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Monday, November 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Sugar Plum Sparkling Beverage


Plum just isn't a part of daily life for most people. It does come up each year during the Christmas season once or twice. I guess they put it in Christmas pies..? There's that nursery rhyme everybody knows. I think it goes something like this:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Drinking his sparkling beverage
It had real plum
So he thought he'd gift some
To his boss for maximum leverage.

Or maybe not. Some people might not even like this stuff. In which case, the rhyme might be more along the lines of:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Sippin' on sparkly plum drink
It wasn't that sweet
He thought it tasted like feet
So he spat what was left down the sink.

Or for those who like to get festive with adult beverages:

Big Jack Flair
Sat in a chair
Chugging his Christmas bevvy
He poured in some rum
To mix with his plum
And said, "Man I can't drive my Chevy."

That's right folks. Drink responsibly if you do decide to add something stiff to this sparkling beverage. I'm not even sure what would go with it, honestly. I think it's pretty decent as it is. I immediately thought of cranberry while tasting it for the first time. Sonia thought of raspberry. Now that I think about it, raspberry might be a better comparison. It's not quite as intensely tart as either cranberry or raspberry. It's subtler than that. Just a hint of sour tang and it's also pleasantly sweet, bubbly, and refreshing.

It's festive and Christmassy because it's presented well, and since plum is such a rare ingredient in our food and beverages, it just makes this product seem even more distinguished. This year, it was sort of our toast to the kickoff of the Christmas season. We'd buy again next year and save for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Three and a half stars from me, four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Trader Joe's Wine Infused Sea Salt Seasoning Grinder

For years, my grandmother's side of the family would gather all together for Thanksgiving. It was (and still is) a pretty big crew...enough great uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, whatever else that we would have to rent an auditorium at a local campground to fit all 70+ plus of us. Huge. Overwhelming. And awesome. It was tradition for each family to bring things, with a whole system worked up by my great uncles and aunts, and it would be tradition for any newlyweds to bring only things like some butter, salt, or at most a veggie tray. You had to earn the right to bring dessert or a turkey. 

Anyways, though we no longer gather together like that any more, and my lovely bride and I aren't exactly newlyweds any more either after our recent double digit anniversary, I really wonder what would have happened if we were ever to be entrusted with bringing salt and pepper, and brought in something like Trader Joe's Wine Infused Sea Salt Seasoning Grinder. 

Probably some of my more conservatively minded aunts would be concerned if the wine in the salt would make them drunk. Probably a few of my uncles would hope it would. Of course, that wouldn't happen...and I'd like to think everyone there would realize it...but there'd be a stir regardless. Russ and Sandy, with their fancy salt. With booze in it. There'd be stories to tell from it, no doubt. 

Anyways, for a big fancy salt grinder, this ain't bad. It's real simple yet somewhat elegantly composed of sea salt infused with rosé, mixed with pink peppercorns and a touch of rosemary. those components all add a nice little savory touch that puts a little extra taste in other than just plain ol' salt. Subtle and nice. i like it. 

Could easily see some sprinkled atop some roasted turkey or stuffing or veggies or whatever else you may want to sprinkle some salt on. Given the rosemary, I'm not sure it'd be a good match for anything going for a salty/sweet combo, like some type of dessert....but as always, I could be wrong. It's only $4.99 for this banana-sized salt grinder too, so I have a feeling we'll have this a while. 

Here's to hoping you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Wine Infused Sea Salt Seasoning Grinder: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Maple Bacon Flavored Stuffies Dog Treats

If your dogs are like ours, they feel left out during fall while humans gorge themselves on pumpkin and maple flavored stuff, while they generally only have normal dog treats available. Well, thankfully now they're in luck. Trader Joe's has stuffed not just pumpkin, not just maple, but also bacon flavor into these unique autumnal snacks for man's best friend.

I tried a bite. Seriously. They're surprisingly flavorful for dog biscuits. You can actually taste maple flavor. I didn't notice pumpkin or pumpkin spice really. There may have been a subtle trace of cinnamon, but that's about it. There's no bacon flavor per se in my opinion, but there is an unusually smoky element. I'm guessing it's supposed to be like smoked bacon or something. "Iiiit's BACOOOON!" added our dog Alfred, or so I imagine he's thinking behind those big brown eyes now popped wide open, staring at the bag begging for just one more treat...

Years ago, we saw quite a few very large, extraordinarily hard dog cookies from Trader Joe's. We had to snap them in halves or even quarters just to make them manageable for our little monsters.


These treats are much smaller and softer, so they're a little more optimized for small dogs. We still generally break them in two, but it's very easy to do so, and I'm confident even a whole piece wouldn't kill them. If you have a big dog, just give him a couple at a time, and I'm sure Rover will be perfectly happy.

Also, some of our older pet treat reviews had quite a few comments stating that Trader Joe's treats made their pets sick—that they'd vomit or have bowel issues after consumption. Our doggies have fairly sensitive systems, but they've never had any issues with TJ's treats. Granted, we only give them one or two at a time, and I think that's key: moderation, even for canines. But if your pups have ever had issues, by all means, drop a comment down below for the benefit of future readers.


Our dogs both loved these. They'd push each other out of the way just to grab the next treat, with Alfred just a little more enthusiastic than Sadie. So four paw prints from Alfie and three and a half from Sadie.

Sonia and I will each add half a paw print because there's a resealable bag, fun artwork on the packaging, and $3.79 for 14 oz. is a decent value. I think this seasonal product might be done for the year. You might get lucky if your individual store has some overstock, but you'll probably have to wait until fall '22 to get your paws on more Trader Joe's Pumpkin Maple Bacon Flavored Stuffies Dog Treats.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Bean Casserole Bites

It's understandable why, when tasked with the creation of the new Trader Joe's Green Bean Caserole Bites, a poofy phyllo pastry shell was chosen. First of all, it's delicious. Second of all, it adds a comforty vibe and a fun twist on a holiday meal classic. Third, it's certainly more than capable of fulfilling the role. 

But...that's not to say it was the best choice. 

I'm thinking BIG here. What's the absolute best thing about green bean casserole? The fried onion crunchies atop, of course...so why not make a shell out of them!?!?!? 

That'd shoot this benign beany bites to legit legume legends in no time flat! Who WOULDN"T love that. There'd be no tenth dentist here...everyone would agree that was an AWESOME idea. 

Oh well. As is, the casserole bites make a decent, and kinda fun little snackbite. The issue seems to be that the phyllo does add a definite puff pastry feel, and seems more dominant than the green bean/mushroom soup filling or the few little onion crunchies sprinkled in. It's too bad because the flavor of the filling is spot on, but with a little touch of cheddar cheese it goes up a notch. There's a little innovation right there, and it's delish.

Will give extra credit for the air fryer instructions on the box. You know your fanbase, TJ's. Still watch them carefully as ours got a little burned even when we cut the time a minute or so short.  

I neglected to snap a picture of the nutritional info or ingredients, so I'll link the TJ's website here for that info. A serving size is one whole box!?!?! Lol TJ's, don't be so greedy and share. 

Not great, not bad. So much potential. As is? Meh. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Green Bean Casserole Bites: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Maple Espresso Black Tea Blend

It's getting to be that time of year when chugging ice cold beverages all the time simply isn't practical. I'll still pound those 8 oz of Red Bull first thing in the morning, but if I go outside for any significant amount of time during these colder months, I'll start to crave something hot.

I'm not really a coffee guy, so tea is the obvious alternative. Wait a minute. Isn't espresso a type of coffee? 30 seconds of research indicates it's actually a brewing method. Don't get me wrong, I have had espressos before, but I would have just described them as "coffees that are fancier than regular coffees with also maybe some froth." Shows how much I know.

As soon as you open up the box, you can smell something mapley. It's a nice rich fragrance. On its own, it doesn't really taste as good as it smells, however. The maple flavor is barely there and the tea packs far less punch than Earl Grey or English Breakfast or any of the other black tea blends I'm familiar with. Doubling up on the tea bags helped intensify the flavor.

The mellowness of the flavor does allow it to be mixed with milk and sweetener for a decent latte type beverage. It's much tastier that way, and the beautiful wifey agrees. I liked adding milk and maple syrup to my makeshift latte for a little extra mapliciousness, while Sonia experimented with numerous additives including half and half, almond milk as well as syrup, sugar, and stevia, but finally settled on honey as her sweetener of choice.


Despite containing the ingredient "espresso coffee" I don't think it tastes much like espresso or any other kind of coffee either, with or without fixins. Nevertheless, $2.69 for 20 cups of warm, mapley caffeination isn't a bad value. Sonia would definitely purchase again.

Four stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf


 Ever wonder what you were thinking when making a purchasing decision?

I am with Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf. 

My best guess is I subconsciously wanted an opportunity to dunk repeatedly on any TJ's food product cuz it's been a hot minute since I've done that. 

This moment of self reflection has led me to not doing so, but not because I actually like the aforementioned gingerbread loaf.

You see, there's an issue with gingerbread in general, as well as this one specifically. Quite frankly, it's boring. Here, look, it's a monotonous loaf of gingered carbs. Yay. Would the lack of eggs and/or butter really make it any better? No offense, but I doubt it. Applesauce is usually a good sub for those, and it'd work, but instead TJ's opted for pureed pumpkin. Really, with the pumpkin, then cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and not to mention the heavy dose of ginger, this could have just as easily been named as "Pumpkin Spice Loaf" which if that's your thing, fine, but it'd be a no from me, dawg. 

I'll give it this: there's some good ginger hits in there. It's nothing like a Triple Ginger Snap, mind you, and when it comes it has to fight thru a more bready-carby base to shine, which is a little tough. A few bites, though,  and you'll get used to it, and the flavor becomes increasingly one note. 

Really, a little something else is needed to help break it all up. Some nuts or raisins would be nice. A little cream cheese like frosting or glaze could really set the loaf off, and could be done in a vegan-friendly way with some almonds or cashews or, according to my lovely bride, tofu (gulp). I warmed a piece briefly and that seemed to make an improvement, and perhaps a little melted butter or vegan spread of choice would help as well. 

Just as is...not a fan. As much as I hate the thought, it's likely headed towards the trash as it'll go stale before we finish it. I don't like it enough to eat the whole remaining loaf any time soon, my wife will have a small slice a day max, and our kiddos are much more into their slowly dwindling stockpile of Halloweeen candy to really give this a notice. We'll give it the ol' college try though. Wasting food is bad. 

There it is. For a sneak at the nutritionals, here ya go. Really, for a gingerbread loaf, the TJ's vegan one isn't bad for being a gingerbread loaf....but unfortunately in my book it's still just a gingerbread loaf. Kinda a backhanded compliment there, so I'll add half a golden spoon to my score, which isn't enough to raise it much past middlin' at best. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, November 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Stuffed Roast


A couple weeks ago a weird article about a human meat flavored product was going viral around the interwebs. Yep. Vegan peopleburgers from Sweden. A quick read of the article certainly raises more questions than it answers, at least in my mind. Like: how do they know what peopleburgers taste like? Also: what market are we targeting here? Native cannibal tribes who are running out of victims? Luciferian elites that consume children but are becoming wary of being exposed? Even meatatarians and carnivores should be able to get behind a cause that encourages people to eat fewer people, right? 

Okay, okay. Sorry. That subject is macabre and kinda gross for Friday fare on a food blog. But it got me thinking: if I eat something like Turkey-Less Turkey and I like the taste on the whole, but I don't think it tastes anything like real turkey, it's kind of a flop, right? But on the other hand if they don't tell me it's supposed to taste like turkey and I still generally like the taste, then it's a thumbs up, no? Likewise if a vegannibal eats a peopleburger and his reaction is "Delicious! But it tastes nothing like REAL people meat," then wouldn't it have been smarter to just leave it up in the air as a "meatless plant-based sandwich" that may or may not taste just like real dead human?

Again, sorry for the dark subject matter. If you're anything like me, you find it mildly amusing. Also, I just made up the word "vegannibal."

This product isn't necessarily supposed to taste like turkey or people or any other particular animal. It's just a "meatless plant-based roast with savory vegetable stuffing." I like that. It is what it is. Nothing less. Nothing more.


Although, now having said that, the finished product looks a bit like a baked ham, complete with scoring lines. Perhaps this product is scored for the same purpose: so the baste will penetrate a little deeper into the "meat." I basted ours with avocado oil. Tasty.

The texture was just a tad more rubbery than any type of roasted meat I've had. Maybe rubbery isn't the right word...perhaps "chewy" would be more accurate and a little less insulting to the roast. I suppose a few more minutes in the oven might have remedied the chewiness to some degree, but I was concerned about having it dry out. I used the "heat from frozen" directions and had it in the oven for a total of 85 minutes, basting twice during the process.

There's a nice blend of seasoning in the roast, including onion, garlic, lemon, and paprika. It's not particularly potent, though, so you might want to throw on some extra spices from the rack to suit your taste. The overall flavor is savory and pleasant, and honestly it's not a far cry from that of ham.

Unlike the aforementioned Turkey-Less Roast, this product doesn't have any kind of gravy. I'm not really into gravy that much, but I found myself wanting some here. The roast isn't dry per se, but the uniformity of the dense texture just begs for some kind of liquid condiment. The vegetarian gravy included with the Turkey-Less product was surprisingly good and would have worked with this offering, too.

I liked the central stuffing part of the product more than the outer portions. The stuffing is a little more interesting, texture-wise, and there are some veggie elements you can see and taste like kale and cauliflower.

$5.99 for 5 servings. Pairing this roast up with other sides like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce would work nearly as well as a traditional meat-based holiday meal. I'd happily eat this if I were giving thanks with vegans or vegetarians or just some other adventurous eaters. It's wheat-based, rather than soy, which is another plus in my book. I think we're looking at about 3.5 stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage

 


Let's all go back to middle school real quick for a dab of eight grade grammar.

Homonyms: words pronounced the same, with different meanings, whether spelled the same or not. Like "to bear arms" versus "two bear arms." Peace and piece. Band and banned. So on and so forth.

The concept is relevant here with Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage. See, there's the word "punch", and it's presence and prominence, along with he possibly redundant word "beverage" afterwards, led me to believe that this particular potable would pack a potent pomegranate punch. Pomegranates seeds are delicious! That sour/sweet, kinda tart taste, in a cool canned convenient form? Yes please!

Sadly, thats not really really the case. Sure, it kinda tastes like pomegranate, but just as much if not more like the other mixed in flavors - pineapple, apple, orange, even ginger. Really, the pomegranate doesn't pack a punch...it's instead part of a punch. 


Tasty? Sure. My lovely bride made the offhand comment that it tasted like Hawaiian Punch but quickly backtracked the statement - it's got a similarish vibe, sure, but not nearly as sickly sweet. It's a little classier, with a little fizz of course, but there's not the sour or tart notes I'd be hoping for to reel in the sweetness even further. So it's good but not pomegranate-y enough.

The four pack of mini cans set us back about $4. Not an mazing value but not a ripoff either. I'd file this as a possible rebuy, as we do enjoy variety in or beverage rotation here, but I'm squarely in the middle to a little disappointed here, as is my lovely bride. Let's call it double twos. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, November 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Indian Style Garlic Achaar Sauce

Why is Indian food so delicious? I don't think I've ever had an Indian dish I didn't like. My hypothesis: it's the spices and sauces.

This tasty new Trader Joe's brand condiment lends credence to that theory. It's piquant, potent, and fabulously flavorsome. However, I have to share the following: while re-familiarizing myself with achaar sauce via internet search, I came across another popular jarred garlic achaar sauce: Brooklyn Delhi. First of all, that's a freaking brilliant play on words—not a Brooklyn deli like a delicatessen, but Delhi like the city in India. Ha! I love it.

Anyway, I mused for a moment about whether Brooklyn Delhi could possibly be Trader Joe's third party supplier of their own achaar. No sooner had the thought entered my mind when I stumbled across a tweet from the founder of Brooklyn Delhi calling Trader Joe's offering a "cheap, watered-down knock-off" of her version. 

All I have to say is DANG, girl, if this stuff is watered-down, then your roasted garlic achaar sauce must be absolutely life-changing and I must try it as soon as I can get my hands on some.


Because "watered-down" was the phrase farthest from my mind when I first tried this product. It's so rich and flavorful. It's super garlicky, but there are also hot chili spices and a deep, earthy bite that's so unique. We put it on naan bread with some eggs and garlic-flavored goat cheese. Fan-freaking-tastic. It's honestly quite noshable with nothing but bread—the eggs and cheese just made it a complete meal.

This would go great with chicken, fish, shrimp, fries, appetizers...honestly it's probably easier to list things it wouldn't go with than things it potentially could. I wouldn't try it with desserts, I guess. It would ruin ice cream or cake, I suppose.


I'm excited to experiment with it. $2.69 for the jar. It's not a huge jar, but a little goes a long way. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Almonds

Something amazing happened this past Monday. Perhaps the first time in the history of the world. 

There I was, alone at home, working. Wife at work, kids at schoool. Had the house to just me and the cats. Day after Halloween, the candy bucket is near overflowing with trick-or-treat booty...all the peanut butter cups and KitKats ant whatever else I could possibly ever want to eat, with no one to stop me...

...and I didn't touch a piece. Collected absolutely no dad tax. None. Zip. Zero.

Probably helps I had a bag of Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Almonds nearby for a sugary snacky, with a bonus buzzy benefit. 

By probably I mean absolutely. Those Reese Pieces wouldn't had a chance. 

Do the coffee nuts seem familiar? It's because they are just like the TJ's Caramel Coffee Cashews except, well, the nut type used. 


Same sticky sweet coating of caramel and coffee grounds. It's more coffee forward / caramel on the backend whick works well with the roasty earthy goodness of the almonds. The caramel isn't too sweet or coying, nor is the coffee too bitter and joyless. If an actual coffee drink were amde that'd taste just like this, I'd probably opt for it over black drip or Americano. 

A quick little handful will do and give a quick, short acting buzz, which is nice to help get throu the early afternoon lulls without overcaffeinating with yet another cup of coffee. Good nuts. I like 'em as does the wifey.

Does anyone actually prefer an almond over a cashew though? I kinda doubt it, and I can't grade higher than their predecessors based on that...but we'll come close.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Almonds: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Mashed Sweet Potatoes


A very long time ago at a county fair in central Pennsylvania, I had some sweet potato fries from a random vendor. They served them dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and then poured some maple syrup over them. They were absolutely dessertastic.

Although I've recreated the recipe at home a few times since then, I've come across quite a few other restaurants and eateries that serve sweet potato fries, and in every instance they bring them out with ketchup or tartar sauce or some other condiment that I consider an abomination to pair with sweet potato fries. I never got that.


That would be like making sweet potato casserole with mayo and relish or tomato sauce or something like that. Nobody ever does that...because it would be disgusting. You put sweet stuff like marshmallows on your sweet potato casserole. And with this convenient, Thanksgivingy Trader Joe's offering, I decided to add cinnamon, maple syrup, and a dab of whipped cream to emulate a mushy version of those delicious fries.

And it was awesome. Sonia thought so, too. The product on its own is fine, as well. There's only one ingredient: sweet potatoes. So you know what it's gonna taste like, right? The bag contains approximately 35 pellets of frozen sweet potato. I guess about 10 pellets equals one serving. So you throw the desired amount plus a little water into a sauce pan. They melt right down into a smooth mush in about 6 minutes. There's not a lot of lumpiness in the equation. The product has a very nice even consistency, and it seems to be as flavorful as any non-frozen mashed sweet potatoes I've ever had.

If you want to get fancy and make a marshmallow glaze with chopped pecans and whatever else, this would work. Or if you want to take the lazy man's route and just dump a few tablespoons of maple syrup in the mix, top with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and a dab of whipped cream, I can verify that tastes great that way, too—very much worthy of Thanksgiving Day dessert status in my opinion.

$2.49 for three and a half servings—could stretch it to four if you're serving with a big Turkey Day meal or anything like that. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.