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Monday, February 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Beer Bread Mix

Ah, beer, bread, and butter. That's a winning triple B combo right there. Each of the three is pretty delish on its own. Combined? Even better. Throw in some shredded cheese—yes this product calls for shredded cheese as an optional ingredient—and those are four pretty spectacular food elements. 

All together, will they become even greater than the sum of their parts, a la Voltron? I know I'm dating myself with that reference. I'd have said Avengers or something more contemporary, but they never physically combine into one giant superhero. Man, I miss the 80's.

Unfortunately, three of the four ingredients aren't supplied by Trader Joe's in this box. It's just the mix. But most people have some kind of butter or butter substitute in the kitchen. 

Not a drinker? No beer on hand? No problem. You can substitute with any carbonated beverage. Coke or Pepsi? Hmmm. I wouldn't chance it, personally. But I think seltzer water might be even weirder. Red Bull or Rockstar? Please try it and report back here. The wife wouldn't let me turn this loaf of bread mix into an energy drink experiment.

So we used Tiramisu Pastry Stout—also from Trader Joe's, but not Trader Joe's brand. It's a dark beer. Fairly desserty. Way better than the Chocolate Babka Stout by my reckoning, but still not something I'd seek out regularly. As mentioned above, the shredded cheese is optional, but we used a blend that included jack, cheddar, and colby.

We wound up having ours in the oven at 350° for about an hour by the time it was all said and done. The bread came out with a big poofy top. The "head" of the bread was crusty and crispy. The insides ranged from absolutely perfect to just a little undercooked, texture-wise.

The flavor was surprisingly good straight out of the oven. It's hard to put my finger on just what it reminded us of, but we were both thinking of that complementary bread from Outback Steakhouse for some reason. 

It also reminded me a little bit of banana bread, but without bananas obviously, and maybe a little less sweet. Honestly, pretty darn yummy. Paired well with a thin spread of butter.

I'm curious what the results would be if you used a different beverage or different kind of cheese. I feel like this would be another product entirely if you used cheap beer and left out the shredded cheddar combo. 

$2.99 for the mix. It yields 16 servings of bread. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese

It's Friday and that means only one thing in our house: it's jammie movie pizza night! My lovely bride and our *coughcough* charming little rascals look forward to it every week...especially the pizza. Say what you will about the last twoish years, but one of the upshots is that we've really perfected the craft of homemade pizza, and are continuing to branch out...I can't wait til it's warm enough to fire up the OOni we bought ourselves for Christmas!

So yeah we love pizza here, love making it...and maybe that's the problem we have with Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese. 

Perhaps it's silly me. I bought this on a whim on a pizza supply procurement run. I figured it'd be great atop a pizza. That's...not really the case. This cheese just doesn't melt as well as a good mozzarella. And unlike mozzarella, which adds a little of its own mildness that absorbs and incorporates spice and taste and zing from other elements of the pizza, this cheese tries to do it all by itself. It's seasoned to be a pizza, not to be for a pizza, at least to me. The garlic gets too roasty sweet and the rest of the spice blend is a tick or two off from what I prefer.

That and there's this odd tang that toscano has that I forgot that I'm always on the fence of enjoying. 

Probably if sprinkled in a salad or atop a baked potato or into some scrambled eggs I'd enjoy it a bit more. Undeniably, the toscano is going for a pizzaesque vibe, and it does taste at least somewhat like a decent pizza all by itself, and if more things could taste like pizza, well...I don't know. Maybe it's one of those "it's decent but not for us" kinda deals, especially for making pizza so we can season it as we wish, not how this cheese imposes, if you follow. 

I'll go nice and say it's not bad. If it dig it, by all means enjoy, maybe in your jammies while watching Encanto for the 17th time tonight like we just might be.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Dressed Up Mango

It's been a while since we've seen a new mango product from Trader Joe's. That used to be one of their staples. Did I mention Trader Joe's likes to take previously-existing products and dip them in dark chocolate? We've even seen mango and dark chocolate at least once before, but that one had coconut, too. So if it was coconut that steered you away from that old-school TJ's treat, you're in luck.

This product is nothing but thin slices of real dried mango with one end dipped in dark chocolate. There's just enough thickness and body to the mango slices that they're still a little syrupy on the inside. They're nice and sweet and fruity like you'd expect.

I kinda like that they only dipped one end in chocolate. The whole thing in chocolate would be overkill. It would also be way more messy that way.

I've had dried mango before, and the quality here is pretty top-notch compared to the other offerings I've sampled. The dark chocolate is nothing to shake a stick at, either.

And of course, we have to mention the tin. The square tin this product comes in is obviously something you can keep and use to store bubblegum cards, jewelry, cigars, ammunition, prophylactics, jerky, silver coins, iodine pills, or pretty much anything that might come in handy for the imminent SHTF situation. 

Or you can repurpose it as a gift box. It's pretty solid metal and feels durable—built to stand the test of time, you know? It's $7.49, so it's on the more expensive end of the dried fruit spectrum, but there's that sexy tin, though... 

Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half stars from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar


Certain things really don't need a sales pitch. Cold, frosty beer, for instance. A nice summer afternoon at a ballgame, or a cool autumn morning on the porch with a cup of hot coffee. Air conditioning. So on and so forth. 

Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar? No contest here. It's just the way it is. 

Spicy cheese is always tops on my list. It's really hard to beat a good pepperjack. And lookey here - it's not just jalapenos but also habaneros, too? This is gonna pack some heat. 

Absolutely, the cheddar is spicy, right from the start. There's not much of a gradual build - it's more of a straight up wallop, boom goes the dynamite kinda deal. For that, and that alone, I'll give this high marks - there's not much messing around here, just straight business. 

Everything else about the buffalo cheddar? Ehhhhhhhhh. 

The cheddar itself is incredibly average to perhaps even mediocre. It's mild and soft and clammy, almost like it's lukewarm even when taken right from the fridge even though it's cold, if that makes any sense. This may lead one to think this would be a good melting cheese, but in my admittedly limited experience, it's not, at least when trying to melt atop a burger. Perhaps if trying to make into a sauce for some mac n cheese or something it'd do better. 

It also doesn't help that I had to spit out a bite and dissect it to see what that sharp little shard of something was. Visual test result results were inconclusive but chances are, it was a teeny splinter of a woody pepper stem. That's fairly benign, but still was unpleasant. Really hope it wasn't anything else.  

Anyways, for an okayish cheese option at a reasonable price ($8.99/lb if I recall right) it's worth a try, if spice is your thing. Were you expecting more of a sales pitch? Not here!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Trader Joe's Bamba Puffed Peanut & Corn Snacks Dipped In Dark Chocolate

Sometimes it seems like Trader Joe's product development team runs out of ideas and just starts dipping previously existing items in dark chocolate. That's fine. I think most people like dark chocolate covered stuff most of the time. I'd prefer milk chocolate dipped stuff, but apparently I'm the odd man out as far as that goes.

In my opinion, the peanutty deliciousness of Bambas is a somewhat delicate peanuttiness. And furthermore, in my humble opinion, the dark chocolate overshadows the natural peanut flavor in the Bamba with this iteration of the popular snack. It tastes mostly like dark chocolate with a faint whisper of peanut in the background. I'd prefer the reverse.

The last iteration of Bambas paired the peanut puffs with cocoa hazelnut paste and that worked pretty freaking well. This combo is just a little too heavy on the chocolate part of the equation for yours truly, but if you're a dark chocolate lover, it might just be your thing.

I found out that the original producer of Bamba snacks, Osem, does in fact make hazelnut cream filled Bamba snacks, too, over in Israel. I couldn't verify whether they do make these dark chocolate dipped ones as well, or if that's an original creation of Trader Joe. Even the beautiful wifey, who's a much bigger dark chocolate person than I am, thought the dark chocolate layer on these Bambas was way too thick.

Considering we lavished the previous two Bamba products with near-perfect scores, we can't shaft this one too badly. It's still an inexpensive chocolatey-peanutty snack. Kosher. $2.99 for the bag. Four stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

 Let's get honest here and get right to it: is there any way that the new Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets could fail?

Well, short of really bad quality control incidents, no, there's really not. 

It's a tale as old as time. Perfectly crunchy, snacky, salty pretzel nuggets. On the inside there's a nice little creamy nut butter, this time almond. On the outside, there's dark chocolate enrobing it all. Pretty classic here. 

The song's as old as rhyme, too. Everything's great. No complaints about the overall quality of goods here. Each component is on point, with maybe a little extra credit to the almond butter for being a touch creamier than expected. Usually peanut butter seems chalky inside a pretzel nugget, but that's not the case here. 

But certain as the sun rising in the East, just as there's not much chance to really muck it all up, there's not much here in way of abject innovation. Nothing that makes the TJ's brand really, I dunno, TJ's. Delicious as it can be, as expected, nothing more or nothing less. 

Perhaps that's the beauty and the beast of TJ's, at times. Reliable, dependable, good stuff at a fair price - I don't think this was even $4 - but nothing innovative or flat out excellent leaves a small touch of what's to be desired. That being said, definitely a rebuy. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Cocoa Marshmallows

I knew this dude once who was allergic to nuts. Upon learning about his condition, I mentioned something along the lines of "Wow, that sucks. I don't think I could make it through life without peanut butter." He politely informed me that he was a huge fan of peanut butter as well, and that peanuts were, in fact, legumes rather than true nuts since true nuts grow on trees, and that his allergy did not include peanuts.

I don't think I've ever actually known someone with one of those super-sensitive peanut allergies because if I did, they'd have to stay far away from me since more often than not there's a bit of peanuts or peanut butter in my system. I guess there are worse things to emanate than a vague aura of peanuttiness, but anyway, before I digress into utter absurdity as I've done many times before, my point is that I love peanut butter and I was thinking these would be more peanut buttery, even though it's entirely possible that other folks might find the peanut butter element here overbearing.

Now that I think about it, I guess peanut butter is the dominant flavor, but there's no actual peanut butter texture. There's just this thin peanut butter-flavored candy coating with mostly a marshmallow texture thanks to the marshmallow center. The cocoa element is barely there, so there's less of a Reese's kind of effect and more of a peanut butter-flavored marshmallow effect.

Peanut butter-flavored marshmallows are fine, but I'd still probably choose a traditional peanut butter and chocolate combo over these. Sonia was struck with the opposite notion. I think she was overcome by the novelty of this unique snack. She paired them with coffee and seemed to like them more and more as we went along. I washed mine down with milk and remained tolerant of them, but not blown away. I must admit, the marshmallow texture is definitely that of a fresh, fluffy marshmallow, rather than that of a stiff or stale one. How could one make these a big winner in my book? Stuff version 2.0 with actual peanut butter—chunky style if you really wanna go the extra mile.

$3.99 for about 18 marshmallows. Each marshmallow is two bites a piece by my reckoning. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three stars from me. She'd definitely buy 'em again. I probably wouldn't.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie

 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, February 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Grain Free Mint Flavor Dog Treats with Beet Powder

Nothing says Valentine's season like beet powder and mint. I mean sure, there's always candy and chocolate, but those things aren't good for dogs. What are ya gonna do?

Fortunately, Trader Joe's has treats with the beet powder and mint flavors dogs crave. Some of you probably realize I'm being facetious. Do dogs crave those things? I doubt it.

But they sure tolerate them, especially when they're all wrapped up in a crunchy, red, heart-shaped, chickpea-based dog cookie. They're perfect for gifting your beloved canines on Valentine's Day. We wouldn't want to leave Alfred and Sadie out of the festivities, now would we?

There's a nice pepperminty fragrance when you open the not-resealable cellophane baggie inside the box. The treats are a faint pinkish color, thanks to the beet powder, so there's no need to poison your pooch with Red 40 or anything like that.

The mint might be less for flavor and more to freshen your best friend's breath. And it did, at least a little bit. The Greenies we give our dogs once a day seem to keep their breath at least tolerable, but giving them a minty fresh breath boost once in a while is never a bad thing.

These snap in half easily and make pretty good bite-size treats for our small dogs after doing so. Both of the little fuzzballs chomped them up quickly enough and came around asking for seconds moments later, so they like them reasonably well, but I think they'll always prefer the softer, moister treats like the Better Than Leftovers in the end.

$2.99 for the box. Three and a half paw prints a piece for Trader Joe's Grain Free Mint Flavor Dog Treats with Beet Powder from Alfred and Sadie.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Incredisauce

It's really too bad that I seem to only get cravings for Chick-Fil-A on Sundays. know. 

But hey! Now I can skip the equally unfathomably long and quick drive thru lines and dip my tendies any time I want, close my eyes, and fool myself into thinking it's the real deal (or close enoguh to it) by busting out the new Trader Joe's Incredisauce!

Make no mistake: just as it was pretty clear that TJ's was taking on In-N-Out with the ol' Magnifisauce, it's obvious who the new target is. Superman's disembodied hand is holding a nugget there, after all.

And if you've ever had the Chick-Fil-A dipping sauce, this TJ's one is really pretty close. It's mustard based, primarily, but with oil and egg whites mixed in for some extra may-liciios body, There's tomato paste and garlic and onion and apple cider vinegar and...well, you can read the ingredients yourself, but it's almost not necessary as each are equally taste-able. It feels like cheating to just rehash the product's own description, but a little sweet, kind atnagy, and definitely smoky are all pretty apt descriptors. The real difference I could taste was the smokiness - seems amped more in the Incredisauce than the Chick-Fil-A if I'm recalling things correctly. 

Nutritionally speaking, this stuff is a disaster though. Added sugar. Soybean oil. All that salt. I mean, everything in moderation, so make out of that as you will. I'll try not to dunk and slather as tempting as that would be. 

Can't quite get the best pic of the ingredients and nutrition label - it's all pretty small - so here's the info from the official TJ's website

It's $3.29 for the bottle and should last you a while. Not a bad deal at all. Would definitely buy again any day, and maybe twice on Sundays. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Incredisauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Pesto Rosso

I'm not a fan of traditional pesto. For years, I thought it was one of the spices used in the mixture that turned me off, but some time ago, I realized that most regular pestos use pine nuts as a base. Pine nuts have always revolted me for some reason. Sure enough, every non-pine nut-based pesto I've tried since has been a thumbs up for me, this one included.

It's tomato-based, and there's parmesan cheese, cashew, and carrot puree in the mix. The spice blend includes basil, garlic, and lemon juice. It's an interesting flavor—sorta tangy, savory, and acrid, with hints of nuttiness and earthiness underneath. Goes well with pasta. There are some other serving suggestions on the jar that we haven't tried yet, including pizza and soup.

The sauce is thick and dense. Just a few spoonfuls are enough to coat a surprising amount of pasta. It's mostly smooth. No chunks of anything in there, although it's somewhat lumpy until you distribute it evenly across many pieces of pasta.

$2.49 for the jar. Would go great with crackers and cheese. We'd maybe buy it again to have on standby with a charcuterie board or something fancy like that, but I don't think it would ever be a day-to-day go-to kind of condiment for me. Although, I kinda wanna make grilled cheese with fontina, gruyere, or havarti and pair it with this. Maybe goat cheese?

Product of Italy. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli


For whatever reason, I've found myself watching a lot of Gordon Ramsey snippets recently, like little three or four minute blurbs from Kitchen Nightmares or whatever. Don't know why, but man, watching and listening to him rip and bleep something apart is so satisfying on some level at times. 

If at a subpar Italian restaurant that was likely to be visited by good ol' Chef Ramsey, if some Italian cheese and pepper stuffed pasta was on the menu, I'd suspect it'd be a lot like Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli.

Is it fair to compare a frozen prepared product to a dining out dinner? No, probably not...except when other TJ's products have risen to the occasion it's been pointed out, so here's the flip side. 

This...just isn't good ravioli. The noodles are limp, soggy and bland even by a noodle standard. There's nothing to them, at all. Just tasteless and there, and barely contain the namesake filling. The cheese tastes okay - mild, a touch tangy - with a nice little dose of pepper to season it up, but it's also kinda gritty and not as creamy as hoped. The end result is kinda a letdown. 

Ramsey would be tearing this up, bleeping up a storm, maybe some crack about diapers, and storm back to the kitchen or have the server dump them in the trash. Good thing he wasn't at my table the other day when I served 'em up, because even when it's not that great, that's not something we do in my house. I'd have to put his butt in timeout. 

But yeah...subpar, even by frozen pasta standards, Perhaps a little included sauce packet could help liven it up. As is, it's take a bite and shrug. Just meh to not quite blah. DOuble twos here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Ravioli: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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