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Showing posts with label lunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lunch. 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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche


Eleven years ago, Sonia and I did our very first video review on Trader Joe's Mexicaine Quiche, a comparable product to this one with similar packaging and preparation instructions. The dish didn't exactly wow us, so for the most part, we've avoided Trader Joe's quiche offerings for the past decade.

Although, I must admit, I had completely forgotten about odd little items like this one, which were similarly underwhelming and unmemorable. But even so, at long last, it is time to give TJ's quiche another whirl. This time, it's the broccoli and cheddar variety.


There's plenty of egg and cheese here. The crust is nice and crumbly. It's slightly buttery and supple. Somehow, I feel this product flaunts a tastier spice blend than some of its predecessors. It certainly isn't spicy per se, but there's a nice overall flavor, which some of the other quiches lacked. There's onion in there, which helps, but as far as actual herbs and spices, all I'm seeing is garlic, salt, and pepper. In my humble opinion, it's enough—although, a few dabs of hot sauce can't hurt, either.

There are large chunks of broccoli here and there, which can be a little stringy. The bites that contained very small bits of broccoli were better texture-wise, and I think more finely-chopped veggies would have helped distribute the greens around the dish more evenly.


$2.99 for the single serving quiche. It's nothing to write home about, but I definitely don't hate it, either. It makes a more interesting breakfast than toaster pastries or cereal, I suppose. I don't know if I'd seek this product out again, but if I found it in the back of my freezer, I'd happily fire up the oven and eat it without complaint. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche.



Bottom line: 7 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.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Squiggly Noodles


It's funny how many Americans don't think of noodles as top-shelf, sought-after dinner fare. I know my personal bias thinks of cheap Maruchan or Top Ramen from the good old college days. They were in the ballpark of 20¢ a pack back then, and most of us that ate them did so out of necessity rather than choice. But considering the cost, the noodles weren't terrible, and the powder packets not only turned a cup of water into a savory flavored broth, but they delivered nearly a whole day's worth of sodium, too. I still eat that stuff from time to time, but as far as noodles go, it's what most of us are familiar with, and sadly, it's the bottom of the barrel.


Asian cultures on the other hand, hold noodle dishes in high esteem. Japan's ramen scene, in particular, is fascinating to Sonia and me. If you don't know what we're talking about, check out The Ramen Girl for your next romantic movie night. We've been to a couple decent ramen restaurants, too, here in the states, which Sonia is a huge fan of.

These noodles are Trader Joe's take on Momofuku and are indeed squiggly, soft, and slightly chewy. I found the texture more palatable when cooked for just a bit longer than the four minutes mentioned in the heating instructions. They contain a significant amount of sodium, as well, boasting 920 mg per serving, probably mostly from the sesame and soy sauce packet.


The sauce is just barely enough to thinly coat the noodles in each pack. When munching on the noodles alone, we both wanted a lot more of the sesame and soy sauce combo. It's pretty much just salty like soy sauce with a faint whisper of sweet from the sesame. If you were going to prepare a big fancy dish with veggies and meat along with these noodles, the sauce could easily be substituted with something else or forgotten about entirely. But as a stand-alone dish, the noodles are fairly dependent upon the sauce for flavor.

As a base for a larger, more elaborate meal, we both think these would be great. As a snack in and of themselves, these packs aren't exactly stellar. The noodles are high-quality enough, but nobody wants to eat plain noodles, and the sauce just doesn't do enough by itself. There's not even a broth for these noodles to bathe in.


$4.99 for four packs of squiggly noodles. We probably wouldn't buy these again unless we had a very specific recipe we were going to follow. As stated above, I'm sure these would make an excellent base for a big Asian meal, but we tend to score things on what they are and not what they could potentially be. Three out of five stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Squiggly Noodles.



Bottom line: 6.5 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 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup


I hadn't had a decent Asian meal in quite a while, so I thought, what the heck? Let's try some Trader Joe's Pho to see what they've done with the classic Vietnamese noodle soup.

It heats in the microwave from frozen in just six minutes, and unless you wanna get fancy, you can just eat it straight from the plastic bowl for a quick lunch. As the product emerged from the microwave, I detected an unusual potpourri-esque smell. Was that cinnamon and nutmeg in there? I haven't had real pho in a hot minute, but I certainly don't remember the soup smelling like a pumpkin spice candle.


The taste of the soup wasn't as strong in terms of the spices. In fact, it was fairly bland, although there was a hint of fennel. The noodles were slightly chewy, stiff, and mostly flavorless. The meat was excessively fatty for my taste. In a way, the veggies were the best part of the soup, but they were far and few between. I wouldn't have minded more bean sprouts and onions in the mix.

Something spicy was in order. Lacking freshly-sliced jalapeños as the "serving suggestion" depicts, I opted for sriracha sauce. Can't go wrong there. But even generous dollops of my second-favorite condiment couldn't completely redeem this Asian-inspired soup.

I hadn't remembered at the time of purchase, but we did look at a previous iteration of Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup about 12 years ago. It was packaged differently back then and was likely from a different supplier, as this current cover boasts "Product of Canada" on the box while the previous version did not. We weren't completely bowled over by that last beef pho, but if anything, this rendition is a step in the wrong direction.

Sonia doesn't think this soup is that bad, but then she's never had real pho. She wasn't a fan of the chewy beef either, but she enjoyed the broth and noodles more than I did. Her portion sat around for 5 or 10 minutes longer than mine did, thus causing the rice noodles to soften a bit.

$3.69 for the single serving bowl. I would not buy again. The beautiful wifey is on the fence. Two stars from me for Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel


I'm not sure why mackerel isn't more popular. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I've ever had it. Every grocery store in America has a section for canned tuna and most have a row or two of canned salmon. Mackerel? I'm not saying it's not there, I'm just saying I've never taken note of it before.

And even though fresh, expertly-prepared salmon is among my favorite foods on earth, canned salmon is a sad substitute for it. Even Trader Joe's Canned Salmon fell short of my expectations.

So Sonia and I went into this purchase with low confidence but were both pleasantly surprised. Trader Joe's Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil didn't exactly look like a delicacy when I first peeled back the lid of the tin can, with both light and dark meat sections visible, all of it swimming in a tiny sea of sunflower oil.


There were two long, thin fillets of the meat. They forked apart easily enough. The texture was similar to tuna but decidedly firmer. Again, these were actual slabs of natural fish rather than minced into a mush like canned tuna.

The taste was very similar to tuna as well, but slightly less fishy. It was almost like tuna but a step in the direction of canned chicken. The plain unadulterated fish straight from the can definitely received a thumbs up from both Sonia and me. It was even better when served in a salad.

Finally, we chopped up some dolmas, added spinach, mackerel, and balsamic dressing and put it all on water crackers, as seen in the pic above. They turned out messy but surprisingly scrumptious. If we'd added feta, they would have been even more outstanding.


We'll absolutely buy Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel again and we'll be on the lookout for other brands of mackerel in other grocery stores. This product had a "best by" date a good three years and some change into the future. I think we found a new pantry staple.

$2.99 for the 6 ounce can. Product of Tunisia. Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 8.5 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.

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.

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.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Mediterranean Style Salad Kit

If you want to pique my interest in any food product, slap the word "Mediterranean" on it. The promise of garbanzo beans, feta cheese, and any kind of pita or flatbread will reel me in every time, guaranteed.

Throw in other ingredients like romaine lettuce, radicchio, and red wine vinaigrette, and there's a good chance we'll have a winner on our hands. Speaking of red wine vinaigrette, does Subway still have that stuff? I don't go to Subway anymore because the last half dozen times or so I've gone, the prices have gone up, and there's no red wine vinaigrette. I digress.

So the ingredients in Trader Joe's Mediterranean Style Salad are good, but these kits rarely, if ever, have enough of the dressings, toppings, and fixins. 


I mean the vinaigrette, cheese, and flatbread strips were all lacking in our package. I'm not paying four bucks for a bag of lettuce here, Trader Joe's. I want a complete salad kit. 

The photo we took might lead one to conclude there were plenty of toppings, but this was our first little bowl of salad. Subsequent helpings were not as abundant in terms of flatbread strips, cheese, and dressing. We always have some vinaigrette on hand, so that wasn't really an issue. 

The bites that had each and every ingredient were delicious, but there were plenty of bites that were mostly just lettuce. I wasn't a fan of the little sun-dried tomatoes, either. I'm weird about tomato, though. I gave mine to Sonia. She was fine to finish them all but thought they were overly dried and too hard somehow. I just thought they were overly tomatoey somehow.

$3.99 for three and a half servings. A few tweaks here and there would put this in repeat-buy territory. As of right now, three stars from me on Trader Joe's Mediterranean Style Salad Kit. Sonia gives it three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Trader Joe's Sourdough Sliced Bread

One summer during my college years, a fellow student named Tim rented one of the vacant rooms in the house I lived in. As I was going about my business in the common areas one day, I noticed a bowl of...something on the seldom-used dining room table. It looked like a science experiment of sorts and smelled vaguely tart.

Tim later explained that it was sourdough starter and that he was going to bake his own bread. He mentioned the sourdough starter needed to rot a bit just sitting at room temperature because that's what made the dough sour. I was a little grossed out but after a day or so, he baked the bread and let me try a bite. It was surprisingly tasty. I mean, I'd obviously had sourdough before, but after seeing it in its primordial form, I didn't expect Tim's batch to taste so good. I've never looked at sourdough the same since.

And if anything, Trader Joe's Sourdough Sliced Bread is above average for store-bought pre-sliced sourdough. It's got just the right amount of tang and sourness, and just the right amount of wheat and barley goodness. The texture is just a bit chewier than regular white bread, and it's perfect plain with butter or as the outer layer of a sandwich. It's become one of our regular purchases at TJ's.


I believe it was $2.99 when we bought this last loaf, but it might have gone up recently, as many bread products have. If you feel like getting crafty, there's a recipe for Sweet & Spicy Pimento Grilled Cheese on TJ's official website. It sounds pretty yummy, but what are the odds I'll remember to pick up all those ingredients on the same trip?

Sonia gives Trader Joe's Sourdough Sliced Bread four and a half stars out of five. I give it four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Trader Joe's Chicken Noodle Soup with Veggies


I promise there are some sexy new product reviews coming down the pipeline soon. I've just had a backlog of random pantry staple type items building up that never got reviewed over the past year or two that I'm just getting around to now. What qualifies as a "sexy" product review, you ask? Something less boring and newer than boxed chicken soup, that's what.

But boring as chicken soup may be, it's as appropriate in January as it ever is. At two bucks a box, the price is right, and I think it's a pretty good product overall.

Sometimes chicken soup is like a breath of fresh air wafting through a country kitchen. Other times, it's reminiscent of dismal hospital fare or the tasteless cuisine you'd find in old folks' homes. This product falls squarely in between those two extremes, and probably a shade closer to that pleasant country kitchen side.


It's not as good as the Kettle-Cooked Chicken Soup by my reckoning, but then again, few soups are that good. On the plus side, there are big soft noodles in this soup—something the kettle cooked version lacked. 

There's still a generous amount of veggie chunks, and even an adequate quantity of chicken, too. However, I'm on record saying I'll always ask for more chicken in chicken soup, and this specimen is no different. GIMME MOAR CHICKENZ!

The broth has a pleasant flavor. It's salty and savory and is good enough to slurp down straight from the bowl by itself once you've sought out each and every piece of celery, carrot, chicken, and noodle with your spoon.

I like boxes better than other shapes for soup in the pantry since you can stack them like bricks top to bottom and front to back and not lose any space. Like I said, the price is right and it's surprisingly palatable soup. We'll purchase again. Four out of five stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Chicken Noodle Soup with Veggies. Three and a half stars from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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