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 24, 2012

Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds

Last summer, I posited the question of what a truly American food might be. Looking back, I wonder how I could have overlooked the obvious answer: peanut butter! Granted, my international travel experience barely challenges Sarah Palin's, but I've never seen peanut butter anywhere else. Going to Peru with about 40 fellow college students back in the day, we literally packed an entire suitcase or two full of big ol' Sam's Club PB jars to last us for the week. You don't get much more American than that. Even in the remote mountain villages of Mexico I can guarantee there'll be at least two or three shops where you can buy glass-bottle sugary Coca-Cola for barely a few pesos (I know because been there, done that), but never saw PB in even a large Mexico City groceria. When Sandy and I were in Portugal for our honeymoon, there'd be a wide assortment of Nutella-esque spreads but no peanut butter anywhere to be seen. And I've been to my fair share of ethnic groceries, and never once seen Polish, Italian or Chinese peanut butter. I kinda wonder why the US has the market cornered on peanut butter, but honestly I don't mind. It's kinda like a good secret we're in on that no one else is, and as long as I can get my fix, I'm good.

So, yeah, like pretty much any good redblooded American, I love me my PB. I've kinda evolved with it over the years, though. As a young ginger kiddo, Jif or Skippy or whatever was just fine. Not so much anymore. I mean, not that those brands are horrible, but peanut butter is capable of so, so much more than those.

Like Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds, for example. It's such a simple product, with literally three ingredients - valencia peanuts, flaxseeds, and sea salt. That's all there is, folks. It's so basic it reminds me somewhat of the grind-your-own PB you can do at some health food stores/co-ops. But man, what a combo it is. Each bite is full of roasted flavor from the nuts, and there's some little bits and pieces here and there for a little crunch action. The flaxseeds and sea salt do their job, too, though they can be a little heavy without a good stir beforehand. Texturally, it's a marvel of sorts: it's crispy, and no, not in that "crispy PB in a candy bar" kinda way. Those flaxseeds in there, aside from helping me hit homeruns like Barry Bonds, are all roasted and toasted and cannot help but be all crispied up, in every bite. Yet the main peanut portion is that deliciously stubborn kinda goop that sticks everywhere it can on the roof of your mouth. I cannot think of a single wrong thing to say, and I would use this in anything I'd put peanut butter in.

This isn't Sandy's kinda thing, though. She still likes the aforementioned basic brands enough to not move on from them. That's okay, we all got our hang-ups and guilty pleasures. For me, I have an unnatural affinity for anything resembling a fastfood breakfast sandwich, which I'd be getting much more often if I didn't smash together a PB sandwich almost every morning for the drive in. Anyways, she's giving it a pass. More for me, so I win. Like I said, I can't think of anything I'd change, but I'm not giving it a perfect score. I don't want to make too much of a habit of unilaterally granting something Pantheon-level status, and the one time I did, the product in question was promptly discontinued, so I'm not gonna tempt the powers-that-be in the deep, dark world of TJ's here. Let's just "say" I'll give it a nine, but, well, interpret as you will.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

13 comments:

  1. I have a stockpile of these (after the PB shortage scare of last summer when they were taken off the shelves) and I really like them too. I actually prefer the chemically sweetness of the Skippy/Jif brands but this one is so much healthier that I use it all the time. Also, for those doing low-carb diets, it's got only 1 net carb per tb which is the lowest I have ever seen for a PB.

    One drawback about these for me is that the packaging is not great; the oil on top of the PB seeps out of the top quite easily, now the labels of all of the PBs I have are soaked in oil, I have to keep the containers in other containers!

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  2. I just came across this at TJs this past Monday and I'm in love. It's definitely a "9" (or something like that)!

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  3. Finally! Something I can eat, and I am a huge fan of peanut butter.

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  4. This peanut butter is awesome and definitely a 10!!

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  5. I'll have to punch some up tomorrow :)

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  6. I call shenanigans on Sonia not trying it. Did Siskel give two thumbs up when Ebert didn't like a certain movie genre. She could do a little taste and explain her true feelings on it. It seems like most of your reviews are pretty high, I am newer to the blog, so I don't know how often this happens, but if you are going to score things based on a formula score it based on that formula. I do enjoy reading your blog, so I'm not hating on you, but as someone who knows his stats, their should be some type of normalized curve to the reviews. There can be lower scores once in awhile.

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    1. Hey thanks for the feedback. I get what you're saying. Two things:
      1. Just try to get my wife to eat something she doesn't want to - it's never gonna happen. All part of her charm...I guess..
      2. We have been on a bit of a positive streak of late, and I think overall we are pretty high on TJ's - we're a couple fanboys who tend to buy stuff that we'll like, cuz we're gonna hafta eat it, although we'll certainly take chances and be pretty honest when the food sucks, which believe me, it has.
      Anyways, thanks for reading the blog and for the comment!

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    2. Russ, your response might be credible if your wife simply hated peanuts/peanut butter. But, as you stated, she does like the "basic brands." So it makes no sense that she refuses to even try a different peanut butter. And I agree with your rating--this stuff is awesome, and valencia peanuts are the best!

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    3. Try having a pregnant wife who has random, rotating food aversions as a rule, and tell me how it goes when you try to have her eat something she flat-out doesn't want to :). Although, she did try a little dab or two a couple weeks after I wrote this, and she kinda liked it, but hasn't gone back to it since.

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  7. WOW! I tried the almond version and I'm in love. I've always preferred peanut butter, but have tried almond since it's supposed to be healthier. And this is easily the best I've ever had. Not just healthy, but delicious. I recommend removing some of the oil first. Even after stirring thoroughly it's still very oily. But that didn't stop me from eating several spoonfulls right from the jar. This is seriously Pantheon level. They also sell large bags of flax seeds, so I may buy those in the future and do the mix-in myself to save money. But somehow I think this product is tastier than the sum of its parts. I'll just call it magic and leave it at that.

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  8. This product (and other nut butters from TJs) are now in the midst of an FDA recall. What follows is the first part of the web page from the TJs web site announcing the recall. If you want to read the whole page (recommended), click this link: http://goo.gl/zLv43



    =====================

    A Note To Our Customers About Trader Joe's Nut Butters Recall

    September 24, 2012 - Updated October 5, 2012



    To Our Valued Customers:

    Out of the utmost caution and care for our customers, Trader Joe's is recalling its


    Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter (sku 97111)

    Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds (sku 98927)

    Almond Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds (sku 94079)

    Organic Creamy Valencia Peanut Butter (sku 81955)

    Organic Crunchy Valencia Peanut Butter (sku 81953)

    Organic Creamy Unsalted Valencia Peanut Butter (sku 91587)

    Organic Crunchy Unsalted Valencia Peanut Butter (sku 91581)


    because of potential contamination with Salmonella.

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  9. I've never tried the trader joe's brand but i use this recipe to make basically the same thing, honey, flax seed oil peanut butter:
    http://messnkitchn.blogspot.com/2013/03/honey-flax-peanut-butter-vegan-gluten.html

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    1. Hi Amanda,
      I've been missing this peanut butter since it's not available anymore. Thank you for sharing this recipe and I will definetly give it a try. - Maricela

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