Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Trader Joe's Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes


Bro...do you even hotteok?

Can't say I can, because I just learned the word tonight when prepping some Trader Joe's Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes. Lol..."Korean pancakes." Call 'em what they are, TJ's. Hotteok. Granted, yes, I along with likely 80% or more of shoppers wouldn't know what that means at first glance, but I'm always down for a little culinary education. Apparently hotteok is a popular Korean street food, filled with all sorts of stuff, in, well, more or less a pancake form. Never saw or heard of them before as I've never been to Korea and that's not much Korean influence around the 'burgh that'd make something even as tasty and tantalizing like this readily available. 

All that to say, heck yeah, these are pretty good.

Let's take another second to be clear here: I am not qualified in any way, shape or form to claim these as authentic or close to the real thing or for them to even be half as good. I'd actually be fairly and pleasantly surprised if they were. I'm judging these pancakes simply on their own merits, including costing $3ish bucks for 4 of them, and heating them from frozen on my stovetop for just a few minutes. So take as you will.

All that being said, yum. Let's start with the dough. It's delicious and pretty unique for my experience. Even heating right from frozen, with no butter or oil or anything used, the outside gets all browned and crispy and a touch greasy, just like a good comfort food should. Love it. Further in, it's not quite a mochi-esque bite, but in some ways it's close as it's a little chewy but also soft and moist and gooey and oozing out warmth. Looking over ingredients, there's all sorts of stuff in the dough - wheat, sweet potato, rice flour - that come together well into a soft, lightly sweet cake. 


The cinnamon reservoir is pretty fantastic too. I mean, it's a lot of cinnamon. Be careful that stuff is ridiculously hot and stays that way for longer than expected. The cinnamon adds a great spice bite that complements the dough really well, making these compact cakes have more punch than expected. 

Still, adding a little ice cream or whipped cream or something like that to just really fill it out? That'd be worthy of hashtagging a #chefskiss all over this. 

Delicious, We love 'em and I'm glad we got a second bag that I'm already looking forward to busting open. Authentic? Maybe, maybe not...if you know, tell me. But I'm glad that TJ's has introduced me to this particular chunk of the culinary world, and I know I'll be seeking out the real deal if I ever get the chance. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, September 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bites

Oatmeal is a hearty, nutritious breakfast and all, but I don't usually think of it as a treat. I mean, sure, oatmeal cookies have been a go-to semi-sweet snack for ages. I guess I want to look at these apple cinnamon oatmeal bites as spherical oatmeal cookies. 
They're kinda like the aebelskivers of the snackable oatmeal world. If you can turn pancakes into spheres, why not oatmeal? Or any other breakfast food for that matter?

Resealable bag? Check. Air fryer instructions? Check. Nine frozen oatmeal balls? Check. Like planet earth, these oatmeal bites are not perfect spheres, but might qualify as "oblate spheroids."

After a spell in the Ninja, the bites are crispy and crusty on the outside and wet and gooey on the inside. The dueling textures make them fun and unique, significantly more interesting than traditional oatmeal.


They have a rich, hearty, grainy taste like regular bowl-bound oatmeal, and there's a pretty decent amount of apple and cinnamon flavor. It's not a desserty flavor by my estimation, though. The flavor is on par with a regular non-spherical apple cinnamon oatmeal. They're not as cookie-esque as I might have hoped. They're more breakfasty in terms of sugary decadence—or rather, a decided lack thereof. That's fine. I kinda wish they were just a taaad sweeter. Would you think me a monster if I added maple syrup or whipped cream or something?


The convenience level is significant, and there's a definite novelty factor here. $3.99 for 3 servings. I think we're looking at about three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Bamba Puffed Peanut & Corn Snacks with Hazelnut Creme Filling

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Choco Taco. It's a great idea, right? If meat, cheese, beans, and other salty, savory ingredients work in a particular format, why wouldn't a bunch of sweet, desserty ingredients work in the same manner?

So instead of taking the classic arrangement of a taco and turning it into a dessert, this is almost like doing the same with Combos bite-sized stuffed snacks. Instead of cracker or pretzel as an outer shell, we have a classic Bamba peanut puff. Instead of cheese filling, we've got Nutella-esque hazelnut creme right down the middle of these cylindrical snacks.

Of course Bamba peanut poofs are much lighter and less dense than any Combos shell I've had, but they're still rigid enough to serve as the vehicle for a generous dollop of rich hazelnut creme in each and every bite. The original peanutty Bamba snacks were very popular in Israel. I'm not sure if this version is big over there in the Levant, too, or if this is a "LOL stupid, fat Americans will only eat peanut snacks if they're stuffed with chocolate" kind of thing. I do see that this version, as well as the original, is a "Product of Israel."


Chocolate and peanut butter is a combination that's hard to get wrong. I mean, it's hazelnut creme, not "chocolate" per se, but there is real cocoa in the ingredients. 

Did you know how Nutella came to be? In WW2, there was a cocoa shortage throughout Europe, but an Italian confectioner named Ferrero found he could use hazelnuts to stretch out his limited cocoa supply. Amazing. Let's hope WW3 yields similar delicious discoveries.

These things are scrumptious. There's actually a good balance between the peanut and hazelnut flavors. They're still crispy and crunchy, but there's a nice smooth component now, too. At least as addictive as their predecessor, it's seriously kind of a struggle to not eat the whole bag in one sitting, although supposedly there are three servings in there.

Their only drawback? They're a little oily. You'll need a napkin or a wet wipe when you're done, unless you're really into that whole finger-lickin' good vibe.

$1.69 for the bag. That's a great value in my book. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Perfect five from me.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Sour Jelly Beans

 

My dad has a saying he'll pull up from time to time: If everyone were to gather together, and be able to lay all their problems and troubles down in its own pile, then be able to walk around and shop for a new pile, most people would end up picking their own back up. 

Been an interesting past couple weeks here. Back to school, work stress, COVID cases and close contacts throwing a wrench into many a plan...I could go on, but nah. I got my pile, you got yours. That's not to say i don't care about others' problems - I do - but maybe what's really trying to be said by that saying is, a lot of times, anything that could leave a sour taste in my mouth doesn't amount to much more than a hill of beans in the long run. 

Now only if it could be a hill of Trader Joe's Sour Jelly Beans. That'd be a pile I'd pick again and again. 

Late summer/not quite fall is an odd time to debut such a product, I'd think. We should be grateful these aren't Sour Pumpkin Spice beans or some weirdo concoction, though I'm afraid I just gave somebody an idea. Why not spring, when jelly bean season is literally hoppin' with the Easter bunny? Don't know. Oh well.


Anyways, these little sour jelly beans are pretty tasty. Of course, the sour candy standard would be Sour Patch Kids, and while TJ's beans lack the punch of SPK's, there's still enough to go around. I personally enjoyed offering some to my kids without telling them they were sour just to see the little puckered faces they'd make. That was worth the price of admission right there. But to me I'd say the beans are more tart, and a little sweet, kinda like, well, a SweeTart than actually really truly sour. 

The different colors are probably meant to denote different flavors, but they all taste more or less the same, with perhaps a little variance in the sweet/tart ratio. Pretty colors though. 

And the descriptor "chewy" is right on. The beans aren't gelatinous in a typical jelly bean kinda way - they're definitely more just "chewy" which is absolutely fine and it works. 

The real sour part, though, may be when my lovely bride reads this review and realizes the kids and I ate the whole package while she was out. Sorry, love. It's a small bag, it just kinda happens...next time I go to TJ's I'll get one just for you.

Anyways this small pack of sour snacks isn't life changing or incredibly good or bad...it just kinda is. That's not a bad thing. Personally I'd love more sour bite, but as is, the jelly beans are good enough to get a pass in my book. $1.49 for the package? Sounds right. I'd pick them up again for sure. Now about everything else...

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sour Jelly Beans: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Trader Joe's Sweet & Savory Lightly Spiced Pumpkin Spread

So technically pumpkin's a fruit, right? The experts say so anyway. And we know we're supposed to accept the opinions of the experts and not really rock the boat with dissenting opinions these days.

So my question is: why isn't this "pumpkin fruit spread." Hmmm? All the other fruits like pineapple, apple, watermelon, strawberry, banana, and peach all got "fruit spread" as part of their condiments' monikers.

Maybe it's because some people don't accept pumpkin as a fruit and think of it more as a vegetable. So why isn't it "pumpkin vegetable spread"? Maybe there's an unfair bias against pumpkins.

Or maybe Trader Joe's just didn't want to open that can of worms and start an all-out war between those who think of pumpkin as a vegetable and those who think of pumpkin as a fruit. They just decided to sit on the fence and let you the consumer decide. Not pumpkin fruit spread. Not pumpkin vegetable spread. Just pumpkin spread.

Whether fruit or vegetable or both or neither, the packaging on this product is fun. Kinda rustic and farmer's market-esque. There are at least a couple elements that are totally unnecessary and simply for show. I guess they're channeling that homemade and put in a Mason jar sorta vibe.


Opening the jar, the smell is...unique. It's almost like honey...mixed with an odd gourd-like smell. Like it actually smells like when you're carving a jack-o-lantern and you have the pumpkin guts all over newspapers on the floor and you're pulling the seeds out of the wet, stringy innards of the pumpkin. Like that—and honey.

Pumpkin is the number one ingredient here. There's actually no honey in the mix, but I'm guessing cane sugar yields a sweetness comparable to that of honey. This isn't a spoon it out of the jar type spread here in my opinion. It needs to be mixed and tempered with other foods and ingredients in order to be palatable. The jar suggests eating it with cheeses, cold cuts, roasted meats, or vegetables.


We tried it with crackers and goat cheese and it sorta kinda worked I guess. We tried it with turkey cold cuts and that wasn't really a winner, either. I guess I'm just struggling to find a purpose for this condiment. I need a pumpkin spread pairing wheel like they do with wines and stuff here. The suggestions on the jar are too vague.

Still it's an interesting product, not hampered by an excess of pumpkin spices or cloying, unchecked sweetness. I can't decide if I like the chunks of raw actual pumpkin floating throughout the mixture or if I think they're gross. Time will tell. For now, I give this stuff two and a half stars. Sonia will go a full star higher with three and a half.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Sunflower Butter Cookies with Roasted Sunflower Seeds

"Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you!"

Ugh. I hate that sentiment, and with a brother just two years older than me, it's one I'm well acquainted with from growing up. I can hear that sing-songy tune right now. It grates. 

And now, with kids of my own, I see this attitude playing out again...and again...and again...and again...

...and again, but instead of sibling rivalry, this time it's with Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Sunflower Butter Cookies with Roasted Sunflower Seeds. 

Who's doing the mocking though?

It's the ol' good 'merican standby: Peanut butter. 

Listen: it's fine that sunflower seed butter *exists*. I get it. Allergies are a thing, and some folks have to be careful, and it's great that replacement products and concepts are made and distributed to address that market need. +1 for capitalism there. Also, some people, for some odd reason, just prefer sunflower seed butter. To each their own, just don't infringe on my right to scrape out the Jif jar with a spoon. To me, peanut butter always has and will always be king. 

Maybe that's a big reason why, when it comes down to it, I just don't like these cookies all that much. They're undeniably sunflower buttery in a way that tries to emulate peanut butter but just can't. The first bite is bland and earthy, a touch salty, and with the soft and crumbly texture of the cookies it begs the question if I had just partaken of a clump of dirt. The seeds atop the cookies give a little crunch, but not in any sort of satisfying way. It's just there, and that's about it. 

Most of the rest of the tste experience is decidedly towards the bland side before taking a turn for the worse. You may as well add a bunch of sugar and sweeteners to try to overcompensate for the initial blandness. It just doesn't work here - while not overtly overboard, it doesn't mesh well and just tastes odd. I don't like it.


To be fair, I'm not sure I'd like these cookies much more if they were peanut butter anyways. It's just not a good cookie. Also, my mouth slightly itches for about five minutes after eating one.

And lest you think I'm overly prejudiced against sunflower butter, my lovely bride, with a palate much more gracious than mine at these kinda things, didn't like 'em much either. One bite was quickly followed by a grimace with a quick "sunflower butter doesn't work well in baking" comment. I've eaten enough of her cakes to know she knows what she's talking about. 

Oh well. at least they didn't turn green. I know that's harmless but unless it's St Patrick's Day, no green cookies please.

Yeah, no. We'll likely finish the box...eventually...but we are in no rush. The dozen cookies cost around $3 to $4 , so it's not a bad value for vegan gluten-free allergen free cookies, and I'm sure there's some fans out there, but that's not here. We'll be nice and do them some double deuces.  

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Sunflower Butter Cookies with Roasted Sunflower Seeds: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Chickpea & Red Lentil Risoni

Did you know you can eat more food if you eat very quickly? It's true. If you eat slowly, you can feel yourself getting full. If you eat too fast, you're far more likely to overeat.

I did that with this deceptively dense and filling rice substitute for my "second breakfast" meal the other day. It was my first time trying risoni. I made about two thirds of the six-serving box, threw in some olive oil and onion salt and started chowing down.

Within minutes I had eaten about half the portion that I made, which if you do the math, is about two full servings of the product. I don't think I'll see any long-term weight gain or anything like that, but in 5 or 10 minutes these legume-based "grains" expanded in my tummy and made it feel FULL as can be, and lemme tell ya, I had some massive postprandial somnolence going on. I could barely function for a few hours. Didn't expect that from a box of chickpeas and lentils.


Full disclosure, I did add some cheese before I finished my portion—er two portions, rather—because I felt it lacked a little zing. I mean it lacked zing the way plain rice lacks zing. It's actually much tastier than I thought it would be.

Usually mid-morning, Sonia is still in coffee and cereal mode, but on this particular occasion, she followed my lead and finished the other half of the risoni in the sauce pan well before elevensies. She was even more impressed than I was and wound up more than full after consuming approximately two regular servings of this would-be side dish turned stand-alone meal randomly prepared and consumed on this Labor Day weekend.

There's an earthy richness that white rice lacks here, however, both risoni and rice need at least a little bit of salt to be palatable, if you ask me. Texture-wise, it's slightly more al dente than regular rice, but still somewhat soft and supple. Along with olive oil and cheese, this could be a stand-alone meal, or at least a snack. We both think it would go great as a side for chicken or fish, or basically wherever you'd use rice or cauliflower rice or orzo type foods.

$2.99 for the box. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Meatless Meat Eater's Pizza

As you're likely more than well aware of by now, life is full of endless contradictions and redundacies. Who am I to depress you by pointing more out? We're diversion, not real life commentary, for the most part. 

Still, the name "Trader Joe's Vegan Meatless Meat Eater's Pizza" is a bit of a headache. It's both vegan (one definition) and meatless (another definition), which I understand the nuances betweenn't those words. It's like a square and rectangle thing. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is necessarily a square. Duh. Thanks, sixth grade geometry. But...why use both? Then use the phrase "meat eater"? Is the phrase "meat lover" trademarked or taboo? Is the meat eater the vegan meatless entity here, really, and not the pizza? But then how can one be a meatless meat eater, unless you're referring to one's body as being composed of meat, and being a person who has to eat, which while technically true is unecessarily complicated and creepy for a food product name for it to point out? This whole thing makes me go for the Excedrin. 

Good thing this is actually a surprisingly good pizza.

Not gonna lie: I had somewhat low expectations for this pizza, based on nothing but a whim. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. Usually I can taste the difference between vegan meat substitutes and the real deal, but here, whether the pepperoni, the sausage, or the "chorizo style crumbles" it tasted 100% real. Everything was properly spiced, and had a little pseudo gristle which passed off as close enough to real deal, and dare I say, was even a little meaty. To be sure, each of the not-meats were a touch softer than the real deal, but man, it could have fooled me if I weren't paying close attention. Exceptionally well done here, TJ's.

If anything here is the vegan tell, it's the cheese. And that's not a knock. Don't let the pic fool you - while not looking overly melty like a good mozzarella, it has a shockingly creamy mouthfeel. A little too creamy. But it's a plus and not a minus - maybe some of that is a diversion away from the textural differences of the meat subsitutes. Can't say I've had a mozzarella quite like that - soft, mild, creamy - and while not true to the real thing, it works pretty well on this particular pie.  

The one thing, though, is this: the crust. It's a pretty standard frozen pizza crust. While that's not a demerit all by itself, the first ingredient, out of all things, is wheat flour. Listen: TJ's went thru all the trouble of making passable pepperonis, salient sausages, choice chorizos and melty mozzarellas out of things like soy and peas and mushrooms and coconuts and whatever else...but not a decent gluten free crust to really seal the deal and drive this baby home? Jeez Louise. The mind boggles. Check all the boxes next time, TJ's. 

Also: an ingredient is listed as rice brain oil in both the sausagey subs. Not rice bran. Rice brain. I don't want to eat rice with a brain, and does that make it an animal and therefore a meat? More Excedrin STAT. 

At least the tomatoes are most likely vegan, even if beefstakes.

Anyways, my lovely bride and I were most happy with this purchase for $5ish for an easy dinner for the two of us, and we'd likely do again. No headache about that, it's an easy choice. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Meatless Meat Eater's Pizza: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

 
 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Garden Vegetable Soup

Soup is a good fall and winter food. It's also nice when it rains. We've been making up for a relatively dry summer with heavy rainfall nearly every day for the past week or so here in the northern midwest. So I thought a nice bowl of hot soup was in order.

First impression: it's quite thick. Sonia noted that the product is almost stew-like, since there's relatively little liquid in relation to the large, plenteous vegetable chunks. She likes it that way. She doesn't like "soupy soups," as she put it.

As far as texture is concerned, I'll agree. It's very chunky and hearty. Surprisingly so. Add anything like crackers or croutons, and they quickly absorb what little wateriness there is, resulting in something nearly as thick as traditional gumbo.

Flavor-wise, however, I thought the soup was too salty. Rather than relying on the actual vegetables for crisp garden produce type flavors, all I tasted was a briny, tomatoey liquid.


Even the veggies themselves seemed too saturated with the broth to taste anything other than something salty and vaguely tomato-esque. Too bad, because there's pretty much a whole garden in that jar: potato, sweet potato, spinach, carrot, kale, celery, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, etc...

Sonia thinks the flavor is fine, too. She'll give it four stars.


$3.99 for the three serving jar. We've seen much better soup from Trader Joe's over the years in my personal opinion, but this one does come in a Mason jar you can keep, and it's shelf-stable for about two years from date of purchase. So...three stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Trader Joe's Chocolate Mochi Cake Mix with Peanut Butter Frosting Mix

 

Ask my lovely bride a simple yes or no question, and chances are you won't get a simple answer. 

For the sake of our marriage, going on nearly twelve years now, I won't get into too many specific examples of this. But it kinda drives me crazy, even though I should be used to by it now. I mean, we've been together for long enough, and I've never gotten a yes/no answer...but anyways...

Most recent/relevant example: when i was trying to bake the Trader Joe's Chocolate Mochi Cake Mix with Peanut Butter Frosting Mix for a dessert the other night. the instructions called to bake it in an 8x8 baking pan. I couldn't find it. I asked her if she's seen one around or if we had one. "Well that's the one you exploded that one time because of whatever you did in the oven and remember all that broken glass..."

Thanks for the fond memories. Did we have another one, maybe a spare or we rebought one? Can't remember everything. But apparently the answer was no. I baked it in a 9x7x2 instead. Can you guess what you're getting for Christmas, my love?

Good times. 

Anyways, on to brownies. 

Wait, I mean chocolate mochi cake. Which really is a lot like brownies when it comes down to it.

I mean, sure. It's rice flour, gluten free, a little chewy and bouncy. Emphasis on a little. That's all fine and well, but when translated via a chocolate flavor, my 'merican mouth can't shake the sense that it's essentially a brownie. Can a brownie by any other name taste as good? The answer to this yes/no question: Yes, of course. It's a nice chocolatey flavor for the cake, decidedly more towards sweeter milk chocolate than dark, but that's fine. It's chocolate. 

I may have muffed the frosting mix atop. It's kinda the reason I'm not showing you a pic of my creation. The instructions said to get an electric mixer and cream a stick of butter with the PB powder in the box. That sounded like too much work and dishes, so I instead slightly softened a stick via microwave and mixed the powder in by hand before putting in the fridge to reset. The cake was also kinda warm when I put it on, so yeah...not a visually appealing creation, but that's on me, not TJ's. Tasted fine, and while not really PB by any stretch, it wasn't some overly sweet annoying imitation concoction either, and it worked well with the cake because it's chocolate and peanut butter. 

We all liked it, and if you asked us if we'd buy again, I'd say sure, the kids would give an emphatic "Yes!" and Sandy would eventually give an answer that translated to a yes...I think. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Mochi Cake Mix with Peanut Butter Frosting Mix: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, August 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Peach Fruit Spread

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

That's what they say, anyway. I always assume that's what's going on when someone does something I'm doing. As a school kid, back when I had a full head of blond hair, I got a spike. A week later, half my class showed up at homeroom with pointy Bart Simpson haircuts and tubes of hair gel in hand. What a trendsetter I am, I thought to myself.

Or a slightly more recent example: one day I brought a Trader Joe's brand beverage to work. And two days later, some co-workers followed suit and brought TJ's drinks along, too. Same thing happened with cookies, sauces, pastries... Cheers, friends. Great minds think alike.

I mean, they might have been making fun of me in some underhanded, passive-aggressive way. But I had no reason to think that, nor would I have cared even if it were the case. I'll always just assume the best, refer to the first line of this post, and carry on with business as usual.

But what about when somebody imitates themself? I mean, isn't that what we have here? Trader Joe's already offered us a pretty stellar fruit spread made with real peaches. If it ain't broke, then why try to fix it?


Could be a 3rd party supplier issue. Could be people were scared off by the "Bellini" part of the product. I mean, it did contain real white wine, but not even enough to make mention of an alcohol content. Whatever the reason, I say, if you're going to imitate yourself, keep the product at least as good as it was and hopefully make a few improvements.

Organic peaches. Organic cane sugar. I guess those are upgrades. No Prosecco. Whether that's an improvement or not depends upon your perspective, I suppose.

One thing some people might like that I wasn't particularly thrilled with: bigger peach chunks. The peaches in the previous iteration were pureed. There are big wads of pure peach here that simply don't want to spread onto toast smoothly. Again, some people might not mind that. I guess it works for pie filling or smoothie ingredients.


Flavor-wise, the two products are very similar. You could taste the white wine before, which I liked. This flavor is more purely peach. Neither product was overly sweet, but this one might even be a smidge less sugary. I'd probably settle on the same score for both if it weren't for those large, slightly stringy peach masses scattered throughout this jar. I'll go half a star lower. Sonia will keep her score the same, stating that she likes it just as much and at $2.49 for the jar, it's significantly less expensive.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee

Coffee demands honesty, so let's just get right to it:

Is there any truthful way I can persuade you that Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee is, somehow, miraculously, an an actual legitimately good coffee option that'd make you want to either skip the drive thru, walk by the neighborhood shop or stash away your Mason jars and clear that shelf in your fridge?

HAHAHAHAHAHA. No way. 

It's not great coffee, by any stretch. To complicate things, it's not like there's an actual, tried and true recipe for success here. It's: grab a spoon, throw a scoopful-ish into 12oz of cold water, stir, sip. Too weak? Add more coffee. Too strong? Add more water. Sip. Repeat as necessary. I mean, sure, that's a way to do things, but when I'm tired and in a rush that necessitates resorting to instant friggerin' coffee, I have neither the time no the mental facilities to go full out Bill Nye and experiment my way into something resembling a passable cuppa joe. And pardon me for assuming, but that's likely a statement we'd share. Reliable, decent coffee is what we want and demand, and while there's probably a way to figure out how to make one with this particular cannister of powder, is it really worth the effort? 

