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Showing posts with label veggies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label veggies. Show all posts

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, August 30, 2023

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Crisps Snack


Some days I don't have any silly intro story or clever segue into the actual review, so I just reminisce about products from the past and link to them at the beginning of the post. That's what we'll do today. We won't remember every single product with cauliflower that we've seen over the years, but we'll look at the times when cauliflower has become a substitute for some other food staple. Ahh...let's look at:

That time cauliflower became rice.

That time cauliflower became mashed potatoes.

That time cauliflower became pizza crust.

That time cauliflower became latkes.

That time cauliflower became tortillas.

That time cauliflower became gnocchi.

That time cauliflower became jalapeño dip.

That time cauliflower became risotto.

That time cauliflower became cookie butter.

Okay, well, that last one might not have been a thing. But you get the picture. They can turn cauliflower into anything. So crispy little crackers should be a walk in the park for the versatile cauliflower, right?


In my book, not so much. These snacky circles are too dense, too rigid. If they were thinner, they'd be much easier to bite and chew. As is, they're like little cookies—more three-dimensional than I'd have imagined them to be. I thought they'd be delicate like rice crackers, but they're much more solid than that.

They taste a little like cauliflower. They're much more earthy and bitter than typical rice crackers. I think I'd be fine with the product if they used all the same ingredients and simply lost the cauliflower. I mean, brown rice flour is the second ingredient, and I never met a rice crisp I didn't like.


Sonia enjoys them. She thinks they have a very unique flavor, and I don't disagree. She's just a little more fond of that unusual flavor than I am. I'd try redeeming them with random toppings and dips, but I'm afraid it would just ruin my enjoyment of said toppings.

We paid $2.99 for the 2.5 serving bag. I wouldn't buy them again if it were just me. Sonia might I guess. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Two and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Cauliflower Crisps Snack.



Bottom line: 6 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.

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, May 17, 2023

Trader Joe's Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack


If you're one of those hamburger and French fries for every single meal kind of folks, I think you're gonna wanna sit this one out. Nothing wrong with hamburgers and fries. Nothing at all. It's a classic American meal. I like burgers as much as the next guy.

But variety is the spice of life, as they say. Also, spice is the spice of life. In this case, it's "togarashi style seasoning." Well, that sounds very Japanese. A quick glance at Wikipedia confirmed that suspicion. I'm excited now. Let's break open this very bright yellow bag, shall we?


It's not just seaweed snacks. It's seaweed snacks coated with tempura and spice-ified with Japanese pepper. There are little bubbles in portions of the tempura batter that almost look like tiny octopus suckers. And the seaweed itself looks like fish skin. If you wanted a kid to eat this for some reason, you could tell him it's dried meat from a sea monster and he might believe you.

Although it is fairly spicy. Not sure if young kids would tolerate the spice level here. It's like maybe a 6 on a scale of 1-10. Perfect for my taste. I might have even tolerated a notch or two beyond what's here, but the heat builds up on your tongue the more and more you eat. Trader Joe's Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack might pair nicely with an ice cold Sapporo or Asahi. Man, I haven't had either one of those in a long time. But I sure do wish I had one right now.

The main weaknesses of this product versus traditional seaweed snacks are: the price. You can get a couple dozen seaweed sheets for half the price of this product. And regular seaweed snacks are pliable enough that you can wrap them or roll them up with other foods inside them. These are too brittle to be used that way.

$3.29 for the two serving bag. Product of Thailand. I just got this a couple weeks ago and I see no evidence that it's still being sold at TJ's. Anybody have any inside intel? I'd consider buying again, especially if I had a particular craving...and a Japanese beer to go along with it. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Trader Joe's Black Garlic

I freaking love garlic. I've sung its praises on this blog numerous times in the past. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of what it does to one's breath, although if you and your partner both have it at the same meal, it's never quite as offensive as when only one of you has partaken of the potent plant's pungency.

It's delicious raw or cooked, in sauces, salsas, dips, chips—you name it, it works. I know they even have garlic ice cream. I think I'll pass on that, though.

You'd think I'd have heard of black garlic a long time ago, but its existence has only recently come to my attention. The easiest way to describe the flavor is with the following analogy:

black garlic : plain garlic :: caramelized onions : raw onions

Black garlic is to plain raw garlic as caramelized onions are to raw onions. Yes. It says right on the shaker it has a "caramelized-like flavor." It might sound a little awkward to put it like that, but it's not wrong. Trader Joe's Black Garlic is actually a little sweet. It's a rich, dark, earthy sweetness, but it's definitely kinda sweet.

