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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit

Warning: a completely predictable review of Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit is about to start. Read on at your own risk of spending the next three to five minutes of your life knowing exactly what's gonna be said here.

First, I'm gonna say something about kids and being busy because of kids and work and stuff and life and whatever else that having the time to actually cook a dinner is a rare treat, because when we're not busy we're actually somewhat aware of how tired we are. Because of this, we rely a bit too much on boxed mac n cheese and other super quick meals. But we also want to be vaguely healthy.

So next then is the suggestion to purchase said TJ's soba noodle stir fry kit to give it a try. It features many fine leafy green veggies, which are good for you. Broccoli is good and tasty. So is bok choy, or at least I guess so, because we consume it without much argument (us adults, at least). And everyone likes snow peas, and cabbage, well...it works. Good veggies. Firm. Fresh. Crisp. Yum.

Then the point will be made that the soba noodles are also quite good, in the way that only soba noodles can be. A side note regarding relative lack of experience of consuming soba noodles will be made, because restaurants like that aren't in the family wheelhouse because, well, kids. Though they should be. But whatever. Noodles are good, with good veggies.

And then good sauce. Soy and ginger. There's nothing magic about the combo but dang it's good and a little bit spicy. That sauce really ties it all together, doesn't it? It doesn't matter what anything else is - there could be cardboard strips or mulch in here, but if there's a good tasty sauce on it, it'll taste good.

Then the familiar complaints that some may make: Might be too salty for some. That's true. Soy sauce is super salty. It can't help itself. Then at $4.99 it might be a bit expensive compared to making similar sized servings. That's probably also true but discounts the notion that convenience and ease come at a premium. And then I will note that our kids hated it because it wasn't mac and cheese, mostly because it had an actual flavor, and were relieved when Sandy I offered to take their portions and feed them peanut butter banana sandwiches instead because we were hungry and not in a mood to argue with them. And I will the small quibble that it could use some protein - some chicken or heck even tofu would be a good side, but a little excess sauce would be super appreciated then.

See? You could have guessed all that, right? Right. You're smart. That's why you shop at TJ's, and why you read our blog. That's also why you'll follow our recommendation to check out the refrigerated section and pick up this TJ's stir fry kit the next time you go shop. Because we told you to, and you knew we would.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, February 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate & Honey Toffee Pecans

I mentioned a few posts ago that Lemon Lunacy should be added to Mango Mania and Coffeepalooza as another seasonal Trader Joe's flavor extravaganza. Well, on that same note, I guess Toffeepalooza wouldn't be a bad idea either. We're going on 8 or 9 product reviews with the word "toffee" displayed prominently in the title of the product, and a number of others where toffee ingredients or flavors were featured noticeably in the offering but failed to make top billing for one reason or another.

So when I heard about these morsels, it made me wonder why we needed one more toffee-based candy on the shelves of Trader Joe's. Despite its newfangledness and potential buzzworthiness, I might have even passed over it entirely. However, Sonia snagged a bag on her latest TJ's shopping adventure at our old stomping grounds right in the heart of Hollyweird, California.


She was no doubt influenced by the simple, eye-catching honeycomb pattern and stylish font on the bag. Graphic designers are so easily swayed by attractive package design. <sigh> Just because it looks good doesn't mean it is good. Case in point: that "glamorous" Oscars show some of you might have watched the other night is filmed right in the middle of a giant perpetual freak show...and it hasn't gotten any less bizarre since we lived there.

But Sonia's instincts were right again. Unlike Hollyweird, this product lives up to its chic veneer. Upon opening the bag, there's a delightful chocolatey smell that wafts out from the package, with hints of the titular honey and toffee as well. The candies are markedly larger than most pecan nuts, ostensibly because they're coated in so much chocolate and toffee. Most pieces are perfectly bite-sized, but the largest ones are surprisingly grandiose, resembling palm-sized stones, rather than mere pebbles—easily big enough for multiple bites.


The taste is exactly like the smell: full of sweet milk chocolate, honey, and toffee, but with plenty of nutty pecan flavor, too. They're crunchy by virtue of the nuts and toffee, but not unpleasantly hard or brittle. Honestly, they're addictive. There's a resealable zipper at the top of the bag, but if you break this bad boy open in a group of four or more people, there's a good chance you'll never get to use it.

If the title sounds appealing to you and you're a fan of all the constituent ingredients, I can't imagine you'll be too disappointed by this product. Toffee and chocolate aren't really my snacks of choice, but I was once again pleasantly surprised. Double fours once more.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

If a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound?

What came first, reality TV infamy or the Kardashians?

All of these are unanswerable questions. Meditate on them night and day, and just maybe you'll have an answer...but all of these are timeless mysteries for a reason.

What is watermelon, though, without water?

One could seek out your local friendly mountaintop Zen master...or whip out a food dehydrator and give yourself about a week or so...

...or as of about right now you can head down to everyone here's favorite grocery shop, plop down $3.69, and buy yourself a bag of Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky.

That's right. Watermelon. In jerky form. As in a famously watery fruit, highly sought after for its thirstquenching glory, dried and flattened and rolled up so as to eliminate any trace of a drop of some high quality H2O.

Listen, I'm about as baffled as you. Or I was. I first heard about this weeks ago and called every other day since then...but there were rollout delays, then weather issues, then...well, finally, I snagged four bags and couldn't wait to rip one open to behold this magical arid fibrous fruit wonder. Waited so long....

It's odd stuff, for sure. It's unquestionably a very concentrated watermelon flavor, as one might expect. It's not as intense as I anticipated, but I'm glad TJ's didn't go the added sugars route. It's just watermelon sans water.

Interesting tidbit from the bag bottom:



Wow! If I'm doing my math right, the end product is about 1/34th its original weight, and is about three quarts of water extracted. Watermelon was hitting that Lasix hard. 

All well and good, but what about the texture? How does it actually work?

The melon jerky is kinda stiff, fibrous, and a little sticky. Both bags I have opened thus far have had all the pieces clumped all together necessitating them to be plied apart carefully. I lack any better way to explain it than saying, imagine a thin, dense sponge that got baked dry. That probably sounds more awful then I intend it you, but there's a surprising amount of chew to it. It's not as much as a jerky from a regular source, but still. There's not too many seeds in the jerky either - I think I've seen maybe only two or three per bag, and they meld in well enough with the rest of the product.

When all said and done, though, I'm not sure how much I actually truly like the watermelon jerky. There's an absolute novelty factor at work, which hit me with some initial marvel, but once it wore off, I was just eating weirdly dry waterlessmelon. I've heard it said that watermelon jerky could be considered a vegan alternative to regular jerky - well, if that's your thing, go for it, but that's a bit of a stretch to me.

I brought some into work to share, and most reviews were pretty friendly. The melon jerky definitely made for some odd reactions and some flatout rejections...but most were positive.

My final call is, if you like watermelon and novel snackage, the jerky is worth at least one try. Worst comes to worst, you can do TJ's no-hassle return policy - but I doubt it'd come to that. I don't know...double fours? That's as much juice as I can squeeze here for these edible contradictions.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.