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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trader Joe's Roasted Coconut Chips

Since Hurricane Sandy paid us a visit this week, knocked over some trees in our neighborhood here in the Philly suburbs, and took away our power from Monday night into Tuesday morning, we've been thinking a lot about her Caribbean origins. Her Caribbean origins made us think about coconut. And our thoughts of coconut led to our purchase of a bag of Trader Joe's Roasted Coconut Chips.

It's mature coconuts soaked in young coconut juice. The best of both worlds. No need to choose experience over youth or vice versa. I'm pretty sure young coconuts are greenish and old coconuts are brownish, but other than that, I don't think I could tell you much about them. But I've always liked coconuts and coconut-flavored things, and this bag of snackaliciousness is no exception.

They're satisfyingly sweet, and they're big enough to treat them like bite-size snack chips, yet small enough to use them as toppings on cakes, ice cream, pudding, or what have you. At $1.99 for a bag, I'd say they were a pretty good value. If you're a fan of coconut, go ahead and shell out the 2 bones for something that I think could very well find itself appearing regularly on your TJ's shopping list.

They have a similar texture to that of the shredded coconut bits that we all know and love—the kind that are used as toppings on cakes and other desserts, but these "chips" have properties similar to other chips. They're flat and extremely crispy. They crunch when you eat them, and they have significantly more surface area than a bit of shredded coconut. 

Sonia gives them a score of 4 stars. She wishes the bag were larger, but other than that, she was quite pleased. I agree that in this case, more would have been better, but this relatively healthy snack was tasty enough to garner 4 and a half stars from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

A while back, we took a look at The I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook. And this year, we were able to take a look at another book in the same series from Ulysses Press, The I Love Trader Joes Vegetarian Cookbook By Holechek, Kris.

Although Sonia and I have often flirted with the idea of going vegetarian, we've never fully committed to the conversion. But we still do an occasional "Meatless Monday" and often enjoy vegetarian dishes, especially from Trader Joe's. As most of you know, TJ's has a pretty good selection of vegetarian items, some of which are very unique and difficult to find elsewhere.

This cookbook not only takes full advantage of the wide spectrum of vegetarian options from Trader Joe's and Ms. Peters' extensive knowledge of them, but it offers 150 ways of combining them that I wouldn't have thought of in a million years—and each recipe, if not already vegan, has a fully-vegan alternate version included.

This cookbook gets creative. One of the recipes takes Trader Joe's Potato Tots and turns them into Texas-style vegan nachos—er, excuse me, "Totchos." Even with limited time and money, there are plenty of simple recipes in here. The three bean salad, pictured right, is delicious! (Though, I must admit, we didn't pickle our onions). But had we chosen to pickle them, there's a recipe for that in the book, too!

Featuring casseroles, beverages, soups, desserts, and more, The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook flaunts dishes for every occasion—dishes tasty enough not just for vegans and vegetarians, but for your average, everyday omnivores as well.

To learn about the author, to see more mouthwatering pics of her fantastic vegetarian fare, or for some sneak-peek recipes from the book, check out her blog, Nom! Nom! Nom! To order the book from, just click here! It's the perfect gift for all of the vegetarians, vegans, and fans of Trader Joe's in your life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trader Joe's Firecracker Shrimp

In a recent post, I described the new morning routine that Sandy, Baby M and I are now have now that we're both back to work while M's off at baby school (fairly conveniently at Sandy's jarb). Those can be a little rough. Know what else is tough? Evenings. For those of you with kids, you probably know that already, and I don't want to sound whiny, but we're just trying to get settled into the "new normal." Finish up a long day of work, get home, feed the baby, take care of the dog, feed the baby again, be tired, be hungry, deal with a crying baby who apparently cannot stand the mere thought of both of us eating at the same time, do chores...the list doesn't end. Add in the occasional run to the chiropractic office not only for Sandy's back, but also for my elbows and arms to stop hurting after sneezing (true story), and it can only make things more hectic.

No wonder convenient meals-in-a-bag are so popular. There's barely time to do much else some nights, especially when your belly just needs some grub before moving on to the next thing. While we definitely got a preference for homemade dinners and have maintained a good habit of those whenever possible, there's some nights we just kinda cave in and grab something quick 'n easy.

Recently we nabbed ourselves the Trader Joe's Firecracker Shrimp. Most TJ shrimp products have done well for us - routinely, it's high-quality, fresh-tasting crustaceany critters that's not salty or gritty or mushy like too many other store brands I've had. Mostly our quibbles have only been with whatever gets slopped on them, or what they come packaged with. History holds true here. Excellent, excellent shrimp itself - fresh, roughly quarter-sized, firm, with a little light coating on them that crisped up in the oven well enough. Absolutely no complaints. It's just the sauce again. Exactly as you do with other products like the Mandarin Orange Chicken, after you bake the bites you swirl them in a bowl of the sauce. For something that's marketed under "Firecracker," I'd expect some heat, except TJ's repeats its classic error and confuses vinegar with spice, which is not that nice. Combine that with the lemon and sugar and whatnot tossed in, and the sauce tastes almost downright citrusy with nary a hint of the sriracha that it purportedly contains. I'm thinking the sauce would be greatly enhanced by adding some of my own chili powder or some crushed red pepper, but as it comes, it's lacking in our book.

That's not to write the dish off completely. But it's kinda disappointing, knowing just how much better it could actually be with a few small tweaks. Aside from the sauce, Sandy said the shrimp could do with either more breading, or none whatsoever. It probably didn't help that half the coating stuck on our foil-covered baking sheet. Also, say, if I were to buy this at a restaurant, I'd be happy with the quantity of shrimp for our $6.99, but for a make-at-home dinner, even a low effort one like this, either the price could stand to go down, or there could be an extra handful of shrimp included. No matter. It did well enough for a busy Monday night, and it reconfirmed that homemade dinners almost always win in our book. However you want to split our score, you're probably right.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Firecracker Shrimp: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons         

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