What this now – a Super Burrito? A Super Burrito with an exclamation mark and everything?! Oh wow, it must be like, the bigget, cheesiest, meatiest, most ass-kicking tube of molten sodium this side of the Taco Bell late night menu. Let’s just see what we’ve here – quinoa, kale, sweet potato… wait a minute – this isn’t a Super Burrito, it’s a Super FOOD Burrito. Gah! Trader Joe’s you’ve snookered me again! I’ve bought healthy, filling cuisine when I was hoping for a heart-clogging cylinder of refried beans and queso.
Actually, I suppose I can’t Trader Joe’s you for leaving the “food” part out of their Super (Food) Burrito. There’s little to nothing about quinoa, kale, et al. that inclines one to think it would make for a satisfying, quick and dirty microwaveable Mexican food indulgence. Ah, but how wrong we are, us’n who equate only ground beef and melty cheese sauce with good burritos. Trader Joe’s delivers a downright hearty, filling and tasty blast of spicy southwestern cuisine that, if I hadn’t been tricked into it, I’d never have bothered to try.
First of all, yes, you’re correct – there’s no meat in this burrito. It’s entirely vegetarian and vegan friendly, yet even meat lovers can find something to love in this nutritious tortilla wrap.
We’ve covered quinoa, that ancient psuedo-grain, several times before – but for all the health claims that swirl around quinoa one is certifiably true – it really does do a good job of filling you up. A mix of red quinoa and gold quinoa make up the bulk of this burrito, and while they bring their trademark pearl-like texture to the mix, they’ve been cooked long enough and well enough that there isn’t any coarseness to the burrito – each bite is smooth and almost creamy. This smoothness is helped along by the large, soft pieces of golden sweet potato that help the quinoa fill out the burrito. Again, these have been cooked to a pleasing softness and go down easy. Kale makes for the third big ingredient, but despite my fears, it was mild and hard to detect from bite to bite. Kale, with it’s high nutrient, vitamin and mineral denseness has a tendency to scare off all but the most health-food focused, but here it makes nary a wave – chopped and stewed into yet another mild, easy on the tongue ingredient.
What you do notice is the spiciness. The filling is spiced with aji amarillo chili sauce, made from the small, orangish and quintessentially Peruvian chili pepper, and the tortilla is seasoned with red pepper flakes. This gives the burrito considerably more spice than you might expect given the typically mild ingredients in the filling. Each bite delivers a little punch of fire that sears without burning and lends the whole affair some much needed spice that takes it up a notch in the flavor category.
I doubt I would have picked up this burrito if I’d suspected what was in it, but I’m glad I did. The flavors all play well together, the texture is even and smooth, and it cooks up in the microwave in about two minutes. This isn’t just a good vegan burrito, it’s a good burrito in general – and with only 44 grams of carbs and 18 grams of fat it’s a pretty damn healthy one too boot.
Would I Recommend It: I would – it finds a comfortable intersection between taste and nutrition.
Would I Buy It Again: It surprises even myself to say so, but yes I would buy this vegan burrito again.
Final Synopsis: A quinoa-based, vegan burrito that is actually worth checking out.
Trader Joe’s Qunoa Duo with Vegetable Melange is the sort of healthy fare I turn to when the New Year rolls around and the scale starts broadcasting dire warning vis-a-vis my sexiness. I’ve touched upon the intricacies of quinoa before, but this is the first time I’ve really sat down for an all quinoa dish.
The big deal with quinoa, and the cornerstone of its popularity, is the fact that quinoa contains a balance of all nine essential amino acids, in other words it’s a “complete protein”. This is common among meats, but rare in the plant world which makes it a boon to vegetarians. While that’s not me, I was particularly excited by the notion that I would be eating both red and white quinoa at once. Two quinoas? They must be, like, wildly different right? Otherwise, why mix them together? Sadly, I was a let down to discover that red and white quinoa are practically identical. The only real difference is that red quinoa is a little more toothsome than white quinoa, and doesn’t clump as much.
