Friday, February 8, 2013

Some Trader Joe's Stuff

The new Fearless Flyer arrived in the mail on Wednesday afternoon, but I'd started noticing new products around the beginning of the year and I'd been trying them. So here's 8 things - some new, some not.

I always like a salsa that doesn't feature chunks of tomato, so this tomatillo and roasted chili version was worth a try. It's good, for sure, but there is nothing really memorable about it. It's a little spicy, but not too spicy. It's a little flavorful, but not too flavorful. It reminds me of an insipid restaurant salsa. I will finish the jar, but  my next uses of it will be doctored with cilantro and diced onion, too.

In the local market of my hometown - which closed a decade ago and has not been replaced - there were always containers of custard and tapioca pudding. As a kid, I really liked both, but as I grew older I found that I really only like the custard. The flavor of the tapioca was fine, but the consistency just seemed tpo weird, like I was eating fish eggs or something. I don't think I have tried tapioca of any kind in more than two decades.

But I returned to it the other day. I was not a fan. I liked the part that tasted like pudding, but it was just too thick and the tapioca balls were still not enjoyable.

Have you ever had great deep dish pizza? I don't mean good, I mean great. It's just awesome. Now, I have always preferred the New York, thin-crust style. But a great deep dish pizza is almost as good. Not surprisingly, it's very difficult to find a great one in the frozen variety. Of the dozens of frozen deep dish pizzas I have tried in my life, there are only two that I would call great: a brand called Chicago Bros. that I loved when I was a kid but has been gone for twenty years or so, and DiGiornno's deep dish pizzas, which you had to cover with an aluminum pan and cook in the oven for an hour but was probably my favorite frozen pizza ever. 

Trader Joe's deep dish pizza disappointed me when I opened it. From the nutritional info I could tell that it has about 33% more calories than the other TJ's frozen pizzas that I like and, as you can see by my hand, it's not as wide. 

But after cooking and trying it, I have to admit I was wrong. It was really tasty. It can't hold a candle to those two deep dish pizzas I just mentioned - hell, I don't like it as much as the other frozen TJ's pizzas I usually get - but I really liked the sauce and pepperoni. And, unlike a lot of frozen pizzas that advertise themselves as deep dish but are really just "thick crust" (there is a difference), this pizza actually formed a dish. 

I would get this again, no doubt, but probably not very frequently. That's not a knock on this pizza so much as a statement for how much I love the other TJ's frozen pies. 

I'm not the biggest fan of cheeses with bizarre flavors, like, say, wasabi. Even though I do love wasabi. (Or coffee, or sage, or caramelized onion. Pretty much the only extra flavor that I really enjoy mixed in with a cheese is mustard.)  It's just that I like my cheese to taste like cheese, and those other things to taste like they are, and for the two to never mix.

But I still bought this gouda with wasabi. It was fine. The wasabi was noticeable, though not as hot as I expected. I ate a few slices by themselves, and later I took some leftover chicken (from the Bone Suckin' buns I made during the Super Bowl) and made a quesadilla with the cheese. It was a good snack. But I won't ever get this cheese again.

On my last trip to TJ's, I bought two salads for Elizabeth to take with her to work. She took this Harvest Salad first. That night I asked her how it was. She said "Okay, but I don't really like the TJ's salads with chicken. It tastes kind of slimy and not very fresh."

So she didn't take this salad. I removed the avocado and tomato and ate it myself. You know how sometimes somebody describes something in a certain way and then, even though you don't necessarily agree, that's all you can think of? (My best friend in high school remarked that blue cheese "smells like a butt." I didn't agree but it took me years to eat blue cheese again. Another friend once said that Shawn Mullins - whose music I really liked when I was a teenager - looks like he smells of milk and baloney. I had no idea what the hell that meant, but it was all I could think of and I had to stop listening to his music.)

All I could think about were her comments regarding the chicken. She was probably right but even if she wasn't, that's all I could think about. I picked off most of the pieces of chicken. The honey mustard dressing was fantastic, however. I wish Trader Joe's sold this by itself. (They don't, right?)


Whenever I make fried cheese, it is almost always the TGIFridays brand, which seems to perpetually be on sale at the market. And it's okay - I mean, it's breaded and fried cheese - but not anything I would really recommend to people.

This Trader Joe's variety, however, is much better: the breading tastes lighter and the cheese is tasty. As long as this is available - though who knows how long that will be - I will not be buying any other brand except this.

I mentioned that I got a microwave a couple of weeks ago, right? After having gone eight months without. This Chicken Valencia was the first actual entree I cooked in the microwave: it took 7 and a half minutes, vs. the 50 minutes (I think) it recommended in the oven. I was too hungry to wait that long.

The chicken reminded me of one of the main reasons I don't like microwaves: frozen meats, especially chicken, get too rubbery. I ended up discarding about one-third of the chicken. And that's a shame, because I liked the rest of the flavors. The red pepper sauce was slightly sweet, with a distinct pepper flavor, and the rice and veggies were good.

I would get this again for sure, but I definitely would cook it in the oven next time.

Have a good weekend.


Bekah said...

You know I love these...

I agree that TJ cheese sticks are far superior to the flat ones that TGF's puts out.

It simply ticks me off when frozen pizza claims the "Chicago" style. It just can't be done. But that's coming from someone raised in the area. Also a pity that that little pie was 4 servings.


Anonymous said...

Only thing I would try is motzerella cheese sticks, with marinara.

Lee Ann said...

Thanks for the recap. I love tapioca even though I haven't had it in years. I might try it anyway since you liked the flavor. Hopefully I won't find the texture as creepy. The size of that pizza was pathetic! I lived in Chicago during my 20s/early 30s and miss a good deep dish. Agree with Bekah that it's impossible to really recreate in a frozen (so unfortunate!)

deskev13 said...

So your slow cooker recipes forced me to get my own, and as a fan of mcd's hot mustard sauce I threw some chicken breasts in ten packs of hot mustard sauce onions and let it go for five hours. After shredding it was amazing on a sandwich!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I know you said you weren't a fan of flavored cheeses of the non-mustard variety, but the wasabi cheese reminded me of horseradish cheddar...

It's especially delicious melted onto roast beef, arugula & caramelized onion sandwiches.