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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 piña 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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Crisps Snack


Some days I don't have any silly intro story or clever segue into the actual review, so I just reminisce about products from the past and link to them at the beginning of the post. That's what we'll do today. We won't remember every single product with cauliflower that we've seen over the years, but we'll look at the times when cauliflower has become a substitute for some other food staple. Ahh...let's look at:

That time cauliflower became rice.

That time cauliflower became mashed potatoes.

That time cauliflower became pizza crust.

That time cauliflower became latkes.

That time cauliflower became tortillas.

That time cauliflower became gnocchi.

That time cauliflower became jalapeño dip.

That time cauliflower became risotto.

That time cauliflower became cookie butter.

Okay, well, that last one might not have been a thing. But you get the picture. They can turn cauliflower into anything. So crispy little crackers should be a walk in the park for the versatile cauliflower, right?


In my book, not so much. These snacky circles are too dense, too rigid. If they were thinner, they'd be much easier to bite and chew. As is, they're like little cookies—more three-dimensional than I'd have imagined them to be. I thought they'd be delicate like rice crackers, but they're much more solid than that.

They taste a little like cauliflower. They're much more earthy and bitter than typical rice crackers. I think I'd be fine with the product if they used all the same ingredients and simply lost the cauliflower. I mean, brown rice flour is the second ingredient, and I never met a rice crisp I didn't like.


Sonia enjoys them. She thinks they have a very unique flavor, and I don't disagree. She's just a little more fond of that unusual flavor than I am. I'd try redeeming them with random toppings and dips, but I'm afraid it would just ruin my enjoyment of said toppings.

We paid $2.99 for the 2.5 serving bag. I wouldn't buy them again if it were just me. Sonia might I guess. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Two and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Cauliflower Crisps Snack.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Caramel Apple Dipping Kit


Word on the street is that this product will be back on Trader Joe's shelves in a matter of weeks, so we better take a look at it now so you know whether it's worth a purchase or not. Since the tachyon fields are fairly stable this time of year...and, of course, because I own my very own time machine, there's no point in just waiting around. Let's travel back to the good old days of October 2022 when a few of these fun-for-the-whole-family packs were still available. 

We'll snag Trader Joe's Caramel Apple Dipping Kit and review it ahead of its re-release in September 2023. If you've been wondering what the magical DeLorean TARDIS time sled hot tub looks like in real life, you're in luck. The video below contains exclusive footage of the time machine in action.


Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Lime Margarita


When it's this freaking hot, refreshment is always on the forefront of my mind. I know, I know. Alcoholic beverages aren't exactly the best for hydration over the long run, but man, they sure hit the spot over the short term.

A sweet, fruity cocktail with ice is in order after a late afternoon walk in full sunshine and 100°+ heat. I think I sweat a gallon in the last fifteen minutes. Trader Joe's Lime Margarita to the rescue.

I'm definitely more fond of this beverage than the recently-reviewed Vodka Mule. On paper, I like vodka about as much as tequila, and both beverages have lime, so those factors should cancel out. I'm a fan of ginger-flavored beverages, too, so my money would have been on the mule to be the big winner.

I'm not sure what it is. I think the lime flavor comes through more in this margarita, and I'd say it's a tad sweeter, too. The fizz levels are comparable, of course, and the packaging is nearly identical—we've got yellow and green here instead of two shades of blue.

I couldn't tell you if there's triple sec and simple syrup in there because, again, there are no ingredients or nutrition info listed on alcoholic drinks. I mean, they tell you it's 10% ABV or 20 proof, but that's not really "nutrition" per se, is it? Sounds like it's about half of my recommended daily allowance of Vitamin Booze.

There's definitely a touch of mellow tequila flavor, and then a good bit of sweet and a good bit of lime. The colder it is, the better it tastes. Quite refreshing.

$10.99 for four cans at our Joe's. Looks like these are done for the season. I'd look for them again late spring or early summer 2024. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Trader Joe's Chocolatey Coated Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Bites


Miraculously, these are still available at Trader Joe's. I mean, they have all the earmarks of one of those "here today, gone tomorrow" tricks that TJ's likes to pull: social media blows up with people freaking out about the product—and most people love it and some people hate it and the people that love it are addicted and can't get enough and then a week or two after it first appeared, it vanishes and Trader Joe's employees explain that it was "seasonal" or they had "a problem with their supplier" or it had rocks in it or glass in it or bugs in it or frogs in it or it was supposed to be vegan but they found out there was once a piece of cheese in the same room where it was processed. Really, I think it just makes the Trader Joe's executives feel powerful to give people something they love only to take it away from them. It's very mean-spirited.

But not this time. At least not yet. I mean, I can't get on board with the folks who think these are the greatest snack sensation since the original Rice Krispies Treats, but neither can I fathom what the people who say these are gross could possibly be thinking. These are standard, basic desserty snacks or snacky desserts, depending on how you look at them, and they're very much worthy of a purchase for most folks that enjoy peanut butter and chocolate.


The main criticism I'll throw out there is about the texture. They're too hard. Too dense. It's like a million degrees here right now and these things should be softer, especially in the heat. Also, maybe they're too small. Each bite is...well, it's too big to be a single bite and it's too small to be a satisfying stand-alone snack.

I'm not sure why these need to be individually wrapped. I would think they'd have been fine all in one big plastic bag. I guess the ones at the bottom would get even harder by the time you'd consume them.


I like the flavor. There's a bit more peanut butter taste than chocolate, and some people complained that there's not enough chocolate, but I do generally lean in the direction of peanut butter flavor when we're talking classic Reese's style pb&c food items.

Sonia liked them even more than I did. $3.99 for 10 individually-wrapped "bites." I'll go with three and a half stars on this one. The beautiful wifey will throw out four full stars for Trader Joe's Chocolatey Coated Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Bites.

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Someone mentioned these are similar to the peanut butter crispy bites sold at Casey's gas stations. I didn't even know Casey's had anything like that, so we tried them after trying TJ's since there's one right down the street. The verdict: Casey's are softer and a little tastier. They'd get at least a full star more than Trader Joe's offering. Casey's are made fresh every day, so I guess they have an unfair advantage.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Trader Joe's Traditional Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese


I think of ricotta as kind of a sweet cheese, in that same category as cream cheese almost—like you could enhance quite a few different desserts with it. But it's honestly quite versatile. It's not only great with pastries and pancakes, but it's also outstanding with just about any kind of pasta or bread-based dish. I mean, I guess that's pretty obvious since it's widely used in lasagna recipes, and I'm pretty sure I've known that for a long time, but it never really registered in my foodie-hack brain until now.


Sonia whipped up a spinach and cheese pasta meal with Trader Joe's Traditional Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, pictured above. I forget all the yummy things she used, but man, it was scrumptious. This cheese was the key ingredient. It was tangy, savory, salty, and sweet. I'll definitely be requesting that one again.

I couldn't get the ingredients in the same shot as the nutrition info, but since there are only four of them I can just type them out for you easily enough: whey, milk, acetic acid, and salt. I guess that's pretty standard..? I'm sure most of our readers know more about ricotta cheese than I do...so why am I the one reviewing it, again? Ah, yes. You find my buffoonery amusing.


$3.99 for the 16 oz tub. That's a decent value in my book, and it's a tasty cheese for sure. Double fours from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Ricotta Cheese.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers


No Indian meal is complete without a bunch of naan bread. Man, I could eat that stuff every day. I remember falling in love with the naan at my favorite Indian restaurant back in Los Angeles, Anarkali. Since most Indian restaurants pale in comparison to that place, and also because we don't eat out that much any more, we often pick up naan from Trader Joe's or other grocery stores to go along with our room temperature, pantry style Indian meals or frozen microwave ones.


The biggest problem with naan that I can think of is that it doesn't keep very long, just like regular white bread. It molds in a week or so, unfortunately. Hmmm. 

If only they could turn naan into crackers that last a year or so...and voila. Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers are here. I'm not saying TJ's invented naan crackers, but these are the first ones I've ever seen, so naturally I picked up a box. Garlic flavor. Yum.

And it's kinda uncanny how much these little guys actually taste like naan bread. I'm not even sure how they did it. They captured the unique bready flavor of naan in a crispy cracker format. The garlic flavor is there, too, but as I might have predicted, I want MOAR GARLIC.

It's a nice, savory flavor, but it's not very pungent. I guess that's so you can pair the crackers with Indian food or soup or any kind of dip without worrying about the cracker clashing or trying to steal the show. These crackers flaunt a subtle flavor. I think they could have amped up the allium and made these a very tasty stand-alone snack. As is, they're optimized for dipping, crumbling, and scooping. They go GREAT with hummus.

$3.79 for the 9 serving box. Kosher. Organic. Would buy again. Four stars from me. Four and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Garlic Naan Crackers.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips

Nate's Notes: This review was originally posted 2/5/21 but Sonia and I decided for no particular reason that it needed a video companion, embedded below. Thanks for reading/watching.
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When looking forward to something with great amounts of anticipation, there are varying degrees of severity of the phrase "not impressed" once you get to experience said something, right?

On one hand, the latest season of Letterkenny? Never watched it or never even heard of it? Change that this weekend, start at season 1, and go. I'd recommend skipping the third episode (named, uh, "Fartbook') as it's a bit hit or miss with newbies. Season 9 of the series debuted on Christmas after a few months of delays...my lovely bride and I binged the whole season in one night...and were left kinda disappointed. It just didn't have the same feel or cleared the same hurdles that previous seasons lifted the bar so high for. Still ok...but not that great. I hope in time appreciation will grow for it, but now, just a simple "not impressed" will do. 

The other extreme may be most of 2020. Maybe the appreciation will grow in time...lots of time...but yeah. That's a pretty emphatic NOT IMPRESSED. 

So where do Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips fall on this spectrum?

Yup, we looked forward to them with great anticipation. Plantains are good and dark chocolate is great, right? Those are still undeniable truths. Yet here, in this iteration, there's a bit of something lacking. Much like previous plantain chips, there's the soft, starchy, styrofoam comfort feel to the actual chips themselves. It's an experience we know well and it works. Except...maybe not for sweet-tilting indulgent treats? It kinda feels and tastes, well, not wrong but not right either. That's not it's fault, it's a plantain and by now inanimate.

As usual, no real issues with the dark chocolate. It's on point and delivers once again, as expected. 

Maybe it's because we somehow expected or craved something more akin to a chocolate covered potato chip that we're left a little not impressed here. Or heck, like our recently rediscovered love of plantain crisps? Yes please!  Like...we knew it wasn't gonna be but wanted it anyways. I will say the overall taste is good, and has some promises, and perhaps like the latest season of Letterkenny appreciation will grow in time, but right now, neither my lovely bride nor I are really all that impressed. 

Maybe we're wrong - it happens, a lot - and we let poor expectation management override sound judgement.

Bags cost a few bucks each - maybe three - and it'll take a few days to finish the spare we have. Our kids like them and their diminutive size (the chips, not the kids) make them a reasonably good snack treat. I was handing them out like literal candy to them the other day. So I'll bump them a grade for that at least. Doing right for kids goes a long way in my book. Still not impressed, though. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons.


Though we may have been slightly more lenient with our scoring, Sonia and I more or less came to the same conclusion: Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies


Sonia's love of madeleines goes back to her days as a Starbucks barista. She'd snack on their mad cookies as she sipped some free-to-her yet otherwise overpriced coffee on breaks. She's been addicted to madeleine cookies ever since, and she's sold me on 'em, too.


We've reviewed at least two other varieties here on this blog. Despite not having any severe gluten intolerants among us, we've sampled dozens of gluten free cookies, pastries, and snacks over the years, and I'd say more than half got a basic thumbs up from our team if not enthusiastic accolades.

So we both had high hopes for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies. Let's be positive and focus on what's working, first. They're individually-packaged. It might be a waste of material and probably not very green, but all six of the cookies are wrapped separately in a small cellophane bag. It helps keep them fresher longer. You're not going to eat all six in one sitting unless you've got a big family. There's a pleasant amount of moisture to the cookies. They are lightly sweet and taste somewhat similar to traditional madeleines.

What's not working? These cookies aren't dry, but they're not particularly buttery. You could call them "oily" I guess. But they're not smooth or creamy like traditional madeleines. The flavor suffers for want of butter, too. They lack the sponginess of glutenful mads and instead come off as grainy or even gritty in a slightly unpleasant way. The main ingredients are egg, sunflower oil, sugar, and rice flour. It's an odd mouthfeel, and the flavor just lacks that certain something that makes other madeleine cookies special.

