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

Friday, March 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Meatless Ground


I wasn't particularly excited to try this product. I felt like it had a higher-than-average potential to be weird or gross. I have mixed feelings about all these newfangled fake meat products like Beyond and Impossible, etc. My experiences have ranged from being delighted by Del Taco's Beyond Tacos to spewing from both ends for about 18 hours straight after consuming an undercooked Booger King Impossible Whopper. Trader Joe's even offered their own Protein Patties a few years back. Not sure if they're around anymore.

What do all those bogus burger brands have in common? They're all refrigerated...like real meat. This stuff is dry and shelf stable at room temperature with a best by date about a year in the future. You reconstitute it yourself with hot water and oil. So...that just ups the potential nasty-factor exponentially if you ask me.


And yeah. It's weird. It's kinda gross. I suppose if you love the flavor of pea protein, you might like this. That's key for me: meatless meat can have pea protein in the ingredients all day long, but it can't actually taste like pea protein. 
In my humble opinion, this stuff tastes quite a bit like good, old fashioned pea protein and doesn't even come close to any meats I've ever had. They say it's like ground turkey or chicken. And while I'll admit it smelled and looked a bit like chicken while cooking, it definitely doesn't taste that way.

The texture is like wads of soggy paper. Not a fan. I tried cooking it and browning it a bit longer, but to no avail. Charred wads of soggy paper don't taste much better than undercooked wads of soggy paper.


There's a recipe for Meatless Macaroni on TJ's website. Lacking a few of the key ingredients, we whipped up a makeshift version of it, and it was...edible, thanks to the generous amounts of cheese and pasta we used.

$3.99 for the four serving resealable bag. I like the idea of having shelf stable "meat" ready in the back of the pantry for the day when real meat is unavailable for whatever reason, but this just isn't good enough for a repurchase. I've enjoyed fake meat and vegan burgers many, many times, but I can't say I'm an admirer of this product. Definitely wouldn't buy again. Two stars from me. Sonia will be even less lenient and throw out only one star for Trader Joe's Meatless Ground Plant-Based Crumbles.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm


Trader Joe's is discovering that hearts of palm are nearly as versatile as cauliflower. We've already looked at Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta, and I've already given my contemplative spiel about palm trees, so this time we'll just jump right into the food review.

Inside the box, there's a plastic pouch full of the riced hearts of palm. After snipping the corner or top of the pouch, you have to squeeze the contents out in the manner of toothpaste from a tube. They land in your saucepan resembling a lumpy wet mass. Not particularly appetizing. The smell is odd and excessively planty, similar to the pasta version, but not something that's familiar otherwise. Again, not particularly appetizing.


After heating, however, the product improves drastically both in smell and appearance. The aroma gets richer and more earthy, almost squash-like. The little palm pieces start to resemble actual rice as the liquids are partially cooked away.

The finished product is still a little wetter than actual rice somehow. The pieces are slightly more gelatinous than grainy. Still, they're quite edible. They need some fixins, though. The box recommends serving the dish with olive oil, veggies, and spices. I tried experimenting with a bunch of TJ's seasonings but nothing stood out head and shoulders above the others.

I like traditional rice the best. And I'd probably take riced cauliflower over this stuff. Still, this isn't a bad option. I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm again, but if someone served it to me as a side dish, I would eat it without complaint.

$3.49 for the 9 oz package. Vegan. Gluten free. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs


Usually Trader Joe's rolls out maple stuff in the fall, but I believe these little beauties debuted last month. Right now is actual maple harvest season—February into April, so let's take a look, shall we?

I was highly skeptical of these puffs before trying them. I mean, I love corn and rice-based snacks. They're so light and crispy and snackable. I'm thinking: Bambas, The World's Puffiest Sour Cream & Onion Puffs, and classic snacks like Pirate's Booty. They've generally been savory flavors like white cheddar cheese, rather than sweet, although a couple versions of the Bambas featured peanut butter and cocoa. How would they work with maple flavoring?

At first bite, both Sonia and I were a little weirded out, honestly. The texture was no surprise. Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs are identical to all the above-mentioned puffs in terms of their crispy, crunchy mouthfeel. On the other hand, the taste was a brand new experience.

There's an amber dusting on each puff. It looks a bit like cinnamon, but it tastes distinctly mapley. It's also oddly buttery, too. Just like a real pancake. The flavor grew on me quickly.

Not the beautiful wifey, however. She was still saying they tasted weird after a couple handfuls and told me I could finish the bag. I happily did. It took me more than one sitting, but I finished the whole thing in less than 24 hours. I thought they were addicting.

$2.49 for the 4 oz bag. Vegan. Gluten free. I'd buy again. Sonia wouldn't. She says she didn't think they were gross per se, but rather they're just not her thing. She'd prefer a cheese or sour cream and onion flavored puff.

I think these could easily become churro flavored puffs if they substituted cinnamon for the maple and molasses flavors. I'd try that version, too. Three out of five stars from Sonia on Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs. Four and a half from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Peanut Butter & Jelly Frooze Balls


Just a quick hit for today. It's our first non-Trader Joe's brand product of 2023. It is widely available at Trader Joe's stores as well as a few other major retailers and grocery chains.

Frooze Balls. Not sure how I feel about that name for the product. Like I guess it could be a contraction or portmanteau of the words "fruit" and "ooze." They are made mostly of fruit, and there is a sort of ooze in the middle of them, so "Frooze Balls" it is.


They're made of date and coconut squished into a soft, moist texture, filled with peanut butter and various fruit purees and juices to make up the "jelly" part of the equation. They're fairly filling for how small they are, and they taste kind of like you'd expect: sweet, fruity, nutty. I like them okay, but I tire of them quickly after I've had one or two. They lack...pizzazz in my book, though many will disagree.

Sonia's a tad more into them than I am. She gives them four stars. We've also tried the chocolate hazelnut variety, which I like about the same as these. Sonia prefers PB&J over chocolate hazelnut. $1.99 for five balls. Vegan. Kosher. I give the Peanut Butter & Jelly Frooze Balls three and a half stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars


Let's kick the new year off right. It's January, and everybody's craving frozen treats, right? No? Well then, let's crank up the heat, put on a tropical island screen saver, and pretend it's the middle of July. Not every review can be seasonally appropriate.

I've honestly been surprised how well oat lends itself to fudge and chocolate flavors. In almost every case, these oats and oat milk-based products would have been a godsend if I were still on my milk-free diet as I was as a child, or for that matter, if I were vegan. I'm thinking these Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars, the recently-reviewed Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, and Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars.

Conversely, in each case, these chocolatey oat desserts fall just shy of my good old dairy-based stand-by treats. Although it's not really my thing these days, I used to love a good Fudgesicle circa junior high and high school. That's basically what these are: vegan fudge popsicles.

They taste fudgey enough for me, although they might fall a hair shy of the originals in terms of rich chocolatey goodness and creaminess. Still, for being oat-based, it's hard to complain, since the differences are negligible.

Texture-wise, they're sorta creamy-ish, I guess, but also almost a tad oily I'd say. Is it the cocoa butter? Sunflower lecithin? Both? It's not really unappetizing, just unique. The mouthfeel of this product is...interesting.

$3.49 for four bars. It seems odd there are only four. Six would be ideal by my estimate. Sonia gives these oaty treats four out of five stars. I give Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars three out of five stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Trader Joe's O' Nog

History repeats itself. After trying Trader Joe's O' Nog for the first time, I think Sonia said verbatim the same thing she said after tasting Trader Joe's Almond Nog.

"I like this better than regular egg nog."

Blasphemy. Culinary heresy, pure and simple. Vegans and lactose intolerants, you guys get a free pass. But the beautiful wifey is neither of those.

I'm just kidding. She's free to think silly things like that. And I'm free to think that traditional egg nog will never be surpassed by anything non-dairy.

But comparing this to full calorie, milk-based, egg-laden nog is unfair in some ways. So let's look at it for what it is: it's an oat-based beverage that very nearly approximates the flavor of traditional egg nog. It got the sweetness level right. It got the spice blend right. And it came very close to getting the creaminess right.


The texture, like the almond nog, is noticeably more watery than the real stuff. And while the almond nog was predictably nutty, this oat beverage is predictably grainy in a similar sense, flavor-wise.

This drink reminds Sonia of atole, or atole blanco, a traditional corn-based Mexican beverage usually served hot. So, logically, Sonia tried Trader Joe's O' Nog warmed up and she absolutely loved it. I must agree it works as a hot beverage, possibly even better than it does when served cold.

I can verify it works well when mixed with bourbon. I'd assume, like egg nog or almond nog, that it would go great with rum, brandy, J├Ągermeister, or any number of alcoholic additives, too.

It's not just dairy-free, but also vegan, soy free, gluten free, and lactose free. The only ingredients not in the "2% or less" category are water, hydrolyzed oats, and cane sugar.

$2.99 for the quart. Sonia will go with four stars again. I'll go with a solid three for the noble effort on Trader Joe's O' Nog Non-Dairy Oat Beverage.

Bottom line: 7 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.

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.