Google Tag

Search This Blog

Friday, February 25, 2011

Trader Joe's Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins"

Let me explain something.

I love meatloaf. I think meatloaf belongs on the pantheon of great meats, joined by bacon, a good medium-rare steak, and buffalo chicken dip. If I go out to dinner at a diner, meatloaf is a given, a nearly sure-bet to satisfy. If the meatloaf there turns out to be bad, I have a hard time trusting any of their other food. I have been known to judge entire establishments based solely on their meatloaf. There's practically nothing more that I love than a homemade meatloaf dinner, and practically no sandwich I love more than a slab of meatloaf and a slice of American cheese on white bread. It's so simple and good. It should be a given that it's good. I would be a happy man if I could eat meatloaf every day for the rest of my life.

All that being said, I have never bought anything at TJ's that I was so apprehensive about purchasing and (even more so) consuming.

There were so many red flags going off in my brain about this. First off, they're called "meatloaf muffins," with the quotation marks clearly on the package. Listen, you can't put quotation marks around the word meatloaf - it's either meatloaf, or it isn't (though it could still be, technically, a loaf of meat). And then they're called muffins as well. The picture on the box led me to interpret that the mashed potatoes served a frosting-esque purpose, which, alliteration be damned, makes them a cupcake. Cupcakes have frosting; muffins are mere naked cupcakes. Look it up. Add to that the fact that the meatloaf is made out of ground turkey. I'm a fan of turkey burgers and all, but for some things, only some beef cuts it. Meatloaf is one of them. End of story.

Anyways, I finally worked up the courage to try these out Thursday night when Sandy was babysitting. She had no desire to even attempt one of these bad boys. I can't blame her, I was so skeptical myself. I told myself I was going to try to like them, that there had to be something good about them. It's Trader Joe's, it's meatloaf, how bad can it be? I wanted to like them, at least a little, so as to not cast a shadow over the Trader Joe name.

Oh man.

First, Trader Joe's takes the whole "muffin" concept a little too far. They come in a plastic muffin tray of sorts, and since they're frozen in, I had to get a knife to cut around the sides to get one of these meat cakes out. Secondly, their "preferred method" of preparation is two minutes on high in the microwave. Under no practically no circumstances should meatloaf be microwaved, let alone as a "preferred method" ... it just does something to it that I can't explain but it makes not nearly as good. I microwave it anyways, because if Trader Joe says this for the best, well, okay. Anyways, the microwave dings, I get my fork (even though muffins are supposed to be a hands-on food), and take a bite.

Again, oh man.

Usually, Trader Joe's does a great job of selecting products, but when they fail, they do so epically. Consider these the Titanic. These are so bland and tasteless. In fact, what I tasted the most was the spinach they squeezed between the meat and mashed potatoes. Of course, the spinach was limp, watery, and kinda gross by itself. The potatoes were definitely of the powdery box variety, kinda grainy, and barely hinted of the Parmesan flavor they were advertised as having. And the meatloaf ... I weep. It was just bad, completely devoid of any semblance of flavor. I tried a little chunk of it by itself, tasted nothing, but when I looked closer, I saw it was still pinkish. It wasn't even fully cooked. I know you can get away with that for steaks and burgers (in fact, it's encouraged) but to my knowledge, meatloaf is not something to be consumed in a semi-raw fashion. Honestly, the "meatloaf" (definitely use the quotation marks for this junk) reminds me of canned cat food, in semblance, presumable taste, and texture. Just awful. Put it all together in a four-bite sized morsel, and it's a dinner-time catastrophe. I'd almost rather have eaten Spam from a can, it's that bad.

I was going to eat another one, just to make sure they were gross (and if so, if hot sauce could salvage them), but my eyes slid over to the Nutrition Facts panel. Over 20% of my fat, cholesterol and sodium intake for my day in just one of these? I'm no prude when it comes to this stuff, but if I'm going to eat something that horrendous for me, it has got to be worth it. I settled for the timeless bachelor option of a bowl of cereal and a beer. Combine that info with their price tag ($6 for a box of four = $1.50 each), and let's just say I'm glad TJ's has a good return policy. I have nothing even slightly redeeming to say about these. At least TJ's has enough other really good stuff so I can't dismiss them completely as a company, but if this were my first ever purchase from them, I'd never go back.

In conclusion, to paraphrase the classic Meatloaf song, I would do anything for 'loaf,' but I won't do these. Ever again.

Bottom line: 0 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trader Joe's Rice & Bean Chips

When talking about finances and stuff while undergoing some premarital counseling with a great couple from our church, Sandy and I realized that we wouldn't exactly be the richest kids on the block. I mean, we wouldn't exactly be just scraping by, but it was fairly apparent that we'd have to clip some coupons and look for some ways to save when we could, especially if we wanted to do some things we said we wanted to. One of the ways we figured we could save was on food costs, and it quickly became a joke between us that we'd have to eat a lot of beans and rice, or mac and cheese, and when we got sick of those we could have rice and beans or cheese and mac instead. It's a good thing we like them, we said.

Well, it's also a good thing we finally discovered the goodness of Trader Joe's. Shopping there saves us easily (at minimum) about $30 a week on average versus the big local chain even when we shopped the specials and stuff. Now, we still eat plenty of beans and rice (and for that matter, rice and beans) just because we really do like them, and we're usually looking for some ways to chomp them down in some different, tasty forms. So when we spotted these on our last go-around, we figured they'd be a likely winner and a worthy purchase.

A likely winner and a worthy purchase indeed.

Unlike a lot of actual rice and bean dishes which can be heavy and filling, these are pretty light, crispy, almost flaky chips. They're made primarily of rice flour which gives them a unique texture and taste - if you've ever had a rice crust pizza, think of that crust and a tortilla chip having a love child, and that's about what they are. TJ's mixes in some corn flour to make them a little more chip like. The package proudly claims that they're made with adzuki beans. I found a website that proclaims them as the "Mercedes of beans" ... that's kind of interesting, because the name conjures up an image to me of an semi-beat up Aerio plastered with bumper stickers, not the Benz I'll be rolling up in after the Lord buys it for me despite me not having any friends who drive Porsches. But they're good. They're the beans commonly used in red bean ice creams if you're familiar with those (I'm not), which I understand are semi-sweet and nutty. I got the sense of nuttiness from them but not really the sweetness, which is probably a good thing. Between the crispiness of the rice texture, the nuttiness of the beans, and the slightly salty spiciness of whatever they put on these guys, they made a great snack.

Which isn't to say they were perfect. One of the things I look for in a chip is how well they work with salsas and dips. These were really made to be eaten on their own. They're about one inch square so they're not conducive to any load bearing of much consequence in the salsa department. That doesn't mean I didn't try, and at least with the salsa we had on hand, the flavor of the chip kinda screwed with the salsa to make it an awkward mishmash of taste jousting on my tongue. Still, they're pretty good and flavorful as is, so no need to dress them up too much.

Sandy broke these out for a girls night she had this past weekend. With the ones I wolfed down before she booted me out down the street to help a friend drink his PBR, I'm surprised they survived until the next dawn, but was definitely glad they did. It's even more surprising given that Sandy voted them a fivespot in our Golden Spoon ranking. I'll chip in with a more modest 3.5 ... they're pretty good, but just not quite pantheon-level great. No shame in that.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

You Might Like: