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Friday, November 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Advent Calendar For Dogs


Do furry animals that sniff each other's butts, chase their own tails, and sleep at least 19 hours a day really need a countdown calendar to the wildly speculative birthdate of the central figure of a human religion? Probably not. But their owners definitely do—particularly ones that failed to procreate human offspring and fantasize about their canine "kids" being their actual children and spoil them with all manner of toys, clothing, and now decorative day-by-day treat-filled chronologies of the Yuletide season.

Like TJ's other advent calendars, the art work here is whimsical and cute. And like human advent calendars, there are 25 little perforated windows to open from December 1st until Christmas Day. Most of the doors have writing on the outside—blurbs from some very strange dog's Christmas list, including things like "my very own pet orca" and "a play date with Kwazi." Kwazi is apparently a gray parrot. Don't ask me.


Unfortunately, there's only one kind of treat within—the previously-reviewed salmon and sweet potato dog treats. I was hoping they'd throw our pooches a proverbial bone and mix it up a bit from day to day. Half the fun of an advent calendar is the surprise of what's behind the door. But I suppose the dogs don't know that. At least the treats are in different shapes and sizes—that is, some days have two treats, some have square treats, some are star-shaped, and Christmas Day has a big bone-shaped treat, but they're all the same flavor.

However, half the fun of a canine advent calendar is the thrill the pups' owners get when opening the door each day. I wish there were at least different bible verses or funny jokes behind the doors. They could have done something delightfully blasphemous like changing the passage about the three wise men into a story about a pug, an akita, and a Chinese crested from the east that came to admire a magical puppy in Bethlehem. Even if they had put the items from the dog's holiday wish list on the inside of the doors rather than the outside, at least there would have been some greater element of surprise.


Alfred and Sadie like the treats pretty well. They're not super picky when it comes to between-meal snacks—dog food, yes. They'll turn their noses up at anything that's not Fresh Pet these days.

There's little competition in the world of advent calendars for canis lupus familiaris, so these things apparently sell out very quickly from most Trader Joe's stores. There are cat calendars, too. 

At $5.99 for 25+ treats, it's not a bad value. When we reviewed the salmon treats before, Sadie seemed a little more eager to eat them than Alfie. This time around, Alfred didn't hesitate at all. In fact, he tried to break open the calendar for more. So...we'll say four paw prints a piece from Alf and Sadiebug.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls

Every holiday meal we get together with my family, no matter all the other awesome stuff my family makes, it's always her cheesebread I look forward to the most. Philly cheesesteaks aren't Philly cheesesteaks if not on an Amoroso roll. Sandy's homemade rolls really make a great compliment to whenever I smoke some pulled pork.

There's just something about great bread that really makes a meal complete. Evidently it's called "breaking bread" for a reason.

In stores now, for those times you need a festive bread but are in a pinch, is Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls.

Naturally, I'm not gonna tell you these rolls are as good as any respectable homemade bread. "Decent" is about all most rolls like these can aspire to. I don't feel like a snob in saying that, but maybe I'm just spoiled by too many good bakers.

Dinner last night was these savory rolls, sandwiching turkey, provolone and cranberry sauce and warmed in the oven. Nomnomnom. Thanksgiving in a sandwich, practically. Karen, our favorite TJ's employee, made that suggestion and my goodness it was another winner.

Ingredients, herbwise: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme. Like the lyrics to "Scarborough Fair", except these rolls just also have to have marjoram as well - oh well. Let's not quibble too much here - the spice blend works very well all together, and compliments the enriched wheat base well.

Heated up in the oven, these savory herb rolls got a little crispy/toasty on the outside and filled our kitchen with their herby aroma. Inside the rolls, the dough still remained soft and chewy when eaten - perfect. My kids loved them, even my oldest who randomly decided she didn't like cranberry sauce. Sandy loves anything with rosemary, so these were a win with her, easily.

Easy rolls for a festive get-together in a busy upcoming holiday season - they're worth a buy at only about $3 for a dozen pull apart rolls. Likely, these rolls will pair well with most meals or menus. For those times when homemade just isn't possible, these should do just fine.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Fall Zucchette Pasta

In the whitebread central Pennsylvania neighborhood I grew up in, there weren't a whole lot of Italian folks. I had a long-time babysitter with the last name "Capriotti," but minestrone soup was probably the extent of Italian culture I experienced under her care. Of course, every American eats his share of pizza and spaghetti throughout childhood and beyond, but even now at forty, I'm still learning about Italian pastries and pastas that are completely new to me. "Zucchette" is a prime example.

Googling the term wasn't much help in this case. There's not even a wiki for zucchette pasta as far as I can tell. In fact, this Trader Joe's product is one of only a handful of references on the entire internet. I'm gathering that "zucchette" might just mean the pasta is inspired by or contains gourds, pumpkins, or squash. This product does both—that is, it contains butternut squash, and its shape is evidently inspired by pumpkins.


The taste is quite a lot like any other pasta I've had, with just the slightest hint of something earthy. That subtlest hint of extra richness must be, I guess, from the dehydrated butternut squash within. It's a shame we only had traditional marinara sauce on hand. I would have liked to try this with the Autumnal Harvest Creamy Sauce. Its squashy flavors may have helped bring out the butternut squash flavor in this pasta here. As it stands, any squash taste is completely and utterly overshadowed by whatever cheese or sauces you might serve this with. 

Still, it's a bag of decent pasta, each little pumpkin shape a substantial bite. Sometimes a dab of sauce and cheese fills the void in the center of the pumpkin, and you get a particularly robust forkful of flavor. 

For $1.99, this isn't a bad purchase at all. It's plenty for a meal for two adults, or as a side for four or so. I'm guessing this product might be done for the season already, unless there are a few specimens lingering on the shelves in your area for some reason. In all likelihood, it will be back circa September 2020. Or...maybe not.

There's not much improvement here over traditional shells or what have you, but nothing is taken away, either. If that butternut squash flavor were a bit more potent, we might have had a real winner here. Four stars from me. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.