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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.