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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trader Joe's House Whip and Trader Joe's Greek Style Yogurt

Alright, I'll admit it, I'm scrounging a little here for some review matter. It's not entirely my fault. As part of some healthy eating kick the wifey and I are on, we're buying less prepackaged TJ's stuff, and especially we've cut down on all the tasty treats we used to gorge ourselves on. It's working. But then there's less selection from our grocery basket, unless you want to read about my thoughts about an apple or a bag of carrots. That's boring. From our last trip, I was thinking about two things in particular, but found out that Nathan had already reviewed some wasabi snacks, nixing that. No matter, we still had this new-fangled candy bar...except I spent too much time deedling and dawdling about what to write and how to work in some whole bit about kids and dinosaurs and this random Family Guy clip (true story) that Nathan swooped in and reviewed the new-ish PB&J chocolate bar before I could. Consider yourself spared. We've scrounged once or twice for review matter in the past, so I guess here goes my turn.

I'm left with two kinda boring, kinda plain products. However, I have a recommendation for both of them that you might not expect. I'm usually not one to give out cooking tips, leaving it to the pros who wrote the TJ cookbooks, but this is what I'm resorting to here.

First, let's go with Trader Joe's House Whip. Hmm, it's organic cool hwip. That's right, cool hwip. That's how I've been saying it around Sandy just to yank her chain. It drives her crazy. I don't know why. Anyways, I'm not usually a cool hwip kinda guy, and don't even get me started on that nasty spray junk from a can. But I like this. First, it's organic, and that's cool. Sandy says it shades towards tasting vanilla-y. Plus, while I'm sure it'll be a perfectly adequate ice cream topping or whatever else you use cool hwip for, Sandy's a genius and found a Weight Watchers dessert recipe that's simply cool hwip swirled around with a few dollops of your favorite peanut butter, separated into cupcake papers and frozen. My goodness. It helps I'm a peanut butter fiend, but man, those are awesome.  She made a dozen of them, and we were good and spread them out over a little more than a week, and just polished off the last of them tonight, and I want more already. Do it. Trust me. It's like rich peanut butter ice cream, except better, and in a few manageable, satisfying bites. You'll thank me.

You may also thank me after my suggestion for Trader Joe's Greek Style Yogurt. Sure, it's Greek yogurt, so use it as a sub for sour cream, or mix in some berries or honey or whatever. We've featured for many a taco night, or on top a baked potato, or a quick breakfast snag. That's not what I'm going for, even though I highly recommend it for all that. Did you know you can make pizza dough with just Greek yogurt and some self rising flour? I didn't. It's true. We've done it. Twice. It takes a little work and patience (because it looks NOTHING like pizza dough until all the sudden it does), but both times we've done it for homemade pizza, it's made an absolute killer crust. I like thick crust that's crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. That's what this makes, plus it doesn't really taste like Greek yogurt at all. If you like thinner and all-the-way-through-crispier, I think you can just spread it a little thinner, and it'll work. We go back and forth between the regular and low-fat versions (depending on who's shopping/paying attention) and have been equally pleased with both.

Well, there you have it. There's not much else to be said about the House Whip or yogurt. Trying them together might be a little odd. The Greek yogurt is an absolute staple in our house, and the House Whip just might as we come up with some different dessert ideas using it as a base. There's no great way to really rate them, but here goes:

 Bottom lines: Trader Joe's House Whip: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Greek-Style Yogurt: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Trader Joe's PB & J Milk Chocolate Bar

Another check-out display item ensnared us on our last TJ's run. That clever Trader Joe. But you probably figured that out already just from the picture. You clever readers.

It doesn't taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if that's what you're wondering. At least Sonia and I don't think so. We tasted chocolate first. Good chocolate. Milk chocolate. No surprises, no let-downs. Just chocolate. Then, after the chocolate, we tasted creamy peanut butter. Peanut butter and chocolate = win. It's difficult to screw it up. And everybody knows what a Reese's tastes like. So it's really that third and final element that's the wild card: the jelly.

Most of the time, when I make a PB & J sandwich, I use grape jelly. I think it tastes best. Sometimes I'll wind up with strawberry, which also works. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I've made a PB & J with raspberry jelly. Not that it would be terrible. It's just that we don't usually have raspberry jelly on hand. If we did, it might work, but again, we're not talking about a PB & J sandwich, we're talking about a chocolate bar. And I personally can't imagine any other flavor of jelly working with this candy. It's tart like the label says it is.

Sonia wishes there were a lot more of the jelly in the mix. I disagree. I think more jelly would have upset the delicate balance. I think with more jelly, TJ's might have run the risk of having it turn into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chocolate as the "bread." As it is, it's a nice chocolate and peanut butter dessert with a little novelty and a little uniqueness in the form of raspberry jelly. The raspberry jelly is just the proverbial "icing on the cake," and not much more. But it shouldn't be more. If it were more than that, this would have been a different product entirely.

Sonia gives this product 2.5 stars. I give it 4. The discrepancy in our scores is almost entirely due to our feelings about the raspberry jelly. I agree that it was delicious, but sometimes you have to be careful of having "too much of a good thing."

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Palak Paneer and Trader Joe's Malabari Paratha

This whole week I've been crazy sick. My wife and I both got hit with what I'm assuming is H2N4, or "warthog fever" as I've been calling it. It's the latest mutation of the swine flu. I figure if the first strain had something to do with swine, then there was a second mutation that might have been named after potbelly pigs or something, and so on, up through boars and such, until they arrive at this horrific version which will logically be named after warthogs. Furthermore, when Sonia and I cough, it rather sounds like the grunting of a wild warthog. So there you have it: warthog fever.

I've been delirious these past five days from a high temperature and lots of medication. I take this generic NyQuil that makes me hallucinate so heavily that I believe that I've fully recovered overnight and then once it wears off, I realize that I'm still sick as a dog. It's a great scam: one becomes so attached to thinking that one is well, that you go ahead and take some more, even if there's little or no evidence that the medication is actually helping you fight off the flu. Er, but anyway, that's all just to say that if this blog post doesn't particularly make sense, it's probably because that cat got my girdle.

Oftentimes when ill, I like to eat spicy foods when I have enough of an appetite, as I find that the spices help clear my sinuses and charge up my body with a little energy and liveliness. Now, I don't keep track of what or how often I eat very well, unlike Russ who wisely keeps a detailed log of his daily intake, but I feel like I ate very little during this sickness. It's possible that I ate multiple meals during some of my NyQuil blackouts and I simply can't recall, however, I would think there would be evidence in the form of dirty plates and crumbs, etc. But again, I digress. All that to say that I was fairly hungry and ready to eat when we heated up these Indian dishes from TJ's.

Even though Mr. Shelly wasn't a huge fan of his most recent product like this, my last Indian dish from Trader Joe's was yummy, as was, incidentally, my last Indian snack from Archer Farms. However, all good international cuisine streaks must come to an end. And come to an end it did. The appearance of the palak paneer is as unappetizing as anything I've ever seen from Trader Joe's. It's a deep green mush, not unlike freshly juiced wheatgrass, but thicker and slightly darker. There are a few chunks of cheese throughout it, but by and large, it looks like...well, you know—something I've vowed not to talk about on this or any other food blog.

The taste is heavily vegetabley. And the "green" flavor as I shall call it overshadows the taste of the cheese bits. It's sort of bitter, although it's also kind of hard to describe, because it is a unique bitterness, if that makes any sense. There are some Indian spices, which did help clear my head for a moment, but they're not strong enough to make this dish worth trying simply out of love for hot Indian spices. Now, it might be the medication talking, but green sadness always makes the heart get grumpy.

Instead of eating this paneer with naan bread, we ate it with malabari paratha—an Indian food I've never heard of before. They're like little Indian pancakes. I really can't complain about these too much, but it's hard to separate them from the paneer, which I was definitely not a fan of. We cooked the paratha on the stove, and they came out rather oily...but maybe that's because we used too much oil when we pan fried them...? I didn't think we used that much, but who knows. In the state that Sonia and I have been in, it's a wonder we didn't pan fry them in TheraFlu. They're soft, white, and you can tear pieces off to dip in your paneer or whatever you've got. They don't have a whole lot of flavor, but I don't think they're meant to be a stand-alone item. 

Sonia gives 2 stars to the palak paneer. I'll be merciful and give it 2.5. Sonia gives 3.5 stars to the paratha, and I give it 3. It's been a sick, foggy week people, so everybody keep track of the sunshine, because the leprechauns are on the go this year.

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Palak Paneer. 
Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10 stars.

Trader Joe's Malabari Paratha. 
Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 stars.