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Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts

Monday, November 20, 2023

Trader Joe's Chicken, Cheese & Green Chile Pupusas


In my experience, pupusas were always the staple food for folks from El Salvador. Those Salvadoreños would seize any opportunity to introduce us gringos to their favorite pupusa joint, often just a hole in the wall or some unsuspecting apartment in a random neighborhood. They'd come out with lots of little clear plastic bags tied at the top with rubber bands. It might have looked like a shady narcotics deal if not for the fact the bags were obviously filled with veggies, sauces, and shredded cheese.

The base element for those pupusas was always a puffy pancake-esque cake similar to the one we have here, although those were generally much lighter. Some weren't filled at all, and all the flavor came from whatever you put on top—usually some pickled cabbage, a thin salsa, and jack cheese—possibly shredded chicken or other meat. Others had a thin layer of beans or maybe cheese baked into the middle of the disc.


Lacking the cabbage topping and unique salsa, I was skeptical of this offering from Trader Joe's. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with them, and their filling is quite a bit more interesting than the street style pupusas I've had in the past. There's no detectable chicken pieces. It's just a whirled mush of chicken and cheese with a few flecks of green chiles scattered throughout.

Using the air fryer method, the breading part of the cake gets slightly crispy. It's a good quality corn masa—authentic enough for me. The overall flavor is salty and savory and there's enough chicken and cheese flavor to be satisfying. The chile pieces add a bit of a kick, but salsa of any kind is in order if you're craving something truly picante.


We added onions to ours in lieu of Salvadoran slaw and experimented with a few different types of hot sauces and salsas. Nothing quite replicated what we'd had from restaurants but we were happy enough to finish the meal, one pupusa each, and contemplated heating the third one immediately and splitting it between the two of us, although in the end, we opted to save it for later.

I think the moral of the story here is to buy or make some Salvadoran cabbage relish, or "curtido," and have it on standby when you eat these. While any tomato-based salsa will do in a pinch, looking up an authentic recipe online might be worth it in this instance, too. Either way, it's not a bad product and it's a simple way to introduce yourself to the world of pupusas.

$4.79 for three servings. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Chicken, Cheese & Green Chile Pupusas.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Burrata Ravioloni


Apparently "ravioloni" is just a larger version of ravioli. They just made the word longer so you'd know the pasta is bigger. Although, "ravioletti" is the smallest version of all, so...never mind. At first glance inside the packaging, they don't appear to be any larger than normal ravioli, but I must admit they about doubled in size while boiling in water.

These reminded me quite a bit of the recently-reviewed Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli, and they were similarly, you know, not bad-ish. I think the flavor of these square pasta pieces was a tad tastier than their round vegan counterparts, thanks to the presence of real burrata cheese.


There were sort of off-yellow colored pieces and orange colored pieces, representing the limoncello and mango flavors, respectively. Just kidding about the fruit flavors. They're just pasta flavored. Once again, tomato is pretty dominant, but cheese rounds out the dish nicely, especially if you add a touch of parmesan to the finished product.

There still wasn't a ton of filling in these oversized raviolis, and the pasta itself was on the thin side, but it's a step in the right direction from those Bolognese fellows. There are only about a dozen pieces of pasta in the whole package, too, which is a bit stingy if you ask me, but I guess four bucks isn't exactly breaking the bank, either. The package is supposedly three servings, which would amount to about four pieces of pasta each. Sonia and I did six for her, six for me, and it worked out nicely for a moderately-filling lunch.


The wifey says she'd buy again. I'm on the fence. Something like four stars from Sonia and three from me once again for Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Burrata Ravioloni.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Trader Joe's Shrimp & Garlic Flatbread


I love shrimp. It's a blessing and a curse for Trader Joe's shrimp dishes because I get my hopes up so high each time I try a new one that it's difficult for some products to live up to my expectations. Throw the word "garlic" in the title and I start salivating like Pavlov's dog.

One thing I didn't notice when purchasing this product: it has mushrooms. I have a mild allergy to mushrooms and I really don't like them at all. It's not like I'll die if I eat them, though. I just get mild heart palpitations and increased pulse for a few minutes. Yes, my allergies are weird. I'd get into all that, but let's save that disturbing discussion for another review and dive right into this appetizer.


