Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Chile Lime Seasoning Blend

Chile and lime....together at last!

Oh, that is a bold-faced lie. Chili and lime have been together for years. If not married, they're certainly common-law at this point. I have at least two other containers of limeified chili powder in my pantry, somewhere (I wouldn't be surprised if it were more like four or five)...but when Trader Joe's comes out with a Chile Lime Seasoning Blend, well, we're gonna try it out, cuz that's what we do.

Glad we did...because this blend is different. Most other similar shakers I've had seem to be more along the lines of semi-citrusy seasoned salt. Not here. Really, the dominant flavor is lime...which is a refreshing change up from the norm. It's boldly lime, where lime has never gone before in powdered form. it's remarkable, really. Oh, there's enough heat from the chile coming through, but nothing terribly offensive - it's just enough to make it's presence known. This particular blend also purports itself to be lower in salt than most of it's brethren, which I'd say is probably fairly truthy. But in the end, it's really the lime that's the star of the show here.

Grilled chicken. Fish. Corn on the cob. Veggies. Tofu. Tacos. Salad. Much better on the mango jicama slaw than the dressing the slaw came with. Really, what can't this go on? Well, chocolate ice cream...maybe. Great little pick up for only $1.99. Thumbs up all round from the Shelly clan.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chile Lime Seasoning Blend: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Jicama Slaw

Ugh. Beets. All that talk from the South Jersey Rodgers Family department of the blog has got me sick. I hate beets. Just....no. Beets are one of very few things I will not place into my mouth on purpose. Some people say beets taste like dirt; I say they literally taste a lot like something that can look like dirt but is far more foul. But...beet juice? Dehydrated beet chips? No. No. Hellz no. I don't care about Nathan's ambivalence towards them - I can't imagine even being friendly with them. If I saw a beet walking down the street, I'd cross to other side. Just thinking about them makes my stomach churn...

...so maybe I need me some jicama. That's what you can use with an upset stomach, right? Not sure what jicama really is? You can read about it straight up here...

...or stop by your local TJ's for a tub of the brand new Trader Joe's Mango Jicama Slaw. It'll set you back five bucks, which is maybe a tick high if just looking at cost of base ingredients - a couple handfuls of jicama, cabbage, mango with a smattering of cilantro - but at least it's all made and ready to go in the refrigerated section near produce.

And it's worth it, too. We somehow neglected to take a pic of it, but the 12 ounces made one very healhty bowlful size which Sandy, a friend of ours, and I were able to get several helpings out of each. The slaw is very fresh, crispy and juicy, with the shredded jicama and cabbage kinda blending somewhat together into one flavor. I'm sure if I paid a little more attention I could have picked up on it a little bit more, but regardless, the two of them serve as an excellent platform for the other flavors, notably the sweet, tropical mango and all that herby cilantro. There's a smidge too much cilantro, in my opinion, as it kinda took over some bites, but in all, this is a very fresh, simple, clean tasting summer slaw.

There's also a dressing packet included with what's called a "lime mango vinaigrette" though it's this kinda weird orangey glop. As with anytime a dressing is involved, I'll make it known I'm not a huge salad dressing guy. And it only kinda works here. I'll pin it on the vinegar here - really, between lime, mango, and some kick from crushed red peppers, a decently strong vinegar flavor is not the one I wish to taste. Seems like because of the vinegar, at times the dressing seemed a little spicier than it actually was. The dressing just interfered too much with an otherwise simple, natural flavor vibe. A squeeze or two of lime, or a sprinkle of chili powder would have been perfect (or a little of both), but altogether as it was, the dressing was just too much and we both preferred our slaw without it.

Otherwise, an absolute winner in our book. I'm feeling inspired by this slaw to try and make my own - better sharpen them kitchen knives, I guess. But for the convenience, and something a little different to go alongside (or on top of) some grilled chicken or fish, or for a little cookout side, it's not a bad deal. Sandy's main complaint is also the dressing - really, with something a little better, we could be talking pantheon here - but we're just going to have to settle for being really, really good.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mango Jicama Slaw: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, May 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Just Beets Dehydrated Beet Chips

Now we know where all that beet juice came from.

Somehow, these little dehydrated beet chips—or "crisps," you know, in case you speak British—are almost as beety as their juicy counterpart, yet much more palatable to me. In fact, I'd rather eat these chips than regular beets—and if you didn't read the beet juice review, I mentioned that I feel pretty neutral about normal beets. 
So, I guess you could say my feelings about these chips are somewhat positive. I like the lack of sliminess

I love the texture of chips—and that's exactly what these feel like: thin, kettle-cooked potato chips, with maybe a hint of a baked potato chip type feel, a la Stax or Pringles. Mind you, they taste nothing like that. They taste just like beets. So I feel pretty indifferent about the flavor. But the nice texture puts my overall feelings just slightly better than neutral. 

But I could never be as positive about them as my wife is. Again, just for review, she's a big beet fan. Loving the flavor of beets and the texture of chips, Sonia says this product is one of her favorite new foods so far this year. Some of her earthy, health-food-loving friends appreciated them as much as she did. 

I can't imagine these will be universally popular, especially among junk-food-lovers, but they'll undoubtedly find a crowd that appreciates them way more than I do. And Sonia insisted that I point out the fact that the entire bag has only 140 calories and half a gram of fat. Plus, there's only one ingredient: just beets—how appropriate.

Three stars from me. An enthusiastic four and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.