When's the last time I did one of these, like three years ago? I've been spending more of my food budget at Trader Joe's than ever, due to the pecuniary situation and some kind relatives who got me gift cards there for the holidays. I even managed to buy some Irish Cream, which I could never justify in a regular situation (ten to fifteen bucks? that's three burritos!). So I am once again in a good position to evaluate a number of their house products. Their awesome vegan masala burgers have already made it onto my product recs list, for intance.
Gorditas- At first, I thought these were terrible, because I had in my mind what Taco Bell sells as gorditas, which are essentially tacos on flatbread. Plus I'd undercooked it which means it was tough and lukewarm. Turns out the traditional form is more like a croquette, a fritter with cheese, beans, and diced potatoes inside. If you cook them thoroughly until they are piping hot and add some sour cream or fresh avocado, they are a filling and tasty meal.
Organic lemonade- TJ's had two choices with the lemonade, which is to make it taste like real lemonade or to make it taste like fake lemonade, and I feel they failed in both. It could be that I'm prejudiced because I ate a bunch of sweet stuff before I tried this lemonade, but it was quite sour and had an odd afteraste. And now I'm jonesing for a lemon shake-up like they have at the festivals back in Hoosierville. Ice, water, sugar, and lemon juice, poured into a cup and rattled around for a bit.
Baked Mac and Cheese- I had not expected them to make this with their regular mac and cheese recipe, somehow thinking that all mac and cheese appetizers (tried to write that in French but not sure about the spelling) are made with the bland institutional version. But this is TJ's popular semi-highbrow recipe, formed into little spheres and breaded. This makes it feel less decadent than a big bowl of the usual, although it does cost a little more per ounce. I also managed successfully to get two sets of snacks out of these. TJ's has started making a low-fat version that I have on hand and will report back on. I am not so sanguine.
Low Sodium Tomato Sauce- Run in the other direction. Both too tart and too sweet, and not in any way that seems to come from nature. Make your own if you're looking for a lower-salt alternative to jarred sauces. Even I've done it, so it can't be that difficult.
Granola Bars- TJ's doesn't have sales, so when they set something off in a display it's because they want to draw attention to it, sometimes because it's seasonal, sometimes because it's new, and sometimes because it hasn't been selling well. I suspect the chocolate-chip granola bars were in this latter category. I blame the brown rice syrup for no real scientific reason, but these have a sour flavor profile.
Which of these sounds 'healthier' to you, Battered Fish Nuggets or Panko Breaded Tilapia Filets? Well, you'd be wrong. At least at TJ's, where a serving of the Tilapia contains almost three times the fat and 100+ more grams of sodium. This is not meant to guide your consumption habits in any way, since you know I don't do that, and there may be many reasons to prefer to the tilapia regardless. It's just interesting that sometimes our instincts about these things can be totally off.
Vanilla Bean Joe-Joes- Generic Oreos are like generic breakfast cereal: the cost different is so great that if it's anywhere close to as good as the original it's worth it. Having just bought a package of Double Stufs (no second f, for no reason I can discern) on sale at Safeway, the comparison is fresh in my mind and Joe-Joes are a pretty decent approximation. They make a big deal out of having real vanilla, which is subtler than whatever flavoring Kraft uses in its creme, so if you're craving total trash Oreos are still the way to go. But Joe-Joes beat most other sandwich cookies for sure.
Of course now I'm sure I've forgetten a number of other products I wanted to talk about. Well, I'll just have to do another post.