The flatbread comes in what appears to be a vacuum-sealed garbage bag that's black on one side and see-through on the other. Interesting. Haven't seen packaging quite like that before.

The heating instructions read "DO NOT MICROWAVE" bolded in all caps. Yikes. Okay, I mean I wasn't going to in this case, but I'll be a good boy and follow the instructions exactly this time. Just stop yelling at me. 375° for 20 minutes and we're ready to chow down.


Certain bites contained more cheese than others. The cheesiest sections delivered a generous blast of parmesan while other bites were simply toasty bread and garlic bechamel sauce. I'm certainly not complaining about the sauce, but by itself, it wasn't particularly memorable and only faintly garlicky.

There were only ten shrimp specimens on our entire flatbread. For six bucks, that's not super generous. The small quantity that was there, however, was quite tasty. They weren't rubbery or chewy at all—good quality, cooked to perfection. The mushrooms, though noticeable, were not abundant enough to bother me at all.


In the end, the flavor of this flatbread just wasn't special enough to win over either Sonia or me completely. The shrimp, though enjoyable, were not plenteous enough to save the dish entirely. Probably wouldn't buy again.

Three stars from me. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Shrimp & Garlic Flatbread.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli


For those of you unfamiliar, bolognese sauce originates from Bologna, Italy and is traditionally made with beef or sometimes pork, and it's rich and hearty and commonly served on pasta. Some versions contain red wine, while most contain herbs and spices like rosemary, fennel, and/or oregano.

Here we have Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli. Seems pretty straightforward: little round ravioli pasta pieces filled with that vegan bolognese sauce that we reviewed a few years ago? We liked that sauce okay, so filling ravioli with it will probably make a passable meal. Let's just dive right in.


The ravioli is very dainty here. Like each piece is simply two paper thin layers of pasta with a spoonful of a relatively thin tomato and lentil-based sauce inside. It has a pleasant, though not particularly pungent, array of spices. Tomato is far and away the dominant flavor.

Sonia wishes there were more of the sauce within each pasta round. I don't disagree, but I'd rather have a thicker, more robust sauce. It doesn't need to have meat, but even the lentils and tomatoes are crushed into oblivion and feel nearly liquefied. There's very little to chew on in this dish.


We actually wound up finishing the package by dumping Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Spicy Pasta Sauce on the remainder. That stuff completely drown out the comparatively subtle flavors of the bolognese sauce and made the pasta much more flavorful. Everything's more exciting with that sauce on it.

There's nothing unpleasant about this pasta product, but it could be improved with greater quantities of the bolognese sauce and/or making it thicker, and even bulkier pasta on the ravioli would help.

$3.99 for the package, which Sonia and I easily finished in a single sitting. Three out of five stars from yours truly. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Lasagna


Of the "big three" fall foods—pumpkin, apple, and maple—at least one isn't really a fall food at all, at least not in terms of its peak harvest season. I'm talking of course about maple syrup. It's easiest to acquire in February and March, so some argue it should be a late winter flavor rather than an early autumn one.

And I mean, don't get me started about apples. Even though apples are harvested in September around these parts, apples are pretty much available all year round to us spoiled Americans. Apple pie on the Fourth of July? Yes, please.

So really, butternut squash is much more autumnal than some of these other "fall flavors," and it rarely gets its due. We saw some pretty decent butternut squash macaroni and cheese not too long ago, which I believe is still available seasonally at TJ's, but unfortunately I have not seen that butternut squash parmigiana in quite some time.


Ah, well. Let's make do with what we have. As far as I know, this is a brand new product. Never saw it around TJ's before this year. How bad could it be? I never met a lasagna I didn't like.

Actually, that's not true. The very first post on this blog, written over 13 years ago, was a review of a lasagna I didn't like. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself...

After 45 minutes at 400°F I can wholeheartedly assure you, history did not repeat itself in this instance. From first bite, this pasta dish delivers. It's creamy and cheesy inside, crispy and crusty on the outside, and it's got a nice cozy Italian vibe without being over-the-top heavy or rich.


Butternut squash is a fairly subtle flavor, and here, it's balanced expertly with the cheeses, herbs, spices, and layers of egg pasta. The crunchy bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds on the top just sealed the deal for me.

I can't vouch for this product shining quite so brightly if heated in the microwave. It does include nuking instructions on the box, so I guess Trader Joe's thinks it's legit.

If you're expecting a super bold flavor or traditional tomato-laden lasagna or anything remotely resembling pumpkin spice, then I guess it's conceivable you might be disappointed or unpleasantly surprised. We've got a smoky bechamel sauce in this instance, rather than typical marinara or spaghetti sauce. I liked it. It think it worked.

$4.49 for 2 servings. Sonia enjoyed it as well. Put her down for four stars. That sounds about right. Would buy Trader Joe's Italian Butternut Squash Lasagna again.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas


Mexicans and Mexican-Americans like my wife eat some unusual fare from time to time. They eat cow tongue (lengua) and cow stomach soup (menudo). They eat grasshoppers (chapulines) and cactus (nopal) among other things.

I've tried lengua tacos. Not a fan. It's a texture thing. While I've had more than one stomach dish in my day, I've never had proper menudo. I'd try it, although I haven't enjoyed eating any kind of stomach ever. Not that they're my snack of choice or anything, but grasshoppers fried in oil and dusted with chili powder are not nearly as disgusting as one might think. You vill eat ze bugs and be happy!

Nopales, on the other hand, I enjoy eating fairly regularly. Sonia makes a dish with eggs, nopales, onions, and hot sauce that's really yummy. So we were excited to see nopal cactus as an ingredient in Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas.


The dish is quite mushy—almost soupy. I wouldn't mind more veggie chunks in the mix. More corn, more nopales, more zucchini, more onions, more of almost everything.

Taste-wise, I'm fine with the cheese and sauce blend. It's tangy and tomatoey, with just a hint of spice. I would prefer significantly more heat.

Sonia actually thinks these are quite bland. She thinks Trader Joe's is replacing the classic black bean and corn enchiladas with these veggie and cheese ones, and she's not very happy about it. She wants more spice, more onion, and more garlic flavor here.


While I'm not blown away, I'm not super disappointed either. I'd prefer a bit more kick and a little something to sink my teeth into, but I can see why some people are digging these enchiladas. Sonia...not so much. She thinks the flavor is a flop and would have preferred a tangier Mexican cheese like cotija.

$2.99 for two enchiladas. Two and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. I'll throw out three and a half for Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets


As a lover of real fish, I'm coming into this one shaking my head, bracing myself for disappointment. A glance at the ingredients reveals this product is jackfruit-based. How can one fruit mimic barbecue pulled pork and fish fillets? It just doesn't seem possible.

There's air fryer heating instructions on the box. We'll go with that one. The air fryer seems to make everything taste better. 10 minutes at 400°F and we're in business.

The smell? Surprisingly, my nose doesn't detect much of anything after heating, in stark contrast to real fish fillets from the air fryer. I guess there's a hint of something akin to hot cooking oil, but that's about it.


Despite my instincts to slather Trader Joe's Plant-Based Fish Fillets with tartar sauce and slap them in between slices of bread and cheese, I think I'll just try them plain first to play it safe. First impressions? Surprisingly edible.

Using a fork to cut the fillets apart, the texture is somewhere between a normal fish fillet and a fried banana. The crispy coating is really nice. It's not very thick, but it does the job. Sonia likes that part the best.

Flavor-wise, they're not fishy at all, and I mean that in a good way. But at the same time, if you had to guess what meat they were trying to imitate, you'd all understand they were going for fish. Sonia said they vaguely reminded her of chicken empanadas. I can see that, too. You can faintly taste the king oyster mushrooms mentioned in the ingredients, and there's a nice savory blend of subtle spices.

I was really worried we had another meatless ground type situation on our hands, but that's not the case here. Not saying there aren't some folks out there who might find this product a little off-putting, but Sonia and I will easily polish off this box.

If you're vegan, gluten-free, or just looking to try something new, these aren't a bad option. $4.99 for three fake fish fillets. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets.




Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers


Since it's almost 300 miles to the nearest White Castle, once in a blue moon, Sonia and I will pick up those frozen White Castle sliders that can be found in most grocery stores and dollar stores in our area. White Castle burgers aren't the best to begin with, but there's a novelty and uniqueness about them that's hard to replicate. And of course the frozen, non-restaurant sliders are just a little less delicious than the originals, but as far as cheap and easy comfort food goes, they aren't bad once in a great while.

I was wondering if Trader Joe's was going for a White Castle vibe with these Mini Cheeseburgers—if the popularity of White Castle's frozen offerings inspired TJ's to offer a similar product. After tasting these for the first time, I'd have to say "NO." Trader Joe's went top shelf in terms of quality meat, cheese, and bread. These burgers are larger than your typical frozen sliders and there's more meat, and everything is a notch higher in terms of quality.


The bread is actually sweet Hawaiian Aloha rolls. There's a small amount of ketchup and relish in a "sauce" mentioned in the ingredients. It's subtle. At first I couldn't even tell there was anything on the burger other than cheese, but the flavors all seemed balanced pretty well. I'm glad I didn't put on any extra condiments before trying the cheeseburger as is, because it honestly didn't need anything. Everything from the seasoning on the meat to the creaminess of the cheese was beyond my expectations.


$4.49 for three small burgers seemed kinda steep at first, but now that I see they're really not that tiny, I think it's a pretty decent value. I can't imagine even the biggest appetites not being satisfied by all three cheeseburgers. Would buy again.

Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


Monday, July 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Farm Raised Smoked Trout Fillets


Other than a few tiny sunnies, I think the only fish I ever caught was a trout. It was many years ago, so I don't remember with much accuracy, but I'm sure it was just barely over the minimum length requirement, whatever that was. I might have helped descale it, but I'm sure all the gutting and other preparations were done by someone older with a lot more fishing experience.

But I remember eating the trout I caught right there on the banks of the Juniata River, fresh off my cousin's grill. I was quite proud of myself, and I might have even received a few accolades from my dad and uncle for catching the fish, and that made the moment just a bit sweeter. But honestly, I don't remember the fish tasting very good at all.


Since then, I've had trout dishes from a few restaurants and can't say any of them have been memorable. So forgive me for being skeptical about Trader Joe's Smoked Trout Fillets. I mean, their tinned fish has been hit or miss in my book. Most recently, we looked at the Wild Caught Mackerel and were very pleasantly surprised, just as we received word that the product had already been discontinued as of the time we posted the review.

Fortunately, this product is still available and it, too, is shockingly good considering it's canned, shelf-stable for over three and a half years, and is trout, rather than something more expensive and exotic. It doesn't taste fishy in the least. The smoky flavor is perfect. It's not overbearing, nor does it taste fake like liquid smoke. It honestly tastes like this fish was cooked over a campfire.


$3.99 for a very reasonable amount of high-quality tinned fish. Packed in oil. No skin. No bones. Ready to eat right out of the container. We had it plain, on crackers, in a salad, and even mixed with cream cheese on a bagel in lieu of lox. I will absolutely purchase this product again. Perfect five stars from me for Trader Joe's Farm Raised Smoked Trout Fillets. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey.



Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp


Did you know that shrimp is the fruit of the sea? There's shrimp kabobs, shrimp salad, shrimp gumbo, deep fried, pan fried, stir fried. There's shrimp scampi, pineapple shrimp, coconut shrimp, lemon pepper shrimp, and of course, Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning.

How could Bubba have forgotten Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning??

I suppose it's possible it didn't exist back then. We'll forgive you for this glaring omission from your famous list of shrimp dishes, Mr. Benjamin Buford Blue. But just this once...


Like Bubba, I consider myself a shrimp aficionado. I've been eating the stuff since I was a wee one. So my standards are pretty high and I'm a pretty tough grader as far as final scores are concerned.

My jam was always deep fried jumbo butterfly shrimp. I'd drown those things in cocktail sauce or some kind of remoulade and could smash dozens of them in one sitting. These puppies aren't fried or breaded, so how do they fare against such fierce competition?


Pretty good, honestly. I'm amazed I didn't mess them up when I cooked them, but they came out with a really nice texture, not too chewy or weird in any way. They tasted good, too, although Sonia and I just wish the spices were a little more potent. We definitely tasted ginger and garlic in that buttery sauce, but I think we were both hoping that the togarashi seasoning would bring a little bit more heat to the equation.

Still, for $7.99, this is pretty close to a gourmet quality seafood entree. I counted about 16 or 18 decent sized shrimp in the package. It's supposed to be a single serving, but if served with rice and some sides, this pouch can easily satisfy two people for dinner. Sonia and I give Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning two thumbs up and four stars a piece. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Trader Joe's French Onion Macaroni & Cheese


Wait. This has been around for over two years? How did I not hear about this stuff until recently? I love onions in pretty much any form. Roasted onions in macaroni topped with both Swiss and cheddar sounds absolutely scrumptious.

And it is...sorta. I mean, there's definitely a comfort food factor here in Trader Joe's French Onion Macaroni & Cheese. It's a heavy meal. There's a visible layer of grease glazing the white-yellow cheeses. It goes down easily enough. It's super carborrific with 102 grams of total carbohydrates, almost a thousand calories, and a whopping 125% of your RDA for saturated fat. That's if you eat the whole thing, though—which is within the realm of possibility.


It's more practical as a meal for two, even though there are two and a half servings in there somehow. Whatever. If you think of it as a treat, I mean, sometimes you just gotta splurge. The question is: is it worth it? The simple answer from Sonia and me is "not really," unfortunately.

We both think Trader Joe's French Onion Macaroni & Cheese needs more onion flavor. I wouldn't have minded bigger chunks of onion. And although Swiss and cheddar might be my two favorite cheeses in the world, I'd almost have preferred something tangier here. The macaroni is plentiful and soft and pretty normal in most respects.


The big bready croutons were a nice touch for folks who might have some sort of severe carbohydrate deficiency or are doing that carbivore diet I've heard so much about. Honestly, though, it never would have occurred to me in a million years to throw croutons in mac and cheese, and as far as taste and texture are concerned, it worked a lot better than I might have guessed it would. Those were probably the most pleasant surprises in the dish.

$4.99 for the 18 oz box. We're not hating. We just can't jump on board the bandwagon of super-fans. Probably wouldn't buy it again, but I also wouldn't rule it out completely. I think we're looking at about three stars a piece here from the beautiful wifey and me for Trader Joe's French Onion Macaroni & Cheese with Swiss and Cheddar Cheeses, Croutons & Roasted Onions.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Trader Giotto's Italian Style Meatballs


To my surprise, there were at least three or four different varieties of meatballs in the frozen section at Trader Joe's during my last run. It's been a hot minute since we've reviewed any kind of meatballs on this blog, so I thought: what the heck?

I chose this bag for two reasons: these are all beef meatballs, unlike the others which all contained pork. And it's brought to you by none other than our old Italian friend Trader Giotto. Buongiorno, Signor Giotto! Why they don't call you Trader Giuseppe, I'll never know. But whatevs.


I got lazy and opted for the microwave heating instructions. Ready in four minutes from frozen? Yes, please. 

The texture was still quite pleasant after being nuked for a spell—not unlike fresh-made meatloaf. It was just a smidge chewier than your average melt-in-your-mouth hamburger, but still very pleasant.

The spice blend wafted out from our magical radiation machine as the meat reheated, and it made our kitchen smell like an Italian restaurant. I tried the large meatballs just by themselves, no fixings. Delicious. They tasted just like they smelled: rich, meaty, and full of peppers, garlic, onion, and parsley. I'd have happily eaten four or five meatballs by themselves for an easy protein-rich lunch.

But in the end, we heated up some pasta and marinara sauce and topped the whole thing with parmesan cheese. Perfetto!

I'm far from a meatball connoisseur, but I've gotta give Trader Giotto's Italian Style Meatballs a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up. About five bucks for a dozen full-size meatballs. Four and a half stars from me. Sonia will go with four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Strips


Our modern western society has had it so easy for so long, I feel like we need to be aware of our roots a little more. It's just so easy to eat something like a McNugget and not even pause to reflect that what you're consuming came from a living creature. Folks like Sonia's grandparents eat chicken just like we do, but she's actually seen them grab the feathery animal from the coop, place it on its side, and chop its head clean off its body with a hatchet. I don't think I'd eat chicken as often if I had to do that each time I had a hankerin'.

Likewise, can you imagine if we humans were farmed and consumed by an advanced alien race? Wouldn't it be the worst if you gave your life so Kodos and Kang could have a gourmet meal and they decided that your meat was too stringy or chewy, and they cast your corpse aside in favor of some other human with a more savory texture?


Your spirit would be floating there in the ether, looking down at the ungrateful extraterrestrials. "Hey, I died for this meal! The least you could do is show a bit of gratitude!"

In that same way, it seems such a shame when I'm eating an animal and I have to complain about the taste or texture. Trader Joe's Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Strips certainly weren't awful, but neither the taste nor the texture were on point like we were hoping they would be.

The preferred heating method for this product is the microwave. The microwave always yields chewy chicken, and this product was no exception. We tried heating some in the skillet, but it was chewy that way, too. It wasn't stringy or rubbery or gristly per se—it was just a little stiffer than we were hoping it would be.


Flavor-wise, I mean, there was some heat, which was nice. But it wasn't a flavorful heat. It almost felt like we were eating a chicken molé dish, but the peanut butter and/or chocolate was replaced with water. There was nothing rich or particularly savory or piquant or memorable about the meat. It was just plain chicken in a light vinegar sauce with hints of chili and salt. The lime juice wasn't even detectable.

On the plus side, it was low fat, low calorie, and high protein. So...there's that.

$6.99 for four servings of Trader Joe's Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Strips. Probably wouldn't buy again. Three out of five stars a piece from Sonia and me. And thanks to that chicken that died for our sustenance. We appreciate you.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Meatless Ground


I wasn't particularly excited to try this product. I felt like it had a higher-than-average potential to be weird or gross. I have mixed feelings about all these newfangled fake meat products like Beyond and Impossible, etc. My experiences have ranged from being delighted by Del Taco's Beyond Tacos to spewing from both ends for about 18 hours straight after consuming an undercooked Booger King Impossible Whopper. Trader Joe's even offered their own Protein Patties a few years back. Not sure if they're around anymore.

What do all those bogus burger brands have in common? They're all refrigerated...like real meat. This stuff is dry and shelf stable at room temperature with a best by date about a year in the future. You reconstitute it yourself with hot water and oil. So...that just ups the potential nasty-factor exponentially if you ask me.


And yeah. It's weird. It's kinda gross. I suppose if you love the flavor of pea protein, you might like this. That's key for me: meatless meat can have pea protein in the ingredients all day long, but it can't actually taste like pea protein. 
In my humble opinion, this stuff tastes quite a bit like good, old fashioned pea protein and doesn't even come close to any meats I've ever had. They say it's like ground turkey or chicken. And while I'll admit it smelled and looked a bit like chicken while cooking, it definitely doesn't taste that way.

The texture is like wads of soggy paper. Not a fan. I tried cooking it and browning it a bit longer, but to no avail. Charred wads of soggy paper don't taste much better than undercooked wads of soggy paper.


There's a recipe for Meatless Macaroni on TJ's website. Lacking a few of the key ingredients, we whipped up a makeshift version of it, and it was...edible, thanks to the generous amounts of cheese and pasta we used.

$3.99 for the four serving resealable bag. I like the idea of having shelf stable "meat" ready in the back of the pantry for the day when real meat is unavailable for whatever reason, but this just isn't good enough for a repurchase. I've enjoyed fake meat and vegan burgers many, many times, but I can't say I'm an admirer of this product. Definitely wouldn't buy again. Two stars from me. Sonia will be even less lenient and throw out only one star for Trader Joe's Meatless Ground Plant-Based Crumbles.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm


Trader Joe's is discovering that hearts of palm are nearly as versatile as cauliflower. We've already looked at Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta, and I've already given my contemplative spiel about palm trees, so this time we'll just jump right into the food review.

Inside the box, there's a plastic pouch full of the riced hearts of palm. After snipping the corner or top of the pouch, you have to squeeze the contents out in the manner of toothpaste from a tube. They land in your saucepan resembling a lumpy wet mass. Not particularly appetizing. The smell is odd and excessively planty, similar to the pasta version, but not something that's familiar otherwise. Again, not particularly appetizing.


After heating, however, the product improves drastically both in smell and appearance. The aroma gets richer and more earthy, almost squash-like. The little palm pieces start to resemble actual rice as the liquids are partially cooked away.

The finished product is still a little wetter than actual rice somehow. The pieces are slightly more gelatinous than grainy. Still, they're quite edible. They need some fixins, though. The box recommends serving the dish with olive oil, veggies, and spices. I tried experimenting with a bunch of TJ's seasonings but nothing stood out head and shoulders above the others.

I like traditional rice the best. And I'd probably take riced cauliflower over this stuff. Still, this isn't a bad option. I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm again, but if someone served it to me as a side dish, I would eat it without complaint.

$3.49 for the 9 oz package. Vegan. Gluten free. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Style Kebabs


I don't know what made me pick these up on our last Trader Joe's run. They're not Christmassy or festive at all. I mean, I guess you could argue that the bag is red with green trim. That's sorta holiday-ish, no?

I probably picked up these Middle Eastern Style Kebabs because I love me some Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Also, maybe subconsciously, I knew I'd be watching the World Cup in Qatar and imagining I was there. Apparently, kebabs wrapped in pita are a popular type of Qatari street food. Yum.

And if they're half as good as this offering from Trader Joe's, then they'd be worth a purchase or two. Sonia's definitely a bigger fan of these ground beef kebabs than I am, but I'm not hating on them, either. Let's dig in.


Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Style Kebabs are made with seasoned ground beef, rather than lamb or a combination of both beef and lamb. That's a plus in my book. There are six long, skinny slabs of beef, almost like elongated hamburgers. We used the air fryer to heat them and needed an extra two minutes above what the heating instructions asked for.

Sonia repeatedly remarked that she couldn't believe that the meat had been frozen just a few minutes earlier. It had a texture very similar to that of an American burger, with some bread crumbs mixed into the ground beef. She also adored the peppery, garlicky spice blend. I was thinking they needed just a tad bit of help to put the flavor on par with something close to restaurant quality.

We plated them up with salad and hummus, along with authentic Middle Eastern pita bread. Okay. You got me. It's not even pita. It's a low carb Mission flour tortilla there in the picture. But it served the same purpose and worked remarkably well. I added a piece of havarti cheese to my kebab pita tortilla sandwich thing and made a tasty Latin-Scandinavian-Middle Eastern fusion dish.

I was more than pleased with the overall taste after the cheese and hummus came to the rescue. The kebabs would have been even more delicious with tzatziki sauce. Or maybe some garlic spread. Perhaps zhoug sauce? Any or all of those would have been very welcome in my international meat wrap creation.

Sonia likes the kebabs just the way they are. She has promised to buy more on her very next visit to Trader Joe's. I don't blame her. They're good. I just can't quite muster the same level of enthusiasm for some reason.

$6.99 for six kebabs. Two patties each was more than enough to fill both Sonia and me up for dinner. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Style Seasoned Ground Beef Kebabs.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Trader Joe's Carnitas with Salsa Verde Burrito


Confession time: I was thinking this was a beef burrito when I bought it. You'd think being married to a Latina, I'd know enough Spanish by now to not make that mistake. I've been learning to hablo the español for the past 14 years. I use the Duolingo app now. I have a 932-day streak going, for crying out loud. That means I've studied Spanish for at least 10 minutes a day for 932 days straight!

But here's the thing: in Spanish, "meat" is carne. The most common example is "carne asada," which literally means "grilled meat." It's always beef. Logically, "carnitas" means "little meats" and would just be teeny tiny beef cutlets, right? Nope. Carnitas is pork. I mean, it says it's pork right on the label, but...well, I'm an idiot, and not at all a real foodie.

Sonia and I avoid pork for the most part. I'd get into the reasons, but that would be a whole other can of worms. We're generally not dogmatic about it. It's just not our thing.


Ironically, the pork was by far the best part of this burrito. I mean, it wasn't spicy, which was disappointing. It was flavorful, but not hot. The tender texture and savory taste of the meat was the only saving grace of this product in my opinion.

Salsa verde? There was salsa in this thing? Neither of us saw or tasted anything even remotely resembling salsa verde here. We added our own salsa verde and it did blend quite nicely.

Likewise, neither Sonia nor I tasted or saw any evidence of cilantro, lime, or pepper jack cheese in our burrito. I'm not saying it wasn't there. I'm just saying if it was there, there was so little of it, it was virtually undetectable. We both just got tortilla—which is pretty run-of-the-mill for a Trader Joe's burrito—and pork, rice, and beans.


All in all, the flavor was good but not great. If the heat, cheese, and cilantro lime had shown up the way I'd hoped they would, I might have been able to recommend this wholeheartedly to pork lovers. We opted for 35 minutes in the conventional oven at 350° for a "crisp" tortilla. $3.99 for the burrito. As is, I think we're looking at about two and a half stars from Sonia, three and a half from me on Trader Joe's Carnitas with Salsa Verde Burrito.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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