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

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


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.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Fried Olive Bites


Kalamata olives I'm familiar with. It's one of the few foods Sonia is allergic to that I'm not. And that's one of the reasons I chose this app for elevensies yesterday—so I wouldn't have to share with the beautiful wifey. Haha. You think that's mean? Wouldn't it have been much meaner to share them with her under the circumstances? She actually has a pretty severe reaction that involves swelling in her extremities and face.

But there were also Castlevania olives, er Castelvetrano rather, in the box. Neither of us recognized that ingredient. If there's some way to tell the Kalamata olives apart from the Castlevania ones, we didn't figure out how to do it. It all tasted pretty much the same to me: salty, earthy, slightly bitter.


The fried breadcrumb coating was nice and crispy but didn't add a ton of flavor. As far as the stuffing was concerned, cream cheese was fine, but I would have preferred mozzarella or possibly even something more exotic than that. There's blue cheese listed in the ingredients, but it's pretty low on the list. Both Sonia and I are sensitive to blue cheese, but I didn't feel it at all. It might have lent an extremely subtle moldy tang to the filling, but for the most part, it's just plain cream cheese in there.

Trader Joe's put out a similar product stuffed with chicken a few years back. Not sure if Sonia and I tried those at the time. If we did, they weren't very memorable, and apparently the Shelly family wasn't super enthused.

Before it was all said and done, Sonia did take her life into her own hands and tried a bite. She was much more positive about these olive bites than I was, but I think that's mainly because she can't have them. "People always want what they can't have" and all that.


These would go pretty fast at a fancy Christmas party if they were piping hot straight out of the oven and people were quickly grabbing just one or two. I don't recommend them as a mid-morning snack or a substitute for lunch—although I'm thinking most normies don't do weird stuff like that like I do—at least not with the same regularity.

Anyway, these aren't bad if you're into olives and cream cheese, but we probably won't purchase again.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Mashed Sweet Potatoes


A very long time ago at a county fair in central Pennsylvania, I had some sweet potato fries from a random vendor. They served them dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and then poured some maple syrup over them. They were absolutely dessertastic.

Although I've recreated the recipe at home a few times since then, I've come across quite a few other restaurants and eateries that serve sweet potato fries, and in every instance they bring them out with ketchup or tartar sauce or some other condiment that I consider an abomination to pair with sweet potato fries. I never got that.


That would be like making sweet potato casserole with mayo and relish or tomato sauce or something like that. Nobody ever does that...because it would be disgusting. You put sweet stuff like marshmallows on your sweet potato casserole. And with this convenient, Thanksgivingy Trader Joe's offering, I decided to add cinnamon, maple syrup, and a dab of whipped cream to emulate a mushy version of those delicious fries.

And it was awesome. Sonia thought so, too. The product on its own is fine, as well. There's only one ingredient: sweet potatoes. So you know what it's gonna taste like, right? The bag contains approximately 35 pellets of frozen sweet potato. I guess about 10 pellets equals one serving. So you throw the desired amount plus a little water into a sauce pan. They melt right down into a smooth mush in about 6 minutes. There's not a lot of lumpiness in the equation. The product has a very nice even consistency, and it seems to be as flavorful as any non-frozen mashed sweet potatoes I've ever had.

If you want to get fancy and make a marshmallow glaze with chopped pecans and whatever else, this would work. Or if you want to take the lazy man's route and just dump a few tablespoons of maple syrup in the mix, top with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and a dab of whipped cream, I can verify that tastes great that way, too—very much worthy of Thanksgiving Day dessert status in my opinion.

$2.49 for three and a half servings—could stretch it to four if you're serving with a big Turkey Day meal or anything like that. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Chickpea Masala Salad


I'm not sure how appropriate it is to review this product right now. We're right in the midst of pumpkin, butternut squash, apple, maple, sweet potato season. It's officially fall. October. Autumn. But this here is essentially a cold bean salad. I think of this as more of a summer type food.

But once in a while, it's fun to do something wildly inappropriate. Well, okay, wildly inappropriate might be hyperbole. I mean, look at the colors. They're as fall-ish as you'd want them to be: bright orange and crisp yellow, with vibrant red on the label.

The product tastes as vivid as it looks. Sonia and I were both surprised how much we liked it. I'll eat chickpeas any day of any season, and masala dishes are almost always delicious. I was a bit wary of the "topped with pickled vegetables" part of the equation, though, but it turned out to be the perfect crown for this unique melange of flavors.


Mustard, lemon, onions, garlic, paprika, tamarind, cilantro. You can taste it all. It's nice and spicy, but the actual heat is extremely subtle. As you might expect, there's a rich, earthy, beany flavor at the core of this dish, but it's so much more complex than that. The teensy bits of cauliflower and carrot soaked in brine and vinegar round out the dish with tang and crunch.

The beautiful wifey and I had big plans to put this product in wraps and sandwiches and maybe even slather it on toasted naan bread, but we didn't make it that far. Between the two of us, we polished off the tub in a single day. It just kept calling us back for forkful after forkful of the Indian-spiced bean salad.

Every once in a while Sonia gets mistaken for an East Indian woman. Maybe it's all the masala spices on her breath. I'm sure she'll buy this product again, but she also wants to try to make her own version at home. $4.99 for the 12oz tub. Perfect five from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo

 

Now that I once again am back to work at home in my basement at least half the time, I've recalled the numerous perks to this kind of arrangement. No commute. Sweatpants. No one minds if I sing along poorly to Amazon Music. Dependably good coffee. There's still catty coworkers, but at least they're the purry, four-legged kind. 

And if for lunch i want something that can be either microwaved or baked in the oven...I can go for the oven. No holds barred. 

Such as it was with the new Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo. Nuke it for two or three minutes, or bake for 40-45? In CubicleLand, there's only the one...at home there's choices...well..let's take advantage then. That's exactly what I did. Lunch lovin' in the oven. Boom. 


Well-seasoned readers may recall I'm a huge fan of the TJ's soy chorizo. It's what made me want to join the TJ's review train years ago - that stuff is legit! And that's coming from a carnivore so that was a huge selling point right there. 

So here's the problem, sorta: this scramb-bowl of stuff just doesn't hold it's own by itself. Not really. This can be seen either way: on one hand, it's adaptable and suitable for a variety of tatse palates and preferences and attitudes. On the other: just feels like it lacks too much. For such a flavor and salt bomb, there's an almost surprising lack of vibrant flavor. No real spice or heat - the teeniest of smidgiest of tinges, sure, but not much. After a few bites I couldn't help but unload a torrent of my alltime favorite TJ's product into my bowl and mix around. Granted, that's kinda my default thing to do with eggy scrambles like this, so take as you will. 


That's the other thing. Aside from flavor, there's something else amiss here to really fill out the meal. It could be..an avocado. Or some sweet potatoes. Or a tortilla. Or tortilla chips. Or even some rice and beans. Something....something is needed to make the whole thing seem more complete. For me, at lunch that meant a bunch of crumbled up sweet potato chips because that's what I had. It kinda worked. 

Everything else is a plus. The tofu does a tremendous job emulating scrambled eggs - mine were dry and firm from its oven prep, so if microwaved YMMV. The cheese seemed like real actual cheddar enough, not a cocounut oil creation. Nothing offputting or weird or distasteful. If I had to go vegan, this would be a great convenience option I'd grab without hesitation. Just need the salsa and something else, too. 

There you have it. Not a bad deal all the way around for the $3ish bucks. Not earth shattering either, and made my day of insurance verifications and authorizations go by a little more happily with a satisfied belly. But not as happily as butchering "SemiCharmed Life" with only myself and the kitties as an audience. Semicharmed life, semihappy meal. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque


Have you noticed that the internet can read your mind now?

I mean, for as long as I can remember, it's shown me targeted ads based on my searches, purchases, and sites that I visit frequently. Then it started to show me ads for things that I'd only talked about, which isn't all that spooky since pretty much every device has a microphone that's listening 24/7. A little creepy, but easily explainable, right?

But lately, I've noticed there are ads for things I haven't even talked about—only thought about. Like after mowing the lawn the other day, I was thinking about how my back felt a little out of alignment. I hadn't thought about visiting a chiropractor in years, but for some reason the notion crossed my mind to look for a local one, and sure enough, the very next time I brought up this very blog, there in the right side bar was an ad for a local chiropractic center. Never said a word about it to anyone.


The logical conclusion? The internet can read my mind. We live in The Matrix. Or there are some ultra-advanced algorithms that have gotten weirdly good at predicting specific events within complex systems. I'm not sure which. Similarly, yet perhaps not quite as dumbfoundingly mysterious, Trader Joe's "read our minds" with this particular iteration of pumpkin soup.

Both Sonia and I had talked about how the pumpkin bisque from a couple years ago was too sweet and would have worked well with other veggies like butternut squash. Lo and behold, here it is in our grocery bag just two years later.

It's still punkinny. It's still creamy. It still has hints of onion, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. But it's much less sweet. Still a little sweet, to be sure, but they toned it down a few notches in a really good way. The savory flavors come through better in this iteration. It has a rich, harvesty taste that's very pleasant.


The part where they neglected to read my mind is where I wanted chunky veggies in the previous version. This one is still very smooth. There are teensy bits and flecks of stuff, but everything is pureed. It wouldn't have hurt the mix to have actual carrot and onion pieces floating throughout. We tossed some of the recently-reviewed veggie bites into our bowls, which partially redeemed them from their boring-ness, and partially redeemed this product from its lack of toothsome chompability.

Sonia's still into this stuff significantly more than I am, but it's a step in the right direction from that super sweet pumpkin bisque in the Mason jar if you ask me.

$3.99 for a 20 oz tub. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Garden Vegetable Soup

Soup is a good fall and winter food. It's also nice when it rains. We've been making up for a relatively dry summer with heavy rainfall nearly every day for the past week or so here in the northern midwest. So I thought a nice bowl of hot soup was in order.

First impression: it's quite thick. Sonia noted that the product is almost stew-like, since there's relatively little liquid in relation to the large, plenteous vegetable chunks. She likes it that way. She doesn't like "soupy soups," as she put it.

As far as texture is concerned, I'll agree. It's very chunky and hearty. Surprisingly so. Add anything like crackers or croutons, and they quickly absorb what little wateriness there is, resulting in something nearly as thick as traditional gumbo.

Flavor-wise, however, I thought the soup was too salty. Rather than relying on the actual vegetables for crisp garden produce type flavors, all I tasted was a briny, tomatoey liquid.


Even the veggies themselves seemed too saturated with the broth to taste anything other than something salty and vaguely tomato-esque. Too bad, because there's pretty much a whole garden in that jar: potato, sweet potato, spinach, carrot, kale, celery, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, etc...

Sonia thinks the flavor is fine, too. She'll give it four stars.


$3.99 for the three serving jar. We've seen much better soup from Trader Joe's over the years in my personal opinion, but this one does come in a Mason jar you can keep, and it's shelf-stable for about two years from date of purchase. So...three stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces


 Another day, another quick hit. That's just how it rolls right now with my ever growing family as the world continues to reawaken. 

But no time for the details on all that. You want a real quick hit? Grab a shortie of Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces next time you see them. They're either $1.99 or $2.99...don't remember...doesn't matter. 

Crispy. Crunchy, A touch greasy. Fleshy. Spicy. A wee salty, And perfection. It was love at first sight. There's no way this go wrong, unless you're one of the odd types who wouldn't enjoy something like this. Grab a handful and place on whatever you're eating. Burger? Taco? Pizza? Salad? Eggs? Soup? Sandwich? Mashed potatoes? Mac n cheese? Heck, probably even ice cream? Yes, to all of those, and more. 

There's nothing magical or mystical here. It's just thin slices of jalapeño battered lightly and fried (presumably) into an irresistably crunchy topping. Or, let's be honest...snack. I ate nearly 2/3rds of a cannister all by myself, and stopped only because I didn't want my wife's ire to consume me while enjoying chili later on that night. These are amazing. 

My only critique? There were too few "big pieces" of pepper. Those pieces are the best, when your teeth cut thru the crispy shell and sink into that mildly spicy, fleshy jalapeño....man, I'm making myself hungry again. Love 'em, need more of 'em. There were quite a few middle sized guys and naturally a handful of empty fried crumbs. Those are all tasty as well...but we're here for the big tasty jalapeños. 

Get 'em, you won't regret 'em. Pair nicely with a hoppy IPA.  Delish, and darn near perfect. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crispy Jalapeño Pieces: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Onion Chips

I never really got Funyuns.

Considering how much I love the taste of onions, I'm just never in the mood to have oily corn meal rings that vaguely taste like the popular root vegetable. I mean, they're not terrible. I just always wondered why they couldn't have some actual onion bits in them. 

Sure, they're optimized for sitting in unrefrigerated vending machines for weeks or months at a time, which wouldn't work with real onion pieces. But what if the onion pieces were dehydrated? Hmm. Then we might have a real winner.

And what if, furthermore, there was no cornmeal at all and the only ingredients were "onions, rice bran oil, and salt"? Well, then, my friends, you would have these: Trader Joe's Crispy Onion Chips.


I'm not saying everybody will enjoy these unique chips as much as I do. In fact, I'd be shocked if many people are with me on this one. The chips flaunt a texture not unlike that of styrofoam. Crispy? Yes, but they melt in your mouth in the most delightful and unexpected way.

The natural flavor of onions is on full display here. They almost taste like a rice-based snack, dusted with some complex array of garlicky additives and exotic seasonings. There's even something buttery about them. But all that's there is onion, salt, and oil. Amazing, really. 

If you don't have a weird affinity for onions like Sonia and I do, you might not be as enthused. But for all onion-lovers, I'd say these are worth at least one purchase. $2.69 for the 1.4 oz bag. It says it's one serving, but even Sonia and I managed to stretch it to multiple sittings. If you eat this whole bag all at once, then dang, I guess you must really, really like onions.

Four and a half stars from me. Four and a half from the wifey.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snack

In my 38.5 years on this crazy planet, I've had many, many snacks. You name it, I've had it, most likely. 

I've also had plenty of crazy thoughts. Like thinking I looked good in those purple shorts back in middle school, or any other number I've had, most of them I dare not admit here. 

But never, not once, have my snacking and scheming ways crossed streams and converged into the thought of "Hey, what I really wanna snack on right now is a crispy mushroom."

You neither? Shocking. 

But hey, that's why things like Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snacks exist: because others dream just a little bit more, are a bit more creative, or just have different, kinda odd cravings. Thank God for all that. 

As may imagine, a crispy mushroom makes a bit of an odd snack. I hesitate to also call them crunchy as advertised, because it just seems a little inaccurate. The slices are vacuum fried, dried and salted, which leaves a perpetually crunchy outside but leaves the inside a soft baked feel. Like, it's absolutely not crunchy, but not soft and fleshy like an average musroom slice. It's just light and airy and, well, crispy. No other great word for it. It's kinda a fun bite and different than chips or popcorn or any other typical kinda snack. 

My lovely bride, whose sense of taste is still slowly returning after a COVID bout, kept marveling at "the seasoning" on the mushrooms. This is even after I told her a couple times that there's only salt and oil added. There's no extra umami-sprinkle or anything fancy you can do with mushrooms, although that'd be a fun touch. Nah, just salt and 'shroom, and I guess maybe somehow she can taste that better than i can, because to me it's a plain salty taste. Sure, there's a smidge of earthiness from the fungal base, but it's nothing overly flavorful, to me at least, although i too could be a bit hampered. 


In all, it's a light, kinda fun, different snack that probably has a few other applications. Sprinkling some on a salad wouldn't be a horrible idea, and maybe some kinds of soup as well like tomato. No word on if the crispy integrity would hold on up in those scenarios. Or maybe add as ingredient into a savory snack mix. . 

A one serving (!) bag costs $3.99, which may or may not mirror market price of mushrooms so well...I don't keep on tulip bulbs and porkbellies and all that, so judge for yourself. it's a buy I'd make again but am not in a huge rush to - just not so crazy for this snack. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snack: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Korean Inspired Bulgogi Beef Fried Rice with Kimchi


I've had bulgogi beef a couple times from some pretty legit Korean barbecue restaurants before. Granted, I haven't been to one in a number of years, but I still remember that bulgogi-style beef being among the best red meat I've ever consumed in my life. I'm not sure exactly what it was marinated in, but man, that stuff was tasty.

It'll be hard for any grocery store frozen product to compete. Also, I guess I'm on record on this blog saying I'm not really into the whole fermented vegetable thing, i.e. kimchi or even sauerkraut. However, I don't think this dish is full of the rotted cabbage that I'm familiar with—just scant bits of the stuff distributed throughout. There seem to be some green beans and maybe some scallions or green onions, vegetable-wise, too. I'm not sure if they're a type of kimchi as well. I know there are more kimchi varieties than just the cabbage one that's most famous. I'm always ready to give most foodstuffs a second chance. So kimchi, here we come.


Anyway, I cooked the bag of rice, from frozen, in a big pan that I insist on calling a "wok." Sonia always corrects me and tells me it's just a big saucepan. Hmmm. Looks like a wok to me. Although, I'm sure Sonia is technically right. In true Trader Joe's fashion, the heating time took nearly double the suggested 7 minutes listed on the instructions on the bag. But heat it did eventually, nice and evenly.

The kimchi flavors here are subtle. For that matter, the bulgogi flavors are subtle, too. I'd say there's a decent amount of beef in the product. There's not enough that you'll get a piece in every bite, but not so sparse that you'll run out before you finish, either. Some of the meat tidbits are gristly. One slab even appeared to have a large vein or artery sticking out of it. Gross. Most pieces are pleasant, though—not super chewy or tough—but as expected, they lack that melt-in-your-mouth quality that I remember from my previous encounters with Korean barbecue.

If anything, I'd probably want more of the green onions and green beans throughout the mixture. As it is, it's mostly just rice. And it begs for some soy sauce and/or sriracha. Fixins help it a lot. I even tried some K-Mex fusion, adding Cholula hot sauce in place of sriracha, yielding moderately agreeable results.

At $4.99, this dish is vastly more accessible price-wise than an authentic Korean restaurant meal. Those aren't usually cheap. Not surprisingly, the quality isn't quite on par with restaurant quality, though, either. We probably won't pick up this particular item again, but if Trader Joe's offers similar Korean meals in the future, we'll definitely sample those as well. Maybe some Korean folks can share their opinions here, or maybe they have some tips on what sauces and condiments they use to doctor this dish up.

I give it three out of five stars. Sonia gives it three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Greek Chickpeas with Parsley & Cumin

Beware the Ides of March!

I guess that was more a Roman thing than a Greek thing. You know, Julius Caesar and all. But the Romans and Greeks were so similar to one another. They basically even had all the same gods. The Romans just gave them different names. 

And it's recently come to my attention that even though "The Ides of March" referred to March 15 in the famous Shakespeare play, that it actually just generally refers to the first full moon of the month, which doesn't happen for a couple more weeks this year. The full moon just happened to fall on March 15 the year they assassinated Caesar.

Speaking of Caesar, I just made a killer Caesar salad with spring mix, dressing, feta, croutons, and these amazing chickpeas. How's that for a slick segue? Not impressed? Meh. Well, I tried.


The good news is that Trader Joe's Greek Chickpeas with Parsley & Cumin don't disappoint. I mean as long as you like chickpeas and parsley and cumin... But it would be silly to buy these if you don't like chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, right? 

I myself am a huge fan of chickpeas and always have been. This product is a nice little twist on regular garbanzos. They come packed in a medium-thick oil that's zesty, tangy, and surprisingly flavorful. There's a bit of lemon in there for some citrusy zing. There's obviously cumin and parsley, but also garlic, pepper, and salt. I can honestly just eat the beans right out of the tin and be perfectly happy, but they go well with salads, sandwiches, tacos, nachos, or any dish that welcomes beans of any kind.


$1.79 for the two serving container. I love the simplicity and convenience of the product, though I do wish there were an easy way to re-seal the tin after opening. Even I might not eat this whole thing in one sitting. I guess there's always tupperware to the rescue. They're shelf-stable and ready-to-eat. Ours had a best-by date a good 15 months after the day we purchased them. These might just become a pantry staple if I have anything to say about it.

Sonia digs 'em, too—maybe even a wee bit more than I do. Put us down for four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Taco Salad Kit

If you're gonna be one thing, you should be efficient. 

So, in that spirit, why not roll Meatless Monday into Taco Tuesday? Especially because, in our house, Mondays are breakfast for dinner night, and more often than not that means bacon, and you don't ever ever ever mess with bacon. Ever. Find someone who disagrees with that - even some vegetarians and vegans wouldn't

So in the spirit of efficiency (not one of my usual traits), let's get down to Trader Joe's Vegan Taco Salad Kit. 

I'm pretty sure this *has* to be new. My lovely bride and I scan the salad kit section every single time, as pretty much any salad kit we've ever bought from TJ's has been a hit. We love salads and tacos and naturally taco salad, and while carnivorous we don't mind vegan options either, so we would've bought this long ago if it ever showed up on the radar previously. 

Digging in, there's some pretty basic stuff here. The mixed salad base is the exact same basic mix seen everywhere for salad - romaine, red cabbage, green cabbage, shredded carrot. It's a classic for a reason - it works. Will it inspire you? Likely not, but it will fill you and serve as an adequate base for the real draw - all the fixin's. 

There's a small baggie of crispy purple tortilla shreds, with emphasis on small. Between my wife and I, who ate this for lunch, we got maybe 10 shreds each. That's not a lot for something purporting to be a five serving bag. Nonetheless they were crispy and tortilla-y so it works. The pico was a a touch spicy and added some nice components to the meal that made it a bit more festive and lively. Kinda funny how something basic like corn and black beans can do that, but there it is, with little touches of cilantro and jalapeno. Delish. And the jalapeno ranch was a hit too - the "flow" seemed a bit off as it was a bit more ploppy than pour-y but once mixed in it didn't matter. it added another little kick with a smooth cool creaminess than kinda helped meld everything together. 

And then, chipotle seitan. Wheat masquerading as seasoned ground beef. How's that gonna work?

A bite of seitan by itself makes it pretty obvious it's not ground beef. The flavor is there but the meaty gristle isn't. It's also a touch, well, grainy, obviously. By itself, I'd say it's not wonderful but isn't revolting either. Mix it in with everything else here, though? It works, wonderfully. The taste shines through and any texture issues get masked well by everything else. I'll give it a pass for sure. 

Overall, both my wife and I tremendously enjoyed the salad. Everything about it screamed "taco salad!" and we weren't missing anything - there was no "oh this could use some cheese" or missing any common-to-us protein sources or any dairy or anything. It's remarkably good, and I have a feeling we'll be sharing a bag for a quick, easy, healthyish lunch quite a few times coming up. The kit cost $5.49 and is well worth it in my opinion - just a few more tortilla shreds and a bit more of the ranch though, please. Otherwise, quadruple thumbs up here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Taco Salad Kit: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup

Chances are, it's pretty cold where you are right now. It sure is here in the 'burgh. Cold enough that it killed our new battery in the family minivan out of nowhere, and naturally at a fairly inopportune time and place - as if there is such thing as a "good time" for that to happen. Cold enough to make being outside for more than two minutes worth questioning your sanity. And given the news stories and social media feeds we've seen from elsewhere, we're fairly lucky here in the 'burgh as other areas have been much more deeply impacted. 

Cold, cold, cold. Please, keep warm. If you can help others get warm too, please do. 

And maybe to help warm up yourself, get a big ol' jar of the new Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup. 

Listen: this ain't no ketchup water from a can. Warhol, when asked why he painted soup cans, said he wanted to paint nothing, and that soup cans were that - nothing. Given his choice of subject matter, in the famous red and white label, I can see why he said that. 

This ain't that. 

First: calabrian chili peppers. Even if you've only ever been to TJ's, you've seen them before, in probably my favorite product ever: the Italian bomba sauce. Mama mia! That's some hot stuff. The calabrese experience in the tomato soup isn't quite the same kick - it's not fermented or anything like the bomba, so a lot less kick - but still there's enough moderate spice and heat and warmth added. If you're staunchly spice adverse, it may be a bit much, but it's at a level that i think it'd be accessible to most folks. Then again I can eat an entire jar of the bomba with a spoon in minutes, so my scale may be off. 

And additionally: dumplings!

Man, who doesn't like dumplings? You can put some in my soup anytime! I love little bits of doughy dough floating around, in a form that's akin to but chewier and doughier than a noodle. Tasty. There's an extra heartiness imparted by the presence of the dumplings, that make the soup feel like less of a side and more of a meal. But there could definitely be more - I'm not asking for handful and handfuls, as the soup is actually pretty tasty and doesn't suffer without dumplings, but a few more would really fill it out more. 

All together, it's delicious, warm, hearty soup, with a little kick, with serious warm belly filling potential, in a convenient quick and easy glass jar, for like $3. Can't beat it. This might be my new favorite store brand soup. Gonna have to go get it a few more times, you know, if the car would start....

Wife and kids sat this out. My lovely bride doesn't like tomatoes, and my kids don't like spice. Oh shucks, more for me. Love it, with only the wish for more dumplings as a knock. So good, so warm on up with some yourself if I may suggest. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosa Burrito

I'm not into globalism as far as politics are concerned, but I must admit, when international cultures entwine, some pretty interesting and enticing culinary combinations result.

I'm thinking taco pizza, curried chicken salad, or Chicano hamburgers...or the fact that you can put sriracha on anything American and make it better. Fusion food. The only thing finer than one tasty tradition is two or more combined in the same dish. And now they're doing stuff like sushi corn dogs, kimchi quesadillas, and pierogi poutine...? What the what? I'll have to try those things some day...but until then, I'm glad there's Trader Joe's.

So it's a samosa...in the form of a burrito. Sounds good. If you use the microwave, this happy little lunch item goes from refrigerated to piping hot in just two minutes.


Despite being a little stuffy from the excessive cold we're feeling here in the upper midwest, that familiar curry-esque samosa smell cut through the kitchen and piqued my appetite immediately. Sonia and I cut our burrito in half and ate it with some other leftover Indian food and rice. By itself, it would have been the perfect size for a stand-alone lunch or even dinner for one person.

There were big chunks of potato, cauliflower, and carrots, plus plenty of large whole peas throughout the dish. The texture of the veggies was just about perfect. The tortilla would have been a bit more crispy had we used the oven, no doubt, but we were fine with it being soft and supple. It's definitely a secondary element after the veggie chunks.


To me, "tomato chutney" doesn't sound particularly appetizing or exciting. But it tasted great. Just look at the ingredients list. There's onions, garlic, mustard, vinegar, white wine, ginger, paprika, turmeric and rosemary, just to name a few of the represented flavors. The taste was every bit as complex and bold as you might expect from those elements. It's a uniquely Indian flavor in the familiar format of a burrito. Would buy again.

$3.99 for the product. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Trader Joe's Creamed Greens

It's kind of ironic and counterintuitive, but Thanksgiving Day and the days surrounding it produce some of the lowest numbers for us on this blog as far as traffic is concerned. You might think that what is arguably the most food-centric day of the year would generate greater interest in food blogs and such, but you'd be wrong.

I mean, it's great that people are apparently paying attention to their families and traveling and preparing for the big day rather than fussing about our silly little grocery store blog. Doesn't bother me a bit. And now that I think about it, it might be slightly disturbing if the reverse were true.

But we're heading into not only the biggest and best family + food holiday of the year, but immediately after, we dive headlong into the Christmas season. At least around our house, turkeys and gourds will be replaced by fat men in red suits and reindeer by the end of this long weekend. So I found it appropriate to look at a product that might find its way into either a Thanksgiving meal or a Christmas meal. It's nothing quite as exciting as a pie or a cake, but hey, every big holiday meal needs to at least pretend that there's been an attempt to provide greens and veggies. So if the creamed corn side dish isn't looking adequate in the way of plant-based roughage, here's another item to consider.


Trader Joe's Creamed Greens with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, & Parmesan Cheese. In addition to being the only Trader Joe's product I've ever seen that includes the Oxford comma before an ampersand in its extended title, it's also one of the only dishes that takes not one, but two of the most hated vegetables in existence and attempts to turn them into calorific comfort foods...with moderate success, I might add.

The flavor is somewhere between a spinach dip and a green bean casserole. There's a heavy, creamy, salty, savory vibe. It tastes quite strongly of parmesan cheese and onions, but the kale and Brussels sprouts are far from wanting in the mixture. That is, your fork will be full of actual greens with what appears to be a medium-thick glaze of cheesy creaminess. The overall effect is a nice hearty veggie flavor with a major comfort food component.

My biggest and possibly only complaint is that certain bits seemed stringy. I'm guessing that the kale is mostly to blame for the stringiness, although sprouts can be a little tough and pulpy, too. There seemed to be "veins" of vegetable matter that didn't want to melt in the mouth quite like the rest of the dish did. Not every bite was stringy, and even the ones that were didn't stop me from plowing through my share of this otherwise smooth side. Sonia didn't seem to mind the texture of the creamed greens at all.

$4.99 for the one pound package. I'd eat this again alongside a traditional holiday meal. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

p.s. It works as a chip dip, too.

Three and a half stars from this guy. Four full stars from Sonia. 

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


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