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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trader Joe's Heart Healthy Whole Grain Blueberry Instant Oatmeal

Certainly, there are several important things to consider when selecting a brand of oatmeal. "Sure, this one tastes good," you reason, "but does it have plant sterols?"

Well, you're really in luck because TJ's Heart Healthy Whole Grain Blueberry Instant Oatmeal tastes pretty good, and it has the flaxseed, inulin, and plant sterols you need to keep you going throughout the day.

And if you're one of those poor clueless saps that hasn't caught on to the plant sterol craze yet, just peruse the box for more hints as to what the heck they are...

Aha! Here it says they're plant sterol esters. Thank goodness. I was beginning to think they were plant sterol amides.

And then on the back, we finally note that a healthy dose of .65g of plant sterol esters per serving will reduce LDL-cholesterol and do other cool things to your body. No more searching high and low for those last six and a half tenths of a gram of plant sterol esters to round out your daily diet.

So, after securing your doctorate in biochemistry, with a solid background in botany, you can start to understand what's in this instant oatmeal and then progress toward more practical reading, such as the cooking directions, which are delightfully simple, written in layman's terms, and perfect for idiots like me.

It tastes earthy. Which is good, I guess. Must be the plant sterols. We wish it had more blueberries. All in all, not bad, though. Sonia gives it a 4. I give it a 3.5. Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Trader Ming's Szechuan Style Spicy Beef & Broccoli

When we lived in Hollyweird, California, there was this little hole-in-the-wall joint people referred to as "Dollar Chinese," because back in the day, you could get any entree for $1. Then they changed the name and management like 8 times in 5 years, and prices gradually rose above the $1 mark, and recently they went above $2 per item I think...but you could always get obscenely cheap Chinese food there. For a while it was "Hong Kong Express" and then it was "Shanghai Surprise" or something (Surprise! There's cat-meat in your eggroll!) and finally "Great Wall Express."

When it comes to cheap Chinese food, for some reason orange chicken is the only dish that people can routinely get right. The orange chicken at Dollar Chinese was indeed palatable. However, if you chose anything else, it was generally understood you were taking your life into your own hands. The next-safest entree was considered to be broccoli-beef. At Dollar Chinese, for me anyway, it was a little too daring...I only tried it once and learned my lesson fast.

At a place like Panda Express, they can make a decent broccoli-beef, but I still think their orange chicken will beat it every time.

All that to say, I haven't had many broccoli-beef dishes in my day, and the ones I have had probably weren't the greatest representations of the dish, but I must say that Trader Joe's Beef & Broccoli is most definitely the best I have had so far. The sauce was amazing, spicy, and tangy. (Sonia actually thought the sauce was a bit too tangy). There were plenty of big, healthy pieces of broccoli, and overall, I was pleased with the beef. There were just a few pieces that were way too big. These huge, monstrous beef chunks wound up slightly unevenly cooked. But I'm probably nit-picking again. In general, the beef was crispy and well-done. I don't recall the other broccoli-beef dishes I've tried containing breaded beef, but TJ's brand was covered in a sort of thin batter not unlike the coating on the orange-chicken. I liked it, though.

We served it with Trader Joe's Brown Rice, which is always good, by the way. Sonia gives the dish a 4.5 out of 5. I give it 4.5 out of 5, as well. Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

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