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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets

Fourteen? That's what you're proud of and will advertise to the point of making it part of your product name? Fourteen? Really? Listen: that doesn't make much sense when it comes to Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets. A flip to the backside and a quick glance at the nutritional label easily and readily shows why: a serving size is four nuggets, which is perfectly reasonable, but leaves me with a package of 3.5 servings if my third grade math isn't failing me now. With this, there are several options: a) Make whole box, eat seven nuggets, tell wife it's okay to eat seven nuggets. like I need any more help eating too much anyways. 2) Buy multiple boxes to even out serving sizes. Buying two wouldn't be enough - that leaves seven servings, an odd number (just me and the wife, the kiddo wouldn't touch these). I'd have to go buy four to make it even. It's this kind of serving shenanigans that was behind the whole hot dog/hot dog bun conundrum years back. Not cool. d) Buy one box, make eight, leaving six to split another night to eat alongside extremely mediocre Sam's Club frozen wings. Ladies and gentlemen, we went with option d. Here's an even better option: TJ's, throw two more nuggets in the box. Maybe "16" isn't as cool and trendy as "14" but we're adults here, let's be a little practical, shall we?

As far the shrimpy nuggets themselves: not bad at all. There's a lot of the greasy, fast-food-y type comfort food vibe going on here. Me gusta. As the name somewhat implies, these nuggets aren't a simple matter of breaded, battered shrimp. Instead, each nugget seems comprised of about two shrimp each, and as is most of TJ's shrimp, is reasonably fresh, decently firm, and definitely delicious like any good shrimp should be. And the batter is great: it crisps up nicely and evenly in the oven, and somehow, there's an almost buttermilk-y aspect to it. Not to go all Bubba on you, but TJ's has exceeded in giving us regular battered shrimp, shrimp on a stick, shrimp stirfry, heck, even shrimp in corn dog form before, so now they've mastered the nugget form.

That begs the question: how do they make the nuggets? Three words: Shrimp paste. Uggh. 

By this, I doubt they mean tiny glue sticks. Once I saw those words, it was like reading "Miley twerking" or seeing the new one-legged Speedo (Google image search at your own risk): immediate repulsion, and not something I could unsee or un-experience. I noticed there was a small amount of kinda slimey, kinda mealy, kinda salty, kinda shrimpy filler the first time we had these, but I didn't pay it much mind until I happened to read the description on the back while making the second batch a few nights later. It got cut off in my picture, but it absolutely says "bound together by shrimp paste." Uggh. When eating for the second time, all I could think was shrimppasteshrimppasteshrimppaste. Kinda ruined it for me, much like how a potentially delicious dessert got ruined for Nathan by a similar discovery. We're allowed our silly hang-ups, too.

  Regardless, Sandy seemed to really like them (see: greasy comfort food) and I enjoyed them enough the first time around, I suppose. Going forward I may just try to stick to regular battered shrimp, or whatever concoction TJ's comes up with next, like mini-shrimp enchiladas on a stick or whatever. Just hope it has an even number of servings and doesn't have any shrimp paste (uggh again!) in it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani

Up until Mr. Shelly's recent review of uttapam, it had been quite a while since we checked out any Indian food on this blog. So, to make up for lost time, here's a look at yet another Indian dish: Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani. We saw it on the frozen section shelf, right next to the uttapam, and it looked too good to pass up. 

I've been to a handful of decent Indian restaurants, but I've never heard of biryani before I saw this dish. Maybe I just wasn't scouring the menu hard enough—I have a bad habit of sticking with my old standby's all the time: chicken tikka masala or some kind of tandoori. Although it often pays to venture outside of your comfort zone, you can never go wrong with the classics. So now my habit is to try the very inexpensive version of each new-to-me Indian dish at Trader Joe's, and then if it really wows me, I might dare order it when I'm out livin' large, spendin' G's at a fine dining establishment.

Note to self: order vegetable biryani next time you eat out at an Indian place.

Because this stuff is pretty awesome. For $2.49, we're looking at a dish that's in the same price range as a typical Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice meal, with similar fat and caloric content, but with way more uniqueness, flavor, and satisfaction. This meal is super-filling—but not uncomfortably so. It's packed with beans, peas, basmati rice, and meatball-sized vegetable dumplings. The dumplings and rice have the perfect amount of flavorful Indian spices. Nothing's too dry, nothing's too hard. It even has plump raisins to give it a nice sweet zing. The textures and flavors blend together beautifully, and the veggie and bean content is hearty enough to make up for the lack of meat. This entree is vegetarian. Not sure why it's not vegan, but it doesn't have that happy little "V" on it like some other Indian products from Trader Joe's. I'll let you vegan peeps read through the ingredients and tell me why it's just "vegetarian."

This dish is special enough to garner double 4.5's from the Rodgers clan. We're fans. Unless you hate Indian for some strange reason, we can't imagine you won't like this. And for the price, there's not much lost if you don't.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

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