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Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Trader Joe's Korean Beefless Bulgogi


Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.

I've always found that quote to be mostly accurate. I mean, none of us are immune from chatting about our fellow humans once in a while, but some folks are just absolutely fixated on gossip. I'm far from perfect and have my fair share of faults, but if you're focused on other people all the time, doesn't that imply that you lack purpose? If you're a man (or woman) on a mission, then you've got far better things to do with your time than wonder what others are doing with theirs. I digress.

One line I'd add to that brilliant quote in the opening paragraph: hungry minds discuss food. So let's do just that.


It's a fascinating idea: vegan meat being eaten by non-vegans. Why do it? Because once in a while the fake meat is as good or better than the real thing. I've only heard high praise about this product so I figured it was worth a whirl. Thanks for the rec, Alek.

The flavor of this meatless meat is savory and succulent. There's an interesting array of essences including soy, garlic, pear, apple, and onion. It's very similar to the traditional bulgogi in terms of flavor, but I don't think I like this offering quite as much.

Texture-wise, it's the opposite, surprisingly. I like the feel of this bulgogi just slightly more than the sometimes-gristly dead cow version. This bulgogi is moderately chewy and imitates the mouthfeel of fatty meat. Fatty meat isn't my favorite, but it's better than gristle.

Each piece is a uniform size, which I like. Real bulgogi usually includes big long stringy pieces and tiny pieces and everything in between. Also these are quite thin. Considering their chewiness, any thicker would have made the mastication process overly difficult. Both Sonia and I wish there was a bit more sauce. Most bulgogi is significantly wetter and saucier than this offering, which might be attributable in part to the fact that we heated these in the air fryer.

$4.99 for a decent amount of vegan bulgogi. Sonia and I both give the same score on this one, and in the end, it'll get the exact same score we gave to the beef-ful bulgogi. Seven out of ten stars for Trader Joe's Beefless Bulgogi.

What do you think of this product? Have you tried both the regular bulgogi and the vegan bulgogi from Trader Joe's? Are you vegan and really love or really hate this product? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Japchae Stir Fry


Sweet potato noodles sounded tasty, so I decided to check these out. They're sweet potato glass noodles, in fact. I'm assuming the name came from the appearance since they're translucent and do indeed look like thin shards of orange-tinted glass.

Never had japchae before. Apparently, it's a Korean dish, and it's actually pronounced like "chap-chay." It's often served with meat, which I could have added, but in the end I decided to just stick with the included veggies: spinach, onions, carrots, and red and green bell peppers.


It took 10 minutes on the stove top with medium-high heat instead of the prescribed three. Surprise, surprise. The dish is perfectly edible all by itself but I did have most of my portion with a bit of soy sauce. The sodium content is already significant...so I probably should have just gone without.

The noodles were soft, stretchy, and chewy, yet somewhat delicate, too. They were quite thin and very easy to eat with chopsticks. The veggies were all crisp and felt fairly fresh despite having been recently frozen. The only exception might have been a leaf or two of spinach that had extremely tough stems, which I simply removed.


$3.49 for the 2 serving package. Sonia and I both liked the taste and texture of the noodles quite a bit, though they're not particularly filling. Some folks who know the dish claim it's kinda sorta authentic, others say not so much. Sonia would definitely buy this item again. I think I might, too. Four stars from the beautiful wifey, three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Japchae Korean Sweet Potato Glass Noodles & Vegetable Stir Fry.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Red Onion Focaccia


"Focaccia" sounds so much fancier than "pizza," right? Pizza is what kids eat at Chuck E. Cheese. Even "flatbread" sounds kinda lame and boring if you think about it. All bread is pretty much flat. Why would I want to eat bread thats most noteworthy feature is its flatness?


Fortunately, the bread in this product is quite delicious. It's puffy, rich, and doughy with both wheat and rice flours. It's gourmet quality all the way...and it's by far the best part of the product.

The toppings? Well, the quality is there in my humble opinion...but the quantity? That's a problem. We need more of everything. We need a sauce. We need some cheese. We need about ten times the onions and at least double the tomatoes. Sonia agrees. The few toppings that were there were all crammed in the middle, too. The outer portions were completely bare.

We need big slabs of buffalo mozzarella or some pecorino romano here. We need calabrian chili sauce or some top-shelf marinara. I dunno. It just needs...more. I know, I know, I can dress it up myself, but the packaging makes it look like a standalone appetizer if not a standalone meal.

Three bucks for a decent slab of focaccia bread isn't a terrible deal, but we both just expected better from the fixins. Probably wouldn't buy again. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Three out of five stars from me for Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Red Onion Focaccia.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Mini Maple Marshmallows


After 14 years of marriage, I thought I knew all the culinary tricks my wife had up her sleeve. As I popped a couple of these maple-flavored marshmallows into my mouth, Sonia scolded, "Don't eat too many or I won't have enough to make rice crispy treats."

"You know how to make rice crispy treats?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Literally everybody knows how to make rice crispy treats. It's SO easy," she replied.


I've mentioned it on this blog before, but I got a bad grade in home ec class. My little group couldn't even get rice crispy treats right. I mean, we had to repeat the assignment multiple times and we still couldn't produce edible food. We actually had to stay after school to chisel the charred remains of our project out of the pan. Basically, that whole episode scarred me for life and I haven't even attempted to make them since.

But Sonia whipped up a batch in like 10 minutes. She made it look so simple. I mean, neither of my parents ever made rice crispy treats, so I figured it must take some kind of wizard-level kitchen skills. Most of the ones I've had were the store-bought, pre-made kind. I've had homemade ones at potlucks and group picnics and such, and I always marveled that anyone had the talent to turn simple marshmallows and puffed rice into such a spectacular dessert treat.

But one thing I've never had: MAPLE rice crispy treats. So good! On their own, these marshmallows are super mapley and sweet. They're pretty much what you'd expect maple marshmallows to taste like, except maybe even better. They don't taste fake at all and there's no weird aftertaste.

When they're used in rice crispy bars, the maple flavor gets diluted just a tad, but there's still that sweet, nutty, caramel-esque maple goodness in the background. Combined with crisp rice, butter, and whatever else you baking geniuses put in those things, it's a delicacy you're sure to want next fall and every fall after that.

So, yes, we'd buy these again next year. Sonia wishes they sold them in a much larger bag. $2.99 for this 6 oz package. Four and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia for Trader Joe's Mini Maple Marshmallows.



Bottom line: 8.5 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.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus


Well this stuff is clearly just Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch plopped on top of a traditional tub of hummus. That's not quite as weird as pickle flavored hummus or chocolate flavored hummus if you ask this guy, but it could still be considered "experimental" in nature, I suppose.

By a quick count, this is at least the ninth variety of hummus we've reviewed on this blog throughout the years, not counting the hummus we made ourselves using Trader Joe's Organic Tahini and some handy dandy cans of chickpeas we had floating around in the pantry. In short, I love hummus and most other garbanzo bean derivatives.


And I guess I'll just cut to the chase and say I'm a fan of this new-ish product. Initially, I was gonna say there's not nearly enough of the chili onion crunch, but after inhaling about half the tub within a few minutes of having opened it, mi boca es en fuego and I don't know how much more of that stuff I could have handled.

So the heat level is acceptable. Spice-o-phobes beware. It's not super hot either. My tolerance just isn't what it used to be. It's got a nice chili onion chickpea flavor with a bit of a kick. Big thumbs up from both of us.


Complaints? There's not much crunchiness to be found. The crispity-crunchity factor is severely dampened by the soft mush of the whirled garbanzos and tahini, but the coolness of the hummus also helps temper the spice level, too.

$3.99 for the tub. Would definitely buy again. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus.



Bottom line: 8.5 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.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Chai Tea Mints


Kind of a random little last-minute checkout stand kind of purchase here. I like mints. I like the flavor of chai tea. But I've never really craved a mint that tasted like chai.

But if Trader Joe's says I need chai tea mints, then maybe I need chai tea mints. Why not?

They're about the size of your average Altoid or other brand name mint. They are leaf-shaped and have leaf veins on one side and "TJ" on the other.


The taste? Hmmm. Kinda odd. I see where they get "chai" from, for sure. I guess it's the cardamom and black tea. You can taste it immediately. Later, you can taste the hint of peppermint oil mentioned on the ingredients list. There's something chalky both in taste and texture throughout the whole experience, though. I find it rather unpalatable. Is it the calcium stearate?

Do they even freshen your breath? Well, kinda. I guess it's better to smell like a chai tea latte than garlic, onions, and tuna fish...I mean, if that's, in fact, what you had for lunch...


About two bucks for a tiny tin of chai flavored mints. There are supposedly 57 pieces in there. Vegan. Would not buy again. Two and a half stars from me.

Sonia likes them enough. In regards to the discrepancy, she states, "Well, I like chai." I do too, wifey. However, I don't like chalk. She claims she doesn't detect the chalkiness. Four stars from her.

Bottom line: 6.5 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, February 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs


Usually Trader Joe's rolls out maple stuff in the fall, but I believe these little beauties debuted last month. Right now is actual maple harvest season—February into April, so let's take a look, shall we?

I was highly skeptical of these puffs before trying them. I mean, I love corn and rice-based snacks. They're so light and crispy and snackable. I'm thinking: Bambas, The World's Puffiest Sour Cream & Onion Puffs, and classic snacks like Pirate's Booty. They've generally been savory flavors like white cheddar cheese, rather than sweet, although a couple versions of the Bambas featured peanut butter and cocoa. How would they work with maple flavoring?

At first bite, both Sonia and I were a little weirded out, honestly. The texture was no surprise. Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs are identical to all the above-mentioned puffs in terms of their crispy, crunchy mouthfeel. On the other hand, the taste was a brand new experience.

There's an amber dusting on each puff. It looks a bit like cinnamon, but it tastes distinctly mapley. It's also oddly buttery, too. Just like a real pancake. The flavor grew on me quickly.

Not the beautiful wifey, however. She was still saying they tasted weird after a couple handfuls and told me I could finish the bag. I happily did. It took me more than one sitting, but I finished the whole thing in less than 24 hours. I thought they were addicting.

$2.49 for the 4 oz bag. Vegan. Gluten free. I'd buy again. Sonia wouldn't. She says she didn't think they were gross per se, but rather they're just not her thing. She'd prefer a cheese or sour cream and onion flavored puff.

I think these could easily become churro flavored puffs if they substituted cinnamon for the maple and molasses flavors. I'd try that version, too. Three out of five stars from Sonia on Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs. Four and a half from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Kitchari

Sonia and I both love Indian food and have been to numerous Indian restaurants in numerous cities, so I thought it odd that neither of us had heard of kitchari before this. Apparently, the way it's pronounced rhymes with "stitchery" or "witchery," and it's a dish frequently used for cleansing or anti-inflammatory purposes. Here's a good article on the subject.

We've seen these convenient microwavable pouches of Indian Fare from Trader Joe's before. Nuke for about a minute, dump on rice, and voila, an extremely cheap and easy Indian meal. 
The smell of this dish was wonderful straight out of the microwave. There was a rich earthiness under a fragrant spice blend including ginger, fennel, cardamom, and turmeric. Upon tasting it, we were both somewhat unimpressed. We both agreed it didn't taste as bold as it smelled, and we wished there had been more whole peas or beans or something to bite down on. The texture was quite mushy.


The split mung beans by themselves didn't do much for us in the flavor department, and the spice blend, though pleasant, wasn't as pungent as we'd hoped. We certainly liked it overall, but didn't love it by any means, especially when compared to the vast majority of amazingly flavorful Indian products we've tried from TJ's over the years.

But then I decided to do some internet recon on the dish. That's when I stumbled upon that article I linked to in the first paragraph. It seems like maybe kitchari is more of a medicinal dish than the typical wild ride for the taste buds that East Indian cuisine can often be. Apparently, it's mushy by design, and that makes it super easy to digest. Other properties of the mung beans help remove toxins from the digestive system. Also the spice blend is so mild that even young children and old folks can consume it, according to that article.


