Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend (Pumpkin) Salad Kit - Trader Joe's: Voorhees, NJ

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend (Pumpkin) Salad Kit - Trader Joe's: Voorhees, NJ
Trader Joe's might have set a new record for pumpkin products this year. Everything they've released has been under their own label, and it's varied from the usual pumpkin spiced Greek yogurts to pumpkin spiced croutons, to pumpkin ice cream filled mochi. I can't say this with 100% certainty, but it seems like Trader Joe's may have individually released the most pumpkin products out of any food creator/label this season. (Can any of you name a contender? I'm coming up blank.)

My boyfriend and I both have birthdays in October, so we tend to celebrate both occasions with pumpkin related foods, so I originally bought a bag of this salad mix to serve as an appetizer to his birthday dinner, but I loved it so much I got a second bag to review.

(For the record I loved the salad a lot more than he did.)

The bag's design is very illustration heavy, and it feature a fall color palette. I like the bold graphics, but this has that retro-but-not-retro aesthetic that kind of bugs me. Trader Joe's designs seem to exist in this weird visual time period that's mixed the 1970's with today, and it just isn't my cup of tea. I feel like their designs aren't pushed far enough one way or another to give a completed feeling. Even so, I do like this specific layout and design more than past packaged goods. (And the tiny white pumpkin bar-code on the back is cute in that slightly obnoxious way.) 

Inside the bag of field green there are several individual packets.
  • Pumpkin Spiced Cornbread Croutons
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Dried Fruit (Raisins and dates. This was a surprise to me since it wasn't listed on the front of the bag, but it is in the ingredients list on the back.)
  • A large packet of pumpkin vinaigrette dressing
I tried each of the components individually before combining it all into a salad.
The croutons were first and they were VERY sweet. There was a dessert recipe going around for cake croutons on Pinterest a while ago, which was a diced and toasted up pound cake served with toppings and ice cream, I've made them before with left over slices of cake, and these croutons were very reminiscent of that. These taste like cornbread and pumpkin pie spice, so they are a lot sweeter than any crouton I've ever had before. Personally I didn't like them on their own, but when they were topped with the vinaigrette and mixed with the greens, the sweetness  became a lot milder and they added a crunchy texture to the salad which I appreciated.

As for the pumpkin seeds, they were just pumpkin seeds. They were earthy and added a different kind of crunch to the salad, but there wasn't much to report there. I did like the amount provided with the kit, this way each salad got a healthy portion of seeds.

The dried fruit was a bit of a surprise, since there was nothing about it on the front of the package, but the added texture and sweetness was enjoyable. I like adding dried fruit to my salads, like dried cherries tossed with Gorgonzola, so I loved the addition, although I don't think it added much to the fall-flavor palette and my boyfriend who enjoys a more savory salad didn't seem to enjoy the fruity additions.

Last, but not least, the dressing. I am an absolute sucker for vinegar based anything. I've been caught drinking balsamic vinegar out of a bottle like a beverage, and there is a story behind why I do that, but I'll save it for a vinegar based review.
This dressing is sweet and tangy, but it has a very unique flavor. The pumpkin pie spices are present, and judging by the color and the flavor, I'm guessing real pumpkin puree is in there too (Just checked the ingredients, it is). This is a unique dressing, I've never had anything like it before, and it took me a few bites top figure out how I felt about it. It isn't just sweet and spiced, it's savory as well. I couldn't quite put my finger on the savory spices, but the ingredients list Dijon mustard and garlic powder. I like it, although it isn't my favorite dressing ever, it really works well with the flavors in this salad and it is fantastic for fall. If Trader Joe's sold this on it's own in a bottle, which they sadly don't, I'd serve it with my salad at Thanksgiving. It has great fall flavoring, and I think it would compliment the rest of the flavors at the dinner table.
When all of the ingredients are combined, you get a seasonal salad that is texturally interesting and filling. If you're a fan of sweet and fruity salads, you'll love this, and it makes for a super easy, and healthy, lunch/dinner. I was able to make 4 bowls of salad from one bag, which isn't too bad for the price. Sadly, I seemed to enjoy it more than my boyfriend, and I typically can't eat an entire bag by myself before the greens start to go bad. So I'm not sure if I will be able to purchase this a third time before the season is out, but I really did enjoy it quite a bit, and I hope it returns next year.
On a Pumpkin Scale of 1-5 (5 being the most pumpkin-y) I’d give this a 4 as far as yumminess goes, and a 2.5 on the pumpkin-scale. If you're a fan of the sweet salads served at Panera bread, you'll love this kit, but even though it seems like it's packed with an overwhelming amount of pumpkin, the actual pumpkin flavoring is mild and very pumpkin-spice-heavy.
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