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Showing posts with label vegan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegan. Show all posts

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.

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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit

 

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

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

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


That being said, it ain't the best.


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

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

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

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


Friday, June 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Caramel Coated Popcorn

It's officially summer now, and I'm generally in the mood for cold treats like popsicles and ice cream, iced beverages, and an occasional salty snack like chips, nuts, or popcorn. Snacks like chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel corn are too oily and melty and just don't appeal to me during these warmer months. So neither the name nor the packaging of this product seemed particularly enticing to this guy. Maybe I'd steer towards it in the fall, but not during this week of the summer solstice and now almost heading into July.

But our Trader Joe's clerk enthusiastically endorsed it. I might have put up a fight, but Sonia had already grabbed a bag and was excited to take Frankie's recommendation. And now that I've tried it, I get it.

There's really no caramel in this product at all. And for that, I'm thankful. The peanut butter coating is so perfect, it's hard to describe. It completely coats the surface of each and every piece of popcorn, and yet it's not overly thick or oily or heavy-handed in any way.


The "caramel" is just cane sugar and tapioca syrup. Some caramel is made with heavy cream and butter, but other caramel is just heated sugar. Since this product is vegan, we're looking at the latter option here. It just adds a nice level of sweetness that popcorn and peanut butter by themselves wouldn't otherwise have.

So the dominant flavor is peanut butter, with a nice bit of salty and sweet, all riding in the vehicle of perfectly-popped, round, crunchy pieces of popcorn. Surprisingly good. Addictive. If you like the flavor of peanut butter and the texture of popcorn, then this product is worth a try.


Four and a half stars from me since I'm a sucker for anything with peanut butter done the right way. Four from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Non-Dairy Oat Creamer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries

 

Man, is there anything really all that much better in the world than a nice, big pile of piping hot, crispy, delicious fries?

And make them waffle fries at that? Sign me up! It won't matter if I'm hungry or not, I'm down.

All that added surface area, with all the little nooks and crevices and valleys and whatever else, when made just right, make quite possibly the most perfect fry in the world....

....which is absolutely why I should've taken the suggestion on the bag of Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries and airfried them. 

But NOOOOOOOOOO. 

We have an airfryer. It's just a little guy, with small features. Small basket. Takes a while to do much of anything for a hungry crew with it. So I thought I'd just bake them a few extra minutes instead and get the whole batch done with at once. That'd be close enough, right? Certainly spot on, but it'd work....or work enough...right?

Wrong. 

Even when baking a few extra minutes, man, these TJ's fries just wouldn't crisp up, at all. The texture was almost more like steamed then baked. Maybe a few more minutes would've done it, but I already had them in there for an extra five or so, and dangit, we had dance classes to get to. They were kinda damp and undercooked and felt like they were more ready to mash in a bowl them into my belly. 

I guess all that's on me? Maybe? Our oven works pretty decently, so...anyways. 

Anything else with the fries are great. The seasoning blend is pretty basic but pleasant with a little paprika and pepper and other assorted spices. Our kids who tend to be somewhat spice adverse had no problems with it whatsoever. We all love our fries.

Definitely, we need to get these again and go for it with the airfryer. Or maybe get a bigger better airfryer. We're redoing our kitchen coming up shortly, so I guess we'll toss that on the list and slot it right behind the espresso machine both my lovely bride and I want and will finally have space for. Or something.

Seriously, airfryer or bust with these, it seems. 

$3.99ish for the bag, came with enough to feed our hangry crew. If you have teenagers, you'll need an extra I'm sure. Pretty tasty and we'll do better next time, and heck even though we enjoyed them decently as is, I'm sure we'd give them a bump. 

AIRFRY THEM!!!!!!!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons



Friday, May 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup


 Let's see....great, interesting stories of some time in my life where kimchi and tofu came through for me when nothing else could? Some fond memory, me as a young boy, kimchi in one hand, tofu in another? Anything really relevant in my life with kichi and tofu?

Well...I've tried making kimchi once or twice when I went through a fermenting craze two years ago....and my lovely bride has taught my meatarian self to enjoy a little tofu every once in a while....well, that's about it for me, so nah. 

But put the two of them together in a product like Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup, and I'll be intrigued enough to buy for a $4 lunch pickup. 


There's not a lot I can say here. In some ways, it was a bit of a letdown. First, the tofu was way too soft for my taste. If I'm going to have it, I need it to be firm. I'm really not sure how well tofu is supposed to hold up to being cooked, then frozen and reheated, but I was hoping for better than the soft crumbly mess we had here. The bite wasn't enjoyable. Secondly (and I may be completely in the wrong here) everything seemed more kimchi-flavored than actual kimchi. Sure, there's plenty of gochujang spice, and some complex notes of garlic and spice, which all in all is pretty tasty, but there wasn't much in the way of cabbage and everything else. What was there was pretty soft and uninspired. The spice could've been a little more vibrant too.Instead most of the bite and texture came from an abundance of black rice.


The soup itself wasn't overly bad, but was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I'm used to the few small batches I made of kimchi and that being how I like it. Kinda like pierogi or pizza even - it's getting hard for me to enjoy getting those from other sources, unless truly magnificent, because in my own mind I make them perfectly darn well, at least according to my taste. I realize that's pretty selfish/arrogant and probably inaccurate, but I know how to make things the way I like them. I'm pretty sure if so inspired I could make a better tofu and kimchi dish than this TJ's soup, but I'd love to get an "authentic" one from somewhere. 

Eh well. Sandy wouldn't touch this - she just wasn't in the mood the day I heated up some for lunch. So all me. I'll be nice and double three's it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Hold the Dairy! Mini Chocolate Frozen Dessert Cones


When they say "mini cones" they're not joking. These are obscenely diminutive desserts in my book. We've seen miniature cones from Trader Joe's before, but I think these are the smallest yet.

And it wouldn't be such a big deal but each cone is individually wrapped, and they're not super easy to get out of the packaging without mangling some of the pretty waves of coconut ice cream on top of the tiny cones. I dunno. Maybe I'm just hopelessly inept at unwrapping teensy little baby frozen desserts. I have fat hands. Perhaps I'd do better using an exacto knife and tweezers.


I'm exaggerating of course. But only a bit. My complaints about this product are primarily the format of the packaging. I'd much rather have, say, four normal-sized Nutty Buddy-style sundae cones than a dozen microscopic ones.

The flavor? It's good. It's chocolatey coconut milk. It's not a far cry from dairy. I mean, you can tell it's not dairy if you pay attention. I feel like they chose chocolate because it's rich and it overshadows the natural coconut milk flavor. I'd almost always prefer vanilla. I think it would allow the natural coconut milk flavor to shine even more. But if you're trying to trick a dairy-lover into eating something totally vegan, these are a decent choice.


The wafer cone and other ingredients are very much on par with a regular dairy-ful ice cream sundae cone, and there's nothing to complain about there. The overall effect is sweet, crunchy, and satisfying...as long as you eat more than one. I wouldn't have minded some nuts of some kind.

$3.99 for 12 very small cones. Not a terrible value. Just too much packaging. Dairy-free. Vegan. Coconut-based. There's actually coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut oil.

I'd probably reach for one of the other "Hold the Cone" options before I'd purchase these again, although I'd love to see these larger and with other flavor options. Three and a half stars a piece on these Hold the Dairy! cones. 

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters

When Sonia and I lived in Los Angeles, we frequented a place called Vegan Glory. Sonia and I weren't vegan then, nor are we now, but their Thai food was so amazing that we went there regularly with friends, the vast majority of whom were not vegan. It was a small, simple, unassuming restaurant at the end of a strip mall, but it often attracted celebrities and high-profile customers because the cuisine was so consistently fantastic.

Our favorite dessert there was banana spring rolls (although the coconut ice cream was a close second) We had some on our latest visit to L.A. when we RV'd through SoCal in 2019. They were still ridiculously tasty. So of course we've been searching for something that could take the place of those spring rolls since we've been apart from that outstanding restaurant.

Enter: Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters. I won't say they're AS GOOD as those banana spring rolls, but they're pretty darn close. And of course, these are "fritters" as opposed to "spring rolls" but they're still a desserty banana-based vegan dish with crispiness on the outside...so very similar.


Six minutes in the air fryer and the smell just overwhelmed the kitchen. I snatched my three fritters out of the basket piping hot and ate them with my bare hands. I don't necessarily recommend consuming them that way, as they are quite oily on the outside. I think Sonia used a fork and ate hers from a plate. Either way, they were tasty.

Banana is the dominant flavor. But there's a nice blend of other essences like coconut milk and sesame. There's a good bit of added sugar, too—enough to appease the average sweet tooth at dessert time, I'd say. At least half of each bite is banana, but there's a significant amount of rice flour breading, as well. Texture-wise, there's a nice crispy crunch on the outside and soft, supple banana on the inside.


$3.79 for six fritters, found in the frozen section. We'd buy again. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Thai Banana Fritters.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars

There's a lot of power in preconceived notions, right? 

I'm going to use the possibly new Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars as an example. 

See: I grew up not far from Hershey, PA, the self-proclaimed chocolate capital of the world. I've grown to realize their particular brand might not be the absolute best that's out there. Still, their chocolate is fairly ubiquitous, right? It's easily identifiable and serves as an easy standard to which one can easily compare all other chocolates too, , even if only to say how much better whatever the chocolate is compared to Hershey's. There's a reason we often use Hershey's as a comparison in our reviews as our yardstick. 

Welllll....one small bite of these TJ's oat chocolate bars, and I was ready to toss it and find me a Hershey's.

There's something just "off" about them, on first bite, that I didn't like. It tasted...grainy, and more than perceptibly so. Just off, and not "like what a milk chocolate bar should taste like." I stray more towards dark chocolate, but when going the lighter route, I guess I want the fullness and comfortable richness that regular ol' dairy milk helps afford and things like oats can't quite replicate. 

I ate the rest (I mean, it's chocolate, after all) but that initial impression, formed by years of my own experience, didn't change much. 

Then it kinda hit me: "my own experience." What about others? 

My lovely bride originally bought these as a small snack for herself and a friend who's vegan. It's a three pack, so two for them and one for me. Perfect. Anyways, if someone was vegan or dairy free, whether by choice or by need...I guess the TJ's is a pretty decent "milk" chocolate bar. There is a certain smoothness and even a touch of creaminess that the bar replicates reasonably well. Everyone deserves a chance at a good milk chocolate bar, right? 

In the end, this still won't be my chocolate of choice, but that's okay. I'm glad it's out there as an available option for whoever it would appeal for. Choices are good, and what doesn't work for me will probably work for someone else. It's all good. 

Anyways, I'm not a huge fan, but my wife and her friend were, so I'll lean more on their judgment than mine and say it's worth a shot, especially if traditional milk chocolate just isn't for you, for any reason. Double fours? Sure. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Vegan Thai Green Curry


Well here's something I definitely can't heat in the air fryer. Looks like a tasty, convenient, work-friendly microwave meal, and fortunately, I have a hankerin' for some Thai today. Let's dive in.

Like I mentioned, this is a microwavable meal. No other heating options are given. And for the second time in a row, I'm looking at a product that took LESS time to heat than was suggested on the packaging. The instructions say to heat for 3 minutes, then stir, and then heat for 2-3 more minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, the product began to boil over the side of the tray and onto the microwave carousel lazy Susan thing. Our microwave is filthy at the moment. Will the wife even notice if I leave a few little pools of green curry in there?


The tray easily bends in the middle in case you want to try to simply fold the curry compartment onto the rice compartment. I was wary of spillage, so I mostly just flicked the curry over with my fork. Or you could be fancy and put the whole thing in an Asian-style bowl, of course.

It's a tasty product, for sure. If there's any difference between the curry they used here and the epic Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce, neither Sonia nor I could detect it, flavor-wise, although I think this curry was a tad thinner in texture.

Swimming around in the curry were carrots, eggplant chunks, and tofu sheets. The tofu "sheets" are more like wads of tofu by the time they're heated, transferred to the rice, and scooped up by a fork or spoon. I've never tried tofu in this format before. It yields a less chewy texture by virtue of its thinness. I'm fine with it this way, while Sonia prefers tofu cubes. The veggies weren't chewy or rubbery or anything, so we were good with those, too.

99% of the flavor of this dish is coming from the curry. That's not a bad thing, because it's an outstanding complex, coconutty, salty, spicy, savory flavor. At $3.99 for the single serving, Sonia thinks it would be much wiser to grab a jar of the curry itself for half the price, heat up your own rice, and mix in whatever veggies or additions you choose. You're absolutely paying for the convenience factor here. Guess we can't punish it too harshly for that since that's apparently what TJ's is going for. You'll find it in the frozen section. Vegan.

So...something like three and a half stars a piece on this product.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf


 Ever wonder what you were thinking when making a purchasing decision?

I am with Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf. 

My best guess is I subconsciously wanted an opportunity to dunk repeatedly on any TJ's food product cuz it's been a hot minute since I've done that. 

This moment of self reflection has led me to not doing so, but not because I actually like the aforementioned gingerbread loaf.

You see, there's an issue with gingerbread in general, as well as this one specifically. Quite frankly, it's boring. Here, look, it's a monotonous loaf of gingered carbs. Yay. Would the lack of eggs and/or butter really make it any better? No offense, but I doubt it. Applesauce is usually a good sub for those, and it'd work, but instead TJ's opted for pureed pumpkin. Really, with the pumpkin, then cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and not to mention the heavy dose of ginger, this could have just as easily been named as "Pumpkin Spice Loaf" which if that's your thing, fine, but it'd be a no from me, dawg. 

I'll give it this: there's some good ginger hits in there. It's nothing like a Triple Ginger Snap, mind you, and when it comes it has to fight thru a more bready-carby base to shine, which is a little tough. A few bites, though,  and you'll get used to it, and the flavor becomes increasingly one note. 

Really, a little something else is needed to help break it all up. Some nuts or raisins would be nice. A little cream cheese like frosting or glaze could really set the loaf off, and could be done in a vegan-friendly way with some almonds or cashews or, according to my lovely bride, tofu (gulp). I warmed a piece briefly and that seemed to make an improvement, and perhaps a little melted butter or vegan spread of choice would help as well. 

Just as is...not a fan. As much as I hate the thought, it's likely headed towards the trash as it'll go stale before we finish it. I don't like it enough to eat the whole remaining loaf any time soon, my wife will have a small slice a day max, and our kiddos are much more into their slowly dwindling stockpile of Halloweeen candy to really give this a notice. We'll give it the ol' college try though. Wasting food is bad. 

There it is. For a sneak at the nutritionals, here ya go. Really, for a gingerbread loaf, the TJ's vegan one isn't bad for being a gingerbread loaf....but unfortunately in my book it's still just a gingerbread loaf. Kinda a backhanded compliment there, so I'll add half a golden spoon to my score, which isn't enough to raise it much past middlin' at best. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Gingerbread Loaf: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, November 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Stuffed Roast


A couple weeks ago a weird article about a human meat flavored product was going viral around the interwebs. Yep. Vegan peopleburgers from Sweden. A quick read of the article certainly raises more questions than it answers, at least in my mind. Like: how do they know what peopleburgers taste like? Also: what market are we targeting here? Native cannibal tribes who are running out of victims? Luciferian elites that consume children but are becoming wary of being exposed? Even meatatarians and carnivores should be able to get behind a cause that encourages people to eat fewer people, right? 

Okay, okay. Sorry. That subject is macabre and kinda gross for Friday fare on a food blog. But it got me thinking: if I eat something like Turkey-Less Turkey and I like the taste on the whole, but I don't think it tastes anything like real turkey, it's kind of a flop, right? But on the other hand if they don't tell me it's supposed to taste like turkey and I still generally like the taste, then it's a thumbs up, no? Likewise if a vegannibal eats a peopleburger and his reaction is "Delicious! But it tastes nothing like REAL people meat," then wouldn't it have been smarter to just leave it up in the air as a "meatless plant-based sandwich" that may or may not taste just like real dead human?

Again, sorry for the dark subject matter. If you're anything like me, you find it mildly amusing. Also, I just made up the word "vegannibal."

This product isn't necessarily supposed to taste like turkey or people or any other particular animal. It's just a "meatless plant-based roast with savory vegetable stuffing." I like that. It is what it is. Nothing less. Nothing more.


Although, now having said that, the finished product looks a bit like a baked ham, complete with scoring lines. Perhaps this product is scored for the same purpose: so the baste will penetrate a little deeper into the "meat." I basted ours with avocado oil. Tasty.

The texture was just a tad more rubbery than any type of roasted meat I've had. Maybe rubbery isn't the right word...perhaps "chewy" would be more accurate and a little less insulting to the roast. I suppose a few more minutes in the oven might have remedied the chewiness to some degree, but I was concerned about having it dry out. I used the "heat from frozen" directions and had it in the oven for a total of 85 minutes, basting twice during the process.

There's a nice blend of seasoning in the roast, including onion, garlic, lemon, and paprika. It's not particularly potent, though, so you might want to throw on some extra spices from the rack to suit your taste. The overall flavor is savory and pleasant, and honestly it's not a far cry from that of ham.

Unlike the aforementioned Turkey-Less Roast, this product doesn't have any kind of gravy. I'm not really into gravy that much, but I found myself wanting some here. The roast isn't dry per se, but the uniformity of the dense texture just begs for some kind of liquid condiment. The vegetarian gravy included with the Turkey-Less product was surprisingly good and would have worked with this offering, too.

I liked the central stuffing part of the product more than the outer portions. The stuffing is a little more interesting, texture-wise, and there are some veggie elements you can see and taste like kale and cauliflower.

$5.99 for 5 servings. Pairing this roast up with other sides like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce would work nearly as well as a traditional meat-based holiday meal. I'd happily eat this if I were giving thanks with vegans or vegetarians or just some other adventurous eaters. It's wheat-based, rather than soy, which is another plus in my book. I think we're looking at about 3.5 stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap


I don't think a lot of kids like lentils. I know Sonia didn't develop an appreciation for the lens-shaped legume until her late teenage years. I guess I don't blame her. She had lots of tasty home cooked Mexican food as a kid and there was no need to explore unusual soups or strange beans to expand her horizons until much later.

I, on the other hand, had weird food limitations and restrictions due to allergies, so my parents always bought alternative foods and tried to get me interested in stuff like lentil soup from a very early age. I actually loved it at first bite. Lentils as the centerpiece of a meal doesn't seem strange or unappetizing to me at all. On the contrary, this product sounded pretty good to both the beautiful wifey and me.


What's working here: tasty lentils, red pepper paste, and fresh cabbage all wrapped up in a thin layer of soft lavash bread with a beautiful blend of other spices and flavors like onion, parsley, cumin, and pink peppercorn. There's actually a decent kick to the wrap, spice-wise. It's mostly a smooth, zesty mush, but the cabbage adds a welcome crunch to the texture.

What's not working? I actually wanted more cabbage in our particular specimen, mainly for that crisp crunch factor. Sonia wanted more tahini sauce. It added a nice spicy earthiness, but there wasn't enough in the packet to cover each bite of the wrap.


Also, holy high blood pressure alert, Batman! More than two thirds of your daily sodium if you eat the whole wrap in one sitting, which is quite plausible. I mean, Sonia and I shared it for lunch, but we supplemented it with other snacks. I could have easily downed the whole thing myself, and I'd bet she could have too. Sonia did complain that it was way too salty. It's a little scary that I didn't think it tasted too salty. I thought it was just about right until I looked at the nutrition info.

$4.49. Vegan. It's a surprisingly enjoyable wrap. Would buy again to share. We're both torn between three and a half and four stars a piece, so we'll go with one of each.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Chickpea Masala Salad


I'm not sure how appropriate it is to review this product right now. We're right in the midst of pumpkin, butternut squash, apple, maple, sweet potato season. It's officially fall. October. Autumn. But this here is essentially a cold bean salad. I think of this as more of a summer type food.

But once in a while, it's fun to do something wildly inappropriate. Well, okay, wildly inappropriate might be hyperbole. I mean, look at the colors. They're as fall-ish as you'd want them to be: bright orange and crisp yellow, with vibrant red on the label.

The product tastes as vivid as it looks. Sonia and I were both surprised how much we liked it. I'll eat chickpeas any day of any season, and masala dishes are almost always delicious. I was a bit wary of the "topped with pickled vegetables" part of the equation, though, but it turned out to be the perfect crown for this unique melange of flavors.


Mustard, lemon, onions, garlic, paprika, tamarind, cilantro. You can taste it all. It's nice and spicy, but the actual heat is extremely subtle. As you might expect, there's a rich, earthy, beany flavor at the core of this dish, but it's so much more complex than that. The teensy bits of cauliflower and carrot soaked in brine and vinegar round out the dish with tang and crunch.

The beautiful wifey and I had big plans to put this product in wraps and sandwiches and maybe even slather it on toasted naan bread, but we didn't make it that far. Between the two of us, we polished off the tub in a single day. It just kept calling us back for forkful after forkful of the Indian-spiced bean salad.

Every once in a while Sonia gets mistaken for an East Indian woman. Maybe it's all the masala spices on her breath. I'm sure she'll buy this product again, but she also wants to try to make her own version at home. $4.99 for the 12oz tub. Perfect five from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo

 

Now that I once again am back to work at home in my basement at least half the time, I've recalled the numerous perks to this kind of arrangement. No commute. Sweatpants. No one minds if I sing along poorly to Amazon Music. Dependably good coffee. There's still catty coworkers, but at least they're the purry, four-legged kind. 

And if for lunch i want something that can be either microwaved or baked in the oven...I can go for the oven. No holds barred. 

Such as it was with the new Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo. Nuke it for two or three minutes, or bake for 40-45? In CubicleLand, there's only the one...at home there's choices...well..let's take advantage then. That's exactly what I did. Lunch lovin' in the oven. Boom. 


Well-seasoned readers may recall I'm a huge fan of the TJ's soy chorizo. It's what made me want to join the TJ's review train years ago - that stuff is legit! And that's coming from a carnivore so that was a huge selling point right there. 

So here's the problem, sorta: this scramb-bowl of stuff just doesn't hold it's own by itself. Not really. This can be seen either way: on one hand, it's adaptable and suitable for a variety of tatse palates and preferences and attitudes. On the other: just feels like it lacks too much. For such a flavor and salt bomb, there's an almost surprising lack of vibrant flavor. No real spice or heat - the teeniest of smidgiest of tinges, sure, but not much. After a few bites I couldn't help but unload a torrent of my alltime favorite TJ's product into my bowl and mix around. Granted, that's kinda my default thing to do with eggy scrambles like this, so take as you will. 


That's the other thing. Aside from flavor, there's something else amiss here to really fill out the meal. It could be..an avocado. Or some sweet potatoes. Or a tortilla. Or tortilla chips. Or even some rice and beans. Something....something is needed to make the whole thing seem more complete. For me, at lunch that meant a bunch of crumbled up sweet potato chips because that's what I had. It kinda worked. 

Everything else is a plus. The tofu does a tremendous job emulating scrambled eggs - mine were dry and firm from its oven prep, so if microwaved YMMV. The cheese seemed like real actual cheddar enough, not a cocounut oil creation. Nothing offputting or weird or distasteful. If I had to go vegan, this would be a great convenience option I'd grab without hesitation. Just need the salsa and something else, too. 

There you have it. Not a bad deal all the way around for the $3ish bucks. Not earth shattering either, and made my day of insurance verifications and authorizations go by a little more happily with a satisfied belly. But not as happily as butchering "SemiCharmed Life" with only myself and the kitties as an audience. Semicharmed life, semihappy meal. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tofu Scramble with Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons