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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Trader Joe's Japanese Style Fried Rice

Apparently edamame and soybeans are the same thing. But I feel better eating "edamame" for some reason. Maybe it's because I always associate them with fine Japanese dining. I associate "soybeans" with Monsanto for some reason, and then I start thinking about genetically-engineered foods and biotechnology, and all that stuff just makes me grimace and not want to eat. Despite the fact that there's a good chance the edamame in this bag had something to do with Monsanto, I will remain willfully ignorant of such facts, and what I don't know won't hurt me.

In the past, we've seen our boy Trader Joe do good things with edamame. And of course, he's done good things with seaweed and tofu, too. So it's no surprise that the taste of this vegan, new age, frou frou hippie stuff is actually shockingly good. Although, we must point out that there wasn't really much tofu in this dish. We didn't see it. We didn't taste it. That doesn't mean it wasn't there. But if it was, there was barely a hint of it. Likewise, there are no chunks or sheets of seaweed, but rather just tiny little flecks of it everywhere. It was almost as if the seaweed was used as a seasoning rather than a main ingredient. But that's just fine with me, because it tasted great.

The edamame beans were plump, green, and happy. And there were lots of carrot slivers throughout the product. The overall texture was really nice. The flavor, though pleasant, was not very strong. To give everything a bit more kick, we added soy sauce and our favorite, Sriracha hot sauce. That made the dish really tasty. Have you noticed I'm on an italics kick lately? I've used italics in every paragraph so far. But that's neither here nor there.

If you want to watch Sonia and I try it for the first time and also get a glimpse of the prepared product outside of the packaging, just click here. Sonia gives this Japanese Fried Rice 4 stars, docking a point mainly for the lack of tofu.  I give it 3.5 stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs

Alright, alright, let's get the obvious joke out of the way here. "If Trader Joe's makes a Meatless Meatball, can't you just call them balls? Does that mean they taste like...?" Hahaha, so on and so forth. Discretion is the better part of valor, so much like Nathan a few weeks ago when given the opportunity, I'll be strategically avoiding all that the rest of this post. I'm not saying I haven't made that joke (and others fairly similar to it) at pretty much chance here at home while eating these said balls, and probably even a few in the frozen aisle while purchasing these (poor Sandy, who chuckles and blushes each time), but mom reads this blog. And lots of other moms, too, I'm sure. Let's keep the moms happy. That's important.

Anyways, we got ourselves bag of frozen soy spheres on one of our last trips. Sandy and I have been on meat-free experiment the past few weeks (except for the Friday night fish fry, can't miss those), and feeling a little encouraged by how it's going, we're considering becoming full-time "gracious vegetarians." We really don't miss meat all that much, and we've both been losing some weight and feeling better, and I've gotten some encouragement and ideas from my sister's blog as she's been adapting to a similar lifestyle. We don't have all the "rules" set up for this, and I think meat will be still be an occasional part of our diet, especially if we're invited somewhere or if the very occasional hamburger hankerin' hits. But anyways...

Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs. I'll be honest. Out of all the fake meat options we've sampled from TJ's, these are my least favorite. I think that more speaks to Trader Joe's particular strength in fake meat as opposed to being a strong indictment. They taste fine enough, in fact I'd even say pretty close to the actual-meat meat balls we've had (and believe me, we've eaten lots of those). It's more the texture.They're just too soft and crumbly, like there's nothing hold them together. Even time I tried to spear one with my fork, it just broke in half. And you don't have to chew these - I literally smashed one up against the roof of my mouth with my tongue, and it was ready to go down the hatch almost immediately. If I am eating a meat (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) I want to be able to use my canines and molars as God intended. There is no such opportunity here.

Sandy, the more texture-sensitive of the two of us, agreed. "If we were to become vegetarian, I'd eat these occasionally and be fine with them, but these don't make me want to give up meat by themselves," she says. I pretty much agree. They're not horrible, but these albóndigas dementiras could be much better with a little more bite to them. Compared to the virtual fake meat cornucopia that Trader Joe's typically offers, we can't afford to muster much more than a mediocre "meh" for them.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar

There's a few random things that spring to mind when I think of the product name "Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar." First, for whatever reason, I can't recall right now what exactly real caviar is, so hold on just a moment...alrighty, well, honestly, that sounds kinda gross. A "cowboy" version of that woulda be even more gross, considering what we know of "Rocky Mountain oysters" and all, so, first, there's some gladness that this isn't something a little more literal. Secondly, there's the vision of actual cowboys eating actual caviar. I've always thought that the only people who eat caviar are people like the Grey Poupon gents, though it seems a little beneath them to randomly stop alongside another car and beg for condiments. So it's tough to think of grizzly, musty old booted cowboys enjoying some fine salt-cured fish eggs. It's a "tough meets classy" juxtaposition that's as comically out of place as Chuck Norris at a tea party (note carefully the capitalization of what I just said).

And third, well, despite the goofy name and all, Sandy and I were pretty glad there's a new salsa sheriff in town for our samplin'. Here's the actual verbatim exchange that transpired last Monday night between the two of us in the salsa/chip department. Unlike other conversations I've let you eavesdrop on, this one is not made up at all.  Me: "Want some chips and salsa?" Her: "Hrrmmmm...nah. There's nothing we haven't had." Me: "Yeah....wait... Cowboy Caviar? What the eff? Let's try it." Her: "Oooooooo I'll find us some chips!!!"

So, how does it stack up? Purdy darn well, amigo. Obviously, from the label and a quick peek at the jar contents, the base of this salsa is comprised of black beans, corn, and red bell peppers. Those just happen to be three main staples in our house that we seemingly never get sick of. There's nary a trace of tomato, except for a little puree that's the base for the chipotle adobo sauce that gets mixed in. Mmm, adobo sauce....that's the primary taste here. It's deep and smoky with a sneaky little kick to it that'll rattle you like a snake in your boot if you're spice-adverse. Despite that, though, you can still taste everythng...the citrus bite from the lime, the little flames of heat courtesy of the jalapenos, even a little sweetness, with the flavor of the beans and corn and peppers still poking through without getting too muddied up. This is certainly tilts towards chunky, with everything in it, but man, it works well. I misplaced the receipt so I can't tell you the exact price offhand, but it's about the price of a typical jar of salsa there, somewhere around $2.49 to $3 or so.

I'm not sure how the jar survived three nights between the two of us. It must be some newfound restraint Sandy and I have, because in the good ol' days, I could see this being polished off in a night. Seems to me the Cowboy Caviar would pair well with most any chip, but it was especially good with the veggie flaxseed tortilla chips we picked up (which may just be the most uncowboy-like ones available. Regardless...). It's a much better, taster spicier and truer salsa than the Corn and Chile Tomato-Less Salsa we tried way back, though Sandy loved that one too because of its lack of, well, tomatoes. This one had her fooled, too. "Four it up!," she exclaimed. Four it up, indeed, and tack on an extra half spoon just because. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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