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Showing posts with label fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruit. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Trader Joe's This Coconut Brings Chocolate on a Date Bars


This product isn't very Thanksgivingy, is it? Not at first glance, no. But just think of all the travel that will be happening this week. You'll be stuck in the car with ravenous kids and nowhere to pull over. Everyone will be screaming that they're hungry while you're driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house you go, and then you'll remember you brought a box of Trader Joe's This Coconut Brings Chocolate on a Date Bars.

Convenient? Of course. Just five ingredients—that's a plus. The texture: soft, chewy, moist, with little bits of coconut swimming all throughout. Both Sonia and I like the mouthfeel just fine.


As far as the taste goes, this will be the second product in a row where we disagree. Sonia says the chocolate throws the whole thing off. She'd rather have a 100% fruit and coconut bar. We've seen those before: Trader Joe's Apple + Coconut Bar.

I think the chocolate is done exceptionally well in this instance: there's both non-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder, and it rounds out the product with a rich, dark indulgent quality that plain fruit bars lack. I'll plow through this box all by myself with little or no help from the beautiful wifey. Also, the size of the bars is absolutely perfect for keeping the blood sugar up and holding the munchies at bay.

As an aside, I should mention that I'm not sure why there appears to be a big white patch on the bar in the photo I took. It almost looks like a weird white mold on the bar. I assure you it didn't look like that in real life. Must have been a trick of the light or something.

$3.69 for five bars. Five? Why not six? Hmm. I'd still buy 'em again. Sonia probably wouldn't. Three stars from her. I've gotta throw out at least four and a half to keep Trader Joe's This Coconut Brings Chocolate on a Date Bars in the realm of respectability.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Tart


I, personally, haven't seen the
Rustic Apple Tarte on shelves in a while. I've seen posts about it on social media, so it must still be out there somewhere. That thing was legendary. So, if you can, pick one up.

If you can't, this delicious pastry is the next best thing. This has more of a sweet tart vibe. I don't mean that it's a tart that's sweet. I mean it's a tart that is both sweet and tart. Make sense? It's a much more tart tart than the rustic apple dealie, courtesy of cranberries. The apple tarte was just appliciously sweet.


The crust on this product is still outstanding, flaunting a country-style homemade vibe and buttery deliciousness. It's flaky and crumbly and just rigid enough to hold the fruit in the middle of the tart where it belongs.

Weaknesses? Well, for me, the cranberries weren't quite as melt-in-your-mouth perfect as the apples, texture-wise. Cranberries can have a slightly leathery texture and some of these did, just ever so slightly. Also, the aforementioned rustic apple tarte had candied almond slivers on top. This didn't. I miss those.


The missus raved about this tart from first bite. She said it's like something you'd pick up in an artisan bakery in Paris. She pointed out the impeccable balance of flavors and nice presentation. Her only complaint: she wants a four-pack next time. Two tarts just aren't enough.

$4.99 for the box. Heats in 20 minutes at 350° in a conventional oven. As highly as we'll recommend this dessert, it'll still score a full star lower than its rustic apple cousin. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me on Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Tart.

Bottom line: 8.5 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, August 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Naturally Flavored Strawberry Waffles

 

It's August, so in just a few week's time it's gonna be back to school time...may as well start stocking up on what we're gonna need. Notebooks, pencils, crayon, whatever else we usually raid from Staples or wherever, and man, we gotta find our one kid's iPad we hid so well we can't find it ourselves. 

And while we're at it, may as well back up the truck on some Trader Joe's Naturally Flavored Strawberry Waffles. 

Freezer waffles are a constant in our house, but especially during the school year. Quick, easy, portable, tasty enough breakfast on the go - what's not to like? Heck, I'd go as far as to say they're practically a necessity, given the precaffeinated chaos that usually arises as we keep one ear open for the distant rumble of an approaching school bus.

It's nice to have variety, though, which is exactly what we got here from TJ's. Not just a plain waffle...or blueberry...or an unexpectedly wise mango...but strawberry. It's a change up, and a welcome one at that. There's everything to like here if you're a fruity freezer waffle aficonado like we are. 

For one, as we had hoped for and expected,  the waffles themselves are relatively hefty and bready. We like our Eggos here, but you know how lightweight they are? It's not quite the same here. I mean, it doesn't beat an actual waffle waffle, but for a freezer waffle, there's some serious substance to them. 

The batter is, of course, pretty neutrally flavored with a tinge of sweetness, which complements the strawberries pretty well. And there's a lot of berry buried in there too, more than meets the eye. There's little puree pockets and berry bits all strewn about and mixed in, and seem almost jam-like at times. Which leads me to my next point: while I'm sure maple syrup would work okay here, if you like sugar overload, the real play just might be some peanut or almond or sunflower seed butter here. Make it taste like a sammich, and more easily portable too. Win win. 

Our kiddos devoured the whole box in less than 10 minutes. I'm lucky I snagged one! And only $1.99 for the box! Or was it $2.99? I'm sorry, summer brain drain going on here, maybe I need to go back to school myself. Absolutely worth a pick up, and I'd buy a pallet full if it were practical. Sorry for the somewhat beat up box pics, but that's what you get when your four year old wants to be helpful and cram them into an already full freezer compartment...if we had more freezer space, I'd buy at least a case. That'd get ravaged here in no time. Fours all around. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Naturally Flavored Strawberry Waffles: 8 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.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade

 

Let's get one thing right outta the way here. 

We're gonna talk about pureed jalapeños. In a beverage, namely Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade. 

Ho. Lee. Crud. 

Now, c'mon. Jalapeños can carry a little kick, but they're far from the spiciest pepper out there. How many Scovilles are they? Too lazy to look it up, but it's nothing compared to a habanero or Scotch bonnet, much less the infamous Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango. I get that, and I get it completely. 

But man....

Maybe it's because it'sin an otherwise cool, refreshing beverage form. Maybe the lemon and citrus amp up the heat a little, or mango just so happens to be a natural capsaicin amplifier, or maybe I'm turning into more and more of wimp as my 40th birthday creeps ever so closer....

But this stuff is HOT and SPICY. Real kick. No false advertising or faux bravado. Hot dang. 

I was prideful at first and took a big gulp. Big mistake. If my tastebuds were Super Mario, the heat was some pretty big league Thwomps, maybe world six level. It can be navigated, for sure, but you best get yourself prepared. Don't know why or how, but man - just HOT. 

I'm sure you can cut down the heat a bit, by mixing in some fizzy water or some booze even. Tried it that way, and it worked extremely well. 

Aside from the heat, there's plenty of sweet hits from the mango and citrusy sour notes from the lemon to really fill out the flavor in a rather enjoyable way.  There's no pulp or anything, just smooth juice. Want some lemonade with a kick? Here's your shot. 

That being said, the jalapeño limeade from TJ's seems to be a touch more refreshing and palatable. My theory is that limes and jalapeños just kinda go together better than jalapeños and lemons and mangos. Or perhaps it's just a little more familiar.

Anyways, the spicy mango lemonade is worth a pick up if you haven't tried, but consider yourself warned. Can you beat the heat?

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, April 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters

When Sonia and I lived in Los Angeles, we frequented a place called Vegan Glory. Sonia and I weren't vegan then, nor are we now, but their Thai food was so amazing that we went there regularly with friends, the vast majority of whom were not vegan. It was a small, simple, unassuming restaurant at the end of a strip mall, but it often attracted celebrities and high-profile customers because the cuisine was so consistently fantastic.

Our favorite dessert there was banana spring rolls (although the coconut ice cream was a close second) We had some on our latest visit to L.A. when we RV'd through SoCal in 2019. They were still ridiculously tasty. So of course we've been searching for something that could take the place of those spring rolls since we've been apart from that outstanding restaurant.

Enter: Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters. I won't say they're AS GOOD as those banana spring rolls, but they're pretty darn close. And of course, these are "fritters" as opposed to "spring rolls" but they're still a desserty banana-based vegan dish with crispiness on the outside...so very similar.


Six minutes in the air fryer and the smell just overwhelmed the kitchen. I snatched my three fritters out of the basket piping hot and ate them with my bare hands. I don't necessarily recommend consuming them that way, as they are quite oily on the outside. I think Sonia used a fork and ate hers from a plate. Either way, they were tasty.

Banana is the dominant flavor. But there's a nice blend of other essences like coconut milk and sesame. There's a good bit of added sugar, too—enough to appease the average sweet tooth at dessert time, I'd say. At least half of each bite is banana, but there's a significant amount of rice flour breading, as well. Texture-wise, there's a nice crispy crunch on the outside and soft, supple banana on the inside.


$3.79 for six fritters, found in the frozen section. We'd buy again. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Dressed Up Mango


It's been a while since we've seen a new mango product from Trader Joe's. That used to be one of their staples. Did I mention Trader Joe's likes to take previously-existing products and dip them in dark chocolate? We've even seen mango and dark chocolate at least once before, but that one had coconut, too. So if it was coconut that steered you away from that old-school TJ's treat, you're in luck.

This product is nothing but thin slices of real dried mango with one end dipped in dark chocolate. There's just enough thickness and body to the mango slices that they're still a little syrupy on the inside. They're nice and sweet and fruity like you'd expect.


I kinda like that they only dipped one end in chocolate. The whole thing in chocolate would be overkill. It would also be way more messy that way.

I've had dried mango before, and the quality here is pretty top-notch compared to the other offerings I've sampled. The dark chocolate is nothing to shake a stick at, either.

And of course, we have to mention the tin. The square tin this product comes in is obviously something you can keep and use to store bubblegum cards, jewelry, cigars, ammunition, prophylactics, jerky, silver coins, iodine pills, or pretty much anything that might come in handy for the imminent SHTF situation. 

Or you can repurpose it as a gift box. It's pretty solid metal and feels durable—built to stand the test of time, you know? It's $7.49, so it's on the more expensive end of the dried fruit spectrum, but there's that sexy tin, though... 

Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half stars from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie


 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage

 


Let's all go back to middle school real quick for a dab of eight grade grammar.

Homonyms: words pronounced the same, with different meanings, whether spelled the same or not. Like "to bear arms" versus "two bear arms." Peace and piece. Band and banned. So on and so forth.

The concept is relevant here with Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage. See, there's the word "punch", and it's presence and prominence, along with he possibly redundant word "beverage" afterwards, led me to believe that this particular potable would pack a potent pomegranate punch. Pomegranates seeds are delicious! That sour/sweet, kinda tart taste, in a cool canned convenient form? Yes please!

Sadly, thats not really really the case. Sure, it kinda tastes like pomegranate, but just as much if not more like the other mixed in flavors - pineapple, apple, orange, even ginger. Really, the pomegranate doesn't pack a punch...it's instead part of a punch. 


Tasty? Sure. My lovely bride made the offhand comment that it tasted like Hawaiian Punch but quickly backtracked the statement - it's got a similarish vibe, sure, but not nearly as sickly sweet. It's a little classier, with a little fizz of course, but there's not the sour or tart notes I'd be hoping for to reel in the sweetness even further. So it's good but not pomegranate-y enough.

The four pack of mini cans set us back about $4. Not an mazing value but not a ripoff either. I'd file this as a possible rebuy, as we do enjoy variety in or beverage rotation here, but I'm squarely in the middle to a little disappointed here, as is my lovely bride. Let's call it double twos. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, August 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Peach Fruit Spread

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

That's what they say, anyway. I always assume that's what's going on when someone does something I'm doing. As a school kid, back when I had a full head of blond hair, I got a spike. A week later, half my class showed up at homeroom with pointy Bart Simpson haircuts and tubes of hair gel in hand. What a trendsetter I am, I thought to myself.

Or a slightly more recent example: one day I brought a Trader Joe's brand beverage to work. And two days later, some co-workers followed suit and brought TJ's drinks along, too. Same thing happened with cookies, sauces, pastries... Cheers, friends. Great minds think alike.

I mean, they might have been making fun of me in some underhanded, passive-aggressive way. But I had no reason to think that, nor would I have cared even if it were the case. I'll always just assume the best, refer to the first line of this post, and carry on with business as usual.

But what about when somebody imitates themself? I mean, isn't that what we have here? Trader Joe's already offered us a pretty stellar fruit spread made with real peaches. If it ain't broke, then why try to fix it?


Could be a 3rd party supplier issue. Could be people were scared off by the "Bellini" part of the product. I mean, it did contain real white wine, but not even enough to make mention of an alcohol content. Whatever the reason, I say, if you're going to imitate yourself, keep the product at least as good as it was and hopefully make a few improvements.

Organic peaches. Organic cane sugar. I guess those are upgrades. No Prosecco. Whether that's an improvement or not depends upon your perspective, I suppose.

One thing some people might like that I wasn't particularly thrilled with: bigger peach chunks. The peaches in the previous iteration were pureed. There are big wads of pure peach here that simply don't want to spread onto toast smoothly. Again, some people might not mind that. I guess it works for pie filling or smoothie ingredients.


Flavor-wise, the two products are very similar. You could taste the white wine before, which I liked. This flavor is more purely peach. Neither product was overly sweet, but this one might even be a smidge less sugary. I'd probably settle on the same score for both if it weren't for those large, slightly stringy peach masses scattered throughout this jar. I'll go half a star lower. Sonia will keep her score the same, stating that she likes it just as much and at $2.49 for the jar, it's significantly less expensive.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Pineapple Fruit Spread


Jam, jelly, preserves, spread, compote, marmalade. I won't pretend to know the differences among them. A thirty second internet research session on the subject illuminated a few key points: first, jelly is smooth with no fruit chunks. So this is most definitely not jelly.

Second, fruit spreads contain nothing but fruit...unless they're from Trader Joe's, in which case they contain cane sugar and coconut milk, among other natural additives. Depending on which set of criteria you go with, this product might actually qualify as marmalade more than any of the other categories since it has fruit chunks along with sugar, but I guess pineapple isn't technically citrus, so that disqualifies it. But I digress. My point is that there isn't a whole lot of consistency among definitions on the internet as far as jarred fruitstuffs are concerned.


Speaking of consistency, this stuff is chunky. It's thicc with two c's. There are big wads of pineapple chunks here and there. There are also generous quantities of those stringy, pulpy sections of pineapple scattered throughout. I wasn't a huge fan of those. The base of this spread is nice and smooth, so the stringiness kinda gets in the way if you ask me. It wasn't a dealbreaker, though. It's still a great product, versatile and unique.

It's very sweet, tart, and pineappley. If you're so inclined, you could spoon it straight from the jar. I put it on a piece of toast with a little butter, and it's pretty freaking tasty that way. As is the case with many different fruits and fruit spreads, it goes great with cottage cheese. Another idea we haven't tried yet but are fairly confident will work: throw it in a blender with vanilla ice cream and make a pineapple milkshake.

Sonia was grossed out by this, but I'll share it anyway for those of you with strong stomachs: I made a peanut butter and pineapple fruit spread sandwich. It totally worked, IMHO. Not saying you need to try it that way, but maybe if you're feeling adventurous, you know... I'll still take grape jelly over pineapple spread for my daily PBJ, but hey, variety is the spice of life as they say.


We're going to baste some salmon in this stuff tonight with a bit of teriyaki sauce glaze, too. We'll report back if anybody's interested.

It would also make a great dip/topping for coconut shrimp. I also thought of putting pieces of turkey bacon on a pizza and then adding a few dollops of this spread for a makeshift kosher Hawaiian pizza, but nah, this stuff's too sweet methinks—too much sugar for an application like that.

Pineapple fans, have at it. I just wish it were a little less stringy. Sonia gives it four out of five stars. I'll go with three and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce

Though mainly carnivorous in nature, in all honesty, a little vegan meat substitution here and there doesn't bother me. Need proof? All the things TJ's sells, it was none other than the original TJ's soy chorizo that got me interested in helping jumpstart this here fine blog over ten years ago. Think I'm long, wordy, pointless, and all that now? Ha! You have no idea how lucky you kids are these days. 

That being said, I've been meaning to and wanting to try out Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce for quite some time. Love pulled pork, but it doesn't always love me the same way back. I've heard rumors that jackfruit easily emulates all that pulled pork can offer, and well, here's an easy chance to draw my own conclusion at the expense of $1.99 and a minute in the microwave. 

Surprisingly, to a newbie like me, decent. Take a look at my product pic. It definitely looks the part, right? Saucy, stringly, a little chunky. At first glance I thought maybe onions were involved, but the ingredients make no mention of them, so i presume it's all jackfruit and sauce. 

The bite is definitely softer than even slow-and-low smoked pulled prok, and not as stringy either. I miss that little bite, but not the little bits that inevitably get stuck in my teeth, so there's that. There was a small plastic-y square in mine - not sure if actual part of package made it's way in, a foreign intruder at the packing plant, or just a pretty not-so-great part of jackfruit. Cast aside without much drama and worries.  Everything else was great - small strands, bigger chunks with more "meat" to them - but no bark though. Oh well. 

The fruit itself is mild, without much flavor by itself. That works because that really helps take on the flavor of the sauce...and man. this BBQ Sauce is pretty legit. Thick, a touch sweet, tangy, with a upper medium kick - it's definitely Kansas City, the American classic, style. I wouldn't say "smoky" quite as much but the little touch that's there iss okay - if liquid smoke were added for the kill shotit'd be an absolutely no go for me. Hate that junk. As it was, that BBQ sauce was finger-lickin' good.

In all it was definitely a decent lunch. I ate mine plain in a bowl, but I think it'd go well over rice. In a sandwich, with a sturdy roll, I feel the texture of the carbs would heavily outweigh the bite of the fruit, so all would be tasted and sensed would be sauce. For the cost and convenience I'll absolutely buy again without a dount. My lovely bride opted for something else for lunch, but I was happy to nosh down the entire package myself as not much of a stomach stretcher. Without going into detail, I'm having some mild digestive issues which I can only really attribute to the jackfruit, but it's nothing too troublesome. Tasty, tasty, tasty, and pretty darn good. Here's another fake meat win for you, TJ's!



Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pulled Jackfruit in Smoky BBQ Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Banana Fruit Spread

Hello friends! Last week was a bit of a tough week for the Western Pennsylvania division of the WGaTJ's-writin' team, and it's good to be back. Both my lovely bride and I came down with a case of the 'rona and were basically knocked out of commission for a few days. Thankfully, we're almost fully recovered by now. Big thanks to those crazy lovebirds Nathan and Sonia for holding down the fort once again while we were more squarely on the mend. 

It's not to say we're completely symptom free right now. My tastebuds still aren't working quite right. Everything tastes okay...but nothing tastes good. Coffee just tastes all around awful, as if I'm having it for the first time again. Of course, this is better than how Sandy is doing - she can barely smell and her sense of taste  is slowly crawling back from completely on its way to mostly dead. 

So in other words, it's baby steps from here back to full hitpoints. We'll take it. 

And if you're taking baby steps, you may as well eat baby food. 

I've heard Trader Joe's Organic Banana Fruit Spread referred to as rather baby food-esque in other social media I've been scrolling through. Didn't know if to believe it or not, or if so if TJ's could do themselves a marketing favor by slapping a baby kangaroo on the label and rebranding it as "Trader Joey's."

Nah, they shouldn't. There's too much added sugar for that. 

Really, all this spread is made of is banana, sugar and pectin. It' soft and spreadable like a nonchunky jam. The spread is smooth and even, with an odd kinda sheen to it, that definitely evokes professionally mashed banana. It's wholly a bit familiar and odd at once. 

And as may have to be my disclaimer over the next few weeks, my taste may be a bit askew but all I can taste is banana with added sugar. The result isn't candylike, like a banana runt, but still the sweetness of a banana amped up while the other features are left in check. It seems a bit off, and not, for me, 100% enjoyable. I tried some by itself, and on a waffle with a little peanut butter and chocolate chip, and both times I came to the conclusion I would have preferred a plainer, more natural banana flavor. but I guess then TJ's wouldn't have much of a product to sell, so maybe this just isn't for me. 