$3.49 for six individually-wrapped cookies. Would not buy again. Two and a half stars from me. Three stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies.



Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Elderberry + Pomegranate Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage


A few thoughts about my expectations in regards to Trader Joe's Elderberry + Pomegranate Sparkling Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage: We've seen surprisingly tolerable apple cider vinegar beverages on this blog in the past, and we've seen plenty of pomegranate stuff we liked from Trader Joe's. So this beverage just has to be kinda decent, right?

Enter: the elderberry. I've never had an elderberry to the best of my knowledge. I really don't even know anything about elderberries, other than that line from Monty Python: "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"

That's not very promising if simply smelling of elderberries is a French insult. If they smell that bad, they can't taste very good. I mean, I wouldn't want to smell of elderberries...so maybe I should avoid this beverage altogether, no?

Shoot, I'll be brave. I'll just wait for a day when I'm not going into public—which, to be honest, is most days for me—and I'll bite the bullet and smell of elderberries if I must. I'll share with Sonia and we can smell of elderberries together.

First impressions? Wow, I was expecting it to pour a mostly-clear, slightly lavender type color, but it pours dark purple—almost like a shade you'd associate with blackberry or raspberry juice.

It doesn't mask the intense sourness of the ACV quite as well as lemon and ginger did. There's something decidedly berry-esque and also something vaguely pomegranate-y. It wants to be sweet, but the berry flavor can't overpower that mouth-puckering vinegar taste.

ACV still has a lot of health benefits, so I can't completely snub this product even though I think it tastes a little weird. It's still way more palatable than straight Bragg's or whatever.

I'm actually shocked at how much Sonia likes this product. She says it's her favorite ACV drink from Trader Joe's or anywhere else. I expected her to like it more than I did, but I wasn't expecting her to love it as much as she does.

$1.99 for the can. I'll stick to ginger lemon if I have to have ACV. Might try strawberry next. Three out of five stars from me. The beautiful wifey gives Trader Joe's Elderberry + Pomegranate Sparkling Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage four and a half stars out of five.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Trader Joe's Chhurpi Puffs Dog Treats

Chhurpi is the world's hardest cheese, chewed like gum and eaten by the people of the Himalaya region. Now TJ's has a crunchy version of this aged Himalayan cheese for your dog. Watch the video to see Alfred and Sadie's reaction to the unusual snacks.


Four paw prints from Alfred. Two paw prints from Sadie.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Half the time I review Trader Joe's brand cookies, I'm complaining: "Oh no, not more cookies." I mean, Sonia and I are constantly looking for items that have never been reviewed on this blog before, and virtually every time we do a TJ's run we're like, "Oh look, fifteen new varieties of cookies we can review."

I mean, you don't have to hold a gun to my head to get me to eat cookies, but man, it takes something super impressive to get me excited about them these days. I don't mean to be a Downer Dan, but most Trader Joe's brand cookie reviews on this blog are lackluster at best.


Unfortunately, that will be the case with Trader Joe's Chocolate Chunk Cookies. At least give them an exciting name: Trader Joe's Chunkolate Cookies. Can't go wrong with a portmanteau. Or throw a tagline on the bag: "Trader Joe's Chunky Cookies ARE chunky, and they'll MAKE YOU chunky, too!"

But what we have here are very standard chocolate chip cookies with slightly larger-than-normal pieces of chocolate. These aren't the first "chocolate chunk" cookies I've had, and they're definitely not the best. I guess it's kinda neat when you get a bite with a bunch of chocolate, but honestly, I wouldn't even say there's more chocolate in each of these cookies than an average chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate is just concentrated into one or two "chunks" rather than half a dozen "chips."


The bread part is so-so. Truly nothing original or Trader Joe's-esque is going on here. I'm on the record saying I like soft and chewy cookies better than crispy ones, but man, these are just boring. Throw in some coffee, mango, or ube next time, TJ's. We'll finish the bag but we won't buy again.

$4.49 for 8 cookies, found by the other baked goods. I guess the cookies are fairly large, but I still think that's a bit too much money for what you're getting. Two and a half stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Chocolate Chunk Cookies.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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