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Friday, July 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Mini Meyer Lemon Biscotti


Trader Joe's will make a coffee drinker out of me yet if they keep putting out delicious flavors of biscotti. Apparently, this one's been around for a while. Not sure why it took us so long to actually purchase it, but here are our thoughts...

Very hard. They really need to be paired with coffee. I suppose tea or hot chocolate might work, too, but they have to have a hot beverage to really permeate their inner layers. I tried a couple with cold milk and it just didn't work. I mean, flavor-wise it was fine, but the biscotti were still too hard.


Like Sonia, I think most people will be perfectly happy with how lemony these biscotti are. I, however, always want more lemon flavor—or in this case Meyer lemon flavor—in pretty much everything. Still, there's a respectable amount of lemon, which I appreciate. I can't tell whether the zig-zaggy icing is lemon flavored as well or if it's just sugary sweet. I suppose it's there more for the visuals than any actual flavor.

The miniature size is fun and convenient. They're still long enough to get pretty far down into your coffee mug, and their texture is just about perfect once they've sopped up a bunch of warm java—almost like a fresh-baked cookie, but wetter.


$3.99 for 16 miniature sticks of biscotti, which apparently equals eight servings. We'd probably buy again. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion

The summer of flavor is alive and well at the local TJ's. Used to be this time of year was the lazy dogdays before the oncoming pumpkin spice storm which will be descending in just mere weeks...but no, not this year. So many robust debuts and while there's been misses, they've been few. 

This week, it's the new Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime and Onion.

Much in the same vein as the Chili Onion Crunch, this succulent slurry consists of crispy little onion and garlic chips floating around in olive oil. But this time, add a lot of lime and cilantro in there too. And I mean, a lot, because far and away that's what you're gonna taste here. It's so limey that after a few tastes I'm sure I booted scurvy a few more years down the road. It's so citrusy and acidic and kinda bitey, but then everything else kinda starts coming in. Cilantro, for sure, but the onion and garlic, followed at last by the jalapeño which leaves a residual burn. Definitely, it works.

Use most any way you'd use the Chile Onion Crunch. Personally, as a roasted veggie fan, that'd be the way I'd go more often than not, but I could also see this as marinade or various sorts of mix-ins. 

The price did seem a touch high at $4.49 for the small jar. Then again, what doesn't seem a bit pricey these days, so take that as you will. For me, the price set it as a once or twice curiosity or novelty buy, but it's gonna be far from a staple there. 

Not slam dunk fanatastic ut far from bad. Sounds like a couple 3s to me. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, July 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Grain Free Cheeseburger Flavor Dog Treats


Man, that logo looks familiar. Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, it's pretty similar to a well-known burger joint for people. Has Trader Joe's captured the famous flavor of an In-N-Out Burger in a tiny, crunchy dog treat?

In a word: NO. I sampled the biscuits myself, and I can tell you straight up, they taste nothing like a real hamburger. Despite the fact that there is some real beef and cheese in the biscuits, the dominant flavor here is not unlike dry, bitter falafel, probably by virtue of chickpeas being the main ingredient. If you ask me, they're not particularly appetizing even if there is a faint whisper of actual meat and dairy in there...


But then again, I'm not a dog. Our canines LOVED these. They're crispy and crunchy with a texture not unlike classic Milk-Bone treats. They're easy to break apart into smaller bite-size chunks in case you have smaller mutts like we do. Alfred and Sadie go NUTS when this box gets shaken. They come running with the quickness and begin hastily doing tricks before they're even asked to.

Next time you get fast food takeout or fire up some burgers on the grill, you don't have to leave Rover out of the fun. $2.99 for the box. Would buy again.


Four paw prints a piece from Sadie and Alfred for Trader Joe's Grain Free Cheeseburger Flavor Dog Treats...plus we'll throw in an extra half a paw print for nice presentation.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada


 Fast food cravings are pretty infrequent these days. 

Chick-Fil-A? Maybe once every couple months, and somehow, somewhat ironically, mostly on a random Sunday. Wendy's? About on the same schedule, but also rarely/ The fabled golden arches, or as my four year old likes to say, "Mick-ell-Donnells'? Maybe once a year, if only for a breakfast sando, or if the kids are hangry on a road trip, I'll consider. 

Taco Bell? Practically never...like once a decade...which is a lot more often than Burger King...but anyways....

If I were more of a Taco Bell fiend, I'd likely be more familiar with the "Mexican pizza" that's not on the menu rotation any longer from what I gather, and that the new Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada at least somewhat emulates and may serve as a somewhat suitable replacement for. 

Where do we start with this near disaster, though?

First, I guess, the basics. There's a beef and bean paste-like substance sandwiched between two tortillas that serve as the base of this offering. It's bland and nondescript without anything to it. Atop the top tortilla, there's a handful of cheedar cheese, some diced poblanos, sliced black olives and green onions all kinda haphazardly strewn about. It's as sloppy looking as once can imagine.

No matter, bake it up and it'll taste great, right? Well...no. Everything (and I mean everything) is pretty much devoid of anything resembling flavor. It's...so uninspirational. Just tastes like soggy cardboard. Oh, there's the word, soggy. Baked up at 425 for slightly longer than the recommended 18 minutes, it's still a wet, jumbled, not crispy or crunchy anything. It's a soggy jumbled mess. 

How can something go so wrong? Poblanos (or perhaps more aptly, poblandos) just aren't a pepper worth featuring in a dish. In a school play, they'd be a tree, not Snow White or one of the dwarves. And everything else just doesn't have anything to make up the slack. There's no spice, ni pizzazz, no flavor...just bland mush. Which, come to think of it, is exactly how I consider most of my Taco Bell experiences to be, so perhaps this is the perfect pizza to compare them with. 

If I were to ever eat this again, i'd need to bake longer and load up on some salsa or some sauces or something. But more likely than not, I'm just gonna skip it from here on out. 

My lovely bride was a touch more forgiving and said she'd try again as part of a snack or something. But she shared much of the same observations, so good to know it wasn't just me. 

So disappointing. It's an airball that shoulda been a slam dunk. Awful stuff. Just skip it, and hopefully that freezer aisle real estate can be reallocated soon enough to something much more worthwhile. One spoon from me, two from the Mrs.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Trader Joe's Sparkling Pineapple Juice Beverage


There's a raging debate in both cyberspace and IRL over whether pineapple should ever be put on pizza. The proponents of pineapple pizza will routinely cite the Hawaiian as a viable topping combo. The opposition will state that they find such a pie offensive. I myself have become a big fan of the Pizza Ranch Sweet Chili Pizza, which contains pineapple among its many ingredients. I've received credible threats of violence over my support of pineapple on pizza. Who's right? Which side are you on? Will pineapple pizza haters ever find common ground with their unconventional counterparts? The controversy never ends.

Fortunately, I've never met anybody that would challenge pineapple juice as a legitimate ingredient in a delicious, sweet, refreshing summer beverage. How could anyone be against it? Pineapple juice and sparkling water? Yes, please. The sweetness of pineapple tempered by cool, refreshing bubbly water? The only way one could possibly screw this up is if it's way too sweet—or less likely, if it's not sweet enough.


Luckily it's just about as sweet as you'd want it to be. If anything, it errs on the side of not-too-sweet. They list pineapple juice above water on the ingredients list, but my taste buds might have assumed otherwise. And...it might just be me...but I swear I taste a hint of fermentation in our batch. I'd blame it on the ridiculous heat, but we've had our box sitting down in our cool basement since we bought it. Sonia does detect it, too, but it's not an overbearing fermented flavor and we'll probably consume the remaining two cans with something fermented anyway...

I'm sure this would mix well with a whole bunch of different types of liquor. I'm thinking coconut rum and this stuff would make a nice cocktail. Vodka would work, too.


Let's see...Product of Vietnam? Maybe Hawaiian pineapples were too pricey for Mr. Joe. About four bucks for four 8.45 oz cans. I'll do three stars on this one. Put Sonia down for three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Watermelon & Peach Macarons

 

Macron.

Macarons.

Macaroni

Macaroons

It's my lovely bride's pettiest of pet peeves. Sure, it's easy to not confuse your kid's Krafty craving with the president of France, but call a macaron a macaroon near her, or macaroon a macaron? Or try to insist they're both the same things, or have the same name? No. No no no. It'll set her off in no time flat. Just don't. 

Especially when you could instead be using that time to munch down on some fun new summery looking treats from TJ's...like the new Trader Joe's Watermelon & Peach Macarons.

Fortunately, these are two different flavors. Watermelon and peach are separately delicious but would presumably make odd flavor bedfellows.  Maybe it could get pulled off, I wouldn't want to discourage such innovation, but still.let's do these one at a time. 

First, the watermelon one. Kinda obviously, it's the somewhat sickly looking greenish one. The color of it is nowehere near as vibrant as the packaging indicates, which kinda sets the mood. First bite in is fairly bland, and it's not until some of the flavor pops from the filling that there's much of anything going on. Also kinda obviously, the watermelon flavor toes towards being oversweet and super sugary, which should be anticipated because 1) it's a cookie and 2) that's just how most watermelon flavored things go. It's why we as a family tend to like plain ol' watermelon, for its natural tastiness, than anything watermelon flavored. It just dpoesn't translate well more times than not. 


As for the peach, it's the better of the pair. A little too sugary, sure, but it remains in bounds. Peach works better for cookies and treats. It's not really fair, but it just does. Plenty sweet, a touch tart, and about right as expected. No complaints there. 

Both varieties suffer the same flaw, though. texturewise, yeesh. Both the shells aren't as crisp and puffy, and the fillngs are not as creamy and more gummy than they should be. This is after following the instructions to let thaw at room temp for an hour. Maybe some more time would have fixed them up better, but there didn't seem to much hope for radical improvement upon our bite. Frozen macarons will never compare to fresh, sure, but one could wish these would be a closer approximation. 

Anyways, the package of 10 teeny tiny bite sized ones run a couple bucks and make for an okay enough treat. Maybe my lovely bride and I will get these macaroons for a picnic up in Cooks Forest, near where she went to college...ok, that's mean, I definitely meant macarons and Cook Forest, just had to get her twice there. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Watermelon & Peach Macarons: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons   


Friday, July 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Chive Cheddar Cheese

Chive. Cheddar. Cheese. Cha cha cha.

That allium family is at it again. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and...you guessed it: chives. I don't know that I've ever even had a proper chive outside of, say, sour cream and chive dip. But I know I like the flavor of chives, just like I like the flavor of garlic, shallots, scallions, and leeks. They have that savory, oniony, herby, planty flavor. Yum.

And it's here in this tasty block of Irish cheddar. To my taste buds, this cheese falls somewhere in the middle as far as the sharp vs mild spectrum goes. It's tangy, smooth, and creamy. High quality cheddar is never cheap—in this case, about five bucks for 6 ounces. But it's definitely worth splurging for once in a while.

There are little green flecks of chives all over the rind of this cheese. One side of it is nearly completely covered in chive bits. Through the rest of the chunk of cheese, the chives are somewhat scarce. 

That's Sonia's biggest complaint. She wants more chives and more chive flavor, distributed evenly throughout the product. I see where she's coming from, but I'm fine with a few super chivey bites followed by a few not-so-chivey bites since the cheddar is impressive all on its own.

I could probably eat this whole wedge of cheese in one sitting, just snacking on it by itself or with complementary crackers. We've also tried it in an omelette made with spinach and eggs. Delicious. It melts well and it's got such a nice milky taste and texture, I'm sure there are a thousand other things we could do with it, but it probably won't last that long.

Put me down for a solid four stars and the desire to purchase it again. Put the beautiful wifey down for three and a half, as in she liked it but she'll probably want to try something new next time we splurge for cheese at Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry


 Yeah, yeah, I know, we review plenty of snacks and treats here - more than plenty, but believe me, we eat our veggies too, at least my lovely bride, our kiddo squad and I. Produce takes up a significant chunk of our grocery bill and food storage, and as long as we don't stick it in the basement refrigerator, almost never our garbage bags. The beer fridge unfortunately where fruits and veggies go to be neglected and die.

We just don't review too many here, except when something new and exciting like Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry comes out, we just gotta try it!

Wait...what? This isn't brand new and has been around for months...or maybe even years? I could have sworn I've never seen this before - maybe it's somehow magically new to the Pittsburgh region (we are, after all, pretty much last to get anything), or maybe we do need to pay more attention to the veggies at TJ's after all. 

Anyhoos, what you see here is what you get. It's a nice little medley of everyone's trendyish low crab fave - zoodles! -  carrots, diced bell peppers, edamame, broccoli and green beans, all awash in a soy-based gochujang-tinged sauce. Nothing fancy, and honestly, a touch underwhelming, for a couple reasons. 

First and foremost - where's all the zoodles?!?!?!?! For a supposed four serving bag, which Sandy and I easily split two ways, we each got maybe two bites of zucchini. C'mon now.  If we stuck to a serving each, does that mean one bite - or less - for each? Give up the zoodles! 

Second, this would be much better off as a fresh and not frozen product. There's so much moisture from the freezing process here that everything seems a little soft and limp, aside from the edamame. It also took forever for the sauce to vaguely thicken up which further contributed to the over-steamed sensation. 

And third - well - maybe this is just me and my mixed experiences with gochujang, but I'd expect just a touch more of a kick. The spice level here is pretty mild, more of a touch of warmth than anything. It's pretty tasty and pleasant, don't get me wrong, but seems like maybe a touch less soy and a bit more chili pepper would do the trick. 

It's not an awful mix, but don't get it thinking it can be a meal by itself. We added some grilled chicken and even then it was somewhat lacking, even when doubling up servings. A little rice, or a lot more zoodles, would have been a good touch. 

In all, it's not bad mix for what it is, but I'd much prefer the raw/roasted/fresh veg we're used to than this frozen mix. At least it didnt come from a can. I'd pick it up again, maybe but maybe a couple zukes abd break out our spiral cutter too. And add some of our own gochujang to kick it up. or maybe just makes it mself, can't be that hard...anyways....

Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gochujang Vegetable Stir Fry: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Chimichurri Sauce


So...this stuff is basically just pureed cilantro. Fortunately, both the beautiful wifey and I like cilantro. Although, every time it comes up in conversation, I think of Fry's highly accurate summation of Los Angeles from an old episode of Futurama and I have to laugh.

I mean, there's parsley and oil and some spices in there too, but if you don't like cilantro, it's a safe bet you won't like this. Speaking of oil, one of the oils is canola oil. When I see that on an ingredients list, I simply shrug my shoulders and buy it anyway, but I know there are folks out there who will outright condemn this product's existence due to the presence of canola oil. I guess Trader Joe's and their suppliers have their reasons.


I think the product adds a nice herbaceous flair to any dish you might want to spruce up a bit. I stole the word "herbaceous" from the packaging because...well, because it's accurate. I can't think of a more fitting word. It's not really spicy, per se. The garlic in there is subtle. I guess it's also slightly "tangy," with maybe a hint of "savory," which is also mentioned right on the front of the tub.

Pureed plant bits and oil don't really add or subtract much from the texture of any dish. It's just a nice soft green mush. We've tried it with shredded chicken and onions yet again, and it works very well with that. It seems versatile enough. I'd try it with fish for sure. I think it might even be a nice addition to potatoes, pasta, or roast beef.


At $3.99 for 8 oz, it's not the best value for a condiment at TJ's, but it's not outrageous either. Just a few spoonfuls goes a long way. Would probably purchase again. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Trader Joe's Chili Pineapple Kettle Popcorn


Another week, another shopping trip, another time TJ's is upping the summer snack game. Salsa verde chips? So delicious...but so last week. 

This week: Trader Joe's Chili Pineapple Kettle Popcorn. I mean...wow. 

Spice and pineapple aren't new bedpartners by any stretch. Just at TJ's they've had spiced dry pineapple and pineapple BBQ sauce around for a while, though maybe the sauce has been DCed? Anyways, this isn't exactly a new innovation, except that now, it's in popcorn form. 

There's a lot going on here, and it's hard to wrap the tastebuds around it all. First off, make no mistake: this is some seriously sugary stuff. Glancing at the label and doing some easy math, this popcorn is literally half straight up added sugar...and that tastes like an understatement. I swear I could almost see Wilfred Brimley packing up a box for me, it's so sugary. There's no getting around that. But then all the other flavors begin coming up - some heat from paprika, a hefty dose of tangy lime, a little faint pineapple, another hefty swoon of suagr and little salt to boot too. I've read some other reviews that liken the overall flavor to being a spicy Froot Loop - I don't entirely agree but I can see where that assessment is coming from. There's certainly enough sugar for that claim, but not quite enough overall froot, er, fruit, and the spice, while present, isn't exactly overpowering. It's sugar and lime more than anything else.

Every bite is perfectly munchable though. The popcorn is liberally coated with the dusting of all those flavors, and is slightly crunchy with all that suagr. Underneath, the poofed-up kernels are soft and pillowy and inviting. It's a fun texture, which more than anything else kinda makes me want to eag the whole bag...well, that, and still trying to figure out all the flavors...

That's the thing, though. There's not really enough pineapple to really tout its presence as a titular ingredient, not when there's so much lime and sugar and everything else when pineapple is fith highest, at most, on the flavor profile. At the same time, I'm glad not even more sugar was added to try to amp up the pineapple, but I just wish it had more pineapple to it, even if everything else had to be taken down a slight notch. 

Regardless, this will be a summer snackin' fave, I'm sure of it. Unless something else comes along...off to a strong start here this summer, TJ's, keep it coming. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chili Pineapple Kettle Popcorn: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Trader Joe's Salsa de Cacahuate

The other day I was thinking about how much I loved delicious, spicy salsas and how lucky I was to have married a woman that can make hot southern Mexican dishes for me once in a while. Then my thoughts wandered to peanut butter. There's nothing more American than a good, old-fashioned jar of peanut butter, I mused.

Then I thought...if only I lived in a world where some culinary genius had mixed spicy Mexican salsa with peanut butter. I mentioned my silly daydream to the beautiful wifey, and she informed me that not only did such a substance exist, but that we had actually picked some up on our last Trader Joe's run and there was a jar of it sitting right in our pantry.

I was overjoyed. I asked, "Why didn't you tell me this stuff had peanut butter in it?" She replied, "I thought you knew."

The salsa base is made with guajillo chile peppers. We recently looked at Trader Joe's Guajillo Salsa, and it was a definite thumbs up. I, personally, like this salsa even more. Have I mentioned there's peanut butter in it??


We heated up some shredded chicken and onions on the stove top, added a few spoonfuls of this salsa, and tasted it. Magic. I found myself dumping even more of the salsa on my portion of the chicken. 

It was very similar to a chicken mole dish, but with a brighter, fruitier flavor. There's tomato puree and tomato paste in this salsa and even some lime juice. The spice level is comparable to the above-mentioned guajillo salsa, medium-hot, but it's tempered slightly by the peanut butter.


Sonia definitely enjoyed it, but I think she's a bit more of a guajillo purist than I am. Four stars from her. This peanut butter aficionado gives it a perfect 5 stars, although I should mention it's not the type of salsa I'd gravitate toward for simple chip dipping. Would definitely buy again to cook with shrimp or chicken.

$2.99 for 12 oz.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.


Friday, July 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips


 It's July...time to spice it up with your summer snackin', don't you think?

Chips and salsa are a classic staple, but if the heat's making you too lazy to dip (been there), but you still want all the flavor, look no further than Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips.

Seriously, these chips. Amazing. Imagine all the good, vibrant flavors of a good salsa verde. A little onion, a little garlic, some fresh tomatillo, a good dose of lime, a little heat of pepper...if that doesn't make your math water, there's something wrong with you. But instead of a chip and salsa, it's just a chip. Nothing more, nothing less. 

That's exactly how these new salsafied tortilla chips are. Super firm, a little thick, incredibly crunchy, and oiberally coated every square micrometer with salsa verde in dusty form, these chips pack a snack punch that I haven't had in quite some time. It's almost transcendent. I love them, and as any good flavored chip, the more you eat, the more the flavor intensifies. I don't think I've ever had a chip that's held any more flavor, ever, of any kind, than these. Chip technology is being pushed to the cutting edge, it seems. 


Really, I have no real complaints, at all, except that maybe there's a splash too much vinegar here that amps up the sour acidity just a wee bit much. A lime can really do that on its own, or at least not seem as forced. It's not overly distracting, but it does stray towards a bit much. As do i here by trying to find a fault. 

Delicious chips. We bought them less than 24 hours ago and they're nearly gone. The flavor intensity is just so inviting and delicious, and not offputting at all - heck, my kids who are normally kinda wusses when it comes to these kinda things can chow them down like a boss. 

No dips needed to enjoy - that honestly may distract from the real flavor here. But you could convince me to try a little sour cream or guacamole here. If you really want tastebud overload, pair a handful of these chippies with a glassful of the mango jalapeno lemonade. That'll get your knees knocking. 

Love 'em, no complaints from anyone here. Absolute repeat buy. Can't stop til I get enough. Perfect fives. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons