of Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces next time you see them. They're either $1.99 or $2.99...don't remember...doesn't matter. 

Crispy. Crunchy, A touch greasy. Fleshy. Spicy. A wee salty, And perfection. It was love at first sight. There's no way this go wrong, unless you're one of the odd types who wouldn't enjoy something like this. Grab a handful and place on whatever you're eating. Burger? Taco? Pizza? Salad? Eggs? Soup? Sandwich? Mashed potatoes? Mac n cheese? Heck, probably even ice cream? Yes, to all of those, and more. 

There's nothing magical or mystical here. It's just thin slices of jalapeño battered lightly and fried (presumably) into an irresistably crunchy topping. Or, let's be honest...snack. I ate nearly 2/3rds of a cannister all by myself, and stopped only because I didn't want my wife's ire to consume me while enjoying chili later on that night. These are amazing. 

My only critique? There were too few "big pieces" of pepper. Those pieces are the best, when your teeth cut thru the crispy shell and sink into that mildly spicy, fleshy jalapeño....man, I'm making myself hungry again. Love 'em, need more of 'em. There were quite a few middle sized guys and naturally a handful of empty fried crumbs. Those are all tasty as well...but we're here for the big tasty jalapeños. 

Get 'em, you won't regret 'em. Pair nicely with a hoppy IPA.  Delish, and darn near perfect. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Onion Chips

I never really got Funyuns.

Considering how much I love the taste of onions, I'm just never in the mood to have oily corn meal rings that vaguely taste like the popular root vegetable. I mean, they're not terrible. I just always wondered why they couldn't have some actual onion bits in them. 

Sure, they're optimized for sitting in unrefrigerated vending machines for weeks or months at a time, which wouldn't work with real onion pieces. But what if the onion pieces were dehydrated? Hmm. Then we might have a real winner.

And what if, furthermore, there was no cornmeal at all and the only ingredients were "onions, rice bran oil, and salt"? Well, then, my friends, you would have these: Trader Joe's Crispy Onion Chips.


I'm not saying everybody will enjoy these unique chips as much as I do. In fact, I'd be shocked if many people are with me on this one. The chips flaunt a texture not unlike that of styrofoam. Crispy? Yes, but they melt in your mouth in the most delightful and unexpected way.

The natural flavor of onions is on full display here. They almost taste like a rice-based snack, dusted with some complex array of garlicky additives and exotic seasonings. There's even something buttery about them. But all that's there is onion, salt, and oil. Amazing, really. 

If you don't have a weird affinity for onions like Sonia and I do, you might not be as enthused. But for all onion-lovers, I'd say these are worth at least one purchase. $2.69 for the 1.4 oz bag. It says it's one serving, but even Sonia and I managed to stretch it to multiple sittings. If you eat this whole bag all at once, then dang, I guess you must really, really like onions.

Four and a half stars from me. Four and a half from the wifey.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.