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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trader Ming's Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls

I really wish I read food labels a little more carefully. In fact, there should be more of them. A lot more of them. GMO free? Organic? Fair trade? No antibiotics? Slap it on the label. Conversely, if it's some good ol' ammonium-washed beef or full of wood chips or even worse, straight from the gates of Monsanto, let me know about that, too. I think all of that should be mandatory. Let me know what exactly what I am buying to make an informed purchase. There shouldn't be a controversy about these kinda things.

Although, to be honest, I'd still probably screw things up and buy something I really shouldn't have. Like these Trader Ming's Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls. See, I snatched them on a solo trip, and my eyes inserted the word "egg" before "rolls" and missed the vegan V. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but had I noticed that, I would have turned the package over to read the ingredients to see what all was wrapped up in lieu of the typical egg roll ingredients, would have noticed the word "mushrooms", recalled that my wife absolutely detests all thing fungi, and would have moved on to a different dinner option. But that's not what happened, and all of that didn't dawn on me until about 10:30 at night when I snapped these awful pictures of them after a long day of cubicle jockeying, baby wrestling/juggling and house-working. I kept all that to myself, though, in hopes that if these were good enough as they were, with all the other stuff included, maybe, just maybe, Sandy wouldn't notice. Dinner could conceivably be salvageable if my man Trader Ming could come through as he almost always does.

Welllll....that would be a no. I baked all five rolls in the oven for just over half an hour, so a little past their recommended bake time of about 25 minutes. These needed more time, as while the wrappers were mostly crunchy and crispy and pretty tasty (dead ringer for crunchy lo mein noodles), all the wrapper parts that were touching the baking sheet were soggy and drippy and kinda nasty. That's even with turning them. And for Sandy, the wrapper was pretty much the highlight. One bite in and she grimaced. "Ugh! Nothing but mushrooms!" she said as she dumped out all the innards. Indeed, the insides were pretty much mushrooms and bean sprouts with a couple tofu tidbits all kinda mushed together in some grayish soy saucy substance. For some reason, the TJ Indian Hot Pockets (not their real name) came to mind, not because these rolls and those pouches were overly similar in taste, but because of the nondescript disappointing filling. Even at about 11 at night, when dead tired and hungry enough to consider eating my own shoe with enough hot sauce on hand, they were a major downer.

Must be that I'm a little too opposed to wasting food, as I ate two rolls that night, plus took two for lunch the next day, and ate them despite the rest of the wrapper getting all sogged up, thereby losing the best thing they had going for them. At least Il know not to drop my $3.99 on them again, as I can ensure these will not be a repeat purchase. Sandy's a little more adamant about that - when I mentioned I'd be writing this review, she just made what would be instantly and internationally recognized as a "barf face", made some sort of corresponding sound, and shuddered. And somehow that translates to a one, which must mean she really liked the few crispy bites of just wrapper she had. For me, these no-ovo-uh-ohs shouldn't have been the near disaster they were, but I'll go with a two.

Bottom line: Trader Ming's Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons      

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trader Joe's Coconut Oil Spray

Since it has long been established that Russ and I are "foodie-hacks," and since there has been a precedent set for a "celebrity guest reviewer" to show up in a post or two, I decided it was high time we found someone respectable enough for the title of "full-fledged foodie" to co-score an item here on our illustrious blog.

Not only the Director of Community at Consmr, she's also the co-founder of Philly's own Federal Donuts and a food writer for numerous publications even more impressive than this blog...please welcome Felicia D'Ambrosio!

At her suggestion, we're taking a look at this coconut-based cooking oil from TJ's. It was cheap, a little under $3 at my local store. It has delicious-looking coconuts on the packaging that make the product look like it could quite possibly be used as an ice cream topping as well as a cooking spray. (I found out the hard way that it should NOT be used as an ice cream topping).

But it does have a slight hint of coconut flavor if you ask me. Felicia found it to be "neutral in flavor," adding, "I haven't noticed much coconut in finished foods, since you are using so little in each spray."

I think she was hinting that if I'm tasting any coconut, that I'm probably using too much. But in true foodie-hack fashion, I slathered the pan with a generous coating of coconut oil, and at least with the first item I made, a stir fry, I could have sworn I tasted just a hint of coconut. The can does mention that it's "mild flavored," and after squirting some directly into my mouth, I did confirm that there is a subtle hint of coconut there. Granted, it's so subtle that spraying the product into your mouth is not a particularly pleasant experience, and it follows that any normal amount of the oil should probably not be tasted in your finished food. When I baked these crab cakes in the oven, I no longer detected any coconut.

But the taste of this product (or lack thereof) isn't the reason for using it. Felicia used it to make veggie burgers, steaks, and she raved about its non-stick properties in regards to baking. She recommends it for its "high heat tolerance on the grill and for baking as a healthier alternative to products like Pam." I did raise an eyebrow when I saw the words "propellant (no chlorofluorocarbons)" on the ingredients list. It's great to know the ozone's safe, but will we be safe? Apparently propellant is in most aerosol-style cooking sprays, so it's probably something that can't easily be avoided. 

But anyway, we were both impressed that actual coconut oil could be used as a replacement for traditional kitchen cooking sprays. Again, Trader Joe's appears to be ahead of the curve in terms of culinary innovation. There are other "health food" brands that make similar products, but they tend to be significantly more expensive than $3 a can. Felicia asks, "How long until big food companies pick up on this coconut cooking spray idea?" 


They're too busy finding new ways to kill us slowly, Felicia.


Ms. D'Ambrosio gives this product 5 out of 5 stars. I'll give it 4.5, docking half a star because part of me still wants it to taste more like coconut.


Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trader Joe's Druid Circles

If you went back far enough on my pasty, pale, Anglo-Saxon family tree, like, thousands of years, you would undoubtedly uncover a Druid or two among my ancestors. I've often wondered about their mysterious culture, their pagan celebrations, and their early knowledge of astronomy. Apparently they kicked it oldschool, pranced around Stonehenge gaily, burned wicker effigies, and sacrificed their brethren to Celtic gods, all the while snacking on tasty oatmeal cookies.

While I shall refrain from most of the former activities, I shall happily engage in the latter, because these are some of the best pre-packaged oatmeal cookies I've ever had. They're very moist, they're full of raisins and walnuts, and they fill my mouth with joy. The cookies actually taste like brown sugar, yet the flavors of the grains come through as well. They come in a little bag similar to that of the Sutter's Formula Cookies, and it's got tape that allows you to reseal it repeatedly, although toward the end of the bag, the stickiness kinda wears off.

The cookies taste surprisingly fresh. And not only is the cookie dough part soft and moist, but the raisins themselves taste and feel like they're straight out of a Sunmaid box.

They've got a nice little chunk of your daily fat and saturated fat, especially considering a "serving size" is one cookie. One cookie? This is the part of the blog post where TJ's makes me feel like I have some kind of revolting overeating habit because I had three cookies with my meal—and 45% of my RDA for saturated fat.

Oh well, there's always a catch. Cookies this good can't be good for you. They might have gotten double 5's had we not looked at the nutrition information. As it stands, Sonia and I will each give them 4 stars.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.