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Showing posts with label snacks and desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snacks and desserts. 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.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels


I've studied our analytics enough to know that nobody reads our blog over Thanksgiving weekend, so here's a throwaway review made special just for today!

Why is it throwaway? Two main reasons. One: people are sick of pumpkin spice by this time of year, including me, sort of. Two: we've already reviewed this product, well, not exactly, but sort of.


The last time we reviewed this product, it was called Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims rather than Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels. I think we actually complained during that review that the pretzels weren't actual pretzels but just flat pretzel "slims" or skins. 

Well, I guess we should be grateful because these are actual pretzels—teeny tiny pretzels, in fact, in case you hadn't gathered that by the name of the product or the name of this post or the picture of the miniature pretzels on the bag or the picture of the mini pretzels in this review.

Mini pretzels covered in that "yogurt flavored" coating—which functions more like white chocolate than yogurt—with pumpkin spice and pumpkin seeds on top is indeed what we have here, and it tastes exactly like its predecessor. I like this version a tad bit more because they used three-dimensional pretzels this time, but neither Sonia nor I like them enough to raise our score. 

Eight is enough for Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels, which probably aren't around anymore this year. Catch 'em in the fall of 2023 if you're into this sort of thing. Or bust 'em out of the back of the pantry now and munch on 'em in between leftover turkey sandwiches since I reminded you that they're actually pretty decent and snackable. $2.99 for the resealable bag.

Bottom line: 8 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.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Trader Joe's PBC Bars


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


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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Tart


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

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


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

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


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

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

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Glazed Maple Donuts


Well, shoot. That's a tough act to follow: a teary-eyed farewell post with 12 years worth of memories and reviews and goodbyes and whatnot. I might lose half my audience if I don't bring my A-game here these next few posts. What could possibly do this blog justice after that?

I honestly don't know. But these maple glazed donuts are gonna give it the old college try, that's for sure. And I gotta say: I'm a fan.

In terms of cakiness and density, these are not unlike the Apple Cider Donuts from a few years back. These maple dealies look a little more cruller-ish in terms of their twisty, braided appearance. They're soft, sweet, and made fresh daily—something I didn't realize before this purchase. I guess they get delivered? I don't think there's a bakery in that back room at the Trader Joe's store...but I could be wrong.

The glaze is mapley, but honestly, it might not be quiiiite mapley enough for this guy. I was thinking they'd be absolutely dripping with real, rich maple syrup from Canada or Vermont or somewhere like that. I mean, they are maplicious. Don't get me wrong. There's maple in that glaze for sure. But it's almost like they mixed the regular sugar glaze from a plain glazed donut with a maple glaze, yielding a donut that is exactly half as mapley as I'd like it to be.


Fun fact: maple syrup appears in the ingredients list under the "contains less than 2% of the following" section. Version 2.0 should contain at least 4% maple syrup. I guess I could always add my own syrup...

The friendly Trader Joe's clerk gave me the following pro-tip, and I'll pass it along to you: microwave each donut for 15 seconds before consuming. These are fine at room temperature, but they're waaay better warmed up.

Sonia digs 'em a lot, too, although she agrees the maple flavor could be a little stronger. She says they'd go well with coffee. Indeed they would, my love. Indeed they would. $4.49 for six pastries. Four stars from Sonia, four from me on Trader Joe's Glazed Maple Donuts.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies


 Next few months, we're gonna be roughing it here at the Western PA chapter of the WGATJ's team, as we're just starting a kitchen remodel, so that means...we don't have a kitchen! Aack!

So while it would've been lovely to warm up some Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies, that just wasn't gonna happen.

Already sold our former stove to make way for the new one that'll be complete with built in air fryer and air sous vide, however that works. Bigger air fryer capacity will be great, as ours is barely big enough to hold even one of these new autumnally appropriate treat. 

So my lovely bride and I...we ate our cold, right outta the package. 

That's alright as it turned out reasonably good. There's lots of nice chunky apple bites along with some pumpkinny bits in a somewhat dry array, with plenty of brown sugar and cinnamon mixed in. It's not quite either apple or pumpkin pie, but a good mix of both, in ways I didn't completely anticipate. The crust is nice and sturdy and kinda rustic, if that's a word that can describe pastry. It's definitely got a good amount of butter in it. There's plenty here to like...

...but man, if we only had warmed them!

Totally delish though, and got me in the mood. Wash down with some apple cider or even a pumpkin beer, if thats your thing. These are nutriitonally decadent enough to only be an every once in a while treat, but get 'em while you can!

Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple & Pumpkin Hand Pies: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls

 


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

Except...well...

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


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

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

Oh well. 

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


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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Roll Drizzled Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants


 So what I swore would be my one autumnal endeavor to pumpkin products a week or two ago went so well, here we go again. Why not?

Let's get to it. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants. Looks fancy and sounds delish, right?

Welll...ummm....errr.......

Unfortunately, much like Cinderella's carriage, this is a return to the normal pumpkinfied experience for me here. These croissants just don't have it, really. I mean, the number one thing I can say is, there's no long proofing involved here. Nah, bake right from frozen it says. That's cool and convenient and as close to warm croissant on demand as you can get. i like that.

But everything else is just so meh.

Perhaps not surprisingly, without much proofing, the croissant is kinda flat and dull. It's a bit flaky and gets a little crispy, but it just doesn't have the savory airiness of a quality croissant if that makes sense. It's a super meh croissant, but almost forgivable, all things considered. 

That pumpkin cheesecake stuff plopped atop? It's not inspiring at all. The first few bites taste like pretty basic pumpkin pie filling. A couple of the requisite spices, sure, but there's nothing that screams quality, let alone excellence, about it. When the cheesecake starts announcing its presence, its at first a small wave of creaminess, with a slowly growing taste of tartness that begins to sneak in. But in the end, it's not really cheesecake-y enough, but it's just enough to kinda warp the pumpkin pie vibe it had going. it's kinda one of those "tried to be two different things and didn't work" kinda deals. Not great.

It's $3.99 for the box of two treats, and for what it's worth, my kiddos liked them. Chances are, if you're into pumpkin stuff, you might be too. More for you guys, but a thumbs down from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake Croissants: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, October 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Espresso Beans


If you wanted to play a really mean trick on your whole neighborhood at Halloween, you could buy a bunch of bags of these at Trader Joe's (only 99¢ each) and pass them out to all the kids for Trick or Treat. They're candy-esque enough that a lot of the children would gobble them down before they even realized what they were eating. They'd be bouncing off the walls well into the wee hours of All Saints' Day. It would be hilarious.

But seriously though, don't do that. And if you do happen to do that, definitely don't mention that you got the idea here. I'll take down this post and deny everything.

Honestly, though, I'm projecting. Sonia puts these out in our little pumpkin-shaped candy dish and most nights, I'm the undiscerning victim. I'll get the munchies after dinner and I'll gobble down a handful. Fast forward to 11pm or midnight and I'm lying in bed, staring at the ceiling all bug-eyed and wiggling around like the poster child in a restless leg syndrome PSA, with Sonia swatting at me trying to stop me from moving. So that's Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Espresso Beans' biggest strength as well as their biggest weakness: they're addicting and they're caffeinated.


Flavor-wise, there's a nice balance of rich, earthy espresso beans and sweet white chocolate dusted with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It works at least as well as regular chocolate if you ask Sonia or me. We bought multiple bags and we're glad we did.

If you're burning the midnight oil for work or need a sweet, caffeinated mid-day pick-me-up, or even looking for an alternative to coffee or energy drinks in the morning, these are a thumbs up from both of us. It says there's two servings per package, but just three or four beans is usually enough to take me to my happy place. Will buy again. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from yours truly.

Bottom line: 8.5 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


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

Let's see...oil changes, parent-teacher conferences, paying taxes, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, visiting the inlaws...and trying pumpkin spiced stuff.

What's all that have in common?

That's all stuff that can be done out of obligation, and not for enjoyment. Maybe not all are applicable to everybody, but to me, it'd take a real weirdo to truly enjoy more than one or two items on that list. 

But sometimes, you know...it goes right. Maybe you don't get the upsell for a junky filter or windshield wipers, or Lil' Susie Q has make some great strides, or you owe way less, or you don't run over a kid's toy, or you leave a bunch of snap peas hidden for your sister to find and get mad about to tattle to your mom only for your mom to make her finish the rest of the dishes (personal story of mine from growing up, one of my favorites), or you have a really good convo....or you try Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies. 

Coming from a true pumpkin spice agnostic - the Great Pumpkin *could* exist, but can't prove it - these cookies are legitimately sincerely good. It really was a surprise. I so thought one cookie and done, but no, not the case. I kinda wanted to devour the whole sleeve. 

The key here really is the sandwich creme. It's soft and fluffy and, well, creamy, and delicious. It's so rich and inviting, with just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever else goes into the pumpkin spice mix. It's exceptionally well done, and a far cry from the stiff, stale glop that was expected. It's a revelation. If this cream got sold in a plastic tub, I'd hammer it down by the ladleful, so probably good thing they don't.

The cookies are nice and crisp, and even the thin candy shell adds just the right amount of flavor and texture. Thicker shells can get to be too much, so I appreciate the "less is more" approach taken here as far as thickness - it's more a thin plating than an actual coating. The sea salt on my cookies wasn't overly noticeable, which to me is the right amount - it seems just enough to amp up the flavor but not overtake and be too salty and spoil the experience. 

Both the cookies and the coating are also pumpkin spiced, with some pureed pumpkin in there somewhere...so each cookie is a three pronged pumpkin spice attack. Lots of PS to go around, plenty really. And, surprising myself to write this, but the cookies are wonderfully, truly delicious. 

Really glad I picked this as my contractually obligated "one new TJ's pumpkin spice product to review" for this year. Really lucked out. Next time I'm stuck at Jiffy Lube on the way to my kid's school with my W2's, gas for the mower while chatting with my mother-in-law, I'll make sure to have a clean plate for a handful of these. That'd really make everything go better. I loved 'em as did the kiddos, and yes, my lovely bride, we saved you some, somehow. Delish. 

Bottom line:    Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Joe-Joe's Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies: 9 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 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2022

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Brioche Twist

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.