Google Tag

Search This Blog

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney

There's been a lot of back-and-forth out there in the wild webby west the past few weeks about the merits of a gluten-free diet for those who are not diagnosed celiac sufferers. I'm...not going to add much to that discussion, other to say that I know enough good, honest folks who go to great lengths to avoid gluten because of how they believe gluten affects them, so there's probably something to it that science (and the rest of us who don't deal with what those others do) may not fully understand as of yet. Can't find the link, but there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week that detailed how, in response to increased consumer demand over the past few years, many food manufacturers are now either focused on making gluten-free versions of products, while openly admitting they sacrifice nutritional quality for taste and texture. Yummm those extra calories!

Another tactic, and more pertinent to Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney, is many food that never contained gluten to begin with are now slapped with or marketed under being gluten free. For example, read this about Heinz Ketchup. Now, an average consumer may not know what an "uttapam" is (I sure didn't) but once the first two words of the little subheaded description are read ("rice breads")...well, that's a pretty significant hint it's gluten free. Rice is a pretty common substitute grain (with varying results), so unless so gluten would reach its wheaty tentacles in through some ultra-nefarious means, the "gluten free" at the top of the box is really as useful as a "cholesterol free" label on a box of Cheerios.

Enough about all that, let's talk uttapams. They're fun. They're funky. And Trader Joe's may have helped Columbus them, because I've never heard of them or had one, but now I'm kinda intrigued. If made from an authentic Indian recipe, as the box claims, that means the lentil/rice mixture that makes up these pancake-like yum-yums was fermented for a while. That's probably the case, as there's this lingering kinda sour/kinda sweet/kinda sharp/kinda acidic taste to the batter that's the base flavor. Not sure of the best words to adequately describe, but it sure was unexpected upon first bite. Texturally these uttapam seem to be a cross between mashed potatoes and pancakes, while the undersides of these cakes crisp up nicely when made in the frying pan. Can't imagine microwaving them as alternate directions suggest...ugh. The taste of the batter is balanced out nicely by a certain spiciness - it's not spicy in a hot, peppery way, but in a more herbaceous sense from the abundance of onion tidbits and cilantro choppings. And for a little added subtle sweetness, the coconut chutney up top helps bind the whole dish together. There's no taste that's too scarce or too prevalent - it's perfectly harmonious.

And for those out there who may want to try these out but no desire or capacity to have them four at a time - no fear! Not only do the uttapam (uttapams?) come in a resealable plastic baggie, but also the chutney comes frozen in two separate packets. Making two one night and the other two another night, like Sandy and I did, was a cinch, no creative repackaging needed. That's a nice touch.

If memory serves me right, these "Indian pizzas" (as they're sometimes referred to, apparently) were in the neighborhood of $3 for the box, and honestly, if I were to go out to an Indian restaurant, order some uttapam, and get something approximately like these, I'd be pretty happy. Let's be positive and say that means more about the overall quality of this product versus anything else. Both Sandy and I thoroughly enjoyed them and can see them as a great appetizer for any Indian-themed meal. Nicely done.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Yellow Cold Pressed Juice

During my seven years in Los Angeles, I lost a good bit of weight by drinking smoothies and juices. I frequented Jamba Juice, and when there wasn't one available, I settled for Robek'sSmoothie King, or Surf City Squeeze. Sure they have sugar. Sure they have fat. But with a vita-boost and a fiber-boost, they're more filling and more nutritious than most meals, and they completely curbed my appetite. And while we do have a JJ here in southeastern PA now at the King of Prussia Mall, it's just not really on my way to or from anything, and fighting my way through that mall parking lot every single day just to get a smoothie isn't really an option I'd put on the table. So I'm still searching for something to replace my old smoothie habit.

Unfortunately, this isn't it. This is just really expensive yellow juice. Don't get me wrong, it's natural, it's healthy, and it's 100% juice, but you've really gotta have a massive hankerin' for some yellow pepper juice to buy this product on a regular basis. And for me—this was about all the yellow pepper juice I'll ever need in my lifetime. I didn't just read about yellow pepper juice in the ingredients. I smelled it. I tasted it. It's there. It's there in a big way. It tastes like a juiced yellow bell pepper sweetened with pineapple juice. And that, my friends, is why I can't recommend this product to you wholeheartedly. That and the fact that 15oz. costs five bucks! Sure my Jamba smoothies were pricey, too—but those things were like a whole meal for me.

There's a bunch of pulp that settles on the bottom of each bottle. It's a "shake well" kinda situation. I guess that proves that an actual whole piece of fruit was used. I'm thinking that if you're really really into this type of product, that you should just buy your own fruits and veggies and juice them yourselves. Although, I must admit, I've tried juicing and I know it's a lot of work buying all that produce, cutting it, processing it, storing the unused portions properly, and then the worst part is cleaning the juicer—although I have heard many of the newer juicers magically clean themselves with the help of little elves that live inside the plastic base of the appliance. Plus, it's really not cheap buying boatloads of high-quality fresh fruit either. But I would think you'd get a bit more than 15 ounces for $5.

Whether Sonia was just caught up in all the Instagram hype over these juices or whether she really genuinely thought this thing was worth its price tag, I'm not entirely sure. She was happy with the taste—choosing to focus on the pineappliness instead of the pepperiness. She liked the pulpy texture, too, which I must admit wasn't bad. But you can get that texture in a traditional half gallon of country style OJ for a lot less money. 

There are also Red and Green versions of this pressed juice. We just might be crazy enough to try those, too, but feel free to leave your thoughts about them in the comment section below! 4 stars from Sonia. 2.5 from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.
We want to know what you think! Take the poll and let us know!

You Might Like: