Sunday, February 28, 2010

Low Sodium Minestrone Soup

Price: $1.49
Features: low sodium, vegetarian, convenient
Found in:
soup/sauce/bean aisle

This minestrone soup is a classic 3! While definitely not bad, it had nothing that made it extra special. In a convenient single serving can, this soup is a great option for lunch at work, or as a side to dinner. Full of pasta, beans and vegetables, this version of minestrone is a bit sweeter than most canned soups (maybe due to the low sodium?). My girlfriend introduced me to this - she uses it to stay warm in Michigan!

Small soup - small post. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Organic Fair Trade Sumatra

Price: $7.99 (14 Oz, 100% Arabica, whole bean)
Features: Supposed "Full Bodied Earthy & Robust Flavor"
Found in:

 I remember not being particularly impressed by this coffee some time ago, but I decided to give it a second try before making up my mind. After brewing pots of this for the past few weeks, I have concluded that it really is unimpressive. I don't find the flavor to be full bodied, earthy, or robust. To me, it simply tastes flat - no high or low notes to remark on. It's not bad coffee per se, but there are plenty of more satisfying Fair Trade & Organic options available at Trader Joe's. I generally enjoy a nice deep Sumatra, but this is not the one for me.

Green & Yellow Beans

Price: $2.99
Features: Washed and trimmed, microwave in bag
Found in:
Prepared veggie refrigerator case

There isn't much to be said about this bag-o-beans. They taste ok, and you can just toss them in the microwave in the bag for a few minutes and they are ready to eat. The price is a little steep, but you are paying for convenience. I do enjoy a product which allows me to integrate a Bohnanza reference though! Trade you two wax for a green?!?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Light Coconut Milk

Price: $0.99 (14 Oz)
Features: Contains only coconut and water, no preservatives
Found in:
Curious places, often with the condiments on the shelf above the frozen foods

This is my favorite can of coconut milk - it is cheap and does not contain any preservatives. Many brands add preservatives which make for a somehow cooked or burnt taste, similar to that of homogenized milk. I'm not sure why preservatives are needed, since this Trader Joe's Coconut Milk has a 3+ year shelf life without them, and it tastes far better - like pure coconut milk! Imagine that.

I love to use coconut milk to make Thai curries and peanut sauce, or Indonesian yellow rice (in the photo I am in the process of making a spicy green curry full of fresh veggies). A good coconut milk based peanut sauce is amazing with just about anything, but I always end up pouring it over blanched greens to make Swimming Rama, or using the sauce for dipping skewered grilled meats (satay).

I have tried a number of other brands of coconut milk because my Trader Joe's was unable to get any of this in stock for what seemed like 6+ months, so I experimented among the twenty or so brands the crazy Asian grocery store near my house carries, none of which really satisfied.  Not sure what was going on there with the supply chain issues at TJ's, but thankfully it has come back, and seems to be in high demand again!

I believe Whole Foods has coconut milk under their 365 label which is preservative free, and about the same price, and they do have a version that is "regular" (not light). As my cooking instructor says, the only difference between regular and light coconut milk is that light is half water, so you can use one can of regular plus one can water and come out with two cans worth of light to save a few dollars if you find a regular strength brand you like. I found the Thai Kitchen brand to be tasty, but it is always about three times the cost of other brands, which does not please me in the least.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trader Joe-san's Selected Sake from Japan

Price: $10.99 (720 ml, 15% ABV)
Features: Better served cold than hot (unfortunately for me); blessings of God

Found in: Desert wine section...not sure where else it would go I suppose.

"Ahh, a nice cup of warm sake would be just the thing to relax with on this awful stormy evening, and a nice excuse to review another TJ's product" I think to myself. Enter Trader Joe-san's Selected Sake from Japan. The bottle looks fancy with its foil top and tuxedo-vest-like label. Below it states:
Junmai Ginjo Sake is a specially reserved connoisseur class of sake using certified sake rice that has been polished away to 45% of it's original size. This is a supplement-free product of which only "Koji", the blessings of God has been added. May it bring happiness to you.

 Wow, good times. I eagerly heated up a cup of the sake. I'm no connoisseur class of sake drinker, so maybe my tastes are just not refined, but once warm this sake has some serious alcohol fumes coming off it. Far more than others I have tried if, memory serves me correctly. I found it difficult to get my nose close enough to the cup with all the fumes rising up to be able to take a sip, and then I got mostly an alcohol taste as well. So, that was a disappointing experience. Now there is such strong wind outside I'm afraid the house will blow down, so maybe the strong sake isn't all a bust.

Ok, the bottle does say to serve it cold, but it seems like all sakes say that. And yes, I had a few sips of it slightly chilled and it is much smoother and has that soft sake flavor I was seeking. It is enjoyable when cool, but I wish it could be served warm on cold nights as well, and I feel like TJ's should have a decent sake for less than $11.00 per bottle. If you are into sake and you have an opinion on this Junmai Ginjo, let's hear it in the comments!

Salmon Roulette with Spinach Florentine Stuffing

Price: $3.99
Features: Good salmon with a flavorful stuffing, extreme black pepper crust
Found in: Frozen seafood

 TJ's has carried these frozen salmon roulettes for as long as I have been shopping there. I was tempted to get them on many occasions, but always had my doubts about the quality of the salmon, or how long they would take to thaw and cook up. One night when I needed a quick, easy, and relatively healthy dinner I went for them. I'm glad I finally did, because they are really good, and don't take too long to cook up from frozen (thaw in microwave for a few minutes, then finish in a frying pan).

The salmon is good quality especially for frozen, though I'm sure it is farmed (obligatory "boo!"). The spinach Florentine stuffing is very flavorful and full of garlic. Just the right amount of stuffing is placed in the middle of the round making for many satisfying bites out of the circle with an optimal salmon-to-stuffing ratio. Now, if you like tons and tons of black pepper, then you will be fine with the coating on the outside of the round. The whole edge is coated in big grains of powerful pepper, which makes for some overwhelming spice after a few bites. I think I understand why they put the coating on there - these might look less appetizing and a little too much like frozen fish pucks if the edge was just pink. However, I would advise scraping a bit of the pepper off and mopping it back up as a seasoning for your veggies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Trader Joe's JOE - "An exceptionally smooth cup of coffee"

Price: $3.49 (14 Oz, 100% Arabica, whole bean)
Features: Decent generic coffee for a crazy low price
Found in:
Coffee section labeled "Super Cheap!"

 "Joe brews a good satisfying cup of coffee. No Frills. Nothing fancy. Just good coffee at a great price. We created an excellent blend of Arabica beans and roasted them to that place where drinkability, smoothness and enjoyability meet - a medium roast, to be precise. Your kitchen table. The office. A to-go cup on the road. It doesn't matter where you are, as long as you have a good cup of Joe."

This product speaks for itself, which makes reviewing it easy on me! I agree that this is a smooth coffee at a great price. It has a good generic coffee taste - nothing really striking, yet nothing bad, like dreaded sour burning acidity, either. I like that it comes as whole bean so you can grind it right before you brew. Like they say, nothing fancy, but it gets the job done! Far and away better than other coffee you might find for $3.49!

If you are struggling along making your daily brew with pre-ground "coffee" that comes in a big metal can because you don't know any better or don't want to pay more - here are the beans you should switch to. Invite JOE to your mornings - do it now!