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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trader Joe's 12 Mushroom Mochi

Skipping right to the obvious question: no, there's neither 12 types of mushrooms in Trader Joe's 12 Mushroom Mochi, nor are there 12 mushrooms per mochi. Those both would be records. There's just two types of mushrooms involved, with the equivalent of about maybe one to one and a half mushrooms per piece. Are there even 12 kinds of mushrooms that are edible for us homo sapiens? I don't even know.

Nah, if you haven't guessed it by now, the 12 refers to the number of mochi (mochi? mochis? mochies?) in the box. My only previous experience with mochi have been of the ice cream variety, which are honestly a little bit weird to me. That's not meant in a judgmental way. Wiggily, doughy-skinned ice cream is a little bit of an odd concept for the classic suburban-raised American palette, but it doesn't mean I can't enjoy them. Regardless, these mochi were my first foray into non-desserty mochi (I didn't even know such a thing existed), and though I'll admit my hesitancy, there's a good part of me that was fairly intrigued.

Cooking them was a cinch that took just a couple minutes - brown in some oil, dump a little water on and cover. Nothing new if you've heated up frozen potstickers before, of which TJ's has some decent varieties. The dough tastes a lot like those - there to serve the purpose of holding in the filling and not stand out. But here's a difference, probably due to the size and shape: whereas smaller dumplings more or less keep intact, these mochi practically explode and gush all over the place once your teeth pierce the skin. Not sure of the right mouthfeel-related term to describe, but man, the first one was a bit much, but I was used to it by the time I ate my sixth and last one.

As far as taste, I'm not impressed or dismayed. They're very much a meh product, for me at least. The filling tasted a lot like the Trader Ming Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls that were fairly disappointing when we gave them a test drive. The mishmash mushrooms with carrots and onions and whatnot was salty, a little soy-saucey, and honestly not that terrific. Important note: there's oyster sauce in the filling, so despite mostly being a fungi, the mochi couldn't help being a little shellfish. Not vegetarian. Not that they taste all that oystery, just mushroomy and oniony.

Sandy, who thinks all mushrooms are really Goombas out to get her, could not be interested any less in trying these, and well, I was not going to plead a toddler to try them, either, so I made them for dinner on a night they both were out, and I shared them with Jack, the Chinese exchange student and mushroom aficionado who lives with us. "Pretty good," he said. "I thought they'd be sweeter, but they're not bad." Not sure how a sweeter taste would work, but, well, different flavor palettes I guess. He gave them a 3.5. I'd be open to giving them another try, but for now at least, I can't go higher than a 2.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 12 Mushroom Mochi: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, May 12, 2014

Trader José's Guacamame Spicy Edamame Dip

If you like the texture of guacamole and the taste of edamame beans, then this product might be right up your alley. It's slightly spicy, so there's something weirdly reminiscent of wasabi about it too, although the spice level doesn't quite have the nasal passage-clearing potency of actual wasabi sauce. I might be wrong, but I think most people can handle the spiciness of this product because it's balanced with cool, smooth edamame.

This stuff is great with chips, especially any kind of corn chips or tortilla chips. Sonia was a huge fan of it, gobbling down a bit with each meal until the tray was gone. I liked it too, but I noticed that after I had a bunch of it, I consistently got a very slight case of nausea. Not sure why. Edamame has never done that to me before, but I'm not sure that I've ever had edamame—which are really just unripe soybeans—in such large quantities before. I've usually only had a few at a time, whether they're an appetizer at a sushi restaurant, or in nuggets
or rangoons. It's harder to quantify the number of actual soybeans when they're just a big green mush. Like really, ask yourself how many avocados you're actually eating next time you have guacamole. "I just ate three quarters of an avocado. Maybe." A rough guesstimation is probably the best you'll be able to come up with.

But that brings me to my next point. As interesting and novel as this stuff may be for a single purchase, I simply couldn't see it replacing guacamole in our household. Weird nausea issue aside, I think I just like the taste of avocado better than edamame—especially when we're talking about green mush. Edamame beans are better as beans if you ask me. 

Sure, guacamame has a few advantages over regular guac. It has a really clever name. It doesn't brown nearly as fast, although we did notice the slightest bit of darkening toward the end of the package. It has fewer calories and less fat. Plus, it's actually spicy. They need to make a regular avocado-based guac with a bit more of a spicy kick. Now that would be an improvement over the original. This stuff is fun, weird, and tasty with tortillas, but guacamole is just a better product in the end. Sonia agrees on that point, but she could see herself alternating between guacamame and guacamole from one time to the next. After all, variety is the spice of life—and FYI, pickled jalapeño peppers are the spice of this $2.99 pack of guacamame. Sonia gives it 4 stars. I give it 3.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute

So, I'm not going to bore you with the details of my job, but generally speaking, when not moonlighting as amateur foodie hack extraordinaire specializing in all things Trader Joe's, I work at a durable medical equipment company that specializes in cardiac patients who are, generally speaking, post heart-attack, or at high risk for one. If you're intrigued much beyond that, here's my company's website. In my role, I get to read lots of doctor progress notes and whatnot for insurance authorizations. It's not a bad gig at all. It can be just...very repetitive. One thing I see overandoverandoverandover again: doctors advising patients to quit smoking, quit drinking as much, start exercising...and limit salt intake. Over and over and over again. Those are pretty much the four best things you can do for yourself, unless you partake in nonprescription drug use - cut that junk out too! Your body will thank you and just might last a little longer.

The salt thing is kinda tough, as it's in just about everything. And it's no secret why: it tastes gooood. Personally, I love me some sodium. Kinda hard for me to say "Na" too (Get it? Periodic table joke!). I just try to not add it too often to foods and avoid too much processed junk, and hoping my heart is happy for the effort.

Fortunately, there's stuff out there like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. Here's a spice blend that's decently full of flavor but...wait for salt! None! I can use as much as I want! Well, maybe, I don't know. But I know this: it works. I sprinkled some on some potatoes to cube up into foil packs and grill. Yum. The next night, Sandy made a delicious sausage-and-greens soup, for which this was a perfect match. Yum. It also works decently well on some eggs I scrambled for a quickie meal the other night. It seems kinda all-purpose and versatile, which I like.

You may wonder what it tastes like. Good question. As kinda a duh-ism, it tastes like whatever spices happened to be most prevalent on your bite. For a base, it's pretty close to a basic Italian seasoning blend - not too surprising given the basil and oregano and thyme and other usual suspects. Every couple bites, though, something else pops out, like the black pepper or cayenne or even the lemon or celery seed (enough so that I asked Sandy if she put celery in that soup, which she did not), so every bite is a little bit different. It's nothing earth-shattering or world changing by any means, but for me at least, it's the occasional viable alternative to the usual bottle of hot sauce that I dump on most everything.

If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Mrs. Dash...well, Google says you just may be right. At  least 21 Seasoning Salute is a much cooler name, and from the looks of things, comes in a more spice-rack friendly bottle. Also, I haven't priced Mrs. Dash recently (or ever), but the $2 or so for the TJ's version seems like a pretty solid deal.

Tried to get Sandy to say something interesting about the spice, and she just kinda looked at me. I don't blame her. The fact that she opted for this over hot sauce for said scrambled eggs, an upset perhaps on the level of Foreman over Frazier, does say a lot though. I think we're both pretty happy with this seasoning, so we salute you, Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.