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Showing posts with label organic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organic. Show all posts

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.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Maple Vinaigrette Dressing

Truth be told, I wasn't super excited to pour this stuff on a salad and consume it. Intrigued? Yes. Eager? No. If not for the prospect of reviewing it, I might not have purchased it at all.

I mean, I love maple syrup and generally enjoy maple-flavored things. I also love vinaigrette salad dressings. But together? That's an odd combo if you ask me...but not so odd that I'd avoid it altogether.

With a new, iffy salad dressing, you don't want to dump a bunch of it on your greens and beans and potentially ruin the whole bowl if you're not into the dressing. You have to do that thing like when you're trying a new cleaning product on your carpet where you have to "test in an inconspicuous area" in case it's a disaster. So I just poured a teeny little bit on one corner of my salad to assess the product.

And I'm glad I did it that way. I might have wasted a bunch of salad otherwise, because this stuff is gross. Like, it's the worst salad dressing I've ever had. You'd be better off putting household cleaning vinegar and raw tree sap on a salad.

Not only did the maple and vinaigrette elements commingle and clash in exactly the way I was hoping they wouldn't, there was also this unexpected smoky element that made the whole thing nearly gag-worthy. Maybe the dijon mustard? Canola oil? It poured like a medium-thick brown ooze, similar in appearance to a peanut satay sauce but perhaps a tad thinner. Not particularly appetizing.

I'd try it as a marinade for salmon or a drizzle for ravioli as suggested on traderjoes.com but I can't imagine it working better than something more traditional. I'm taking this one straight to Trader Joe's and getting my $3.49 back. Thumbs down from me.

Sonia tolerated it a lot better than I did, but even she admitted it had "a very weird flavor." She's not going to fight me on the return because she knows I won't help her finish the bottle. Two and a half stars from her.

I'll throw out one since I like it when Trader Joe's gets adventurous, and it is certified organic after all.

Bottom line: 3.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Tahini

Some dudes brew their own beer. Others have mastered the art of baking sourdough bread or dehydrating jerky at home. I myself have done none of those things.

But I just made my own hummus. <pats self on back> I'm probably a little prouder than I should be about that fact, since you could probably train a monkey to do it. It's surprisingly easy.

Goodness knows we have enough cans of chickpeas stocked up in the pantry. And if we can keep a few jars of tahini on hand, we'll never be without hummus. Now if only I knew how to bake pita bread...

Tahini is quite tasty in and of itself. It's pretty much just sesame seed butter, similar to peanut butter or almond butter but significantly runnier and maybe a hint more oily. It's super earthy and bitter by itself, but it's such a delicious bitterness—like a rich nutty blast of seedy goodness. Mixed with other yummy things, it's even better. Here, I'll share my recipe with you, which is really just an amalgam of the first half dozen hummus recipes I found online, modified based on which ingredients we actually had on hand around the house:


-1 part mashed garbanzo beans
-1 part Trader Joe's Organic Tahini
-1/8 part olive oil
-as much raw garlic as you can stand (that stuff is good for you) chopped as finely as you can chop it
-lemon juice to taste
-cayenne pepper to taste
-pink Himalayan salt to taste

I mashed the chickpeas with a fork and then just mixed everything together in the same manner, although you could do either or both in a blender if you wanted a very smooth hummus. I wanted it chunky style, and that's what I got.


The wifey and I consumed it with pita chips, and we both agreed it was a success. My version was not only chunkier than any store-bought hummus I've ever sampled, but it was also a little drier and a lot more garlicky. For my next trick, I'm going to make salad dressing with tahini, orange juice, and dijon mustard...wish me luck.

$3.69 for the 10.6 oz jar. Product of Greece. Organic. Kosher. Would buy again. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 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.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Poppy Seed Dressing

I want to throw this question out there for our readers: is canola oil healthy or not? I mean, I don't know. I don't have a horse in this race. I know at least one or two of our readers have expressed concerns over it in the past, stating that they would not purchase any products containing canola oil. Well, it's the first​ ingredient in this product.

I know there are other controversial substances that I do have an opinion about: high fructose corn syrup, for example. My sensitive system tells me that stuff is a no go. I can have a small amount once in a while and not suffer any major consequences, but regular fountain sodas are absolutely off-limits for me these days.

My body seems to be fine with canola oil, but that doesn't mean there aren't some kind of long term consequences going on behind the scenes. I found a number of "alternative" sites claiming that canola oil can cause everything from inflammation to cancer. On the other hand, it seems like all of the "official" state-sponsored, Ministry of Truth-approved sources say that canola oil is just hunky-dory—organizations like Mayo Clinic and Harvard University. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.


Normally, that alone would make me automatically suspicious of the substance in question, but since my body isn't sensitive to it...I just don't know. So if you, our readers, have an opinion about canola oil one way or the other, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. That said, let's look at this poppyseed dressing.

It's surprisingly sweet. It's a tad tangy. If I were trying it in a blind taste test, I might think it was a honey mustard dressing of some kind. You can see, feel, and taste the poppy seeds. They add some texture and nuttiness to the equation. The mouthfeel here is medium-thin, smooth, with a relatively low viscosity. It coats nicely.


It worked well with our kale and cabbage salad. I think Sonia liked it a little more than I did. $3.69 for 12oz. Organic. Don't consume before taking a drug test. We're on the fence about a repeat purchase. Four stars from Sonia, three from me for Trader Joe's Organic Poppy Seed Dressing.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Vegan Nacho Dip


A little about me: I had severe allergies to wheat, milk, and sugar all through my childhood. I was deprived of the vast majority of foods that my friends and classmates got to eat on a regular basis. I was treated with daily allergy shots, often administering them to myself, and have now, for the most part, outgrown those food allergies, though I still suffer from some mild to moderate sensitivities, namely to gluten, while my wife Sonia has some mild to moderate lactose intolerance.

All through those years of food allergies, my parents did what they could to provide alternatives: goat milk or soy milk instead of cow's milk, rice bread or millet bread instead of wheat bread, NutraSweet and later stevia instead of sugar, and so on. There weren't any Trader Joe's or Whole Foods around, so our options were pretty limited. Fortunately, there were a few mom and pop's "health food" stores and some local farms that offered foods that were hard to find at typical mainstream grocery stores.

I'm actually somewhat grateful for those years of having an extremely limited diet. First, because it taught me to more fully appreciate those very common foods that most people take for granted. Second, because it forced me to broaden my horizons early. There were certain things that I discovered during those years that I would still eat and do still eat now: Rice Dream or coconut-based ice cream, for example. I still generally love things made with rice flour, too.


But there are also alternative foods that I tried back then that were so awful in my opinion that I would have rather just done without any version of said food. Sugar-free carob chips come to mind. Some might argue: "Well, Nathan, you can't have real chocolate chips, so you'll have to eat sugar-free carob!"

But then that argument doesn't make sense at all, does it? I would much rather give up on both chocolate chips and their disgusting alternative at that point.

All that to say when I review things that are dairy-free or gluten-free or sugar-free or whatever, I'm reviewing it from the perspective of a little boy who will happily try almost anything, but will then share his genuine opinion of that thing. I will not sacrifice honesty for the sake of people who might have a different opinion of a particular product. If you disagree with my assessment of an item, feel free to post your opinion as a comment on the blog or our social media, but don't accuse me of lacking "compassion" and "gratitude" because my viewpoint is different than yours. Every reviewer brings his or her own bias to the table to some degree, and I'm no different.

And along those lines, this product falls squarely into that sugar-free carob category. If I were strictly vegan or still allergic to milk, I would happily do without real nacho cheese dip AND this cashew-based alternative...because it's simply not good.

For the record: I like cashews. I also generally like anything nacho cheese flavored. But from the moment I peeled back the plastic covering, there was an off-putting smell. It was a kind of foot-esque odor, strong enough to make me wince. There was something vaguely nacho-ish about the smell, but nothing suggesting nacho cheese dip.


After heating, the smell was more heavily nacho than feet, but it still wasn't particularly pleasant. Taking a bite with an unsalted tortilla chip, there was a moment where the dip was just a flavorless mush. Then a moment later, there was a wash of vague nacho spice. Sonia's experience was very similar. The condiment never even came close to approximating the richness or creaminess of real nacho cheese, and there's just not enough spice to cover up the product's weaknesses.

Texture-wise, it seemed oddly thick and pasty, maybe a little oily. Sonia said it reminded her of toothpaste. I don't disagree, although the texture and appearance are both a notch more impressive than the flavor if you ask me.

I'll throw out one star for that reason. Sonia will go with a generous two for Trader Joe's Vegan Nacho Dip, pointing out that it might conceivably work as a minor ingredient in a grand mishmash of southwestern style foods. We'll most likely take advantage of Trader Joe's outstanding no hassle return policy and get our $3.99 back on this one.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Date Syrup

Ah, the Deglet Noor date. So much deglettier than regular dates. They provide so much noorishment, those fancy DNDs. I'm being facetious, of course. I don't know much about dates, but you can click that link in the first line if you want to read a post that demonstrates at least a passing knowledge of a couple date species, as well as a brief review of a previous Trader Joe's date product.

I'm not sure why I was thinking the syrup would be clear and thin, similar to agave, but it's quite dark and somewhat thicker than I assumed. It looks very much like chocolate syrup or balsamic reduction.

The flavor is super sweet, but it's distinctly different than most sweeteners. To me, it's not a completely neutral flavor. It really tastes like dates. So it's fruity in that sense. But it's also a "dark" sweetness, more similar to molasses in a way than plain old sugar or something like Karo. Neither Sonia nor I particularly like molasses, but we both like this. It's like...what we always wished molasses would taste like...if that makes sense.


It worked great as a sweetener in our smoothies. We've been putting a bit of honey in them as of late, but this functions pretty much in the same manner. There is that deep, dark, almost caramel-like flavor to the date syrup, so it enhances the taste of the fruits and juices even more.

I won't say it's a replacement for good old maple syrup. I don't think there's anything you could put on a pancake or waffle that's hands down better than real maple. But if you wanna mix things up a little, this stuff sure isn't bad in that regard. The pic up above is Trader Joe's Organic Date Syrup on a piece of French toast. It was pretty tasty. Not better than maple syrup. Just different. I'm always down for a bit of novelty, but I think I'll return to the old standby for my next stack of flapjacks.


$3.49 for a 6.09 oz squeeze bottle. There's nothing but organic Deglet Noor dates in there. Pretty impressive product. Trader Joe's Organic Date Syrup gets four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Cacio e Pepe Puffs

Poor little thing never really stood a chance. 

On one hand, it's not at fault. Things like Pirate Booty and anything else we could generally call "baby popcorn" get devoured on the regular in our house. It's one of our favorite go-to snackies, whether it's after work or school or during a lazy movie night. When it's in the house, it's a daily grazer. 

On the other hand...why did Trader Joe's Organic Cacio e Pepe Puffs have to be so incredibly good?

First off, there's the bite. There's an extra crispity-crunch to these little nuggets that make them stand up more than a usual puffed corn. I love that crumbly texture, but the mouthfeel of these particular peppery puffies was a welcome change up. It must be the rice flour added in, which also made them not too terribly greasy. Each bite had a certain satisfaction to it. Me likey. 

And then, the taste! Yums abound. Somehow, in some way, each puff held a respectable amount of cacio e pepe i.e. cheese and pepper flavor without being overly greasy or dusty. Nah, it was more a dry dust feel. But that didn't translate to a skimp on taste by any stretch. Mild at first then gradually growing, each bite had a distinct romano/cheddar blend that was creamy and delicious, with some pepper spiked in to give it just a hint of spice. It's really well balanced, though i could have done without the white pepper personally. Not sure how to define it, but white pepper also leaves an uncertain taste in my mouth - I'm quite sure I don't hate it, but not sure I'd choose it either, if that makes sense. 

Anyways, needless to say, my lovely bride, our ravenous pack of munchkins, and I devoured the whole bag easily at snacktime the other day. Gone, without a thought. Goodbye, farewell, gone. Ciao. And we all wanted more, so that says to me if I see these again at TJ's (pleasepleaseplease) I should probably pick up at least two bags. At  about $2 for the bag that's not a bad deal at all. 

Thumbs up all around. Next round, you've been warned. We're gonna go double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Cacio e Pepe Puffs: 8 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.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Chickpea & Red Lentil Risoni

Did you know you can eat more food if you eat very quickly? It's true. If you eat slowly, you can feel yourself getting full. If you eat too fast, you're far more likely to overeat.

I did that with this deceptively dense and filling rice substitute for my "second breakfast" meal the other day. It was my first time trying risoni. I made about two thirds of the six-serving box, threw in some olive oil and onion salt and started chowing down.

Within minutes I had eaten about half the portion that I made, which if you do the math, is about two full servings of the product. I don't think I'll see any long-term weight gain or anything like that, but in 5 or 10 minutes these legume-based "grains" expanded in my tummy and made it feel FULL as can be, and lemme tell ya, I had some massive postprandial somnolence going on. I could barely function for a few hours. Didn't expect that from a box of chickpeas and lentils.


Full disclosure, I did add some cheese before I finished my portion—er two portions, rather—because I felt it lacked a little zing. I mean it lacked zing the way plain rice lacks zing. It's actually much tastier than I thought it would be.

Usually mid-morning, Sonia is still in coffee and cereal mode, but on this particular occasion, she followed my lead and finished the other half of the risoni in the sauce pan well before elevensies. She was even more impressed than I was and wound up more than full after consuming approximately two regular servings of this would-be side dish turned stand-alone meal randomly prepared and consumed on this Labor Day weekend.

There's an earthy richness that white rice lacks here, however, both risoni and rice need at least a little bit of salt to be palatable, if you ask me. Texture-wise, it's slightly more al dente than regular rice, but still somewhat soft and supple. Along with olive oil and cheese, this could be a stand-alone meal, or at least a snack. We both think it would go great as a side for chicken or fish, or basically wherever you'd use rice or cauliflower rice or orzo type foods.

$2.99 for the box. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Peach Fruit Spread

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones

This week marks the official astronomical start of summer, and that means it's ice cream season. Admittedly, Sonia is more of the cone aficionado, or "conehead," in our household. I'll usually opt to shovel the confectionery dairy right out of the pint container and into my mouth like a true ice cream glutton, although even I like to give it the cone treatment once in a while.

Eating frozen dessert from a cone feels more like you're at the fair or an amusement park—except you don't have to deal with crowds and wonder if someone will bump into you hard enough to knock the ice cream off the cone and onto the ground. It's a real bummer when that happens. Better to just eat the ice cream cone in your own home where there's fewer people. It's less expensive that way, too. There are also not as many roller coasters, which is unfortunate, because I like roller coasters. But I digress.


The cones are the perfect combination of structural integrity and brittle crispness. That is, they won't snap when you're pressing down a scoop of ice cream onto the top, but they crunch and break away nicely when bitten from an angle. They're pleasantly thick, but not to the point where they're difficult to eat.

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones are lightly sweet, with "organic dark brown sugar" as the primary sweetening ingredient. There's an appetizing wheaty breadiness to them and notes of vanilla in the background. They have just enough flavor of their own that they could honestly be a stand-alone snack food, but they're also understated enough that they won't get in the way of your tasty ice cream, no matter the variety.


$2.29 for a product like this is a pretty decent bargain, considering you'll find non-organic cones in other grocery stores for upwards of $3. We wish they were somehow resealable, although they do throw you a bone and wrap them in two columns rather than one, so if you're not going to eat all 12 cones in one sitting, at least half the dozen of them won't go stale right away.

Apparently, these are seasonal, so pick some up before they disappear if you're interested. They have a fairly long shelf life, so you could probably stock up enough to last until next summer if you're a year-round ice cream consumer.

Looks like four stars a piece again for these organic sugar cones. 

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Honey Sauce


 Mmmm. "Sauce."

Granted, the use of the word "sauce" in the name "Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Honey Sauce" isn't as intimidating as, say, while cleaning my kitchen for a move years back I found a plain looking packet, on a shelf, with no context or hint or anything for what it contained other than the word SAUCE. Had no idea what kind of sauce or what product it was from. It was....just sauce. And I wasn't gonna find out, as desperate as I may have been to liven up my daily ramen rations at that point. 

Still, it's a bit concerning here. I mean, why "sauce"? What else could you possibly need other than honey and chili pepper for hot honey? Why mess with that?

Apparently, the answer is white vinegar. Go figure. 

Thankfully, the taste of vinegar isn't very apparent in the final TJ's hot honey product unless you're taking a straight from the spoon hit. I tried that and while not overly bad, it wasn't exactly 100% delish. It must not be more than a small splash as the honey itself is still thick and rich, not watered down, and the initial sweet honey hints and the chili afterburn bookend a short but awkward transition phase in the middle that I guess the vinegar helps support somehow. Still not really sure of the purpose of the vinegar to be honest. 

On a final product though? Can't taste the vinegar. Nah. That sweetness rides a whole wave over 'til it's the pepper's turn to take over. It's a very satisfying flavor note that lends itself well to a variety of dishes. First time we tried it, I glazed some over some grilled salmon. The look in my lovely bride's eyes said we'll be doing that again. Dipped some fried right in it, some chicken nuggz to, drizzled some over bacon really just for the heck of it. Can't wait to brush some on some homemade pizza crust, or put some over grilled veggies or potatoes or...the list goes on. Sandy says she'll even put some in some tea. What's your idea? Share away!

Oh, and lest you think that vinegar thing is weird....the ubiquitous Mike's Hot Honey is also composed of the same three ingredients, so there. Don't mess with success. I actually haven't had Mike's in quite a while to really make a direct comparison, though Sandy said Mike's heat hits more as cinnamony-y than pepper-y, at least to her, and TJ's is more the latter.

Good stuff. Whose sauce is boss? Don't care, we'll enjoy 'em both in their turns in our pantry. Double fours.  

Friday, June 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins


There's pretty much only word that comes to mind when it comes to rice cakes, and it's this: BOOOOORRRRRRRRRRIIIINNNNNGGGG. 

That's not meant to be taken offensively, actually. I happen to like rice cakes. But I also like painting trim, sitting on my porch for hours, and baseball, so apparently I have an affinity for boring things. Rice cakes are just kinda plain...nutritious-ish, sure...but kinda tasteless and bland...so boring. Gotta add something to them to liven them up a bit. 

Not bad idea here with Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins. Now there's a mouthful of a name. 

Now these hombres are t-h-i-n thin. Maybe a quarter inch at most? Probably thinner. But also way crispier and less airy and Styrofoamy then the usual rice discus. It's kinda a fun texture, especially by rice cake standards. It's almost like a regular rice cake, squared and compressed. I dig. 

Add a half dip of dark chocolate though? Now it's a party. 

It's about the same usual TJ's Belgian dark chocolate-y goodness used in nearly all their dark choc products. I'm gonna guess it's between 65% and 72%. There's still enough sugar to add a tinge of sweetness without being overly bitter, and a smidge of creaminess to help soften it up. The chocolate itself seems to add a lot of balance to the grainy goodness of the rice cake, with one side left exposed so as to not overwhelm or be too decadent. 

But still, true to the rice cake roots, a little something more seems needed.

Slather on a dab of your nut butter of choice? Sure, that'd be awesome. Probably some other toppings too! But really, I'd be happy with just a little sea salt sprinkled atop - not a lot - but just enough to pair well with the rice and dark chocolate as somewhat of a bridge between the two.

But yeah, these chocolate dipped rice cake thins are surprisingly decent, and went down the hatch pretty quickly in our household with assistance from all eligible memebers, without complaint. 

I think they were $1.99? Correct me if i'm wrong. Decent snack and one we'll be sure to grab again, lest we get too bored with te current rotation. I'd say between my lovely bride and I we'd give them a seven overall. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons




Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Unsalted Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips

Ever since Sonia's mom had a rather serious stroke a couple years ago, we've been a little more cognizant of the dangers of high blood pressure and too much sodium in our diets. Fortunately, she's mostly recovered and pretty much back to normal now, but it was a long, challenging road to get there.

Shortly after her incident, I realized that my own blood pressure was way too high, as well. I wouldn't say I'm on a "low sodium diet" now per se, but I often intentionally select less salty options when possible.

At the recommendation of a couple of friends, we tried these chips for the first time a while back. At first, I was like, "Who in their right mind would eat tortilla chips with no salt?" But then if you really think about it, most of the time you're eating tortilla chips, you're eating them with something else: salsa, queso, guac, and all of those have their own salt in them. Do you really need to double up on salt? In my opinion, the answer is no. These chips are the proof.

Even though I didn't think I'd like them, I'm totally fine snacking on them plain. Somehow the lack of salt lets the natural flavor of corn shine a little more. And just as you'd assume, all of the above-mentioned fixins provide plenty of sodium content by themselves.

This has become one of our most frequent Trader Joe's purchases of all time and a staple in our household. It's very difficult to find completely salt-free chips in your average mainstream grocery store. We highly recommend you give them a try, even if you're a salt-o-phile like me. It might not be new or super exciting, but it's a classic TJ's product very much worthy of Pantheon status, in our humble opinions.

Perfect five stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Ginger + Lemon Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage

Sonia got me into the habit of drinking a bit of Bragg's apple cider vinegar each day. You know, the kind with "your mother." Or maybe it's "the mother," but I prefer to say it incorrectly on purpose because I like to keep it comedic like that. Anyway, I must admit, I feel better when I have it than when I don't. There's a definite cleansing effect, and I feel more energized and balanced, and I'm pretty sure it helps keep my system alkalized.

The only problem with ACV? The taste. It's awful. Sonia likes to mix hers with a full glass of water and slowly sip on the concoction for the better part of a half hour, puckering a couple dozen times and wincing repeatedly, dragging out the displeasure as long as possible. I simply pound my shot of ACV in one giant gulp and chase it with a can of sparkling water. I might squeal like a whiny child for a few moments, but I do my best to get it over with as quickly as possible. You might have guessed it already, but I'm definitely a "rip the band-aid off" kinda guy, and the wifey is a "pull it off slowly" kinda gal.

So obviously, my apprehension about this product is that it's basically mimicking Sonia's method of drinking ACV. It'll be less disgusting than drinking actual ACV, but that doesn't mean it won't be...you know, kinda disgusting. Now, I'd never consider ACV a beverage. It's more of a homeopathic medicine if you ask me. So something like this should at least be drinkable and palatable if they're going to put the word "beverage" on it. Otherwise, I'd more heavily factor into the equation the health benefits of such a product. 

The very similar Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar reviewed by the Shelly fam looked more medicinal by virtue of it coming in a glass bottle, rather than a slender pop-top aluminum can. That one looked more like Trader Joe's Drinkable Snake Oil. This one looks just like a Trader Joe's brand Red Bull, or one of those fruity sparkling beverages that comes in a four pack from TJ's. 

I must admit, it masks the intense sourness of the apple cider vinegar pretty well. The ginger and lemon combo is a great choice. Ginger adds a wave of rooty spice that covers up the underlying medicinal flavors, and the lemon adds a more pleasant sourness than that of ACV. Both the ginger spice and lemon sourness are bordering on "too intense" if you ask me, but neither crosses the line. There's apple juice in there, too, to balance everything out with a little sweetness. Also, carbonation always makes beverages more fun for some reason. This wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if it were flat.

$1.69 for the can. It's probably not something I'd buy to chug alongside my lunch or anything like that, but considering it packs a full tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, we were both surprised with its agreeable taste. Three and a half stars from me. Four and a half stars from the beautiful Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Completely Cacao Chips


 Here's one of my favorite videos of all time. The poor kid...the facial expressions...the puffs of powder going out...it's hilarious and it never gets old. As a parent of young kids I can totally see this happening with mine. 

And thanks to TJs I now have yet another way to get 'em on a day I need a laugh at their expense. 

I picked up a bag of Trader Joe's Organic Completely Cacao Chips mainly for my lovely bride, who just loves dark, dark chocolate. The darker, the btter. No milk. No sugar. No...anything except for cacao, in a not so gritty form ala cacao nibs which I've tried and it's a hard no from me. These chips are just smooth little discs, like half a drop of chocolate each, just waiting for someone unexpectedly to take a bite. Sadness may follow. 

It's really interesting how something so small can pack so much taste. They're so bitter that they're almost sour, if that makes any sense. Like, yes, there's a taste *of* chocolate, but they don't taste *like* chocolate. I can do about 90% dark chocolate bars but man, not these, by themselves. Too strong. Too bitter. Too...simultaneously chocolate and not.  

Of course, straight consumption likely isn't the intended use for these. Holiday baking anyone? Use 'em for that! Or if you have something that you want a small taste of chocolate for, use these TJ's chippies. My wife has put a small handful in her morning oatmeal or yogurt and there's enough sugar from those to rub off and make a palatable taste. Peanut butter on a graham cracker is an okay snack for a kiddo but for an adult, kinda meh...unless you add some of these. it's transformative. I even made small, paleo friendly snack just mixing these cacao bits with sunflower seeds, which sounds kinda awful...but it worked. Maybe just like us, the cacao chips aren't meant to be alone. 

It's only $2.99 for the large sleeve of them, which makes the chips a pretty decent value. If you have kids, have 'em try them...I'm still laughing about how mine fared. A good snack ingredient and a laugh is worth at least a double four, right?

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Completely Cacao Chips: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Jalapeño Seasoned Corn & Rice Puffs

"If you want any of these, you have to take them away from me right now. Otherwise, I will eat them all and this is all we have left until next trip."

Actual words spoken the other morning by me, to my lovely bride, as she came down to my basement office for a quick minute to chitchat about something. It was maybe 10am at the latest, and I was speaking in reference to the veritable Everestesque mound of Trader Joe's Jalapeño Seasoned Corn & Rice Puffs I had in a bowl on my desk. It was already my second nosh sesh of the day on these new snackers, and unlike everything on my plate at work, I was gonna get this done pretty easily. 

"Meh," she said as she grabbed a couple and walked away.

Well, there you have it. Two different takes summed up anecdotally there. 

As you mighta guessed, I have a new addition to the my evergrowing "shouldn't-buy-will-devour" list of snacks and junk food. There isn't anything magic to these puffs...except there is. I can't rationalize precisely what it is. 

Maybe it's the crunch. It's that super light, crunchy, crispy, not too crumbly, not too hard mouthfeel that invites bite after bite with ease. There's no hint of graininess, which was an initial concern given corn, rice and quinoa in these guys somehow - whereas sometimes that can be a bit hodge-podgey, the bite here is seamless and smooth. I never would've guessed quinoa, even though these aren't my first puffy quinoa snack. It's...different, in a very good way. 

Maybe it's the seasoning. I love it and can't get enough. Predominantly jalapeño, there's also a little garlic and onion in there that add a good better-than-garden-variety spice punch that plays well off the puff. Some puffs have much more seasoning than others, which is fine. The first bite or two, the spice hits hard, but it dampens a bit as the taste buds acclimate until it sneaky-sneaks up from behind to hit full force, kinda like how the sour from Sour Patch Kids can hit in a similar pattern. There's also a little hint of sugar that adds a little balancing. Love it, and it's neither too dusty or greasy or anything (thinking of you, Cheetos). It's just there and delicious.

Maybe...it's just everything else. Earlier on up I referred to these TJ snackers as "junk food" and, well, that might not be entirely fair. It's not like I'd classify them as "healthy" but take a look at the nutritionals - it could be a lot worse. Aside from the sodium, eating an entire bag (which I neither advocate nor deny that I have done myself) won't completely kill your day, and even then the salt isn't as bad as other bagged snacks, so take that for what it is. Organic and gluten free to boot. C'mon, what's not to like here?

And yes, I ate these in the morning. It's corn and rice puffs. Sounds close enough to cereal to me.  

Sandy likes them but isn't an addict like me. That's likely a good thing, we don't need a turf war in the kitchen and our own secret stashes. A bag's only like $2. Seriously, try 'em out. I can't recommend enough and give 'em a perfecto, whereas my wife's more down to earth on 'em with a 3.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Jalapeño Seasoned Corn & Rice Puffs: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

  

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Bread

Versatility. Adaptability. Flexibility. 

If nothing else, 2020 has shown us that we need to be able to change along with challenging times. Case in point: what the NHL did with the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. Two "bubble" cities, Toronto and Edmonton, hosted the eastern and western conference playoff games, respectively. All team players, coaches, support staff, and arena employees were isolated from the public at large and stayed within a "bubble" connected to the arena which included living quarters, training facilities, and of course, the hockey rinks where they played.

Two southern cities, Tampa and Dallas, made it to the finals—another sign of changing times, with the Lightning taking home the Stanley Cup this past Monday night. Along with other major sports, it's a little strange seeing very few or no fans at all in the arena's seats. Furthermore, the finals took place in September this year, whereas they almost always take place in June. So kudos to my favorite sports league for their amazing ability to adapt.

Something else that's versatile and adaptable? This bread. 

It's great as a stand-alone product. I was perfectly fine eating it with nothing but a thin glaze of butter. In fact, I think that's how I ate most of the pieces.


If you want to turn it into something desserty, just give it the cinnamon toast treatment. It's already just a little sweet and it has some cinnamon and other spices, but if you add a bit of your own cinnamon and sugar, it instantly becomes a confectionary treat. Also try pumpkin butter or pumpkin cream cheese for sweeter options.

It also works great for sandwiches. There's nothing so "pumpkin pie" about it that it would clash with any basic sandwich combos. It just adds a good bit in the texture department.

In fact, Sonia and I both think that's this bread's strongest feature—the texture. There are pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds baked right into the loaf. Also, there are "cinnamon bits." I'm not sure exactly what those are or if they're adding any detectable crunch to the mixture, but the mouthfeel of this bread is extremely unique. 

The flavor is nutty, lightly sweet from honey and sugar, and there's just a whisper of pumpkin spices—most prominently cinnamon—in the background. There's also real pumpkin puree, although I don't think it affects the flavor in any big way. The ingredients are organic and the nutrition info looks pretty solid, too.

Whereas some pumpkin products straddle the line between "pumpkin pie" and "harvest pumpkin squash" and get lost somewhere in the middle in our opinions, we found this product, at least potentially, to flaunt the best of both worlds.

$3.99 for the loaf. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Pozole Verde

May 5, 1999, I was sitting in a now defunct Chi-Chi's restaurant in State College, PA with some friends and acquaintances after classes. We were celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I didn't know a lick of Spanish back then. "I wonder what Cinco de Mayo means..." I mused in my ignorance.

"Fifth of May," replied Stacy.

"I know when it is, but I mean what does the phrase 'Cinco de Mayo' literally mean?" I asked.

"Fifth of May," she persisted. "It's like Fourth of July for Mexicans."

My head exploded. "So it's the Mexican Independence Day? Whoa. I never knew that."

Many years later, I'd learn that it was not, in fact, the Mexican Independence Day. I'd also learn that the phrase "chi-chi's" is actually a slang term for "breasts" or "nipples" in Spanish. And here I thought it was a family restaurant. I always wondered what went on in that 21+ bar area.

The actual Mexican Independence Day is September 16, just over a week ago. There was a decisive battle against the French in Mexico on May 5, 1862, but the day they declared independence from Spain was actually September 16, 1810. I guess "Dieciséis de Septiembre" doesn't quite roll off a Yankee's tongue like "Cinco de Mayo."


At any rate, Mexican Independence Day is a good excuse to eat pozole, as are other special occasions like Christmas and New Year's. Sonia grew up with it. She explained that it usually takes a while to make, so it's often reserved for holidays and celebrations, not unlike tamales or menudo. It's usually served with pork or chicken, while Sonia grew up with a version with beef.

This variety is vegetarian—vegan, in fact, and doesn't suffer from want of meat, at least not in our opinions. There's a good bit of hominy and beans to give the soup a hearty texture. It's full of green chiles and onions, too. There's a nice, even, moderate spiciness in the mixture, as well. I'd put it at a 4 or 5 on the spice-o-meter, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Complaints: some of the onion slices are very long, spindly strands of onion that are a little difficult to eat. I found the plastic seal very difficult to remove and thought maybe the "onion" Sonia was finding was actually pieces of plastic that didn't stay attached to the rest of the covering. Upon further inspection, we determined that they were, in fact, pieces of onion. And I mean, we both love onions. Sonia also wanted more hominy. She's a big fan of the puffy kernels of corn. I don't know that I've had much hominy in my lifetime, but I really liked it here and wouldn't have minded a tad more of it.


The soup isn't much to look at. I think it resembles Eowyn's stew from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers...minus the strand of hair. But hey, looks aren't everything.

You can put it in a pot and heat it on the stovetop or just puncture the plastic covering and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. It's very easy to prepare. $3.99 for the 2.5 serving container—probably 2 servings in actual practice.

All things considered, this product gets a thumbs up from both a gringo who's never really had pozole before and a Latina who's been eating it her whole life. We're not vegan, but we're always happy when we find vegetarian and vegan products that have enough "meatiness" and flavor without the dead animals. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half stars from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.