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Friday, April 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Fruity Chewy Candy

I'm sure I've mentioned it on this blog before, but I grew up with numerous systemic food and environmental allergies. I was treated for and grew out of the food allergies, for the most part, while my environmental sensitivities still remain. None of the allergies were life-threatening, but my parents forbid me to consume any amount of the offending ingredients, among which were wheat, milk, and sugar. Just think about that. I was a kid who couldn't eat wheat or milk or sugar. The vast majority of meals and snack foods contain at least one of those things, if not all three.

So suffice it to say, it was a big deal to me when my reactions to such foods waned and my parents' resolve to keep me away from the banned substances abated. The first domino to fall was sugar. The world of tooth-rotting candies opened up to me for the first time when I was in my early tweens, and I quickly became a Starburst connoisseur. I'd go through an entire box during the course of a two hour movie, maybe sharing one or two pieces with my friends, reluctantly. I don't eat them nearly as much today, but when I saw Trader Joe's offered their very own store brand knockoff version, I had to try them.

Interesting. I thought I'd easily prefer the Trader Joe's version, but I'm not blown away. There's something odd and unfamiliar about TJ's candies that's hard to reconcile, especially after my decades-long affinity for name brand Starburst.

There are a lot of similarities, ingredients-wise, and also a few differences. Both have "corn syrup" as the number one ingredient. That's something I'd expect from mainstream candy companies, but not necessarily Trader Joe's. At least it's not high fructose corn syrup in either case. The second ingredient in both cases is "sugar," although the TJ's version specifies that it is, in fact, cane sugar. TJ's product employs the use of coconut oil in place of Starburst's hydrogenated palm kernel oil. I guess that's good. We don't want hydrogenated oils if we can help it.

Surprisingly, Starburst lists fruit juices from concentrate higher in their ingredients than Trader Joe's, which does contain "fruit juice" and "vegetable juice" in their "2% or less" section, which specifically serve as "color added." Starburst still uses chemical dyes like Red 40 and Yellow 5 for color, which are apparently somewhat carcinogenic. So...if you want your fruit chews sans cancer, that'd be a reason to reach for Trader Joe's brand.

Taste and texture-wise, I'm still going with the original Starburst over this Trader Joe's Fruity Chewy Candy. Each of the four classic flavors (orange, lemon, strawberry, cherry) is just ever so slightly less scrumptious than their name brand counterparts, and the raspberry flavor included here is even less memorable than any of the above. As an adult, I don't think I'll ever re-purchase this product at TJ's and I'll only ever eat about two Starburst at a time right around Halloween or Easter, so hopefully that's a small enough quantity to avoid death by fruit chews. If those food dyes are going to do me in, the damage was already done decades ago.

Sonia wasn't exactly overwhelmed by these candies, either, but she can't say she prefers Starburst hands down the way I can.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Chocolate & Peanut Butter Joe-Joe's Sandwich Cookies


Keep on...with the force, don't stop, don't stop til you get enough....

Classic Michael Jackson song, with extra advice to Luke Skywalker tossed in? Sure, I can roll with that. 

But yeah, there's many forces in the world, and as plain as that statement is, it's even more obvious that chocolate and peanut butter combined is one of them. Is there really any such thing as "getting enough" of that classic confectionary combo? 

In a word, yes, apparently. Because such is the case with Trader Joe's Chocolate & Peanut Butter Joe-Joe's Sandwich Cookies.

Take one of Joe-Joe's usual Oreofied sandwich cookies. He won't mind, and no, the name of the cookie isn't a "Joe-Joe" - that apostrophe in the title name denotes Joe-Joe's ownership of said cookie. I'm not a lawyer but I'm fairly certain a cookie cannot own itself. Anyways, take some peanut butter creme, sandwich between two chocolate wafers, coated in candified peanut butter, and drizzle chocolate atop. Voila. It's peanut butter inside chocolate inside peanut butter inside chocolate. A confection inception worthy of reflection...but it's not perfection.

It's all...just too much. Maybe I'm just getting old and sugar bombs like these don't hold the same appeal unless I'm in the right mood but, maybe, a line has to be drawn somewhere. What's the issue? Hrrmm. It's not the cookie itself - there's absolutely nothing wrong with a good ol' sandwich cookie, especially if it's got a nice creme-y peanut butter tinge. 

Nah, instead, let's go with the peanut butter candy shell. It tastes okay but still seems off - it's not quite the flavor or the texture but maybe somehow a little of both when shellacked over a cookie. There's a difference between regular peanut butter, peanut butter creme, and candy shell style peanut butter, of which of course the coating is the last of and my least favorite out of that trio. Add on top some chocolate drizzle and man...ate one, and had to take a breather afterwards. Had another a few minutes later and that pretty much sank my battleship for the rest of the day. Too sugary. Too rich. Too heavy. Just...too much. 

Maybe on the right day in the right mood these cookies would hit differently but yesterday, when sampled, was not the day. 

A small sleeve of eight cookies cost about $4, so make of that price point what you will. Not awful. And naturally they're awful for you as well. But on the plus side, there's an ampersand in the product name - those are becoming rarer these days. I don't love 'em, but don't hate 'em either. Nothing about them is screaming repurchase or avoid to me, unless my lovely bride has an opinion on them - I totally snuck them when she wasn't looking as payback for eating the whole donut we were gonna share the other day. Don't worry love, there's still some on top of the microwave and no it wasn't the kids - it was me. 

Meh, Let's just go down the middle. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate & Peanut Butter Joe-Joe's Sandwich Cookies: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Portuguese Custard Tarts

Ah, the Portuguese. First they gave us the man o' war, then they gave us Fado music, later Cristiano Ronaldo, and now these custard tarts. That's quite a legacy.

We have a couple of firsts here. The first first is that, at least as far as I can recall, this is the very first Trader Joe's product we've tried that's actually imported from Portugal. Sweet. I had an opportunity to go to Lisbon once, via train out of Madrid, Spain. I opted for Paris instead. Ah, well. Next time.

The second first is that, at least as far as I'm aware, TJ's is actually giving us air fryer heating instructions on the back of the package. About time. Sonia and I have been rocking a Ninja since Christmas time. You know that if Sonia and I, still attempting to live somewhat minimalistically, have jumped on that bandwagon, that it's high time you do too if you haven't already. Air fryers are friggin' awesome. I won't say this is the first Trader Joe's item we've heated in the air fryer, but I will say that it's the first time we're not just guesstimating times and temperatures and are actually following some real printed we can blame Trader Joe's if it doesn't turn out all right.

I'm excited. Let's eat some tarts.

After heating, the tarts were just slightly darkened on the top, near where the custard intersects the breading. The smell wasn't very pungent. It was almost like a faint quiche type smell, by virtue of a very similar crust.

They were incredibly crumbly. The tarts seemed to want to fall apart upon taking a single bite out of them. They were almost explosive the way they flaked apart and spread crumbs all over the plate and surrounding tabletop. I wasn't sure whether to try eating them with a fork, pulling the tart from the little aluminum tray bite by bite, or whether I should just yank the whole thing out to attempt eating it by hand. Neither method was particularly successful at minimizing the crumb carnage. These are definitely not something to eat on the road while driving.

The custard was thick and surprisingly not too sweet. It was much more creamy and eggy than anything else. There's a warm, hearty, homemade quality to it. I'm sure if it were ever Americanized, they'd make the custard much sweeter. Not saying I'd prefer it that way, just pointing out that it's much more buttery than sugary.

$2.99 for four tarts. These would be pretty decent for either breakfast or an after-dinner dessert. They're like a little piece of Portugal right in your own air fryer. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

What is it that can make certain snacks truly bingeworthy?

Let's see...Pringles are light, airy and crispy. Once you pop you can't stop, indeed. Cheese curls are just fun and salty and help unlock a little inner kid. Sour Patch Kids get that citric acid build up that hurts and stings so good.  Combos are more fun because usually my lovely bride and I snack on them on fun car trips, so there's a fun factor there. There's just some things I can't put down.

So what is it with Trader Joe's Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets?

Sure, peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets have been a thing pretty much since before the flood. I'll admit to liking pb'ed pretzels...but not loving them, despite being a huge aficionado of both respective components. Somehow, most before have been less than a sum of their parts. I can't binge on them even if I tried...

Not here. Nope. I swear, it's different somehow. Obviously it has to be the almond butter somehow...maybe it's just the slight novelty of a different nut butter filling, but it doesn't seem like that's the end of the story here. The almond butter in these newish TJ pretzel nuggz is softer and creamier than most Grade D pb scrapings inside most other snacks. It's just better, with a milder flavor, that accentuates the toasty crispiness of the pretzel shell just differently, with perhaps a lighter touch, than the usual stiff and vaguely possibly stale fillings of others. Instead, this stuff is just a delight...and this coming from a guy who elven times out of ten would choose peanut butter over almond butter as far as taste goes.

Everything else is on point and as expected - good tasty pretzel shell, a nice little touch of salty/sweet interaction, a bite size nuggets perfect for grabbing and popping. And really,  they'rejust downright good, in a wholesome way. My wife, kids and I polished off a whole bag in only about 5 minutes after school earlier this week, and none of us minded and we're already looking forward to popping into the cart again next trip. Tough to beat for the $3.99ish they cost, but be warned: bingeworthy indeed. None of us here can come up with a single complaint at all, and although not mindblowing, these snack nuggets are worthy of some serious recognition.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Chips in a Pickle

Can you believe it's been over five years since Trader Joe's debuted their Popcorn in a Pickle? Makes you wonder what took them so long to put the same flavor on a chip. 

Also makes you wonder why we don't capitalize the "i" in "in" in this product title. I just used the word "in" three times in a row in a grammatically-correct sentence. Didn't set out to do that. But it happened. By that same token, why don't we capitalize the "b" in "but" in "Everything but the Bagel"? What style guide are we following here, Trader Joe? AP? Chicago? MLA? Meh, I'm getting off track here.

Where were we? Ah yes, the summer of '15. We'd just had a privacy fence installed around our property in South Jersey and were doing a lot of backyard camping. The world felt young and innocent and the birds in the trees chirped loudly for a sample of our pickle-flavored popcorn. These days the world feels tired and clownish and the birds in the backyard chirp loudly for a taste of our pickle-flavored potato chips. There's just no going back to the life we knew before.

But that's okay, because these are super tasty chips. I like them just a tad more than their corny counterparts. Sonia likes them just a tad less than the popcorn. Make no mistake, we both like the chips a good bit.

They went with kettle-cooked dark russet potatoes here. At first I was thinking maybe a lighter breed of potato might have allowed the dill pickle flavors to shine a little more, but honestly, this version works pretty well. The potatoes bring a good bit of flavor of their own, but it's balanced out by the taste of vinegar and dill.

I mentioned that I couldn't eat a ton of the pickle popcorn because I'd brine out pretty fast. These potato chips are chock full of sea salt, but I don't feel the need to stop eating after just a few. I want to keep shoveling them in my mouth. They're addictive. They flaunt the same sour vibe as a salt & vinegar chip, but the vinegar's not as intense, and there's onion and cane sugar and a few other ingredients that temper the vinegariness in this product.

As an aside, this isn't the first time TJ's has done a pickle potato chip, although those other ones were spicy, and these are not. I'm not sure if this will be a staple in our pantry all the time, but a repeat purchase or two will probably occur. $2.29 for the 6oz, 6 serving bag. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend

 Just a quick hit today, really. Take a look at the new Trader Joe's Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend. It's all orangey and reddish and dusty looking, right? Looks spicy. Now, if you could, open it up and take a waft - smells spicy too, right? But that's not it - got some garlic in there, a little fenugreek, some coriander, heck, maybe if I'd stop to smell the flowers I'd pick up a little marigold too. Smells goood  with more than just spice going for it. Shake out a little in your hand now and look - little dusty clumps. Good, good. And wet a fingertip and take a small taste...bam! Spice, spice, baby. Chile spice, garlic, coriander, that fenugreek again...lots going on here interplaying with one another. There's a lot going on when taken on by itself...

Which makes it so weird it all disappears when placed on, like, actual food. 

My first encounter with the TJ's ajika was not the encounter discussed up top. Nah, i just went for sprinkling some on some leftover chicken for lunch. Didn't know how to take it, so I proceeded with caution...and tasted nothing. Put on more, and there still wasn't much flavor. A little more and there was the beginning of something, but by then my meal looked nearly encrusted in spice, and still all I got was a little subtle spicy savory taste. Subsequent tastings with food - veggies, on eggs - were much the same. Just nah.

Which made my most recent encounter, prior to writing this, that much more surprising given my first impression, and gives me a little future hope for further implementation. Maybe I'm using this wrong and you can help me out here? I'm thinking that perhaps using it in the cooking process - perhaps on some meat before smoking or veggies before grilling or some stew before, well, stewing - rather than a last minute add on. Good things take time, right?

For now, it's a not bad mix, with some potential, and to be clear, is of Georgia of the former Soviet bloc and not the Georgia that's in the southeastern US. Just be clear...though maybe it'd work on peaches? Hrmmm. Will give a seven for now. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Cocoa Chile Spiced Pecans

Up until the age of 5 or so, I lived less than a block from famous Cocoa Avenue in Hershey, PA, walking distance from Hersheypark. The whole town smelled like cocoa, mostly from a cocoa bean mulch that everybody used in their gardens, but also because of the nearby chocolate factory. Being married to a Latina, I've tried all kinds of things slathered with chile powder or cayenne pepper that I probably wouldn't have otherwise—corn on the cob, mango, pineapple, papaya, hard candy, you name it—just about everything but pecans. So this product should be right up my alley, right? Leave it to Trader José to introduce...whoops! Didn't mean to offend anybody! Leave it to Trader Joe to introduce me to Cocoa Chile Pecans.

These pecans aren't as sticky sweet as I thought they might be. They are "candied" as noted on the bag, but not overly so. I think if they had been much sweeter, the chile wouldn't have shined through quite as much. The cocoa flavor is similar to a rich, earthy dark chocolate. It's not nearly as candy-esque as a typical chocolate coated nut.

The spice level is decent. There's not much kick up front, but it's one of those heats that creeps up on you at the finish. It builds up on your tongue as you gobble pecan after pecan. I'd say the cocoa is more prevalent initially, and it slowly gives way to a warm, throat-tingling cayenne pepper essence. There's also cinnamon listed in the ingredients, but it's barely detectable as an independent flavor by my estimation.

There's a little bit of a cough factor. That is, there's enough cocoa powder, chile powder, and powdered sugar that if I inhale at exactly the wrong moment—probably somewhere between the nut entering my mouth and getting it chomped down a good bit by my teeth—I have to hack a minimal amount of said powders out of my lungs. The cayenne pepper is particularly troubling to my respiratory system. Spice in the lungs is no joke, but I must admit, there's something invigorating about chile pepper in the old alveoli. That would make a great band name. "We are The Spicy Alveoli and we're here to rock!" 

$4.49 isn't super cheap for a product like this, but I can't say it isn't worth the price tag, either.  As long as you aren't hoping for something sticky sweet and don't mind the spice, these are worth a purchase if you ask us. Three and a half stars from yours truly. Cuatro estrellas de mi Sonita.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites with Tomato and Chili

"You know what they called these back in the day?"

Okay, Grandpa, nope. 

"Well, they still called them oven baked crunchy cheese or something like that. i thought it was meant to be like the the burnt corners of ooey gooey cheese that your Grandma would make...but anyways, it wasn't 'Trader Joooooooooooe's' was 'Trader Giotto's.' Had none of them fancy spices on them either."

It's true....kinda. Trader Joe's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites with Tomato and Chili are a newer take on the popular product formerly known and reviewed on this blog as Trader Giotto's Oven Baked Cheese Bites. 

There's been talk elsewhere about the rebranding/name changes being done at TJ's. The official corporate stance is consolidating and unifying the "Trader Joe's" brand, as corporations like to do on a continual basis. That's likely not the only reason, and that's valid too. While on the record here on this blog as saying I personally liked the former names TJ's used to market products, I don't really mind the change either....I just hadn't noticed its implementation on store shelves until purchasing this snack. It's probably because I'm totally oblivious. 

Speaking of noticing things....wooo. Open up a bag of these snackers. Again, perhaps it's that I'm oblivious or have a little cold still, but I didn't the cheesy odors wafting up. My wife sure did though. "Smells like odd cheese," she said, without much further explanation, but she kept commenting about it without much further explanation. I don't know either. 

But odd cheese is a good way of putting it. There's...something amiss here flavorwise. The first couple I had, nestled atop the bag, were very tomatoey, and not in a great way. The bites started out like their predecessors - salty, crunchy, cheesy - not bad - but then switched flavor profile to "sweet juicy tomato" without any of the juice of course. It was a bit strong.  

Further down into the bag, there seems to be where the spicy chili seasoning settled in. We're not exactly talking Dante's Inferno here, but the further down I went, the hotter it got. There was still the perhaps-a-bit-too-cloying tomato, but the medium heat chili spices helped tamper it down some....but it still wasn't that great. Something like a little more even seasoning distribution, with perhaps some garlic snuck in to help bridge the gap, coulda made a better snack in my opinion. 

Whatever. My opinion isn't the only one out there. My lovely bride sure likes to eat them up and is more gungho than I, although i think we'd both agree the plain version tickles our particular fancies a little bit better. Something like a combined seven from us probably fits the bill. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites with Tomato and Chili: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, April 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta

If you've lived in a northern climate most of your life, you probably think palm trees are exotic. I'm guessing you've seen them on vacations when traveling to tropical or Mediterranean climes, and understandably, you probably associate them with good times and easy living. I sure did until I moved to Southern California. I was in awe of the majestic palm trees lining the streets of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley for my first couple years there on the west coast.

But at least for me, the novelty eventually wore off. Palm trees are actually kind of messy. Their large, cumbersome leaves fall all over the place and litter the sidewalks and roadways, they provide relatively little shade, and at least the ones in our old neighborhood frequently smelled like urine—and, um, you know, not from dogs urinating on them. I guess I can't blame the palm trees for that one, but the point is that my perception of palms changed.

Likewise, I had no idea that any part of a palm tree was edible. I'd heard of hearts of palm before but didn't realize they came from actual palm trees. I don't think most Angelenos know that either, otherwise they'd be chopping down the trees in their neighborhood and selling hearts of palm from a little street cart as a side hustle.

But if there aren't any hearts of palm vendors in your area, there's always this simple option from Trader Joe's. It's ready to heat and eat right out of the package. It comes in a vacuum-sealed pack, and all the little noodles are densely wadded together in a light liquid. At first, I thought it might be some kind of oil, but there's only one ingredient listed on the package: hearts of palm. So it must be the natural juice that comes from the palm plants.

At any rate, the pasta slides right out of the pack and into your pan with a decent amount of moisture. There's an earthy, planty, almost bittersweet smell at first. It's not unlike that of an artichoke heart. As the product cooks, the noodles disentangle and the smell evolves into something more squashy, or maybe even sweet potato-esque. It's a subtle fragrance.

Likewise, the taste is very neutral and understated. Without any fixins of any kind, I think it tastes like a white squash more than anything else. We mixed ours with some other veggies, tomato cream sauce, and some parmesan cheese, and it worked out quite nicely.

As far as texture is concerned, it's much more like zucchini spirals or other vegetable-based "pasta" than any real linguine. It's a great base for anything you might put on regular pasta, but it's just a tad stringier than grain-based noodles.

Scoring this as just a regular guy walking into a TJ's store from off the street rather than a hearts of palm connoisseur, I'd give this about three stars. I don't think I'll pick it up again any time soon, but it was another adventure in exotic-to-me foods, thanks to my good buddy Trader Joe. It's vegan, gluten-free, and super low in carbs, so if you're on a restricted diet, this is something to consider. $2.99 for the three serving box. 

Sonia concurs with my assessment and liked the product even a little more than I did. Looks like a four star affair on her end.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Mini Coffee Bean Hold the Cone! Ice Cream Cones

There's pluses and minuses to being an adult. 

Here's a plus: No more having to go school!

Here's a minus: If you have kids, you have to relive all those years again. *Cannot wait* for my kids to be in middle school. Insert eye roll. 

Another plus: You'll have your own money!

Minus: You'll be responsible when things like the 106 year old cast iron stack pipe at your house finally crack and spring a horizontal geyser like Old Faithful. 

Plus: You can do whatever you want!

Minus: You can't do whatever you want!

One last plus: if you wanna eat ice cream for lunch, go right ahead. 

And minus: You'll know enough to know when the ice cream just isn't that particularly good, which kinda puts a damper on the whole affair. 

Sigh. Is what it is, my chosen adult mantra, when it comes to Trader Joe's Mini Coffee Bean Hold the Cone! Ice Cream Cones. 

Usually, us adults in my house like TJ's ice cream and love coffee ice cream. this really should be a slam dunk here. Like, how can this possibly get messed up?

Oddly enough, the answer is easily enough. First: the mouthfeel. This ice cream is it's almost more gummy  than anything else. Cold and creamy, sure...but there's a certain not-right bite to it that's almost chewy. If it had some mochi in it, well, okay, then, sure, but this is purported to be straight up ice cream, and it's just not. It's weird. 

But wait, there's more! Thanks Billy Mays! the taste just really isn't there either for the coffee. Looking critically at this, I think iIcan see why. it's a mini cone, so not so much ice cream - realistically we're looking at a few spoonfuls max per cone here. that's not a lot of really get a flavor going, especially when the vast majority of the ice cream is in close quarters to either the chocolate coating or cone or both. For it to work, the coffee flavor needs to be bold but it's just not, and it's not even just me saying it - it's my lovely bride as well. The ice cream is just kinda tan and bland. 

There you have it. Not quite good ice cream. Dashed desires, emptied expectations, floundered feelings...yup. Just gonna acknowledge it and hope for better next time, though by next time i mean I'm not buying these guys again. Too much disappointment. Matching twos from the Mrs and I. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mini Coffee Bean Hold the Cone! ice Cream Cones: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Trader Joe's Amped-Up Almonds

Whenever I think of things that are "amped-up" or amplified, I think of the classic scene from This Is Spinal Tap when Christopher Guest's character explains to Rob Reiner that his Marshall stacks are unique because "they go to 11." And then Rob Reiner asks why the band doesn't just make 10 louder. There's this brilliant awkward pause and then Christopher Guest goes "...these go to 11." I lol every time.

I'm not sure if an amplifier that goes to 11 is really any better than a regular amp that only goes to 10...and similarly, I'm not sure if these Trader Joe's Amped-Up Almonds are any better than regular chocolate-covered almonds, either. Maybe I'd feel differently if I did hardcore strength training more often, because these almonds are obviously optimized as a pre-workout snack. 16g of protein per serving...and 29g of fat per serving. Hmmm. I'm sure it's good fat, and I'm sure it gets burned off if you're benching your bodyweight for ten reps and you've got less than 15% body fat to begin with.

But hey, I'll leave all that worky outy stuff to the fitness experts and let you know what I think of these little guys just as a stand-alone snack for an average person.

There's a rather thick coating of chocolate here. And it tastes kind of like a chocolate protein shake rather than just plain confectionary chocolate. No wonder. It has pea protein in it. It's not so much pea protein that it ruins the candy aspect of the product, but it is enough pea protein that you can taste something a little health-food-ish, for lack of a better term. It pushes the product's flavor in the direction of "earthy" just ever so slightly, and it pushes the product's texture in the direction of "chalky" just ever so slightly. 

The almonds are pretty much what you'd expect—nice, whole, nut-tacular almonds. There are certain nuts I never get tired of, and almonds are definitely in that category. They've got a good amount of protein just on their own and they work well in all kinds of snacks and desserts. This particular version of almonds is most definitely filling and energizing. For $1.29, it's a lot of bang for your buck in terms of protein and fat, all in a convenient single serving pouch.

Sonia thinks they taste a little weird. They do. For that reason, we'll probably reach for a different almond snack next time we're at TJ's. If you're a gym rat looking to put on pounds of lean muscle, these might be a great choice for a pre-workout energy boost.

Three stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins

It doesn't seem all that long ago that being relegated to a gluten-free diet for any reason seemed to be a sentence for dry, weird, sawdusty, oddly starchy, or otherwise unpleasant substitutes for usual carby goodies like cakes and breads and whatnot. Seems to me I've tried a lot of them and ugh. For a guy who has no reason other than personal choice to avoid wheat, man, it was something I'd rather not do. 

Fortunately, for all the ways in which the world has not progressed over the years, there's some other ways in which they have. Overall quality of gluten free goodies is absolutely one of them, and I can think of no better example right now than Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins. 

My goodness. Admittedly, I'm not usually much of a muffin-munchin' man, but I know a good one when I taste one, and these are absolutely on point. They're soft and crumbly, a little springy and moist, with an almost melt in your mouth feel. Must be all the fats like sour cream and buttermilk...I mean, seriously, don't look at the nutritional label. Shoot, you looked. No, these are absolutely not health food. Just move along. 

Moving along - and the taste! Getting a good cinnamon cake taste profile down isn't exactly rocket science - brown sugar and cinnamon make such an easy dynamic duo - but there's still much to be appreciated when done well, and that's what we got goin' on here. There's these little cinnamon bits floating around all over the place, which when when tasted give this little extra cinnamony spark, with ample molasses-y brown sugar to back it all up. Deeelish. Combined with the super soft moist texture, these muffins are a real treat. 

Only drawback I can think of is the lack of much topping. I'd love a little crumb topping, or instead of that, having something like apple added in. I mean, these muffins are perfectly tasty alongside a steaming warm cup of coffee as one would imagine, or a cup of cool milk if you're like one of my kiddos, but just a little added extra element would really put them over the top. 

Regardless, kudos to TJ's for finding an incredibly good muffin. It's not just a good gluten-free muffin, it's a great muffin, period, with bonus points for being gluten free. There's always extra credit given to inclusion. Love 'em and for $4 might be tough to beat. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 2, 2021

Trader Joe's Better Than Leftovers! Dog Treats

Ah, the Easter season. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and everything's coming back to life. What a lovely time of year. 

There will be church services, big family meals, and Easter egg hunts. Speaking of Easter egg hunts, I heard about this couple...that actually does Easter egg hunts...for their dogs. I mean, wow. That's a little...eccentric, to put it kindly. What kind of social deviants do Easter egg hunts for pets?

Speaking of pets, ours absolutely LOVED these treats. Yes, you may argue, you've watched a couple previous videos and in pretty much every one, the dogs indiscriminately inhale the treats with little regard to the subtleties of the food's taste or texture, providing virtually no clues as to the quality or value of the product. In essence, it appears that Alfred and Sadie love all the Trader Joe's brand dog treats we've given them. 

While this may be true, you'll have to trust us, as their mommy and daddy owners, we can tell they liked these treats just a little bit more than the average doggie snack. Furthermore, there are five different flavors here, the treats are nice and soft, and they're a convenient, tiny bite-size for our small pups.

The flavors included are: roast beef, gravy, cheese, sweet potato, and apple pie. At a quick glance, there appear to only be two different colors of treats. I think we decided the lighter orange color was either sweet potato or apple pie. If you smell the treats, you can tell that there are, in fact, five distinct fragrances. I refrained from eating one (this time) to find out how they actually tasted, but the look on our dogs' faces said it all.

$4.19 for the resealable bag. I, personally, think this is the best dog treat we've seen from Trader Joe's to date. Four and a half paw prints a piece from Sadie and Alfred.

Nate's Notes: Sonia and I may or may not be the above-mentioned couple that does Easter egg hunts for their dogs. You'll just have to watch the video to find out.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Happy Easter!

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