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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites

Gotta give my wife Sandy credit.

Not just for putting up with me for nearly 10 years now. Although that's quite a feat in and of itself. Believe it or not, I'm not the easiest guy in the world to put up with. You shoulda seen the other morning when we had a hissyfit over Tupperware, namely the collection I had at work and the corresponding lack thereof for home supplies. Not pretty. We're still trying to abide by the marriage rule we established of "No talkie before coffee."

But also....she's changed. Quite a bit. In a good way. She's so much more adventurous now for food than she was when I first met her. I distinctly remember one of our early dates (maybe our fifth?), back when I had to really worry about impressing her, so I wanted to make her dinner....and was so worried she wouldn't like homemade chocolate chip cookies. Seriously. It was valid concern.

Not all that long ago, a product like Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites wouldn't be on her radar at all. Something-something "looks too saucy", "meat on bone", or some sort of anti-meat sentiment would stop her from giving them a try. But because of my slow, persistent, and carne-abiding ways, I've finally gotten over to the world of enjoying things like meatloaf and smoked meats and sausage and such. Heck, she even tried scrapple on account of me.

And as of a few weeks ago, she was really excited about these pork bites and couldn't wait to try them. So she picked up a couple boxes for our crew and brought them home and planned a nice little meal around them and everything. Thanks, love.

Unfortunately, the piggy poppers would have been best left on the shelves.

Maybe a bit harsh, but I was not a huge fan of them. The problem wasn't the sauce - as you can see, there's ample amount. It's mild but smoky, with some depth - a good, decent Kansas City style sauce that would appeal to the masses. Think of a decent generic BBQ sauce and you'd get a close approximation to the sauce splattered all across the bites. it's the meat itself. It's....just not great. Granted, rib meat isn't always the best and choicest cuts, but even by those standards, it was gristley and chewy with some definite hard-to-chew bits. A lot of the bigger bites were dry once getting past the saucey outer stratospheres. The boned part took up at least half the meat chunk, leaving me with the impression that the price point ($5ish for the box) wasn't a great value.

The meat deficiencies were at least probably partially due to the fact that the bites are fully cooked, but requires 25 minutes or so of heating in the oven. Seems overkill. But I did as I was told.

And the packaging...ugh. There's the big box on the outside, with a much smaller plastic baggie inside holding the bites. There's no reason for the outer box at all except to make the purchase look bigger than it actually is. Common practice, I know, so I hesitate to call it deceptive,  but it is something to be aware of.

Sandy actually seemed to enjoy them much more than I did. Maybe I'm turning into the picky one. But I would have been happier, personally, buying a package of raw ribs and grilling and basting them with another sauce (on the recommendation of many readers, would definitely try the new Yuzu sauce!) then buying them again. I guess there's a "convenience" factor here, but still, I'd pass. I can't give them more than a two, at most, if only because the sauce was pretty decent for what it was. My ever-tolerant spouse, though? She's happy doling at a perfectly middle of the road three of them. As always, she's more gracious than she oughtta be.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Tricolor Quinoa

Let's play a fun game called "What Random Old TJ's Thing Will The Rodgers Pull Out Of Their Pantry Because They're Not Close To A TJ's Store Right Now?"

You guessed it! Quinoa!

I was actually surprised at how many times the WG@TJ's team has seen quinoa as a prominent ingredient in Trader Joe's products. Just check out the "Search This Blog" results: salads, veggie burgers, tortilla chips, pasta, burritos, popcorn chips, and even chocolate candies that flaunted quinoa. But we've never really explored quinoa as the main attraction of a dish.

It's a nutty, nutritious seed that eats like a grain but technically isn't, and it's only found naturally and cultivated on a large scale in a narrow strip of western South America. Thanks, Wikipedia. Then I checked our bag of Trader Joe's quinoa to see if it was consistent with my internet research. Sure enough, it says "Product of Bolivia."

Well, gracias, mi Bolivian amigos, for this tasty, feel-good product. We added canned corn and sliced jalapenos to our quinoa and made a happy little makeshift salad that was actually pretty yummy hot or cold. Quinoa by itself is paradoxically both soft and crunchy, and in my opinion, really lends itself to being eaten this way.

I've had quinoa plain like this before, but I think I prefer this variety because of the tricolor-ness. It's not only more appealing visually, but the three kinds of grain yields a better texture and taste. Quinoa still isn't the most exciting thing I'll eat this week, but it's great for a little step-out-of-my-comfort-zone adventure (as if my whole life hasn't unwittingly become that recently.)

For those of you worried about this quinoa wrecking your diet (it won't), here's a link to the nutrition information.

Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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