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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tamalitos

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about lunch, particularly at work: a necessary evil. I'm just not a fan. Part of it is, if there's any general selection of anything that Trader Joe's fails to impress me with, it's decent lunch options, in at least the price range I'm willing to pay (about $2 for an entree). Yeah, I'm cheap, but got a kid on the way, and my Subaru just crapped out after a rough 18 years of life (I knew I shouldn't have said anything about its cupholders a couple weeks ago), so, I'm justified. At least to myself. Anyways, there are some options, like this, that, and that other thing, but it's the same, week after week after week. I need something new, dangit, and it's an added bonus if it's something that will make my fastfood-baggin' coworkers look at me funny. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see this package discarded in the trash at work the other day, and not by me, so there's hope for them yet.

I guess that's why I picked up the Mini Chicken Tamalitos last week. They're a little pricier than I would have usually liked at $3.99, but I figured I could make two lunches from them, so it works. I know what you're thinking: "Hmm, frozen microwavable tamales. Yeah right." Well, if the bigger version works according to our resident tamale expert, I had hope for these pequeño pieces, too.

A little water in the bottom of some Tupperware, a damp paper towel over, a little plastic wrap and a couple minutes in the microwave are what you need for these. The result is a steamy hot little tamale to unhusk for your dining pleasure. These work. No, seriously. Take a look at the picture I took of one I intentionally sliced in half: soft warm corn masa wrap, a respectable amount of decent white meat chicken, and lots of glowing red spices that actually have a little kick to them. Si, delicioso. Each tamale is about two or three bites, so four or five of them is plenty for lunch, especially if you have some of your favorite sidekick pretzels. I've had fresh homemade tamales in Mexico, and while these TJ creations certainly can't hold a candle to them, they're respectable enough in their own way for both taste and texture. I really don't have much of an issue with them.

There is, of course, one goofy thing about them. In Spanish, if you put an -ito or -ita on the end of the word, the word then means "little ___." That's why "burrito" means "little donkey" and "Judge Ito" means "little judge." Likewise, "tamalito" equates to "little tamale." Not a problem, except there's also the word "mini" in the product name, which either makes the name redundant ("mini chicken little tamales"), or there's the implication that Trader Joe's has cultivated and harvested an entire race of micro-chickens for the sole purpose of creating these tamales and just maybe these tacos. I wouldn't put it beyond them, but man, that's a lot of unnecessary effort.

Anyways, as with most of my lunch escapades, it's just me grading these. Sandy's a little adverse to most tamales anyways as the texture of the masa dough usually gets to her, so I'm not sure she'd be a willing participant this time around anyways. Anyways, like I said, I really like these, perhaps a little more than I really should. Probably some of it has to do with when a random coworker asked me if you eat the husks, too. My only semi-valid complaint is, although they remain mostly intact, each teeny tamale I scarfed down had some of the stuff stick to the corn husk. Even though I used them for lunch, think of any time or situation where you could use a handful of tasty little tamales, and yeah, they'll work. Other than the sticking issue, I find myself swaying between a four and a four and a half for them, so let's just say a little of Column A and a little of Column B.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tamalitos: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trader Joe's Tofu Edamame Nuggets

Prior to this, the only time I've ever eaten edamame was straight out of the pea-pod at sushi restaurants. I'd dip them in the soy sauce bowl, slurp the beans out one by one, and then discard the pod in a nearby bowl and try as hard as I could not to confuse the already-eaten bowl with the non-eaten one. (It's totally gross when you stick an empty pea-pod in your mouth that's just recently been in someone else's mouth).

Aside from the misleading photo on the packaging, featuring some exotic, delicious Asian sauce that totally doesn't come with this product, I was quite delighted with these snacktacular hors d'oeuvres. They're different. We've seen plenty of veggie dishes that blatantly try to rip off the real thing, such as chickenless orange chicken. But these don't seem to be imitating something with meat. They just are what they are. Delicious. And they happen to be meat-free.

There's a crispy outer-shell that's kind of reminiscent of the breading on a normal nugget...yet somehow better. Inside, there are whole edamame beans and...well, some other meatless stuff. There are bits of thinly-sliced carrots. There's tofu. It's a great balance of nuggetiness and bean/carrot/veggie-ness.

We ate them with a sauce that Sonia made out of mayo, lime juice, hot sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. And also, in a separate bowl, we dipped them in soy sauce. Both sauces = yumtastic.

These nuggets were quite foreign to my tastebuds' experience up to this point, and yet, their essence was undeniably Asian. They went well with the soy sauce—also Asian, but they could have been eaten with any number of dips, too. If you dare, try them with ketchup or honey mustard or something American. But I'm pretty sure most Asian-inspired dipping sauces would totally rock with these bad boys. Sesame sauce, sweet and sour sauce, orange sauce, teriyaki sauce...and if you're really brave, try them with a thai peanut sauce or maybe even wasabi...? (Though not necessarily all together).

Definitely prepare these nuggets in the oven. Makes them happy, crispy critters. Sonia gives them a 4. I agree. Although, they totally would have gotten a 4.5 if they had come with that Asian-looking sauce in the picture. Maybe even a 5 if the sauce were any good...

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Trader Joe's Tuscan Italian Dressing

Considering Russ's last post was an Italian item—or at least an item with an Italian-sounding name, I figured I should go ahead and do this Tuscan Italian dressing and keep the theme going for a bit. I'll just start off by saying this is one of the best salad dressings I've had in a long time.

We had it with spinach and lettuce and onions and...well, you know...salad stuff. And really, just a very simple salad and this dressing is all you need for a tasty side dish. I was quite impressed.

Lately, I've come to develop quite a taste for balsamic vinaigrette, and also raspberry vinaigrette. And I've always had a thing for creamy Italian. This delectable dressing tastes like a combination of creamy Italian and raspberry vinaigrette. There's no mention of raspberry on the label or the ingredients, but to me, there's some kind of berry-esque-ness implicit in every bite. It's subtle, but I could swear it's there. Sonia agrees.

Sonia likes it because "it's not too oily or salty." She also likes it because she's obsessed with Tuscany and insists we need to go there someday. And, ah, perhaps someday we will...on our massive year-long backpacking through Europe journey that we've dreamed of since we met. And, hey, if all of the dressing there is as good as this one, I'll be a happy camper. Way to go, Trader Joe. Shoulda gone with "Trader Giotto" for this one. It's that good.

We totally dropped the ball and didn't take a pic of the nutrition information for this one. But we can tell you that there's 10g of fat in a 2 tablespoon serving, which is actually pretty average for a salad dressing of this kind.

Sonia gives it 4 out of 5 stars. I'm gonna go ahead and give it a 4.5. Imagine that: candy-craving, junkfood-loving me giving a salad accessory a near-perfect score...

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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