Google Tag

Search This Blog

Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts

Monday, August 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Farm Raised Lightly Smoked Salmon


It may seem counterintuitive, but over the long haul, boring old pantry staples and culinary essentials actually account for the majority of clicks on this blog these days. For example, the two most popular posts here over the past 12 months have been Greek chickpeas and gluten free pizza dough. They may not be as fun or exciting as some of the other stuff Trader Joe's puts out, but for whatever reason, people keep reading those reviews many months and years after their debuts.

I was hoping that's what we had on our hands here: a new under-the-radar classic. I love salmon, and having it available in a shelf-stable version that can last for a couple years is super convenient. I also love that it's skinless and boneless: ready to eat right out of the tin. I'm not thrilled, however, that it's packed in oil. I always prefer canned fish in water.


There's just one big fillet of salmon in the can, although it's extremely soft and forks apart easily. I wasn't super impressed with the taste of the fish right from the get-go. It wasn't "fishy" per se, but it was just kind of lackluster and slightly metallic. There wasn't much in the way of smokiness either. It's definitely not the best salmon I've ever had, and unfortunately, it's not even the best canned salmon.

Heating it on the skillet yielded something a bit more palatable. I added some lemon juice and paprika which helped cover over the blandness of the fish. The cooking process also seemed to wake up the smoky flavor a tad. Sonia liked it more than I did but wasn't completely won over.


With 21 grams of protein and plenty of good fat, canned salmon isn't a bad thing to have on hand to supplement the fresh stuff, but I doubt we'll purchase this version again. Product of Chile. $3.69 for the 5 oz can. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two and a half from me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives

Olives! C'mon, who doesn't love a good olive, seriously? Snackable, grabbable, fun to eat, cool, refreshing, a surprising variety, versatile, savory...what's there not to like? Really, anytime is perfect for olives, but especially late summer like right now, after a few days vacation, when you accidentally forgot to write anything for your blog before you left, didn't have a laptop to write while you were gone, so had to wait an entire week almost to publish anything...that anyone else or just me?

Anyways, I definitely had time to read up on the new Trader Joes Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives while taking an inadvertent break. There's everything to love here. Garlic! Jalapeños! Ampersands! Some pretty choice looking olives! Sounds perfect!

Indeed, in some ways, these olives really are. They're big and fleshy and firm, with plenty of bite to them. Sure, green olives are kinda basic in the olive world, but they're just such a crisp, clean classic that they're really hard to argue with. They're delicious, through and through. 

Inside each olive there's a decent sliver of brined garlic and a little chunk of deseeded jalapeño as well. I mention the no seeds because that's key on a couple levels. First, there's no unwelcomed seedy texture. And two, if concerned about the spicy level of these olives, don't be. It's the faintest smooch of spice. No seeds means most of the flame throwing capacity of jalapeños is largely extinguished. On a scale of 0 to 10, it's maybe a 1. It's almost not worth writing about. If anything, there's more garlic, and plenty of olive to balance it out.

Which reminds me: sure, they're shelf stable 'til opened, but do yourself a favor and chill these olives before tasting. Warm, eh, not a lot of flavor. Ice 'em down a touch and the flavors really seem to be out and about more. 


Whatever you do with olives, do 'em with these. They won't be the highlight of an olive mix or a charcuterie board, but they will be far from unwelcome. Nothing wrong with a small twist on an olive and that's what we got here. And at $2.99 for the jar, it ain't a bad price either. 

My lovely bride is odd and only likes black olives, not green, and so is sitting this out. Just me for this round of olive munching, so if this score is irresponsible you'll know why. Personally I'd like a touch more heat, but that's my only real complaint. I'll be enjoying these very much as is.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives: 7.5 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.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Artichoke Timbales


Never had a timbale before. Even after doing some internet research, I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. I got at least three different versions. My natural inclination would be to pronounce it the Spanish way: teem-BALL-ey. The one thing every source agreed upon was that timbales are named after a type of drum, although which type of drum was yet another point of contention. It's either a timpani, a kettledrum, or a tom-tom.

But I suppose that since we're just talking about a general shape, all of the above could be applicable at least somewhat. At any rate, that's probably enough blabbering on about the name and shape of this food. How does it taste?

Well, honestly...it's nothing to write home about. I mean, there are obviously artichoke hearts in there, and I like artichoke hearts. But even the hearts aren't bursting with flavor. They're more salty than anything else. The quiche-like base doesn't add a whole lot to the flavor, either.


Sonia commented, "there's an earthy, planty taste about them." I totally agree with that assessment, although she apparently meant it as praise. I'd say the conglomeration is a little too planty. There's almost a bitterness about the whole thing. The two cheeses, mozzarella and grana padano, don't provide enough flavor to save the dish. There's a significant presence of olive oil—like you can actually taste the olive oil, which isn't necessarily something I look for in an appetizer. Although there was no broccoli mentioned in the ingredients, the beautiful wifey and I both tasted something decidedly broccoli-ish.

A more impressive, more complementary, or more potent spice blend might have gone a long way with this hors d'oeuvre, but it's just not there. I tried numerous additives, but nothing redeemed it completely. I guess I should give an honorable mention to the Italian Style Sprinkle, but even that failed to completely exonerate these pseudo-souffles.

There's nothing to complain about as far as the texture is concerned. It's slightly crispy on the top and softer toward the middle and bottom. The artichoke hearts floating throughout the mixture aren't chewy or stringy at all, so that's a plus. The overall texture is not unlike that of a quiche or souffle as mentioned above, although there are very different ingredients used here. Looks like the body is made of potato starch, rice starch, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable bouillon, among other things.

Once again Trader Joe's introduces us to an exotic, foreign appetizer for a mere five bucks or so, brought to us all the way from Italy. I can't fault them for that, but I wouldn't buy these apps again. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two stars from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki


 Here's another periodic reminder that I am a complete amatuer foodie-hack, not overly familiar with many great dishes and treats from around the globe, but always willing to try. 

So, Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki...can't say I've ever even heard of them before they plopped into my grocery cart. Thank goodness for the 'murican-'splained "Korean spicy stir-fried rice cakes" in the banner, because that, I can hold a concept of. 

These are, at first bite, interesting. There's a few ways to make them, I opted for what purported to be the crispiest option by inserting these oversized frozen rice poogs into the airfryer, while seperately simmering the almost glowing red sauce. I'm not sure if crispy is the right word, because there's still plenty of soft mochi-like chewiness to each bite, but the outside layer  did have a faint crispness, so there you go I guess. It's an unusual to my palate yet pretty fun bite. 


That sauce though...it never really thickened up the way I hoped it would despite following the instructions, far as I know. That being said, I almost didn't mind. It's vibrant and rich with plenty of red pepper and garlic kick. Man, if sold separately, I'd pour it over any number of things. Delicious stuff, and highly recommended as long as you can take some spice. 

Here's one of the times that TJ's really succeeds if looked at from a certain vantage point. Sure, I'm far from a tteok bok ki expert, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and wager that the TJ's version isn't the best in the world. Heck, how authentic it really is (or isn't) is above my pay grade here. But...now I know I'd stand a pretty excellent chance at enjoying the real deal, so if ever granted the opportunity, I'm gonna go for it without hesitation. That somewhat harkens back to the OG TJ's business plan of introducing new tastes and experiences to their customers. For me, it succeeds here. 

A good sized bag, enough for a big side dish or appetizer for two or more, was only around $3 or $4. Absolutely worthwhile in my opinion. If you got a more expert take than I do, fire away. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Camembert Cheese and Cranberry Sauce Fillo Bites

Oh boy! Here's an ostensibly brand new product for March 2022. I think it's supposed to be a St. Patrick's Day hor d'oeuvre or maybe a meat-free Friday Lent snack, right? It's definitely not like we found it at the back of our freezer that we were in the process of clearing out since spring cleaning is right around the corner.

I'm sure it's not been sitting there for months, like it was intended as a Thanksgiving side or Christmas appetizer or Valentine's Day treat...unless maybe it was. Fact-checkers, feel free to disregard all assertions made in these first two paragraphs of this review. Or feel free to fact-check us and cause some controversy. No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

The point is that this product probably isn't brand new, or even in season, or even available at Trader Joe's right now. In fact, a quick "Search This Blog" inquiry would suggest that it was available at Trader Joe's stores in November/December 2015.


If that upsets you, please bookmark this review and return circa late November or December 2022 when these thoughts may or may not be more relevant than they seem to be right now.

Just FYI, the "best by" date on these was April 2023, so it's not like it's been in our freezer for centuries. We're still preparing the product more than a year before it expires, so freshness shouldn't be an issue. However, the Camembert cheese might be. I'm just sensitive to all mold cheeses like Brie, Roquefort, and Stilton. But I'll taste just about anything once. So I did. And all I could taste was mold. So I decided to let Sonia score these all on her own.

She loved the phyllo dough. It was nice and crispy and flaky like it usually is with similar Trader Joe's appetizers. The sweet and tart cranberry sauce was a nice touch, but it could have been more prevalent. She doesn't think there was enough of it to offset the bitterness of the Camembert.

In the end, I guess she's not really a mold cheese gal, either. She wanted to like these crispy, cheesy little apps, but they're not really her thing. Some bites had a "chewiness" that turned her off, in addition to the grassy, planty flavor that she detected. We both wanted these to be dessert-like, but the prevalent flavor was that of a cheese that's apparently just too sophisticated for either of our palates. At a quick glance, there are plenty of dissenting opinions out there in cyberspace, but this probably isn't a repeat purchase for Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Beer Bread Mix

Ah, beer, bread, and butter. That's a winning triple B combo right there. Each of the three is pretty delish on its own. Combined? Even better. Throw in some shredded cheese—yes this product calls for shredded cheese as an optional ingredient—and those are four pretty spectacular food elements. 

All together, will they become even greater than the sum of their parts, a la Voltron? I know I'm dating myself with that reference. I'd have said Avengers or something more contemporary, but they never physically combine into one giant superhero. Man, I miss the 80's.

Unfortunately, three of the four ingredients aren't supplied by Trader Joe's in this box. It's just the mix. But most people have some kind of butter or butter substitute in the kitchen. 

Not a drinker? No beer on hand? No problem. You can substitute with any carbonated beverage. Coke or Pepsi? Hmmm. I wouldn't chance it, personally. But I think seltzer water might be even weirder. Red Bull or Rockstar? Please try it and report back here. The wife wouldn't let me turn this loaf of bread mix into an energy drink experiment.


So we used Tiramisu Pastry Stout—also from Trader Joe's, but not Trader Joe's brand. It's a dark beer. Fairly desserty. Way better than the Chocolate Babka Stout by my reckoning, but still not something I'd seek out regularly. As mentioned above, the shredded cheese is optional, but we used a blend that included jack, cheddar, and colby.

We wound up having ours in the oven at 350° for about an hour by the time it was all said and done. The bread came out with a big poofy top. The "head" of the bread was crusty and crispy. The insides ranged from absolutely perfect to just a little undercooked, texture-wise.

The flavor was surprisingly good straight out of the oven. It's hard to put my finger on just what it reminded us of, but we were both thinking of that complementary bread from Outback Steakhouse for some reason. 

It also reminded me a little bit of banana bread, but without bananas obviously, and maybe a little less sweet. Honestly, pretty darn yummy. Paired well with a thin spread of butter.

I'm curious what the results would be if you used a different beverage or different kind of cheese. I feel like this would be another product entirely if you used cheap beer and left out the shredded cheddar combo. 

$2.99 for the mix. It yields 16 servings of bread. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese


 Now, cheese bread is an easy enough concept to understand. That's bread with cheese in it. But...bread cheese?

No, it's not cheese with bread in it, as the name may initially suggest. That'd be kinda odd but fun. Instead, it's cheese that's apparently baked in some sort of process that carmelizes the sugars and makes a bread like crust. No actual bread involved. Well hmm. Technology these days...

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese, to my knowledge, is my first go around with bread cheese. Cookable cheese isn't a new concept to me - halloumi, anyone? - but still it feels a bit weird to cube up some cheese to saute. No EVOO or anything needed, it's got it's own grease, for sure. 

If eaten as is, not heated, the bread cheese is kinda firm, with a curdlike squeaky feel to it. No bad, but not my favorite. Once warmed up, though, everything softens, and it's kinda hard to not imagine eating an actual slice of pizza. Sure, there's not the saucy vibrancy of an actual quality pie, but the seasonings, with tomato flakes and onion and garlic and whatnot do a surprisingly okay job of mimicing it. And perhaps I was trying to hard but...there actually kinda almost tasted like there was some sort of crust, too. Just a bit, like the outer layer of crust without any doughiness or crisp or anything to really fill it out. 


And the cheese itself? Deeeelish. it gets all soft and melty, and is really pretty mild - not as much as a mozzarella, but close, with a little more edge to it. The whole flavor and feel, with some of that aformentioned grease, make the whole illusion pretty complete. 

It's a fun cheese. Fun to cook, fun to eat, fun to pass around the dinner table. We got us a whole family thumbs up here. And it's all at a pretty good price - maybe $4 for the half pound chunk? Good stuff, and no complaints. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Cheese Empanadas with Cassava Crust


I suppose if they can make tortilla chips out of a nutty, starchy root vegetable like cassava, then empanada crust shouldn't be out of the question either. The texture of this cassava isn't chewy per se, but it's just a smidge less crispy than traditional crust. It didn't bother me at all. In fact, I was surprised how much I liked it. It tasted like...well, a nutty, starchy root vegetable, but yet strangely similar to a normal, wheat-based bread.

Sonia made two odd comments about the product when she tried it. The first was that as soon as she cut hers open, it smelled like fish fillet. Um. Okay. I didn't get that at all. I assumed that meant she didn't like it, but the next words out of her mouth were something about enjoying the product a lot and that it was really good.


The second strange comment from the wifey was something about really wanting a dipping sauce, specifically a tamarind-based one. Yikes. I certainly wasn't thinking of any fixins here—despite the fact that I'm usually the condiment-craver between the two of us—and tamarind was about the last thing I would have thought of as a dipping sauce.

Some might think the filling here is a smidge on the boring, plain side I suppose, but we both loved the ricotta, onion, and spinach combo. To me, it was almost like a cheese-based spinach dip. That's why I didn't crave a dipping sauce I think. Spinach dip is already a condiment, and you don't dip a condiment in another condiment, right?


Two empanadas come in the pack. They're a bit smaller than other empanadas we've seen from Trader Joe's, but at about $3 for the box, they're a bit cheaper, too. No meat. No gluten. We'd buy them again. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls

Yes, dear, I left the air fryer on the counter.

I know we've been trying hard to do better about keeping everything cleaner and uncluttered. And I know that, on first impression, it makes no sense to have the air fryer out as we just had the crockpot there after that delicious lasagna you made last night. I put that....mostly away before getting out the air fryer. The crock still needs to be cleaned fully and is soaking in the kitchen sink if I recall correctly. 

So here's why the air fryer is out...I needed to write a review of the new Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls.

Yes, I know, we ate them as a part of lunch the other day, and we both generally liked them. But, I kinda forgot what they tasted like, so this morning, before you awoke, to try and write the review, I made and ate one at like 5am. Hence the airfryer out, it needs to be cleaned, I'll take care of it, and don't worry, there's still some spring rolls for you too. I hope all that satisfies you. 

Remember how good these are, though? I mean, as far as greasy, delicious comfort, it's tough to beat a good spring roll at times. Especially when it's full of soft, tasty pulled pork, and mixed in with glass noodles and the usual veggie suspects like carrots, green onions and cabbage. The noodles have just a touch of that mung bean taste to add a little sly funk, and of course there's pretty ample soy sauce to help tie everything together. The garlic and black pepper on top on all that...chef's kiss. 

That and I'm not sure how I forgot about the hickory smoke taste. It's...kinda the dividing line on the product. On one hand, it's a nice added touch and is definitely, unmistakably present in every bite. But, it's definitely an added flavor, as in, the pork itself wasn't hickory smoked (which would have been delicious) but is instead an added smoke flavor. As a result, long after the spirng roll is down the hatch, that smokey taste lingers on. Granted, it's not overkill like way too many liquid smoke-infused foods that made me more or elss swear them off and only go for actual smoked stuff ten times out of ten, but still. It's done well enough that I'll sign off on them, but I'd still opt for actually smoked meat, not meat splashed with "natural hickory smoke flavor."

Anyways, love, I'll get to that airfryer on my coffee break, and next time we go to TJ's if you want more of these I won't complain. They were what, $3ish a box for four rolls for us to share? Meanwhile if served these at a restaurant they'd be at least twice as much and justifiably so. Worthy of another go, I'd say, and I think you'd say the same. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kalua Pork Spring Rolls: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  

 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese

That cheese section at TJ's can be dangerous. There are so many interesting choices, it would be very much within the realm of possibility to blow your entire grocery budget before even getting out of the cheese department. I mean, good cheese isn't exactly cheap, and it's getting even pricier these days. I generally just steer clear altogether. That's why I have ordained the lovely Sonia with the title: Resident Fromager de Chateau Rodgers.

Apparently this item has been around for a number of years. I wasn't aware. Shows how much time I spend in Trader Joe's cheese area. I probably would have picked it up sooner since I'm generally more of a lemonophile than the wifey...although fruit-flavored cheeses aren't necessarily something I'd gravitate towards. What this is: a mild cheese with a modest amount of lemon flavor. What it isn't: a stand-alone dessert food.

The texture is almost spongy, yet creamy. It's nice and soft, supple, and not very dense. The rind is, of course, significantly darker and firmer than the inner portions of the wedge. The picture included might have an inordinate amount of rind represented (the brown parts) but at least you get an idea of what the cheese itself looks like.

I could see this working well in baking applications. You could easily create some kind of lemon pastry by baking this stuff into something bready and topping with lemon curd or some other type of citrusy icing.

Surprisingly, Sonia liked this cheese more than I did. She was fine snacking on it plain. We both had some on crackers. It worked okay with any type of neutrally-flavored crackers like water crackers and butter crackers. I think it would have clashed with anything with seeds or garlicky flavors or anything like that.

Next time, we'll have to get more adventurous in the kitchen and see if we can whip up something lemontastic despite our lack of mad baking skills. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Chicken & Chimichurri Empanadas


Despite her Latin-ness, Sonia isn't an expert when it comes to empanadas. That is, she didn't grow up eating them and I certainly didn't either. However, we've sampled a few tasty ones here and there throughout the years, so we're not entirely unfamiliar.

In the manner of tamales, mole, and flan, empanadas are eaten year round but are often associated with special occasions, including the Christmas and New Year's holidays. So I guess these are appropriate for this final week of the year when it's difficult to discern what day it is and 2022 resolutions still seem abstract and irrelevant.


Air fryer instructions are given on the back of the box. Hallelujah. And for the first time EVER I wound up heating the product for LESS time than was suggested on the packaging. The box said 375° for 15 minutes, but the chicken and chimichurri empanadas were fully cooked and crispy at about 13 and a half.

The crust was nice and flaky. It was crispy but not brittle. I wouldn't have minded a tad more filling inside each pocket, but what was there was impressive—finely shredded chicken and a delicious blend of veggies and spices. Very flavorful. Mildly spicy.


Sonia remarked that they were "very salty...but really good." At just shy of a quarter of your daily sodium in each empanada, I think that qualifies as "very salty."

$4.29 for two empanadas. It's not the most food for your buck at Trader Joe's. Each empanada feels more like an appetizer to me rather than a main dinner entree, but the quality is there in my opinion. Nearly restaurant quality for nearly restaurant prices. Four stars each from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Trader Joe's Fried Olive Bites


Kalamata olives I'm familiar with. It's one of the few foods Sonia is allergic to that I'm not. And that's one of the reasons I chose this app for elevensies yesterday—so I wouldn't have to share with the beautiful wifey. Haha. You think that's mean? Wouldn't it have been much meaner to share them with her under the circumstances? She actually has a pretty severe reaction that involves swelling in her extremities and face.

But there were also Castlevania olives, er Castelvetrano rather, in the box. Neither of us recognized that ingredient. If there's some way to tell the Kalamata olives apart from the Castlevania ones, we didn't figure out how to do it. It all tasted pretty much the same to me: salty, earthy, slightly bitter.


The fried breadcrumb coating was nice and crispy but didn't add a ton of flavor. As far as the stuffing was concerned, cream cheese was fine, but I would have preferred mozzarella or possibly even something more exotic than that. There's blue cheese listed in the ingredients, but it's pretty low on the list. Both Sonia and I are sensitive to blue cheese, but I didn't feel it at all. It might have lent an extremely subtle moldy tang to the filling, but for the most part, it's just plain cream cheese in there.

Trader Joe's put out a similar product stuffed with chicken a few years back. Not sure if Sonia and I tried those at the time. If we did, they weren't very memorable, and apparently the Shelly family wasn't super enthused.

Before it was all said and done, Sonia did take her life into her own hands and tried a bite. She was much more positive about these olive bites than I was, but I think that's mainly because she can't have them. "People always want what they can't have" and all that.


These would go pretty fast at a fancy Christmas party if they were piping hot straight out of the oven and people were quickly grabbing just one or two. I don't recommend them as a mid-morning snack or a substitute for lunch—although I'm thinking most normies don't do weird stuff like that like I do—at least not with the same regularity.

Anyway, these aren't bad if you're into olives and cream cheese, but we probably won't purchase again.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Taralli and Friends Crackers

Wikipedia describes a taralli cracker as a "toroidal Italian snack food." For those of you who neglected to snag your masters in geometry from a prestigious university, a toroid is basically a donut shape.

The toroidal taralli crackers in this bag are kinda like Italian wontons I guess, at least flavor-wise. There's a vague sourdough vibe, too. Some people say you can dip them in sweet stuff. So if you dunk wontons in duck sauce as an appetizer or snack, you could dip these in...I dunno...cream cheese and fancy Italian marmalade?

I guess there are many different kinds of taralli crackers? Some get dipped in wine, some get paired with cheese, and others get dunked in spicy stuff. I need some Italian folks to weigh in on these because I clearly have no background with this fare.

The straight sticks taste very much like classic garlic croutons, but maybe a little softer. They're tasty, with a complex spice blend. There's a melt-in-the-mouth quality that most croutons lack. But I would totally throw these into any savory soup and I'm sure they'd enhance the taste and texture significantly. Both Sonia's and my favorite.


The square crackers are like sesame sticks kinda. But they're crackers instead of sticks. If you like sesame sticks, you'll like these. There are actual sesame seeds listed in the ingredients, so my tastebuds must be working today.

The twisty sticks are probably my least favorite of the bunch. They're a bit like plain saltines but puffier. And twistier. Fun shape, boring flavor. Could make a decent vehicle for a cheese dip I suppose.


$3.29 for the bag, imported from Italy. A sack of crackers with no chocolate or toffee or dipping sauce packets doesn't seem super Christmassy or exciting to me, but then I'm about as Italian as a spot of tea and crumpets. How do you serve these? How does TJ's offering compare to what Nonna used to make? For now, I'll score with a very neutral 3 out of 5 stars. Sonia will go with three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps


This product has the "nutty, fruity glass shard" effect going on like we've seen once or twice before in Trader Joe's products. And like those other ultra-crunchy, shatters-in-your-mouth kinetic assault snacks, you could theoretically bite sharp angles around the edge of these crisps and use them in the manner of shuriken, kunei or other throwable ninja weapons. Or you can slather them in thick and creamy cheeses to mitigate potential tooth enamel wreckage and bleeding tongue carnage. While the former is conceivably more fun, the latter is distinctively more delicious. But I suppose you're here to find out what they taste like.


Not to be confused with pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, reviewed 8 years ago this month, here we have non-pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin powder, rather than cranberries and pepitas. The pumpkin powder blends with turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a fancy, unique spice profile. The product is fairly spice-forward by my reckoning, particularly when consumed without cheese or dip. There's also a nutty, wheaty blend in the background, complete with golden flax and sunflower seeds. Bright notes of cranberry top the whole thing off for a surprisingly flavorful and interesting snack crisp.

Honestly, as far as taste is concerned, I think these little cracker-esque bites could stand alone without any cheese or condiments of any kind. The problem is they NEED the cheese to help the texture. If they could make a soft version, I'd inhale these things by the handful. 

The flavor, though pleasant and unique, isn't very intense or strong, so even mild cheese has a tendency to overshadow everything going on in the crisp. We tried them with goat chevre and run-of-the-mill unsophisticated cream cheese. Both yielded more or less the same result: a tasty, creamy snack with a faint pumpkin cranberry whisper in the background. There's still a significant crunch-factor, but it's not intolerably intense thanks to the cheese.

Sonia's teeth must be stronger than mine because she plowed through her share pretty quickly. She gives the product four and a half stars. I want to like them that much, but I can't completely get past the rigid texture. So three out of five from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Goddess Gouda

I've never been a fan of cheeses with mold growing on them, and I'm kinda allergic, so...fortunately, that green stuff in the wedge isn't mold. If you hadn't figured that out by the title of this post and the label on the product, then I'd have to call you out for being unobservant. But most of you have figured out that the green stuff is, in fact, green goddess-ness. I can't say it's "dressing" per se, because it looks like it's just a bunch of random green goddess-ish ingredients like avocado oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Sonia doesn't think the green goddess flavors come through much at all. I'm not saying they're strong, but I certainly taste them. They blend nicely with the semi-sweet creamy richness of the gouda as they are, and if amplified too much might upset the delicate balance.

We had it with crackers, tried it in vegetable soup, and crumbled it on salad. I'm sure there are dozens of other applications we didn't think of. It worked fine in all cases but wasn't something I'd consider a game-changer.


In the end this green goddess gouda didn't stand out from other Trader Joe's specialty cheeses, nor did it stand head and shoulders above any plain gouda we've had from TJ's or anywhere else. This particular wedge was $3.60. Personally, I don't think we'd purchase again, but it's not a bad concoction by any means—especially if you like green goddess flavors.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Tzatziki Dip


I was highly skeptical about this condiment.

I've never been a fan of vegan cheeses. I honestly think I've had more consistently edible vegan fake meat than vegan cheese or vegan dairy in general. Sonia and I both love our dairy products.

Likewise, I love me some tzatziki sauce, so I was curious how this would turn out, curious what they'd use in place of yogurt, curious if they'd be able to mimic both the taste and texture of that unique, tangy Middle Eastern sauce.

Just as I suspected, the flavor is nearly identical to traditional tzatziki, but the texture is somewhat different. The taste is full of dill and tangy citrus flavors, with notes of garlic and pepper in the background. There is a creaminess there, too. But it's not quite like dairy cream. It appears they used an alternative that's made of coconut oil and potato starch. Yikes! That's a weird combo to replace Greek yogurt, right?


But you know what? It works. It works in terms of flavor—somehow it doesn't taste like coconut or potatoes. It really tastes pretty darn close to actual tzatziki.

Now the texture is another story. To me, it's significantly thicker than the traditional stuff. It's a bit starchy, too, but still there's this quality that nearly imitates actual thick yogurt. And in the end, unusually thick tzatziki isn't really bad at all. It's easier to get a bunch of it on your falafel or veggies or pita or whatever you're eating it with. It comes out of the tub in little globs. It's much less runny than traditional dairy tzatziki. It's honestly weirdly good that way. I don't know what the dairy equivalent might be. Like maybe...what if they made tzatziki with cottage cheese instead of Greek yogurt?


Sonia's a big fan. She likes it better than traditional tzatziki and promises she'll buy it again. Four and a half stars from her.

$3.99 for the tub. Although I'm a fan, I can't say it'll replace dairy tzatziki for me completely. If I were vegan or lactose-intolerant, I'd be all over this stuff every time I stepped into a Trader Joe's. Three and a half stars from me and an overall thumbs up.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.