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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup

Chances are, it's pretty cold where you are right now. It sure is here in the 'burgh. Cold enough that it killed our new battery in the family minivan out of nowhere, and naturally at a fairly inopportune time and place - as if there is such thing as a "good time" for that to happen. Cold enough to make being outside for more than two minutes worth questioning your sanity. And given the news stories and social media feeds we've seen from elsewhere, we're fairly lucky here in the 'burgh as other areas have been much more deeply impacted. 

Cold, cold, cold. Please, keep warm. If you can help others get warm too, please do. 

And maybe to help warm up yourself, get a big ol' jar of the new Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup. 

Listen: this ain't no ketchup water from a can. Warhol, when asked why he painted soup cans, said he wanted to paint nothing, and that soup cans were that - nothing. Given his choice of subject matter, in the famous red and white label, I can see why he said that. 

This ain't that. 

First: calabrian chili peppers. Even if you've only ever been to TJ's, you've seen them before, in probably my favorite product ever: the Italian bomba sauce. Mama mia! That's some hot stuff. The calabrese experience in the tomato soup isn't quite the same kick - it's not fermented or anything like the bomba, so a lot less kick - but still there's enough moderate spice and heat and warmth added. If you're staunchly spice adverse, it may be a bit much, but it's at a level that i think it'd be accessible to most folks. Then again I can eat an entire jar of the bomba with a spoon in minutes, so my scale may be off. 

And additionally: dumplings!

Man, who doesn't like dumplings? You can put some in my soup anytime! I love little bits of doughy dough floating around, in a form that's akin to but chewier and doughier than a noodle. Tasty. There's an extra heartiness imparted by the presence of the dumplings, that make the soup feel like less of a side and more of a meal. But there could definitely be more - I'm not asking for handful and handfuls, as the soup is actually pretty tasty and doesn't suffer without dumplings, but a few more would really fill it out more. 

All together, it's delicious, warm, hearty soup, with a little kick, with serious warm belly filling potential, in a convenient quick and easy glass jar, for like $3. Can't beat it. This might be my new favorite store brand soup. Gonna have to go get it a few more times, you know, if the car would start....

Wife and kids sat this out. My lovely bride doesn't like tomatoes, and my kids don't like spice. Oh shucks, more for me. Love it, with only the wish for more dumplings as a knock. So good, so warm on up with some yourself if I may suggest. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, February 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosa Burrito

I'm not into globalism as far as politics are concerned, but I must admit, when international cultures entwine, some pretty interesting and enticing culinary combinations result.

I'm thinking taco pizza, curried chicken salad, or Chicano hamburgers...or the fact that you can put sriracha on anything American and make it better. Fusion food. The only thing finer than one tasty tradition is two or more combined in the same dish. And now they're doing stuff like sushi corn dogs, kimchi quesadillas, and pierogi poutine...? What the what? I'll have to try those things some day...but until then, I'm glad there's Trader Joe's.

So it's a the form of a burrito. Sounds good. If you use the microwave, this happy little lunch item goes from refrigerated to piping hot in just two minutes.

Despite being a little stuffy from the excessive cold we're feeling here in the upper midwest, that familiar curry-esque samosa smell cut through the kitchen and piqued my appetite immediately. Sonia and I cut our burrito in half and ate it with some other leftover Indian food and rice. By itself, it would have been the perfect size for a stand-alone lunch or even dinner for one person.

There were big chunks of potato, cauliflower, and carrots, plus plenty of large whole peas throughout the dish. The texture of the veggies was just about perfect. The tortilla would have been a bit more crispy had we used the oven, no doubt, but we were fine with it being soft and supple. It's definitely a secondary element after the veggie chunks.

To me, "tomato chutney" doesn't sound particularly appetizing or exciting. But it tasted great. Just look at the ingredients list. There's onions, garlic, mustard, vinegar, white wine, ginger, paprika, turmeric and rosemary, just to name a few of the represented flavors. The taste was every bit as complex and bold as you might expect from those elements. It's a uniquely Indian flavor in the familiar format of a burrito. Would buy again.

$3.99 for the product. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons

As a young kid if I were to be at a restaurant with a salad bar, here's precisely what my plate would look like if given the chance: piles of shredded cheese. A couple cucumber slices. Maybe some sliced bell peppers. Handfuls of bacon bits, even more so if those little generic red tinged Bacos or even worse, generic Bacos. A couple of those mini cookies or muffins that are always there. And a tiny piece of lettuce to let my mom know that I, indeed, had made a grown up salad. 

And croutons. Hills and mountain ranges of croutons. 

I mean, what kid doesn't like croutons? My kids love them and call them "crunchers" or "crunchies" or "munchies" or whatever else pops in their head. They eat them by the handful, happily. generally speaking, croutons are classic, and it's really hard to mess with classics. You gotta be fearless. 

Fearlessly indeed, here's Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons. 

What the what? Imagine the classic basic garlic crouton, and instead of the crunchy, bready bite, it's the starchy banana/potato crossover that's been popping up more and more at TJ's. Plantains are the next mango or cookie butter (and they pair well with both!). 

The croutons themselves are far tinier than most of their carby counterparts, and it's for good reason. Whereas regular croutons are still quite crunchy, there's still the softer toasty touch that make them manageably munchable for most. They can afford to be the size they are. It's not quite the case here. These plantain nibs are denser, cruncher, much harder to chew through. Use caution with small kids (between size and density, they're potential choking hazards) or expensive dental work. It's not enough to be offputting to me, but it's absolutely noticeable if you're craving the reliable comfort vibe of a regular ol' crouton. 

Aside from that, it's straight up crouton. There's plenty of garlic - more than expected, my grandma (rest her soul) would appreciate them - and perhaps they're a little heavy on the salt too. I'm not sure if that's just more noticeable since it's a plantain or if it's deliberate on behalf of the manufacturers because it's a plantain and so you have to counterbalance the natural sweetness and starches of a plantain. But it works. 

Gluten free and vegan. Always a plus. They're acceptable crouton-like crunchy cubes for the masses! YAYYYY! *Kermit arms*

I actually haven't had them on a salad, though they'd work well. Instead, I've had them more as a quick afternoon snack here and there. Salad, soups, etc for use, and just now typing this up I wonder if they'd work in something like a homemade Chex Mix. Gonna have to find out. Not quite double fours from my lovely bride and me. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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