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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Spinach & Kale Bites


Trader Joe's Spinach and Kale Bites are about the size of golf balls. I know because we've had a golf ball kicking around the house for the past few weeks. During a walk through a park near the Jersey Shore, our male dog, Alfred, discovered one. He picked it up, carried it with him, and has been inseparable from it since. At least a few times a day, he drops it at my feet, wanting me to throw it for him. It's a bit grass-stained from being tossed around on our freshly-mowed lawn so often, and it kind of resembles these little veggie appetizers. That same dog has an affinity for almost all green vegetables. He loves spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli—pretty much anything we give him to try, but oddly, he was only moderately interested in these kale bites.

But this isn't a pet food review. This is a people food review. And the people in this house are fairly impressed with these little green appetizers.


The flavor isn't too far from that of creamed spinach or a cheesy spinach dip. There's a decent amount of parmesan cheese taste, but there's also a good bit of egg, yielding a flavor not unlike that of a frittata or quiche. There's a good vegetable-base to the taste, as well, but there's enough of the heavier stuff to keep it interesting as an appetizer. 

The texture is different, though. It's creamy and soft, but the whole "ball" is held in place with panko breadcrumbs. The spinach and kale are shredded into small pieces, so there's never a point when it tastes or feels like eating a salad. The overall vibe here is decidedly "snacky" or "hors d'oeuvrey."

Once again, the baking time went well over TJ's suggested instructions. I basically had to double the recommended time in the oven—and the product was MUCH better with more cooking, in my opinion. Apparently, this is a trend. There are a couple comments on my last post noting that others have observed the same thing: many Trader Joe's products wind up needing significantly more time in the oven than the packaging indicates. 

First world problems. What are you gonna do?

$3.99 for ten bites. Pretty standard. Sonia was quite enamored with the taste of these li'l buggers. Four and a half stars from her. I'll admit, they were tasty, but I don't think I'd buy them on the regular if it were just me. Still, a respectable score is in order. Three and a half stars from this guy.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Uncured Ham & Swiss Cheese Flaky Croissant Dough Squares

"I'm a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food."

I'll admit to have never having watched a minute of Parks & Recreation. Who has the time to watch TV? I barely do - pretty much only in cases of new seasons of Stranger Things coming out. I mean, it's been a good five years that Sandy and I have sworn we'd get caught up on Dr. Who - hasn't happened. TV room in our thrid floor attic is way too hot in the summer.

But that quote up top, from Ron Swanson, is quite a good one. I agree wholeheartedly. I think I'd like him quite a bit - maybe not as much as breakfast for dinner, and definitely not as much as bacon, and absolutely not as much as bacon for dinner - and maybe one day I'll finally plop down and see what all the fuss is.

Until then, for dinner, we had Trader Joe's Uncured Ham & Swiss Cheese Flaky Croissant Dough Squares.

Here's one breakfast food that decidedly ought to stay at breakfast. It's not that these ham and cheese dough squares aren't any good. They're certainly pretty tasty. There's four per box which bake for about 15 to 20 minutes in the oven, and as one would expect from a croissant-inspired pastry of sorts, they get all light and flaky and crispy and a little greasy. There's such a satisfying bite to a good croissant, and that's what we get here, even if in dough square form. The melted Swiss cheese adds a lot of slightly salty, greasy comfort vibe, while the bits of cubed ham taste actually more sweet than salty, but they work well with the rest of the dish.

I think they'd work great for a light breakfast, alongside some coffee and some fruit. There's enough here to have you get up and go. But as dinner? Nah. Too light, I'd say. It's not the croissants' fault - I mean, they are what they are and it shouldn't have been too surprising - but if I had a voracious enough of an appetite, I probably could eaten the whole box. As it was, I was sneaking bites from my kids, who were surprisingly slow at chowing them down despite their proclamations of loving these ham, and cheese squares. My three year old wants to give them 21 Golden Spoons despite struggling to eat half of hers.

Also, the name...doesn't it strike you as a little goofy? "Flaky Croissant Dough Squares." I mean, it's a proper description...but I'd go with something else, maybe like "Open Faced Croissants" or something along those lines.

In all, these TJ's ham and cheese squares are certainly decent, to almost pretty darn good. There's nothing utterly spectacular to them, and I'd say that maybe they're missing a small something, like a little spinach or a fancier cheese or a small flavor sprinkle of some type. But for a good, solid, kinda basic croissant-type deal? Not a bad deal at all for about $3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Uncured Ham & Swiss Cheese Flaky Croissant Dough Squares: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Trader Joe's 8 Mini Raspberry Pastries


So what we have here are essentially Belgian Danishes. How exactly does that work? Mightn't the Danes be offended that the Belgians have been ripping off their signature multilayered puff pastries with fruit filling? Are the Belgians no longer content just being known for waffles and cookie butter? Could such an offense start an international conflict of sorts? Even a war?

Probably not. The Danes and the Belgians seem like relatively peaceful folk to me. Northern Europeans have left their ancient Viking ways behind them. If there were a conflict between the two nations in question, it would most likely be settled on the football pitch—er, sorry, "soccer" for all you Yanks. Both squads, particularly Belgium, were looking like pretty good contenders for the World Cup—right up until this past week or so. But hey, there's always Qatar 2022.


Back to the food review. The picture on the packaging clearly depicts round Danishes—I mean pastries. But when we opened our bag, we found little frozen squares. After baking, they were more like squares with rounded edges. Our pastries required a little more time in the oven than the instructions called for (20 min.) but the first batch was still on the undercooked side. After removing them from the oven, they stuck tenaciously to the foil that lined our baking sheet.

Sonia says the pastries are "very buttery." I'd call them "oily" or "greasy," but I guess that's basically the same thing but with a slightly more negative connotation. The breading is soft and flavorful, and the raspberry filling is plentiful, sweet, and full of real raspberry. The fruity taste of the filling tends to overshadow the bready flavor of the actual pastry. I like fruit filling just fine, but I think these could have had just a tad more bread and a tad less fruit. Didn't think I'd ever have to make that request, yet there it is. I'm sure plenty of people would be more than okay with the amount of fruit here. It's just the carbivore in me craving more bread.


Eight pastries in the bag for $3.99. Eight servings in the bag. Serving size one pastry? I guess that's not quite as ridiculous as "half a cookie," but these Belgian Danishes aren't even as big as normal cookies. Most people aren't going to stop at one unless they're sampling other desserts or turned off by the oiliness. Also, the name: 8 Mini Raspberry Pastries? Lame. I think they should have played up the Belgian Danish angle and called them Trader Joe's BelDanes or something catchy and quirky like that. I know, I must have missed my true calling as a marketing guru. Such is life.

Four stars from Sonia. Three stars from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.