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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trader Joe's Soy Cheese Alternative

This product contains milk. It's not considered vegan. Which begs the question: why on earth does it even exist?

Some might say it's got less calories than regular cheese. Okay. So does the soil in your back yard—and I'm willing to bet the soil is more palatable. I guess this non-cheese is vegetarian. But then, so is regular cow's milk cheese. Know what else cow's milk cheese has going for it? It's edible.

Texture-wise, I guess this stuff isn't that far off. It feels pretty similar to traditional mozzarella, but with a detectable amount of tofu-type texture as well.

Buuuut flavor-wise, this is one of the worst things I've tasted in my life. It's difficult for me to describe the flavor. The only other things I've ever had that come close are soft, moist dog food pellets that I tried many years ago. Yes, I sample dog food from time to time...<ahem> but that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is that both Sonia and I found this product entirely uneatable. If you disagree, that's fine. Feel free to share your thoughts below. I'm sure someone will tell us there's a way to cook it or to prepare it that makes it okay, but I, for one, cannot fathom ingesting one more bite of this vile block of bean. This is a big "nope." Going back to Trader Joe's for a no-hassle refund. Half a star a piece on this one. Absolutely revolting.

This "cheese" made Sonia very sad. Please watch and like her short video review to make her happy again. 

Bottom line: 1 out of 10.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal

For a few months in high school, I worked at my local Boston Market. It was an okay job - first and foremost, all the free cornbread I could ever want - but man, there's a few things that, close to twenty years later, kinda stick with me. Like the barrel of some sort of acid used to "clean" all the rotisserie skewers. Gross, hold your breath when walking by. Or how my assistant manager there regularly lit up while in the kitchen...during dinner rushes...while prepping food. That "smoked" turkey on the menu wasn't false advertising.

But another Boston Market memory came to mind while prepping Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal. You think all the side dishes there were freshmade? Bahahahaha, that's hilarious.  Nah, all the mashed potatoes and green beans and mac n cheese and whatever else was bagged and either steamed or boiled before being brought out...

...which is exactly how I made this Indian dish, in only a slightly more traditional method than nuking in our microwave. I literally submerged the package, as shown, in a boiling pot of water to warm up this shelf-stable lentil stew-like dish. I guess it's only weird if it doesn't work.

The tadka dal certainly works, as far as my tongue can ascertain. I can't tell you how authentic it is or isn't, but I can tell you both Sandy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tadka dal, if you're not familiar, is a fairly common spiced lentil dish in Indian cuisine. What we both enjoyed most was the warm, welcoming "glow" of the spices. I'm not sure how else to explain it. While somewhat spicy, it wasn't straight up heat, but there's not a complex depth to it either. It's not the same as other spices that you'd expect from, say, a tikka masala. Curry plays a part, but I'd wager on it being a bit heavy on the turmeric, which is just fine by me. You can see how yellow this stuff is.

The lentils are, well, lentil-like. What is there to really say about them? But they add earthiness and body to the creamy tomato broth base. There's enough lentils that it didn't even really seem all that tomato like, so that's a plus in Sandy's book. She might not even realize there were tomatoes in it until she reads this...I guess we'll find out. In any event, we both wish we had some naan to help get every last bit of the tadka dal into our belly.

Speaking of wishing for naan...the tadka dal is really more a side dish, or at least in need of something else to fill out to a full meal. We went cross-cultural with falaffels, but at least have some rice on hand to serve alongside.

Bringing one thing back: make note of the "creamy" aspect. Yup, sorry vegan lentil-lovers out there, there's milk in the ingredients here. From what I can tell from a quick Google search, many if not most tadka dal recipes can be or are vegan. So there's a potential knock.

For $1.99, we were happy. It's definitely repeat purchase-type material for us. If this TJ's tadka dal were a side dish or option at an Indian buffet, we'd be happy. Just get it out of the bag before bringing it out. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Spinach & Kale Bites

Trader Joe's Spinach and Kale Bites are about the size of golf balls. I know because we've had a golf ball kicking around the house for the past few weeks. During a walk through a park near the Jersey Shore, our male dog, Alfred, discovered one. He picked it up, carried it with him, and has been inseparable from it since. At least a few times a day, he drops it at my feet, wanting me to throw it for him. It's a bit grass-stained from being tossed around on our freshly-mowed lawn so often, and it kind of resembles these little veggie appetizers. That same dog has an affinity for almost all green vegetables. He loves spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli—pretty much anything we give him to try, but oddly, he was only moderately interested in these kale bites.

But this isn't a pet food review. This is a people food review. And the people in this house are fairly impressed with these little green appetizers.

The flavor isn't too far from that of creamed spinach or a cheesy spinach dip. There's a decent amount of parmesan cheese taste, but there's also a good bit of egg, yielding a flavor not unlike that of a frittata or quiche. There's a good vegetable-base to the taste, as well, but there's enough of the heavier stuff to keep it interesting as an appetizer. 

The texture is different, though. It's creamy and soft, but the whole "ball" is held in place with panko breadcrumbs. The spinach and kale are shredded into small pieces, so there's never a point when it tastes or feels like eating a salad. The overall vibe here is decidedly "snacky" or "hors d'oeuvrey."

Once again, the baking time went well over TJ's suggested instructions. I basically had to double the recommended time in the oven—and the product was MUCH better with more cooking, in my opinion. Apparently, this is a trend. There are a couple comments on my last post noting that others have observed the same thing: many Trader Joe's products wind up needing significantly more time in the oven than the packaging indicates. 

First world problems. What are you gonna do?

$3.99 for ten bites. Pretty standard. Sonia was quite enamored with the taste of these li'l buggers. Four and a half stars from her. I'll admit, they were tasty, but I don't think I'd buy them on the regular if it were just me. Still, a respectable score is in order. Three and a half stars from this guy.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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