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Friday, March 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Avocado Hummus

If pluots and tangelos are things, why aren't chilicados? I don't care if it's half jalapeno or poblano or whatever. This is something that needs to happen: half avocado, half...any kind of chili pepper hybrids. I'm sure there's some sort of scientific reason it can't be done, or perhaps, less likely, some overly-moralistic vegetable farmer discovered the formula but decided that it wasn't his place to "play God." Well, my faithful friend, I would argue that God gave you those brains and farming skills for a reason, and that no harm could possibly come from crossing spicy chilis and avocados. They'd make delicious salsa, guacamole, sandwich-toppers, and...yes, even hummus. C'mon, Monsanto, what could help your public image more than inventing chilicados?

But until that fateful day arrives, thankfully, we have products like this one to tide us over. It begs comparison to the recently-released Buffalo style variety, but alas, we didn't try that one. We'll just have to take the Shelly family's word for it. I'm a much bigger fan of avocado than I am of Buffalo that all worked out quite well.

And it's not just avocado here. It's "spicy avocado." If there's one thing I like more than avocados, it's chilicados—which, of course, don't actually exist yet. But the combo of avocado with jalapeno, cayenne, and black pepper, along with garlic and cumin = win.

Now, on the other hand, if you're looking for spicy guacamole, you're looking in the wrong place. The texture is very smooth and hummussy. It's smoother even, perhaps, than ordinary hummus. It also tastes a great deal like ordinary garbanzo-based hummus, but simply flavored with "avocado pulp" and the aforementioned peppers. That's my only complaint. I love garbanzo beans and traditional hummus, but what makes this product unique is its avocadoiness and spiciness. I wouldn't have minded more avocado and less hummus in the flavor department, but that's a minor complaint. It's an excellent product, so long as you like hummus and spicy avocado.

It works great with toasted pita bread, and it's excellent as a chip dip. Sonia is an avocado enthusiast, and she loves her spice, as well. This product is right up her alley. She, too, wouldn't have complained if there were a little more avocado present, but as is, she's a big fan. She likes that it's organic and that there aren't many ingredients. It'll be her second four and a half star score in a row. I'll throw out four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Green Kombucha

Holy's St Patty's Day already this weekend? Wow. Kinda snuck up on us here.

So, hate to disappoint as usual, but there just might be a certain dearth of St Patty's day themed reviews. There's some back in the archives though - Irish bangers and the puntastic Blarney scone come to mind - so click on around back there.

Best I can do is a green drink review. Won't be our first. And I've written before about my affinity for kombucha...but have you tried Trader Joe's Organic Green Kombucha?


Seriously, go for it.

I can get the hesitation for picking up this beverage. It's a bit intimidating looking in some ways. I mean, I see the bewilderment in my coworkers' eyes when I have just a regular mango kombucha on my desk at work - but a green one? With this spirulina and chlorella stuff, whatever that is? That's just kinda weird, it seems, for most people.

Not me. I love the green kombucha. I go back and forth between different companies, different flavors, etc...but I always come back to this one. I'll admit the first time I bought it, it was with low expectations, which were wrong.

Like other greenish drinks, the prevailing flavor here is actually apple. But not green apple, it's more a general apple apple. That's a good call - sour, acidic green apple taste with an already sour fermented base drink would likely be a little much. So instead of adding to the sour bite, the applem flavor actually balances and enhances it somewhat, making for a smooth, relatively mellow flavor.

And like any good kombucha, there's a bit of ginger in there too. Gotta love that ginger bite. It definitely plays second fiddle to the apple but it's undoubtedly there.

Plus: spirulina. It's good for you.  And chlorella too. Who cares it's seaweed? I certainly don't.

Really, I have nothing bad to say about this kombucha whatsoever. Fantastic stuff. And at $2.69 a bottle, it's pretty reasonably priced for a quality organic kombucha - it certainly won't set you back a pot of gold. If you haven't tried it go for it, it's almost perfect.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Green Kombucha: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, March 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Greek Yogurt Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cakes

It's well-documented that couples begin to look alike after being married for many years. They tend to mimic one another's facial expressions and develop lines in similar locations on the face. Many couples have similar diets and exercise habits, rendering similar body types. They also begin to think alike and develop similar affinities and dislikes, as far as entertainment, leisure activities, and foods.

Nine and a half years of marriage have begun to produce such results in Sonia and I. I think they've manifested themselves on this blog in the form of matching scores over and over and over again. "Double fours," for example, has been an extremely common result from this nomadic couple, as well as our Pittsburghian counterparts. I think more often than not, Sonia and I have been within half a star of one another, particularly in the past year or so.

Not so with these muffins.

This is the biggest disagreement we've had on a Trader Joe's food item in quite a while. I mean, it's not like it's a thang, like it might have been in years past. We're very happy to agree to disagree here. Quite frankly, it's a breath of fresh air to be reminded of our individuality once in a while. But I'll just say Sonia loves these muffins, and I find them highly forgettable.

I immediately compared them to the Greek Yogurt Lemon Muffins, reviewed three years back, and found the apple cinnamon variety slightly wanting. I just feel like lemon lends itself to the tanginess of Greek yogurt more than apple cinnamon. 

I did complain that I wanted even more lemon flavor in those other muffins, but there's an even greater dearth of appliciousness here in my opinion. There are indeed apple bits in these muffins, and we both enjoyed those quite a bit—I would just request a great lot more of them. Sonia wouldn't have minded more, but is happy with them the way they are. There's some cinnamon flavor present, too, in the manner of a traditional coffee cake. Again, I would have preferred a great deal more cinnamon, though. There's a nice bready flavor, and of course some Greek yogurt tang, but I feel like all the flavors don't enhance each other very much.

The muffins are nice and soft, with a crumbly coffee cake crown. They never felt or tasted stale, but I don't think they surpassed a run-of-the-mill bakery in that department, either. Sonia thought the texture was on point, by virtue of the yogurt, and said she'd choose these over a typical coffee shop pastry any day of the week. Also—and this may have been the ultimate deciding factor—they do pair well with coffee. Although I'm learning to appreciate coffee more and more, it's still not my beverage of choice in the mornings, so the fact they go well with java won't entirely redeem them for me. The dunk-factor will solidify these as a big thumbs up from Sonia and a big "meh" from me. 

Four and a half stars from the wife, but only three from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Trader Joe's Hot Smoked Salmon Fillet

Well, looky here. It's Lent again. I'm not complaining, it's one of my favorite times of year, even though I'm not Catholic. It means it's fish fry season here in the 'burgh! Because, according to tradition, as a sign of repentance and sacrifice you need to eat a Frisbee-sized fried fish sandwich for dinner on Fridays because it's "not meat." I mean no disrespect, but I don't totally understand that, but that's fine. It's tradition!

As a personal budding tradition, occasionally on days off I have from work during the week I'll stop in at TJ's or wherever, grab a kombucha, and maybe some tasty dried meat like some prosciutto or something for lunch. Which is how I found myself this past week on Ash Wednesday, another designated no-meat day which I observed out of deference to my wife's upbringing, but since fish is somehow still okay, I snagged a pack of Trader Joe's Hot Smoked Salmon Fillet.

Search "salmon" on this blog and you'll see that it has a spotty history on here. I mean, salmon jerky....I shudder still. I didn't have high hopes and wasn't really quite sure what I was thinking when plopping down $8 for the 10 oz chunk, but I did so anyways.

Probably shoulda kept on the shelf.

First, I'm no smoking whiz, but I've done some of it in my day, and am pretty sure that salmon is best when cold smoked (indirect, in seperate chamber from heat source) than hot (same chamber). Take a look at the actual product pic that I took after having a few bites. That nice firm fleshy pink up top? That's how salmon is supposed to look. That mushy brownish-gray stuff towards the bottom? Nah. That's the part right near the skin that was most exposed to direct heat, i.e. grossly overcooked. That stuff is edible but not pleasant.

Everything is okay at best. The whole fish piece is pretty glazed over by a fairly basic brown sugar kinda rub. It's not particularly spicy or flavorful - the "hot" in the product name isn't an indication of spice in case it's not obvious. The actual salmon flavor is pretty decent - fresh, not too fishy, a little salty but not bad.

Still, this TJ's smoked salmon is kinda underwhelming at best. The thought of returning it crossed my mind, but hunger won out. Plus I'm not gonna ask for money back on something I consumed most of not all of - seems a little disingenious to me. All told, I would have been happier going for some of the pastrami-style salmon or something else completely. Maybe you'll have a different take. Sandy sat this one out - salmon isn't her thing, so all there is here is me. Double twos.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hot Smoked Salmon Fillet: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons   

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Among all my many allergies, food and otherwise, I was never cursed with one to peanuts. But I truly sympathize with those of you who have. The other day I was walking past a Burger King inside a Walmart and noticed a sign next to the counter that said something to the effect of "any and all of our food may be contaminated with peanut residue." Really? They're cooking burgers and making fries on the same equipment they use to cut slices of peanut butter pies? Probably not. They're just covering their behinds. They might as well put up a sign that says, "Hey look, people with peanut allergies—if you die in our restaurant, it's not our fault." All that to say, you folks have my pity.

Not long ago, sunflower seed butter cups were one of the most buzzed-about new items at Trader Joe's. In my review of them, I compared them to classic Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, because, you know, you have to have a reference point for these things, right? So now, I'm tempted to compare these almond fellows to their sunflowery counterparts.

First of all, are these even new? I feel like they've been there on the candy shelves for years, mysteriously eluding a review on our blog. I know they have multiple different kinds of peanut butter cups and cookie butter cups, but why do I feel like almond butter cups have been there, too? The sunflower dealies were so obviously new, with their bright yellow wrappers and Reese's-esque presentation. But these guys? They just sorta blend in with all those myriad Trader Joe's brand candies that come in a tub.

Price-wise, we're looking at $3.99 for "about" 18 pieces versus 99 cents for the two sunflower cups. They're being marketed less as a "buy this at the checkout and eat it on your way home to curb your immediate craving" kinda snack, and more of a "buy this for your family with peanut allergies and have them on stand-by at all times" sorta treat—either of which is fine by me. 

As far as vegan-ness goes, this option definitely contains milk products. We had several readers indicate that the sunflower cups were indeed vegan because, despite the presence of dark chocolate, there was no dairy. Not so here. They don't taste any more milky to me. I just wonder: if you can make decent dark chocolate without milk, why include it? If anything, I slightly prefer the chocolate in the sunflower cups.

Nut butter-wise, I think I prefer the sunflower seed variety to the almond one. Sunflower seems just ever so slightly sweeter, and possibly a bit thinner. In the case of these dark chocolate covered cups, I feel like the almond butter is not as consistently creamy. It's still nutty and works with the chocolate, but I feel like it lacks a certain pizzazz just ever so slightly. Also, I think there's just a bit more dark chocolate here. The chocolate to nut butter ratio is off by a bit, favoring chocolate too much.

The overall effect of these cups is still sweet, dessert-like, and relatively satisfying. I'm certainly not hating on these puppies. I just prefer the sunflower seed butter cups in the end. Sonia thinks they taste basically the same. It's been a while, but I remember being wowed by Justin's brand almond butter cups a little more than this TJ's offering.

In the end, this is a perfectly valid desserty treat from Trader Joe's, particularly for those with peanut allergies, but I'd generally go with another choice over this one, personally.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus

Back in my bachelor days of yore, it wasn't uncommon for me to totally toss whatever from the pantry or fridge together and totally make up whatever I was gonna eat for whatever meal. It was a total choose-your-own-adventure mixed with horrible amateur Food Network show type deal. My motto always was, worst to comes to worst and it was awful, I'd just put some hot sauce on it.

Now I'm older and more refined and married and stuff like that, and I enjoy things like hummus a lot more than I did before.

Still, back then and even up to now, I never considered mixing hot sauce and hummus...but here we are with Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus.

Simplistic genius, as I've come to expect from TJ's. Nicely done.

Really, that's all there really is to this product. Hot sauce and hummus. It works...kinda. The heat profile does stray a little bit towards vinegar to my taste. Also the creaminess of the hummus seems to subtly suggest a phantom presence of ranch dressing-like substance which is surely inaccurate and undetected by my better half, but it seems to be there to me. The consistency is also a little off, as the hummus is a little thinner with less body than normal hummus. Of course, with my own consistency being off, I can say the exact opposite about my gut right now. Dang hummus.

All that being said...yes please. I dig this completely. I want to dig the hummus with some chips. Or veggies. Or falafel. Or pita. Or...well, you get the idea. Although imperfect, the buffalo hummus is a perfectly adequate marriage of two great condiments that's about the equal of its parts. It's not a life changer but that doesn't mean it's not good.

Sandy said she liked that were was a certain "buffalo chicken dip but healthier-ish" vibe going on. I can see what she's saying and I know better than to refute her too strongly. This'll be our snacky time go-to this week, and at $2.99 for the tub it's not an awful deal. Though I will say the tub seems smaller than other TJ hummus..oh well. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch Cereal

I must admit, I'm not much of a cereal guy anymore. Those Saturday mornings I spent straddling the piano bench in my parents' living room, bowl after bowl of milk and sugary grains sitting in front of me, watching everything from Smurfs to Saved by the Bell well into the afternoon, are nothing but distant memories. 

But every once in a while, I'll have a bowl of delicious cereal that's so good, so tasty, that it'll take me back to those days when I only took pause from shoveling a series of spoonfuls into my face to sing along to the Muppet Babies theme song...

This is not one of those cereals.

This is like a cereal from a sad parallel reality where bowls of spherical chocolate aren't sweet treats, but are, rather, disciplinary tools employed by overzealous parents. "That's it young man, it's a bowl of Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch for you, and then a time-out in your room to think about what you've done!" 

It's potentially a version of Cocoa Puffs for the gluten-free, wheat-free crowd, I suppose. But even gluten status aside, there are quite a few key differences between this offering and classic Cocoa Puffs. The pieces here are slightly smaller, not quite as rigid, and in my opinion, not nearly as chocolatey. 

Personally, I'll take Cocoa Pebbles over Cocoa Puffs any day of the week. I just like the texture better, and I feel like they yield a nicer flavor of milk at the end of the bowl. Also, Cocoa Pebbles are completely gluten free and always have been. I know you Cocoa Puffs fans—my wife included, cuckoos that you are, will fight me tooth and nail on that assertion, but I think, for once, we can set our differences aside and agree on one thing: this Trader Joe's cocoa cereal is vastly inferior to either Post's or General Mills' classic offerings.

The taste of rice, sorghum, and corn all challenge the slight cocoa flavor for dominance. It's barely sweet. It would have been better to simply avoid cocoa or chocolate taste altogether and market this product as a healthy, multigrain cereal. It might not have been any more exciting, but at least it wouldn't have been so disappointing.

Both Sonia and I are leaning toward returning this one and taking TJ's up on their no-questions-asked refund policy once again. We don't do it often, but if a product just doesn't work for us, we won't force ourselves to eat it...and we certainly won't just throw it out. 

I can imagine somebody out there likes it—somebody who wants a grainy cereal with a very subtle chocolate taste, but two and a half stars a piece is as generous as Sonia and I will be on this one.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit

Warning: a completely predictable review of Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit is about to start. Read on at your own risk of spending the next three to five minutes of your life knowing exactly what's gonna be said here.

First, I'm gonna say something about kids and being busy because of kids and work and stuff and life and whatever else that having the time to actually cook a dinner is a rare treat, because when we're not busy we're actually somewhat aware of how tired we are. Because of this, we rely a bit too much on boxed mac n cheese and other super quick meals. But we also want to be vaguely healthy.

So next then is the suggestion to purchase said TJ's soba noodle stir fry kit to give it a try. It features many fine leafy green veggies, which are good for you. Broccoli is good and tasty. So is bok choy, or at least I guess so, because we consume it without much argument (us adults, at least). And everyone likes snow peas, and cabbage, works. Good veggies. Firm. Fresh. Crisp. Yum.

Then the point will be made that the soba noodles are also quite good, in the way that only soba noodles can be. A side note regarding relative lack of experience of consuming soba noodles will be made, because restaurants like that aren't in the family wheelhouse because, well, kids. Though they should be. But whatever. Noodles are good, with good veggies.

And then good sauce. Soy and ginger. There's nothing magic about the combo but dang it's good and a little bit spicy. That sauce really ties it all together, doesn't it? It doesn't matter what anything else is - there could be cardboard strips or mulch in here, but if there's a good tasty sauce on it, it'll taste good.

Then the familiar complaints that some may make: Might be too salty for some. That's true. Soy sauce is super salty. It can't help itself. Then at $4.99 it might be a bit expensive compared to making similar sized servings. That's probably also true but discounts the notion that convenience and ease come at a premium. And then I will note that our kids hated it because it wasn't mac and cheese, mostly because it had an actual flavor, and were relieved when Sandy I offered to take their portions and feed them peanut butter banana sandwiches instead because we were hungry and not in a mood to argue with them. And I will the small quibble that it could use some protein - some chicken or heck even tofu would be a good side, but a little excess sauce would be super appreciated then.

See? You could have guessed all that, right? Right. You're smart. That's why you shop at TJ's, and why you read our blog. That's also why you'll follow our recommendation to check out the refrigerated section and pick up this TJ's stir fry kit the next time you go shop. Because we told you to, and you knew we would.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry Kit: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, February 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate & Honey Toffee Pecans

I mentioned a few posts ago that Lemon Lunacy should be added to Mango Mania and Coffeepalooza as another seasonal Trader Joe's flavor extravaganza. Well, on that same note, I guess Toffeepalooza wouldn't be a bad idea either. We're going on 8 or 9 product reviews with the word "toffee" displayed prominently in the title of the product, and a number of others where toffee ingredients or flavors were featured noticeably in the offering but failed to make top billing for one reason or another.

So when I heard about these morsels, it made me wonder why we needed one more toffee-based candy on the shelves of Trader Joe's. Despite its newfangledness and potential buzzworthiness, I might have even passed over it entirely. However, Sonia snagged a bag on her latest TJ's shopping adventure at our old stomping grounds right in the heart of Hollyweird, California.

She was no doubt influenced by the simple, eye-catching honeycomb pattern and stylish font on the bag. Graphic designers are so easily swayed by attractive package design. <sigh> Just because it looks good doesn't mean it is good. Case in point: that "glamorous" Oscars show some of you might have watched the other night is filmed right in the middle of a giant perpetual freak show...and it hasn't gotten any less bizarre since we lived there.

But Sonia's instincts were right again. Unlike Hollyweird, this product lives up to its chic veneer. Upon opening the bag, there's a delightful chocolatey smell that wafts out from the package, with hints of the titular honey and toffee as well. The candies are markedly larger than most pecan nuts, ostensibly because they're coated in so much chocolate and toffee. Most pieces are perfectly bite-sized, but the largest ones are surprisingly grandiose, resembling palm-sized stones, rather than mere pebbles—easily big enough for multiple bites.

The taste is exactly like the smell: full of sweet milk chocolate, honey, and toffee, but with plenty of nutty pecan flavor, too. They're crunchy by virtue of the nuts and toffee, but not unpleasantly hard or brittle. Honestly, they're addictive. There's a resealable zipper at the top of the bag, but if you break this bad boy open in a group of four or more people, there's a good chance you'll never get to use it.

If the title sounds appealing to you and you're a fan of all the constituent ingredients, I can't imagine you'll be too disappointed by this product. Toffee and chocolate aren't really my snacks of choice, but I was once again pleasantly surprised. Double fours once more.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

If a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound?

What came first, reality TV infamy or the Kardashians?

All of these are unanswerable questions. Meditate on them night and day, and just maybe you'll have an answer...but all of these are timeless mysteries for a reason.

What is watermelon, though, without water?

One could seek out your local friendly mountaintop Zen master...or whip out a food dehydrator and give yourself about a week or so...

...or as of about right now you can head down to everyone here's favorite grocery shop, plop down $3.69, and buy yourself a bag of Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky.

That's right. Watermelon. In jerky form. As in a famously watery fruit, highly sought after for its thirstquenching glory, dried and flattened and rolled up so as to eliminate any trace of a drop of some high quality H2O.

Listen, I'm about as baffled as you. Or I was. I first heard about this weeks ago and called every other day since then...but there were rollout delays, then weather issues, then...well, finally, I snagged four bags and couldn't wait to rip one open to behold this magical arid fibrous fruit wonder. Waited so long....

It's odd stuff, for sure. It's unquestionably a very concentrated watermelon flavor, as one might expect. It's not as intense as I anticipated, but I'm glad TJ's didn't go the added sugars route. It's just watermelon sans water.

Interesting tidbit from the bag bottom:

Wow! If I'm doing my math right, the end product is about 1/34th its original weight, and is about three quarts of water extracted. Watermelon was hitting that Lasix hard. 

All well and good, but what about the texture? How does it actually work?

The melon jerky is kinda stiff, fibrous, and a little sticky. Both bags I have opened thus far have had all the pieces clumped all together necessitating them to be plied apart carefully. I lack any better way to explain it than saying, imagine a thin, dense sponge that got baked dry. That probably sounds more awful then I intend it you, but there's a surprising amount of chew to it. It's not as much as a jerky from a regular source, but still. There's not too many seeds in the jerky either - I think I've seen maybe only two or three per bag, and they meld in well enough with the rest of the product.

When all said and done, though, I'm not sure how much I actually truly like the watermelon jerky. There's an absolute novelty factor at work, which hit me with some initial marvel, but once it wore off, I was just eating weirdly dry waterlessmelon. I've heard it said that watermelon jerky could be considered a vegan alternative to regular jerky - well, if that's your thing, go for it, but that's a bit of a stretch to me.

I brought some into work to share, and most reviews were pretty friendly. The melon jerky definitely made for some odd reactions and some flatout rejections...but most were positive.

My final call is, if you like watermelon and novel snackage, the jerky is worth at least one try. Worst comes to worst, you can do TJ's no-hassle return policy - but I doubt it'd come to that. I don't know...double fours? That's as much juice as I can squeeze here for these edible contradictions.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Croissant Loaf

If you love loaves of cinnamon bread and you have an affinity for soft, fresh croissants...

then reach for a piece of Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky!

LOL! That wouldn't make any sense, now would it? Besides, watermelon jerky isn't real...

What I meant to say is: "then reach for Trader Joe's Cinnamon Croissant Loaf!" 

It's apparently the illegitimate lovechild of one stupid, steamy night between a loaf of frisky cinnamon bread and a sultry croissant. I don't want to get into the logistics of that whole thing, nor do I want to be too judgy...but just suffice it to say that it's a beautiful mistake—a happy accident, if you will.

On its own, the bread is nothing to write home about. It's croissant-ish, but wants to be warmed up even more than a traditional croissant. There's some cinnamon flavor, but it's not overbearing, and it's not really sweet, either. Also, it's just not quite flaky enough straight out of the bag. 

