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Friday, October 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice

 

Earlier this week, we discussed rice turned into stuffing, so in the name of equality, it's only appropriate to now cover stuffing turned into rice...right?

Look, I was just as bewildered as you may currently may be at the existence of something known as Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice. I mean...well, as my duty, I shall grab a couple bags and make it for dinner and let y'all know what I think. I chance family dinner time for you all a lot. 

In all honesty, though, the stuffing fried rice is a decent enough product. The first bites are a bit odd, yes. Wish I would have filmed the reaction of my lovely bride. She's the cutest when she looks all quizzical. There's the initial comfort of, yes, stuffing..all that rosemary and sage and customary flavorings...but also the realization it's in a different form, known roughly equally as well for its comfort vibes. It's unmistakably stuffing in fried rice form. Taste and texture do not match. Brain must compute. It's odd. 

Once you get accustomed though...it's good stuff. 


There's carrots and green beans and corn all mixed in for some good veggie representation. Every here and there, you'll get a breadcrumb clump to help remind you'd its kinda like stuffing. Plenty of spices and flavorings all point towards stuffing

Turkey sausage though? That's an interesting choice. That's meant as no offense against turkey sausage. Generally speaking I appreciate it just fine. But still...maybe some turkey shreds might have been a better choice. A couple turkey chunks, all roasted and whatnot? Yeah, there we go. As is, the turkey sausage mini-meatball guys are somewhat nondescript and not overly suggestive of turkey. 

Overall though, the stuffing fried rice is a pretty decent dinner pickup for a quick, easy crowd pleaser. Our kiddos gobbled it down and asked for seconds. And at $3.99 a package, and a few minutes of heating up in our wok, it's not a bad choice and one we are looking to repeat. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turkey Sausage Stuffing Fried Rice: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Chocolatissimo Harvest Collection


You tricksy Chocolatissimo chocolatiers, you! You fooled me into thinking this was a Trader Joe's brand product, but it's actually not. It is, apparently, widely available at many Trader Joe's stores, it employs Trader Joe's-esque fonts and packaging, and really isn't this just like something TJ's would do: chocolates shaped like corn cobs, pumpkins, and nuts? Maybe, maybe not.

I think it seems Joesian enough anyway, and I was really excited about reviewing it. Funfact: out of the 1,660 posts on this blog, at least half a dozen have been non-Trader Joe's brand items. At any rate, it's most definitely harvest time around here and time to look at this chocolatey Harvest Collection.


First impressions: the shapes of the chocolates are intricate and detailed. You can see individual corn kernels on the cobs. The nuts and pinecones have actual ridges and bumps like you'd see on the real thing. There's even a green stem atop the orange pumpkin.

Each candy is filled with a particular flavor of cream or praline. It's not liquid cream—it's solid chocolate, but it's nice and soft and the flavors are very tasty. Sonia and I both agree our favorite is the walnut praline filling. Imagine if they made a chocolate spread with walnuts instead of hazelnuts. It works significantly better than I thought it would.

The hazelnut praline filling errs on the side of sweet milk chocolate rather than that of actual nuts. The crispy variety (the corn cobs) also flaunt a hint of crunchiness, which I think might be teensy tiny little morsels of actual hazelnut. I like the crispy pieces more than the plain smooth ones.


There's also one caramel cream "nut" in the pack. It's like a sweet creamy caramel-flavored chocolate. It's on par with something you mind stumble across in a Whitman's Sampler or something along those lines. Not bad at all, but not Sonia's or my favorite.

$3.99 for a top quality pack of super-cute fall-themed chocolates imported from Belgium. Would work great as a party favor, gift, or mid-day serotonin booster. Might pick up again just for another taste of that walnut flavored filling. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix


 So listen...yes, it's Halloween in a few days and I hate the seasonal creep as much as anyone else. One holiday at a time. Yes, absolutely, yes. 

But stuffing really shouldn't be relegated to "just Thanksgiving" right? Like, when it's one of the first cold rainy days of the fall, when it's a great day to stay inside, watch some movies, play some games, read some books and snuggle some cats, a little warm stuffing will only do, right?

Such as it was this past weekend, and my lovely bride and I wanted to make one of her mom's classic comfort foods, chicken and stuffing. It's...what it sounds like it is, except with some cream of whatever soup and cheddar cheese all dumped in and mixed up. Not classy, per se, but pretty darn delicious. 

As you guessed by now, we used Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix. 

And you know what? it worked. Everything about the celiac friendly stuffing mix hit all the right buttons. We have no express need to be gluten free so we tend to judge these kinda products a bit closely. Honestly, and I mean this a compliment, I'd have no idea this was sans wheat if I didn't know.

No graininess. No dryness. No weird vibes. Okay, a few bites were a bit granular and sandy, but none so more that can happen with "regular" stuffing. That can be the fault of inadequate mixing more than anything. I'd never think that rice flour were capable of such a thing, but technology these days, I guess, right?

For taste, the stuffing gives off all the right flavors. There's all the savory aspects of chicken broth and celery and pepper and yeah, absolutely, a lot of salt. It's all there. If not making our particular dish, adding some apple slices or raisins like my mom did would have been a nice little touch. 

There's really not much to suggest that the TJ's GF stuffing is all that much different from Stove Top or even a decent homemade variety. It's easy and convenient and delish - all our kiddos gobbled it down and begged for seconds. Winner winner...turkey dinner? Grab some if you see it. $3ish bucks so it's worth it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap


I don't think a lot of kids like lentils. I know Sonia didn't develop an appreciation for the lens-shaped legume until her late teenage years. I guess I don't blame her. She had lots of tasty home cooked Mexican food as a kid and there was no need to explore unusual soups or strange beans to expand her horizons until much later.

I, on the other hand, had weird food limitations and restrictions due to allergies, so my parents always bought alternative foods and tried to get me interested in stuff like lentil soup from a very early age. I actually loved it at first bite. Lentils as the centerpiece of a meal doesn't seem strange or unappetizing to me at all. On the contrary, this product sounded pretty good to both the beautiful wifey and me.


What's working here: tasty lentils, red pepper paste, and fresh cabbage all wrapped up in a thin layer of soft lavash bread with a beautiful blend of other spices and flavors like onion, parsley, cumin, and pink peppercorn. There's actually a decent kick to the wrap, spice-wise. It's mostly a smooth, zesty mush, but the cabbage adds a welcome crunch to the texture.

What's not working? I actually wanted more cabbage in our particular specimen, mainly for that crisp crunch factor. Sonia wanted more tahini sauce. It added a nice spicy earthiness, but there wasn't enough in the packet to cover each bite of the wrap.


Also, holy high blood pressure alert, Batman! More than two thirds of your daily sodium if you eat the whole wrap in one sitting, which is quite plausible. I mean, Sonia and I shared it for lunch, but we supplemented it with other snacks. I could have easily downed the whole thing myself, and I'd bet she could have too. Sonia did complain that it was way too salty. It's a little scary that I didn't think it tasted too salty. I thought it was just about right until I looked at the nutrition info.

$4.49. Vegan. It's a surprisingly enjoyable wrap. Would buy again to share. We're both torn between three and a half and four stars a piece, so we'll go with one of each.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes

Let's see...car can use that oil change. That pile of bills there should probably be looked at. Basement is a mess. That basket of laundry over there isn't gonna take care of itself. Neither will that one...or that one...or that one...

Still...

Okay, fine. Sometimes I have a hard time getting around to getting stuff done, alright? Jeez Louise, leave me alone. 

But still that doesn't explain why it took so long for us to get around to giving Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes. 

There's no reason for procrastination here. None. Don't know what a poffertje is? No problem! As the package clarifies right off the bat for you, it's a mini pancake puff! Don't know what to do with them? No issue either! Look at how tasty they look on the package - now that's a serving suggestion if I've ever seen one. Maple flavored anything is a win in our house, and selling our kiddos on the idea of eating little baby pancakes isn't exactly twisting their arm one bit. 


The TJ's-offered poffertjes (say that 5 times fast) are really as about as straightforward as they come. It's a cheap ($3ish?) box full of frozen mini pancake bites. Bake them for less than 10 minutes, or zap them for a minute, and you got a breakfast snacky. My lovely bride and I opted for the oven approach which yielded mounds of warm, crispy outside/floofy inside pancakes just right for one of the last not-too-cold Saturday morning porch breakfasts of the year. 


There's a small little touch of maple. Not much, and it's a bit understated. i actually kind of appreciate that. nutritionally speaking, these are already a bit much of a cluster, no reason to amp it up even more. That little bit of maple sugar in the batter does stand out a smidge. If you'd like, a little more maple syrup atop, or some powdered sugar and berries as suggested, or something else wouldn't be the worst of moves, but eating them as is isn't a bad experience. We like them fair and square. 

As a quick conspiratorial sidenote: they call them puffs and notice the number of calories per serving. Coincidence? Don't think so. Take two and pass. 

Are the poffertjes truly authentic to the real Dutch deal? Don't know for sure, but it's a reasonable tribute at least. Maybe one of these days I'll find out...til then we'll double 4's them. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  


Friday, October 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps


This product has the "nutty, fruity glass shard" effect going on like we've seen once or twice before in Trader Joe's products. And like those other ultra-crunchy, shatters-in-your-mouth kinetic assault snacks, you could theoretically bite sharp angles around the edge of these crisps and use them in the manner of shuriken, kunei or other throwable ninja weapons. Or you can slather them in thick and creamy cheeses to mitigate potential tooth enamel wreckage and bleeding tongue carnage. While the former is conceivably more fun, the latter is distinctively more delicious. But I suppose you're here to find out what they taste like.


Not to be confused with pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, reviewed 8 years ago this month, here we have non-pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin powder, rather than cranberries and pepitas. The pumpkin powder blends with turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a fancy, unique spice profile. The product is fairly spice-forward by my reckoning, particularly when consumed without cheese or dip. There's also a nutty, wheaty blend in the background, complete with golden flax and sunflower seeds. Bright notes of cranberry top the whole thing off for a surprisingly flavorful and interesting snack crisp.

Honestly, as far as taste is concerned, I think these little cracker-esque bites could stand alone without any cheese or condiments of any kind. The problem is they NEED the cheese to help the texture. If they could make a soft version, I'd inhale these things by the handful. 

The flavor, though pleasant and unique, isn't very intense or strong, so even mild cheese has a tendency to overshadow everything going on in the crisp. We tried them with goat chevre and run-of-the-mill unsophisticated cream cheese. Both yielded more or less the same result: a tasty, creamy snack with a faint pumpkin cranberry whisper in the background. There's still a significant crunch-factor, but it's not intolerably intense thanks to the cheese.

Sonia's teeth must be stronger than mine because she plowed through her share pretty quickly. She gives the product four and a half stars. I want to like them that much, but I can't completely get past the rigid texture. So three out of five from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix

A day without learning something is a day wasted, right?

Today, courtesy of Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix, I learned of jollof the dish.

Here's a tl;dr: jollof is a common West African dish with many variations. At its core are three ingredients: rice, stewed tomatoes, and seasonings. Simple...yet a a mainly blank canvas for all sorts of variations and seasonings and spices to tailer to different tastes. A summary Google search refers to jollof as being a "unifying" dish across different cultures - well, why not? Good food will always bring people together, right?

Is the TJ's take authentic? Nah, probably not. I mean, it's a convenience product first and foremost: boil water, add some butter and salt if you're feeling randy, dump in package contents, stir and simmer. There are some little tomatolicious bitey-bites tossed in for good measure so yeah, not quite "stewed" but it gives a similar enough effect.

Really the only big (and real) "complaint" here is a lack of robust flavor. Really, the whole mdish seems understated. Rice with garlic and onions and pepper and whatever else should have a little bit of a vibe to it, but honestly, not so much here. For the most part, the flavor is rather tame. Granted, there's a small, slight spice that kicks in, but it's super mild in the grand scheme. The word "spicy" seems much of an overstatement in both flavor and heat. I'm kinda tempted to add a spalsh of hot sauce to be honest. 

That being said, the jollof isn't bad....it's not just overwhelmingly great either. I'd eat it happily enough, both the leftovers we have and any repeat purchase at the $2ish this set us back. But yeah, if I were ever in the position to get real, actual, authentic jollof, I'd be pumped for it, with less hesitation due to lack of familiarity thanks to TJ's here. 

Pick it up for a side dish or even a main course. Each package gives four pretty ample servings. Won't change your world but might help broaden your horizon ever so slightly. Double threes here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons




 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Chickpea Masala Salad


I'm not sure how appropriate it is to review this product right now. We're right in the midst of pumpkin, butternut squash, apple, maple, sweet potato season. It's officially fall. October. Autumn. But this here is essentially a cold bean salad. I think of this as more of a summer type food.

But once in a while, it's fun to do something wildly inappropriate. Well, okay, wildly inappropriate might be hyperbole. I mean, look at the colors. They're as fall-ish as you'd want them to be: bright orange and crisp yellow, with vibrant red on the label.

The product tastes as vivid as it looks. Sonia and I were both surprised how much we liked it. I'll eat chickpeas any day of any season, and masala dishes are almost always delicious. I was a bit wary of the "topped with pickled vegetables" part of the equation, though, but it turned out to be the perfect crown for this unique melange of flavors.


Mustard, lemon, onions, garlic, paprika, tamarind, cilantro. You can taste it all. It's nice and spicy, but the actual heat is extremely subtle. As you might expect, there's a rich, earthy, beany flavor at the core of this dish, but it's so much more complex than that. The teensy bits of cauliflower and carrot soaked in brine and vinegar round out the dish with tang and crunch.

The beautiful wifey and I had big plans to put this product in wraps and sandwiches and maybe even slather it on toasted naan bread, but we didn't make it that far. Between the two of us, we polished off the tub in a single day. It just kept calling us back for forkful after forkful of the Indian-spiced bean salad.

Every once in a while Sonia gets mistaken for an East Indian woman. Maybe it's all the masala spices on her breath. I'm sure she'll buy this product again, but she also wants to try to make her own version at home. $4.99 for the 12oz tub. Perfect five from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Cheesy Seasoning Blend


 Growing up, if were gonna have broccoli, my mom would almost always take a huge chunk of Velveeta, toss it into a large Pyrex glass measuring cup, likely add a little milk, and nuke it to make an ooey-gooey cheese sauce for all us kids to drown our veggies in. 

Man. The mere thought of that these days makes pretty much every major body system of mine feel clogged. Awesome for a kid? Sure thing! Don't blame my mama one bit. But now? Not so much. 

Still, cheese goes so great with veggies...there has to be a better way...maybe like the new Trader Joe's Cheesy Seasoning Blend? 

This cheesy sprinkle actually works pretty decently, and packs more of a cheesy punch than expected. Is it a cheese or is it a spice? Or is enough of each to be both? I'm not smart enough to say with all certainty.

But anyways even a light sprinkle on some roasted broccoli gave those trees some cheese to please. I swear it tasted like perhaps i sprinkled a little actual cheese on there, not so much from the globby melty sense but just in the pure flavor sense. Very nice and sharply cheddarific, with a little hint of garlic to boot. Delish. Like it.


I can definitely see this working on more than just veggies, of course. popcorn is an absolute no brainer. Some saldas and pastas and maybe even on pizza could work. Soups too. Or buttered bread. or...well..you get the point. Very little would be better of without a little hit of cheddar. 

And as an added bonus, you know how sprinkle cheese can get all melty then glues itself on dishes? not the case here. As the main dinnertime dish handler in the fam, that's an automatic win.

My lovely bride, our ever-so-charming rugrats and I all liked it. Yeah, we'll be using this a lot. Decent enough - not earth shattering but solid. Double fours cuz why not. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cheesy Seasoning Blend: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Goddess Gouda

I've never been a fan of cheeses with mold growing on them, and I'm kinda allergic, so...fortunately, that green stuff in the wedge isn't mold. If you hadn't figured that out by the title of this post and the label on the product, then I'd have to call you out for being unobservant. But most of you have figured out that the green stuff is, in fact, green goddess-ness. I can't say it's "dressing" per se, because it looks like it's just a bunch of random green goddess-ish ingredients like avocado oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Sonia doesn't think the green goddess flavors come through much at all. I'm not saying they're strong, but I certainly taste them. They blend nicely with the semi-sweet creamy richness of the gouda as they are, and if amplified too much might upset the delicate balance.

We had it with crackers, tried it in vegetable soup, and crumbled it on salad. I'm sure there are dozens of other applications we didn't think of. It worked fine in all cases but wasn't something I'd consider a game-changer.


In the end this green goddess gouda didn't stand out from other Trader Joe's specialty cheeses, nor did it stand head and shoulders above any plain gouda we've had from TJ's or anywhere else. This particular wedge was $3.60. Personally, I don't think we'd purchase again, but it's not a bad concoction by any means—especially if you like green goddess flavors.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo

 

Now that I once again am back to work at home in my basement at least half the time, I've recalled the numerous perks to this kind of arrangement. No commute. Sweatpants. No one minds if I sing along poorly to Amazon Music. Dependably good coffee. There's still catty coworkers, but at least they're the purry, four-legged kind. 

And if for lunch i want something that can be either microwaved or baked in the oven...I can go for the oven. No holds barred. 

Such as it was with the new Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo. Nuke it for two or three minutes, or bake for 40-45? In CubicleLand, there's only the one...at home there's choices...well..let's take advantage then. That's exactly what I did. Lunch lovin' in the oven. Boom. 


Well-seasoned readers may recall I'm a huge fan of the TJ's soy chorizo. It's what made me want to join the TJ's review train years ago - that stuff is legit! And that's coming from a carnivore so that was a huge selling point right there. 

So here's the problem, sorta: this scramb-bowl of stuff just doesn't hold it's own by itself. Not really. This can be seen either way: on one hand, it's adaptable and suitable for a variety of tatse palates and preferences and attitudes. On the other: just feels like it lacks too much. For such a flavor and salt bomb, there's an almost surprising lack of vibrant flavor. No real spice or heat - the teeniest of smidgiest of tinges, sure, but not much. After a few bites I couldn't help but unload a torrent of my alltime favorite TJ's product into my bowl and mix around. Granted, that's kinda my default thing to do with eggy scrambles like this, so take as you will. 


That's the other thing. Aside from flavor, there's something else amiss here to really fill out the meal. It could be..an avocado. Or some sweet potatoes. Or a tortilla. Or tortilla chips. Or even some rice and beans. Something....something is needed to make the whole thing seem more complete. For me, at lunch that meant a bunch of crumbled up sweet potato chips because that's what I had. It kinda worked. 

Everything else is a plus. The tofu does a tremendous job emulating scrambled eggs - mine were dry and firm from its oven prep, so if microwaved YMMV. The cheese seemed like real actual cheddar enough, not a cocounut oil creation. Nothing offputting or weird or distasteful. If I had to go vegan, this would be a great convenience option I'd grab without hesitation. Just need the salsa and something else, too. 

There you have it. Not a bad deal all the way around for the $3ish bucks. Not earth shattering either, and made my day of insurance verifications and authorizations go by a little more happily with a satisfied belly. But not as happily as butchering "SemiCharmed Life" with only myself and the kitties as an audience. Semicharmed life, semihappy meal. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque


Have you noticed that the internet can read your mind now?

I mean, for as long as I can remember, it's shown me targeted ads based on my searches, purchases, and sites that I visit frequently. Then it started to show me ads for things that I'd only talked about, which isn't all that spooky since pretty much every device has a microphone that's listening 24/7. A little creepy, but easily explainable, right?

But lately, I've noticed there are ads for things I haven't even talked about—only thought about. Like after mowing the lawn the other day, I was thinking about how my back felt a little out of alignment. I hadn't thought about visiting a chiropractor in years, but for some reason the notion crossed my mind to look for a local one, and sure enough, the very next time I brought up this very blog, there in the right side bar was an ad for a local chiropractic center. Never said a word about it to anyone.


The logical conclusion? The internet can read my mind. We live in The Matrix. Or there are some ultra-advanced algorithms that have gotten weirdly good at predicting specific events within complex systems. I'm not sure which. Similarly, yet perhaps not quite as dumbfoundingly mysterious, Trader Joe's "read our minds" with this particular iteration of pumpkin soup.

Both Sonia and I had talked about how the pumpkin bisque from a couple years ago was too sweet and would have worked well with other veggies like butternut squash. Lo and behold, here it is in our grocery bag just two years later.

It's still punkinny. It's still creamy. It still has hints of onion, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. But it's much less sweet. Still a little sweet, to be sure, but they toned it down a few notches in a really good way. The savory flavors come through better in this iteration. It has a rich, harvesty taste that's very pleasant.


The part where they neglected to read my mind is where I wanted chunky veggies in the previous version. This one is still very smooth. There are teensy bits and flecks of stuff, but everything is pureed. It wouldn't have hurt the mix to have actual carrot and onion pieces floating throughout. We tossed some of the recently-reviewed veggie bites into our bowls, which partially redeemed them from their boring-ness, and partially redeemed this product from its lack of toothsome chompability.

Sonia's still into this stuff significantly more than I am, but it's a step in the right direction from that super sweet pumpkin bisque in the Mason jar if you ask me.

$3.99 for a 20 oz tub. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.