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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Turmeric Ginger Coconut Beverage

Remember a few summers ago when it was Mango Mania at TJ's?

We sure as heck do. Mango this, that, Mango here, mango there, mango mango everywhere. Move aside and let the mango through and all that. Every new item was mango-fied. So many mangoes. I was sick of them by the end of summer.

This summer is much less thematic and far more sporadic as far as new offerings...which is how Sandy and I end up buying things like Trader Joe's Turmeric Ginger Coconut Beverage. It's at least kinda mango colored, isn't it?

This product is a true rarity in our household. Sandy's made very similar beverages in the past to drink either hot or cold, and was downright joyous when she saw it on the shelf for about $3. I wasn't along and don't have the receipt handy so I'm guessing, feel free to correct me. I've never tried such drinks but am pretty open-minded and was excited enough to give it a try.

It's a strikeout for both of us. Big time.

For my wife, far more the expert here than me, it's the composition. For her, the beverage is far too thin. When she's made it, she's used a thicker variety of coconut milk which she prefers, I guess. But it's bugging her how thin this stuff is.

For me, it's more the flavor. It's a bit odd. With turmeric and ginger and coconut, I feel more like I'm drinking some sort of curry broth. Which isn't a bad thing, but then my mind switches into "curry mode" and my taste buds start looking for spices and complexity and whatnot that just isn't here. There's a little dash of black pepper, and the turmeric and ginger add more flavor "warmth" than anything. On a whim, I tried some straight out of the fridge, and also some with ice in it. When super chilled, some of the sweeter elements come out more - namely, coconut and honey - but when just sipped, everything seems pretty muted, with the aftertaste kinda lingering around like all the super orangey residue in your glass.

Apparently beverages like these are popular in India and called "golden milk." I'm not completely turned off by the idea - I really think drinks like this have huge potential to be extremely tasty - but I'm just not fond of this particular version. Neither is my lovely bride. Our four year old is, though, so there's that.

Not much more to say. I'd take mango anything over this any day. Sandy gives it a stunningly low one spoon, and while I think it deserves better, it doesn't by much. I'll be kind with a two.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turmeric Ginger Coconut Beverage: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, July 15, 2019

Trader Joe's French Crêpe Wafer Cookies

More. Freaking. Cookies. 

I'm baffled as to why Trader Joe's makes so many different kinds of cookies, and I'm even more confused about why we bother reviewing them so religiously.

At least I was confused...before I shoveled a bunch of these delightful, crispy, buttery, flavorful, snacky sweet, angular edibles into my mouth—all the lightness and deliciousness of crepes in wafer cookie form. Now these could be one of my "desert island cookies." As of right now, they're definitely on Sonia's short list, too. 

They're tasty by themselves or slathered with cookie butter or served with ice cream...and I'm sure most of you readers have come up with dozens of ridiculously wondrous things to do with them that never occurred to me. I'll admit I was so enamored with them that I gobbled up most of my share plain before I tried putting any fixins on them. Sonia was the one that got creative with cookie butter and ice cream. 

Looks like is suggesting we serve them with banana slices and chocolate syrup. That could work, as well, and it's probably more authentically crepey. 

$2.49 for a box with two separate little plastic trays covered in cellophane. Packaging overkill? Perhaps. But I'm sure it's there in hopes of preserving the outstanding buttery flavor of these wafers a little longer. There's also a delicate, multi-layered crispness that's hard to describe.

3.5 servings? Seems like a very random number to me, but whatever you say, Trader Joe.

The isosceles triangle is relatively unexplored territory in the world of geometrically-inspired snacking. I guess tortilla chips are isosceles, at least some of the time, too—and they are also quite tasty. They should offer isosceles triangle-shaped pancakes and pyramid-shaped cakes and pies and see if it makes them more delicious. 

Four and a half stars from Sonia once again. And another four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Coffee Lover's Espresso Beans

Alright, everyone: Best road trip snacks. Go!

I've gone through different phases. A pack of minty gum is always good, but you need more. Sometimes pretzels, sometimes Combos. Some gummy candies are always welcome. For a while I was really into baby carrots for whatever reason, and I recall my brother saying once he liked having clementines along because they had the added bonus of making his car "smell nice." And of course, caffeine in some form, whether soda or more preferably coffee.

After our most recent vacation, Sandy and I may have a new favorite to add to the rotation. You guessed, it, it's Trader Joe's Coffee Lover's Espresso Beans.

Chocolate covered coffee beans are just about dang perfect for the road. You get a little inital sugar rush and then a good coffee buzz to keep you alert, without adding a bunch of liquid to your system that will make you stop every other travel plaza.

These TJ's coffee chocobeans aren't an exception. Just a few will get you going for sure. Plus, it's kinda fun with the different colors of them - the dark brown, the tan, the offwhite ones - even if they all kinda taste the same.

Yeah, I'd say that's the one downside. With the various shades and them "being inspired by your favorite sweet coffee combinations" I was hoping for, say, some caramel machiato ones, some "regular", some cappuccino type flavors, but nah, not so much. And it's a bit odd that TJ's markets it as chocolate, because it seems more of a creamy, sweet, sugary candy melt type coating than actual real chocolate. I'd somewhat discount my take - after all, I was popping them in while keeping the family minivan from hitting all the dang interstate potholes (seriously, NY, get your stuff together), but Sandy said much the same.

Other than that, I definitely enjoyed popping a couple in, waiting for the candy to soften a bit, and then crunch on down and get that hit. The small package cost no more than a couple bucks but kept Sandy and I going for hours. The beans were good enough for a nearly immediate rebuy for use at home and work, too - not just for the road, of course. Double fours for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Coffee Lover's Espresso Beans: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Strawberry Greek Frozen Yogurt Parfait Bars

On hot summer days, I'll pop open the freezer to see what frozen goodies the wife has stashed away. I'll often find a box of Outshine yogurt bars hiding behind stacks of frozen veggies and waffles. Sonia knows better than to advertise such purchases to me. After grocery runs, she'll discreetly put them in the back of the ice box when I'm not looking. 

It's not that she wants to keep them all to herself. She's smart enough to know that I'll eat the entire box in a day if I'm aware of them right away. So generally, she'll consume the first bar or two in the day following their arrival to our freezer, and all the rest will rapidly fall prey to my insatiable sweet tooth. For those of you who like to preach "self-control" and "willpower," I'd like to point out that there are, in fact, different kinds of self-control. Mine is the kind that refrains from purchasing sweets while at the grocery store in the first place. Once they're in the house, it's game-over for me, provided that I'm aware of their presence.

I'm pretty sure these parfait bars will take the place of Outshine in our freezer now. Sonia is a huge fan. And that's a good thing. Because she'll make sure she eats at least half of them right off the bat. This first box didn't even last a full hour between the two of us. We ate two immediately upon arrival, semi-melted from the July heat, while the remaining two re-froze for a bit.

The flavor is excellent. Not too sticky sweet, not too tangy. It's strawberry yogurt at its best—creamy, flavorful, and satisfying. The granola is a wonderful addition. It's not intrusive or excessive, and it adds a little body and fullness to the texture. If you're expecting super crunchy granola, you might be a bit disappointed. It's "soggy" granola, for lack of a better word, but we both like it just fine. It's like the granola you might find in one of the "bowl" offerings from Jamba Juice or somewhere similar. The bars are relatively small, but they're fairly filling.

$2.99 for four bars. Pretty decent numbers as far as fat and calories are concerned. There's a fair amount of added sugars, but when balanced against the overall satisfaction factor, it's definitely not a deal-breaker here.

Four and a half stars and an enthusiastic thumbs up from Sonia. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Trader Joe's Shrimp Scampi Lasagna

Hmmm...., bubbly, cheesy lasagna...

...baking at 400 degrees for nearly an hour...

...on a hot, humid July evening... an insulated, Thermosified brick oven of a house, with no AC...

...just to sit in your stomach, requiring a shower after to cool down from. With your house all heated up from that oven.

Yeah, I'd almost pretty much have to say no to that.

Except we're talking about Trader Joe's Shrimp Scampi Lasagna. It's all the rage on Instagram from what I hear from my lovely bride. So, off to do our sacred duty once more.

The whole premise of this product sounds great, right? Make a decent shrimp scampi except in lasagna form, with the layered noodles and whatnot. Add enough garlic and butter to make a sanguivoriphobic Paula Deen blush and it should be a slam dunk, right? How can this lose?

For perhaps the first time in reviewing TJ's products, I'd say the failure is the shrimp itself.

Listen, I get what they're going for here. With the open intent of making the product even more lasagna-esque (and likely also to help obfuscate how many shrimp are actually in here), the shrimp here are ground up. As in, not whole. As in, not fleshy and firm but instead little mealy tidbits kinda resembling really bad ground turkey. It just doesn't work. The shrimp tastes fine but still just seems wrong, if that makes any sense. Ground shrimp? That'd be a no from me.

Everything else works well enough if graded on a frozen pasta curve. There's plenty of the mozzarella/Parmesan cheese mix to go around - even my cheese loving kids said there was a little bit too much. I got a pretty good guilty pleasure from scraping some of the last remnants from the tray that had some extra butter and garlic on them. The white wine sauce was solid if not overly notable except a little tick up in spice from some crushed red pepper, and noodles were fine and firm and all that.

Still, yeah, the shrimp...the scampi lasagna would have been better with whole shrimp, even if it meant shrimp in less bites. Quality over quantity.

The setup costs $5.99 and comes as 3.5 serving tray. We picked up two to have for our family and it seemed about the right idea. My lovely bride enjoyed the shrimp lasagna just fine, without the same qualms I had. One kid scrunched her nose at it but ate it anyways, mostly, while another one asked for seconds, so there's a plus. I don't love it, I don't hate it, there's a good chance I wouldn't buy it again but wouldn't be upset if we did.

Maybe we can wait til it's cooler out though.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Shrimp Scampi Lasagna: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, July 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Soft Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

For a grocery store chain that's known for carrying exotic fare and maintaining at least a facade of healthiness, they sure roll out a lot of dang cookies. By a quick count, we've reviewed somewhere in the ballpark of 60 or 70 different types of Trader Joe's brand cookies on this blog alone. 

That's a lot of cookies, the vast majority of which aren't reduced guilt or low calorie or anything like that. If you click that link, it'll show you the results for searching "cookies" on this blog. Apparently some browsers are covering the additional pages of results with a banner ad. I'm looking at you, Google Chrome. Worked fine on Firefox for me. But most of you aren't going to wade through seven pages of cookie reviews spanning the past decade anyway. I wouldn't blame you. 

Because many of these cookie varieties aren't particularly memorable. A few are, but I highly doubt we'll agree on which two or three of those Trader Joe's baked goods we want to take to our desert island and survive on for the rest of our life.

Funfact: the cookie on the packaging is actual size. See pic above.

This particular offering isn't bad, but it's definitely not one of my desert island choices. And, I mean, I LOVE peanut butter. 

You can taste the peanut butter for sure. These are basically typical, everyday peanut butter cookies that happen to be full of chocolate chips. They're a little softer than your average peanut butter cookie, I guess, and perhaps a tad thicker, both of which are pleasant variations on the classic cookie. Still, I would have preferred them to be even softer, chewier. They're kind of crumbly and dry as they are. 

The flavor is fine. There is peanut butter and there is chocolate, but they never really come together in that special way that Reese's seem to. The bread part of the cookie seems oddly dominant, and there's a bit of an aftertaste.

Sonia seemed to like them more than I did, which was unexpected. She'll give these three and a half stars. I give 'em three.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch

In my neighborhood growing up, every couple years, PENNDOT would oil and chip all the street tops. It'd drive everyone in my family crazy. For me and my siblings, it was so much harder to bike on, and when your biggest source of income was an after-school paper route for which you needed to bike, it made for the rough juvenile equivalent of a hard day at the office. For my parents, it'd ding up the bottom of the cars and set my dad off on an occasional "this crap is what they do with my taxes??" rant (usually mild around us kids)...but I could tell it was just one more thing to aggravate the living heck out of them. As a parent now myself, I can understand it - one added thing atop of work, family, bills, taxes, whatever else. It'd set me off too.

Wait a minute delivering newspapers after school? Did I just date myself? I'm only in my mid-thirties I swear.

Anyways, oil and chips...kinda like Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch.

No, no, I'm not suggesting this newish product tastes like asphalt. Indeed, it's infinitely more suitable for a potluck rather than a pothole.

Just open it though. There's a huge pool of olive oil at the top. Stir it up, and you can hear all the crunchy tidbits swirling around. Crunchunchunchcrunch. It's absolutely audible, in some sort of edible slurry concoction. Dried onions. Dried garlic. More dried onions. Dried peppers. All literally swimming in oil in still crunchified state.

Needless to say, this is some oily, gritty stuff. I can absolutely see this being a textural stumbling block for some people. Sandy and I plopped some atop some grill-toasted baguette and it worked well as the bread sopped up the oil a bit leaving only the crunchers. Could work tossed in with some veggies or on some grilled chicken or pork, too. But something like eggs? No way, at least not in my book. Gritty eggs. Blecch.

And taste? Ehhh. The chili onion crunch got a little heat, that's for sure. It's more palpable if you get a heavy dose. But really, what the dominant flavor seems to be is the garlic. And it's not necessarily good garlic either, depending on your criteria. Karen, our favorite local TJ's employee, warned it was garlicky but "not in a good way" and I can see what she means. Garlic can either be strong and robust, or kinda "musty" for a lack of better word. This stuff strays towards the garlic stank and not the garlic strength. Any other flavor kinda fills in a little bit to give a little body to lead up towards the heat.

In the end, I think this could be one of those "a little goes a long way" type items. Add a little atop a burger, on some bread, mixed in with some grilled veggies or whatever, but just enough to get a little added flavor, and not enough to turn your dish into an oily, gritty, garlic-stanked dish. We'll use it for sure but I'm not yet convinced it's a repurchase. Set us back about $3 if I recall right.

Four spoons from the Mrs - she loved it more than I did. I'll be nice and give it a 3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, July 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Carrots of Many Colors

The grape carrots are my favorite, followed closely by the lemon carrots and cherry carrots.

I'm just kidding. There's only one flavor here: carrot. Carrot-flavored carrots are all the rage in some modern snacking circles, or so I've heard. This new Trader Joe's product is sure to be a hit with those folks.

For the rest of us, I'm not so sure.

The colors seem like a fun gimmick to get kids to eat more carrots. I know purple carrots exist naturally, and so do orange, yellow, and red. It's not like they added any extra colors here, which is always nice. In fact, they only added sea salt. Nothing else. Plus, they're organic. Unless you're on a salt-free diet, not many complaints can be filed in the "not healthy enough" department.

Texture-wise, they're super crunchy, crispy, brittle. Almost reminiscent of potato chips, they're just ever so slightly more airy...almost poofy in a way. There's a styrofoam quality about them. Sonia thinks they're exceedingly dry—like, unpleasantly devoid of moisture. I think they were kinda going for a dry feel when they decided to dehydrate the carrots, so...yeah. Dry. But that's not a dealbreaker for me.

The taste was less pleasant than the texture for me. And yes, I know what carrots taste like. But something happens to the flavor when they're dehydrated. I feel like that carroty flavor that we've all come to know and tolerate becomes a little more bitter than I'd like it to be. These carrot chips are even more planty and perhaps less sweet than they are in their normal, water-ful form. Also, they don't taste very salty at all. 310mg of sodium in the whole bag. 13% of your RDA. I guess that's not much salt. But it tastes even less salty than I was expecting. 

Sonia thinks they might lose some of their natural sugar when they're dehydrated, and I think she might be right on that one. $2.99 for the single serving bag, which could be stretched to more than one serving if you're sharing the bag with someone else and both of you are only moderately enjoying them and attempting to pawn the remainder of the bag off on the other. We both prefer raw carrots in the end.

Once again, three stars a piece.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.