Toasted with butter, on the other hand, this product is simply scrumptious. It's all the deliciousness of a croissant with all the convenience of sliced bread. The melt-in-your-mouth factor increases exponentially when toasted or warmed, as well. It's still not really sweet on its own, so just sprinkle a little extra sugar on top for killer cinnamon toast.

We read online that people were making French toast from this stuff. I twisted Sonia's arm into making some for me since French toast is above my pay-grade as far as culinary endeavors are concerned. It was worth every ounce of effort Sonia put into it. Simply delish with some nice sweet syrup. Hey, I did my part, too. I made sure the dogs didn't eat any when the wifey put the finished product on the table. 

Let's see: they've done cinnamon croissant bread and pancake bread so far. What's next? Waffle bread? Bacon and eggs bread? Cereal bread? Those zany product developers always keep us on our toes.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Ruby Cacao Wafers



No. No. No.

Just to make sure I wasn't crazy, as least not as it pertains to the definition of a wafer, I Googled it. There it is, first result, right up top, set forth by whichever source Google deems as most trustworthy...


Dictionary result for wafer

  1. 1.
    a very thin, light, crisp, sweet cookie or cracker, especially one of a kind eaten with ice cream.

So imagine my surprise then, when opening a bag of Trader Joe's Ruby Cacao Wafers, that I did not see any wafers any where. None.

What I see instead: all these little roundish flat purply brown rose colored morsels that looked like a nonpointy ill chocolate chip or a baby candy melt.

No cookie. No crispy stuff. Nothing waferesque at all. Just these little pebbles that would look at home in an aquarium. I was sold a sack of lies.

Fortunately, whatever you may call them, these TJ's ruby cacao thingermabobs are actually pretty tasty.

My lovely bride, ever the source of new, trendy, cool stuff she sees all over Instagram, says that ruby cacao is a newish fad sweeping America, and that in Japan there's like ruby cacao KitKats. Or, you know, things with actual wafers. I digress. Never heard of it, so here's my first go...

Wow. Unique. I'm still struggling to come up with the right descriptors. Obviously, there's a healthy chocolate element, definitely towards the darker, deeper end. Yet there's so much sweetness - not even like from a chocolate covered berry, except similar. It's just not as potent, yet fruity in a different way. I checked the ingredients to see if any fruit flavors added - nope. Apparently it's what the beans taste like, and best I can tell you is, try some for yourself if you haven't already.

The morsels are soft, softer than most chocolate chips and closer to the aforementioned candy melts, except not as chalky. Speaking of melts, the cacao bits seem to do a good job of that - pop some in your mouth but keep 'em there for a few to let the taste come alive a little and wash all over. I also nuked a few and they melted right on up without much fuss. I suppose they could be used to dip all sorts of stuff in if that's your thing.

Sandy's not overly impressed. She had a couple then opted for a cookie for her night time treat, as did our daughters. I had a few small handfuls to try and get a better sense - I'd use the word interesting or intriguing more than delicious for them. They're kinda odd, but in a good way...probably. I dunno, try them for your self, kids. Middle scores here because we don't know what else to do, the only thing we're not wavering on is these aren't wafers. Period.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ruby Cacao Wafers: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, February 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Crispy Vegetable Pouches

Who wrote the rule book that says bite-size little fried dealies have to be served before the main course of a meal? Why do salads have to be eaten before the main course? Why dessert after?

Just to spit in the face of such tyrannical traditions, I've eaten appetizers as the main course of my meal as often as I have had the opportunity to do so. I've also eaten desserts first and salads last...because I'm a rebel like that. I've upset many a waitress pulling such stunts, which, incidentally, is why I don't eat out very often anymore. Except Cracker Barrel. We eat there a lot...because they let us stay overnight in their parking lot. And even then we don't eat in the restaurant, but we get take-out and we eat at the dinette in the RV, where I'm not likely to upset our server with my unorthodox dining practices like consuming those tasty biscuits at the end of the meal rather than the beginning.

All that to say: it just goes to show you how woke TJ's is—they specify on the side of the box that this extremely appetizer-esque product can be served "as a light entree." Right on. Free the app. Free the app from its predetermined role on the dinner table. Let it be whatever it wants to be. Free your mind first. Then free the app.

So free the app we did when we had these as our main course for dinner the other night.

They're basically crispy little egg rolls, but served in a different configuration. They contain many of the same ingredients as a typical egg roll, all rolled up into a mini pouch-shaped wonton, with a funky little flower-like bundle at the top. The veggies have a nice flavor, with plenty of oomph from the spice blend, which includes garlic, ginger, and salt. They might even be a little too salty with the soy sauce already added to the vegetables. 

That was Sonia's main complaint: there was no dipping sauce included. I wish they'd have refrained from adding soy sauce to the product itself and left a little packet on the side. Yes, yes, I know...more packaging is bad for the environment. But at least we could have administered the amount of soy sauce of our own choosing. These probably would have been killer with a bit of sweet chili sauce, too.

There's not quite enough in the package to serve as the main course for two people. It says there are 2.5 servings in there, but that's if they're acting as an appetizer, methinks. I probably could have polished off the whole pack myself. We ate it with a little leftover catfish from Cracker Barrel, and that worked out nicely. Southern-Asian fusion isn't a thing as far as I know, but perhaps it should be.

Sonia gives these vegetable pouches four stars. I give 'em three and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal

The word "neapolitan" means to be "of the city of Naples". Simple enough. Though to be honest, I always that it was neopolitan, not neapolitan...did this change at some point of time without any of us knowing? Is this another Berenstein/Berenstain Bears glimpse into a parallel universe? I'm pretty sure it is.

How this word also came to mean "chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream altogether" is, of course, purely American. Three flavored desserts like spumoni became popular in the good ol' U S of A back in the 1800's, and since those three flavors just so happened to be also the 'merican tastes of choice, well, it became nearly synonymous.

So, a little confusing, and of arguably two origins? Sounds about right for the new Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal. Let me explain.

First - this is supposed to be fun cereal, right? It's three flavors of puffs! Words fall short of how excited my girls were to see the box when this definitely looked like more like a treat than an actual breakfast to them, bless their hearts. And it is fun. Out of the three, only really the vanilla kinda falls flat flavorwise, which is to be expected. High quality vanilla taste isn't really expected to be conveyed well via breakfast cereal. The chocolate and strawberry, though somewhat muted, still come across pretty well in a not-too-super-sugary kinda way.

So we could identify this is as a junk or special treat cereal, maybe kinda like Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms.

But then - look at the ingredients! Beans and rice! No corn! No wheat! None of those regular ol' breakfast grains. Rice isn't that odd - Rice Chex and Rice Krispies, amirite? - but beans? For breakfast? Odd, weird. It gives the cereal a kinda a healthyish vibe - I mean, look at all that fiber! And naturally then this is also gluten-free which is a plus.

So could this be a healthy cereal?

Maybe both?

Two origins, and kinda confusing. I'm kinda stuck on that beans thing.

No matter. This is a good, munchy cereal. There's a slightly shiny shellacky coating that seems to really help the neapolitan puffs maintain a good crunch even after sitting around in milk for quite a while. That's a big plus. Plus, all that fiber - usually, I avoid breakfast cereal in the morning as I feel that somehow it only makes me hungrier. Not here - a bowl kept me reasonably filled til lunch!

Plus, as an added bonus, the pinkish/brownish milk it leaves behind is pretty decent. My kids loved having "chocolate milk" in their cereal. Again, bless their hearts.

I don't do cereal often, and I'm not sure I'd really go for these tri-flavored puffs over and over again, but they do make a nice little pick up. For a gluten-free fun cereal, why not? The box runs $3.99 which is a little high on the TJ's scale, so there's another slight knock. If it were up to our kids, these would be a surefire pantheon pick, but to us more reasonable adults, some matching threes will do.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, February 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Lemon Creme Sandwich Cookies

Some of you who've been shopping at Trader Joe's for a while probably remember when they went nuts with a particular commodity and released a bunch of similar products all at once. I'm thinking of Coffeepalooza and Mango Mania in particular. There were a couple years there when they released an unhealthy amount of new cookie butter products, although they spaced out those releases a little better than the other two incidents I just mentioned. And of course, fall after fall, we were inundated with pumpkin spice offerings, although that seems to be tapering off, as TJ's is now balancing PS with apple, butternut squash, and maple offerings a little better than they did in previous years.

But Sonia and I have always wondered why they haven't done "Ludicrous Lemon" or "Lemon Lunacy." They have plenty of lemon products, including lots of cookies, bars, tarts, pies, and beverages. Lemon Lunacy could include the re-release of Trader Joe's Lemon Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream. And that would not only make the WGATJ's team very happy, but it would please every connoisseur of fine ice creams in the country. Why do you hate your loyal customers so much, Trader Joe's?

These cookies would make a fine addition to Lemon Lunacy. They're lemony and sweet, and they're pretty satisfying. Flavor-wise, they're basically sugar cookies with moderate lemon flavor. They didn't go crazy with lemon here. I wouldn't have minded just a tad more lemonosity. Both the cookie elements and the filling are lemontastic, but not to the point where tartness even has a chance to overpower the product's dessertiness. They taste fresh, pleasant, and enjoyable.

However, in the texture department, our cookies were a little too stiff. I expected them to be soft. And they, sort of. I figured they might be soft like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies are soft. They're not. They're simply not crispy or crunchy. They're chewy...but, I mean, they're a little too chewy in my book. I wanted them to be supple and malleable. But...I dunno. "Stiff" is the only word I can think of to describe the texture. Ours weren't stale. They weren't more than a couple days old when we opened the package. Perhaps somehow their vegan-ness makes them stiffer than cookies that can use butter and/or eggs...?

At $4.29 for four cookies, these aren't super cheap, either. But at least there are eight servings in the bag. Wait. What? Yeah. You do the math. 

Worth a purchase for vegans and lemon fans, but there are better lemon dessert options in the store. Again, flavor-wise, these cookies are sublime, but because of the stiff texture and overall value, I don't think these will be a repeat purchase for us.  

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Wafer Cookies


I've wondered from time to time why TJ's doesn't sell particular items - I mean, they could have a whole line of baby food, name it Trader Joey's, put a baby kangaroo on it, and call it a day while making a killing - but banana cream pudding isn't one of those things whose absense I ever questioned. It's just not at TJ's. It doesn't need to be. Not that it wouldn't be welcome - I'm sure TJ's could acquire and distribute a pretty darn good banana cream pudding. But it never crossed my mind that it was something that the brand lacked, and as far as I know, not my wife Sandy's either, until the introduction of the new Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Wafer Cookies.

The blatantly obvious comparison to these cookies is the famous Nilla Wafers. Those are all time classics - a bit plain, yes, but everyone knows what a nilla wafer tastes like. And apparently Sandy's favorite way to enjoy those ubiquitously famous cookies is with banana cream pudding, hence her outburst of sorts.

I'll admit it, these TJ's wafers are pretty decent. One noteworthy facet of the appeal is the undeniable textural feel - they're incredibly soft and crumbly. There were very few full cookies that survived fully intact from factory to my kitchen. That's not a bad thing - the fact the cookies practically melt in your mouth is a major plus. Love 'em for that.

But still, there's something a little off here flavorwise. It's not the vanilla - it comes off strong and sugary upfront and is thoroughly enjoyable. But a few chews reveal a certain....I don't know what. For lack of better theory, I think it tastes a little eggy. Too eggy. And sure enough, the ingredients list "dry egg powder" which seems a little strange to me. I'm willing to be wrong here, but that's what I'll point to as the main culprit for my slight displeasure. Dry egg powder....*shakes fist*.

Regardless, we as a family enjoyed the cookies. Out of the box, they're good enough as is, but even better is paired with a little frosting or Nutella or jam. And, yeah, probably, banana cream pudding. Sandy raved about the wafers, noting their crumbliness. I like them enough to have a few but not enough to want to eat the whole box at once, so that's a plus. Couple bucks for the pouch and a few stars each in our books.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Wafer Cookies: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Honey Hedgehog Cookies

What does hedgehog meat taste like? 

We know they're "organic," but were these hedgehogs raised free-range? Were they grass-fed? What part of the hedgehog was used in the making of these morsels? Ribs? Thighs?

You'll not find the answers to these questions in the following review. But I will say that Trader Joe's neglected to list "hedgehog" in the ingredients. Perhaps, like Sonic, they were too fast to catch, and were thus pardoned from becoming ingredients in their namesake cookies. Man, was I was a Sonic the Hedgehog junkie back in the day. And I knew a girl with a hedgehog for a pet in college. Funny little animals. They eat mealworms and take dust baths. If goldfish, bears, and cats can have snacks named after them, why not hedgehogs?

Even lacking hedgehog as an ingredient, as they stand, these vegetarian (not vegan) little crunchy cookies are still quite edible. There's plenty of honey flavor, and the "cultured butter" adds a nice little tangy zip to the sweetness.

They're not unlike Teddy Grahams or regular honey graham crackers, but there's just a slight bit more complexity in the flavors here. I like them. Sonia thinks they're like Barnum's Animals but with even higher quality. 

Texture-wise, they're crispy, crunchy, and buttery. Each pack contains just the right amount of cookies to curb an average case of the afternoon munchies, or they could make a great "dessert" for a lunch box meal in the middle of a work or school day.

$2.99 for six 1 oz. baggies. There are about nine hedgehogs in each bag—the perfect serving size if you ask me.

Also, these hedgehogs are cute, both on the packaging and the cookies themselves. The kids'll love 'em...both the four-year-old kind and the 40-year-old kind.

Once again, Sonia and I will put up matching sets of four stars each on this product.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.