I will give it this, though. I am somewhat of a cold brew snob. Why add to these hot, humid summer by swallowing down a steaming cup of coffee? Ugh. Many cold brews I have tasted, whether from a shop, a chain, or a prepackaged type deal, have had this unnecessarily bittersweet bite. Some even taste like tin. Yuck. The TJ's instant cold brew possesses none of that. It's just plain ol' boring coffee, kinda earthy and flat. But not flat earthy cuz that's just weird.  It lacks much of any description and is neither bold nor weak, neither sweet nor overly bitter, neither here nor there. I mean, it's not like that great cup of nitro cold brew from the neighborhood coffee shop, but it's not dirt and water either. It's just coffee, admittedly closer to Sanka than Starbucks, but still. Doctoring it up with cream and sweeteners may help if you're into that kinda thing. I'm not, so your mileage may vary. 

I'll keep it stashed away at my work desk, because if there's a true affront to coffee here, it's the work pot. Yikes. Need a change up every once in a while and this, not entirely unfortunately, will have to do. My lovely bride isn't going to bother with it and I don't blame her. I'll be nice and not completely trash the coffee - I mean, it is instant coffee, it's not like those Arabica beans chose this destiny for themselves, I'm not gonna hate on their existence, and at the end they still give me caffeine. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 


Monday, August 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Lemonade


Few things are as refreshing as lemonade on a hot summer day, especially after a strenuous activity like mowing the lawn. You wipe the sweat off your brow, walk into the air conditioning, and fire up the kettle to boil a nice piping hot cup of lemonade, or in this case, sparkling lemonade.

Oh, but wait... This particular product is subtly recommending that you consume it cold. Isn't that odd? The box plainly reads "Best Enjoyed CHILLED." Remove one of the slim cans from outer packaging and it too reads "Best Enjoyed CHILLED." Glance at the spiel on the reverse side of the can, and there's another line reminding consumers to "Keep it cold..." Even the website says "We recommend serving Trader Joe's Sparkling Lemonade ice cold..."

Does this stuff spontaneously combust if you heat it up like a normal mug of summer time lemonade? If consumed at room temperature, will it cause internal hemorrhaging or something like that?


Alright, alright. Fine, I'll take the advice of the experts and put these in the fridge for a while. Maybe I'll even throw in an ice cube or two. It's apparently vitally important that this product remain absolutely frigid.

And you know what, it's not bad that way. It's almost as if I've been drinking lemonade wrong all these years. Cold lemonade. You heard it here first, folks. Way better than hot lemonade, even with marshmallows on top.

Okay, I'll tone down the sarcasm for the rest of this post. Promise. With only three ingredients, it's not hard to imagine what this product tastes like. There's carbonated water, sugar, and concentrated lemon juice. It errs on the side of "not too sweet" at least compared to most other lemonade beverages I've tried.

It's mildly tart and lemony, as you'd expect. It tastes very natural. The carbonation is a nice touch. I wouldn't have minded it with a tad more of the sweet and tart elements. The flavor's not particularly intense. It's more in the direction of "light and refreshing," which isn't a bad thing at all.

I think it was $3.99 for four cans. Might be a repeat purchase. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Eggwich Breadless Breakfast Sandwich

Age old question time: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In the case of Trader Joe's Eggwich Breadless Breakfast Sandwich, the answer is pretty clear to me: the chicken.

Huh?

Years ago, remember when KFC made waves with their sandwich using two slabs of fried chicken as the bun? If memory serves correctly, Taco Bell followed soon after with a fried chicken taco shell. While perhaps not the first ever entities to do so, I feel as though that's when the idea of using protein in place of carbs for sandwiches got introduced to the general public consciousness. That's straight spitballing with no research behind it whatsoever,so if I'm wrong I'm wrong, but I'm sticking to it...for now. 

Anyhoos, the TJ's eggwich. Love me a good breakfast sandwich, and while tough to screw up, they unfortunately can be. Just ask the new cafe by my workplace. Ugh. 

What struck me yet again about this kind of sandwich is how normal it all tasted. Like, the lack of carbs was scarcely noted. Certainly, a good bagel or croissant or whatever can add to the overall appeal of a sandwich, but when not there and everything else is good enough as is, their lack of presence really isn't a huge deal. 

That'd be the case here. First off, the eggs. Certainly, they're not as good as fresh-cracked ones, but for a frozen egg entity it'll do just fine. The egg pucks are a bit firm, to be sure, but not rubbery or chewy or anything, and not too un-egg-like to elicit much response. 

The turkey sausage and cheese are pretty standard issue, without much to note. If you want to add a little salsa or hot sauce to liven it up, by all means, go for it. As is, there's a nice little white pepper/black pepper to give the whole sandwich a little savory flair. It's all not all that greasy at all. 

I like 'em, as does my lovely bride. Apparently Costco sells a version of something similar to this which we neglected to price-check, so I'm not 100% sure of how great a deal that two of them for $3.99 is, but I know that's about what one breakfast sandwich costs most anywhere these days unless you're going off a drive thru value menu. So there's that. These sandwiches are very likely rebuy to help tide over on the busy mornings as school winds its way back up and I'm back in the office for my daytime job. Decent sandwiches for sure, so don't be too chicken to try 'em out!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Eggwich Breadless Breakfast Sandwich: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Onion Salt

Right there on the front of the shaker, it says this product is "a savory allium blend." I've heard the word allium before, but I had to look it up.

