Google Tag

Search This Blog

Friday, April 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Gochujang Chop Salad Kit

I understand the whole Forrest Gump thing about life being like a box of chocolates. But I think life is more like a salad. 

In a box of chocolates, you're basically only experiencing one specific chocolate at a time. In a salad, there's a whole bunch of ingredients mingling around at once. I mean, sure, you could say that chocolates better capture the element of surprise that life throws at you sometimes, but with salads, just because you know what you're purchasing, you still can't be sure exactly what it will taste like when you put it in your mouth. 

That notion intensifies when one travels full time. We generally know where we're headed, but we never know what we'll experience when we get there. We were just in 70 degree weather in Nevada a week ago, and now, in April, we find ourselves dipping below freezing again here in Utah, experiencing snow showers, looking at enormous, majestic mountains out our living room windows, and seeing some sights we've wanted to see for a long time. We're not finding luck with traditional RV parks out west like we assumed we would. We're finding it even harder to purchase wine here than it was in Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Imagine that.

It's a mix-up of wonderful and frustrating experiences, kinda like this new salad kit from TJ's.

Sonia thinks the cabbage and lettuce were just shy of fresh here. I'm not sure it's apparent in the photo we took, but I can't disagree. There was just a slightly sad, soggy quality to the lettuce in our bag—something we seldom experience from Trader Joe's. It wasn't inedible. It was just...not the freshest lettuce/cabbage we've ever had. That's likely to vary greatly from bag to bag, region to region, and week to week. It was likely just a stroke of bad luck. And again, the greens weren't terrible. I almost didn't even mention it. But now I did and it already sounds like I'm complaining.

So I'll just get the rest of my complaints out of the way and then continue on to more positive stuff.

The puffed rice was an odd element to me. It was crunchy, which was nice, I guess. But I just can't shake the notion that it's cereal. I guess if I were forced to pick a cereal to put on a salad, this would be a more logical choice than, say, Count Chocula or Raisin Bran, but I generally wouldn't go putting cereal on my salads in the first place.

It needed more dressing. Sonia doesn't even like a ton of dressing usually, but she totally agreed, maybe because she absolutely loved this dressing. I liked it a lot, too. It's got a bit of spice to it. It's...I dunno...very Asian-tasting—like something you might pair with a Chinese chicken salad, except in this case, it's Korean. 

I must admit, this is my very first Gochujang rodeo. Russ and Sandy took a gander at some Gochujang almonds a while back, but Sonia and I never tried those. Sweet, spicy, and savory red chili paste. That's what I keep reading about it everywhere, and that sounds pretty accurate. This salad dressing was a "Gochujang vinaigrette." It was by far the best element of the mix in my humble opinion.

The black sesame seeds were interesting. They added a distinctive crunch to the mix, and flavor-wise, they lent a slight nuttiness when consumed en masse. They were so tiny, their flavor was nearly undetectable in the bites when only one or two wound up on our forks. Overall, we liked them.

$3.99 for the bag. Plenty of salad for two people. Not sure if we'll purchase it again. Three and a half stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter

Back in my bachelor days, it'd be pretty common to completely wing dinner as I cooked it based on whatever ingredients I could scrounge up. Usually, somehow, I'd end up chopping up an onion, some pepper, maybe another veggie, and putting it in some kind of sauce with some kind of spices and putting it over something. Most times, it worked. Other times, well, it worked with a little more hot sauce. Obviously I didn't starve, so it all went alright enough.

Get married...have to eat "real food"... I got out of the habit of doing that. We had to follow "actual recipes" said the wife. What? Well, okay, yes dear. Still haven't starved.

But one day, beaming widely and happily, Sandy brings home a couple packages of the new Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter, exclaiming "I can't wait to have this for breakfast!"

Kinda odd...normally she hates tomatoes and most tomato-heavy products...Well, okay, yes dear.

I'll admit I know nothing about real actual authentic shakshuka. It's a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cusine, means literally a "mixture." Which says to me there must be a thousand different variants, but this TJ's version just so happened to be the first officially labelled shakshuka I've ever had....though the concept is pretty similar to what I used to do all the time...

It's pretty good. This particular shakshuka is pretty thick and chunky with tomato bits and onions and peppers - it's definitely towards the thicker definition of stew. It's simply and naturally flavored with the usual suspects - onion, garlic, cilantro, a little pepper, a little cumin, etc - which are spicy not in a hot hot heat way but more in an herbal manner. It's all pretty well balanced and non-offensive...I'd even say pretty downright pleasant with no need for anything added.

Except the eggs, of course. Gotta add your own eggs and kinda cook it in a little "pocket" in the stew. This is the key step, though, especially if you're like Sandy and me and don't really enjoy poached/sunnyside up style eggs. That runnyness? No thanks. Sandy was wise enough to keep the yolk out of her eggs, leaving only egg white for her. As a result, her eggs were just about perfect and meshed nicely with everything else. My eggs, though? I kept it in and...ugh. Yolk got all gross and rubbery. That of course is not a knock against the actual TJ's product, but I did enjoy the meal less than I could have, so take not: Runny yolk or no yolk at all.

Anyways, the shakshuka is good and fun. Fun to make, fun to eat, fun to say...I kinda felt like Buddy the Elf saying "Fransisco." And it's cheap - only maybe like $2 for the package. Good value too then. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

You Might Like: