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Trader Joe’s Just Beets

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Beets, man. I keep giving them a chance, and every time I do, they squander their opportunity. Our example today is Trader Joe’s Just Beets. I got suckered in this time the same way as every time. “Surely,” I thought, “they wouldn’t just sell you dehydrated beet slices if they weren’t secretly delicious, right?” It’s a lesson life first tried to teach me when I was at a restaurant that had a special “Jiffy Burger” on the menu – a hamburger slathered in peanut butter. “Surely,” I thought, “they wouldn’t just sell you a hamburger with peanut butter on it if it wasn’t secretly delicious, right?”

 

That hamburger wasn’t delicious, and neither are these beets. Admittedly, that’s just my opinion. If you already like beets, you’re probably going to like these.They are, as the bag says, just beets. In fact, the best thing I can personally say about these beets is that, with proper application of a dramatic pause, it’s fun the say the name.

“Do you want some of this?

“What is it?

“Trader Joe’s….Just beets!”

“No.”

Is an example of the sort of conversation I’ve been having. Unsurprisingly, this has not proven to be an effective way to pitch the product.

What you’re signing up for is right there on the label… and in the ingredients… and inside the bag. Just beets. Dehydrated beets in fact. The product copy proudly touts that “97% of the water has been removed.” If only they could have kept on going and removed the beets as well.

 

To be fair, of all the beet products I’ve tried from Trader Joe’s, aside from the rather tasty the beet hummus, this is probably my favorite – if only because most of that ruinous beet flavor has been extracted from them. As in most dehydrated foods, the bold flavor of the fresh produce has been muted. That’s just an unavoidable part of the dehydrating process, and, in this case, a perk. However, the vivid deep purple coloration is still there, as is the signature beet aftertaste – that long lingering flavor of the earth that simply won’t leave you be.

In short, I hate beets and think they’re ruining the world – but hey, I’m prejudiced. With that in mind I reached out to a good friend to serve as a special guest taster. She spent time living in New England, and developed a taste for beets, turnips and all the other dire root vegetables of those dour, cloud-saddled states. She loved them flavorful beet chips – calling them, “awesome”. Not only are they still quite beet-y tasting, they’re cut thick enough that even after dehydration most of the chips were intact – perfect little burgundy circles that pack a strong, satisfying crunch. Even more, she loved them as an easy way to get at that distinctive beet flavor in an easy to manage and accessible way.

Assuming you like beets, the only other caveat I’d mention is the price. You’ll pay well for access to this delicious taste – $2.99 for a 1.3 oz bag. I know that dehydrated food tends to be  expensive, but doesn’t that seem a little steep for what is, by their own admission, just beets?

If for some reason you’ve subscribed to a love of beets – a love I can only describe as sinister and Lovecraftian – then you’ll probably really enjoy Trader Joe’s Just Beets. You could probably go crazy and dip them in your beet hummus and wash it down with some TJ’s beet juice. Or if you’re sane, like me, then you’ll want to give them a wide berth.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Me, no. My friend, yes.
Would I Buy Them Again: My friend definitely would. I would buy anything BUT them again.
Final Synopsis: Dehydrated beet slices make for crunchy chips.
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Trader Joe’s Beet Hummus

Trader Joe's Beet Hummus 2

Yes, that is edamame hummus you see in the background. No, there is no stopping Trader Joe’s hummus rampage.

Well well, beet hummus – that’s apparently a thing we have now. Beets. Hummus. Beet hummus. Not hummus and beets or but hummus with beets, but hummus made from beets. It’s a real thing and we’re all just going to have to deal with it.

Long time readers of the blog know that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with beets, or maybe more accurately, I have a self-destructive fascination with beets. Despite referring to them on more than one occasion as tasting like gelatin made with dirt, I nevertheless feel compelled to purchase each new and successively weirder beet product that Trader Joe’s puts out. They’re sort of like my anti-mango.

At any rate, for the above reasons, I picked up this unsettlingly purple tub of ground beet mush to see if it tasted as good as it sounds. The first thing I should clarify is, despite all my ranting and wailing, beets only make up a portion of this hummus. The first ingredient in this hummus, as in all true hummuses, is ground garbanzo beans, aka the chickpea. This has been blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and a few Mediterranean spices – aka the hummus you all know and love. It’s just that on top of this really solid base Trader Joe’s has decided to mix in beets. Tons of beets. And also beet juice.

Trader Joe's Beet Hummus

So… purple.

Can you taste the beets in this hummus, you might be asking? Yes – yes you can absolutely can taste the beets. That potent yet somehow drab beet flavor grabs you by the tongue from the first bite and doesn’t let you forget it. “Beets”, as listed on the label, is the second ingredient – and you will notice it. This is augmented by the addition of beet juice and, in case you didn’t think that was quite enough beet, a hearty handful of extra beet chunks scattered liberally on top. Trader Joe’s apparently went into this one with the goal of ensuring that no one in the world could accuse their beet hummus of not being absolutely chockablock with non-stop beet action.

That said really, there’s nothing wrong with this hummus. It’s a regualar, run of the mill hummus across the board – it just has a bunch of beets in it. That’s really all there is too it, which drives me slightly crazy. It tastes just like ordinary hummus, except that you’ll taste beets when you first put it in your mouth and experience that long, distinctive beet aftertaste. I’m sure that there are some people in the world to whom this is somehow a selling point. If you’ve become bored by Trader Joe’s numerous other hummus offerings, if mere edamame hummus strikes you as humdrum, then this novel, beet-centric take on hummus may be just what you’re looking for.

To me, however, this beet hummus is like getting my car back from the mechanic and being told – “Good news. We’ve fixed everything and it’s running fine – and also we filled up the back seat with spiders.” It’s fine, I just really wish you had avoided taking that extra step.

As I say, I’m sure there are people out there who are excited by the prospect of integrating a root vegetable into their hummus routine. To those people I say go for it, this is the best beet hummus on the shelves. For me, however, I’ll be giving it a wide berth.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Hypothetically I could recommend this to beet lovers, if ever I meet one.

Would I Buy It Again: Nope.

Final Synopsis: Hummus, but it tastes like beets.

Trader Joe's Beet Hummus - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Beet Hummus – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Chicken and Roasted Beet Salad

Trader Joe's Roated Beet and Chicken Salad

I should replace this crappy picture with a better picture, but why bother? It’s just beets.

Sure, I tried beet salad once. Once. At the time I compared it to gelatin made from dirt, and nothing in the intervene months and years has done anything to convince me otherwise. So it was in a perplexed, slightly surreal haze that I found myself buying Trader Joe’s Chicken and Roasted Beet Salad.

Why am I buying this?, I thought, bemused, as if watching myself in a dream. Why am I paying this quirky sales clerk good money, money which could literally buy me anything, on beets? Have I truly gone mad at last? Sitting at my kitchen table, staring into the unsealed maw of this uncouth salad, it seemed the only likely answer.

I’m willing to admit that I have never eaten any beet and liked it. Certainly not in their rawest, beetiest form. I can boast that I managed to get down about a pint of Trader Joe’s Beet and Purple Carrot Juice a while back, before realizing that, no, this is terrible. Beets really have no place in my life, and I no place in a the life of beets. It’s an arrangement I think we’re both happy with.*

If you, gentle reader, have managed to make space in your heart for this ignoble root vegetable, than you are a better fellow than I, and I would ask you to keep in mind that I’m prejudiced against these things from the start.

This is a terrible salad. I’ve never really had a bad salad from Trader Joe’s, other than, you know, the ones with all the salmonella in them, but their Chicken and Roasted Beet salad blazes new downward territory. It’s not just the beets which are the bad part of this salad, that much was to be expected. The rest of the salad mix contribute as much to this stinker as the beets. It’s as if the salad engineers at TJ’s just gave up while putting it together.

“It’s got beets in it,” they probably said to themselves, pausing to let out a long, defeated sigh, “It’s not like anyone’s ever going to eat it.”

The salad mix here involves a very nice, snappy mixture of greens, but that one high point is defrayed by a couple factors. One, despite being a big 10 oz. salad, there’s not much in the way of greens or chicken in it. Two, it’s packed with a pungent, yet bland fetid cheese. There’s almost as much feta in here as there is chicken. I’ve got nothing against feta, per se, I think it’s a fine cheese, but this particular feta is on the mild and squeaky side. Cheese in a salad should be the highlight, not the grist you have to chew through.

That leads us to the beets themselves. Though unheralded on the packaging, this salad actually comes with two, count ’em two, kinds of beets – red beets and white beets. Isn’t that a pleasant surprise! All too aware that leaving beets in prolonged contact with wholesome food will ruin it, both kinds of beets come packaged in their own individual tubs. It’s these tubs, plus the considerable water weight of the beets, that accounts for the bulk of this salad. Such a sad waste of space.

The beets themselves are typical beets, which is to say: wet, cold, lumpy, drab, unpleasantly musky, and repulsive to the taste. It’s amazing to me how something can be so bland, yet so disgusting at the same time. Mother Nature must have been in a particularly creative and dark place when she came up with beets. It was probably the same day she figured out slugs.

All that said, Trader Joe’s did choose a good dressing to pair the salad with. The balsamic vinaigrette is well formulated, hitting all the rights notes of viscosity, acidity and sweetness. It does a good job highlighting the flavorful notes of the salad while masking the weaker ones. Good, but not good enough to rescue the salad from the beets.

In the end, if you, like all right minded people, dislike beets, then avoid this salad. For good measure, maybe consider avoiding any salads it happens to be touching as well. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind beets then why not eat this, as it appears you’re willing to eat anything.

*I take all this back in the face of borscht, which is one of the most delicious soups in existence. How such a charming son came from such a damned sire, I can’t imagine.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend This: Ha ha ha.

Would I Buy It Again: Ha ha ha ha ha, no.

Final Synopsis: A subpar salad with some beets thrown on. It’s like someone was trying to get fired.

Trader Joe's Roated Beet and Chicken Salad - Nuitrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Roated Beet and Chicken Salad – Nuitrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Beet and Purple Carrot Juice

Trader Joe's Beet and Purple Carrot Juice

I know – how could this not be as good as it sounds?

Goddamn beets got me again. After enjoying my marinated beet salad so much I thought I’d pull a Jesus and turn the other cheek, try and welcome all beets back into my life.  Unfortunately, Jesus has once again out done me, for I simply cannot forgive what these beets have done to me.

I might be being a little unfair toward beets – the purple carrots can’t be totally blameless here. Purple carrots are just carrots that happen to be purple – nothing more exotic than that. In fact, before the reign of William of Orange in the 16th century it was more outlandish to see an orange carrot than a purple, red, yellow or white carrot. Allegedly, as part of a great ploy, the farmers of the Netherlands teamed up to produce nothing but orange carrots as to pay tribute to their king, thereby establishing orange as the standard color for the last 500 plus years. Pretty good tribute guys!

To return to the subject at hand, this ungodly combination was the worst thing I have drank in recent memory. I hope this blog goes somewhat toward testifying my openness to even the strangest foods and my willingness to consume anything food like, because I assure you this is the case. This beet juice simply affirmed all my worst fears and suspicions about Satan’s vegetable – all the horrible taste of drinking the liquid canned beets come in, combined with a cloying, lingering flavor that simply will not leave your tongue alone. I’m afraid I found this one simply undrinkable, and I don’t say that as a knee-jerk reaction.  I am proud to say that I managed to give it my level best and fight my way through an entire glass, though it was consumed in small sips with generous periods of walk-it-off time in between. I could do no better, and was relieved when I was finished with it. Wasting food was deeply ingrained in me as a sin, but I will dump this muck into a gutter and laugh at it’s demise.

That said, the juice is good for you. It’s phenomenal for you in fact – so chock full of  Vitamin A, C, Iron and Calcium that if you drank it daily you would all but explode in a thunderous shock wave of healthy energy. I’m sure there are beet fans and health fanatics alike who embrace this product as an exciting new way to drink their favorite vegetable. I don’t care, and will do my best to avoid having my eye line accidentally cross sight of another bottle ever again.

Beets – you got me again! Damn you beeeeeeets!

Would I Recommend It: Uh, like no.

Would I Buy It Again: It’s hard to imagine a situation so dire that I would be compelled to.

Final Synopsis: Beets are monsters and they should all be destroyed.

Trader Joe's Beet and Purple Carrot Juice - Nutritional Information


Trader Joe’s Marinated Beet Salad

Trader Joe's Marinated Beet Salad

Beets – The Devil’s Vegetable

Beets. Is there any item of food more loathed by man than the heinous beet? Just the word alone, the very act of articulation, is enough to make the tongue whimper. Beets.

This is probably all my own fault. I learned my fear of beets in childhood. I liked broccoli, I was okay with Brussels sprouts, but beets – the third member of that alliterative triumvirate of kid ire – that was what got me. I dare say it’s possible I’d even have been able to tolerate that dripping, unfortunate vegetable if and when it had ever been served to me fresh and raw from the earth, untainted by the hands of man. Unfortunately, that was never my experience. I knew beets solely as they emerged from the darkened insides of tin cans: sodden by their odoriferous preservative bath, pre-cut into unidentifiable strips or chunks, gleaming a bright, queasy magenta utterly dissimilar to the color of any other natural product given to us by God. Beets. And why the hell are they always pickled? Pickled, or all things! Easily the most extreme, polarizing way to prepare an already borderline food. God damn beets.

It was with a heavy heart that I convinced myself I had to buy this marinated beet salad (ingredient: beets, some spices) and test its merits. That is my way, though. To give a second chance to what I don’t spare a second glance.

To my utter surprise and shock, I actually enjoyed! I expected “marinated” to simply be a euphemism for “pickled”, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the beets had a rich smoky and peppery flavor to them, a pleasant foil the familiar beety taste I was expecting – a result, no doubt, of the beets being roasted. Not just savory but pleasantly crunchy to boot, these guys enlivened an otherwise boring lunch by bringing a flavor that was strong, but not overpowering. To top it off, the dreaded beet after taste, which can linger on the tongue long after it’s welcome has worn out, was mild and short lived. Consider me flabbergasted.

My only complaint is the size and shape of the beet chunks. Weighing in at about the size of small ice cubes, these guys would be impossible to incorporate into any but he most outlandish of sandwiches, despite the claims of the package’s copy. They’ll do fine in salads or on their own, but I’d like to see some slimmer cuts for enhanced versatility.

Would I Recommend Them: Yes, even if you don’t like beets.

Would I Buy Them Again: These are my go to beets from now on.

Final Synopsis: Beets, edible at last.

Trader Joe's Marinated Beet Salad - Nutritional Facts