Google Tag

Search This Blog

Friday, September 29, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Fudge


Butter and maple syrup: the two best parts of the pancake, together at last, without all that pesky bread getting in the way.

If a charming block of English Butter Fudge decided to cross the pond and have a torrid love affair with a Canuck named Maple Sugar Candy, they might conceive a child named Maple Flavored Fudge, and he'd look and taste something like this...although phrasing it that way sounds a little weird.


This candy is quite mapley. Some of you might have guessed as much, but considering there are about four different types of sugar as well as butter, milk, and cream all listed in the ingredients above maple syrup, I didn't take it as a given. It's just like traditional maple candy except much more buttery. The butteriness is a good thing in my book.

I like maple candy okay, but I tire of it after just a piece or two. I don't really tire of the flavor of these dealies quite as quickly, but I do stop in relatively short order anyway for fear of the enamel on my teeth being replaced by a glaze of maplicious sugar and a resident brood of bone-boring bacteria taking up residence in my mouth.

Seriously, though, I can feel this stuff on my teeth after just a single piece, and I'm overwhelmed with the urge to chew gum or gargle Listerine almost immediately. On the plus side, it's not nearly as hard as toffee. The texture is nice and soft with just a bit of graininess. It feels firm enough in your fingers, but it absolutely melts in your mouth.

Sonia's a fan, and she isn't as concerned with oral hygiene as I am, apparently. So, you know, if you've got a sweet tooth and good dental insurance, have at it...

$2.99 for about 5 servings of 3 fudge pieces each. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. She'd buy again. I really do like the rich maple taste, but my dental hangup might prevent me from buying again any time soon. I'll throw out three and a half stars.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Trader Joe's 12 Mini Pumpkin Ginger Scones


My dad used to make pumpkin muffins with barley flour back when I was a kid. I got sick of them pretty fast, but I didn't have the heart to tell him, and my mom would request them quite often.

"I made pumpkin muffins again, Nathan!" I'd hear him declare from the kitchen.

"Oh grrreat...I'll, um, I'll come grab one as soon as I'm done with my homework," I'd reply.

In a way, these pumpkin ginger scones remind me of my dad's pumpkin muffins, probably because they both contain barley flour and pumpkin puree, although these are much better, flavor-wise. The texture is a tad different, of course, but the insides of these scones were a little muffin-esque, at least to me.


They came out much flakier and scone-like on the outside. I kind of liked the subtle difference in textures. I was also surprised at how much larger the scones got after baking. I mean, I knew they were going to expand a bit, but I'd say they at least doubled in size while heating, if not tripled. It doesn't look like a whole lot of food while frozen, but it's way too much bread for two people for one sitting, even if Sonia and I are carbivorous pumpkin gluttons.

I could see these becoming dry or even coming out undercooked if you don't nail the baking time and temperature exactly. The instructions offer an option to brush the pastries with milk or cream, so I used half and half. Can't tell if it helped much or not, but I guess it couldn't really have hurt. The scones really wanted to stick to the parchment paper after heating, but other than that, they were really nice and flaky, buttery, and flavorful.


They're surprisingly not that sweet. Uncharacteristically, Sonia was the one pining for a glaze or icing of some kind. I can see where she's coming from, but I was fine with them plain. The pumpkin spice blend was pleasant and well-balanced, with a particular emphasis on ginger—but it wasn't an exaggerated raw ginger explosion, either.

$4.99 for a dozen scones. I think we're looking at double fours here. Would possibly buy again next year.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus


Well this stuff is clearly just Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch plopped on top of a traditional tub of hummus. That's not quite as weird as pickle flavored hummus or chocolate flavored hummus if you ask this guy, but it could still be considered "experimental" in nature, I suppose.

By a quick count, this is at least the ninth variety of hummus we've reviewed on this blog throughout the years, not counting the hummus we made ourselves using Trader Joe's Organic Tahini and some handy dandy cans of chickpeas we had floating around in the pantry. In short, I love hummus and most other garbanzo bean derivatives.


And I guess I'll just cut to the chase and say I'm a fan of this new-ish product. Initially, I was gonna say there's not nearly enough of the chili onion crunch, but after inhaling about half the tub within a few minutes of having opened it, mi boca es en fuego and I don't know how much more of that stuff I could have handled.

So the heat level is acceptable. Spice-o-phobes beware. It's not super hot either. My tolerance just isn't what it used to be. It's got a nice chili onion chickpea flavor with a bit of a kick. Big thumbs up from both of us.


Complaints? There's not much crunchiness to be found. The crispity-crunchity factor is severely dampened by the soft mush of the whirled garbanzos and tahini, but the coolness of the hummus also helps temper the spice level, too.

$3.99 for the tub. Would definitely buy again. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Spiced Nut Mix


I think Trader Joe's had a whole bunch of rosemary and rosemary-laden nuts left over from that Rosemary's Baby mix or whatever it was called, so they just added a bit of maple flavor, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds to make this fall-themed nut mix.

And everything about this mix is stellar...except the fact that there's way too much freaking rosemary. I seriously feel like they were unable to procure the requisite quantity of normal almonds and pecans to maplify so they simply used what they had left from the Nuts About Rosemary version. Like, why does this mix need rosemary? Also, red and black pepper? This mix is oddly spicy, and there's an unexpected heat that actually tingles the tongue, particularly after munching a handful or two.


I've never encountered rosemary maple nuts before, but apparently, they're a thing. I don't dislike the combo. I guess I was just hoping for more mapley sweetness and not necessarily any of the aromatic woodsiness of rosemary or the bite of black pepper.

But hey, now that I know it's not just sweet, it's kinda growing on me. There's an unexpected intensity to the mix that just takes a bit of getting used to. If you're into rosemary and pepper, you'll probably love it.


$5.99 for 8.5 oz of spicy, mapley nuts. We're on the fence about a repeat purchase, which generally translates into not a repeat purchase just because there's always way too much new stuff to try at Trader Joe's. This is a quality product and will surely find its fanbase, but it's not exactly what Sonia and I were expecting. Double three and a halfs on this one.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Blondie Brownies


When I was a kid, I got called "Blondie" quite a bit. It was usually old people using the term. Out of respect for my elders I refrained from calling them "geezer" or "old bag" in turn since, in my head at least, those monikers were about on par with calling a young boy "Blondie." It felt way too feminine, even if it was accurate. Why not call me "He-Man" or "Viking"? That would have been way cooler.

But yeah, I was a towhead back in the day—you know, back when I actually had hair. If you go back to our earliest YouTube videos, you can see I was still very blond, even if my hairline was receding like the ocean at low tide.


And while I'm waxing philosophical about names, why even call these "brownies"? Wouldn't it have been more accurate to simply call them "pumpkin blondies"? There's no actual chocolate in them as far as I can tell. Bah. Whatever.

Aside from a few hangups about the product title, I really don't have any major problems with these pumpkin snacks. They were way fresher than most Trader Joe's baked goods we've sampled throughout the years. I mean, ours were super moist and soft. They almost had a fresh-baked vibe.

Both the pumpkin puree flavor and pumpkin spices were subtle, but there. The white chocolate chips were a nice touch, adding some extra sweetness and a more solid texture. Likewise, the pecans were perfect. I only wish the pieces had been larger and more ubiquitous.


This dessert wasn't too sweet, nor too rich. There was almost a carrot cake quality about these blondies. If anything, they could have used just a tad more pumpkin and pumpkin spice, but they're plenty satisfying as is. I'd buy 'em again next year. Sonia likes them even more than I do.

$4.49 for the 8 serving container. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Pumpkin Blondie Brownies with White Chocolate Chips and Pecans.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Lasagna


Of the "big three" fall foods—pumpkin, apple, and maple—at least one isn't really a fall food at all, at least not in terms of its peak harvest season. I'm talking of course about maple syrup. It's easiest to acquire in February and March, so some argue it should be a late winter flavor rather than an early autumn one.

And I mean, don't get me started about apples. Even though apples are harvested in September around these parts, apples are pretty much available all year round to us spoiled Americans. Apple pie on the Fourth of July? Yes, please.

So really, butternut squash is much more autumnal than some of these other "fall flavors," and it rarely gets its due. We saw some pretty decent butternut squash macaroni and cheese not too long ago, which I believe is still available seasonally at TJ's, but unfortunately I have not seen that butternut squash parmigiana in quite some time.


Ah, well. Let's make do with what we have. As far as I know, this is a brand new product. Never saw it around TJ's before this year. How bad could it be? I never met a lasagna I didn't like.

Actually, that's not true. The very first post on this blog, written over 13 years ago, was a review of a lasagna I didn't like. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself...

After 45 minutes at 400°F I can wholeheartedly assure you, history did not repeat itself in this instance. From first bite, this pasta dish delivers. It's creamy and cheesy inside, crispy and crusty on the outside, and it's got a nice cozy Italian vibe without being over-the-top heavy or rich.


Butternut squash is a fairly subtle flavor, and here, it's balanced expertly with the cheeses, herbs, spices, and layers of egg pasta. The crunchy bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds on the top just sealed the deal for me.

I can't vouch for this product shining quite so brightly if heated in the microwave. It does include nuking instructions on the box, so I guess Trader Joe's thinks it's legit.

If you're expecting a super bold flavor or traditional tomato-laden lasagna or anything remotely resembling pumpkin spice, then I guess it's conceivable you might be disappointed or unpleasantly surprised. We've got a smoky bechamel sauce in this instance, rather than typical marinara or spaghetti sauce. I liked it. It think it worked.

$4.49 for 2 servings. Sonia enjoyed it as well. Put her down for four stars. That sounds about right. Would buy Trader Joe's Italian Butternut Squash Lasagna again.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Buns


Ah, the very first NEW fall product of the season. You can just taste the anticipation in the air with a knife. Er, wait. That's not right. I'm sure there's some idiom that sums up what's going on here, but can't think of it right now because I'm too hungry.

Apple. Cinnamon. Buns. Any one of those three elements is enough to make my mouth water. All three together? Shoot. How could Trader Joe's possibly go wrong?

Well, first off, there are no heating instructions on the box, which I thought was weird. I mean, sure, there are plenty of baked goods you can just snatch right out of the packaging and go to town on. These seemed possible candidates for such a situation, and the lack of preparatory directions reinforced that assumption.


However, the buns were decidedly unimpressive at room temperature. Sonia described them as "hard," whereas I simply saw them as "stale." We consumed them a full three days before the best by date, in case you were wondering.

So we mused whether we'd nuke them for a spell or air fry them. We opted for the former at least partially out of impatience, but also because 12 or 15 seconds in a microwave posed less of a risk of drying out the product than any number of minutes in an air fryer.

After heating, the product was markedly improved on several fronts: the texture was wetter, softer, fresher, and even the cinnamon flavor seemed to pop a little more than it did prior to the pastry's ride in the radiation robot. I slathered my share with butter which gave it a bit more of a comfort food vibe than the product provided just on its own.


Still, there's not nearly enough apple in the buns to make them magical or memorable. There's a shallow, paltry pool of minced apples in a sugary sauce right on top in the middle of the buns, but that's about it. For these to get our enthusiastic seal of approval, that apple filling would need to at least quadruple or quintuple in quantity.

As is, we're looking at about three and a half stars from Sonia and three from me which, honestly, I think is being a little generous. Heated, with some added butter, these buns make a passable dessert treat, but they're a far cry from legends like the Rustic Apple Tarte in terms of appliciousness and overall purchase-worthiness.

$4.49 for two buns. Probably wouldn't buy Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Buns Crumb Topped Danish Pastries with Apple Filling & Cinnamon again.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Trader Joe's Panama Rum


It's been a hot minute since we finished this bottle of Trader Joe's Panama Rum, so I did a brief internet search to refresh my memory on its taste, etc. I remember liking it quite a bit. Like, I might have even said this is the best straight rum I've ever tasted. Granted, I've never shelled out for top-shelf rum in my life. I've only ever tried your basic Captain Morgan or Bacardi or whatever, and I very rarely drank them straight. Rum is great with cola or in a piƱa colada or a daiquiri, etc.

But apparently there are rum snobs out there. Like...just from a brief Google search and my first few impressions, these rum snobs make wine connoisseurs look like low class hacks. I never knew rum had such an intense fan base of highfalutin aficionados. Holy cow. So if you want a take from a random dude who has no idea what he's talking about, read on.

This stuff looked and smelled like caramel and brown sugar. You could taste the bourbon essence in the background. It was smooth—far more drinkable than any straight rum I've ever had. It wasn't syrupy or sticky, but clean and faintly spicy. I enjoyed it vastly more than I thought I would. I pictured myself mixing this spirit with all manner of fruit juices to make it palatable, but in the end, I drank nearly all of it straight over the course of a month or two, savoring each glass one at a time, with a bit of help from Sonia, who did indeed mix hers with various citrus juices.

I would absolutely buy it again. $14.99 for 750 mL. I can't compare it to anything rare or expensive or exotic, but next to all of those run-of-the-mill common brands, I'll take this one any day of the week. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Panama Rum.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Watermelon Sticks


Wait a minute. This isn't a fall food. Watermelon is more summery than autumnal. True. We're still doing non-fall food reviews on this blog right now for a number of reasons: (1) many if not most of the fall items at Trader Joe's right now are re-releases and have already been reviewed on this blog. Go ahead. Use the "Search This Blog" bar up top to look up the products you're curious about. (2) It's not fall yet. September 23 is the first day of fall. (3) It's still too warm for autumn products, though it's markedly cooler than it was just last week. In short: patience, young grasshopper. All in good time.


