What’s in a name? Trader Ming’s?

One playful way that Trader Joe’s keeps people’s attention is by coming up with a different brand name. You don’t always catch it but sometimes there are there. I’m starting a list of the different brand names and let see if I have them all:

Trader Joe’s – Regular products
Baker Josef’s – Baked goods
Trader Ming’s – Chinese food
Trader Giotto’s – Italian food
Trader Joe-San – Japanese food
Pilgrim Joe’s – Harvest/Fall/Thanksgiving
Trader Jacques’ – French food
Trader Darwin’s – Supplements
Trader Jose’s – Mexican

What else there?

Trader Joe’s Chicken, Barley and Vegetable soup

Just in time for cold and flu season, I started seeing three “fresh” soups in the refrigerator section with the prepared foods over the past couple of months. I finally bought one of each and the first review will be the Chicken, Barley and Vegetable soup.

These caught me a little off guard one day when I was going over the usual stuff in the prepared food section. Cool, something new and with the cool weather a most welcome addition to the line up at Trader’s. They sure looked good in that clear plastic container. Must be a trend right now. I have noticed that Campbells and some other soup maker have all started putting their soups in clear plastic containers. It’s more visually appealing that’s for sure! You can see all the bits and pieces of barley, chicken and vegetables right through the plastic. I had to try these!

Heating instructions are pretty simple, either pop it in the microwave or stick it in a pot and heat it up. It’s 20oz of soup, so a lot for someone like my wife to eat a whole container of it, but since I’m 6’2″ it’s about enough to fill me up! I wouldn’t heat it up in the plastic container in the microwave, those things can get hot if you don’t watch it so I just heated it up in a pot and dumped it in a bowl.

When I bought this I was a little worried because TJ’s carries a canned chicken noodle soup and frankly it sucks, but I have to say this is probably one of the best soups I’ve ever bought from a store. Honestly, it would be hard for me to tell this wasn’t made at home. It’s rich and satisfying and you can actually identify the vegetables in your soup. The salt balance was just right. When I got done with the bowl, I was very satisfied! Lot’s of pieces of chicken, but they were not the big chunks that you would get in a homemade version, there was plenty of chicken.

I would definitely buy this again many times over. It was sooo good that I am going to give it 9 Bells!

(Update, 11/2/11, I had another one of these and while the flavors were all the same, the vegetables were really undercooked to the point of almost being raw. Next time I will taste test some and then cook accordingly)

Trader Joe’s Rigatoni Alla Siciliana

If you want a hint on how to find the really high quality stuff at Trader Joe’s, look for “Made in France” or “Made in Italy” or “Made in Thailand” and so on… For some reason, many of the frozen meals that are Made in the USA just don’t have it compared to the foods that come out of Europe. I remember reading an article somewhere a couple of years back that eventually nobody was going to cook because prepared meals, either frozen or in the fridge section, were going to be so good that it would be “Why Bother?”. Things are getting that good! We all know that Trader Joe’s doesn’t put anything but whole ingredients in their food. When you look at this dish it’s nothing but whole ingredients. Nothing funny and it shows. This was easy to prepare but had that flavor that said I slaved over this but all I really did was cut open a bag and put it in the pan and cook it up!

The pasta was al dente not too mushy. Lots of big chunks of eggplant and tomatoes. It was easy to prepare in a skillet. My wife and I had it with a side salad (all Trader Joe’s ingredients!). Makes for a nice vegetarian meal if you are so inclined. It was just plain good. I would have a hard time making a pasta dish this good myself without a lot of prep work. This is what I mean by these packaged meals getting better and better all the time.

One minor issue, I used a stainless steel saute pan. The mozzarella stuck to the pan and to my silicon spatula. I would use a non-stick pan to prepare it next time. Also we felt it needed a little bit of help at the very end, so we drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top. Sprinkled some Trader Joe’s shaved Parmesan cheese on top and a little parsley and it was great!

Would I buy it again. Yes! Already have! We gave it a score of 8 bells!

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