Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta is the low carb noodle I thought could never be

When I do the mental math that goes into my food choices, a number of variables are analyzed:

Keto-friendly – I am not so strict as I only go for 1 gram carb or less per serving foods. I’ll live a little and have found that eating things with way more carbs can keep me in ketosis while stuff with fewer carbs can knock me out. Red wine, for example, is keto-friendly for me. It screws with weight loss but doesn’t knock me out of ketosis.

Cost – Pretty important these days. I’ll probably die poor but then again there’s real benefit in dying before the money runs out. I don’t require much in the way of ‘things’. I’ve dined in Paris and had gourmet meals in the Caribbean, but I can still appreciate a good bologna sandwich on white bread. This makes me a pretty cheap date. I DO still live bathed in the echoes of my parent’s stories of growing up in the Depression and I tend to be choosy about where I spend my money.

But then I remember ‘don’t postpone joy’ and ‘the richest man in the graveyard’. These opposing ideas battle one another and sometimes it’s no contest and other times there is a grudging cold war that lingers everytime I buy some stuff.

Flavor – I rank this third because – as I said – I like bologna sandwiches on white bread. Perhaps you could say I have an ‘eclectic palate’ – or that I lack discrimination or have the palate of a dog. Mentioning I like bologna sandwiches made a friend of mine the same age as me go: ‘ewwwwww’. Another aspect of this is I am accepting of ‘variations in flavor/texture profile’ that throw other folk. Some people operate in a world where food has a name, a flavor/texture profile, and a look that must remain consistent or they will avoid that food. Me? Not so much.

The ILF (Inherent Laziness Factor) – How much time, effort, and cognitive burden must be put into prepping this? This is a scale of 1 through 10 with the highest number being better. Recipes that contain the line ‘…in a separate bowl…’ are a 5 or less just for that. A great recipe to me leaves little or nothing to wash. The phrase ‘…in one pot/pan…’ can be high as an 8.5 but no higher because it involves actual cooking.

A 10 would be ‘eating the food nearest to me’ which right now is Trader Joe’s Macadamia Nuts which would actually be less than a 10 because I have to find and open a new bag.

I made a chili early in the week, ordered all the ingredients online, browned the beef in the pot that I threw all my ingredients in, even using the chili mix instead of the spices we have, and let simmer for an hour. It was an 8.5 because there WAS a pot to clean, and a few cans to be opened and disposed of.

You might be wondering why you just read all that (and if you got this far, me, too) but it is my subconscious (up until now) scoring system for low carb food substitutions.

So let’s analyze the IHF of the Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta (Linguine-shaped).

My heart be still…

The stuff is shelf-stable, next to the regular pastas in the store, and is essentially already cooked pasta that doesn’t need to be washed nor drained. It doesn’t clump or stick. The biggest hassle might be finding a knife to open the bag and maybe untangling a portion with a fork.

Compare this to the shiritaki noodles that come floating in water and need to be washed – only to provide a paltry amount of slightly slimy and chewy noodles. I’ve had access to them but they need to be refrigerated and, really, they weren’t worth the hassle.

Then there’s zoodles – zucchini sliced into a noodly shape with various gadgets – all of which work poorly and can even draw blood. I have used the ‘Sweeny Todd’ of the kitchen – a mandoline – an insidious kitchen tool designed from the get-go to ensure all motions with the gadget include you moving your fingers toward the sharpened blades.

With a combo of bloody experience, even if you navigate the device without blood-letting you are left with a some extra bits that tempt you to risk blood by pushing them through the gadget, and a pile of noodle-shaped zucks that you can’t use just quite yet. To use them to their best effect you want to pat them dry on some clean dishtowels and let them dry out for an afternoon. Then, you can create some tasty dishes with the stuff.

For this Hearts of Palm ‘pasta’ I cut the bag open and microwaved for 2 minutes, then dressed the top with pasta sauce, olive oil, and butter, then gave it another 2-minute or so go-round in the nuke.

Mixed afterward and covered liberally in the grated cheese in a can, I had a pasta dinner in 5 minutes – faster than if I made actual pasta. This stuff rates the rarest of the rare ILF of 10. Now Chef Boyardee canned ravioli also rates a 10 but it’s not low carb.

But the ILF is not the only thing that matters or I’d be eating the canned ravioli. Is it keto-friendly?

It sure is. The entire 9 oz. package has only 8g net carbs for goodness’ sake! It’s also filling in that I was ready to eat the entire 9oz. but only ate half last night. I think other than coffee, cream, and wine, it was the only caloric intake for the day as I’ve drifted into a one or two meal a day routine. Again – not paying too much attention to what I eat as long as it’s keto in my book – and measuring ketones and blood glucose today show blood glucose at about 106 and ketones at 1.0 – which is better than a number of days I’ve had prior.

The cost is pricy for pasta – $4 per 9oz. – but it’s not ‘pasta’, first of all, and it’s not meant to be an everyday meal. So is it worth $4? I guess this is where the flavor of it comes in.

And for flavor, it does pretty good. It is not the perfect pasta replacement but it’s damn near the closest I’ve come across. It has an almost al dente texture to it, and with pasta sauce and the other stuff you top pasta with, it is close enough.

Oh – and it’s supposedly healthy for you. Vegan, gluten-free, high-fiber. It’s even harvested in such a way that the plant that provides the noodles somehow survives the extraction, I guess like maple trees and their syrup, bees and their honey, and fruit trees. Note that I do not include ‘healthy’ in my ranking system because I find it so tiresome. Someone, somewhere, will turn up an obscure fact that a molecule found in Hearts of Palm can do something to something that can cause some people to have some reaction some time over some number of years.

Ugh! Get over it. We’re all gonna die. Life is full of bad decisions and we’ll gleefully make them willingly and unwillingly. Have some pasta and relax.