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Showing posts with label not bad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not bad. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Trader Joe's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Advent Calendar


Goodness gracious, Trader Joe. Talk about self-promotion. There's so much advertising for your own stuff on this advent calendar, you should pay us to take one!

But, alas, I did pay the whopping 99¢ for 24 pieces of chocolate. Let's see if they're as bad as Trader Joe's Old Advent Calendar.

Actually, nope. These are fresher somehow. Maybe it's because this one is wrapped in cellophane. I feel like the ones many years ago were just cardboard. I could be wrong, though. It's been 11 years.


Nevertheless, these chocolates are nothing to write home about. They're just plain sweet milk chocolate with no gimmicks, no surprises. I'd never buy them if not for the 24 interactive countdown windows. Advent calendars are fun even if the chocolate is yucky. Also, this one has a handy dandy checklist on the back with all your favorite Christmas items. They're the same ones featured on the artwork on the front.

Coincidentally, we've reviewed just about all those products on the advent calendar. Two can play at that shameless self-promotion game, Trader Joe's.

In the top left, we've got a big tin of Trader Joe's Jingle Jangle.

In the bottom left, I see a bag of Trader Joe's Scandinavian Tidings.

On the top right, there's a bottle of Trader Joe's Winter Wassail.

Also, on the right, I spy with my little eye: a carton of Trader Joe's Almond Nog.

And there's some Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's down there, too.

Last but certainly not least, there's a jar of Trader Joe's Cookie Butter.


What can I say? It's fun and cheap. And the chocolate doesn't taste like glue or cardboard. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Advent Calendar? That's fair, right?

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.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies


Is this jumping the gun? It's not quite the Christmas season yet in my book. Thanksgiving should get its rightful day in the sun, for sure. I mean, on one hand, this product has been available at Trader Joe's for at least a couple weeks now, and I do know people that do Christmas movies, decorations, trees, you name it, starting the day after Halloween. Even I think that's too early. In our household, as well as the house I grew up in, the Christmas season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday. The tree goes up in all its glory, the decorations come out, and the Christmas song playlist begins.

I'll make an exception with this product since it's not overtly Christmassy. One could make an argument that gingerbread is fair game at Thanksgiving. Furthermore, folks need to know in advance whether this is a worthy holiday season purchase or not. So...is it? In short, Sonia will tell you an enthusiastic "yes!" and I'll give you a lackluster "meh."

There's nothing inherently wrong with these cookies. They're soft rather than crispy, which is a plus as far as we're concerned. They taste relatively fresh and gingery, although there's very little actual raw ginger flavor. They're more like stereotypical dessert-ish gingerbread. I'm not big into the sandwich cookie format always, but I must admit it works here. That's one of Sonia's favorite parts—the huge amounts of cream cheese-based filling. You can even see in the photo some of the specimens are just bursting at the seams with sweet cream icing. It might be overkill in a few instances, but the average cookie in the box is balanced pretty well in terms of filling versus gingerbread.


Sonia keeps going back for several cookies throughout the course of each day, whereas I've tired of the flavor for the most part. They still taste fresh enough. I guess I'm just not a huge gingerbread cookie fan. Also, there are big granules of sugar that crunch when you chew them. It makes me think the enamel on my teeth is crumbling with each and every bite. And the aftertaste, while not particularly pungent, has an odd baking soda essence.

At around five bucks for 18 cookies, it's hard to complain about the value-factor. Still, I don't think I'll muster more than three holiday stars for these wintry cookies. Sonia will tell you I'm wrong and that they're a great early Christmas season treat and would be perfect for parties. Four and a half stars from her. If you've tried these, let us know in the comments who's right and who's wrong about Trader Joe's Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies


Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. E-G-B-D-F. Anybody else? It's a mnemonic device to remember the lines on the treble clef. Or, alternatively, Every Good Boy Does Fine. I was terrible at piano even after nine years of lessons. I'm much more of a bass guitar guy. Sorry for the rabbit trail. I could go on for pages and pages, but we have a product to review here.

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies. That's a mouthful and a half for a product title. If nothing else, it's accurate. I mean, the fudge brownies aren't, like, whole brownies or anything. They're not even really chunks. More like bits...or bites. But there's a bunch of 'em, and they're pretty tasty.


Here we have rich, fudgy chocolate oat milk ice cream on top of rich, fudgy chocolate morsels. I have to be in the mood for "chocolate overload" to really enjoy a product like this one. Fortunately, I had one of my infrequent cravings just the other day. It was cold and gloomy, and I needed a pick-me-up. This did the trick in terms of picking me up...but not so much in terms of warming me up.

Well, duh. It is frozen dessert after all.

The oatiness doesn't really detract from the flavor. It's a pretty decent frozen dessert for being vegan. I will say there's something "loamy" about the look and texture. Can I use that word here? It's generally reserved for describing dirt. "This soil is loamy," said the farmer. It means a certain percentage is clay, silt, and sand. Not that it felt sandy in my mouth or anything like that. Clay-ish, perhaps.


Truth be told, I'm not really up to speed on all these newfangled dairy-free options from other brands these days. I've had a few. I think I'm more partial to rice-based ice cream than oat, but I wouldn't complain if you stuck a bowl of this frozen treat in front of me.

Sonia liked it but didn't love it. She'd generally prefer a vanilla-based frozen treat and thinks oat lends itself to less rich flavor combos rather than double chocolate like we have here.

$3.99 for the pint. Don't think I'd pick it up again, but I might if I were lactose intolerant or vegan. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me for Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce

Here's an interesting one. Not feeling marinara sauce on your pasta dish tonight? Don't want Alfredo either? This product might be the alternative you've been looking for.

Or maybe not. The flavor is...interesting. It tastes sour more than anything else, but also bitter, tangy, cheesy. It's quite flavorful, the only question is: will you as an individual like this flavor? 

I could see it being quite off-putting to some and delightful to others, much like the artichoke timbales we looked at a while back, though I think I liked this product more than those oddball appetizers.

You can kind of tell from the picture this product isn't as liquidy as most tomato-based pasta sauces or even Alfredo. It's sort of a coarse, custard-like consistency—like pureed artichokes with cheeses mixed in. It doesn't look very appetizing by itself: almost reminiscent of baby food.


Of course it thins a bit when heated. We also found it works best as a very modest coating. Neither Sonia nor I wanted to pile it on too thick, since the flavor was almost too intense.

It was fine by itself on plain pasta. However, contrary to our initial assumptions, the wifey and I both liked it better when we added some sweet chicken sausage to the dish. The sweetness helped offset some of the sauce's astringency.


Sonia says she'd buy it again just to have that third pasta sauce option on hand. I don't know if I'd ever prefer this over good old-fashioned Ragu or whatever, but I feel more worldly and sophisticated having tried it. $3.49 for the jar. Three and a half stars from the missus. Three from me for Trader Joe's Organic Artichoke Pasta Sauce.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Gnocchi

Maybe our taste buds are broken, but this tasted exactly like sweet potato gnocchi to Sonia and me. It's the combination of potato flakes, pumpkin puree, and cane sugar I bet. I know pumpkin tastes like squash....because it is a squash. But sweet potato? I guess if you throw regular potato and sugar in there...

Texture-wise, the gnocchi was soft, supple, and pliable, as were most iterations of gnocchi we've seen from Trader Joe's throughout the years. Nothing to complain about there. The flavor, while pleasant...was just a tad plain.

Sonia read on the interwebs that adding sage butter to this product really made its flavor shine. Alas, we had no sage. So I did a search for what herbs could replace sage and came back with marjoram, thyme, and oregano.


I looked in our spice rack and discovered that Trader Joe's Za'atar Seasoning contains all three. So I added butter and a dusting of zaatar. Delicious. It really complimented the sweet potato-esque elements in the product and made the whole thing much more flavorful. And in my opinion, the more butter, the better.

It's a decent product, but both the beautiful wifey and I think it needs a bit of help to push it into that realm of really darn goodness. As is, we'll go with "not bad."

$2.99 for 3 servings. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

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 

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple Caramels


 "You know, they taste just like those lollipops."

"Uhh...what lollipops?"

The lollipops...there's a lollipop just like these caramels. You'd know them if you saw them."

"Well, alright, Becca - thanks again~!"

Such was the conversation, more or less, with one of my favorite TJ's cashiers, Becca, who's always kind and friendly and eager for my opinion on anything TJ's. It was at her insistence I purchased this box of Trader Joe's Apple Caramels.

Back out at the car, where my lovely bride was waiting with our two youngest, I relayed this conversation, when Sandy said. "Oh yeah! Those lollipops! I know what she meant. C'mon!"

I asked her to pull up these apparently universally known to everyone except me lollipops on her Googlemachine, she showed me a pic...no, I have no idea. 

Fortunately, we're talking caramels, not lollipops today. These fall-themed TJ's goodies are quite a nice little treat. They're just little soft, kinda gooey caramels twist-wrapped up into bite-sized logs. While soft and squeezy, they're not quite sticky - at no point did I feel my extensive amount of dental work was under threat. That's not always the case with candies like these, so that's hugely appreciated.

The caramel flavor itself is decently rich - it's of good quality but not a game changer by itself. It's nicely complemented by the apple flavor, though I'm a bit confused. To my taste, it's more granny smith tart than apple cider rich. It's not bad, but not as cidery as I'd like either. 

Here's the major drawback - this candy is way overpackaged. The box is ridiculous, as there's a cellophane pack inside, that then contains the individually wrapped candies. It's completely unnecessary, that box. Just print everything on the cellophane pack! Why a box? I'm guessing maybe to help make sure they won't get too squished, but it just seems silly to me. 

Anyways, I happen to enjoy the caramels quite a bit bit. The kids are split - one of them didn't even finish one, saying it was too messy, which  is incredibly ironic coming from her. Maybe if we found "those lollipops" she'd like them better...anyways. Good pick-me-up, and good pickup for a couple bucks. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Caramels: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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, September 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Gochujang

 

A few years ago, there was some big hullabaloo about a Philadelphia-area contest for best cheesesteak. I'm originally from the surrounding 'burbs, and there were chefs all competing...and putting things like bean sprouts in the cheesesteak. Lump crab. Swiss chard and aiolis and...well...you get the idea. As pretty much a staunch "Wiz wid" guy, I could only shake my head. 

Oh, how times changed. 

Perhaps the western side of the state perverted whatever idea I've had of what a cheesesteak is, as I made them for dinner last night. Not only did I use Mancini's and not Amoroso for the roll (gasp), when I needed something for a little spice for mine....I used Trader Joe's Gochujang.

Fermented red pepper with rice used as a base for this slightly grainy, fairly spicy, and a touch sweet paste...on a cheesesteak? I'm aghast at myself, almost.

Except, you know what? it worked, and worked pretty well. 

Gochujang is definitely a somewhat acquired taste. It's different than most spice, as its a touch deeper, with more depth and taste and subtlety. It's the fermentation that really brings it out. I've used powdered gochujang to add a kick to my own sauerkraut, and I've grown to love it. 

This particular TJ version isn't quite as potent, but still offers a lot of the same warmth and depth. It'll be welcome back on another cheesesteak, as well as any variety of dishes. Rice, veggies, on some meats, added to some soup or sauces, or whatever - sure thing. It'll be just my own, my lovely bride didn't seem interested and my kids weren't entirely up to the adventure.

Just a couple bucks for the lil tub. Worth a pickup. Didn't seem demonstrably different from similar condiments I've scored at Asian groceries around here, but I'll admit I'm not 100% attuned to its authenticity. I'll save that for cheesesteaks, but you know what? Innovation is just fine, if there's a good outcome. Still not sure about the bean sprouts, though.

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

Friday, September 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Mix

Inside sources tell me this cookie mix will be returning to Trader Joe's shelves once again this fall, probably in a matter of days or weeks, so if you were on the fence about purchasing it last year and want to make a more informed decision, this blog post probably won't help you in any way, because I'm still on the fence about it even after purchasing it and making the cookies.

The baking instructions are straightforward enough. Just add butter, water, and an egg to the mix, stir, and bake for a quarter hour at 350°F. They recommend making 24 little balls to place on parchment paper, but we wound up with more like 18.

The cookies came out somewhat crispy around the edges but nice and soft in the middle, the chocolate chunks slightly molten and gooey. There's a chewy, oatmealy essence about the texture, too.

Flavor-wise, they also taste like oatmeal, but you can taste the brown sugar, cinnamon, and other pumpkin spices faintly. I perused a few other reviews of these cookies online and found numerous people stating that theirs were overwhelmingly gingery.


I don't find that with our batch at all. I've often complained about certain products at TJ's having way too much raw ginger flavor that overpowers everything else. With these cookies, I wouldn't mind a tad more ginger, to be honest.

Both Sonia and I are more than happy with the amount of chocolate chunks here. The cookies are plenty sweet overall, too. The dried pumpkin and spices could be a shade more potent, as the chocolate tends to overshadow them. Sonia likes the cookies topped with vanilla ice cream to balance out the chocolate content. I prefer to just wash them down with some cold milk.


$3.99 for the mix. All in all, not a terrible autumn dessert product. Four stars from Sonia. I think she would lean towards saying she'd repurchase them, but in reality will never get around to it because there are way too many other brand new fall items to try (or will be soon). I'll just say I'd eat a few of these cookies again if they were placed in front of me, but I would not seek them out. Three stars from me on Trader Joe's Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Mix.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes

 Meat and potatoes. Potatoes and meat. Classic pairing, often done in various forms, almost always tasty and tough to argue with, and comes thru in a pinch. 

Please pardon the partially crinkled box of Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes we have for this post's model. It had been lurking in the bottom of our freezer for who knows how long - few weeks minimum,  maximum of...well....I don't know. 

What I do know is the final form of this product doesn't look much like the box pic. In my state of heightened crankiness and bad hangritude (that's be hungry/angry/attitude all in one) I totally neglected to take a pic. Just imagine bigger, more starkly white potato chunks, without nearly as much sauce to cover and immerse. The pic almost looks like a tasty homemade concoction, whereas the real deal was pretty adamant it was, in fact, a freezer one. 

But no mind. It's meat and potatoes! So it's almost by default tasty. A little ground beef, a handful of tomatoes and scallions, almost enough creamy cheese sauce (nothing fancy, it's a mozz and cheddar combo with cream), coupla jalapenos and boom. Nothing fancy, and something almost like what I'd make as a 'Dad meal" from whatever I had in the kitchen. Except....no work involved. Just nuking a tray for eight-plus minutes. I'm not sure if that's a weak microwave we have or if we just had a radiation resistant batch, as directions call for five but was cold enough when pulled out that my lovely bride had to spit out her initial bite. 

What did this cost? $3? $4? Something like that. It's really not big enough to share, but is somewhat nutritionally advantageous to do so. Get some veggies on the side to fill in, as man, this wasn't close to enough. But it was tasty. Another serving idea: heat some up then scramble in a couple eggs to make some sort of cheesy breakfast kinda hash. I'm positive that'd work and be more filling too. there's not much spice to be had here, so if hot sauce is normally your kinda thing, you'll want some on hand. 

Not amazingly awesome, but not bad at all either. Meat and potatoes. Always dependable. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Loaded Potatoes: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Farm Raised Lightly Smoked Salmon


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

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


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

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


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

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Decaf French Roast Instant Coffee

During high school, I had a paper route at a large retirement home in my town. Many of the newspaper clients resided in the assisted living and mental health wards of this grandiose, upscale "old folks' home." I remember one lady in particular who'd ask me for something each and every time I'd deliver her paper. "Coffee!" she'd say. "Bring me coffee."

Some days I'd try to explain that I only delivered newspapers, other times, I'd just smile and place the paper on her nightstand. Still, without fail, she'd ask me for coffee six days a week for nearly three years. It was at once comical and a little sad, but also, perhaps, profound in a way. This was a woman who had likely lived through both world wars, the Great Depression, the advent of the telephone, television, and automobiles, and at the end of her long and ostensibly eventful life, she found herself in a tiny room in a retirement community pining for one thing and one thing only:

Coffee—the second most-traded commodity on earth and a staple in so many people's daily routines. It's something you don't ever want to be without. And say what you will about instant coffee, but it's more shelf-stable than ground coffee. It can last for decades if stored properly. It might not be a coffee connoisseur's top pick, but if other forms of coffee become scarce or overly expensive, a bunch of instant is way better than nothing.


Likewise, say what you will about decaf. There's still a small amount of caffeine in decaf, and it might actually be a decent way to slowly wean yourself off of caffeine addiction...I mean, if one were so inclined to do something crazy like that.

At 3.5 oz this product is hardly a long term supply of instant decaf, but it's worth a try in our opinions. I'm no coffee expert, but I honestly don't think I'd be able to tell this beverage from fresh-brewed. It's dark and rich, flavor-wise, and it doesn't take much of the mix to make a potent cup. I'm not sure what's so French about it, but again, I'm not exactly an aficionado.

Five bucks for the container. I'm sure it's not everybody's cup of tea—er, coffee—but if they bring it back again next year, we might pick up another one. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

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, July 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion

The summer of flavor is alive and well at the local TJ's. Used to be this time of year was the lazy dogdays before the oncoming pumpkin spice storm which will be descending in just mere weeks...but no, not this year. So many robust debuts and while there's been misses, they've been few. 

This week, it's the new Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime and Onion.

Much in the same vein as the Chili Onion Crunch, this succulent slurry consists of crispy little onion and garlic chips floating around in olive oil. But this time, add a lot of lime and cilantro in there too. And I mean, a lot, because far and away that's what you're gonna taste here. It's so limey that after a few tastes I'm sure I booted scurvy a few more years down the road. It's so citrusy and acidic and kinda bitey, but then everything else kinda starts coming in. Cilantro, for sure, but the onion and garlic, followed at last by the jalapeño which leaves a residual burn. Definitely, it works.

Use most any way you'd use the Chile Onion Crunch. Personally, as a roasted veggie fan, that'd be the way I'd go more often than not, but I could also see this as marinade or various sorts of mix-ins. 

The price did seem a touch high at $4.49 for the small jar. Then again, what doesn't seem a bit pricey these days, so take that as you will. For me, the price set it as a once or twice curiosity or novelty buy, but it's gonna be far from a staple there. 

Not slam dunk fanatastic ut far from bad. Sounds like a couple 3s to me. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion: 6 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.