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Monday, January 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Well, this probably sounds familiar: We're busy. Constantly busy. I continually work 11-plus hour days. Sandy works part time outside the house and more than full time inside with our little girlies. Add on top of that our girls, our several nights a week worth of activities like Girl Scouts and dance lessons, normal errands and chores as well as our desire for our house to not appear like we live in squalor, and us occasionally wanting a little down time or God forbid a good night's sleep...we're busy.

And of course ya gotta eat. Even our girls, who take forever. Like our four year old the other night who somehow took over an hour to eat a slice of pizza, a cucumber, and some grapes...which is all food that she actually likes. Ridiculous.

So time is at a premium, but some chilly nights only a bowl of warm homemade (or homemade-ish enough) soup will do. Nights like that call for this trio: Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth.

First up: linguine! Who doesn't like a good al dente noodle? They are the absolute highlight of any chicken noodle soup. I mean, yes, absolutely, you could use these garlic basil noodles as a regular kinda pasta dish - toss with some butter, a little sauce maybe, pair with some grilled chicken, etc - but they work well for soup, too! The herbal aroma is fairly potent when opening the bag and while the final taste isn't quite as potent as initially suggested, there's enough added flavor to to make this TJ's garlic basil linguine a fine choice for all your noodlin' needs.

Life pro tip though: These are long guys. Break them in half if you put them in soup unless you like slappin' broth around everywhere.

Next: TJ's mirepoix, which roughly translates as "lazy American prechopped rabbit food." Nothing magic here, just the classic carrot, onion and celery mix. Open container, dump in pot. No peeling, no trimming, no chopping, no nothing. Convenience all the way. Listen, I actually really enjoy food prep. Few things make me happier than prepping a large pile of veggies and browning meat for homemade's therapeutic and relaxing and all that. But sometimes, it's strictly business between me and dinner, and those times call for mirepoix. It's definitely a product to use within a day or two of purchase, so plan accordingly.

Lastly: TJ's organic low sodium chicken broth. It's real nice for when you don't have your own ready made chicken stock at home. Just, uh, don't forget to flavor it some. The sodium content is pretty low (less salt per serving than Cheerios) which is a great thing...but leaves it all a little bland, as we found out when silly old distracted dad here totally neglected to put any additional seasonings in it before serving up. Kids didn't mind, but we did. Fortunately we had just the thing for a good savory taste. I'll take the vantage point that this makes a great healthy base to flavor as you wish, while Sandy's a little caught up on the inherent blandness.

Well, there you have it. These three TJ toss togethers and some left over chicken combined forces to make a quick, comfy pot of soup in less than 20 minutes that we all happily enough chowed down on our nightly familial pitstop cram session. It feels kinda silly to actually grade them all separately...can I just say they all ought to be regular pick ups, especially now in the middle of soup season? Not bad all the way around.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine Pasta, Trader Joe's Mirepoix, and Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Brookie

"What dessert should I get from the grocery store, honey? Chocolate chip cookies or brownies?" asked Sonia.

"Brownies," I replied. "No, chocolate chip cookies. No, brownies. Ah, darnit...If only someone would smash a chocolate chip cookie on top of a brownie and sell the resulting conglomeration as a single dessert treat, then I could die a happy man. They could call the concoction a 'Crownie,' since it's a brownie crowned with a cookie."

"Actually, they do sell that. But it's called a Brookie," she explained.

Then my head exploded.

As you may have guessed, this conversation never happened in our household, and as far as I know, it is entirely fictional. We chose this product out of a sense of obligation to review all new popular Trader Joe's brand items like we've been doing for a long time now and no other reason. Plus, we like excuses to eat junk food. Why they call it a Brookie and not a Crownie, I'll never know. Maybe the guy who invented it had a girlfriend named Brooke. That's sexist. Maybe the girl who invented it was actually named Brooke. Or had a daughter named Brooke. Or maybe they made the dough with water from a magical brook. Who knows? I, personally, like "Crownie" better. And I'm well aware that the concept of a Brookie pre-dates Trader Joe's iteration of the dessert. They could have distinguished themselves from the herd by changing the name up a bit and making it Trader Joe's Crownie (Brownie Crowned With Cookie = Crownie). But whatevs. At this rate, Trader Joe's will never make me head of their product development team because I "lack experience," I'm "arrogant," and I have "terrible ideas."

Nobody from TJ's ever actually told me those things, FYI. That's just my own personal assessment of the situation. Imagine me saying those things with big air quotes for comedic effect.

Now, getting down to business here, I must say I'm really not sure what all the fuss is about with this Brookie. It's an adequate dessert if you're craving a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie or both, I suppose. But beyond that, I don't think there's anything particularly magical going on here. Neither element was unusually flavorful or soft or fresh—though, conversely, neither was particularly stale or unpleasant either. They both just felt like typical grocery store fare to me—like a Ralph's or Giant or HEB bakery made some cookies and brownies and then crowned the brownies with the cookies and stuck them all in the same box. Not bad, not bad. But not earth-shattering, either.

I'm apparently the minority here, because Sonia loved them. She dunked hers in coffee and acted like she'd never had a brownie or cookie quite so delicious in her life. I just feel like I'm missing something now. If they were fresh out of the oven, I might feel differently. But as it stands, I say they're more or less run-of-the-mill brownies crowned with run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies.

In the past, we've seen outstanding brownies from Trader Joe's and outstanding chocolate chip cookies. If they could have combined those two incredible products into one, I might be singing a different tune, but as it is, these get three stars from me. Four stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend

First and foremost...Happy New Year everyone! Here's to hoping your 2019 will be full of enough golden spoons to make it pantheon worthy.

Second off...umami. It's a word that's always been a little full of mystery for me. It's a word to describe a taste along with salty, sweet, bitter or sour, all of which I feel I have a basic grasp.

But umami? Please. I had my suspicions that Google confirmed: it just means savory. That's all. It's goofy to me, using a word then immediately having to include a much easier to grasp definition. Why can't we just call it "savory" and skip the whole "umami" deal? Granted, it's more fun to say, and makes me feel a little sophisticated, but still. In the food description family, umami is the hoity-toity cousin that tries just a little too hard to stick out.

All this to say if anyone ever asks you what "umami" tastes like, for whatever reason, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up Trader Joe's Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend.

It's, well....savory. Duh. But there's quite a bit going on here too. There's a good salty bite, but also a little spice, a little heat, a little herby earthy type vibe...and comfort. It tastes like comfort. Like a warm broth washing over all the ills of the world. There's just something extra to it. Maybe somehow it's the mushroom powder, as I have no idea what it really does, but man, it's there. It's something to really kinda experience instead of being easily describable.

Except maybe in this regard: it tastes like what makes chicken soup good. Or a good gravy. Or some nicely roasted meat. Or...stuff like that. I can somehow only think of the seasoning through a carnivore lens, though I'm sure it'd work on veggies and potato soup and all that kinda stuff too.

My only complaint is it seems a lot has to be used to make the flavor really noticeable. We made some New Years pork roast that I had to shake a bit much of this on top to really release the umami tsunami. Eh well. No matter. More comfort, one shake at a time.

No real complaints. It'll be a pantry staple as long as TJ's can be bothered to carry it, which will hopefully be all of this year. That'd really make 2019 one to savor.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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