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Showing posts with label grains breads and cereals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grains breads and cereals. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls

 


You know...when you read the title "Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls"....you kinda expect those pastry rolls to have four cheeses, right? That's gotta be the logical interpretation, correct? I mean, why would anyone advertise the quantity of cheese pastry rolls as a leadoff? The number of cheeses, sure thing...but the number of rolls? No way. 

Except...well...

That's not what we got here with Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls.


There's four of them. They have cheese. It's pastry, and yeah, in enough of a roll form. So it's accurate, but not in the way one might expect. Sigh. 

Basically, instead of delightfully balanced cheese combo, oozing with savory goodness, there's just this sweet cream cheese globbed in. Imagine a cheese danish, without icing, in a croissant roll form, and that's pretty precisely what these rolls are. it's not bad...kinda tasty....but not what I was hoping for when initial purchase made. 

Oh well. 

As a big plus, though, there's no proofing involved here. Bake right from frozen and in less than half an hour, voila. I like the lack of planning and foresight involved. Always a plus. Granted, the offset is a pastry that isnt quite as light and flaky as it could be, but it's decent enough to not warrant any complaints. 


Have no idea what these cost, but likely wasn't much. These were kinda buried in the freezer, which we're trying to rotate stuff out of, so there's that. Decent and tasty enough, even if slightly misleading on initial glance. Eh well. Meh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola

Granola, deservedly or otherwise, has a reputation of being a somewhat healthy, tasty, hippie-ish kinda thing to eat. Cinnamon rolls, very deservedly, have a reputation of being one of the utmost of decadence, a timeless, classic culinary masterpiece when warm and gooey with all sorts of butter and sugar and other not so healthy things. 

Mash 'em together in Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola and whatcha got?

It's pretty tasty, that's what it is....but it's neither really a cinnamon roll or granola. I call this kinda thing the Rhode Island phenomenon. Discuss!

Part of the whole appeal of a classic cinnamon roll is the soft, warm, inviting bite into it, right? That warm gooiness that just invites your incisors to do their thang....yum. That's just not here, of course. instead, it's these large chunks of rolled oats that are room temperature and chewy and at times quite a mouthful. In my experience so far, there's been a few stray harder bits of grit that weren't anticipated, which thankfully didn't mess up my dental work. Granted, there's lot of the taste of a cinnamon roll, as it's replicated well here - plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar, and that cool icing drizzled atop - but, unshockingly, it's not exactly the real deal. 

And it's not quite granola either. My lovely bride had some and stated she'd never pour some into a bowl and splash some milk atop. I'd agree, this doesn't have that vibe. It's just too large and chunky and yeah i guess you could break it up....and the package itself recommends eating it cereal style...but I just can't see it. Same deal with busting some up to put on yogurt or whatever. Nah, all this is more close to just straight up snack out out of the bag.

In all, I like this the TJ's cinna roll granola but consider it to be almost more like a candy than anything else...except baked oat candy probably doesn't exist...yet. It's just so much sugar, especially that drizzle everywhere splattered on everything and holding it all together. Less of that could be more here. The granola's get enough going for it for me to give it a pass over all and it's a probable repurchase for the $5 or so it cost. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Granola

Oh man, let's just try to work through this here. 

At first glance, it really looks like the real name of this product is....ready for it....Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Granola Cookies & Creme Inspired Granola Clusters. That's a real mouth full. it's a good thing that a "granola cookie" really isn't a thing - I mean, it sounds an edgier, crunchier oatmeal cookie - but as a guy who's eaten, reviewed and researched many a cookie, I've never heard of them. I'm now patiently waiting for you all to prove me wrong that such a thing does exist, and if so, I'll give you my mailing address and eagerly wait an up-close inspection. 

So, really, it's "just" Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Granola, but with all those potentially possessive 'postrophes, there's a question of ownership and chain of command. I mean, it's my granola! Hands off now Joe-Joe...and Trader Joe's...it's mine and you won't want it when I'm done with it. 

Enough banter, let's get to it. Joe-Joe's, of course, are TJ's answer to the all time classic Oreo sandwich cookie. They're pretty nondescript, except to say it's a bit of a tasty knockoff, but it's fun to incorporate them into things like ice cream, and now, apparently, granola. 

This stuff is seriously crisp and crunchy, much more than regular granola. Perhaps the addition/utilization of coconut is the reason. This crunchy crispy clusters will give your molars a work out right out of the bag, and honestly, not even milk will soften it, at least in the few minutes it'd take to scarf down a bowl. Super crunchy and munchy. I dig. 

And if cookies and creme is your bag, this'll deliver. There's plenty of not-precisely-Oreo Oreo flavor that delivers - just the right amount of chocolate amped up by the little choco-bits strewn about, and a good hint of the vanilla creme filling too. What's missing is the full, rich, creaminess from the filling of the cookie - naturally, a little milk helps bring it out, a little, and it totally makes sense why it's not all quite there. It's a pretty good adaptation for what it is. 

Pour some in a bowl and drown in milk, or grab a handful and toss in some yogurt, or just straight mash it down the gullet. it's all good. The granola is pretty filling for what it is, and I'd say it delivers. No real complaints from my lovely bride and I - it's solid, tasty, not quite transcendent, but pretty tasty overall. We're pretty happy here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Granola: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 
 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Brioche Twist

If you're a carnivore, you eat nothing but meat. And what is meat but the muscles of animals? Also, not surprisingly, since "you are what you eat," a strict carnivore's physique generally becomes more and more muscular.

I'm not sure when I first heard it or who coined the word, but one of the funniest food puns I've ever heard is the word "carbivore" to describe those of us who are naturally inclined to breads and other carbohydrates. And unfortunately, carbivores tend to become what they eat as well, and they get a little doughy in the middle.

I must admit, although I'm in a constant battle against my cravings, I'm naturally fairly carbivorous myself. I've never met a piece of brioche toast I didn't like. And this one is no exception—with swirls of pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and pumpkin spice all through it. Yum. This loaf is pre-sliced perfectly for a traditional toaster. Just grab a piece, pull off the wax paper liner, warm it up, add a bit of butter. Perfection.


Again, maybe my critical standards go out the window when carbs are involved. Maybe I'm not thinking clearly, but I just can't think of any complaints. 

Some might say this is just glorified cinnamon bread and they wouldn't be entirely wrong, but the fall-ish flavors are well-balanced—neither too dominant nor too subtle. The texture is soft and supple and the bread just melts in your mouth. I could eat the whole loaf in a single day.

Sonia absolutely loved this product, too. Her only complaint was that the slices might be just a tad too thick, just barely clearing the slots in our toaster, width-wise. Also, she forgot to peel off the liner paper once or twice, so...there's that. She made French toast out of a couple of the pieces and added maple syrup. I'll agree that they were superbly scrumptious, but I'd rather save this brioche bread to eat by itself and have her make French toast out of regular bread.

But I'm getting off track. This is an outstanding fall product by my estimation. I hope it returns next year. $4.49 for about 9 slices. Five stars from me. Four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli

 

There's nary a veggie our family doesn't love. Our twice a week Costco bill surely validates that. The only veggie I remain fairly wary of would be a kohlrabi, just because it looks too much like something I should yank from the ground and toss at a Shy Guy or Ostro a la Super Mario 2....that game frustrated me too much as a kid, and even in recent years, trying to show my kids how "awesome" it was. I don't need memories of my 8 bit trauma on my dinner plate. 

But yeah, even Brussels sprouts make the cut here. Love 'em in all varieties of ways, but mixin' 'em with bacon makes 'em even better. So, totes obvi, Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli was a must get once they popped up in store. 

You gotta really like bacon to like these pasta creations. Yes, the ravioli is green as it has some spinach powder added to try to amp up the sprout factor. Maybe it's supposed to look like some sort of cruciferous concoction. But really....take a bite. It's bacon! So much of it, all ground up and mixed in with some not too chunky Brussels, and a smattering of cheese sauce-ish base. The package also says caramelized onions, and yeah, if I tried hard enough, I could kinda taste them...but mostly, it was bacon and soft cheese with only the occasional fibrous lil chunkie that suggested vegetative content. 

In other words, you're gonna want some veggies on the side here, folks. 

Nonetheless, it was a quick, tasty, fun meal. All we did was boil them up which took no time as they're sold fresh, then we added a little oil. The kids sprinkled (or in the case of our seven year old, totally cakked them) with Parmesan cheese, whereas I was pretty content to eat them as is. The ravioli would probably do okay with a variety of sauces, but perhaps a lighter one would be suggested - I feel as though some taste would get lost in something too creamy, too heavy or too rich. 

$3.99 for a package that yield two pretty ample servings. That seems about right, with prices what they are these days.  Two packages were more than enough four crew. These will be a staple for a quick, easy, fairly delish family meal this fall. Double fours here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts & Uncured Bacon Ravioli: 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

Friday, July 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Mini Meyer Lemon Biscotti


Trader Joe's will make a coffee drinker out of me yet if they keep putting out delicious flavors of biscotti. Apparently, this one's been around for a while. Not sure why it took us so long to actually purchase it, but here are our thoughts...

Very hard. They really need to be paired with coffee. I suppose tea or hot chocolate might work, too, but they have to have a hot beverage to really permeate their inner layers. I tried a couple with cold milk and it just didn't work. I mean, flavor-wise it was fine, but the biscotti were still too hard.


Like Sonia, I think most people will be perfectly happy with how lemony these biscotti are. I, however, always want more lemon flavor—or in this case Meyer lemon flavor—in pretty much everything. Still, there's a respectable amount of lemon, which I appreciate. I can't tell whether the zig-zaggy icing is lemon flavored as well or if it's just sugary sweet. I suppose it's there more for the visuals than any actual flavor.

The miniature size is fun and convenient. They're still long enough to get pretty far down into your coffee mug, and their texture is just about perfect once they've sopped up a bunch of warm java—almost like a fresh-baked cookie, but wetter.


$3.99 for 16 miniature sticks of biscotti, which apparently equals eight servings. We'd probably buy again. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Cocoa & Sea Salt Instant Oatmeal


Oatmeal isn't the most exciting food in the world, but I've never minded it. I've never exactly adored it, either. You just have to jazz it up a bit, you know? Add some fruit, maple syrup, or maybe
some pickle seasoning and you're in business. It's simple, nutritious, and filling, even if it lacks fancy colors and fantastic flavors, it's still a staple for many people around the world, including most Americans. In short: don't despise the small and common things like oatmeal in this life, and if you—or Trader Joe's—does something to make it magically delicious, then all the more power to you and your gourmet-ish breakfast.

Cocoa and sea salt? Not the first combo I'd think to throw in my bowl of oatmeal, but I must admit it works. I tried a wee bit of the mix before heating it in the same way I might lick the batter off the mixing spoon before baking cookies. Yeah. No. Don't do that. It's not the same thing. It's gross. All I could taste was the salt. It was a little bitter...and extremely salty.


After a brief spell in the microwave, however, cocoa was indeed the dominant flavor. The sea salt was still detectable but much more subtle. There's still that ever-present wholesome nutty oat flavor that always seems to accompany oatmeal, but the cocoa flavor made it even more pleasant.

It's not over-the-top chocolatey, either. It's not like a dessert or even like a kid's chocolate cereal. There's just a moderately sweet cocoa essence and a touch of saltiness, appropriately balanced against the oatmeal's intrinsic graininess. Sonia adds walnuts to hers for protein and even more nutty goodness. She says she likes it more and more with each bowl she has.

I like it too, but maybe not quite as much as the beautiful wifey. Of course we make ours with milk. Or in the absence of cow's milk, we use almond milk, or possibly some mixture of half and half and water. If I were TJ's marketing guru, I'd call it Trader Joe's Cocoatmeal, and there would be a chocolate vampire or cuckoo bird on the box. Even though it's not really aimed at sweet-toothed children, the box is a bit boring and doesn't do the product justice in our opinions.

$2.99 for 10 packets of oatmeal. Good value. Will buy again. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns


Unable to procure the brioche, New England style, or gluten-free hot dog buns we've heard so much about, Sonia and I grabbed these regular old Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns for our Memorial Day festivities this year. In addition to remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and making sure the lawn is mowed and tidy, it's also obligatory to cook and consume at least one meat product outdoors on this last weekend in May, you know, if you're an American. I mean, if you're vegan or something like that, you can do veggie burgers or veggie dogs and I'm cool with that. I'm just pointing out that in our never-ending quest to pretend we're normal, Sonia and I made it a point to purchase and consume some buns and all-beef franks for this traditional kickoff-to-summer weekend—and we sampled a couple in advance for this review.


In addition to good taste and a nice, soft texture, I'm looking for at least one other thing in a hot dog bun: the ability to effectively and securely cradle a hot dog. On the taste and texture points, these buns get near top marks. On that last matter, Sonia and I both found this bread product slightly wanting.

They just aren't the ideal shape for hot dog buns. The buns splay apart and create a sort of v-shape that you can stick a hot dog into, but each side of the bun isn't particularly stable and is prone to breakage. It's like they're too square. It's very similar to eating a hot dog with two halves of a slice of regular bread—something I'm sure most of us have done, since they always put a different number of buns and dogs in single packs. You know, there's 10 hot dogs and only 8 buns. You either have to do some math and find the lowest common denominator and eat hot dogs every day for like a month, or you have a couple dogs left over—and you wind up eating them with hamburger buns, regular sliced bread, or you wind up chopping them up and eating them with mac and cheese or whatever.


But again, they tasted fine. Ours were fresh, pliable, bready, and yummy. They're about as firm as the leading brand's buns, at least in terms of mouthfeel. No complaints there. Decent value, too, at $1.99 for 8 buns. It's just they have that weird shape, and they wanted to fall apart so easily, dumping pieces of hot dog onto the ground. At least it made the dogs happy—and by "dogs" here, I mean the canines, AKA mutts, AKA Alfred and Sadie.

Three stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from yours truly for Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Pain au Lait Chocolate Chip

This product was absolutely screaming our names from the breads section at Trader Joe's. We enjoyed its predecessor so much, we were both excited to see a version with chocolate chips. Chocolate chips make everything better, right?

Well, in this case, maybe not—at least in our humble opinion. Chocoholics may disagree, but this product made Sonia and I realize that we are milk roll purists. At least in my case, I'd never had an honest-to-goodness French milk roll until I tried the plain pain au lait from Trader Joe's. That was some amazingly special bread: the soft texture, the milky flavor just absolutely wowed us. Other than fresh-baked, that might have been the best plain bread I've ever had. And this bread flaunts the same flavor and same texture. Still amazing. Still top-shelf. But the chocolate chips don't really add anything.


At first, there's something novel about it. I mean, it's candy baked right into the bread. What a great idea, right? But after a few bites, we both found ourselves pining for the pure, unadulterated taste and texture of the delicious bread without anything detracting from it.

Get your hands on the original stuff if you can. If not, this product is still pretty freaking tasty. If we'd tried this version first, I'm sure we would've been a bit more impressed. We didn't see the original pain au lait at our TJ's on our last visit, but I hope that doesn't mean it's been discontinued.


$2.99 for the bag. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from this guy. We'd buy again, but only in the absence of the plain pain.

I suppose it's pronounced more like "pan" or "pon" than the English word "pain," but to quote the Princess Bride:

Life is pain, Highness.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Rosemary Croissant Croutons


I don't think I've ever set out on a Trader Joe's run thinking, "Dang, I wish TJ's would start carrying super duper ultra gourmet croutons!" But if I had thought that, welp by golly, this product would have been an absolute godsend...because I've never seen or tasted such top-shelf croutons before.

The croissant aspect of these crispy critters is the most impressive facet of them. They're layered in these thin, flaky, almost wafery strata of breadtastic delight. 


They're awesome to crunch on by themselves straight out of the bag so you can appreciate the unadulterated texture in its purest form, but they're also excellent in soup. They'll sop up a bit of the liquid and get quite soggy on the outside, but they're dense and bulky enough that they still retain some amount of crunchiness on the inside.

There's a butteriness about them that nearly approximates the comfort food quality you might get from grilled cheese when paired with tomato soup. The liquid in the soup wakes up the butter in the croutons and makes them—I don't know how to say it—it makes them more than mere croutons.

The rosemary element is significant. For me, it borders on overkill but doesn't quite cross that line. Sonia likes the flavor profile perfectly just the way it is.

If you're someone that enjoys Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Cheez-Its, Goldfish, saltines, or butter crackers as occasional snacks, I think these croutons are worth a try just for their stand-alone snack value. We'll definitely try the remainder of the pack with salad later this week. I'm sure they'll work great. 

$3.99 for the bag. This product gets a thumbs up from both Sonia and me. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Egg Wraps


Look, in the deli section! It's an egg....it's a wrap...it's the new Trader Joe's Egg Wraps!

You ever eat something with a familiar flavor in an unconventional or at least non-standard form? That's pretty much the experience here with these new-fangled gluten-free dairy-free kinda crepe-like eggy tortilla type thingies. It's...equally somewhat familiar and somewhat foreign all at once. 

The closest approximation I can make as far as taste is a Dutch baby pancake, which are pretty heavy into eggs and flour if you're not acquainted with them. Even that's not quite right, as it's rice flour and millet used here, not all-purpose. And obviously the wraps aren't all big and poofy either. But it gets the idea of a super egginess into a pancake-esque form, with a slightly more "grain"y taste. Odd, perhaps, but it works. 


The wraps themselves are super pliable and easy to use, like any respectable tortilla. Whether warming up or eating cold from the fridge, the flavor and flexibility remained really about the same. it was easy to make a quick ham and cheese wrap that wasn't greasy or slimy or offputting in any way. For us, I could see us using the wraps as a quick morning breakfast when the craving for eggs hits, but the time doesn't allow. Of course, if you need to be gluten-free, or just want to sneak some extra protein into your diet, you don't need to wait til breakfast time. That's just us. 

Six wraps come in the package, which is good for three servings. Cost was about $4.49 if I recall right, so about 75 cents each. Seems fair to have that kinda convenience/novelty upcharge baked in. No real complaints, and they're differently interesting to try on out.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Egg Wraps: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


 

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.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli

 


For whatever reason, I've found myself watching a lot of Gordon Ramsey snippets recently, like little three or four minute blurbs from Kitchen Nightmares or whatever. Don't know why, but man, watching and listening to him rip and bleep something apart is so satisfying on some level at times. 

If at a subpar Italian restaurant that was likely to be visited by good ol' Chef Ramsey, if some Italian cheese and pepper stuffed pasta was on the menu, I'd suspect it'd be a lot like Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli.


Is it fair to compare a frozen prepared product to a dining out dinner? No, probably not...except when other TJ's products have risen to the occasion it's been pointed out, so here's the flip side. 

This...just isn't good ravioli. The noodles are limp, soggy and bland even by a noodle standard. There's nothing to them, at all. Just tasteless and there, and barely contain the namesake filling. The cheese tastes okay - mild, a touch tangy - with a nice little dose of pepper to season it up, but it's also kinda gritty and not as creamy as hoped. The end result is kinda a letdown. 


Ramsey would be tearing this up, bleeping up a storm, maybe some crack about diapers, and storm back to the kitchen or have the server dump them in the trash. Good thing he wasn't at my table the other day when I served 'em up, because even when it's not that great, that's not something we do in my house. I'd have to put his butt in timeout. 

But yeah...subpar, even by frozen pasta standards, Perhaps a little included sauce packet could help liven it up. As is, it's take a bite and shrug. Just meh to not quite blah. DOuble twos here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Graham Cracker Squares

During these coldest days of winter, certain rooms in our house remain a bit chilly even with the furnace on, so I dusted off our trusty Buddy Heater from our full-time RVing days. We always have a few small propane tanks on hand in case of a power outage, so I put one on the Buddy and fired it up to raise the temp in our office a few degrees.

Then it occurred to me that using the propane-generated flame simply for heat might be a bit wasteful. I mean, it's not exactly a wood fire at a campsite, but there's easily enough heat there to toast a marshmallow, or at least to get it nice and gooey on the inside. Fortunately we had marshmallows stashed away in the pantry...and right next to them a chocolate bar.

"Man, if only we had graham crackers, we could make s'mores right in the office," I thought to myself. The beautiful wifey reminded me that not only did we have graham crackers, but we had Trader Joe's Graham Cracker Squares in our "maybe to be reviewed" section. Sweet.


If we're talking actual graham crackers and not cutesy little animal-shaped graham cookies, I think the only ones I've ever had were the traditional Nabisco or Kellogg's brand or maybe a generic store-brand imitation. There's nothing wrong with regular graham crackers, especially if you're using them for s'mores. They have little perforation lines so you can snap them in half or in quarters. They're pretty flat, slightly honey sweet, and crunchy.

But Trader Joe's offering is significantly puffier. They're not soft, they're still crunchy, but they're a little more three-dimensional. They come in perfect s'more-optimized squares—hence the name Graham Cracker Squares. Taste-wise, they're pretty much what you'd expect. No tricks. No gimmicks. No reinvention of the wheel here.

Taste-wise, there's not much of a difference between TJ's squares and traditional Honey Maid or what have you, but I like the format of these a little more. Traditional graham crackers might get three and a half stars from me and four from Sonia, so we'll go half a star higher for these.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Focaccia Bread Mix


I often depict myself as a barely-functional buffoon in the kitchen on this blog. I imagine it's more fun to read about some fool who is scarcely able to read baking instructions than a Julia Child protege that has his act entirely together.

Like most jokes, the idea that I'm not great in the kitchen is certainly rooted in truth—the worst grade I ever received as a student was in Home Ec, and I may be a little too comfortable improvising when no improvisation is called for. Although at this point, I'm probably average-ish at baking and cooking among American men in my age group...but for the sake of entertainment, I'll continue to write as if I'm the moron who can't measure quantities correctly or handle red hot baking sheets while cartoonishly clanging pots and pans around and spilling ingredients on the floor, upsetting my wife and pets with my gross incompetence.


I was left unsupervised for the mixing and baking of this bread, as the beautiful wifey got stuck on a late work call last evening. All too familiar with those unprompted improvisations mentioned above, she reminded me before I began baking that "the dough has to rise before you put it in the oven," knowing that my impatience might impel me to skip that step altogether.

"Of course I'll let it rise," I replied.

The directions specify letting it rise "in a warm area." Not knowing whether the ambient winter temperature of our kitchen qualified as "warm," I helped the mixture along by placing it in front of a space heater. But that was my only improvisation. Well, okay, I subbed avocado oil for extra virgin olive oil since it was the only cooking oil we had on hand.

Honestly, the bread came out pretty good. I might have left it in the oven a few minutes too long, as the crust around the edges got just a tad too dark and firm. The herbs were nice and flavorful, but not overbearing. The bread itself was wonderfully soft, dense, and slightly doughy on the inside, while just a shade firmer than that on the outside. I thought they might have overdone it with the sea salt in the mixture. That I can blame on Trader Joe's, since I added absolutely no extra salt or seasonings other than what came in the pack.

$2.99 for 12 servings of focaccia bread. Considering the only additional ingredients called for are oil and water, that's a pretty good value, and it's easy enough for this dummy to make without adult supervision. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake & Waffle Mix

 

Monday nights are breakfast for dinner night in our house. Just is. Almost always has been, just maybe will be forever, we'll see. My lovely bride and the kiddos like to call it brinner, I will too on occasion, but that sounds weird. Absolutely better than brupper, I guess.

Anyways, if bacon and eggs aren't what we're doing, then it's gonna be bacon and pancakes or waffles. Bacon makes Mondays better, so it's nearly nonnegotiable. But when something new gets tossed our way, like the new Trader Joe's Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake & Waffle Mix, we'll give it a whirl for sure. The sidekicks can always be open to discussion. 

By now, I've had enough homemade pancakes and waffles to know my lovely bride is awesomely, perfectly capable of making a darn good pancake and/or waffle. Mixes never have that same from scratch vibe. That's kinda the same thing here with the TJ's mix - nothing wrong per se, but not anything overwhelmingly special. 

 What it's got is convenience. Homemade stuff takes time. Sometimes we got that...sometimes we don't. Getting stuck at work late then having one kid needing to go to Girl Scouts and another wanting to play Ticket to Ride means not as much time. Bam. Dump the mix in the bowl, stir in some water, heat up a griddle and go. Sandy pounded these out in no time flat. 

And the outcome was pretty acceptable. Firm, a bit fluffy, a little buttermilky, and plenty of milky chocolate chips. I swear they multiplied somehow because it didn't look like that many, but every bite had multiple chocolate chips. That'll make the kids, even the middle aged ones, happy. These went right down the hatch. Though we made them as pancakes, both the Mrs and i noted we thought the experience would easily transfer over as a waffle as well.

Only complaint is, there's no whole bag of mix instructions. There's about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups of mix in the bag. The highest the mix-to-water chart goes is two cups mix to 1 1/3rd cup water. That means if you want to do the whole bag of mix at once (like we did) you either gotta eyeball it or do some fancy math and hope for the right end consistency. Mondays are hard enough, don't put multiplying fractions into it, please. 

Anyways, for only like $2 for the mix, it'll be a regular pick up. Not amazing, but good enough as is to not really elicit too many complaints.I'll take that any day but especially Mondays...

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake & Waffle Mix: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons



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.