Does anybody remember the chocolate raspberry sticks? Are they still around? Well, these are basically the same thing, but watermelon flavored. I guess I got fooled by the packaging. These watermelon dealies come in a bag while the raspberry version came in a plastic tub. I must say I think the watermelon flavor works better than raspberry for some reason, but even this product doesn't really do it for me in the end.

They're just a gelatinous fruit-flavored center surrounded by a thin layer of dark chocolate on all sides. I guess they're pretty good for a blood sugar picker-upper type situation. The watermelon flavor is more in the direction of like a watermelon lollipop rather than, like, actual watermelon or watermelon puree. It's very candy-esque—not very authentic to my taste buds.


The candies need to stay cool. And I mean, if the temperature is above 72° at all, both the chocolate and the filling will start getting soft and melty. Keep napkins on standby or only consume in cool weather.

$3.49 for the resealable bag. Probably wouldn't buy again, but I can see how some folks dig 'em. Three stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Watermelon Sticks.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Lemon + Strawberry Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage


This is the third installment of our Trader Joe's canned organic sparkling apple cider vinegar beverage series. Most of you remember the recently-reviewed Elderberry + Pomegranate version. And some may even remember our review of the Ginger + Lemon flavor from 2021.

I was surprised how much I liked the taste of ginger and lemon and was quite impressed at how efficiently they masked the intense sourness of apple cider vinegar. I was slightly less impressed with the elderberry iteration of the drink since it wanted to be sweeter and failed to be so. I'm even more disappointed with this flavor since strawberry is sweeter still even than elderberries or pomegranates and clashes with the tart pungency of vinegar more desperately than its deep purple predecessor.

It's like someone took a delicious, refreshing summer-themed beverage and poured salad dressing into it as a prank. I'd almost say this product is less sweet than that strawberry vinaigrette we looked at last week. It utterly frustrates my taste buds.

Sonia has given four and a half stars to each of this beverage's forerunners, and she'll have to go a half star lower this time because, like me, she's not quite as fond of this flavor. This is definitely my least favorite flavor, so I'll throw out my lowest score yet for these ACV beverages.

Once again, about two bucks for the can. Plenty of health benefits from drinking ACV in any form. Organic. Kosher. Bubbly. But still, I can't go higher than two and a half stars. The beautiful wifey will bestow this beverage with four stars.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto Sauce


If you've been following this blog for any significant amount of time, you'll know I'm a big fan of lemon flavored stuff. And if you've been following this blog even longer than that, you might recall that I'm not a fan of traditional pesto made with pine nuts. Fortunately for me and for the score I'll give to this product, this pesto—as well as one or two other pestos from Trader Joe's that we've reviewed—are not made with pine nuts. Those previous two iterations were made with cashews, and this one's made with almonds. Did you know that lemon and almond blends together fairly well? I didn't either until recently.


By itself, this sauce is thick and oily with little chunks floating around. It's almost like super finely chopped almonds with lemon zest and sunflower seed oil. Well, I mean, it is all those things...and a few other things, too. But it not only looks primarily like those three ingredients, but it basically tastes that way as well. It's citrusy, sweet, salty, oily, and nutty. I wouldn't recommend eating it straight from the jar, although it's interesting enough you might want to at least try it that way.

Sonia cooked up a shrimp and pasta dish using this stuff. It involved fettuccine, cream, butter, shredded parmesan cheese, and garlic. Ohmygosh. I finished eating it an hour ago and I can still barely keep my head up from the comfort food coma. It was lemony, creamy, spicy, and garlicky. So delicious.


My only complaint was that Sonia didn't use enough of Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto Sauce, so I dumped a bunch more onto my portion. I've never had lemon garlic butter shrimp quite so tasty. I'll easily finish all the leftovers tonight. Actually, here's the recipe she used: Pat Cooks. Highly recommend.

$3.49 for the jar. Would buy again. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice


About nine and a half years ago, we looked at Trader Joe's other mainstay cherry juice in a glass bottle, Trader Joe's 100% Cherry Juice. One of the first comments was a suggestion to try this not-from-concentrate, more tart version. Well, Tess, I don't know if you still read our blog or not, but thanks for the recommendation. It only took us a decade to find the product at Trader Joe's and actually make a purchase.

Maybe my forty-something-year-old self craves less sugar than my thirty-something-year-old self, but I'm actually surprised how much I like this. It's not as mouth-puckeringly sour as I might have guessed. At the same time, it isn't particularly sweet at all.


It just tastes like actual cherries—not like cherry candy, sour or otherwise—not like a sugar-laden cherry juice blend. It just tastes like actual slightly tart, slightly sweet cherries, and it's surprisingly drinkable.

Sediment collects at the bottle of the bottle fairly quickly, so some agitation is in order prior to pouring. The juice flaunts a deep pink sort of color, not unlike a ruby red grapefruit juice in terms of cloudiness and redness, but perhaps a shade or two darker. Sonia thinks the flavor is very similar to cranberry juice. I agree. I'd say if you split the difference between 100% cranberry juice and that other not-so-tart cherry juice, it's a fair approximation of the flavor you get from this beverage, at least in terms of tartness level.


Apparently cherry juice is full of antioxidants and is fairly good for you. Another bonus. We'd both buy again.

$4.99 for the bottle. Four out of five stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Trader Joe's Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette


Vinaigrette. Is it like the female version of "vinegar"? I mean, we have Smurfette, who's the original female Smurf. Then we might have a kitchenette or a launderette, which are basically like petite versions of the originals. And of course the suffragettes were all females looking for the right to vote and stuff.

Should a self-respecting man be eating vinaigrette at all? If he wants a little something on his greens, wouldn't it be a lot more manly to just dump a bunch of household cleaning vinegar on his salad? The answers to these questions and more...are definitely not is this review. But they are worth pondering.


So I asked Google's new AI chatbot named Bard what it had to say about the matter. He gave me four paragraphs as a response, the last and most pertinent of which read: "If you are looking for a manly way to dress a salad, I recommend using a vinaigrette made with good quality olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. This will give your salad a delicious and healthy flavor without any of the risks associated with using cleaning vinegar."

Thanks, Bard. You always know what's up. Although, in this particular product, we have canola oil instead of good quality olive oil. Some folks think that's a bad thing. Apparently, canola oil causes inflammation, and that's something I'm trying to avoid.

Also, there are a total of 4g of sugar, all of which are "added sugar." You'd think there'd be some natural fructose from the strawberry puree, but I guess the amount is negligible. Must all come from the cane sugar.


And this dressing is definitely sweet. It's at least teetering on the verge of too sweet. It's quite strawberry forward, and there's definitely a spicy, earthy basil essence underneath. The vinegar flavor doesn't come through very much at all. The dressing isn't particularly tangy or tart to my taste buds.

$3.99 for the 8 serving bottle. I wouldn't buy this one again. I just don't do sweet summer berry salads enough to make it worth it, and I feel like I've had better berry balsamics and berry vinaigrettes than this one. As usual, Sonia will be a little more positive and lenient. She likes the sweetness level and strawberry flavor.

Two and a half out of five stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Trader Joe's English Toffee


The thing about toffee is that I don't like dentists.

I feel like every time I eat it that I'm tempting fate to snap off one of my teeth, or at least a section of a tooth, and then I'll be forced to either do some extraordinarily painful homespun remedy involving clove oil, pliers, and an ungodly amount of ibuprofen or go to one of those overpriced professional purveyors of pain.

No offense if you happen to be a dentist reading this. Nothing personal. Unless you're that horrible lady that removed my last wisdom tooth. Then you should definitely be offended.


Toffee. It's like hard candy that you're supposed to chew. There's a reason we don't chomp down on Jolly Ranchers or Werther's Originals or Dum Dums. Toffee is basically the same thing, but if you slap some chocolate and almonds on it, suddenly it's okay to bite into rocks made of sugar.

I'm exaggerating slightly of course. I mean, I'd simply suck on this candy like I do other hard candies, but the nuts make it kinda impractical to do that. It's not quite as a hard as a lollipop or whatever, but it's darn close. And it's sticky. Each bite leaves more and more crushed up toffee fused to the surface of your teeth.


I guess it's unfair to punish this toffee for, you know, being toffee. Compared to other toffee, it's quite good. There's a nice balance of caramel flavor, chocolate, and nuts, and it's buttery and sweet just like I'd expect it to be. I guess I just really want there to be a softer version of toffee—like a chewy, creamy toffee covered in chocolate and almonds. That would be great.

But this here is traditional English toffee. Fair enough. If you've got teeth of steel, you'll love it. $3.49 for the 8 oz tub. Three stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's English Toffee with Milk Chocolate.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

You Might Like: