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Monday, October 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice

Have you ever sat down to a bowl of plain corn flakes and thought to yourself, "Man, I don't want PLAIN corn flakes. I want PUMPKIN PIE SPICE corn flakes!" I know I have. Mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, green beans? Why not have pumpkin pie spice mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie spice chicken nuggets, or pumpkin pie spice green beans?

There's absolutely no reason you shouldn't have those things if you want them, and that's exactly why Trader Joe's introduced its delectable mixture of pumpkin pie spices all by themselves in a convenient shaker—so you can make ANYTHING taste like pumpkin pie spice.

People were complaining: "Trader Joe's, where are all of your pumpkin pie spice pork products?" "Where is the pumpkin pie spiced mango?" "Why don't you carry pumpkin pie spiced peanuts?" Though normally kind and mild-mannered, the clerks became so irritated by these requests, they asked corporate to release the pumpkin pie spice just by itself.

Now when they get asked, "Hey, where's the pumpkin pie spice tofu?" clerks hand the customer plain tofu and this pumpkin pie spice shaker and say "Make it yo DANG self."

There's no sugar in this mix, so it's not sweet. No nutrition info is listed on the shaker at all, unlike most of TJ's other seasoning blends, so I'm assuming there are no calories, no sodium, no carbs or anything like that. There are just six ingredients, most of which you might have guessed without looking. The only real surprise to me is "lemon peel." I don't generally think of that as a pumpkin pie spice, but there it is. And it works. Just a bit of tang goes a long way.


Most of this review is quite facetious, obviously, but I really do like this product. It's a good blend. I like that they didn't include sugar in the mix so you can make it exactly as sweet as you want. Good for baking and adding extra flavor to fall foods, it's also pretty decent on ice cream and other desserts. I think this one was $2.99 at Trader Joe's, but people are selling it on the online "black market" for upwards of eight bucks per shaker. I guess that means it's seasonal and only available for a limited time. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies


 Next few months, we're gonna be roughing it here at the Western PA chapter of the WGATJ's team, as we're just starting a kitchen remodel, so that means...we don't have a kitchen! Aack!

So while it would've been lovely to warm up some Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies, that just wasn't gonna happen.

Already sold our former stove to make way for the new one that'll be complete with built in air fryer and air sous vide, however that works. Bigger air fryer capacity will be great, as ours is barely big enough to hold even one of these new autumnally appropriate treat. 

So my lovely bride and I...we ate our cold, right outta the package. 

That's alright as it turned out reasonably good. There's lots of nice chunky apple bites along with some pumpkinny bits in a somewhat dry array, with plenty of brown sugar and cinnamon mixed in. It's not quite either apple or pumpkin pie, but a good mix of both, in ways I didn't completely anticipate. The crust is nice and sturdy and kinda rustic, if that's a word that can describe pastry. It's definitely got a good amount of butter in it. There's plenty here to like...

...but man, if we only had warmed them!

Totally delish though, and got me in the mood. Wash down with some apple cider or even a pumpkin beer, if thats your thing. These are nutriitonally decadent enough to only be an every once in a while treat, but get 'em while you can!

Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, October 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Maple Vinaigrette Dressing

Truth be told, I wasn't super excited to pour this stuff on a salad and consume it. Intrigued? Yes. Eager? No. If not for the prospect of reviewing it, I might not have purchased it at all.

I mean, I love maple syrup and generally enjoy maple-flavored things. I also love vinaigrette salad dressings. But together? That's an odd combo if you ask me...but not so odd that I'd avoid it altogether.

With a new, iffy salad dressing, you don't want to dump a bunch of it on your greens and beans and potentially ruin the whole bowl if you're not into the dressing. You have to do that thing like when you're trying a new cleaning product on your carpet where you have to "test in an inconspicuous area" in case it's a disaster. So I just poured a teeny little bit on one corner of my salad to assess the product.

And I'm glad I did it that way. I might have wasted a bunch of salad otherwise, because this stuff is gross. Like, it's the worst salad dressing I've ever had. You'd be better off putting household cleaning vinegar and raw tree sap on a salad.

Not only did the maple and vinaigrette elements commingle and clash in exactly the way I was hoping they wouldn't, there was also this unexpected smoky element that made the whole thing nearly gag-worthy. Maybe the dijon mustard? Canola oil? It poured like a medium-thick brown ooze, similar in appearance to a peanut satay sauce but perhaps a tad thinner. Not particularly appetizing.

I'd try it as a marinade for salmon or a drizzle for ravioli as suggested on traderjoes.com but I can't imagine it working better than something more traditional. I'm taking this one straight to Trader Joe's and getting my $3.49 back. Thumbs down from me.

Sonia tolerated it a lot better than I did, but even she admitted it had "a very weird flavor." She's not going to fight me on the return because she knows I won't help her finish the bottle. Two and a half stars from her.

I'll throw out one since I like it when Trader Joe's gets adventurous, and it is certified organic after all.

Bottom line: 3.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls

 


You know...when you read the title "Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls"....you kinda expect those pastry rolls to have four cheeses, right? That's gotta be the logical interpretation, correct? I mean, why would anyone advertise the quantity of cheese pastry rolls as a leadoff? The number of cheeses, sure thing...but the number of rolls? No way. 

Except...well...

That's not what we got here with Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls.


There's four of them. They have cheese. It's pastry, and yeah, in enough of a roll form. So it's accurate, but not in the way one might expect. Sigh. 

Basically, instead of delightfully balanced cheese combo, oozing with savory goodness, there's just this sweet cream cheese globbed in. Imagine a cheese danish, without icing, in a croissant roll form, and that's pretty precisely what these rolls are. it's not bad...kinda tasty....but not what I was hoping for when initial purchase made. 

Oh well. 

As a big plus, though, there's no proofing involved here. Bake right from frozen and in less than half an hour, voila. I like the lack of planning and foresight involved. Always a plus. Granted, the offset is a pastry that isnt quite as light and flaky as it could be, but it's decent enough to not warrant any complaints. 


Have no idea what these cost, but likely wasn't much. These were kinda buried in the freezer, which we're trying to rotate stuff out of, so there's that. Decent and tasty enough, even if slightly misleading on initial glance. Eh well. Meh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Gnocchi

Maybe our taste buds are broken, but this tasted exactly like sweet potato gnocchi to Sonia and me. It's the combination of potato flakes, pumpkin puree, and cane sugar I bet. I know pumpkin tastes like squash....because it is a squash. But sweet potato? I guess if you throw regular potato and sugar in there...

Texture-wise, the gnocchi was soft, supple, and pliable, as were most iterations of gnocchi we've seen from Trader Joe's throughout the years. Nothing to complain about there. The flavor, while pleasant...was just a tad plain.

Sonia read on the interwebs that adding sage butter to this product really made its flavor shine. Alas, we had no sage. So I did a search for what herbs could replace sage and came back with marjoram, thyme, and oregano.


I looked in our spice rack and discovered that Trader Joe's Za'atar Seasoning contains all three. So I added butter and a dusting of zaatar. Delicious. It really complimented the sweet potato-esque elements in the product and made the whole thing much more flavorful. And in my opinion, the more butter, the better.

It's a decent product, but both the beautiful wifey and I think it needs a bit of help to push it into that realm of really darn goodness. As is, we'll go with "not bad."

$2.99 for 3 servings. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola

Granola, deservedly or otherwise, has a reputation of being a somewhat healthy, tasty, hippie-ish kinda thing to eat. Cinnamon rolls, very deservedly, have a reputation of being one of the utmost of decadence, a timeless, classic culinary masterpiece when warm and gooey with all sorts of butter and sugar and other not so healthy things. 

Mash 'em together in Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola and whatcha got?

It's pretty tasty, that's what it is....but it's neither really a cinnamon roll or granola. I call this kinda thing the Rhode Island phenomenon. Discuss!

Part of the whole appeal of a classic cinnamon roll is the soft, warm, inviting bite into it, right? That warm gooiness that just invites your incisors to do their thang....yum. That's just not here, of course. instead, it's these large chunks of rolled oats that are room temperature and chewy and at times quite a mouthful. In my experience so far, there's been a few stray harder bits of grit that weren't anticipated, which thankfully didn't mess up my dental work. Granted, there's lot of the taste of a cinnamon roll, as it's replicated well here - plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar, and that cool icing drizzled atop - but, unshockingly, it's not exactly the real deal. 

And it's not quite granola either. My lovely bride had some and stated she'd never pour some into a bowl and splash some milk atop. I'd agree, this doesn't have that vibe. It's just too large and chunky and yeah i guess you could break it up....and the package itself recommends eating it cereal style...but I just can't see it. Same deal with busting some up to put on yogurt or whatever. Nah, all this is more close to just straight up snack out out of the bag.

In all, I like this the TJ's cinna roll granola but consider it to be almost more like a candy than anything else...except baked oat candy probably doesn't exist...yet. It's just so much sugar, especially that drizzle everywhere splattered on everything and holding it all together. Less of that could be more here. The granola's get enough going for it for me to give it a pass over all and it's a probable repurchase for the $5 or so it cost. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Streusel Muffins


Top of the muffin to you! In general, the observation from the famous episode of Seinfeld is accurate: that the top of the muffin is by far the best part. But in this case, I'd say the "stump" is just as good as the top—all part of one pastry. No reason to discriminate. Sonia might disagree.

We're looking at these particular muffins primarily for the benefit of the gluten-intolerant. Sonia and I, while both gluten-sensitive, generally just bite the bullet and deal with some mild discomfort after eating regular bread. Once in a while, we just avoid bread altogether, and once in a while, we seek out gluten-free alternatives. We've both known folks with Crohn's and celiac conditions and are well aware that for some people, "biting the bullet" just isn't an option. So for you all, here are our thoughts:

These were exceptionally soft and moist muffins. The liners were visibly wet when we pulled them off of the pastries. If not for the fact they were room temperature when we ate them, I might have assumed they were fresh-baked in a blind taste test. Sonia observed that the top portion of the muffin was sweeter than the rest. She thinks a bit of icing might have made it even tastier.

As far as the pumpkin spice goes, we both agree it was well-balanced. Everything was tangible and tastable but no single spice nor pumpkin element overshadowed the delicate sweet brown sugar flavor profile of these baked goods.

Our primary complaint was an odd coarseness in the bread that seemed to build up the more we ate. I used the word "grainy." Sonia used the word "gritty." We both felt it and both didn't like it, but in both cases, we agreed—not a deal-breaker. Still a good product, particularly in light of its gluten-free status.

$4.99 for four muffins. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants


 So what I swore would be my one autumnal endeavor to pumpkin products a week or two ago went so well, here we go again. Why not?

Let's get to it. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants. Looks fancy and sounds delish, right?

Welll...ummm....errr.......

Unfortunately, much like Cinderella's carriage, this is a return to the normal pumpkinfied experience for me here. These croissants just don't have it, really. I mean, the number one thing I can say is, there's no long proofing involved here. Nah, bake right from frozen it says. That's cool and convenient and as close to warm croissant on demand as you can get. i like that.

But everything else is just so meh.

Perhaps not surprisingly, without much proofing, the croissant is kinda flat and dull. It's a bit flaky and gets a little crispy, but it just doesn't have the savory airiness of a quality croissant if that makes sense. It's a super meh croissant, but almost forgivable, all things considered. 

That pumpkin cheesecake stuff plopped atop? It's not inspiring at all. The first few bites taste like pretty basic pumpkin pie filling. A couple of the requisite spices, sure, but there's nothing that screams quality, let alone excellence, about it. When the cheesecake starts announcing its presence, its at first a small wave of creaminess, with a slowly growing taste of tartness that begins to sneak in. But in the end, it's not really cheesecake-y enough, but it's just enough to kinda warp the pumpkin pie vibe it had going. it's kinda one of those "tried to be two different things and didn't work" kinda deals. Not great.

It's $3.99 for the box of two treats, and for what it's worth, my kiddos liked them. Chances are, if you're into pumpkin stuff, you might be too. More for you guys, but a thumbs down from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, October 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Espresso Beans


If you wanted to play a really mean trick on your whole neighborhood at Halloween, you could buy a bunch of bags of these at Trader Joe's (only 99¢ each) and pass them out to all the kids for Trick or Treat. They're candy-esque enough that a lot of the children would gobble them down before they even realized what they were eating. They'd be bouncing off the walls well into the wee hours of All Saints' Day. It would be hilarious.

But seriously though, don't do that. And if you do happen to do that, definitely don't mention that you got the idea here. I'll take down this post and deny everything.

Honestly, though, I'm projecting. Sonia puts these out in our little pumpkin-shaped candy dish and most nights, I'm the undiscerning victim. I'll get the munchies after dinner and I'll gobble down a handful. Fast forward to 11pm or midnight and I'm lying in bed, staring at the ceiling all bug-eyed and wiggling around like the poster child in a restless leg syndrome PSA, with Sonia swatting at me trying to stop me from moving. So that's Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Espresso Beans' biggest strength as well as their biggest weakness: they're addicting and they're caffeinated.


Flavor-wise, there's a nice balance of rich, earthy espresso beans and sweet white chocolate dusted with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It works at least as well as regular chocolate if you ask Sonia or me. We bought multiple bags and we're glad we did.

If you're burning the midnight oil for work or need a sweet, caffeinated mid-day pick-me-up, or even looking for an alternative to coffee or energy drinks in the morning, these are a thumbs up from both of us. It says there's two servings per package, but just three or four beans is usually enough to take me to my happy place. Will buy again. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from yours truly.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple Caramels


 "You know, they taste just like those lollipops."

"Uhh...what lollipops?"

The lollipops...there's a lollipop just like these caramels. You'd know them if you saw them."

"Well, alright, Becca - thanks again~!"

Such was the conversation, more or less, with one of my favorite TJ's cashiers, Becca, who's always kind and friendly and eager for my opinion on anything TJ's. It was at her insistence I purchased this box of Trader Joe's Apple Caramels.

Back out at the car, where my lovely bride was waiting with our two youngest, I relayed this conversation, when Sandy said. "Oh yeah! Those lollipops! I know what she meant. C'mon!"

I asked her to pull up these apparently universally known to everyone except me lollipops on her Googlemachine, she showed me a pic...no, I have no idea. 

Fortunately, we're talking caramels, not lollipops today. These fall-themed TJ's goodies are quite a nice little treat. They're just little soft, kinda gooey caramels twist-wrapped up into bite-sized logs. While soft and squeezy, they're not quite sticky - at no point did I feel my extensive amount of dental work was under threat. That's not always the case with candies like these, so that's hugely appreciated.

The caramel flavor itself is decently rich - it's of good quality but not a game changer by itself. It's nicely complemented by the apple flavor, though I'm a bit confused. To my taste, it's more granny smith tart than apple cider rich. It's not bad, but not as cidery as I'd like either. 

Here's the major drawback - this candy is way overpackaged. The box is ridiculous, as there's a cellophane pack inside, that then contains the individually wrapped candies. It's completely unnecessary, that box. Just print everything on the cellophane pack! Why a box? I'm guessing maybe to help make sure they won't get too squished, but it just seems silly to me. 

Anyways, I happen to enjoy the caramels quite a bit bit. The kids are split - one of them didn't even finish one, saying it was too messy, which  is incredibly ironic coming from her. Maybe if we found "those lollipops" she'd like them better...anyways. Good pick-me-up, and good pickup for a couple bucks. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Caramels: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Trader Joe's Roasted Turkey & Sweet Potato Burrito


I guess it's more of a November thing than an October thing, but some time in the fall, gobbler-style wraps, sandwiches, and even Mexican-inspired dishes like burritos roll out of the woodwork with turkey instead of beef or chicken, along with hearty harvest fillings instead of beans and lettuce. This lunchtastic item isn't quite a "gobbler" in my book since there's no stuffing, but it's not a far cry from one, either.