Texture-wise, it's like large grains of salt. It makes food just a little crunchy and gritty, but in a good way. I added it to a bagel with plain cream cheese, and black garlic made every aspect of it better. I even tried it on hamburgers, and it worked better than I'd expected. I imagine you could use it on just about anything salty or savory.


$2.99 for about one net ounce of the condiment. Kosher. I'd buy it again. It has rice hull as an "anticaking agent" in the ingredients, but you still might find the grains are stuck together. Just break them apart with a fork before shaking. 

Four and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me on Trader Joe's Ground Fermented Black Garlic.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Trader Joe's Hot Pico de Gallo Salsa


Hot take: Trader Joe's Hot Pico de Gallo Salsa isn't hot, but it's still really good.

Jalapeño peppers are right there—the third ingredient on the list. I'm not sure if our jalapeños were just extra tame or if there simply weren't enough of them, but this salsa that so boldly proclaims itself "hot" was not particularly spicy to either my palate or that of my lovely wife.


And Sonia knows pico de gallo. She's been eating it her whole life. I've been eating it since the 2000's, when I discovered Baja Fresh. Man, they had the best pico de gallo. I mean, theirs wasn't hot either, but you could mix it with spicy salsa and make your own hot pico if you wanted to. Up until now, Baja Fresh had the best pico de gallo either of us had ever eaten.

I think Trader Joe's Hot Pico de Gallo Salsa may now have stolen that title. It's quite flavorful. I guess maybe the tomato, lemon, and cilantro have a cooling effect on what little heat the jalapeños provide. We can always add our own hot sauce or spicy salsa.


It just tastes fresh. The tomatoes, onions, and peppers are pristine and healthy-looking, and they taste like they were just sliced yesterday, rather than sitting in a plastic tub for weeks, being carted all over America in a hot box truck.

Anyway, we'll probably buy it again despite its lack of heat. $2.99 for the 12 oz tub. Four and a half stars a piece for Trader Joe's Hot Pico de Gallo Salsa from Sonia and me.



Bottom line: 9 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.

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.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce

Here's an interesting one. Not feeling marinara sauce on your pasta dish tonight? Don't want Alfredo either? This product might be the alternative you've been looking for.

Or maybe not. The flavor is...interesting. It tastes sour more than anything else, but also bitter, tangy, cheesy. It's quite flavorful, the only question is: will you as an individual like this flavor? 

I could see it being quite off-putting to some and delightful to others, much like the artichoke timbales we looked at a while back, though I think I liked this product more than those oddball appetizers.

You can kind of tell from the picture this product isn't as liquidy as most tomato-based pasta sauces or even Alfredo. It's sort of a coarse, custard-like consistency—like pureed artichokes with cheeses mixed in. It doesn't look very appetizing by itself: almost reminiscent of baby food.


Of course it thins a bit when heated. We also found it works best as a very modest coating. Neither Sonia nor I wanted to pile it on too thick, since the flavor was almost too intense.

It was fine by itself on plain pasta. However, contrary to our initial assumptions, the wifey and I both liked it better when we added some sweet chicken sausage to the dish. The sweetness helped offset some of the sauce's astringency.


Sonia says she'd buy it again just to have that third pasta sauce option on hand. I don't know if I'd ever prefer this over good old-fashioned Ragu or whatever, but I feel more worldly and sophisticated having tried it. $3.49 for the jar. Three and a half stars from the missus. Three from me for Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli

 

There's nary a veggie our family doesn't love. Our twice a week Costco bill surely validates that. The only veggie I remain fairly wary of would be a kohlrabi, just because it looks too much like something I should yank from the ground and toss at a Shy Guy or Ostro a la Super Mario 2....that game frustrated me too much as a kid, and even in recent years, trying to show my kids how "awesome" it was. I don't need memories of my 8 bit trauma on my dinner plate. 

But yeah, even Brussels sprouts make the cut here. Love 'em in all varieties of ways, but mixin' 'em with bacon makes 'em even better. So, totes obvi, Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli was a must get once they popped up in store. 

You gotta really like bacon to like these pasta creations. Yes, the ravioli is green as it has some spinach powder added to try to amp up the sprout factor. Maybe it's supposed to look like some sort of cruciferous concoction. But really....take a bite. It's bacon! So much of it, all ground up and mixed in with some not too chunky Brussels, and a smattering of cheese sauce-ish base. The package also says caramelized onions, and yeah, if I tried hard enough, I could kinda taste them...but mostly, it was bacon and soft cheese with only the occasional fibrous lil chunkie that suggested vegetative content. 

In other words, you're gonna want some veggies on the side here, folks. 

Nonetheless, it was a quick, tasty, fun meal. All we did was boil them up which took no time as they're sold fresh, then we added a little oil. The kids sprinkled (or in the case of our seven year old, totally cakked them) with Parmesan cheese, whereas I was pretty content to eat them as is. The ravioli would probably do okay with a variety of sauces, but perhaps a lighter one would be suggested - I feel as though some taste would get lost in something too creamy, too heavy or too rich. 

$3.99 for a package that yield two pretty ample servings. That seems about right, with prices what they are these days.  Two packages were more than enough four crew. These will be a staple for a quick, easy, fairly delish family meal this fall. Double fours here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives

Olives! C'mon, who doesn't love a good olive, seriously? Snackable, grabbable, fun to eat, cool, refreshing, a surprising variety, versatile, savory...what's there not to like? Really, anytime is perfect for olives, but especially late summer like right now, after a few days vacation, when you accidentally forgot to write anything for your blog before you left, didn't have a laptop to write while you were gone, so had to wait an entire week almost to publish anything...that anyone else or just me?

Anyways, I definitely had time to read up on the new Trader Joes Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives while taking an inadvertent break. There's everything to love here. Garlic! Jalapeños! Ampersands! Some pretty choice looking olives! Sounds perfect!

Indeed, in some ways, these olives really are. They're big and fleshy and firm, with plenty of bite to them. Sure, green olives are kinda basic in the olive world, but they're just such a crisp, clean classic that they're really hard to argue with. They're delicious, through and through. 

Inside each olive there's a decent sliver of brined garlic and a little chunk of deseeded jalapeño as well. I mention the no seeds because that's key on a couple levels. First, there's no unwelcomed seedy texture. And two, if concerned about the spicy level of these olives, don't be. It's the faintest smooch of spice. No seeds means most of the flame throwing capacity of jalapeños is largely extinguished. On a scale of 0 to 10, it's maybe a 1. It's almost not worth writing about. If anything, there's more garlic, and plenty of olive to balance it out.

Which reminds me: sure, they're shelf stable 'til opened, but do yourself a favor and chill these olives before tasting. Warm, eh, not a lot of flavor. Ice 'em down a touch and the flavors really seem to be out and about more. 


Whatever you do with olives, do 'em with these. They won't be the highlight of an olive mix or a charcuterie board, but they will be far from unwelcome. Nothing wrong with a small twist on an olive and that's what we got here. And at $2.99 for the jar, it ain't a bad price either. 

My lovely bride is odd and only likes black olives, not green, and so is sitting this out. Just me for this round of olive munching, so if this score is irresponsible you'll know why. Personally I'd like a touch more heat, but that's my only real complaint. I'll be enjoying these very much as is.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry


 Yeah, yeah, I know, we review plenty of snacks and treats here - more than plenty, but believe me, we eat our veggies too, at least my lovely bride, our kiddo squad and I. Produce takes up a significant chunk of our grocery bill and food storage, and as long as we don't stick it in the basement refrigerator, almost never our garbage bags. The beer fridge unfortunately where fruits and veggies go to be neglected and die.

We just don't review too many here, except when something new and exciting like Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry comes out, we just gotta try it!

Wait...what? This isn't brand new and has been around for months...or maybe even years? I could have sworn I've never seen this before - maybe it's somehow magically new to the Pittsburgh region (we are, after all, pretty much last to get anything), or maybe we do need to pay more attention to the veggies at TJ's after all. 

Anyhoos, what you see here is what you get. It's a nice little medley of everyone's trendy-ish low carb fave - zoodles! -  carrots, diced bell peppers, edamame, broccoli and green beans, all awash in a soy-based gochujang-tinged sauce. Nothing fancy, and honestly, a touch underwhelming, for a couple reasons. 

First and foremost - where's all the zoodles?!?!?!?! For a supposed four serving bag, which Sandy and I easily split two ways, we each got maybe two bites of zucchini. C'mon now.  If we stuck to a serving each, does that mean one bite - or less - for each? Give up the zoodles! 

Second, this would be much better off as a fresh and not frozen product. There's so much moisture from the freezing process here that everything seems a little soft and limp, aside from the edamame. It also took forever for the sauce to vaguely thicken up which further contributed to the over-steamed sensation. 

And third - well - maybe this is just me and my mixed experiences with gochujang, but I'd expect just a touch more of a kick. The spice level here is pretty mild, more of a touch of warmth than anything. It's pretty tasty and pleasant, don't get me wrong, but seems like maybe a touch less soy and a bit more chili pepper would do the trick. 

It's not an awful mix, but don't get it thinking it can be a meal by itself. We added some grilled chicken and even then it was somewhat lacking, even when doubling up servings. A little rice, or a lot more noodles, would have been a good touch. 

In all, it's not bad mix for what it is, but I'd much prefer the raw/roasted/fresh veg we're used to than this frozen mix. At least it didn't come from a can. I'd pick it up again, maybe but add a couple cukes and break out our spiral cutter too. And add some of our own gochujang to kick it up. or maybe just makes it myself, can't be that hard...anyways....

Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Artichoke Timbales


Never had a timbale before. Even after doing some internet research, I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. I got at least three different versions. My natural inclination would be to pronounce it the Spanish way: teem-BALL-ey. The one thing every source agreed upon was that timbales are named after a type of drum, although which type of drum was yet another point of contention. It's either a timpani, a kettledrum, or a tom-tom.

But I suppose that since we're just talking about a general shape, all of the above could be applicable at least somewhat. At any rate, that's probably enough blabbering on about the name and shape of this food. How does it taste?

Well, honestly...it's nothing to write home about. I mean, there are obviously artichoke hearts in there, and I like artichoke hearts. But even the hearts aren't bursting with flavor. They're more salty than anything else. The quiche-like base doesn't add a whole lot to the flavor, either.


Sonia commented, "there's an earthy, planty taste about them." I totally agree with that assessment, although she apparently meant it as praise. I'd say the conglomeration is a little too planty. There's almost a bitterness about the whole thing. The two cheeses, mozzarella and grana padano, don't provide enough flavor to save the dish. There's a significant presence of olive oil—like you can actually taste the olive oil, which isn't necessarily something I look for in an appetizer. Although there was no broccoli mentioned in the ingredients, the beautiful wifey and I both tasted something decidedly broccoli-ish.

A more impressive, more complementary, or more potent spice blend might have gone a long way with this hors d'oeuvre, but it's just not there. I tried numerous additives, but nothing redeemed it completely. I guess I should give an honorable mention to the Italian Style Sprinkle, but even that failed to completely exonerate these pseudo-souffles.

There's nothing to complain about as far as the texture is concerned. It's slightly crispy on the top and softer toward the middle and bottom. The artichoke hearts floating throughout the mixture aren't chewy or stringy at all, so that's a plus. The overall texture is not unlike that of a quiche or souffle as mentioned above, although there are very different ingredients used here. Looks like the body is made of potato starch, rice starch, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable bouillon, among other things.

Once again Trader Joe's introduces us to an exotic, foreign appetizer for a mere five bucks or so, brought to us all the way from Italy. I can't fault them for that, but I wouldn't buy these apps again. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two stars from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 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.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie


 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls

Yes, dear, I left the air fryer on the counter.

I know we've been trying hard to do better about keeping everything cleaner and uncluttered. And I know that, on first impression, it makes no sense to have the air fryer out as we just had the crockpot there after that delicious lasagna you made last night. I put that....mostly away before getting out the air fryer. The crock still needs to be cleaned fully and is soaking in the kitchen sink if I recall correctly. 

So here's why the air fryer is out...I needed to write a review of the new Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls.

Yes, I know, we ate them as a part of lunch the other day, and we both generally liked them. But, I kinda forgot what they tasted like, so this morning, before you awoke, to try and write the review, I made and ate one at like 5am. Hence the airfryer out, it needs to be cleaned, I'll take care of it, and don't worry, there's still some spring rolls for you too. I hope all that satisfies you. 

Remember how good these are, though? I mean, as far as greasy, delicious comfort, it's tough to beat a good spring roll at times. Especially when it's full of soft, tasty pulled pork, and mixed in with glass noodles and the usual veggie suspects like carrots, green onions and cabbage. The noodles have just a touch of that mung bean taste to add a little sly funk, and of course there's pretty ample soy sauce to help tie everything together. The garlic and black pepper on top on all that...chef's kiss. 

That and I'm not sure how I forgot about the hickory smoke taste. It's...kinda the dividing line on the product. On one hand, it's a nice added touch and is definitely, unmistakably present in every bite. But, it's definitely an added flavor, as in, the pork itself wasn't hickory smoked (which would have been delicious) but is instead an added smoke flavor. As a result, long after the spirng roll is down the hatch, that smokey taste lingers on. Granted, it's not overkill like way too many liquid smoke-infused foods that made me more or elss swear them off and only go for actual smoked stuff ten times out of ten, but still. It's done well enough that I'll sign off on them, but I'd still opt for actually smoked meat, not meat splashed with "natural hickory smoke flavor."

Anyways, love, I'll get to that airfryer on my coffee break, and next time we go to TJ's if you want more of these I won't complain. They were what, $3ish a box for four rolls for us to share? Meanwhile if served these at a restaurant they'd be at least twice as much and justifiably so. Worthy of another go, I'd say, and I think you'd say the same. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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