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Monday, May 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Oat & Greek Yogurt Sandwich Cookies


Blah. More cookies. I think three out of my past five reviews have been of cookies. I mean, all in all, they haven't been bad cookies. In general, Trader Joe's does cookies better than others. But I'm all cookied out right now. 

So why review these cookies today? There are far more fascinating new items on the shelves of Trader Joe's currently.

Allow me to explain...

As I mentioned last week, I have a nasty spring cold that I contracted from my lovely wife—and I can't taste anything at the moment. These cookies were the last thing I remember eating before getting the cold. Also, they're review-worthy, if only for the Greek yogurt gimmick they've got going on.


They vaguely resemble Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, but lighter in color, a little fatter, with a slightly smaller diameter. They were soft when I first opened the box—maybe not quite as soft or as oily as a classic oatmeal creme pie, but pliable enough that one would call them "chewy" before he'd call them crispy, crunchy, or even crumbly. Those first couple cookies were excellent. It was warm out at the time, so the filling, too, was super soft and creamy—gooey almost.

Now this was back a week ago. Daytime highs were hitting near 90 degrees in southern Idaho, the sun was out, and even with air conditioning on, a class C RV can get pretty toasty in no time flat. So I made the mistake of putting the cookies in the refrigerator. I thought, hey, we don't want the Greek yogurt to get all rancid in the heat, right? I asked Sonia if that made sense to her, and she informed me that the cookies were most definitely NOT refrigerated in TJ's. I still felt like the heat wouldn't do them any favors.

But since that time, they haven't tasted or felt nearly as fresh. The filling is much better when it's kinda viscous. When it's firm—like straight outta the fridge—it's meh. The cookie part, too, just tastes better at room temperature. though the difference isn't as noticeable. Don't get me wrong, they're still edible. 

Fresh or not, the flavor is sweet, tart, and tangy. There's almost a hint of lemony essence by virtue of the yogurt's tartness, but it doesn't look like there are any lemon ingredients. The cookie parts are moderately sweet, oaty, and satisfying enough. There are notes of honey and vanilla in the mixture, and they work pretty well.

Sonia's taste came back some time between the last review and this one. She likes these cookies at least as much as I do and thinks I'm exaggerating the difference between when the box was first opened and after it emerged from the fridge. Had it been up to her, they would have stayed in the pantry, but she thinks they're tasty either way. 

Even being thoroughly saturated with cookies lately, we still can't hate on these unique Greek imports. Three and a half stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Caramel Spice Coconut Cream Latte Coffee Beverage

With Memorial Day right around the corner, it's officially turning into that time of year: cold brew season!

Hot coffee when it's hot weather is gross. Can't convince me otherwise. I want to be less hot, not more. Ingesting copious amounts of hot liquid when it's hot is inane. But you still need coffee. Hence the brilliance of cold brew.

So here's how we get an item like Trader Joe's Cold Brew Caramel Spice Coconut Cream Latte Coffee Beverage. Holy cow, what name. Except there's no cows involved here, because, well, coconuts. Dairy free, vegan, cold, caffeinated coffee, with a potentially interesting flavor combo...gotta try.

Except: don't. Believe me. This stuff is grrroooosssssssss. 

I was thinking it's just me. I'm Mr. Drink Black Coffee 99% of the Time Guy. But I can appreciate stuff with cream and sugar and whatnot if it's done well. This isn't.

What really throws the whole brew off the rails, I think, is the caramel spice. It tastes fake and cloying sweet and kinda tinny, and it doesn't jive one bit with the coconut or the coffee. And the "spice"? God knows what it isn't, I really don't. But...it just doesn't taste good. It doesn't taste right. I tried letting it linger around a little longer, but goodness no. As soon as I tasted it I wanted it gone.

That's kinda too bad. I think something like a coconut cream cold brew has a lot of potential if done right. Coconut cream is delicious and debatably healthyish, depending on your dietary approach. There's potential here, but it gets thrown all away.

As I said, I was thinking it was just me. Nope. Sandy hates this stuff, too. Hates it. Which is really difficult for her to do with coffee...but she echoed almost everything I just said. "If it were just caramel, or just the spice, it could work with everything else, maybe," she said. "But together...blecch."

And get this: its not even sold cold. I'm not even sure where in the store it is. Sandy found it, not me. It's not in the refrigerated section. So it's not an impulse, drink right away kinda deal: you have to chill it and plan when to drink it, set your whole caffeination schedule around it. That makes it even more disappointing in my opinion.

We both detest this caramel spice abomination. It's so hard to say that about coffee...but here we are. Gross. Don't buy it. Just don't. Don't encourage this kinda stuff. Sandy mustered a one for it having caffeine, and I'll match that score and reasoning with the added hit that at least it's not pumpkin spice. That'd be a awful fall coffee whether served hot or cold. Blahhhh brew.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Brew Caramel Spice Coconut Cream Latte Coffee Beverage: 2 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Trader Joe's 5 Layer Dip


"Dip."

It seems too simple, too trifling a word to describe the layers of lusciousness held within. 

It's a product that can turn ordinary tortilla chips into a filling, well-balanced meal. In the flatly-delivered words of David Puddy from Seinfeld: "Hey how come people don't have dip for dinner? Why's it always a snack? Why can't it be a meal, you know?" 

We've got vegetables, dairy ingredients, and multiple high-protein elements...and they're all ridiculously delicious. "Dip" is a many-splendored thing, isn't it? And in my opinion, it deserves a moniker worthy of its versatility...

But not all dips are created equal.

That gross yellow cheese that comes with movie nachos—a snack that costs seven or eight dollars but is clearly worth less than one—that stuff's "dip." 

I mean, adding the words "five-layer" to the product title helps a little. But it's still not a grandiose enough term to capture the wonder of this choice concoction. 

There are five basic elements to the condiment, but a good multi-layer dip is more than the sum of its parts, right?

Of course. Such is the case here. Any of the five layers would be a fine chip-topper in and of itself, but the resulting conglomeration yields at least five times the deliciousness of any one single element.

The game-changer here is the hummus layer. I don't know that I've had a multi-layer dip with hummus before. And it's not just chick pea hummus...there's black beans up in the mix. Either ingredient would have made this dip a winner. But both? Yes, please. The multi-layer dips I've had in the past all had a refried bean layer instead. And I like refried beans just fine, but I feel like hummus just works better.


Guac, pico, sour cream, and four kinds of cheeses? Are you kidding me? This is nearly the perfect mixture of every wonderful thing you'd want to put on a tortilla chip all in one tub—all fresh, flavorful, and in perfect ratios to one another.

Sonia only tried a bite or two of this dip because she's got some odd spring cold she's fighting. She was all stuffed up and couldn't taste anything. Since I was kind enough to share the dip, she was kind enough to share her cold, and I got sick, too—but not before devouring this entire tub myself. I guess I'll just have to score it on my own. I give it four and a half stars out of five. The only thing that would improve this stuff is a little heat. A single picante layer would make this the perfect food. I experimented with random hot sauces we had around: Texas Pete, Cholula, and packets from each of Taco Time, Del Taco, and Taco Bell. They all yielded tasty mixtures. 

Feel free to disagree with me...I mean, if you're comfortable with being dead wrong. A spicy version would be a shoo-in for the Pantheon. Four and a half stars (times two) for Trader Joe's Cinco Strata Magical Mosaic. 

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Mochi Cake Mix

Really, the faces said it all.

I was first. I imagine I squinted my eyes, pursed my lips and had a somewhat perplexed look. That it is to say, even more than usual. Others then followed suit on the quixotic quest set forth. A few wrinkled noses. A few shaking heads, with a little air of uncertainty. Some of the kids took a bite then promptly looked for the nearest trashcan. There was an absolutely palpable mix of uncertainty and mild acceptance at best.

Such as it is with Trader Joe's Mochi Cake Mix.

I baked a cake up precisely according to package instructions last week for a little potluck dinner we attended last week. It was extremely simple - mix with a little water, half a stick of butter, and a couple eggs. Bake for something like 45 minutes. So easy I could do it with the "help' of a couple four year olds.

But yeah...I won't say it went over well at our get-together. It's definitely a supremely odd cake. Really, it's the texture - you hear the word "cake" and think soft and crumbly and whatnot. It's so not the case here. If you're familiar with mochi at all, you know how it is: Chewy. Rubbery. Kinda dense. Moist. And in a thickish cake form, the word "slab" comes to mind instead of "slice."

I guess all that really ought to be expected...but expectation and experience can be two different things. Just weird, odd texture. Took some getting used to for sure.

Really, that's the novelty selling point for the mochi cake mix. Otherwise, it's pretty nondescript for its flavor. Some might even say basic. It's slightly sweet, and with the amount of added eggs and butter it's, well, kinda eggy and kinda buttery. Go figure. Kinda boring. I suppose that's why I've read on other forums to experiment some with the mix, like...adding berries. Making with pineapple juice instead of water. Cinnamon. Chocolate. And so on. It's probably a good base for all those, and probably many more ideas...if you got 'em, share 'em.

It's $3.99 for the mix, which from what I understand isn't an awful price for something like this. Gluten-free, of course. I'm on the fence about buying it again, but not Sandy. She loves oddball stuff like this and insists we will and will experiment and report back. Fine, yes dear. My pic of the nutritional facts and ingredients were potato quality so check here for that info. May as well just face it now and give the mochi cake a mixed seven.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mochi Cake Mix: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, May 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Benne Wafer Cookies

I had to look up "lowcountry." I was thinking it was a nickname for the Netherlands or Belgium or some other sea-level European nation. Turns out it's actually South Carolina...or several counties in South Carolina, at least—mostly the area around Charleston. 

I lived in North Carolina for a year, and during my time there, I only made it into South Carolina once—to the Myrtle Beach area. But fortunately, Sonia and I got to visit Charleston briefly a couple years back on our trip through the South. I don't remember hearing the terms "lowcountry" or "benne wafers," but I do remember the city having a certain colonial seaport charm as well as a unique look and feel. We didn't get to spend a ton of time there. On our way back north, we opted for a path that took us through Columbia, another fascinating, and perhaps less touristy, locale. Like the Georgia Pecan Cookies, these too are produced in Savannah, GA. Close enough to the lowcountry, I suppose. 


Apparently that whole southern coastal region has been snacking on benne wafers for centuries. They're basically the offspring of salty sesame crackers and sweet sugar cookies—a fact I was oblivious to up until the moment I popped one in my mouth. No, I didn't read the bag first. I like to dive in blind with no expectations if I can.

The sesame flavor is significant, detectable immediately when you bite into the cookie. I almost wrote "I'm surprised how much I like these" just now, but what I really mean is I'm surprised how much I don't dislike these. If I had read the bag before the purchase, I probably wouldn't have even bought them. I don't really think of sesame seeds as dessert-ish. I'm fine with a few of them on crackers or rolls. They work well on salty foods, generally. But in a cookie?

Yes, I must admit that somehow sesame seeds work just fine in these particular cookies. It's another unexpected sweet+salty combo that I probably wouldn't seek out unless I had a particular craving, but Sonia likes them significantly more than the pecan cookies. Between the two of us, we probably won't have much trouble finishing this bag.

Texture-wise, they're very similar to the pecan cookies. They're brittle, crispy, crumbly, and it might just be a psychological thing, but I feel like they're a little crackery, too—as in, you know, cracker-like. 

Score-wise, we're looking at three and a half from me and four from the wife.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Trader Joe's Spicy Salmon Gyoza

Taking one for the team! It's what I do!

Seriously, as second out of four kids, I have classic middle child syndrome. Always had ever since my little sister was born. Remember minivans with only one side door and bench seats so there was that back corner spot? Who always volunteered for it, on the long road trips we'd take to New England as a kid? Me! Happily. Heck, one vacation up to my grandparent's old cabin, everyone realized we shorted ourselves a bed and blankets. So who volunteered to sleep in the van without complaint! Me! I was like 10. True story.

Kinda extends to the blog...except you're all like my TJ's siblings, and since this is where we all meet, I'm still in the middle. So if there's something a bid odd, a bit strange, a bit new looking, I'll happily volunteer to try it out...even if I'm a bit, well, apprehensive about it.

Such as it is with Trader Joe's Spicy Salmon Gyoza. TJ potstickers a common freezer staple, but those are like chicken, and pork, and stuff...salmon though. That's a different level. I like salmon just fine...but as a frozen dumpling? Errrr...well...I got it! I'll try it out! All for you all.

Pro tip: Don't bust them open while cooking, as I did. That's why I didn't take a pic of the actual product...because it looks, well, kinda gross. Smushed up salmon, some cabbage strands, some edamame, all in a pinkish hue...as a parent of small kids, there's a certain thing that came right ot mind that this resembled.

No matter, how it taste?!?!?! I think "interesting" is a good word. How to describe it? There's a certain fishiness to the salmon, a bit more than expected. It kinda leads off the flavor profile as dominant. Soon enough, there's some chili and sriracha and pepper that creeps in, and then lingers for a while. But there's still this fishiness that impedes it all. A cleaner tasting protein, whether it be salmon or chicken or pork, would have been a vast improvement.

Also, the salmon seems to be mushier than other gyoza in TJ's inventory. Not that any of them are overly firm, but there's at least a semblance of fleshiness to them. Not here. It's not completely unpleasant, but to that I'd say I'd have a hard time eating them if not sauteed a little bit first to get a little crispiness to the wrapper. A soggy steamed only outer shell just wouldn't work here, I don't think.

The instructions say to pair with your favorite sauce. There seems to be enough flavor here to not warrant too much more in terms of dipping dumplin's in a little sumpthin', but if that's your thing it could work. I'd suggest something mildish.

My receipt says the bag cost $4.99, but I swear the price tag on the freezer window said $4.19...regardless, it's not an awful price for an alright product. I guess the biggest thing to me is when I eat gyoza or dumplings or anything close to them, I crave more of a comfort vibe, and these seem more experimental. Good try though, and I applaud the overall effort. Chances are I'll finish the bag but it'll take me a bit to, especially if my beautiful bride continues to decide to sit them out as a non-salmon fan.

Middle kid gives these a middle score...can that keep everyone happy? Please?

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Salmon Gyoza: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Belgian Chocolate Pudding


This is one of those products that I've been hearing about for years. I've seen tweets about it, other reviews, and even had it recommended to me in the store. I was either not in the mood for chocolate pudding at the time, or I was after some other specific product(s) on that particular occasion—and there might have even been an instance or two where I did want to pick it up, but it was sold out at the time. For whatever reason, purchase of this product has eluded me for years now. And I've finally gotten my hands on it, consumed some of it, and am ready to tell you my thoughts about it...as if you've been waiting all this time, eagerly anticipating my brilliant musings on a tub of pudding.

I'll just give it to you straight: I can totally see what all the fuss is about, I guess. But this just isn't my thing. I'm not hating. I like it fine. There's a bitterness to the pudding I wasn't expecting. I suppose there's bitterness to Belgian chocolate in general, but I've never experienced that with chocolate pudding before. Most other chocolate puddings are simply globs of gelatinized chocolate—sweet, soft, and creamy. This pudding is most definitely all of those things, but the sweet-factor isn't over-the-top. It's not optimized for a kid's taste buds. It's more refined. I'm not saying it's a dark chocolate pudding per se, but those who lean towards dark chocolate might appreciate this more than other chocolate pudding offerings.


It's rich. There's a heavy chocolate flavor in general, both up front with the sweet attack of the confection, and during the finish when the bitter aspects come forward a little more. I feel like there's an aftertaste, too. I very much appreciate a clean palate, and this pudding did not leave me with one.

It's thick. There's nothing watery or thin about it at all. The pudding coats your tongue, teeth, and lips as you eat it, but it does dissolve pretty quickly. Only that hint of flavor remains. There's no oily residue as I've experienced with other, cheaper chocolate puddings.

I feel like it could work well with other elements. If white cake or whipped cream were involved, I'm pretty sure I'd appreciate it even more.


As an appreciator of darker, richer chocolates, Sonia was pretty much in love at first bite. She noticed the bitterness and the aftertaste like I did, but she's far more happy with bitter flavors in general. 

Three and a half dollars for the tub of three and a half servings. I can't completely jump on the bandwagon of praise for this product, but I won't snub it, either. Three stars seems fair here. Sonia gives it a solid four.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Trader Joe's Jalapeño Sauce

I'm fortunate to live right around the Pittsburgh area, which has a surprising amount of pretty decent restaurants. Don't take just my word for it. We're like the 2019 Food City of The Year and here's some pretty good places. Or so I hear. Family budget and smaller child preferences don't always lend themselves to going and checking out those kinda places. I told you to not take my word for it.

But one place we've found common ground on is a great little Peruvian place, right in the Strip District where it's an enjoyable night out. It's called Chicken Latino. Great place, and kinda underrated in my humble opinion. And I've been to Pero, so I can at least somewhat vouch that it's fairly authentic. I've had anticuchos in both Lima and at Chicken Latino...it's close.

I mention this in reference to Trader Joe's Jalapeño Sauce because there is a sauce there, and also from what I remember from Peru, which is an absolute knockout, and I'd be darned if this TJ's take isn't a pretty darn good approximation. It's spicy. It's creamy. It's got all sorts of clean, authentic, jalapeno flavor.

Man...I've used this on so much in the past week or so. Chicken. Eggs. Pulled pork. Yes, yes and yes, it all works. The sauce kinda glops out rather than pour which is okay, it's part of the charm. In Peru, I recall mixing something very similar in with rice and plantains and being extremely happy with the reult. I doubt it'd be much different here. Good, good heat too - very true to the pepper and not artificially amped by vinegar and whatnot.

I have a small quibble, though I'm not sure how to explain it. Look at the ingedients. Canola oil is so high on the list. That makes this a canola oil based sauce. I'm not exactly anti-canola oil...but am I really for it? I don't know. But I kinda wish something else would be used as the sauce base, for whatever reason. I mean, it doesn't taste oily - it really is deceptively creamy - but still. It sticks out.

Regardless, I'm a fan as is the wifey. We both tasted it and thought of Chicken Latino, and to hopefully prove we're not crazy, one of our favorite TJ's peeps. Karen, agreed. Don't know Karen? If you watched the 2017 Rose Bowl Parade, you would. She was on the TJ's float and she works at our local shop, and she's genuinely awesome but would tell us if we were wrong. We're not. 

There you have it. Give it a try. Costs much less than a flight to Lima or heck, even a rice plate at Chicken Latino. We'll still go there though. That stuff is goooooooooooood. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Jalapeño Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Georgia Pecan Cookies

Ah, Georgia. Nice state. I'd been to the Atlanta area on three separate occasions before Sonia and I even began our RV travels. We also had a chance to check out Savannah a couple years back. Now that's a place I'd highly recommend you visit if you've never been. Absolutely beautiful—the architecture, the ubiquitous open green spaces, and the unique flora make it a must-see. Also, apparently, it produces these "Southern style cookies." Now maybe Trader Joe's can throw Savannah a bone and open up one of their stores there.

But why is Georgia known as The Peach State? California routinely out-produces GA in peach production. Even New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been known to out-peach The Peach State.

Why not go with The Pecan State? Is it because half of the people would pronounce it "pee-CAN" and the other half "pee-CAHN" and a never-ending pronunciation war would mar the state's reputation? Perhaps.

At any rate, these cookies are pretty tasty. And they do taste surprisingly pecan-forward. Nutty, salty, and crispy they most definitely are...significantly buttery, too. I wouldn't say I was bowled over by the butterscotch elements, and I almost universally prefer soft cookies to crispy ones, but I must admit, these have a good flavor overall.


Sonia was less enthused about the taste and perhaps a bit more positive about the texture. She liked that they were "airy and light." But she found the saltiness a little overbearing. I'll admit, the salt-factor becomes more and more prevalent the more cookies you eat, but I wouldn't say it completely ruined them for me.

It's probably a good thing that they're fairly diminutive in size. I was thinking they'd be a bit bigger. They're slightly larger than quarters...like, maybe, the size of Sacagawea dollars...? Also, they're quite thin. If you only eat two or three at a time, you can feel that saltiness building up on your tongue, and you can feel yourself getting full pretty quickly. This isn't a gobble-the-whole-bag-in-one-sitting kind of dessert. They'd probably pair well with coffee or maybe even certain kinds of tea. I'd be happy with a few of these cookies and a glass of milk. 

If pecans and crispy cookies are your thing, or if you're looking for a new salty+sweet snack, these are well worth a looksee. In all honesty, we probably wouldn't have picked these up if not for want of new products to review, and I can't feature us repeat-purchasing any time soon, but we can't really complain, either. Three and a half stars a piece on this one.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.