Our kids will probably go ape for it though, and in the end the 'nana spread seems to be a relatively alright jar of jam or jelly, so if they like it, full speed ahead, ya little monsters. 

I'm a solid meh. Sandy, with her zero taste right now, doesn't have much of an opinion but noted it does have a pleasing enough texture at the very least. Put as down as a meh for both how we're feeling and how we're rating this product, and we''ll be glad to revisit later. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Banana Fruit Spread: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Pineapple

Perhaps this is not a universal truth, but here in Pittsburgh it is: No matter how cold it is, you'll definitely see a guy wearing shorts. 

Sure, it's true now, at the end of February and us going through the interminable "false spring" where temps hit the 50s before plunging back to subzero the following week. heck, I was the dude in dungarees earlier today. But even in the midst of coldest, darkest, polar vortex-est winter, you'll see it: a guy wearing shorts. Guaranteed. 

What's this have to do with Trader Joe's Chile Spiced pineapple? Glad you asked. The answer is, obviously,, well...ummm..you see...no idea. Something something promise of warmth and perhaps summery but really not quite there and quit fooling yourself. Yeah...something like that. 

I picked up a small sack of eight slices on my latest TJ's run. No idea if they're newish or not, but I hadn't seen them before, and thought them to be a summery looking bite, with perhaps a little intrigue. For less than $3, it was an easy sell.

The actual product though? Ugh. It fails to deliver, with seemingly a two fold problem. 

First: the actual texture. I was expecting dried pineapple like the little chunks, you'd find ain a snack mix. You know, dry, kinda chalky, a wee bit stiff and fibrous. That's a great texture. these rings, though? They're soft and pliable and rubbery, as if they were halfbaked. Like a bad fruit jerky. It's not a pleasing or texture to have to try and rip off chunks with your teeth instead of a cleaner bite. No thanks. 

But then here's the rub...literally. That chile seasoning is not so great, and it's easy to see why. but first, a little background: if you're not familiar with pineapple, it's sweet with a lot of sugar. The pineapple here is a regular pineapple, just strangely chewier. So, innately speaking, there's already  plenty of sugar....so WHY ADD MORE SUGAR TO A SPICE RUB FOR SOMETHING ALREADY SO SUGARY??? A rub like this might work on a pork butt but a sugary fruit? No! The result is an over cloyingly sweet taste trying to balance out some seasoned burn from chile peppers and friends let me tell you that this isn't happening here. It's all out of whack and just not very good. Barely any spice can be detected - a little, but not enough, especially for how red and potent each slice appears to be. 

Not a fan. I'll finish the bag...eventually....maybe...and be done with it for good. I just don't like being left out in the cold like that. My lovely bride isn't much of a fan either. I think we'll be nice and somehow give the psuedo-spicy sugary pineapple chew rings a 3 between us. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Pineapple: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons

As a young kid if I were to be at a restaurant with a salad bar, here's precisely what my plate would look like if given the chance: piles of shredded cheese. A couple cucumber slices. Maybe some sliced bell peppers. Handfuls of bacon bits, even more so if those little generic red tinged Bacos or even worse, generic Bacos. A couple of those mini cookies or muffins that are always there. And a tiny piece of lettuce to let my mom know that I, indeed, had made a grown up salad. 

And croutons. Hills and mountain ranges of croutons. 

I mean, what kid doesn't like croutons? My kids love them and call them "crunchers" or "crunchies" or "munchies" or whatever else pops in their head. They eat them by the handful, happily. generally speaking, croutons are classic, and it's really hard to mess with classics. You gotta be fearless. 

Fearlessly indeed, here's Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons. 

What the what? Imagine the classic basic garlic crouton, and instead of the crunchy, bready bite, it's the starchy banana/potato crossover that's been popping up more and more at TJ's. Plantains are the next mango or cookie butter (and they pair well with both!). 

The croutons themselves are far tinier than most of their carby counterparts, and it's for good reason. Whereas regular croutons are still quite crunchy, there's still the softer toasty touch that make them manageably munchable for most. They can afford to be the size they are. It's not quite the case here. These plantain nibs are denser, cruncher, much harder to chew through. Use caution with small kids (between size and density, they're potential choking hazards) or expensive dental work. It's not enough to be offputting to me, but it's absolutely noticeable if you're craving the reliable comfort vibe of a regular ol' crouton. 


Aside from that, it's straight up crouton. There's plenty of garlic - more than expected, my grandma (rest her soul) would appreciate them - and perhaps they're a little heavy on the salt too. I'm not sure if that's just more noticeable since it's a plantain or if it's deliberate on behalf of the manufacturers because it's a plantain and so you have to counterbalance the natural sweetness and starches of a plantain. But it works. 

Gluten free and vegan. Always a plus. They're acceptable crouton-like crunchy cubes for the masses! YAYYYY! *Kermit arms*

I actually haven't had them on a salad, though they'd work well. Instead, I've had them more as a quick afternoon snack here and there. Salad, soups, etc for use, and just now typing this up I wonder if they'd work in something like a homemade Chex Mix. Gonna have to find out. Not quite double fours from my lovely bride and me. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Plantain Croutons: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons




 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips

When looking forward to something with great amounts of anticipation, there are varying degrees of severity of the phrase "not impressed" once you get to experience said something, right?

On one hand, the latest season of Letterkenny? Never watched it or never even heard of it? Change that this weekend, start at season 1, and go. I'd recommend skipping the third episode (named, uh, "Fartbook') as it's a bit hit or miss with newbies. Season 9 of the series debuted on Christmas after a few months of delays...my lovely bride and I binged the whole season in one night...and were left kinda disappointed. It just didn't have the same feel or cleared the same hurdless that previous seasons lifted the bar so high for. Still ok...but not that great. I hope in time appreciation will grow for it, but now, just a simple "not impressed" will do. 

The other extreme may be most of 2020. Maybe the appreciation will grow in time...lots of time...but yeah. That's a pretty empathetic NOT IMPRESSED. 

So where do Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips fall on this spectrum?

Yup, we looked forward to them with great anticipation. Plantains are good and dark chocolate is great, right? Those are still undeniable truths. Yet here, in this iteration, there's a bit of something lacking. Much like previous plantain chips, there's the soft, starchy, Styrofoamy comfort feel to the actual chips themselves. It's an experience we know well and it works. Except...maybe not for sweet-tilting indulgent treats? It kinda feels and tastes, well, not wrong but not right either. That's not it's fault, it's a plantain and by now inanimate.

As usual, no real issues with the dark chocolate. It's on point and delivers once again, as expected. 

Maybe it's because we somehow expected or craved something more akin to a chocolate covered potato chip that we're left a little not impressed here. Or heck, like our recently rediscovered love of plantain crisps? Yes please!  Like...we knew it wasn't gonna be but wanted it anyways. I will say the overall taste is good, and has some promises, and perhaps like the latest season of Letterkenny appreciation will grow in time, but right now, neither my lovely bride nor I are really all that impressed. 

Maybe we're wrong - it happens, a lot - and we let poor expectation management override sound judgement. That happens a lot too if you haven't noticed. **coughcough2020**

Bags cost a few bucks each - maybe three - and it'll take a few days to finish the spare we have. Our kids like them and their diminutive size 9the chips, not the kids) make them a reasonably good snacky treat. I was handing them out like literal candy to them the other day. So I'll bump them a grade for that at least. Doing right for kids goes a long way in my book. Still not impressed, though. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Trader Joe's Cranberry Orange Relish


Apparently there are some cran-haters out there, but I ain't one of 'em. I love me some cranberries. Especially this time of year. Oh how I love the sweet-tartness, the tang, the taste of cranberries. But then, hmmm, it occurs to me that I've never eaten an actual cranberry. I really don't think I've ever had one in my life. I mean, I've had "craisins," which are dried cranberry raisin-esque thingies. And also, apparently, that name is trademarked by Ocean Spray, so it's actually Craisins®. Please don't sue us, Ocean Spray.

I've had cranberry sauce, cranberry jam, cranberry juice, cranberry juice mixed with literally every other kind of fruit juice, and cranberries baked into all sorts of confections. But why on earth haven't I ever eaten a plump, juicy cranberry straight off the vine...? Bush...? Tree...? I don't even know where cranberries grow.


Oh well. It may be some time before I eat an actual whole cranberry in its natural state, but thanks to long-time reader and commenter NJ-to-TX, I was recently reminded of this product, which I'd heard about before, but never really paid much attention to—and lemme tell ya' it's crantastic. It's been around Trader Joe's for a long, long time. And, as is usually the case with such a product, that's a testament to its scrumptiousness.

This stuff is sweet. It's very sweet. It's actually a bit sweeter than traditional cranberry sauce by my estimation, and you'd expect it to be so with 25g of sugar per serving. There's plenty of tartness, too, to make it a little less like a candy and more like a condiment.

There are exactly three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and oranges. I'm a little surprised sugar isn't the number one ingredient, but I guess cranberries are a little sweet on their own. There's definitely more cranberry flavor, while the citrus kick of the orange is more subtle and understated. It's a beautiful balance of the constituent flavors.


Channeling my ten-year-old self that zeroed in on cranberry sauce over any other dish on the Thanksgiving Day table, I took bite after bite straight out of tub upon first opening it. Sonia was less enthused to consume it plain, and like a real adult, prefers it on turkey, tofurkey, stuffing, and/or mashed potatoes. It does go VERY well with all of those things, but I'd get creative and try it in pies, as a dip for chicken nuggets, or whatever ridiculous combo pops into my foodie-hack brain at the moment.

If you haven't checked it out, I recommend trying this in place of traditional cranberry sauce at your Turkey Day meal. $3.49 for the 6 serving tub. Four and a half stars from me. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Fruit Spread

Exactly 400 years ago today, the Mayflower arrived at what is now known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims had been at sea for 66 days. They weathered heavy storms between England and the New World, many had been severely ill during their journey, and one sailor even died. They nearly lost one of their main masts but were able to repair it as they traveled.

Their first winter in America was even more harsh than their voyage across the Atlantic. Nearly half of all the Pilgrims perished in the next few months. The First Thanksgiving wouldn't take place until over a year after their first landing. By then they had food, shelter, and Native American friends, but the road to that point was a long and bumpy one. I was originally going to segue with something about apples, but turns out apples didn't even exist in North America at the time. So I'll go with this: the point is that they never gave up, not even in the darkest winter.

Likewise, Trader Joe's never gave up on this product—or, more precisely, its predecessor, the Apple Cider Jam. I thought it seemed popular enough and it was definitely good enough, but Trader Joe's saw fit to rename, repackage, and reformulate it, resulting in the fruit spread you see here. It could be they just went with a different supplier, but who knows? Honestly, who cares? Because this version is at least as good as the last.


At first glance, the spread seems to have virtually identical ingredients to the jam. But upon closer inspection, we see that the sugar is now "organic cane sugar." Okay, that's good. There's "apple juice" in this one, rather than "cider" in its predecessor. Hmm, weird. But if anything, I think it makes this iteration just a hint sweeter. Also, this version actually lists "cinnamon, mace (not like pepper spray) cloves, ginger, coriander, allspice, and cardamom" rather than simply the mysterious and vague "spices" noted in the older version. It's a great spice blend to complement the sweetness, not overpowering at all, but festive and fall-ish.

It could be my imagination, but I think the apple chunks here are more angular and irregular than the jam version. It was almost as if the chunks were all the same size and somewhat cubicle shaped before, while these are more random. It feels like someone cut these apple chunks by hand while the other chunks felt like they were diced by a machine.


Like the original, this one is great on toast with cream cheese, plain yogurt, waffles, as a filling for a pie, or as a baste for poultry—I'd totally try it on a Thanksgiving turkey. We even used it as a marmalade type sauce for fried butterfly shrimp and we both loved it. At $3.49, this one's a tad cheaper and it's still the same size jar (12oz).

Four and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.