Friday, October 26, 2012

A Trader Joe's Baker's Dozen

Normally at least a couple of months go by between Trader Joe's posts - actually, I guess, on average, much more time than that elapses - but immediately after my latest one three weeks ago, I received the Fearless Flyer in the mail, with several items that sounded great. So I decided to load up on TJ's products and truncate the normal time period for my next TJ's write-up. (Trust me, with the price of groceries in this city, doing these Trader Joe's posts is a bigger favor to me than it is to you.)

I am pretty faithful to Atomic Horseradish, but I figured I might as well try TJ's version. It's fine, but extremely mild. You might have noticed I used it in the remoulade I made last week. It served that purpose just fine, when it was part of a dish with quite a few other ingredients. But as part of the cocktail sauce I made here, it was just much too mild. I had to add so much to get to the heat level I like, it ended up tasting mostly like horseradish and nothing else.

I wrote about the Bool Kogi a few years ago: I hated it. It was very salty and incredibly fatty. But that time, I grilled it quickly, as the instructions suggest. I've been cooking so much with the slow-cooker these days that I decided to give that a try and hopefully cook away a lot of the fat.

I placed the marinated pieces on top of my usual bed of onions. This isn't a lot of meat and the pieces are cut small, so this is not an all-day process. Two, three hours tops. (I did this on low for 2.5 hours and removed the meat.)

When the meat was done I simmered it in a small pot with Korean barbecue sauce for a few minutes then placed some on tortillas.

And then I added diced green onions, pickled jalapenos, and a mix of sour cream and gochujang. These tacos were delicious and we each had three. I'm not sure if I will get this again, but if I do, I will absolutely cook them this way instead of grilling the beef.

What you see is what you get here. Does a mix of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and a few other things sound good to you? If yes, you'll like this. I heated it in a pan with only the tiniest amount of olive oil, then served it over jasmine rice. It was so easy to not have to chop the veggies that I will definitely get one of these again, because it was very fresh. Unlike some other "fresh" veggies that you may read about in a couple of minutes.

My expectations were quite low for these mini samosas. How much flavor can you really pack into tiny little triangles like this? (The grocery store across the street from me sells fresh samosas, each about half the size of a baseball, that are fantastic. One day you'll see a photo of them.)

It turns out, they have a surprisingly high amount of chicken tikka flavor. I will definitely be getting these again. I made a sauce of cilantro chimichurri, sour cream and black pepper, because I'd expected the mini samosas to be bland. It was a good sauce but I ended up eating most of them without it.

The product that caused Elizabeth to ask me not to buy frozen veggies from Trader Joe's anymore. She doesn't like any of them. I like about half... but these was probably my least favorite. There was absolutely no flavor. It's a shame because I like all four of these veggies, but this was just not good.

This was the item about which I was most excited to try in the new Fearless Flyer. In my exuberance, I somehow forgot to take a picture of the package. Ordinarily I would just let it go, but I wanted you to see the box, because it was really good.

I decided to bake the shrimp, which was a mistake. More on that in a minute.

The defrosted sauce was one of those bizarre shades of orange that you sometimes see when it comes to buffalo-type sauces.

The shrimp were quite good but it was unquestionably a mistake to bake them. The batter on most shrimp turned soggy and fell apart as soon as they were tossed with the sauce. (I already had the oven heated so I did not feel like pouring oil in a pan and frying them, that's the only reason I did not fry them.) The sauce was tangy and spicy, too. I will definitely get these again and cook them properly. Hell, I'll show you a picture when I do; both you and these shrimp deserve that.

As much as I love cheese, my least favorite kinds are easily the decadent, buttery, soft cheeses that pretty much everyone else loves . And that's definitely what this triple cream cheese is. If you like that sort of thing, go for it. But I will not be getting it again. I'm not complaining - it was obvious what I was getting into when I bought it - but once was enough for me.

Elizabeth picked these out. I'm not one for caramels. I like donuts and homemade ice cream (plus the occasional gummy rat) but other than those things I don't really like sweets. I hate the taste of chocolate and chewy, salty caramels don't do it for me. But these were some of the best I've ever had. I ate four of them, which is more caramels than I have had in my adult life combined.

Now, aged cheddars, those are my kind of cheese. This Vermont cheddar has plenty of bite. I ate a few pieces as is, and made one of these:

(Have I ever featured one of TJ's Middle Eastern flatbreads? I don't remember. I get them all the time, they are great for making wraps for lunch or egg-and-cheese flatbread breakfast sandwiches.)

And they make great flatbread pizzas. Some of the Vermont cheddar, a spicy marinara sauce, and seven minutes in the oven. A delicious snack and a hell of a lot healthier than getting a couple of slices from the local pizza joint. (Not really better, but you know what I mean.)

Remember what I said a while back about some fresh veggies not being all that fresh? This is what I was talking about. The snap peas were delicious, but the broccoli, carrots and peppers all tasted off. I threw in some extra oil and a splash or two of soy sauce, but these just didn't work for either of us.

This is probably the item I was looking forward to the second-most. What a headache. First, they're not very healthy. This isn't a big deal per se; chicken pot pies aren't health food, they're comfort food. Second, the instruction say to bake them 35-40 minutes in a preheated oven. That's a long time for a snack. And last, even though I followed the instructions, this is what they looked like:

Broken open, deformed, burned on the bottom. Not attractive.

They tasted fine, I guess. Nothing bad about them. But not one of the better chicken pot pies I have ever had. There just wasn't much there. A lot of calories and wait time for something so insignificant.

I usually enjoy Trader Joe's frozen fish, so this swai (a shark catfish, I just learned) looked good, marinated with olive oil, tomatoes, green olives, chilis and capers. It baked in the oven in 15 minutes and was yet another delicious TJ's fish. I did not like it as much as the soy-ginger cod, but I really enjoyed it.

These peppers and onions fall into the category of TJ's veggies that I actually enjoy. They had enough ice crystals on them that I just heated them in a small pot for less than ten minutes and they were back to life. I ate them alone but I would have no problem buying them again to eat on a sausage sandwich or in a quesadilla.

That's it for this round. Have a good weekend. I'll be back next week... you know, unless "Frankenstorm" knocks out our power....


Nosh Gnostic said...

Great post. Very fun reading for me until the Veracruz fish - It took me all the way back to my aunt Hazel's horrible "pizza fish". I'm sure the TJ's rendition was far more enjoyable.

Those mini-pot pies look an abomination. 3 bites = 230 calories = yuk.

One word on soft-ripened cheeses: delicedebourgogne. Ok, I cheated.

Batten down the hatches for Frankenstorm!!!

Bekah said...