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Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Rabitos Royale Ruby Cacao Figs


I just couldn't help myself. I know they're not Trader Joe's brand, but chocolate truffle figs sounded so interesting. The buzz about Rabitos Royale Ruby Cacao Figs around the web is pretty positive, as well. Just look at that fancy box. How could something so extravagant disappoint?

Provided you love the taste of figs and have five bucks to blow on four small pieces of candy, they most likely won't. They're super sweet, because it's not dark chocolate here. It's ruby cacao and milk chocolate. Figs are sweet to begin with and chocolate doesn't exactly temper that sweetness at all. There are essences of vanilla and brandy in the mix as well. All in all, chocolate, fig, vanilla, and brandy is a pretty tasty flavor combo. It might be a little too sweet for some folks, but lucky for me, I've got a sweet tooth.


Each fig is individually wrapped, which helps keep the unused specimens fresh. Although it's very much within the realm of possibility to eat the entire box in one sitting, particularly if you've got someone to share with. Again, lucky me.

Rabitos Royale Ruby Cacao Figs can be a little messy. The pink shell wants to break apart and fall on your lap as you bite into it. There's not a lot of juiciness, since the figs are dried, but there's enough of a crumble-factor that you might not want to eat these while you're driving or operating heavy machinery or wearing a light-colored Easter dress or something.


One of our candied figs had a very odd tough section. It wasn't like a fig seed. It was almost as if a small section of the fig skin was leathery and somewhat hard. It was a bit gross. I thought about spitting out that bite, but then I thought about the fact that each fig costs more than a dollar and decided to just chew through it. I made it without yacking or anything like that, but still you'd hope that for what you're paying, you'd get nothing but top notch quality fruit within the candy. Oh well. It was only one piece.

Trader Joe's is the only store where I've seen these, but I didn't see anything about them being a Trader Joe's exclusive or anything like that. Looks like you can order them online from a few places. Don't think I'd buy these regularly, but for a once in a great while treat, they're fine. Three and a half stars from me. The beautiful wifey gives Rabitos Royale Ruby Cacao Figs four out of five stars, remarking "This is the kind of stuff rich people eat!"

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm


Trader Joe's is discovering that hearts of palm are nearly as versatile as cauliflower. We've already looked at Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta, and I've already given my contemplative spiel about palm trees, so this time we'll just jump right into the food review.

Inside the box, there's a plastic pouch full of the riced hearts of palm. After snipping the corner or top of the pouch, you have to squeeze the contents out in the manner of toothpaste from a tube. They land in your saucepan resembling a lumpy wet mass. Not particularly appetizing. The smell is odd and excessively planty, similar to the pasta version, but not something that's familiar otherwise. Again, not particularly appetizing.


After heating, however, the product improves drastically both in smell and appearance. The aroma gets richer and more earthy, almost squash-like. The little palm pieces start to resemble actual rice as the liquids are partially cooked away.

The finished product is still a little wetter than actual rice somehow. The pieces are slightly more gelatinous than grainy. Still, they're quite edible. They need some fixins, though. The box recommends serving the dish with olive oil, veggies, and spices. I tried experimenting with a bunch of TJ's seasonings but nothing stood out head and shoulders above the others.

I like traditional rice the best. And I'd probably take riced cauliflower over this stuff. Still, this isn't a bad option. I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm again, but if someone served it to me as a side dish, I would eat it without complaint.

$3.49 for the 9 oz package. Vegan. Gluten free. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs


Usually Trader Joe's rolls out maple stuff in the fall, but I believe these little beauties debuted last month. Right now is actual maple harvest season—February into April, so let's take a look, shall we?

I was highly skeptical of these puffs before trying them. I mean, I love corn and rice-based snacks. They're so light and crispy and snackable. I'm thinking: Bambas, The World's Puffiest Sour Cream & Onion Puffs, and classic snacks like Pirate's Booty. They've generally been savory flavors like white cheddar cheese, rather than sweet, although a couple versions of the Bambas featured peanut butter and cocoa. How would they work with maple flavoring?

At first bite, both Sonia and I were a little weirded out, honestly. The texture was no surprise. Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs are identical to all the above-mentioned puffs in terms of their crispy, crunchy mouthfeel. On the other hand, the taste was a brand new experience.

There's an amber dusting on each puff. It looks a bit like cinnamon, but it tastes distinctly mapley. It's also oddly buttery, too. Just like a real pancake. The flavor grew on me quickly.

Not the beautiful wifey, however. She was still saying they tasted weird after a couple handfuls and told me I could finish the bag. I happily did. It took me more than one sitting, but I finished the whole thing in less than 24 hours. I thought they were addicting.

$2.49 for the 4 oz bag. Vegan. Gluten free. I'd buy again. Sonia wouldn't. She says she didn't think they were gross per se, but rather they're just not her thing. She'd prefer a cheese or sour cream and onion flavored puff.

I think these could easily become churro flavored puffs if they substituted cinnamon for the maple and molasses flavors. I'd try that version, too. Three out of five stars from Sonia on Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs. Four and a half from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites


Mmmkay. This is one of those "sexy" new items I was talking about last week when I promised I'd review something more interesting than common pantry fare soon-ish. Trader Joe's Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites are definitely new, but are they really that sexy?

Welp, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say...no. But let's look at both sides of this equation. There are some things working here. Let's try to be positive and look at that stuff first.

Parmesan cheese. The number one ingredient. I like parmesan. These are indeed parmesan-laden and cheesy and that's the "CHEESE" part of the product title. In my humble opinion the cheesiness is good and the intensity is about right.


What else is working? The texture. These things are crispy and crunchy in a very unique way. I tried to capture the texture visually with the new macro feature on my phone camera. Pretty cool, right? You can see all the rifts, ridges, nooks, crannies, and seediness up close. 

Of course, that photo is larger than life. I mean...depending upon the size of your monitor screen. Maybe if you're on mobile right now, it's just about life size. But then I don't know how big your phone is. Maybe I should just tell you how big they are. Fortunately, there's a ruler right behind me as I write this.

They are 1.25 inches by 1.375 inches on average. Nearly square. Like maybe two or three small bites a piece for me.

So let's move on to what's not working: nearly everything else. The overall taste of these is like black pepper. And I like black pepper. Is it the peppercorns? I guess. They're overwhelming. It's a pungent, acrid, bitter pepper punch in each and every bite. Actually some bites are worse than others. It builds up on the tongue and honestly I can only eat one or two crisps at a time. They're very light, too, in terms of density. If the peppercorn flavor were tempered a bit, I think I'd plow through the bag in one or two sittings easily.

TL;DR - Crunchy parmesan aspects are nice. Peppercorn element is overpowering.

$3.49 for the 2.8 oz bag. I give Trader Joe's Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites with Puffed Quinoa & Whole Peppercorns two out of five stars. Sonia liked hers in tomato soup okay, although she agrees they're not great on their own. Three stars from her.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars


Let's kick the new year off right. It's January, and everybody's craving frozen treats, right? No? Well then, let's crank up the heat, put on a tropical island screen saver, and pretend it's the middle of July. Not every review can be seasonally appropriate.

I've honestly been surprised how well oat lends itself to fudge and chocolate flavors. In almost every case, these oats and oat milk-based products would have been a godsend if I were still on my milk-free diet as I was as a child, or for that matter, if I were vegan. I'm thinking these Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars, the recently-reviewed Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, and Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars.

Conversely, in each case, these chocolatey oat desserts fall just shy of my good old dairy-based stand-by treats. Although it's not really my thing these days, I used to love a good Fudgesicle circa junior high and high school. That's basically what these are: vegan fudge popsicles.

They taste fudgey enough for me, although they might fall a hair shy of the originals in terms of rich chocolatey goodness and creaminess. Still, for being oat-based, it's hard to complain, since the differences are negligible.

Texture-wise, they're sorta creamy-ish, I guess, but also almost a tad oily I'd say. Is it the cocoa butter? Sunflower lecithin? Both? It's not really unappetizing, just unique. The mouthfeel of this product is...interesting.

$3.49 for four bars. It seems odd there are only four. Six would be ideal by my estimate. Sonia gives these oaty treats four out of five stars. I give Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars three out of five stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Trader Joe's O' Nog

History repeats itself. After trying Trader Joe's O' Nog for the first time, I think Sonia said verbatim the same thing she said after tasting Trader Joe's Almond Nog.

"I like this better than regular egg nog."

Blasphemy. Culinary heresy, pure and simple. Vegans and lactose intolerants, you guys get a free pass. But the beautiful wifey is neither of those.

I'm just kidding. She's free to think silly things like that. And I'm free to think that traditional egg nog will never be surpassed by anything non-dairy.

But comparing this to full calorie, milk-based, egg-laden nog is unfair in some ways. So let's look at it for what it is: it's an oat-based beverage that very nearly approximates the flavor of traditional egg nog. It got the sweetness level right. It got the spice blend right. And it came very close to getting the creaminess right.


The texture, like the almond nog, is noticeably more watery than the real stuff. And while the almond nog was predictably nutty, this oat beverage is predictably grainy in a similar sense, flavor-wise.

This drink reminds Sonia of atole, or atole blanco, a traditional corn-based Mexican beverage usually served hot. So, logically, Sonia tried Trader Joe's O' Nog warmed up and she absolutely loved it. I must agree it works as a hot beverage, possibly even better than it does when served cold.

I can verify it works well when mixed with bourbon. I'd assume, like egg nog or almond nog, that it would go great with rum, brandy, J├Ągermeister, or any number of alcoholic additives, too.

It's not just dairy-free, but also vegan, soy free, gluten free, and lactose free. The only ingredients not in the "2% or less" category are water, hydrolyzed oats, and cane sugar.

$2.99 for the quart. Sonia will go with four stars again. I'll go with a solid three for the noble effort on Trader Joe's O' Nog Non-Dairy Oat Beverage.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Triple Ginger Muffins


Like raw garlic, ginger is one of those miracle substances that's truly a gift to mankind. It has antibacterial properties. It can lower blood pressure. It can even aid digestion and help fight the common cold. Unlike garlic, it actually lends a great flavor to
candies, sweet beverages, and other treats.

I can't vouch for any health benefits or healing properties from this particular product, but I can tell you it tastes significantly like real, raw, unadulterated ginger. In my opinion, they got the ginger flavor juuust right. It's always a delicate balance. The recently-reviewed Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies didn't have enough real ginger flavor if you ask me, and products like the Ginger, Almond & Cashew Granola had too much raw ginger flavor. This product nailed the ginger level with ginger puree, candied ginger, crystallized ginger, and ground ginger. Wait. That's four kinds of ginger. That makes this product Trader Joe's Gluten Free Quadruple Ginger Muffins. I guess "triple ginger" rolls off the tongue a little better.

The ginger is balanced out by the alternative flours like rice, potato, and tapioca along with a sweetness blend including molasses and brown sugar. Sonia, in particular, loved the molasses and brown sugar. The ginger flavor is powerful, but not overwhelming.


Texture-wise, these are practically identical to October's Gluten Free Pumpkin Streusel Muffins. They're not simply moist or oily, they're nearly wet with a sticky liquid glaze. There's an unusual fresh-baked quality about them, and they don't suffer for a lack of wheat or gluten. Unlike the pumpkin version, these didn't seem to have that grainy or gritty texture at all.

$4.99 for four muffins. Sonia likes pumpkin just a bit more than she likes ginger, so she'll go a half star lower on this one. I'll go half a star higher since these didn't make me cough. So four stars from me, three and a half from the beautiful wifey on Trader Joe's Gluten Free Triple Ginger Muffins.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Trader Joe's PBC Bars


Long ago, we reviewed Trader Joe's ABC Bars, the almond butter version of this peanut butter-based snack. In the post, I came up with as many "ABC" word combos as I could think of. It'd be a pretty big charge to do it again. It's in the past, babe, chill. I couldn't possibly be creative like that again.


Pleasantly buttery, creamy, these bars make positively boss comestibles like their predecessors. Trader Joe's packed blissful cocoa all through these bars, also peanut butter, creamy-style—pretty basic concept. 

But now that I've tried 'em, I get powerful bad cravings. Perhaps babies cry for PBC. They'd be a proper buy at checkout.

Health-wise, these are presumably a better choice than pretzels, brownies, chips. I would personally bake cookies, but I'm sure they wouldn't be as good as these. Perfect bars for camping, they'd probably be convenient.

People begging for chow? Pickup a box of craveable peanut butter cocoa bars. Please be careful: they're addicting. 

$3.29 for six bars. Vegan. Gluten free. I think I prefer the almond butter version just ever so slightly over these. I'm usually a peanut butter guy, but almond butter works a little better in this application. Still, peanut butter is never unwelcome to the beautiful wifey and me. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's PBC Bars.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Streusel Muffins


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Trader Joe's Caramel Apple Mochi


I'm guessing during times of great economic strain there's not a lot of demand for food criticism—you know, like during the Great Depression and such. Any "problems" I have with the foods I'm reviewing here or anywhere else will suddenly seem completely irrelevant and inconsequential if we return to a time of stock losses, bear markets, high unemployment, and nutritional scarcity. I'm thinking food critics won't be counted as essential in any way, shape, or form and most food review blogs will fade away and eventually vanish altogether.

Some might say we're headed that way right now. But as long as we suburbanite middle-class Americans can keep our normalcy bias goggles on super tight, we'll keep overanalyzing pre-packaged "organic junk food" or, in this case, an odd fusion of a classic all-American flavor in a Japanese-American mochi ice cream format.


An initial observation: this is the first mochi I've personally seen from Trader Joe's that comes individually packaged. Each mochi ball comes in its own little cellophane wrapper. Previous mochi iterations have all come in an egg-carton sort of plastic tray with six indentations, one for each piece, all wrapped in one big cellophane bag. There are obvious advantages to having each one individually wrapped, but there might also be some disadvantages, too. I won't dwell on that issue too much.

The light brown rice-based shell is pretty much par for the course. It's soft, stretchy and dusted with a starchy powder. There's not much flavor in the outer shell. It just holds the ice cream where it belongs.

And the ice cream here is decent. Visually, it's not much different from plain vanilla, but it flaunts a good balance of both apple flavor and caramel flavor. It's nice and creamy, sweet, smooth. But Sonia and I both detected something...just slightly off-putting about the caramel aspect of it in particular. We both felt like it tasted artificial somehow. We were both wishing they'd put a glob of pure caramel in the middle of apple flavored ice cream, similar to the saucy mocha center we saw in the coffee mochi some six years ago.

But there is real apple in the ice cream, and you can taste it. I almost wish they'd simply done apple mochi or maybe apple cinnamon rather than caramel. But again, all these complaints are silly in the end. This is a fine product, all things considered, and I'm blessed to have been able to try it.

It's been a long time since I first had mochi, but there's still something novel about eating ice cream with your hands. I'll definitely buy Trader Joe's mochi again in the future, but not sure if this flavor would be my first choice. Apparently, this product is already done for the season. Sheesh, can't you keep a product around for two weeks, Trader Joe's? I'm sure it'll be back next year for those of you who want to try it...

$4.79 for six pieces of mochi. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit

 

Seems there was a brief moment in time that boba or bubble tea was all the rage, somewhat nestled between my college and not quite married years. Before she would come to be known as such, my lovely bride and I would occasionally go grab one after her work somewhere near the Carnegie Mellon campus. Pretty sure there was a place on Craig Street, probably still is, but it always seemed packed full of college kids happily slurping away on these kinda oddball milky tea drinks with these goofy balls of whatever in them. Whatever, I kinda liked 'em too. 

Must still be a semi-popular thing, as now if the mood hits for a boba, we don't have to deal with a bunch of runty AirPod-wearing jaywalkers half our age. Naw. We just need to hit up our freezer, with the new Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit. 

It's a weird concoction of sorts. Inside the boz there's four indicidual pouches, each with some flavor mix and those famous tapioca pearls, as well as an appropriately sized paper straw. Nuke the pearls and stuff for a minute, add some ice and milk, and voila, it's a boba tea, all right in the home, no real skill or even effort involved. 


That being said, it ain't the best.


For me, maybe it's just the flavor choice. I love brown sugar and all, but when mixed with the milk it just tastes like leftover cereal milk. Which is still kinda delicious, not gonna lie there. But then when paired with the tapioca balls, it must be a mental trick or something as I swear the boba tastes a little molasses-y. That and the pearls aren't as firm, and instead are somewhat rubbery and sticky. It's kinda close to the real deal, and does an admirable job for a freezer DIY concoction, but it still seems a little too nopticeably off.

Maybe that's just me. Sandy loved it. It was late at night when we finally made one to sample. She took one sip and asked if we really had to share. yes, dear, please. After two or three, i had my fill. Just not quite right, or maybe I've left all my crazy boba days behind me as I've just hit 40. Kinda makes me happy to see Sandy enjoy it then, maybe this'll be something all for her. 

Oh well. Maybe a different flavor, something kinda fruity, would've hit me different. Brown sugar just didnt do it for me this time. I'll be nice and toss out a few spoons for it, whereas my lovely bride will ring it up as perfection. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, August 8, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Non-Dairy Oat Creamer

Sonia is the designated coffee drinker in our household. I'll partake of the stuff out of necessity, or just once in a blue moon to change things up a bit. By and large, though, I'm an energy drink guy. 

Despite the wife's affinity for java, she's never really been a "black coffee" girl. She's gotta have her half and half or at least some type of non-dairy substitute. If we wake up in the morning and Sonia discovers we're out of coffee creamer...well, let's just say that's not a good start to the day for our family. As American women go, Sonia's among the least pampered and non-divalike I've ever known, but woe unto you if you used up the half and half the night before and didn't make a late night convenience store run to replace it.

So it's good we had some of this Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Non-Dairy Oat Creamer on hand the last time that happened. Sonia says this version is both sweeter and creamier than any other oat-based creamer she's ever had. She's tried at least three other brands: Califia Farms, Elmhurst, and Coffee Mate Natural Bliss. I'm sure I've tried at least one of those others, but it certainly didn't stand out as super-delicious or life-changing in any way. Sonia says other oat-based creamers seem much more watery than this Trader Joe's selection.

There really is a whisper of actual brown sugar flavor in this creamer. Mostly, it's just sweet, but there is some brown sugar in the ingredients and you can taste it ever so slightly. It's also got that faint nutty oaty wholesomeness that other oat creamers do.

As far as the creaminess is concerned, some extra thickness might be due at least in part to the presence of pea protein and/or the controversial ingredient: sunflower oil. I keep hearing from more and more sources that sunflower oil—and all seed oils in general—are carcinogenic and shouldn't be consumed at all, or at least not in large quantities. If you do an internet search, you'll find plenty of articles about the potential dangers of seed oils, along with dissenting opinions, and there's at least one piece about this product in particular. I'm no food scientist, and Big Seed Oil hasn't sent me any "financial incentives" to promote their products just yet...so I'll just leave it at that for now.

We're looking at about two bucks for 16 oz of vegan-friendly creamer. Possibly a repeat purchase for the beautiful wifey. Four stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Papadums

Ever kinda bite your tongue and try to hold back because you know whatever you have to say is gonna be unpopular but you kinda have to say it anyways.

That's where I am when it comes to Trader Joe's Papadums, with one key exception: I'm biting my fingers, not tongue, cuz I have to type this all out instead of just saying it, hoping it goes unnoticed. 

I......do not like the TJ's papadums. Not at all. 

This is completely contrary to every other opinion I've seen on them online. I kinda get it. The idea behind them is wonderful. From what I can tell, papadums are a traditional Indian snack, with some variation, but a lot are crispy, crunchy, crackery chiplike guys made from lentils and chickpeas. Texturally, they're a lot like sweet potato tortilla chips. So far, so good. Flavorwise, there's not much except the natural lentil and chickpea flavor, with a small dash of cumin and salt. Again, we're off to a good start here...

...it's just...

...there's something about the taste. Upfront there's no offensive or wrong, but after a crisp or two, the flavor "turns." I don't know how else to describe it, but it changes from a pleasant earthy crispy crisp to something I can only liken to dirt. Just...gross dirt. Like dried up, bottom of the soccer cleat kinda stuff. No, I don't actually know what that tastes like. But it's just so off-putting.

I tried, really, I did. I ate multiple papadums in multiple sittings, just to see if it was my mood or something else. Nope. Each bite was worse. Can't take them any more. 

Now, sure, I'm sure some of you will say you had to try them with a dip. I'm sure that'd cover up some of their unpleasantness. But to me, for a product to be good, it has to stand independent from anything else, and not be reliant on something else to make up for what it lacks. That's not where I am here with these.

I don't know, maybe this papa is dumb for not liking the papadums. Everyone else does, including my lovely bride, so that means more for you all I suppose. Enjoy for me, I'm gonna be sitting these out from here on out. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Papadums: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies

Generally when consuming Cheetos, the less digits you can get involved in the whole matter, the better. All that orange dust caking on everywhere? Ugh. It's even worse with the kids. 

Well, skip the kids and make sure to at least prop the pinkie, here comes Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies. They fancy!

Sort of, anyways. I cracked open the bag and nearly gagged at first smell. Trapped up truffles can do that, I guess. Just smelled...musty and kinda stank. I don't know how else to describe it, and the first bite or two tasted like dirty feet to me. 

So yeah, not off to a good start.

Fortunately, I persisted, and by maybe the fourth bite, the real flavor of these new crunchers too effect. Instead of unnaturally glowing orange cheddar, these corn snacks are dusted with a mix of parmesan and black truffle pepper. While initially off-putting, the flavor grew on me with each passing bite. It's a little delicate and mild, with still a funky bite. I've never been able to get a truly good grasp on truffle flavor, mostly because I need to take a quick drink after or my mouth gets all itchy, but it's got that umami-licious funk that for those who enjoy it, they probably will here. 

Texturally, if you come into this expecting something akin to a Cheeto, that's what you got. There's only so many ways to conjure up corn meal and veggie oil, I guess. From the crunch I can't quite discern if they're baked or fried, but I'd presume baked given the overall lack of general greasiness. Could be wrong, won't be the last time here for sure. 

Overall, I'd give these a solid not bad. I can't see my kids liking them, though I've been proven wrong over and over with them, so that's a hearty who knows. Same with my lovely bride. I'm not 100% sure I'd rebuy them, mostly because of my mild truffle allergy and that I'm reasonably sure no one else here would eat them, but I can recognize them a little bit for what they are - a solid, not bad, slightly different, somewhat fancy spin on an old standby classic

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies: 5.5 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, 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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Trader Joe's Spring Gummies


The tulips in the backyard really want to come out. But just when we think they're about to go full-bloom, they get pummeled with cold north winds and snow flurries and they just stay tucked away—a few tufts of green leaflets poking out of the partially-thawed ground. One of these days soon they'll present their pretty petals, but for now it's a bit too chilly still.

Nevertheless, it is indeed springtime and Easter's not very far away. Nothing's more vernal than blooming flowers, playful butterflies, and cute chirpy birds. Even the convenient resealable bag boasts gorgeous green grass and beautiful blue skies.


The colors of the candies themselves are pastel pink, green, and yellow. As far as I could tell, however, there was no difference in flavors. They all had the same vaguely sweet, mostly forgettable taste. 

It's just cane sugar and a bunch of supporting ingredients that give the candies their color and texture. Fortunately, there's no pork gelatin. Hooray for kosher gummies. Also, they're gluten free.

So these would be fine for a kid's Easter basket or just a mid-day blood sugar booster. We've seen some disappointing gummy candy from Trader Joe's throughout the years and we've also seen some amazingly delicious offerings. These fall exactly in between the two extremes flavor-wise. But since they're presented so nicely, we'll be kind when we score them.

$2.99 for the bag. I think they were new as of last year, and they're making their second seasonal appearance right now. Three stars from Sonia. Three from me for Trader Joe's Spring Gummies.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Trader Joe's Sour Cream & Onion Flavored Rings

"You look pretty good...for your age."

"You're so pretty/handsome when you smile."

"I bet you were in great shape when you were younger."

Yeah, some "compliments" aren't exactly that, are they?

Kinda like when my lovely bride stated that the new Trader Joe's Sour Cream & Onion Flavored Rings were, and I quote, "better than Funyuns." I mean, I get the basis, as in comparing the most ubiquitous onion ring bagged snack to the TJ's noob here, but really? That, while not quite a low enough standard to be a tripping hazard in Hades, isn't exactly a difficult hurdle to cross. The thought of Funyuns doesn't leave me (or anyone?) reaching for the stars, much less a bag of Funyuns. Overly salty corn meal fried in vegetable oil? No thanks. 

Back to the TJ's snacker rings. These are legitimately and legume-ly tasty, with a much healthier base of lentils and rice, and baked deliciously to a light, airy crisp. The result is a slightly earthy, crunchy snack with a bite that keeps my chompers chomping for more. It really is pretty fun and somewhat novel. 

Results do vary somewhat as far as seasoning distribution. In the name of science I snagged two bags on my last trip. The first sack wasn't overly sour creamy or oniony - it was more a subtle suggestion than all out flavor blast. it was kinda nice yet somewhat lacking at the same time. Like, let's not get too refined here, k?  The second must have gotten whatever was leftover from the first and then some, because man, right from the first, it's all out sc&o. At time of writing it's been nearly two hours since I had my last bite and I can still taste it. Gonna have to brush before smooching the Mrs. 

Definitely give them a try if sour cream and onion are your kinda thing. I'd love for some more variations, like a jalapeno cheddar or ranch, or even just a plain one. While there's no doubt that the rings are absolutely a snack/junk food, they're pretyt healthy on that curve. And it's great that even a small handful has enough substance to them to fill ya up and help stave off the mindless eating. Mmm lentils. Just a couple bucks a bag and worth it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sour Cream & Onion Flavored Rings: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons