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Monday, February 18, 2013

Trader Joe's Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Aside from slipping nasty products like Meatloaf Muffins and Sockeye Salmon Pasta by us once in a while, the meanest trick our friend Trader Joe likes to play on us is discontinuing amazing products like Lemon Gingersnap Ice Cream. TJ's execs clearly aren't reading our blog enough.

If they were, they wouldn't have taken away my beloved Organic Tomato Bisque. It was the perfection of tomato soup, in my self-important opinion. And if it ain't broke, Trader Joe, please don't try to fix it.

Now, I'm not saying this roasted red pepper stuff is bad. It's certainly not. It's just that it's so similar to the tomato bisque, that it's kinda pointless. If it were a slight improvement, I could understand. But it's not. There are no soft lumps of perfectly-stewed tomatoes. And if anything, the tomato flavor is dulled down just a tad. To this product's credit, it does taste slightly of red peppers, but the tomato-pepper combo just doesn't do it for me the way the pure tomato lusciousness did in the bisque.

Now I might just be illogically clinging on to something from the past in the same manner I was repulsed initially by the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings because they weren't exactly the same as the perfection that was the theatrical versions. But in the case with LOTR, each viewing made me like the extended versions more. In the case of this soup, each bowl simply makes me miss the bisque more. Please forgive me for this nerd-tacular comparison.

In summary, I think this soup falls just slightly shy of its potential. While the taste is similar to that of Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Bisque, whose spirit shall live on in the halls of our Pantheon long after its cans are forgotten by the shelves of your local TJ's store, this tomato red pepper soup's flavor is good but not amazing, and its texture is that of traditional creamy tomato soup. But make no mistake, as whiny as this post may sound to you, this soup is still really darn good.

My wife agrees, but she won't dock this product as much as I will. We gave the bisque a perfect score. She'll take away half a star for this soup. I'll have to knock off two full stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trader Joe's Guacamole Kit

This year for Lent, I promise you something. Unlike years past, when I've given up meat or sweets, I will not be endlessly writing about it on here, bugging the living crud out of 90% of you who just want to know my opinion of some fake meat or whatever. If you're really all that  interested in what I'm doing, you can check out my sporadically updated side gig.

This will be my one mention of things here: In addition to some other things, I've made the decision to include at least one raw vegan meal every day into my diet for the next few weeks. Perfect time of the year for that, eh? I'm hoping this just won't mean a salad or baggie of carrot sticks and an apple, although I'll be doing more than enough of that since my super-happy fruit of the earth meals will usually be my lunch during the week at work. Just works better that way for Sandy and I. And I mention that only because that decision to do raw vegan chow is what propelled me to buy Trader Joe's Guacamole Kit. I realize that guacamole is a pretty easy entry into the raw vegan world. It's about as adventurous as I wanted to get until I get "crazy" enough to try some of the tasty-lookin' recipes like this.

Anyways, does this guac kit rock it? Tough to say. Taking a look at it, $3.99 for this isn't exactly a killer deal. Let's compare to buying each part separately. There's two avocados (about a buck each for the good ones - we'll get back to that), a lime and about few garlic cloves (let's say 50 cents for the two), two jalapeños (cheap!), a tomato (let's round up and say 70 cents), and a teeny little onion that I mistook for a rounded garlic bulb at first glance. So that's not quite $4 worth of goods they're selling for $4. It's not a ripoff (there's always a price to pay for convenience) but it's not a steal either.

As for the stars of the carton, the avocados....yeeeeah. I'm not familiar enough with avocado carbon dating to know if mine were a little too old or not quite ripe yet. Regardless, I expect when I buy produce from somewhere, they'd be fine for consumption three days later. These were, but were tough, tough enough that I had to whip out our noisy-as-all-heck food processor (think heavy duty construction zone mixed with a congested snoring Gilbert Gottfried) at almost midnight to chunk them down instead of following through my original plan of fork-mashing them. Thank God I didn't wake up Sandy (granted, she regularly sleeps thru the alarm blaring six inches from her head every morning) or get any complaints from the neighbors. Even after about five minutes in there, there were still a sizable chunk or two that I'll just decide to man up and eat anyways. These avocados were very much unlike the ones TJ's sells separately, which whenever I've bought them have been soft and perfect, and I think a little bit bigger, too.

Everything else was great. The jalapeños were as fresh as the ones I've grown in our garden each summer, and no complaints about anything else. When I finally had a chance to take my taster for a test drive on my self-made guac, it was pretty decent overall. Nice, good kick to it, mostly because I didn't bother de-seeding the peppers, with plenty of lime as well. If I were thinking, I would've left all the tomato and onion and diced goodies out of the food processors, as I like the chunkier varieties, but this was okay enough for my first crack at making guacamole. I didn't measure exactly how much guac this made, but two cups seems to be a fair estimate. It'll be more than enough to dip some veggies in for lunch for the next few days.

I kinda assume the point of the guacamole kit is to try and entice folks who wouldn't be so inclined otherwise to make their own guac. I'm willing to take another crack at it, but next time I do, I honestly won't be buying this particular product again. The price isn't compelling and the quality is too much of a mixed bag. Regardless, I'm not overly dissatisfied, nor am I particularly satisfied. For Golden Spoon time, let's just play this completely down the middle.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Guacamole Kit: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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