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Monday, August 8, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce

Many years ago, while living in coastal North Carolina, I had a neighbor/friend who happened to be vegan. After repeatedly offering to cook me a vegan meal, I finally took her up on the proposal. She served me a dish featuring veggies and rice with a few bits of seitan sprinkled with amino acids. She explained that the amino acids made up for any general lack of protein in her diet since the human body synthesizes proteins from aminos. Flavor-wise, it functioned the way soy sauce does, adding a salty, savory, umami essence to the food. I liked it.

But I never bought my own bottle of amino acids until now, nearly twenty years later. It's got a big coconut on the label, as if to indicate it will taste like coconut. I mean, I doubt it will, but we're about to find out. Ingredients-wise, we're looking at "coconut sap" in case you couldn't read it from the picture. Sap? I've had coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut cream, but never coconut sap. Wouldn't that come from the tree itself rather than the fruit? I'm getting off track here...

Sonia and I heated up some instant rice in the microwave, some kidney beans on the skillet, and added a few splashes of Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce. First impression: wow, it's sweet! There's just a hint of saltiness and savoriness.

No, it doesn't taste like coconut by my estimation, but it's syrupy sweet. Sonia thinks it's like a watered-down tamarind sauce in both flavor and texture. I definitely don't disagree, but there's much less in the way of tangy, fruity flavor here. It's more like a sweetened soy sauce or like a very thin slightly salty maple syrup almost.

It's not exactly what we expected, but it's still a nice flavorful addition to rice and beans. I'm sure there's a million other things people are doing with this. If we get adventurous, we'll report back with our discoveries.

$2.99 for the 8.5 oz bottle. Product of Sri Lanka. Gluten-free. Kosher. Organic. It's not labeled as "vegan," but I don't know why it wouldn't be. Not sure if we'd purchase again, but not sorry we tried it. Three and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Peanuts

Peanuts, meet Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch

Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch, meet peanuts. 

I'm just gonna assume everything worked pretty well between those two, because here, a couple years down the road from their first potential meeting, here's Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Peanuts. 

Peanuts have never been high on my list of nuts of choice. Cashews, pecans, walnuts and even almonds regularly rank higher. And while I had to look back to remember, I wasn't overly fond of the chili onion crunch when first debuted. Maybe the hint we haven't repurchased was a hint. 

So, then, for this new spicy peanuts to be the offspring of a perfect marriage of two otherwise kinda lackluster in my mind ingredients...wow. 

I don't think I can get enough of them. There's a near 99% chance I ate the whole bag myself, I have no shame, and I cannot wait to go back for more. Sure, would it be even better as a cashew or almond? Almost absolutely! But this combination is almost perfect as is. 

All it is, almost obviously, is some roasted peanuts with aplenty chili onion crunch dried and presumably all roasted in, perhaps in the oil itself. This process seems to transform both nut and crunch mix. Most notably, the overly stanky garlickyness I previously associated with the chili onion crunch is gone. Sure, there's still enough garlic to ward off alliumphobes and vampires alike, but it's actually pretty pleasant this time around. 

And the heat - wow. I don't recall the chili onion crunch being nearly this spicy. My spicy scale is slipping as I'm approaching 40, so perhaps this is a bit high for all you whippersnappers out there, but I'd rank the heat around 7 or 8 out of 10, with water being the low end and TJ's bomba sauce being the high end (which is as much as I can not-painfully tolerate most days any more). That's higher than most items out there, for sure, and gets even more intense the closer to the bootm of the bag with all the spicy crunchies at the bottom. Deelish. 

The one thing I'd say though is this: really, added salt? There's enough going on here that added salt isn't a necessity, at least to the degree that above everything else I can taste some strong saltiness. A little sprinkle to help boost all the flavors? Sure. Enough to leave me thirsty and not all because of the spice? Nah, fam. 

Regardless, here's to a snack I hope to routinely stash away and enjoy. A couple small handfuls definitely do the trick, and at $3 or $4 for the half pound bag, it's a decent enough value. Highly recommend. It's really nice to see something together being greater than the sum of its parts - wish there was more of that around. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Peanuts: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Limoncello Gouda Cheese


I'm fairly certain it was one of the seven universal principles of Hermes Trismegistus that states, and I'm paraphrasing here, that given any two good and pleasant things, when combined, despite expectation, may not necessarily yield a third transcendent good and pleasant thing. It's known as the Hermetic Chocolate Gum Axiom, as it was first applied to ancient Egyptian chocolate and Greek chewing gum...I think. Or perhaps I'm confusing it with this theory I heard from a food blogger a few times.

At any rate, it's a good theory and, well, it applies here unfortunately. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a pretty big fan of all things lemon-flavored. I've only had it a few times in my life, but I absolutely love limoncello. And gouda cheese is, of course, normally good, huh? Get it? Gouda = good, huh? Never mind. It's tangy and sweet and what's not to love?

But "sweet" for a cheese isn't really the same kind of sweet as limoncello. I mean, Swiss cheese is "sweet," but you wouldn't make lemonade-flavored Swiss cheese would you? Somehow Trader Joe's Limoncello Gouda sounds a tad more legit than Trader Joe's Lemonade Swiss, but I think the results are about the same. It's just not sweet enough to be called limoncello. I mean it tastes like limoncello...and gouda. But it's roughly got the sweetness level of normal gouda cheese.

Perhaps I'm simply not a fan of lemon-flavored cheeses. I wasn't as enthused about the Lemon Ricotta as I was hoping I would be, but I must admit that cheese worked a little better than this one did, IMO. This one is pretty far from being desserty, and it's got too much limoncello flavor to function like a traditional gouda.

Sonia agrees it isn't sweet enough but she, as usual, won't be too harsh on the product because she's still optimistic she'll figure out a way to use the cheese in some manner that will work. We're open to suggestions if you've got any.

Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.