Friday, November 11, 2011

Nine More From Trader Joe's

Funny, we bought this one at least two or three months ago and it set in our freezer. Then one day I was thinking about cooking something - it was one of those two or three days per month when I didn't feel like Chinese or fast food - and decided to bust one of these out. There were two sets of instructions: microwave and oven. I chose the latter.

It didn't really matter; even following the instructions the cheese on top turned into a greasy mess and the ham inside was cold. Not cool. Cold. The flavors weren't bad, but it was messy and not pleasant to deal with. Perhaps you could microwave this for a bit first and then finish it in the oven, but I'll never know for sure. I won't be getting these again.

The barbecue chicken pizza has been on the blog before, but now it gets its own feature. I've had all the big-name frozen barbecue chicken pizzas before: CPK, Freshcetta, Rick Bayless's, Wofgang Puck's... this is better than all of those and half the price. The chicken is actually quite tasty.

Of course it's still a frozen pizza, so the crust leaves something to be desired and overall the flavors are somewhat lacking. That's just how almost all frozen pizzas go. So I like to add some fresh herbs - adding fresh herbs or extra cheese to a frozen pizzas does wonders for it - and a little extra barbecue sauce. Some cilantro and a little Gates barbecue sauce were in action here. It's not my favorite of TJ's frozen pizzas - that would be the Parlanno or the Margherita, depending on the day - but I still find myself getting it a few times per year.

Always be weary of products that label themselves "gourmet." These onion pieces were tiny, and greasier than any I've had before. I added them to a burger with A.1. cracked peppercorn sauce and they helped out a little, but unless this can was an aberration and they usually are much larger pieces than these, I can't recommend them.

Trader Joe's has a few pizzas in the refrigerated section, but I don't like them as much as the frozen pies. The crust always tastes gummy, as if the dough is much older than the "use by" date indicates. We decided to give the uncured pepperoni pizza a try one evening. And the pepperoni was quite good. But the dough wasn't, and the sauce was flavorless. At first I added some fresh basil, which helped slightly, and then I sluiced it with Texas Champagne, which helped a lot. I can't call this bad, but it's pretty much the same price as the frozen pizzas, which I think are better.

I've been eating the TJ's lobster ravioli for years, but recently they reformulated them, using slightly larger pieces of actual lobster. The price jumped up from $2.99 to $3.49, but that's no big deal: although I can't tell a huge difference between the new version and the old, they are still delicious and a great deal. If we split a salad or some veggies as an appetizer, one package of lobster ravioli is enough for the two of us to share as an entree. I can't think of too many lobster entrees that two people can share for three and a half bucks. This is the only one, really.

I like them plain but, not surprisingly, Elizabeth likes them dripping with butter.

I am something of a sucker for anything advertised as tapas... or Spanish cheeses. So the other day when I noticed a "Spanish Cheese Tapas Sampler" - 12 slices of Iberica, Cabra al vino, and Manchego - I would have reached for it if it cost $39.99. Fortunately it was only $3.99.

One night when I was sharing wine with some friends I brought out the slices on a plate. We devoured them and all were great. I highly recommend trying these, particularly if you like cheese but have never tried any of these flavors before.

If you're a baseball fan, you can understand how hard it is for me to hear the words Bella Napoli lately. If not, don't worry about it. At any rate, I have been eating the Bella Napoli pepperoni pizzas for years. They are delicious, though small, about four inches in diameter. I usually have to eat two of them.

The pepperoni is some of the best I have ever had on a frozen pizza and the sauce is tasty. I usually forget about these, sometimes for months at a time, then I remember them, eat some, and say "I'm not going to forget about these again." But then I do. I highly recommend keeping a package of these - they come four to a package - in the freezer. They always do in a pinch.

Like the uncured pepperoni pizza, the toppings on the goat cheese version are tasty but the sauce and the crust are not. Really the only time we ever get these refrigerated pizzas is when TJ's is sold out of the frozen pies that we want. I imagine if you drizzled some olive oil over this it would help, but this is another pizza I don't plan to get again.

Years ago - perhaps half a decade - TJ's had a "Pizza Formaggio di Capra" - a frozen goat cheese pizza that was perhaps my favorite frozen pizza they have ever carried. But I have not seen it in years. I wish they still had it.

It's November and I love Thanksgiving. So when I saw this chicken sausage stuffing with herbs, I decided to give it a try. (Normally I would not even consider it.) Like many of TJ's items, there were instructions for microwaving and oven-baking. I was so hungry on this particular day that I decided to use the microwave. Four and a half minutes later it came out hot. 

It was okay. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, but I mean, it was cornbread stuffing that I cooked in the microwave. How could it possibly be any better than okay? The spice flavors were nice and the chicken sausage was better than I thought it would be, but overall the whole thing had the consistency of a sponge. I would not be opposed to trying this again - although I doubt I will - but next time I will definitely cook it in the oven. 

Hope you enjoyed the rundown. I'm sure there will be another one in December. For those of you lucky enough to have a three-day weekend, enjoy it.


Emily said...

I love the cutesy 'with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme' on the stuffing. See what they did there? I mean, Simon and Garfunkel and stuffing. What more does a girl need?

JustinM said...

Funny, I was thinking about that when I wrote and wasn't going to include this anecdote, but I will here, especially since you're English:

I went to summer school when I was 11 years old and the school had a "Medieval" theme that summer. We created a medieval town where everyone had their roles to play. (I was a squire, though to be honest I don't remember what that meant.) We had a renaissance fair and everything.

One of the songs we learned was Scarborough Fair - the old, 17th century version. I don't remember if I my brother and I were singing it (probably not) or just mentioned the lyrics in passing, but we used that line and my dad said "Oh, Simon and Garfunkel!"

We told him that it was an old English ballad originally. He had no idea, he thought Simon and Garfunkel came up with the line. I hadn't thought about that in 20 years, but seeing those words reminded me of that.

Michelle said...

What kind of school did you go to?!!! I went to summer school and it was like regular school only more boring.

Emily said...

Epic. A squire is a boy who's sort of like a knight's PA. And he'll get to be a knight eventually. (I only know that from watching the Sword in the Stone countless times. When I was younger, obviously.) It sounds like fun, there's a castle near where I live and they have Tudor fairs sometimes which are always awesome.

Anonymous said...

So much information on this blog! Love it!

JustinM said...

Michelle: This was elementary school. In the mornings we had to do math and maybe some other stuff that I don't remember. But the afternoons were about role-playing, learning songs, and old English village life.

Emily: That makes sense. Everyone wanted to be the bishop or the prince, but I was a squire.

Anon: Well, really just the four things I know: baseball, fast food, Trader Joe's, and feudal England.

Liz said...

I like the raviolis just fine without butter, but isn't everything better with butter? The answer is yes!

Jessica said...

Great post. I've almost bought those ham & cheese things a million times. Glad I stayed away.

Also, thanks for the recommendation on the Cholula Chili Garlic sauce. It's made everything I've had it on much tastier. I wish they sold it in a bigger bottle!

Banana Wonder said...

What a great run down! Wow. That is a lot of TJ pizza. Did they send you a thank you note for this report? I was most curious about the ham and cheese croissant because that would be my #1 thing to eat after a night out. Gotta pick up some lobsta ravs next time around.

SuperLarge said...

I have had many a dried-onion topped got-dog in Denmark and loved every single one. Whenever I've tried to recreate the experience here in Cali with non-Danish hotdogs and non-Danish dried onions, I've been bitterly disappointed. I never knew if it was the dogs or the onions. I've decided that it's just a case of "you can never swim in the same river twice" and will abandon the pursuit until the next time I'm in Scandinavia.

Ben said...

hey just thought i'd mention that the oven directions for the ham and cheese croissant request that you give them 30 sec - 1 min in the microwave prior to placing in the oven. by the time its done in the oven the cheese is browned and gooey, and the ham is far from cold. i miffed the directions the first time i bought them as well, and did not enjoy them, but my last few experiences have been great. goes well with TJs sweet potato fries.