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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

"The pig is an amazing animal. You feed a pig an apple, it makes bacon. The pig is turning an apple - essentially garbage - into bacon! That's magic! Or the most successful recycling program ever!"

That's not the joke about pigs and apples from comedic genius Jim Gaffigan I had in mind while sitting down to write this review; however, Google failed me. He once threw out a line about feeling bad for the pigs at a pig roast, because one minute they're happily eating an apple, next minute they're up on the spit, apple still there. With that second joke in mind, I took one look at Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts - must've been an interesting though perhaps tragic nacho night at the chicken coop.

There's a lot of good stuff going on here. In the case of our package (which Sandy referred to as a "meat splurge", given the price tag and rarity we buy things like this) there were two pretty good sized chicken chunks, one a little bigger than the other. The two of us and our semi-meat-adverse toddler probably could've split a single breast and been reasonably satiated, but we were both pretty hungry, and our kiddo actually ate her fair share, too, in an upset. Everywhere you look, there's corn tortilla chip shards - literally everywhere, covering the breasts liberally, some stuffed inside, excess ones spilling out of the package everywhere. Mix in some nacho cheddar cheese chunks (which oddly melted inside the chicken but not outside - what kind of sorcery is that?) and peppers (presumably poblano) and a couple oddly placed black olive slices, and it's pretty nacho-licious. I kinda wish the chips got a lot a little more crispy while baking - some did, while others remained a little soggy, perhaps understandably. In all, these plucky pollo fellas made a very hearty, filling dinner almost entirely by themselves.

Still, there's a little something missing. Hmmm...let's start with the ingredients and nutritional info, shall we? I know packaged meat doesn't always carry all that info, but with all the added ingredients, it sure would've been nice. There was no such sticker on our package, not even on the reverse side of the main label (I checked). Not sure if that was a QC misfire or the norm; regardless, I can't provide a snapshot of ingredients and nutrition like we normally do. Also, while I'd call the chicken "flavorful" and "tasty," I would not use "zesty" to describe it. There's no real spice. I've had bell peppers with more wallop than the pale green hombres in here. Prior to sticking in the oven, I *thought* I saw something like a light salsa glaze thru the chippy coating on the chicken, and while the chicken was lightly marinated in something, it wasn't that, nor was it overly apparent or stuck out. As much of a cliche as it is at this point, a little chipotle action, or some included salsa, or a little extra spice akin to previous southwestern-inspired offerings would have been a real bonus.

Not going to quibble too much though. One could reasonably expect to pay at least $11 or $12 at a restaurant for one something similar to one of these breasts and a side or two, so $5.99 a pound strikes me as a decent value. In all likelihood, we'll purchase again but will have to keep in mind adding a little something extra to kick it up a notch. Sandy enjoyed it all, except the peppers - she and cooked veggies have a strained relationship at best, so that's not too surprising nor is it a poor reflection. In her book, these merit a 3.5, while I come in a notch lower.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Zesty Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Trader Joe's Peanutters

It's not exactly rocket surgery, but I think I figured out, finally, the allure of smaller, mini foods that used to kinda be weird to me. Naturally, allow me to illustrate with a short story. A couple years ago, Sandy and I were on vacation up to Boston and Maine, and were heading towards my grandparents' cabin for a couple days of peace and quiet when we decided to stop at Tim Horton's for a big box of Timbits to bring with us for nibbling for a few days. Great plan...except the lady in front of us bought every single last one in the store, leaving us to buy regular sized doughnuts instead. Eating a few gobfulls of donut holes over a couple days? Not a problem. Eating a half dozen full sized donuts though? That gluttonous. It's perception. Plus people with this "self control" thing I keep hearing about can enjoy a small bite too.

And right now you're probably saying "Duh." Well, thanks for waiting for me.

It comes to mind for Trader Joe's Peanutters because they're teeny little cookies that, if full sized, would probably seem to be an overly decadent treat. Kinda like Little Mac, they pack a lot of punch for such a small guy. Unlike most peanut butter cookies that come to mind, each cookie is light, crispy and crumbly upon first bite, practically melting in your mouth. While the peanut bits more or less meld in without much notice, once the teeth hit some peanut butter chips, it's a smooth, silky, effortless glide that feels so right. It's like magic...with peanut butter! Equally as impressive is the amount of yumminess packed in - these nutty buddies taste just like how I'd imagine cookie-fied PB that's slightly on the chunky side. Perfect with milk, too, of course, and Sandy mentioned she'd love to make a pie shell out of them, a la Nilla Wafer style. For a little extra special treat, eating these with a little of your favorite jam or some dark chocolate...the words have not yet been invented, but man, that'd be goooood. 

I can't think of a single complaint, except once I have one, I have to try very, very hard to stop. "In control," I have to say....with about as much success. If they were bigger (each is bite sized) stopping after just one would be so much easier, but with them being so small, I can eat ten and barely notice - that's no good. Last thing I need is another trigger food, but that's on me, not the cookies. . Sandy's in love with both the taste and the texture, as am I. A package runs about $3 or $4, and it's well spent, as long as you don't mind the probably rapid disappearance of your investment.

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


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