Trader Joe’s Quinoa Duo combines the quinoas with cubed zucchini and sweet potato, tinged with a bit of tomato sauce. The result is about as strange as it sounds. I’ll be upfront with you, I didn’t much love this one. It’s not that I dislike quinoa – I like it just fine, sometimes I even love it, and it’s not that I dislike vegetable melanges either, I’ve had one or two from TJ’s that I’ve quite enjoyed. The problem for me came in the mixture of everything together.
Quinoa has a decidedly nutty flavor.This works well with the sweet potato, and reasonably well with the zucchini, but for some reason Trader Joe’s decided to put a french twist on the dish. This takes the form of a tomato flavoring that is mixed in with the dish – not so strong as to really stand on its own, just strong enough to sort of throw the other flavors off. It certainly makes for a complex taste, but to me it came across as more of a mess of flavors than a medley.
Really, though, how much you like this dish will come down to how much you like hot quinoa . Although the words “vegetable melange” are right there in the title, don’t come to this dish expecting much more than quinoa. The pseudograin-to-veggie tradeoff is something like 80 – 20, meaning for every big mouthful of quinoa you’ll get a couple bits of zucchini or sweet potato. That also means that, despite Trader Joe’s urgings to the contrary, this doesn’t make a very good main dish. Undoubtedly there’s room to find a good entree pairing here that will elevate the rather confused taste of the quinoa duo to a higher level, although I couldn’t tell you what that would be.
If you’re really interested in working this quinoa duo into your diet, I reckon the best approach is to disregard Trader Joe’s serving suggestions entirely. Cool down the quinoa after you cook it up, and turn it into a salad base. You can find one good recipie for just that on this blog. Mixed with the right combination of veggies and seasoning this quinoa duo can become something great – by itself, not so much.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, to undernourished vegetarians and adventurous salad makers. No to most others.
Would I Buy It Again: No, I wasn’t really into it.
Final Synopsis: Lots of good qunoia with a strange tomato taste.
Another sweet and salty chip, but do these rather more sanely presented chips have anything on the milk chocolate potato chips?
I am, in no uncertain terms, a sweet potato lover, the oranger the better I say, but I’m an old school sweet potato lover. Give me ‘em whole and baked or smushed into Thanksgiving casserole and I’ll eat until I’m sick and all dieting resolutions have been obliterated. While I do enjoy sweet potato fries, I have to wonder if we need to sweet potato-ify everything once made from the common Idaho.
I was ready to abandon this idea when I bought Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips. It was the “ridge-cut” modifier in particular that caught my attention. Ridge-cutting is, and has always been, the domain of Ruffles (and Ruffle’s knock-offs). A ridge-cut (or crinkle-cut, in more proper kitchen nomenclature) potato chip is saying one thing to me – this is some serious snacky junk food. Ridge-cut chips are not bought to be rationally portioned out, they are bought to cram into your gob in handfuls while sitting in a darkened room, illuminated only by the flickering pale light of a TV screen playing a show designed to insult your intelligence. Also for picnics.
To achive this sort of status, however, a junk food needs to be straight forward and unengaging – not to challenge your taste buds, but to allow your body to slip steadily toward a sort of waking coma. What’s so strange about the sweet potato chip is that it doesn’t allow you to do this. The mild sweetness of the potato mingles strangely with the mild saltiness of the chip. Neither one is particularly forceful, and they allow the natural flavors of the sweet potato to come out. To me this was a disadvantage.
The chip had a strangely confused taste- leading my taste buds partly down one path, then partly down another. The overall effect was that it never really took me anywhere, not clashing, but not quite in harmony either. Because of the flavor mixture, I couldn’t find a dip or condiment that would suit them. Too sweet for ranch or salsa, too salty for a desert dip, it felt like these things were just meant to be eaten plain, but without a single strong taste to suck me in I couldn’t imagine snacking on them over a nice salty chip like Ruffles.
I know there is a lot of love for sweet potato products out there, but this product failed to win me over. It seemed to me it would have been a better product if it had been salt-free, letting the natural sweetness of the potato speak for itself.
Would I Recommend Them: No.
Would I Buy Them Again: I can’t think of a reason why.
Final Synopsis: A novel approach, but fails to do anything better than your average potato chip.