We do have a bit of cranberry up in the mix, as many gobbler type snacks do. There's not a ton of it in here, however. Both Sonia and I wouldn't have minded more. And at this point, I must point out that it's actually "cranberry salsa" rather than your run-of-the-mill cranberry sauce—and it contains green jalapeƱo peppers alongside the fruit for just a mild to moderate kick.


Oddly, Sonia found the fillings in her half of the burrito to be wanting. I was more than pleased with the enormous chunks of turkey and sweet potato I found in mine. We both agree the quality was above par for both the meat and the sweet potato. The roasted turkey was particularly on-point in terms of taste and texture, cooked with a super tasty blend of herbs and spices like cumin, cilantro, paprika, and guajillo chile powder. Despite the many spices, the overall effect is sweet, thanks to the sweet potato, cranberry, and cane sugar.

There's a bunch of rice, which doesn't add or detract much in either direction. Black beans are mentioned in the ingredients list but neither of us found any discernible beanage throughout the melange. I wouldn't have minded a black bean or two. As it stands, I give this a hearty thumbs up and "would buy again" just for the top notch turkey and huge yummy chunks of sweet potato. Sonia wanted more turkey and potato but agrees about the high quality ingredients. It's possible the burrito was transported vertically on our way home and all the heavy filling items shuffled to one side before we heated it. Lucky me. I'll take this any day over 2020's Turkey & Pumpkin Mole Burrito.


$4.49 for the single serving burrito. Microwave and conventional oven heating instructions are printed on the packaging, but we winged it with the air fryer and it worked out nicely. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Roasted Turkey & Sweet Potato Burrito.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

Let's see...oil changes, parent-teacher conferences, paying taxes, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, visiting the inlaws...and trying pumpkin spiced stuff.

What's all that have in common?

That's all stuff that can be done out of obligation, and not for enjoyment. Maybe not all are applicable to everybody, but to me, it'd take a real weirdo to truly enjoy more than one or two items on that list. 

But sometimes, you know...it goes right. Maybe you don't get the upsell for a junky filter or windshield wipers, or Lil' Susie Q has make some great strides, or you owe way less, or you don't run over a kid's toy, or you leave a bunch of snap peas hidden for your sister to find and get mad about to tattle to your mom only for your mom to make her finish the rest of the dishes (personal story of mine from growing up, one of my favorites), or you have a really good convo....or you try Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies. 

Coming from a true pumpkin spice agnostic - the Great Pumpkin *could* exist, but can't prove it - these cookies are legitimately sincerely good. It really was a surprise. I so thought one cookie and done, but no, not the case. I kinda wanted to devour the whole sleeve. 

The key here really is the sandwich creme. It's soft and fluffy and, well, creamy, and delicious. It's so rich and inviting, with just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever else goes into the pumpkin spice mix. It's exceptionally well done, and a far cry from the stiff, stale glop that was expected. It's a revelation. If this cream got sold in a plastic tub, I'd hammer it down by the ladleful, so probably good thing they don't.

The cookies are nice and crisp, and even the thin candy shell adds just the right amount of flavor and texture. Thicker shells can get to be too much, so I appreciate the "less is more" approach taken here as far as thickness - it's more a thin plating than an actual coating. The sea salt on my cookies wasn't overly noticeable, which to me is the right amount - it seems just enough to amp up the flavor but not overtake and be too salty and spoil the experience. 

Both the cookies and the coating are also pumpkin spiced, with some pureed pumpkin in there somewhere...so each cookie is a three pronged pumpkin spice attack. Lots of PS to go around, plenty really. And, surprising myself to write this, but the cookies are wonderfully, truly delicious. 

Really glad I picked this as my contractually obligated "one new TJ's pumpkin spice product to review" for this year. Really lucked out. Next time I'm stuck at Jiffy Lube on the way to my kid's school with my W2's, gas for the mower while chatting with my mother-in-law, I'll make sure to have a clean plate for a handful of these. That'd really make everything go better. I loved 'em as did the kiddos, and yes, my lovely bride, we saved you some, somehow. Delish. 

Bottom line:    Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons