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Friday, May 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Bolognese Style Pasta Sauce

Funfact: when Sonia was young, her elementary school classmates emotionally scarred her by calling her "Sonia Bologna" on the playground. 

Another funfact: her husband would resurrect the nickname many years later, you know, just because. 

Yet another funfact: Sonia and her husband would enjoy a pasta sauce from her namesake city of Bologna even further into the future—in late May of 2021, just yesterday, in fact.

This is actually the second Bolognese sauce we've reviewed from Trader Joe's over the years. The first one was made with turkey. This one is made with "meatless plant-based crumbles." From what I've read, it's a sauce that's traditionally made with beef...but enough cows and octopuses have given their lives for the advancement of Trader Joe's brand online criticism this week. Time for a vegan option.

Although it's not really apparent in the picture, the sauce contains a fair amount of the meatless chunks mentioned above, along with plenty of veggie pieces, too. The pea protein-based crumbles flaunt a mouthfeel somewhere between an actual bite of ground beef and a very small cube of tofu. 

The sauce coats the pasta fairly evenly. While not super thick, it's chunky enough to remain hearty.

There's a rich, tomatoey flavor. The blend of spices is somewhat milder than I expected for an Italian-inspired pasta sauce. I remember tasting lots of fennel in the turkey Bolognese—almost as if it contained bits of black licorice. That's not the case here. The overall flavor is more oniony and garlicky, with notes of less pungent elements like basil and celery.

$3.99 for 18 oz of sauce, easily enough for dinner for two to four people. We ate ours atop some large spiral pasta and were pleasantly surprised. Might buy again.

Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Wild Caught Cooked Atlantic Octopus

Okay, sorry, story time. It's cute, don't worry. For many nights over the past few weeks, at bedtime, i've had to spend ample time convincing one of my young kids that no, a giant octopus was not going to eat her overnight. I have no idea where she got that idea. I've "locked" the door and put her other stuffed animals on guard. I've made magic protective spells. I've even reminded here that here in Pittsburgh we live nowhere near an ocean. Doesn't matter. She had legit fear that a giant octopus was gonna come eat her. Even if Daddy was bigger and tastier looking, as I also reminded her. Nothing worked...

...until Trader Joe's Wild Caught Cooked Atlantic Octopus debuted in freezers a couple weeks back. "Look, sweetie!" I exclaimed. "Trader Joe's caught the giant octopus! We're safe!"

She totally bought that, then in toddler logic deduced that if the giant octopus can no longer eat us, we should eat the giant octopus. I thought she was joking but she insisted for weeks that we buy it to eat it. Finally, we relented.

And know what? We'd do it again. 

Granted, it can be somewhat of a visually challenging buy. I mean: tentacles, right? Gulp. 

But thaw it out and warm it up. As it says, fully cooked, which saves a few hours of prep from raw. We decided to make a simple "salad" of sorts with red onion, cucumber, and grilled octopus, prepped with just a little EVOO and salt and pepper. The octopus itself is firmer than we thought - sort of like a cross between calamari and a chicken sausage - while being extremely mild. No fishiness or anything. Likely if marinated, it'd soak up whatever flavor it was swimming in. Okay, not sure I like that visual bad. 

And there's no rubberiness or anything, and as my lovely bride stated, even when chewing on a tentacle, it's the same feel in your mouth. Your teeth don't know the difference. If it's just a bit much, though, the tentacles can be removed easily enough which we did for our kids to get them to eat a bite before rewarding them with a hot dog. More octopus for us and happy kids. Win win. 

And our kid who begged for the octopus? We let her have first bite. She popped it in, amde a face, spat it promptly out, then said she loved it but had to twist her arm to eat it the rest of the meal, only for her to state afterwards it was her favorite. Yeah, I don't know either. 

Anyways, the eight ounce package is enough for two servings and costs $8.99. Seems reasonable compared to most seafood, and a buy we'd make again. Would love to hear ideas of how you all may have enjoyed the TJ's octopus, so share away. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Wild Caught Cooked Atlantic Octopus: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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