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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Trader Joe's Brown Rice & Quinoa Pasta

This has probably been shared before, but seared into my memory from growing up is one of the worst things ever done to my mom's perfectly delicious homemade macaroni and cheese: canned tuna fish. Maybe you like that stuff, and that's fine, but for me it makes me gag as I can think of is my old cat barfing it back up after begging for some. All of us kids hated it, too, so if we were all acting up my mom would make tuna fish casserole as a "punishment meal." Such was the case one day, but somehow I was pretty innocent in the whole matter, so when my mom said she was making tuna fish casserole for everyone, I probably broke down in tears and asked if she'd take mercy and at least make it more like her mac 'n cheese, but just add the tuna. She took mercy and my suggestion...and it wasn't bad compared to punishment casserole but against her heavenly mac? Mortal sin. Awful.

And then for like the next time ten times she mac 'n cheese, she put in tuna fish, crimes committed to earn that or not. I still haven't completely forgiven her.

Point is, there's far worse things you can do for homemade mac 'n cheese than to use Trader Joe's Brown Rice & Quinoa Pasta.

But seriously: not intended for mac use. Would be better thrown out the windows for that.

It's not that this gluten free quinoa/rice min elbow pasta tube experiment tastes bad. No, not at all. Perfectly fine and I'd say at least when swimming in cheese and a little garlic salt, it tastes the same as the regular semolina fare.

It's just mushy. So, so mushy. In its defense, we might have slightly overcooked the noodles, and by that I mean more towards the three minutes and not two the package gives for its boil time. Seriously, even picking a noodle up (like pinching one out of the pot) caused the whole thing to practically disintegrate. I'm thinking the reason why they're mini is that anything bigger would stand no fighting chance of being structurally sound.

Still, in about thirty seconds, the pasta went from appropriately firm, slightly denser than al dente noodle to little micro mush tubes. There's not much forgiveness there.

I'm guessing that mac n cheese was the wrong choice to try out the pasta. With regular sauce, or perhaps a cold pasta salad, or in some other less demanding dish these noodles might have been just fine. Or if mushy mac is tolerable for you and you need a gluten free option, by all means, go right for it.

In all, I really have no quarrel with this product. Quick cook convenient gluten free options are always welcome. Just keep a close eye on it and consider its application carefully. If we had done so, maybe I'd tune a different song. Couple bucks for the package, and three spoons each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brown Rice & Quinoa Pasta: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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.

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