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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Turkey Cranberry Apple Salad


This year, I'm thankful we found something pseudo-appropriate to put up the day before Thanksgiving. I mean, this tub of Turkish delight—er, excuse me—turkey-ish delight is a great little mini Thanksgiving meal all its own. It's kinda like a Gobbler Wrap without the wrap.

My wife, whom I'm very thankful for, loved it even more than I did. She holds this snacky salad on par with the classic Wine Country Chicken Salad. I wouldn't go quite that far. But it's close.

Chunks of apple and cranberry lend both tartness and sweetness to the blend. There are huge cubes of high-quality turkey and generous amounts of mayo here, too—and just enough sage to make it interesting. It's perfect for slathering on crackers, making sandwiches, or eating straight out of the tub. At least around these parts, the only three meats you'll find with regularity are beef, pork, and chicken, so I'm always grateful to have another choice on hand.


I wish turkey were more common year round. I mean, sure, there are turkey hoagies here and there. But I'd choose turkey burgers more often if I could. Likewise, why isn't turkey salad just as common as chicken salad or tuna salad? Are we scared we'll run out of turkeys come November? 

No matter. I'll enjoy this turkey salad while it's around. Like many foods this time of year, it's a little on the fattening side...but let's all pretend it's not since it's the holidays...and that will be our little secret.

Likely many of you are traveling today, pigging out with family tomorrow, and doing some Christmas shopping over the Black Friday weekend, so I'm very thankful for whatever readership we do get right now. Hope you all have safe and happy Thanksgivings! And I'm thankful that you enjoy reading our blog.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa O's

It's not just Thanksgiving this week for the Western PA half of the WGaTJ team. Nope, Sandy and I (Russ) are also celebrating another annual notch on the marital belt. Eight years now, we've officially been a team...and been through a lot together. Mostly good, occasionally tough. Not gonna get too boring or sappy or whatever - believe me, I can, just ask my wife - but there's no one else I'd rather keep on spending my time with.

Especially when it's Netflix and cereal night.

Maybe it sounds dull and unexciting - and maybe it is - but it's the best. Get the kids snuggled in bed after dinner, then retreat to our third floor for a night of cozy couch time bingewatching Dr Who or Stranger Things or whatever movie or show. And even better when accompanied with a bowl of some super sugary cereal we'd never let those kids touch. Those weirdos love the healthy stuff, like their favorite purple cereal. We've housed a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in less time than it takes a Dalek to say "Exterminate!"

So, obviously, Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa O's debuting right around time of said anniversary and new Stranger Things episodes...absolutely the cereal became a must buy.

Man oh man...I don't care that I'm 35, I get excited about this kinda stuff. Look! Chocolate cereal with marshmallows in it! Granted, this isn't exactly a cereal innovation much unlike anything the world has ever seen...but call it Hot Cocoa O's just makes it sound even more enticing. Cereal...that tastes like hot chocolate? Yes please! Even if the box refers to the tidbits as being "hoops" which mildly annoys me for whatever reason.

For as much seeming promise as these circlo-cocoa crunchies hold, there's something perhaps slightly amiss. It's not the crunch, as the oat/corn hybrid holds up fairly well even after getting drenched in milk. And it's not exactly the taste either - there's nothing too terribly wrong, but the problem that plagued my bowl is much like what can derail a cup of actual hot chocolate. If not chocolately enough, hot cocoa still offers some comfort and tastes fine and all, but it can be better. Much better.

Kinda the same deal here. There's just not quite enough chocolate to really satisfy my guilty pleasure-seeking sweet tooth. And of course, if the cereal isn't quite that way, neither is the leftover milk. That's almost the whole point of adding milk to cereal - all that leftover milk soaking up all the sugar and flavor for one last little treat - nah. Not here as much. Could be that Sandy and I primarily use almond milk, so cow or other milks may have a different experience.

Seems to me that Cocoa Puffs still reign supreme in the choco-cereal kingdom. But for $2.99 for the box, the TJ's brand is far from failure. I ate some dry, and it strikes me as a good snack to enjoy that way. You could also probably make a decent Rice Krispy Treat-type deal with them. But when it comes down to it, I wanted to feel compelled to binge on these, and they just don't do it for me. Not in that way.

But hey...got my beautiful bride by my side, still a fair amount of Stranger Things to watch, and some half-decent cereal to munch on too. 'Tis a good week to be thankful, indeed.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa O's: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, November 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Almond Nog

Sonia's first words after taking a sip of this beverage: "WOW! I definitely like this better than regular egg nog."

If it's not obvious already, I'll go ahead and tell you she's not a true lover of traditional egg nog, while I most definitely am.

My first words after trying this drink: "Hmm. Yeah. I definitely don't like this as much as normal egg nog."

They should have called this Trader Joe's *Almost* Nog. Only two letters' difference. 

Surprisingly though, I didn't hate it—but it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that other egg nog connoisseurs won't even tolerate this almond-based nogoff.

Now I'm fine with almond milk in place of dairy. Flavored almond milk? Sometimes it works in my opinion, and sometimes it doesn't. Sonia and I were similarly divided when it came to last year's pumpkin spice almond beverage, with the wife giving it a solid thumbs up, and me, not so much.

I'm not nearly as enthused about egg nog-flavored things as I am about egg nog itself. Even egg nog ice cream pales in comparison to the real deal in my book.

Here, we have not a true alternative to egg nog, but a beverage that is merely egg nog-flavored. I mean, for vegans, the lactose-intolerant, and people with egg allergies, this must be a dream come true. For the rest of us...meh.


The texture is far too thin to compare with traditional nog. If you look at the picture, you'll see the myriad tiny bubbles that result when you "shake well" as per the instructions on the carton. It's just a tad thicker than water. Flavor-wise, it's distinctly egg noggish, but with a greater level of nuttiness, and less of...pretty much everything else. I think they could have stepped up the spice game a notch here, which would have not only offered a bolder flavor, but perhaps masked what I perceive to be other slight weaknesses in the taste department. Of course, if one were so inclined, he could add his own spices...not to mention other additives of the "spirited" variety that might help cover up said shortcomings of this seasonal potation.

And to those of you who think we're jumping the Christmas season gun by reviewing this overtly Yuletidey product before Thanksgiving, I'll just say this: I associate egg nog not only with Christmas, but also with Thanksgiving. Sure, the whole Christmas thing encroaches on earlier months more and more each year it seems. I mean, we did a bit of Black Friday shopping this year a full two weeks before Black Friday, because now there are "pre-Black Friday sales," which promise great deals with only a fraction of the physical confrontations and full-contact shopping experience. But I digress. What I'm trying to say is that we're trying to give you our opinions now so that you'll be informed before you make those holiday TJ's runs.

Just for kicks and giggles, I compared the nutrition info of this product to a carton of actual egg nog. Yeah. Ordinary nog has nearly four times the calories and six times the fat. So...there's that to consider.

Sonia gives this almond nog four stars. I'm torn between two and a half and three—but I'll go with three for the benefit of those who cannot or will not enjoy actual egg nog this holiday season. It's absolutely worth a try if you're not into milk, eggs, the thick texture of traditional nog, excessive fat and calories, or the joys of seasonal obesity.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.