As fate should have it, my stomach had been upset for a day or two prior to trying the kitchari. And...as fate should have it, the kitchari helped. It helped a lot actually. I noticed an almost immediate improvement with my gastrointestinal grumblings.

So...if you're looking for a scrumptious Indian dish, click right here and scroll through 12 years of reviews. I'd put this one near the bottom of the pack if scoring on taste and texture alone, but I can't deny there are definite detox qualities here...and again, it's not bad tasting by any means. $2.29 for the single serving pack. It's not explicitly labeled as "vegan" for some reason, but I can't see why it wouldn't be.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Cheese Empanadas with Cassava Crust


I suppose if they can make tortilla chips out of a nutty, starchy root vegetable like cassava, then empanada crust shouldn't be out of the question either. The texture of this cassava isn't chewy per se, but it's just a smidge less crispy than traditional crust. It didn't bother me at all. In fact, I was surprised how much I liked it. It tasted like...well, a nutty, starchy root vegetable, but yet strangely similar to a normal, wheat-based bread.

Sonia made two odd comments about the product when she tried it. The first was that as soon as she cut hers open, it smelled like fish fillet. Um. Okay. I didn't get that at all. I assumed that meant she didn't like it, but the next words out of her mouth were something about enjoying the product a lot and that it was really good.


The second strange comment from the wifey was something about really wanting a dipping sauce, specifically a tamarind-based one. Yikes. I certainly wasn't thinking of any fixins here—despite the fact that I'm usually the condiment-craver between the two of us—and tamarind was about the last thing I would have thought of as a dipping sauce.

Some might think the filling here is a smidge on the boring, plain side I suppose, but we both loved the ricotta, onion, and spinach combo. To me, it was almost like a cheese-based spinach dip. That's why I didn't crave a dipping sauce I think. Spinach dip is already a condiment, and you don't dip a condiment in another condiment, right?


Two empanadas come in the pack. They're a bit smaller than other empanadas we've seen from Trader Joe's, but at about $3 for the box, they're a bit cheaper, too. No meat. No gluten. We'd buy them again. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Vegan Thai Green Curry


Well here's something I definitely can't heat in the air fryer. Looks like a tasty, convenient, work-friendly microwave meal, and fortunately, I have a hankerin' for some Thai today. Let's dive in.

Like I mentioned, this is a microwavable meal. No other heating options are given. And for the second time in a row, I'm looking at a product that took LESS time to heat than was suggested on the packaging. The instructions say to heat for 3 minutes, then stir, and then heat for 2-3 more minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, the product began to boil over the side of the tray and onto the microwave carousel lazy Susan thing. Our microwave is filthy at the moment. Will the wife even notice if I leave a few little pools of green curry in there?


The tray easily bends in the middle in case you want to try to simply fold the curry compartment onto the rice compartment. I was wary of spillage, so I mostly just flicked the curry over with my fork. Or you could be fancy and put the whole thing in an Asian-style bowl, of course.

It's a tasty product, for sure. If there's any difference between the curry they used here and the epic Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce, neither Sonia nor I could detect it, flavor-wise, although I think this curry was a tad thinner in texture.

Swimming around in the curry were carrots, eggplant chunks, and tofu sheets. The tofu "sheets" are more like wads of tofu by the time they're heated, transferred to the rice, and scooped up by a fork or spoon. I've never tried tofu in this format before. It yields a less chewy texture by virtue of its thinness. I'm fine with it this way, while Sonia prefers tofu cubes. The veggies weren't chewy or rubbery or anything, so we were good with those, too.

99% of the flavor of this dish is coming from the curry. That's not a bad thing, because it's an outstanding complex, coconutty, salty, spicy, savory flavor. At $3.99 for the single serving, Sonia thinks it would be much wiser to grab a jar of the curry itself for half the price, heat up your own rice, and mix in whatever veggies or additions you choose. You're absolutely paying for the convenience factor here. Guess we can't punish it too harshly for that since that's apparently what TJ's is going for. You'll find it in the frozen section. Vegan.

So...something like three and a half stars a piece on this product.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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