It's the genus that includes many of the most delicious plants on God's green earth: garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, and chives.

More like alli-YUM, am I right?

Furthermore, their medicinal properties are epic. I've cured bacterial infections and lowered my blood pressure with raw garlic, for example. Now, make no mistake, this isn't medical advice...but if it were medical advice, it might just be the best medical advice you ever received.

To be sure, you need the raw stuff to get those wizard-level health benefits from the allium family, so you're not going to be putting any pharmacists out of business with products like this one. However, the scrumptious savory flavors of the allium family are here in spades.

It's not just onion you'll taste. There's garlic and chives in the mix, too. Also kosher salt...hence the word "salt" in the product title. I wouldn't have been heartbroken if it were just onion, garlic, and chives. You can always add your own salt if you wish. Furthermore, why leave out shallots, leeks, and scallions from the mix..?

The side of the label says to try it with eggs or stir into sour cream for a dip. I did both. At the SAME TIME. Pretty delicious. Garlic and onion sour cream-topped scrambled eggs are the bomb.

$1.99 for a 2 oz. shaker. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me. I'd love to hear what else you do with this stuff in the comments below.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Iced Raspberry and Cream Cheese Danish Strip

 Ah, vacation. Right?

My lovely bride and I say often we go on vacation to eat, and while mostly somewhat true, we have to attack our food game plan strategically. I mean, we only have so many dollars, and God knows enough kids, and trying to keep everyone more or less happy away from the familiarities of home is challenging at times...or often when it's 100 degrees in Washington DC like it was last week when we went...but anyways.

So, yes, we enjoy going out and checking different restaurants and bakeries and whatnots, but usually stop at a TJ's for some staples and easy treats, so while something like Trader Joe's Iced Raspberry and Cream Cheese Danish Strip would never make into our cart at home, it will when it means an easy, relaxing morning at the AirBnB. It had a pool...and chickens too! Sounds better than wandering and sweating aimlessly around the National Mall.

I mean, what can be said here. I think the pic really says it - you can basically taste it by looking it. There's nothing special or unique or amazing or anything here. It's a large, easily shareable Danish in strip form. So it's good...but great? 

Nah. The whole shebang is a bit thicker than I thought it'd be, so that's a good start - nobody likes a flimsy Danish. The crust itself is thick and layered and buttery and appropriately bready and flaky where needed, but all that needs more filling to balance out. here's where it falls short - not quite enough raspberry or cream cheese. Maybe 50% more of each would be perfect, so it's not like a smidge off. And it's a shame, because both those components are quite tasty - the jam is nice, sugary and tart, while the cream cheese is cool and creamy, and work well together as one would expect. All that icing atop is a good touch - maybe a touch less would be fine, but it's not worth making a fuss over as is. 

But anyways, for it being a grocery store breakfast treat more than large enough for the family, for like $5, instead of $8 slices of pie (delicious!), $5 popsicles (also tasty) or $6 cookies (also good) - all of which we also purchased while on our trip - we will take it and may buy again next time we're on the road. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Iced Raspberry and Cream Cheese Danish Strip: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

p.s. - Unrelated to this post, I finally saw and bought a bottle of Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Beer while away....never drank it....and accidentally left it in the fridge at the AirBnB. TJ's doesn't sell alcohol in my home state of PA. If anyone can somehow help me get a bottle please let me know - I really want to try one!



Friday, August 13, 2021

Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cake Mix with Lemon Icing

All right, kids, happy Friday! It's time for another episode of Baking with Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers. For today's treat, we'll be making Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cake. Or, more accurately, Mrs. Rodgers will be making a cake while Mr. Rodgers chronicles the adventure in this super-duper fun and exciting blog post. Remember, it's Friday the 13th, and disaster could strike at any moment, so don't turn that oven up too high. Pre-heat to 350 degrees and that should about do it.

All you'll need is your Meyer Lemon Cake Mix, a stick of butter, an egg, and some water. Of course, you'll want a loaf pan to bake in, too. Mmm. That batter looks tasty. Mrs. Rodgers isn't thrilled when I stick my grubby paws into the cake batter to sneak a lick, but we'll go ahead and do that anyway. Yum. It's sweet and lemony. Ouch! Stop hitting me, Mrs. Rodgers!

Now we have to wait 50 to 55 minutes while the cake bakes. And then...we have to wait another 45 minutes while it cools? What the what? Who has the willpower to do that?

I was once told the following rhyme about restraint and self-control:

"Patience is a virtue
And virtue is a Grace
And Grace is a little girl
Who would not wash her face."


It never helped me with waiting, but I suppose it distracted me momentarily. It's more relevant when you know someone named Grace, which I don't. I digress.

Yikes! Mrs. Rodgers burned herself on the oven rack while removing the loaf pan. Now she has a funny dark line on her forearm. Usually I'm the one who does something clumsy in the kitchen. Oh well. There's always a bit of bad luck on Friday the 13th.

Like an eon later, while waiting for the cake to cool, it's time for Mrs. Rodgers to mix the water, butter, and icing mix together. She might have used a little more than 2 tablespoons of butter, but that's fine. It still looks tasty. It is tasty. And I'm being scolded for once again dipping my finger into the mixture before it's done, this time the icing rather than the cake batter. Oooh. That's sweet.

The cake is super moist and dense. It's pretty lemony, too, although I would almost always prefer more intense lemon flavor. It's really more like a vanilla cake with a lemon essence or lemon zing. There's an adequate amount of icing if you distribute it evenly over the whole loaf. In fact, I think we have a bit left over, which we will manually apply to unfrosted portions in the center of the cake.

The outer crust of the cake is golden brown and is much firmer than the cake in the center. I kinda prefer the soft, spongy, inner portions, while Mrs. Rodgers likes the toastier brown parts.

$3.29 for a tasty loaf of sweet, soft cake with a respectable amount of lemonosity. Four stars a piece from Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers. Thanks for hanging out with us today, everybody. Join us next time for more zany antics and culinary mayhem on Baking with Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee BBQ Sauce


 Inarguably, there's few things that pair together better in these hot summer months than some grilling or smoking and a cold, cold beverage. It's especially true if said cold beverage is a little sudsy and a bit hoppy, at least for me, but really, any cold one could do. 

However, coffee isn't the first drink that comes to mind when it comes to grilling. If you're pulling an all-nighter on a mega "slow and low" session, sure, I can get it. I don't do those at this stage in my life. If I'm up all night it's usually not for something fun like that. 

However, Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee BBQ Sauce is having me rethink that a little. No, not staying up all night to crutch and foilwrap a piece of meat. It's that maybe...coffee and barbeque make better bedfellows than I lent credence to. 

The base of the sauce is a good, basic, straightforward BBQ sauce. It's sweet and spicy with solid notes of both brown sugar and chili pepper, with apple cider vinegar and molasses adding plenty of depth. There's some sneaky heat towards the ened - it's not high, by any stretch, but spicier than I thought it'd be. Even then, the heat is offset partially and nicely by a little herbal flair. The last ingredient in the sauce is dried rosemary and I swear I tasted that before I read the list. 

So what does the cold brew coffee add?

Plenty. 

There is absolutely a distinct taste of nonacidic, non-bitey, mild, smooth black coffee that permeates the sauce as a core component. I think if all the cold brew and all the rest of the sauce were to somehow be seperated from one another and sampled individually, we'd have a okay cup of cold brew and a decent enough sauce. Put 'em both together though? Another level, and one of the more distinct sauces I've hoad in a hot minute. 

Good stuff. I've used the sauce a few times for pulled pork and it works great. Can't imagine it not working well for brisket or ribs. It may be a touch too heavy for chicken, but I'd give that a try before saying that definitively. If you got a pro tip for the sauce, leave it in a comment below, I'm all ears. 

It's a winner in my family. Costs maybe $4. Gonna keep on keepin' on with it. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee BBQ Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, August 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Peri-Peri Sauce

Okay, here's something totally new to me.

Never heard of peri-peri sauce before. It's pretty rare I'll find something at Trader Joe's that I'm completely unfamiliar with. Usually, I've at least heard of the product online or I've seen it on an ethnic cuisine menu. I'm reviewing it today as much to open up a discussion about it as I am telling you my thoughts and opinions.

What it is: it's a thin, orange liquid. It's thinner than most condiments—definitely thinner than ketchup, cocktail sauce, or sriracha. It's spicy. There's a taste of hot chilies. Has some kick for sure. Higher than a 5 out of 10 on my spice-o-meter. Mouth and throat-tingling from the first bite.

What it's not: it's not sweet at all. This isn't a desserty thing. There's absolutely no sugar or sweeteners of any kind in the bottle. It's not like curry in any way. It's not coconutty, nor milky, nor by that same measure is it bitter—although it almost has the same effect on the palate that bitter tastes do, if that makes any sense at all. It's a little harsh in a way that makes me want to wince in the same manner I do with bitter foods.

Ten seconds into an internet search and I'm seeing that this is, in fact, a traditional African sauce. This variety contains no tomato or vinegar which, from what I'm reading, might not be the norm for this condiment.

I can confirm it goes well with white fish, and I'm certain it would work on grilled chicken, too. I had it with crab cakes and tried it on French fries, and it's okay with those. It obviously provides some heat to whatever you add it to. I'm struggling to think of other applications for this stuff.

Once again, I'm grateful to try an international product for a reasonable price, thanks to Trader Joe's: $3.29 for 6.76 fl oz. I have no idea how to score this fairly. I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly if you're familiar with other versions of peri-peri sauce.

Product of South Africa. SA is crazy chaotic right now. Hope the folks there are doing okay. Wonder how long until that type of discord is seen in the good ol' US of A..?

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.